The Just Trap

Thursday, March 24, 2022
A few weeks ago, I had an AMAZING time at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, watching Ain’T Too Proud, the Life and Times of the Temptations. The music, the choreography, the cast, the story—it was fantastic and I enjoyed every minute of the show! I always enjoy going to the Fox, of course; it’s a gorgeous theater and worth every penny (and it’s a pretty penny). 

Last weekend, I had an AMAZING time at the Colleen O. Williams Community Theater near Athens, GA, watching The Addams Family, A New Musical. The music, the choreography, the cast, the story—it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed every minute of the show! I’d never been to this theater before but since my daughter was Morticia, making her musical theater debut, of course I was there. And it, too, was worth every penny (though it was considerably less than the Fox). 

But I have a point here (besides the one where I’m shamelessly bragging about my daughter) and it’s this: whether it’s a show in a huge theater or a show in a small community theater, it’s still people putting on an AMAZING show. But unfortunately, we have a bad habit of diminishing a job depending on several factors. As in, “She’s just an actor at a regional theater.” Or “He’s just a young choreographer, barely making minimum wage.” When the fact is, an actor is an actor; a choreographer is a choreographer. I mean, the last  time I checked the program, the director in a community theater wasn’t listed as “Just the Person in Charge of Folks Moving Around the Stage.” 

And I thought about this phenomenon as it applies to writers. Because we fall into the “just” trap all the time, diminishing our own work and worth. How many times have you heard a writer say, “It’s just a small, regional magazine”? Or how about the writer who says, “It was just ten dollars” after winning a writing contest? Or how about you? Have you said, “It’s just a royalty-only press”? Or “It was just a Chicken Soup for the Soul story?” 

Oh, yes. I’ve done it myself, y’all, but not anymore. 

Whether I’m making two dollars or two hundred dollars or two thousand dollars for something I’ve written, I’ve still written it and that makes me a writer. Whether my work appears in a national magazine or a magazine that’s distributed in my one county in my whole state, I’ve still written it and that makes me a writer. 

Well, you can see where I’m going here. And watching those two shows, in back-to-back weekends, helped me to see something even more important. 

There was an awful lot of joy in those performers in the Broadway musical at the Fox, and there was an awful lot of joy in those performers at the community theater. Sure, the Fox cast might have SAG cards, and there’s certainly a lot bigger paycheck for them. But the joy? I guarantee you’d find plenty of joy on either stage. 

So don’t let yourself fall into the trap thinking that just because you’re not writing for a prestigious market or a huge publishing house that it somehow doesn’t count. The work is there, the joy is there, no matter how or where you find it. So claim your joy! Claim your Writer title! And go out there and be AMAZING!


Margo Dill said...

Oh my God--you are so right. We have to stop this. I do this ALL THE TIME. Thanks, Cathy. Great post!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

“Just the Person in Charge of Folks Moving Around the Stage”

This line made me laugh so hard! Up until last week, I hesitated when someone asked what I write. I'm so sick of being told that I should write an Oprah book. But last week someone asked if she would have read my work and a friend, turned to her. "Well, we don't really know what you read, now do we?"

It sounded so Downtown Abby that I had to laugh. I think we should all use that while retaining the royal we.

So happy for your daughter!

Andrea said...

You're right! I not only say I "just" write magazine articles, I also believe that "just." But not anymore. I am a writer!

Nicole Pyles said...

This article really spoke to me! I do that SAME thing! That whole "eh" it's just freelance work. I have got to stop doing that (and you've inspired my next blog post!)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Y'all, it took me years to get past the "just" trap! Now, I find myself calling it out when I see it in friends and such, but that doesn't always change the mindset. Because as Andrea pointed out, moving from seeing that we're doing it to believing in ourselves enough to live it...that's the tough part.

Be amazing, you writers!

And Sue, I know exactly what you mean and I LOVE that response so much. Now I'm waiting for someone to ask me that question so I can pounce on them! Hahahaha!

Nicole, I'll be looking for that blog post!

Renee Roberson said...

Oh, we are all so guilty of this, aren't we? Just like our work is subjective to agents/editors, it's also subjective to us. Thank you for emphasizing how important it is to claim our accomplishments, no matter how big or "small" they are. Congrats to your beautiful and talented daughter! (And I love the story of The Temptations, as heartbreaking as it is).

Angela Mackintosh said...

Cath! I'm currently revising an essay I wrote during NaNo where I circle back to the word "Just" and say how it's a diminishing word. The essay is about a terrible date night my husband and I had because that word slipped out of my mouth. So I totally agree! :) I don't say it anymore because I know how hard it is to get accepted by ANY publication. It's so competitive and every publication or step forward is worthy of a celebration. If I won a writing contest (a dream of mine...frequently a finalist, never a prize winner lol) I'd jump for joy at the honor, no matter what it paid.

Your daughter is beautiful as Morticia, and you look so happy! <3

Cathy C. Hall said...

So true, Renee, subjective to us! And Ang, also SO true of the diminishing power of that word "just"--not just in when we say or write it but how it creeps inside of us and becomes part of our mindset. As for contests...oh, boy. I've got a million stories about writing contests--they truly are subjective for the writers and the judges and I've been on both sides. As for your essays that I've read, you write powerful stuff! Your day will come. ♥

And thanks, y'all, for the kind words about Morticia. My daughter had a perfectly dreadful time! Hahahahha!

Linda O'Connell said...

Kudos to Juniorette hall! She has been bitten by the acting bug. Watch out world. And YOU can never say, "Just". You are an amazing writer. But we all do it, don't we? happy spring and editing.

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