"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What Oprah's Oscar Snub Can Teach Us...

Let's face it: as creative artists, we all desire to be recognized for our work. Contrary to popular opinion, whether it's writing, acting, or performing---it's not as easy as it looks. It can be grueling, lonely, and gut-wrenching at times.

Our life's work can play mind games with us--feeding on our insecurities and self-doubt.  Our loved ones don't always support us in our journey.
We subject ourselves to public scrutiny and rejection. Every day.
Not to mention, it can take years before we become that "overnight success."
So validation makes us feel "heard." It makes us feel understood and appreciated for our efforts and our sacrifices.

I can still remember Sally Field's Oscar acceptance speech many years ago. "You like me, you really like me!" she shouted, as she accepted her Best Actress Award.

Fast forward...
Decades later, and even with a cult-like following, I imagine that Oprah too would have wanted to experience recognition for her impressive role in this important piece of work--Lee Daniel's film, The Butler. Though she hasn't said much in the aftermath, it's hard to believe that she didn't feel somewhat overlooked and undervalued in not receiving an Academy Award nomination.
From some of the comments I read on the Huffington Post, virtual "chats," and conversations with friends who viewed the film, she should have.

So as part of the creative community, and as "online performers" what can we learn here?

Here are a few things to consider...

1. Validation comes in many forms.
Whether it's an Oscar, a Pulitzer Prize, or a Blog Award-- however, the most important validation is the "vote" of approval we give ourselves. Believe in you. Recognize that we all are a "work in progress." Give yourself time to grow. Permission to explore. Confidence to fail. And keep improving your "craft."

2. Don't expect everybody to like you.
Even amid our best efforts, we get the worst feedback. Editors can "snub" us through their rejections. Blog readers can "heckle" us in their blog comments. A reviewer gives our book a negative write-up. It happens. There's great truth to the expression: "You can't please everybody."

3. Recognize that good work matters, even when it's not formally "recognized."
No matter what the medium-- a blog post, magazine article, or stage reading, give a "stellar performance." You just never know who might be reading or listening, and ultimately impacted by your work. Here's a case in point: a few years ago, I got a blog comment from an "unexpected" reader. A fourteen year old girl from a small town, who identified herself as being "100% Irish," shared how she had been following my Blog and really loved what I had to say. Because of it, she said that she had aspirations to become a writer when she grows up. How cool is that? :-)

4. Don't seek perfection; seek excellence.
I don't personally like every movie or project that Oprah has been affiliated with. But as a whole, she should be proud for championing important causes, impacting change, and being a really "solid" actress.  If you were to judge your work overall as a "whole," would you be proud? Are you "creating" from a place of authenticity? Are you keeping your audience's needs in mind?

5. Don't be bitter, be better.
Sometimes failure can be our greatest teacher. Remain open to the lessons that obstacles and setbacks can teach us; not just about our art, but also developing in character.

This concludes today's performance, here at Pen and Prosper.
I hope that I shared something that will inspire you in the creative process and encourage you throughout your week.

Remember, you don't have to be in the "spotlight" to shine.

Until next time...




  1. Jennifer: What you point out is true. When my son played tee-ball, the manager/coach tried to teach the players and their parents that there is always going to be some team. some person who will be the loser. I have received rejection for my writing. One small literary magazine published a story of mine that had six (6) typos in it. These were ones I had made but didn't catch. Any other publication would have rejected the story because of them. I hope I have learned my lesson about typos. I learn from my rejections.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 29, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      Good for you; we all make mistakes. The key is to learn from them and keep moving forward. Thanks for starting us off here. :-)

  2. Take a bow! Your points are all valid. I don't need an award to know that my words have made a difference, but it's nice to be recognized. You have to be think skinned to be in the public eye. Awesome about the Irish lass.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 29, 2014 at 1:18 PM


      It's audience members like you that inspire "encore performances." Thanks much! :-)

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  4. Yes, Jen, these are wonderful points. I think this post should be required reading for writers at least once a month! :) We are works in progress, always, and getting better all the time.

    Author Jody Hedlund mentioned on her blog one time that she had to come to grips with her work not being everyone's cup of tea. She said it took a while before it sunk in and she accepted it as being okay. I often think of that, and it's really helped.

    Happy weekend!

    1. Good feedback here. Thanks for chiming in, Karen. :-)

  5. Wow, Jen, awesome post! Every single point is well made and so true. Don't be bitter, be better. Love it. You are a blog star in my book, woman. Hugs!!

    1. Aww..you're too kind. Thanks so much for joining in here. I always value your input; you know that. :-)

  6. Those are great considerations, and I do think that if a work is everyones cup of tea, yes or no, depends a lot on how it's perceived. If it fits in a (familiar enough) box.

    How something is perceived probably also might depend on a mixture of how safe, experimental or ahead of your time it is.

    1. You bring up some good points that I hadn't considered. Thanks, H.P.