I’m jumping back into the fray this month, submitting an entry to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. January’s theme – OBSCURE – was chosen by last month’s winner, Shez, of The Epicurious Texan. This is the 30th edition of the MWWC, a friendly competition among wine writers, in which we venture beyond tasting notes and let the purple prose flow! Here goes:
Obscurity and Competence: That Is the Life That Is Worth Living. Mark Twain
Not long ago I traded in my tailored corporate suits for the much more, ahem, relaxed, wardrobe of the independent writer. Working from home, I relished the newly-found freedom to set my own schedule, accept assignments that excited me, and avoid the soul-sucking trials of weekly air travel. That last bit alone has made me a nicer person, I’m sure of it! No more wasting of my creative juices on dry-as-dirt product marketing guides! Adiós to those pesky compliance officers and their penchant for phrases like “shall not be limited to” and “except where superseded by state regulation.” Woo hoo!
But there is another side to leaving the rat race and its drudgery behind: making one’s way in a new field can be thrilling, exhilarating, and – uh – lonely. While I have always been a writer, most of my professional projects thus far had related to public health, government grants and contracts, and insurance industry filings. The occasional speech-writing task was a rare chance to go wild, color outside the lines, and inspire people, not just inform them of the legal limits of their insurance policies. So when I finally decided to marry my passion for wine with my years of writing experience, I thought I’d stumbled upon the perfect direction for my next adventure.
I certainly didn’t lack enthusiasm. Over the years I had studied wine and taken advantage of local tastings and conferences. A few years ago I received my first official certification, the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) through the Society of Wine Educators. All I had to do was write, right? Well . . . not quite.
My first endeavor was Tour de France by the Glass, a day-by-day vinous accompaniment to the famous cycling race that happens each July. I wrote like a banshee, with a new post every day that chronicled the race as well as the local wine country, producers, and cuisine. I was the happiest I’d been in ages. There was just one problem: no one read my blog. I mean, no one. But I didn’t let that stop me: I kept at it, reminding myself that hard work, perseverance, and a positive attitude would make all the difference. And still, no one read it. I was, it appeared, well-established in Mr. Twain’s beloved land of Obscurity.
I set out to change whatever needed to be changed. First, I became more active on social media, following influencers in the wine arena. I made it a point to engage with people who seemed receptive and followed me back. Most of all, I looked at what other wine writers were doing, where they were interacting, and with whom. Almost immediately I realized my blog was on the wrong platform! If I wanted to be part of this group, I’d have to move my blog. So I did. Since I’m not a tech wiz, this was a bit of a slog, but I got it transferred over just in time for my first Wine Pairing Weekend, last June. Phew.
That day, I made my Twitter chat debut (boy, have I made progress since then!) and met several new wine friends. The group welcomed me and my contribution, and served as a launching pad of sorts, for the next iteration of my wine blog The Swirling Dervish. I will always be grateful for their help and encouragement.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s scary to do something new, especially when it’s a pretty drastic departure from what you’ve done for many years. Making your way in a new field is daunting but, ultimately, worth the effort. Toiling away in obscurity can be disheartening, but you can’t give up. You might be one connection away from things taking off, just as you’d hoped they would.
So, to go back to Twain’s quote, I understand both the exhilaration and the self-doubt inherent in occupying that uncomfortable space called Obscurity. Competence? Oh, jeez, I can’t even begin to contemplate what that means yet! I suppose, as with most things, time will tell.