Saturday, June 26, 2010

Speaking your mind

In this section of my website I talk about my inspirations in life and one of them is Carrie Fisher. There's a video interview I posted there when she was on Letterman in November 2009 and I love to watch it once in a while so much it makes me laugh.

Now, I follow a lot of blogs: writers, lit agents, lit agencies and other publishing professionals. I have about three dozens of them in my Google reader, but one I like a lot for its voice is this one. The writer is Hannah Moskowitz and she was published at seventeen. She has another book coming out this year too, with some steamy cover art. She's also writing a new story with gay and bisexual fishes. Where am I going with this?

She just did a blog entry about professionalism and I thought, upon seeing the Twitter update about it: great, another blog entry telling us to shut up, be nice, never retort, never say bad words, become a cookie-cutter writer and you might get published.

BUT NOOOOoooo! It was a wonderful post, which came down to one thing: be yourself, respect yourself, respect your readership and you'll be a professional. I agree 101%.

Hannah's blog can be quite funny because it has a great voice: the voice of authenticity. There's no attention given to political correctness or rose petals thrown in the pool to soften the opinions that are about to fall down the sky... she just says what she means and thinks and the water rolls off her back. I think it's awesome that, in 2010, you can act like yourself and still be published or considered a professional (even if you are young).

The parallel with Carrie Fisher is quite obvious to me, though you'd have to know a little about her life to understand why. Until I saw Hannah's post today, anytime I watched Carrie Fisher talk on interviews (the funniest ones are on Craig Ferguson), I envied her for having earned the right to speak her mind out loud without having to worry about the repercussions. Because I think this is an earned privilege. I think so.

When I was still in medical school I was on a two weeks internship in a hospital. We followed doctors around and it was meant to get us acquainted with working in a hospital (this was the first year). One day, I was working with a super-cool young and hip doctor, with whom I forged a strong rapport with because of how down to earth she was. She asked me at the nurse station how my internship was going so far (after I'd spent 3-4 days with her and we were on a first name basis) and I said something like "It's been really cool so far, but it's heavily dependent on what kind of people you hang around with. If you get to follow a a fun doctor the experience is ecstatic, if you end up with someone bitchy it's not so much fun."

It was a general statement. It was the truth, and I felt like my relationship with that doctor would allow me to be so frank about what I thought. She laughed a lot and said this will be true for my entire career.

Fast-forward two days later. I had not yet been in the company of a bitchy doctor. Just stuck-ups and arrogant snobs who might have thought they were the center of the little world they live in, but nothing so bad you want to quit.

I was apparently overheard and reported, only to have my ass summoned into a room with two other doctors to tell me how inappropriate it was to call the doctor in front of me a bitch. The doctor with whom I had spent less than 4 hours with, whom I had already forgotten and didn't even remember her name.

To this day, I'm still trying to understand how she could have known I even said the word bitchy and furthermore, how the fuck she thought it could have applied to her. I didn't even remember her name or who she was because she was as interesting as a blank canvas. Self-involved comes to mind. I later learned she had found me to be too outspoken in my private discussions with her when we had been together a few days prior and since she's extremely introverted, it obviously got to her.

I used my PR skills to make nice, apologized profusely for the misunderstanding and the next afternoon, I was scheduled to hang around with the cool doctor again. Suffice to say I was a little shaken. I had never in my life been summoned in a room to be disciplined. This wasn't me. I was being punished for being honest with someone who had asked me my personal opinion about my experience so far.

The lesson stuck with me, and will stick with me forever. It caused me a lot more trouble down the line too by the way, all of it because of a misunderstanding. It's kind of sad, and a counselor I saw sometimes also thought the whole affair was utterly ridiculous.

The moral of the story is that you can say what you think whenever you want, but there might be repercussions down the line. Carrie Fisher's been in the business long enough to be able to say whatever it is she wants and get away with it. She earned it, she survived through Hollyweird and unstable parents for decades. Hannah Moskowitz got published and still is getting published because she proved that she could work through all the steps and deliver a kick-ass final product.

I don't think I've earned my right to speak my mind out loud about whatever and whenever I want, but I still don't think I should become a cookie-cutter nerd who acts like the well raised mama's boy. Until I hopefully get published one day, I'll find an in-between and walk the fine line with the agility of Peter Parker.

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