Get off My Lawn: Embracing the Creative Curmudgeon Within
Updated: Sep 4
Photo: Get off my lawn, garden style. 2022, photo by Ann Zuccardy.
Curmudgeons get a bad rap in a digital world where readers seem to get "triggered" (yes, those are sarcastic quotation marks because this word has lost its power now that we seem to use it for everything that makes us feel bad) over the things we write, regardless of our intentions, our careful editing, and agonizing over word choices.
It's a story as old as the green mountains of my state; you can only please some. And only some of the time.
As a writer closer to the end of my life than the beginning, I am growing peevish and curmudgeonly. I want to share my uncontrived self (both positive and frustrated) with as many people as possible, but doing so means I will always trigger someone. I used to focus on the small percentage of nasty YouTube comments on my two TEDx talks, but it was upsetting because rarely were they constructive; most were just mean. Even when the comment was nonsensical or off-the-rocker-kooky, it bothered me and made me anxious. It occasionally paralyzed me, making me hesitant to put myself out there as a writer and speaker. As a kid, this would have stopped any creative inspiration I had in its tracks. The possibility of people not liking me was my Achilles heel, and conflict was my kryptonite.
I turned to journaling with my first five-year diary at the age of seven or eight, and I became a writer only because I have never felt safe in my family expressing myself out loud. I still don't.
Luckily, I am older and wiser now, and others' disdain still bothers me, but not at the same level. The terrified, shy, "oversensitive" (a word that never should be used on a child) kid still lives inside me.
So here we are. I'm in my 60s now. The current iteration of my creative journey has made me painfully aware of my mortality since I was recently diagnosed with a rare inner ear disorder, which will not kill me but has severely impacted the quality of my life. I am horrified by what I see happening to my country, our planet, and stressed about the world we are leaving behind for my kid's generation. I know there aren't many years left to tell my stories, and wanting to tell them often butts up against my quiet inner child who wants to protect herself from nastiness.
In a culture fueled by moral outrage, virtue signaling, and social media, this conflict is my Big Life Lesson. I am sure of that. And I've been struggling with what to do with that realization.
Plenty of people on social media with carefully curated feeds spew nothing but positivity, political correctness, virtue signaling, and overly posed and filtered pictures of themselves in their nicest clothes. I cannot stand to be around them.
Plenty of people also vomit up conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, hate for people who are different than they are, pretentious educational accomplishments, religious dogma, or political drama. I cannot stand to be around them, either.
While social media has been great for marketing my businesses, speaking, and writing over the last 20 years, it has not been great for my creative curmudgeon within, who is often shouting some form of "get off my lawn" on Facebook.
On a solo writing retreat this weekend, I decided that my creative writing focus would be better served by posting my thoughts on my blog rather than on Facebook or other social platforms. It's still public, but it's my space, and I have more control over it than I do on socials.
I am spending the weekend nurturing my creative writing projects through their lifecycles while fighting the paralyzing fear that they are not good enough or will offend someone. I alternate between "tough noogies if you don't like it; write your own version if you're upset by mine" and "I want to be liked/loved/accepted/acknowledged."
I have been a paid writer all of my adult life. I was an unpaid writer for all of my youth. Not heeding the call to be authentic and tell stories as I remember them or express opinions as I see them is not acceptable at 61.
Social media is not all bad or all good. It's just another tool, which is no longer the best tool for my job of writing authentically in this phase of life. I will die not having applied my Big Life Lesson if I don't do this for the next 30 or so years (God willing!).
Thus, you'll see more of the real me here (sometimes curmudgeon, sometimes perky) on my website and in literary journals and less of sometimes fake me on social media.
I hope you'll stick around and enjoy reading.