The other day I received a rejection letter from a major book publisher for my memoir manuscript. The thing is that this person loves my writing and complimented it, which was a real confidence booster, but the issue is that I do not have a big enough platform to sell a memoir well.
Here’s the honest truth. I worked for years building a platform. I had over two thousand followers on Twitter and over a thousand on Instagram and another thousand on Facebook. My writing on Patheos got pretty viral when I was talking about politics and died down when I began writing about grief and the struggles in my faith. This happens because as much as we all talk about how we are so sick of the division, we all eat it up. I could talk about being blocked by a fellow Patheos writer and that post would get so much freakin’ traffic, but if I talk about how God met me at Mass yesterday and I felt His love for me, that would not get so much traffic. We live in a world that is addicted to drama and we create it, write about it and consume it.
On the flip side, another thing that helps bring traffic is the “here’s how to follow your dreams!” thing that so many people are making bank off of. Spoiler alert, if your dream is to be rich, just write a book that claims to tell not rich people how you became rich and you get rich. It’s a simple formula. But when you are miserable, in a rut, living a daily slush through shit, you want to know how to crawl out of it and you will buy any book that claims to help you. I once bought The Secret because Oprah told me to. True story.
But here’s the thing about me. I am a good writer. I have hesitated to say that for a long time because I thought it was arrogant and before that, I just simply did not believe it. But now, I know it. I know I am a good writer and I know that writing is a gift God has given me and He has given me this gift so that I can write about what He has done for me. He wants me to write about the good, bad, ugly, scandalous way that He and I love each other.
All that being said, I do not really have the time to “build a platform” and even if I did, the reason that I burnt it down (the one I told you about further up, I forgot to mention that I deleted all those accounts) is because I was sick of participating in this fake culture of Christian media. I am tired of pretending that we are all wonderful people who all get along. Truth is that some Catholic speakers and bloggers are real assholes. Like, evil assholes who stop others from getting speaking gigs because they were caught lying and they hate the person who didn’t go along with that lie so now they are mortal enemies and the one with the bigger platform gets to stop checks for the one who spoke out about the lies. Others are ideologues who really talk the talk about caring for the poor and for non-white voices when really, they just found a shtick that works for them and they are talented writers and speakers so they use that shtick. And in order to participate in this little club, I have to pretend that it is all good and that I love everyone and that I do not know things I know about people or subjects because stepping out of line is a big no-no. I do not know how to do that. I am totally Cardi B wanting to throw shoes at people when we are in public spaces together. **** One day that all came to a head and I deleted my platform. And now, I am having to try and build it back up. Rude.
Here are some things that people do not understand though. In order to build a platform, you have to have time. Lots of time. You have to learn how to build a website or maintain your website, you have to spend time on Social Media, you have to learn how to speak in public and you have to do a lot of shit for free to start. If you do not have a spouse who can support the household while you do all this or you don’t have a spouse at all (because the strain of supporting the household while you did shit for free finally made him snap) then that means working a full-time job as well as working long hours learning, researching and building a “brand”. I do not want to be a brand either. I want to just be me a person who is trying my very best to let God make me a saint as I kick and scream and complain about it the entire time and write about it all.
I work full-time waiting tables, I cannot get a job with benefits for many reasons (like my criminal record, which yes, is my responsibility because I made really bad choices, but I haven’t been arrested in 10 years and I am stuck with a lifetime of waiting tables?) which means I will never have a job with benefits that pays decent money. I have three kids living at home ( a home that I am not sure how long we will have) and while two of them are adults and have been helping me so much, shit still happens. Like appendixes flaring up and emergency surgery happening which means I miss work to fill in where that kid helps out and also to take care of the cut open kid. Then I also help with my grandkids. Not to mention the work it is taking to try and heal from generational poverty and trauma. I am not saying any of this for pity, what I am saying is when the heck am I supposed to build a platform without quitting my job and becoming homeless?
If I sucked at writing then that would be one thing, but I am good and I love doing it. Writing is my dream. Writing is how I heal. Writing is the one place that I feel good about myself. Yet, it isn’t going to work out for me because I made a lot of shitty choices in my life and now I am a single mother AGAIN just trying to survive.
This is not just my struggle. This is the struggle for so many people. Hardworking, gifted, smart and struggling people. We are missing out on a lot of beautiful art because we want people with these life struggles to be able to build something they do not have the time, energy or money to build. Oh yeah, the money! I don’t have money for a web designer, or to travel to conferences or pay for workshops.
Art is a gift from God and we are killing it softly. Not only is that sad for so many reasons, but the main thing that is wrong with it is also that it kills evangelization. Everyone is running around trying to figure out how to spread the Gospel without even considering how much art helped do that historically. With only certain kinds of stories being told only a certain mold of how to be Catholic is being sold and that is just not going to help reach people who will never fit that mold. We need to change this. We need stories of lives that are dumpster fires but where God shows up time and time again. We need to reach the culture that is killing itself because it feels like it will never measure up to our perfect standards which are all bullshit because we all have at least one dumpster fire happening in our lives on any given day.
We cannot evangelize a culture that we will not encounter with honesty and authenticity.
***There are so many amazing and nice Catholic bloggers as well, ones who have shown up for me time and time again. Ones who have prayed me through the last 19 1/2 months and who helped me when I was so in shock after losing my oldest son to suicide that I would never have made it without them.