I have over 1500 “friends” on Facebook and most of them I don’t know. I am friends with writers, many of them very successful writers. Some of them have been published in the New York Times, most of them have a least one book, and have won at least one, if not many, awards, fellowships, grants, etc. There are several writing teachers and professors on my list. A year ago, I used social media to keep in touch with friends from high school and college, but now I use social media to network. I have very few “real life friends” left on my list.
Being friends with these writers, and reading about their successes every day does something for me. I want to be among them. I watch where they get published. I read their well written essays and poems. Most of them are better writers than I am, and I think that is great, because I learn from them. It takes me out of my comfort zone and makes me strive to be better.
Then there is something else going on with my social media pages. I am an advocate for the mentally ill, and I follow many people, nonprofits, and agencies that represent, or educate, or provide services for, the mentally ill. So, I am also “friends” with many people who have a mental illness. Many of these mentally ill people are also writers. Some of them are terrific writers, but some of them are treated like celebrity writers by their followers, but in reality their writing is terrible.
I think I know what is going on there. People are treating the writer as a huge success, because they have a mental illness, and are congratulating the person for doing something, anything, that takes effort and talent. But these people are not held to the standards of good writing, they are held to a different standard, a lesser standard, because, “isn’t it amazing that someone with her/his disability is able to write at all?” These people are told how great they are, how special they are, how amazing they are, when the truth is, if they submitted their writing to be judged alongside other writers for a space in an online magazine, or a competition, they would get a rejection.
Even though eighty percent of what I write has to do with mental illness, I don’t want to be given a special pass, because I am mentally ill. I want to continue to take classes, take workshops, read fantastic writing, and get better so that when it is between me and another writer for the same slot, I will sometimes come out on top.
This blog is very important to me, but if I get a special pass anywhere, it is here. Here is where I am known as someone with schizophrenia. I am probably labeled schizophrenic before I am labeled writer on these pages.
It is important to me to continue to write and submit articles and poetry to online magazines and journals, and to be accepted by the places I see other writers being accepted. It is important, because I don’t want a pass for being mentally ill. I only want to be judged by the quality of my writing, not the fact that I have a diagnosis that makes it difficult to write a story from beginning to end without getting side tracked in disjointed thinking.
I don’t want the fact that I write to be considered amazing. I want my words to someday be amazing. I want to inspire, because of my competencies, not because of my deficiencies.
Even though it would appear to be to my advantage to be held to a lesser standard (more support, more compliments, etc.) that is not what I want. My dream is to be a good writer, not a schizophrenic writer. If you will read that last sentence again, you will understand that there is a huge difference.