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,