27 February 2012

Thoughts from the Unemployment Line

Photo Copyright by PhotoStock

The other day I spent most of my afternoon in the unemployment department. And something interesting happened.

If you've never had to file for unemployment, you aren't missing out on much. I spent most of my weekend filling out necessary online forms and overanalyzing my previous work experience so much it made my eyes go numb.

When I walked in and the first thing I noticed was the quiet. There were only a handful of people there, of course, and most seemed just as troubled about being there as me. Some looked a bit more scraggly than others. Others seemed a bit surprised and put off to even be there. Those were the ones who felt the need to justify their presence there. They had conversations with the unemployment department staff that ran along thelines of, "I have a job lined up, so I really don't need to be here..." or "This is only temporary..." The staff reassured them, with the same type of understanding you would give to a child insisting that Santa Claus was real.

As I sat quiet at the table I was assigned, I began to continue working on my book. I think it was the quiet and the expectation to sit there and not say a word that got me started. Not before long, it was my turn. I went to the computer, completed the registration process, and was instructed to sit at another table.

At that table, a woman sat across from me that was part of the "put off" crowd. She seemed a bit angry. She also wore too much make up. I did like her boots though. When it was her turn at the next area, I heard her having to explain herself as well. I decided when it was my turn I wouldn't do that.

So, when I reached the desk of one of the staff, it was an older lady. She had dyed hair and wore a huge diamond ring. The first question was standard - what was your last position?

Of course, I said what was expected - customer service. It was the job I am expected to continue to search for while being unemployed. I'm also good at this as well...I'm patient. I know how to connect with people and this makes helping them with whatever it is they need help with that much easier.

And then I surprised myself - I said I was also a writer. This is the first time - outside of family, outside of Twitter, Facebook, and GooglePlus - that I introduced msyelf to a total stranger as being a writer.

She asked me what I wrote about. I told her I was a blogger and I also wrote fiction.  (See, this is why every writer needs a blog. If you aren't published, saying you are a blogger is a great way to stave off those questions on whether you have been published before.)

Funny thing is she didn't ask any follow up questions about whether I had been published. Instead she said, "I had always wanted to write. I wrote something recently that had made me laugh so much..." She started to laugh while completing my paperwork. I smiled, thrilled at this brief moment of connecting with another human being at the most unexpected place and time. She continued, "But my husband read it and he didn't really like it." The smile began to fade. "I don't know, I thought it was funny. I always thought I would write, but I don't know..."

She shrugged her shoulders and something like reality set it in. She continued asking the same basic questions all applicants get asked. Gave me the basic instructions and told me where I could find customer service jobs.

I stood and she said good luck with finding a job and good luck with writing. I told her, "You too."

As I left, I wondered...what made her and I so different? I haven't been published, either. I don't have published novels on the shelves of my local bookstore. I don't write for nationally recognized magazines like Time, Newsweek or the New Yorker. Yet there I was introducing myself as a writer. And I didn't even blink an eye.

I think what a lot of us writers miss...is that getting published is only half the battle. Really, it's only part of it. If you've ever talked to someone who doesn't consider themselves of the creative kind...you will realize something that is missing. It isn't talent. It isn't even whether they are good or not. I know those things are a part of it, but there is something else that isn't there...

And sitting there talking to this lady, who seemed to lose her confidence as quick as a candle being snuffed out by the wind, I realized that I didn't just have the gift of writing and storytelling. I had the gift of confidence and self-assurance as a writer.

And that is everything. If you have that, whether you are published or not, you have so much. Don't ever forget that.

And if you find yourself identifying with the lady at the unemployment office more than you care to admit...I will tell you my secret. My secret of what gave me the confidence to introduce myself as a writer that day...

...I gave myself permission. I have done that my whole life. I gave myself to permission to be creative. To be silly. To be rejected. To sound stupid. To write my story. To writer others' stories. To be weird. To write scary characters, loving characters, funny characters, insecure characters, creepy characters. To be inspired by the world around me. To be inspired by my dreams, my nightmares and my fantasies. To not hold back. To uncover. To explore. To finish the story. To stop in the middle. To write a scene. To write a dialogue. To a write it into a poem. To fail. To try and succeed. To keep going. To give up and swear I'll never go back (but I always do). To keep the stories private. TO make them as public as I could. To trust myself.
I trusted myself.

Do this today. Even if someone doesn't think you are any good. Even if someone doesn't agree with your story or think it's crappy. Even if someone tells you to give up.

Because don't. Because there are people like me out there who listen to your story and want to tell you to not give up. That we - the ones who manage to find the courage to define ourselves by our creative nature - don't have this big huge secret power. We don't have an instruction manual that you don't. We have just given ourselves permission to try, to learn, and to not give up.

Do not ever give up.

42 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. What a great story! Thank you for sharing. This was just what I needed today :)

    Samantha

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  3. You're such an inspiration, Nicole! :) And a breath of freshness.

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  4. I knew I loved you. Great post Nicole.

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  5. This is great! I just started telling people that I'm a writer. It gets easier every time I tell someone. I'm still scared to death to tell anyone about the novel I'm working on.

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  6. @Samantha, Diane, and The Desert Rocks- Thank you so much!! :) I'm glad I inspired you guys!! You all remind me why I should keep my blog up!

    @Rena - I'm the same way! I finally posted on Facebook that I'm writing a book and that it will be done by the end of March - definitely was a surprise to find people very supportive (although it showed me how many of my friends DO NOT read my blog!) :)

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  7. Great post! Loved your story, so inspirational. I can say I'm a writer on Social Media but it's not something I tell people. Usually, others bring it up and I agree with hesitation. I guess, it's difficult to see yourself as a writer if you're not getting paid to write.

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    1. I'm the same way Auden. If it wasn't for my blog, I doubt I would have felt that comfortable. But hey one step at a time! A stranger in the unemployment office is just the beginning!

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  8. That was great Nicole! Good for you.

    The most important part is DON'T GIVE UP!

    I continued my dream for 30+ years of rejection... and I was finally published by a small publisher. So, it is worth working on it, no matter how long it takes! No matter how people don't take you seriously or berate you (even secretly).

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    1. Thank you Lorelei for your words of encouragement! In this business it can be easy to feel defeated and want to give it up, and I love hearing when people won't quit! I am so glad you found your success!!

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  9. Thanks for sharing! Great story! And thank you for the encouragement you have given us all. This lady's situation is all too common. Maybe she had talent or maybe she didn't but when one person put her down (and a close person at that), it just caused her to give up. A lot of us suffer from that voice of doubt, and we need to learn to hush that voice. Talent is one part, indeed, but Nicole, you have pointed out that confidence in yourself can carry you through. And everywhere I go now, I do tell people I am a writer. It is something we should be proud of. Take care!

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    1. Thank you Lena! I really beginning to realize how much confidence can go a long way! But hearing critical words from people closest to us can be so tough to move beyond! But I pray that all of us can be our own cheerleaders!

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  10. enjoying your blog. I'm your newest follower

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  11. I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Though I remember one time, when I was probably about 13-14 years old, my dad and I were having a nice chat, and somewhere, my writing comes up. He says, "I never thought you were that good of a writer." Ow, that stung.

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    1. KT, oh no, what an awful thing to say! I am glad you kept with your dream though...I hope you get to prove him wrong!

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  12. What a beautiful post! Great inspirational story! Thanks!

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  13. I think confidence in whatever you do is key. If you doubt, just one little word from someone can make you wonder.
    If you have enough confidence, no one can shake it.

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    1. Ruth isn't that so true!? Having confidence can help those moments where people put down or express doubt...it can take you miles!!

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  14. I LOVE that you introduced yourself as a writer - bloggers need to be proud of their writing achievements, like you said, getting published is only half the battle!! x

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    1. Thank you Jen!! It has been huge that I have done so much with blogging!! And because of it I finally feel comfortable calling myself a writer!!

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  15. You are always so inspiring! I've always struggled with self-confidence in this regard. I'll even catch myself downplaying my writing when people ask about it by saying things like "oh, you know, it's a hobby," all the while I know it's my passion and all I want to do. Time to stop that and stand up for what I love!
    Thanks for posting this!

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    1. Isn't that the truth?? I finally heard a coworker say, "Hey, you're a writer..." and I swooned! It has taken me a lot not to down play! Especially because if I don't down play people will ask to read my stuff........which would never happen!

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  16. What a sweet post. I identify myself first and foremost as a writer/ blogger ... my day job is just what pays the bills. Good on you for saying it out loud.

    I love doing that, it makes me feel like I am being honest with myself. It makes me happy ... and then come the questions:)

    http://unpublishedworksofme.blogspot.com/

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    1. The questions are the worst!! I finally posted on Facebook about a book I'm working on, and I got asked the dreaded questions...what's it about, can I read it, where'd the idea come from, how did you write a book, can I write one.......oh the questions....but it's okay! I'm getting better about them!! :) and definitely I'm a writer first, my day job second!

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  17. I love that you had that conversation with that lady. Who knows, maybe she will look up blogging and post he story? You never know who you may inspire or when!

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    1. @MSBJaneB - I was thinking the same thing!!!! I hope she does!! I hope I inspire her in that way!!

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  18. My favorite quote, by Winston Churchill: "Never quit!"

    Hi, Nicole, I am a writer, too!

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    1. Hi Nancy!! Yay!!!! Good to hear you say that!!

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  19. "...quick as a candle being snuffed out by the wind."
    I like that phrase. However, I LOVED the third from last paragraph! Kudos.......

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    1. Aww thank you KT!! I know I had so much fun writing that third paragraph!!

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  20. Good for you Nicole! I once read that a persistent author will become a published author! You just have to have confidence in yourself and determination to succeed - and you will! You go girl!

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    1. Thanks Jill!!! Building my confidence has been half the battle and now that I have I have so much more to give to writing!'

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  21. Great story Nicole! You are absolutely right - without confidence, without the stomach to handle defeat and get up again, it almost does not matter how good we are.

    Thanks!

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    1. So true, and yet sad to know how fragile we are!! But creativity to me is like a little child and needs to be nurtured and for me confidence is it!

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  22. I think most people have days when tehy believe in themselves cmpletely and other days when nothing makes sense. i try to make the most of the first and ignore the second.

    mood
    Moody Writing
    @mooderino
    The Funnily Enough

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    1. @Mooderino - so true huh?? Today was a downer day for me where my attempts to be confident felt childish! But I try to ignore these days...the other days way make up for it!

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  23. Stopping by from Blog Hop Til You Drop! http://queenofsavings.com

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  24. What a beautiful post! :) Good luck in everything!

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  25. It is important to create, all the time.

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