I hope when my son grows up he is a great person. Obviously it would be nice if being great means he wins the most US Olympic gold medals ever and buys a new house for me and his mom, but I’ll settle for him just being a genuine, caring, hard-working individual.
I like to think I’m caring, and I’m generally hard-working. I don’t spend a lot of time promoting myself, because I feel actions speak louder than words. At the same time, I’m aware that sometimes you need to highlight your actions so that you get recognized for what you do. I’m ok with that, and I am capable of it when I really need to.
I’m definitely ok with other people promoting themselves. If you’ve done cool stuff, you should tell people about it. And of course you’re going to spin it positively. This is all great and understandable. For example, did you know that my pro wrestling alter ego, The Prince of Polyester, was nationally ranked by Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine? (Normally I won’t tell people I was #473 on the top 500 list, or that this was in 1996. That’s the positive spin I’m talking about.) This is a verifiable fact.
But given that two of my careers–pro wrestling and writing–involve creative people with a talent for making stuff up, I’ve encountered my fair share of BS. As I get older, I’m less tolerant of it. Let me repeat my earlier statement–I have no problem with people promoting themselves, even shamelessly so, if what they’re saying is in some way true. What bothers me is when people make stuff up or deliberately misrepresent themselves in a vain attempt to–what? Make us believe they’re experts? Present themselves as something they’re not? It’s this kind of behavior I hope I can teach Wolfe to avoid.
I could give a number of examples, but what’s really sticking in my craw tonight, due to a speech I heard recently from an “inspirational speaker,” is writers who dub themselves Pulitzer prize nominees. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to win a Pulitzer. And as a writer, if I had a chance to talk to somebody who was a prizewinner or nominated finalist, I would be in awe.
Here’s the thing, though. There is no such thing as a “Pulitzer prize nominee.” Or at least, the people who include this in their bio typically had no more chance of winning a Pulitzer than I have of flying to Mars. You see, anybody who has a book published–seriously, anybody–can enter the Pulitzer prize competition. All you need is a book in paperback or hardcover and $50. Admittedly, I don’t have the first (unless you count my contribution to Many Genres, One Craft), so maybe this is just sour grapes. But I think writers who tout themselves as Pulitzer prize nominees have to know how most people interpret that statement. So, are these writers deliberately lying in order to be viewed as an expert (maybe in order to get speaking fees or stretch their credentials), or do they really believe their own hype? I almost hope it’s the first, because if it’s the second, I feel sad for them.
Of course I love writing. I’ve published a number of short stories and non-fiction essays, mostly in semi-pro and small press magazines and e-zines. I’ve written six novels. Two of them are (in my opinion) pretty good. I hope one day to have a novel published in some form. When I do, I’ll promote the heck out of it. I’ll spin anything I accomplish to the best, most positive effect. But I won’t deliberately mislead people about my credentials. If I did, what kind of example would that be setting for my son?