SUCCESSFUL LOGOUT!, or, what I learned by applying for writerly gigs

go ahead, look in that pool, be Narcissus (wikimedia)

go ahead, look in that pool, be Narcissus (wikimedia)

Hello, Reader.Thankfully the applications I’ve been working on lately are all signed, sealed, and delivered, or, actually, submitted electronically. Which reminds me of my favorite application submission confirmation message from last year’s application season: “SUCCESSFUL LOGOUT!” Really, no “your application has been received;” certainly no “thanks for submitting.” Just, SUCCESSFUL LOGOUT! This year the confirmation messages were much more comforting. If nothing else, I’ll have that to hold onto when the results come in.

I promised I’d write about what I learned as I worked on my applications. Here’s what I’ve got for you:

Have your reasons. Applying is so much easier for me when I can easily make a case for where my work/goals/needs intersect with an organization’s mission. Your reasons for applying should go beyond “I need some time away from these lovely, crazy people I live with (or work with) so I can write.” Understand the why here? and why now? of your application. I found that examining those questions and understanding the overlap of my work with each organization’s work not only helped me feel more confident about applying, but really gave me some forward momentum as I worked on the applications. Once I’d seen those connections, I felt like, Of course I should apply for this. It’s obvious! Then I took the next step and explained those connections in my application. Fingers crossed.

Apply like a man. (For context on this phrase, read this). As I wrote my statements for these applications, I was worried about coming across as too intense, too braggy. I wanted to make sure the people reading through applications didn’t think I was all full of myself. But what I learned is that when you’re applying for writerly gigs, that’s the time to be all full of yourself, to look down into that pool and fall in love with what you see, to be Narcissus.

When I showed one statement to someone else, I asked, “Is it too intense, too braggy?” NO! she said, It’s not braggy enough! Then she asked me about a list of poetry-related accomplishments — Have you done any of these kinds of things? she asked. The answer was Yes to all items on her list. But I hadn’t included them in my application.

People, my only brag in the whole statement was a list of four (only four!) journals I’ve been published in.

Once the person I showed it to responded with her feedback, I had to laugh. At myself. For thinking my statement was too intense, too braggy.

So next time I’ll know to make a list of all the poetry-related accomplishments I’ve tallied over the years and to weave them into my statement. Better yet would be to create a list now and add to it as time goes on — then my list is ready next application season. Yes, next time I’ll apply like a man, not like a wallflower who’s worried about coming across as too intense, too braggy.

Get help. We’ve all heard it so many times, but I almost didn’t do it this time. I almost didn’t ask anyone else to look at my application materials. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have received the feedback I wrote about above. I wouldn’t have found the errant ‘x’ that was floating after the last line of the last poem in my portfolio, despite the fact that I’d combed through that portfolio forwards, backwards, and upside down about fifty times.  And I wouldn’t have felt the support of my fellow writers when they said things like, “This is a strong application!” and “I love these poems!” Okay, yes, I admit it, I like getting supportive feedback like this and it makes me happy when someone likes my poems. It feels good. It helps keep me going in this writing life that requires persistence and resilience.

So, yes, get help. Ask friends, or pay someone you may not know or know only peripherally to weigh in. Or both. Your work is worth it.

Name and tame. Ah, there’s nothing like working on applications to bring out your inner critic. It’s like setting out a can of tuna fish and a saucer of milk for a stray cat. Enter Spiteful Gillian. Sigh.

Not only will your inner critic try to get you with all her usual tactics, she’ll try to distract you from your task by asking things like, “Who do you think will look after the kids if you’re gone?” and “Are you really going to just leave your family in a lurch in the unlikely event that they accept you?”

But I was prepared. I know that making time for my creative work is part of radical self-care. And I know how to name and tame my inner critic. I wrote about it here, but I’ll give you a little refresher:

  • First say what’s true: “It’s true, Spiteful Gillian, that the odds of me getting these gigs are slim.”
  • Then say what’s not true: “But it’s just not true that I shouldn’t apply, or that I’m just a baby poet so stop saying that! Geez!” (Hey, nobody ever said you can’t get petulant with your inner critic).
  • Then say what’s also true: “It’s also true that I’ll never get these gigs if I don’t apply for them.”

So yes, this is what I learned and what I hope I’ll remember next time I’m applying for gigs. I hope these tips are helpful to you for whatever gigs you might be applying for in this life. I wish you a very SUCCESSFUL LOGOUT! every single time. Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “SUCCESSFUL LOGOUT!, or, what I learned by applying for writerly gigs

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