I got shortlisted for an award recently. Kent columnist of the year. Feels weird to be talking about it, borderline indecent, but I’ll have to get used to it, because they sent me a giant cardboard oblong that screams #KPBA FINALIST and asked me to make some “creative content” with it, then plaster the resultant images over those new-fangled time-wasters, Twitter, TikTok and the like. I’m keen to oblige, but giant oblongs don’t make me feel creative, and anyway, screaming “Look at me! Aren’t I clever?!” seems vulgar, alien, not quite cricket.
I’m determined to get over it though. My desire to succeed outstrips even my desire not to seem a tawdry showoff. And shouting about how successful you are is really what makes you a success, at least in literary circles. It’s not as if you’re going to make any money or achieve anything useful. In science you must fix covid or find God particles to be viewed as a smash; in the arts getting 12 likes on your latest instapoem counts as a win. So yeah, no big deal, but turns out I write pretty well. More people want words from my pen than I have time to write em, particularly now I have to get creative with cardboard, and I’m thrilled to admit it. Took me long enough to get here.
The joy of social media is garnering attention anyway, and Lord knows I’m guiltier than most. Look at my fancy dinner, pretty puppy, full fiery commitment to not being racist, stockinged thighs, acute mental health issues, evil kids, gorgeous kids, look look look. Might as well brag purposefully, since it’s so damn irresistable. Bragging leads to new opportunities. If people see that you’re thought to write well you will be offered more chances to write; if they have no idea what you’re capable of you will be overlooked, perhaps in favour of someone with less talent than you. You’re doing everyone a favour by screaming about your brilliance. Think of it as your way of giving back to the world. If enough of us mention our achievements it might yet become good form, and maybe your children/friends/colleagues will do the same, feel fine about being happy and proud of themselves, and basking in the resultant dopamine rush: the world will be a happier place in consequence.
So you, too, fellow scribbler, should shout about your achievements, shamelessly and consistently. Published in a new journal? Yell about it, top of your lungs. Made a longlist? Amazing! Pin it to the very top of your profile, directly over a picture of your sweet self in a bikini. Weirdly, telling strangers is often easier than telling your friends. Secretly you’re afraid your mates will be jealous of your success and hate you for mentioning it, and you’re probably right. There’s no greater pleasure that seeing a very old friend fall from a very high place, and conversely, no greater sorrow than seeing a pal achieve something worthwhile. That’s their problem. When they do something equally cool they’ll get their own chance to be despised. And of course, if bragging makes your friends suffer, it sees your enemies melt and squirm like so many salted slugs.
Remember: you’re not bragging, you’re telling the truth. If it’s still hard, pretend you’re talking about someone else. She did this, she won that, and looked amazing while she was at it too. Stuff ball gags into the mouths in your head that whisper it’s a mistake, it’s a fluke, it’s a joke. Be your biggest fan, publicist and cheerleader, shamelessly and endlessly.
© 2020 Melissa Todd
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Melissa Todd completed an MA in creative writing at Canterbury Christchurch in 2009, and writes novels, short stories and opinion pieces.