I’ve been digging through my old files in an attempt at early spring cleaning. It’s amazing what appears. The following is something I wrote for a long-gone attempt at an on-line portfolio/website. I think it was the ‘intro blurb’ to it actually.
I think I’ve progressed in writing quality. Or… maybe not. Do me a favor? Compare this to the short “The Writer” on this site, and honestly tell me if one or the other is ‘better’ and why? Don’t be mean for the sake of being mean, but do be honest!
P.S. As I re-read the piece below… I realize I haven’t changed my mind about this in the last ten years
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The Story of My Site
[Dated March 28, 2005]
My decision to put up a portfolio website was easy. It was based on pure vanity. I was fairly sure I would be almost immediately discovered by an agent, who would call me long-distance and offer me a contract, possibly right over the phone and, Viola! I’d be on my way to the Writer’s Life!
As fast as I could, I threw up the main page and started uploading everything I’d ever written. It wasn’t long before I realized this wasn’t going to work. My “spare-time” writing had produced far more than I thought. If it was true that “Writers write” I was already qualified on volume alone. With this much material to work with I was irritated at how little a portfolio required. So much good stuff, so little space!
Irritation soon gave way to anxiety: what if I put up the wrong stories or an un-representative excerpt from a novel? What if I had too many poems? Or worst! What if the material seemed too religious? Being a Seminary student, the possibility was not far-fetched. And everyone knows religion won’t sell to the mainstream.
Reluctantly, I began the weeding process. Novel excerpts, poems, bits of memoirs praised by people whose opinion I respected went in one pile to be uploaded. My favorites–mine alone– went in another pile to be ‘archived’. I got the distinct feeling as I laid some of them down that this was “Good-bye” or at very least a long ‘so long.’ Although I cared what others thought, I— like any good parent— was quite attached to my progeny.
The sorting process forced me to take a hard look what I understood to be the path to The Writer’s Life and Glory. I knew that “Writer” was a title achieved with quantity, (‘Writers write”, remember? Right?). Therefore, “Author” was a title achieved by quality writing, a title bestowed from the outside by qualified critics. “True Authorship” was based on book sales and arrival at an Exalted Plateau situated somewhere very near Fame and Fortune.
Then came the bombshell. Looking over several years of writing, I couldn’t see where I had arrived at any specific level of quality, “Authorial” or otherwise. Some pieces showed fairly good composition and flow (my spelling and grammar had always been good). Others done at the same time or later did not. There seemed to be no consistent pattern of improvement, just good days mixed with bad ones. “Quality” began to look like an uneven path through a somewhat boring meadow rather than a Scenic Overlook from a Lofty Plateau. Likewise, the goal of “True Authorship” began to look less like a destination than a consistent daily walk.
This website thing was ruining my dreams and possibly even my future: the Glory of the Writing Life was departing and I was being left with the idea that writing was merely a sometimes-enjoyable (dare I say it?) job. I stopped work on the website altogether.
A couple of months later, I went back to look at it. Definitely amateurish, forlorn. It needed work. Before I could stop myself, I was redesigning the opening-page banner and re-writing the greeting. Somewhere in that refurbishing, I realized I enjoyed the process of writing far more than I enjoyed receiving praise for the product. Even the thrill of having my own website, the warm pleasure and proud embarrassment of explaining why I even had a website didn’t compare to the hours of solitary joy of writing the content. Getting paid would be nice, I realized, but the reason I write —internet copy, light fiction or heavy memoir, whatever— is because I like to write. That’s why I do it.
So having had that epiphany, have I arrived? Am I an Author? No. Even my wife (who wishes to God I would make some money with this `hobby’!) doesn’t call me an author. I have no substantial publishing credits and by my own, old, definition, I am still only a ‘writer’. On the other hand, to extend the walking analogy I used earlier, I am satisfied to be on this road, still walking. And if inspiration and perspiration can get me finally to “Authorship”, then by God’s grace, I’ll arrive there— and then keep right on walking! The road to Authorship, no doubt in my mind, is ‘a long walk in the same direction.’
So as an encouragement to your own progress, let me ask you: Have you begun the Writer’s Walk or are you still on the couch, dreaming of the “Writer’s Life”, dreaming of suddenly waking up on an Authorial overlook? If you are still sitting, I suggest that, while you are sitting there write a story about it —a short, fiction piece— and then get on with real life. Remember: “Writer’s write.” It really is that simple. And what about the money and the recognition? Money follows: it is a reward that follows good writing which is in turn, a product of hard work. And Recognition leads: that is, it’s meant to be a motivating spur to continue, to go farther on in what you are already doing. Either one is a lousy replacement for the real satisfaction of knowing you are consistently producing high quality work. Remember, Writers write because they love to write.
For the present, I have stopped adding to the portfolio. There is enough here for anyone to see how well or poorly I have done. Frankly, if you are an agent, give me a call. I do write because I love it, but I’d be delighted to get paid as well! As time goes on, I will replace some pieces with others that are newer and better, or at least better revised. Check back and see. Persistence has its rewards.
And keep writing. Writers love to.
Gordon De Land
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P.P.S. Gosh it’s hard not to correct that old stuff!