Marching Band, Farming, and Writing - This Writer's Life

For the record, this is a glockenspiel, and I never played it. Walking and playing are not a good combo for me.

I played in the marching band . . . shout out to the Flying Flucos. (Remind me someday to tell you about the research Mom and I did to find out what a Fluco was.)  But I wasn’t just a band geek. I was also in choir, singing alto. I also was on the academic quiz team, and I played softball for a couple of years.  I’ve never been, in other words, one of those people who fits a niche well.

I like that about myself.

The Advice I Hate about the Business of Writing

So when I hear advice like “Even on your personal Facebook page, you should post only links or information that are related to your business,” I grimace.  I’m not just a writer. I’m also not just a farmer or an editor or a historian. None of these things is less a part of me than the other. And to act as if I’m just this one thing feels insincere to me – it feels fake, like I’m performing.

I played keyboards on the sidelines for the marching band, so a performer I am not. (You should have seen me try to play cymbals and walk during the one parade we were in. It wasn’t pretty.)

I want my online presence to be genuine, to be all of who I am – cross-stitching farmer, editor, cheese doodle lover, etc.  And that’s what I want from the people I know, too. If you publish a book, that’s a part of your life, something you should be proud of, and I want to know about it. If your child is off to her first day of school (as seems to be the case for every child in Virginia today), then I want to see that picture. If you make origami mice and sell them on Etsy, post away. If you are someone who thinks the loss of Firefly and of My So-Called Life was one of the great tragedies of television, tell me (I’ll get it completely.)

This idea that we need to be people stuck into niches, people who only do one thing, especially if one of our things is a business – well, I hate it.  Truly and completely. I want to be all of me, and I want you to be all of you.

The Niches I Build

That said, I do have niches that I build around the house that is the internet. I have this site for work about writing, and I have a site for our farm and one for my research and work on African American history and genealogy.  I create these separate sites because people come to me for information about certain things, and I want people to find what they need easily.

But that doesn’t mean I’m any different at the keyword when I write one place or the other. I’m still the same outspoken, introverted woman everywhere I write. In fact, each of these sites contributes to the others. The farm site helps me keep focused on the small things, helps me stay quiet and still in my largely solitary life, and that solitude is what helps me write more deeply and truth. The African American history and genealogy site is my heart’s work, but I do that work with the skills I’ve learned as a writer. And this writing site, well, it’s the most well-known part of what I do, and thus, it’s what pays the bills for the farm and gives me the income I need to write the books I want to write. They are all interconnected.

So it may build my businesses faster if I only post about them – I’m not that savvy as a business woman to know – but building my businesses more quickly is not my primary goal in this world. Nope, I want to be an integrated, genuine, sincere person who asks the same of other people be they plumbers who knit,  rocket scientists who turn wood, or travel agents who teach Aikido.

I want me to be me, and I want you to be you. Everywhere. Every day. 

For the record, I can play a mean “Down by the Sea” on the marimba to this day. Don’t ever say marching band didn’t teach me anything.


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