Parable (Part 2)

This is an unexpected follow-up to a previous post. (See Parable for context)

Earlier, I shared a parable I had written as a creative way to process a recent challenging interaction. Since posting, I feel drawn to continue the narrative.

In a letter of response she sent to State University, Ms. Blogger writes:

Dear Ms. Editor,

What a surprising letter! I found myself feeling battered by mixed emotions of excitement, disappointment, shame, embarrassment, pride, alarm, betrayal, and absurdity as I read through your previous letter. I cannot help but wonder if the ethics department, the communications department, and the legal department at State University know that you have contacted me in this way.
It was kind of you to offer to provide me with an editor, as that will save me a bundle. I have been unable or unwilling to hire one for myself. What a surprising perk for being an alum who has only thus far accomplished marginal internet notice! I can’t imagine how your department could offer such a valuable service at no cost to every creative that walks across the State University stage. I am however, hesitant to engage on the terms you laid out. While I recognize this as a gift and a blessing, there are too many strings attached.
Please don’t get me wrong, you present some good and valuable suggestions. Your training thus far, has done me well. Your uninvited efforts to mold and shape my creative process and product, however are perturbing. I may or may not heed the advice you offered. If I don’t, need I fear being ostracized or abandoned by you, who has had tremendous influence in my life? I have made a good life and established quality relationships by inviting others to challenge me, influence me, and change my mind at times. I believe that happens in relationship. But your presumption of invitation into that space under the guise of  helping me “to become a writer whose works [you] would be proud to be associated with” suddenly makes this relationship one-sided. You seem more concerned about how this obscure alumna may make you look than you are about the relationship you have with me. I would rather stand firm writing with my authentic voice, and releasing my work to become what it will.

Part of the creative process, and part of what I began to learn in the halls of your campus, is that creating is both a birth and a loss at once. I draw on my own creative thoughts and abilities, connect them to some ephemeral and unpredictable muse, and then I release them to take on a life of their own in the world. I am allowed to shape them in the beginning, and to have immense influence on their form and appearance, but at some point I must release my works out into the world to do what they will. Many of them will fail, fall flat, and have no impact whatsoever. But some, some of these little works, will spin webs in the heads of my readers, lodging themselves and perhaps growing into something wholly different, but much larger than I could accomplish without releasing them. I am satisfied with that arrangement. And State University should be, too. This is perhaps how you should look upon your graduates.
Instead, it seems that you are trying to manage the impact of your works on the world. This, however, will only diminish said impact.

I am sorry if you find it an embarrassing prospect to be identified with me or my creative works. Should you deem it desirable, I will remove any credit to State University publicly visible in my online profile. I will also discontinue my involvement in your alumni association, as I do not desire to be an embarrassment to you.

Respectfully awaiting your reply,

Ms. Blogger



There was once a popular, admittedly imperfect blogger. She was well-educated, with a graduate degree from a select private university and a bachelor’s degree from a well-known State University. She often engaged difficult topics, and provided thoughtful, detailed descriptions about why she would engage specific subjects and topics. She was trying to make it as a freelance writer, and had several online curricula vitae publicly available at a few different social networking and career search websites. Her CV listed her educational profile, including the school names. She is actively involved in the State School’s alumni association, but in no way employed by the State School.

Someone in the PR department of her undergraduate school found her blog, and took issue with some of her posts, either the way they were written, or the material the blogger engaged. Little research would be needed to connect these blog posts and this blogger to the school in name. Several days later, the blogger received a letter stating:


“Dear Ms. Blogger, It has come to our attention that you are trying to make a living as an imperfect, but courageous writer. We wish our alumni could pursue any career they want in whatever manner they wish without risk of The State University being embarrassed by their efforts. Regrettably, we are somewhat alarmed by the prospect of being identified as the school at which you were educated. We prefer to be identified and associated only with alumni who have successful established careers, and no grammatical errors or potentially embarrassing issues addressed in their published works. We want you to become a writer whose works we would be proud to be associated with, and would like to offer some instruction towards that mutual goal. We advise you to remedy the following concerns.
First, you need to be in control of who and what sort of advertisements are visible on your blog. There must be no alcohol-related ads, and no allergy-related ads, and nothing related to guns, mental illness, or violence as these are particularly sensitive topics for our campus. We would advise you to make use of the PR editor we will provide to proofread every future article or post. If our staff is uncomfortable with the nature of the post, we will make suggestions about how you can remedy the issues of concern, and you can either adopt these suggestions, or will post an addendum at the bottom of the article stating: “I, Ms. Blogger, published this post without the express approval of my alma mater, The State University. All comments and opinions and subjects expressed in this post should be read with the knowledge that they are the express opinions of Ms. Blogger and not the opinions of The State University.”
You are, of course, welcome to pursue your writing career in whatever manner you wish, if you write under a pseudonym, rather than your name, which could be associated with The State University.
We ask that if you choose not to comply with the above recommendations you will remove The State University from your publicly visible curricula vitae, and may result in the withdrawal or suspension of the degree bestowed upon you by The State University.

Jane Editor,
Director of Public Relations, The State University.”


How should Ms. Blogger respond?

Who is right? In what way?

What is the cost of doing relationship this way?

What issues arise in the context of this narrative?

What is your reaction to reading this narrative?

Please post comments below, as I hope for this to be a lively dialogue.