Speaking My Language
My family and I took a quick day trip up to Noosa yesterday to catch up with some of our holidaying Kiwi friends. The place was packed but we had a great time checking out the beach, the surf club and the farmers’ market with them.
At the farmer’s market I happened to spy a French boulangerie and ambled over to buy a pain au chocolat and an apricot pastry thingy. I apologised to the Frenchman behind the display case for having such limited French. The exchange ended with a ‘merci’ and off I went to tuck into my treats. The youngest had been watching from a distance and sidled up to me to say ‘Mum, why do you always do that?’
‘Try and talk to people in their own language? It makes you look…racist.’ He whispered that last word.
Sorry, what? I hope not!
The youngest is about to turn thirteen, which means we will soon be eaten out of house and home. Here I was thinking he was coming over to make me share my pastry. He’s going through that stage where his parents do things in public that highly embarrass him. I feel his pain. When I was the same age I tried to refuse to walk down the same side of the street as my dad. He took great delight in chasing me down the footpath as I sped into a run. He was faster than me. I couldn’t outrun him. Oh the shame! Now I love walking down the street with my dad and feel sad I can’t do it more often because we don’t live in the same country any more. I hope my son will get over this phase sooner rather than later for both our sake.
It's true I really do love greeting people in their own language. After travelling to a few different countries, I have found the quickest way to break the ice with someone is to attempt to say a few words in greeting, at least. It's my way of showing I’m interested in learning about them and their culture. It can get mentally tiring and I sometimes feel like an idiot, using more gesture than language, but I’d rather try and be open to interesting conversations and new experiences.
I reasoned with my boy that if he was in a foreign speaking country and someone went out of their way to say ‘hello’ to him in English, wouldn’t he think that was nice of them? He remained sceptical. I guess I should be glad he remembered the rule about not talking to strangers…
This brings me to my next point. I was saying to my husband the other day that to become a successful writer it seems like I must spend 80% of my time networking and making connections and only 20% writing. I may never truly get there but I’m sticking to my original promise to focus on being consistent. Consistently - but not obsessively! - writing and enjoying the connections and networks that grow from there. I’m viewing the practice as a marathon instead of a sprint. That’s not to say that my need for instant gratification has been switched off. I have to give myself a regular reminder to keep my hopes at realistic levels because publishing is a slow moving machine. This year has been quite tough as I’ve fielded many rejections for many different pieces of writing. Yet, just when I thought no one cared I received four acceptances in quick succession and someone in the field told me they thought I had talent. Perhaps I’m getting better at targeting the right places for publication. Maybe the regular writing discipline is helping me to hone my craft. Could it be my website does an adequate job of showcasing what I’m all about? It’s hard to know.
Another element that further complicates things for me is the question of self-promotion on social media. Editors sometimes ask about possible channels for marketing. I feel like I’m learning another language or three. Facebook has always been my go-to but Instagram seems to be more popular, and Twitter is the land of fast-paced quips that land in hard and soft places. While I do have a friendly and outgoing personality, I am a happy introvert and nasty comments sting. Spending time alone is invigorating and none more so than when I get to dig around for a few hours inside my own imagination. For the purposes of meeting more writers and publishing professionals – or at least hopefully entertain some of my friends and family – I’d like to unveil my new and improved social media sites. If I expect my students to challenge themselves then I should lead by example, right? As if my teenage children don’t find me embarrassing enough, in no particular order you will virtually find me at https://twitter.com/TheEnglishNut1, https://www.instagram.com/theenglishnut1/ and https://www.facebook.com/theenglishnut/. Feel free to follow and engage or not! There will be no bikini pics or supersize lips I'm pleased to say. I'm sharing to let other writers out there feel less alone in their endeavours! It would be great to hear about your own creative highs and lows as well.