My Boss Compliments my Erotica

As I left work Wednesday, my boss stopped to compliment me on starting posting Lover's Shadow. I panicked.

Bosses just aren't supposed to know about the erotica you write. My initial reaction was "How did he find out?" That's probably one of the stupidest things I've thought in a long time. I posted to Facebook and another social networking site. Because of a tangled confluence of events, I even pointed him at a couple of entries on my blog. My SOL author profile is easy to link back to my real identity. I'm trying to create a social media presence; people are supposed to be able to find out.

I have talked about the fear and embarrassment of my love work coming up in professional contexts. My boss's comment triggered that reaction. But as I examined my reaction, I realized that didn't make sense. We were alone in the building. He was careful to mention he was shifting into a personal context; I consider him a friend. I've talked about my love work before with him. As I dug deeper, I realized that I was reacting in fear to how open I had become. If my boss can find my work, so can anyone else. Others might not be as careful of my need for acceptance, respect, and to choose boundaries around how one part of my life impacts my professional work. It wasn't my boss at all: it was me facing the inevitable consequences of openness.

In a conversation discussing my reaction, my boss said that I did a great job of projecting openness and comfort. He implied that without that, he never would have approached me. It fills me with joy to hear that I've managed to create that climate. That's much of what I'm trying to do.

Finding Pride

I'm very glad that my boss did compliment my work. It means a lot that I can create something where the openness shines through enough that someone who takes a different approach can acknowledge the achievement. It was hard for him to bring up the subject; it would have been very easy to say nothing. The compliment was heart-felt.

Also, I found myself trying to dismiss his compliment. "It's just porn," I thought. As I thought that, I realized that I didn't believe that. Writing a hundred thousand well-crafted words about anything in the middle of moving, finding a new job, and struggling with a crisis of faith is something to be proud of.

And it's not "just porn." It's a narrative about openness and a commentary on shame and intent. I've focused as much on the world building, character development, and politics as any author. Yes, there's a lot of sex, but the sex is an important part of the character exploration as well as a challenge to the reader to think about intent. I think it's hot, but it's more than just hot.

So, being challenged in this way helped me find pride that I otherwise would not have done.

Living Openness

I do want to embody the openness I projected to my boss. I want to be the kind of person who can hear congratulations about my erotica with the same comfort I accept comments about my professional standards work or my contributions to Debian.

Apparently I'm not there. This conversation helped me confirm that's what I want and understand what I need to do in order to achieve that.

In a future post, I hope to come back to the challenge of maintaining appropriate professional boundaries while being open about my life. I know I'm not the only one struggling with that.