Shy But Determined

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’ve made a good living as a CPA for thirty years. Most people think of
me as very reliable, rational, serious, and generally pretty self-
contained. What none of my co-workers and very few of my friends
know about me is that I am also an aspiring poet. I’ve taken some
classes through the local community college and privately. I’ve written
poetry since college, starting with lovelorn, sappy, sad ones when I
was young. But as my skill and life experiences have broadened, I’ve
taken on more complex subjects and (if I do say so myself) have
written some halfway decent verse. Now I think I’m ready to submit
my writing to some poetry contests and magazines, as well as ask the
local bookstore about self-publishing a chapbook and doing a reading.
I know the chances of anything I don’t pay for ever reaching the public
are small. On the other hand, how do I tell people I have been hiding a
double life. How can you take something private and make it public?

Shy But Determined

Dear Shy But Determined:

By doing it. It’s analogous to what gay people do when they come out.
The very fact that you have some sense of shame or fear around the
process should be an indicator that you’re not quite ready to deal with
an onslaught (relatively speaking) of public opinion, as there might be
if you got any press for doing a bookstore reading. But there are lots
of intermediate steps you can take, each of which will help boost your
confidence and get you feedback. Note: feedback may not always be
praise, and/or may be exactly the kind of surprise that you may not
think you’re ready for. But it will toughen and soften you in all the
right ways.

Start with the next circle of friends out. Ask them if they’ve ever
dabbled in writing or poetry. You may be surprised, btw, who says yes.
Then explain your own trajectory, and say you’re getting ready to
submit some poems for a contest and you’d like their insights and
opinions. You can go for a walk or offer to buy them a cup of coffee
when you meet to talk about them. But the fact that you take them
seriously will cut through any surprise on their part. When you do send
them poems, make sure they are labeled Draft – not for sharing –
Thanks. Then submit for the contests.