“Your platform,” she says, “is your body of work.”
She means, I think, to liberate me from the metrics of platform-as-followers: the notion that if I could somehow lash together enough social media fans, like so many planks of decking, I could step up on their backs and stride away to stardom. But the idea of platform-as-body-of-work strikes no less fear into my heart. What is my body of work, anyway, I wonder. A few dozen blog posts read by a few family members and a few close personal friends? A handful of articles published on websites, some of which have now shuttered? Another handful of essays slaved over in my MFA program, and submitted, and submitted, and submitted, and finally let slide into some dusty corner of my hard drive? No wonder the publishers rejected my book proposal. “We love the writing,” they say, “but she has no platform.” No platform. Not enough followers; not a big enough body of work.
But my body of work is five thousand dinners cooked on five thousand nights. Potatoes peeled, pork seasoned, zucchinis sliced. My body of work is soccer practices and piano lessons and band concerts and cross country meets. My body of work is measured out in Band-Aids and shoelaces and snack-size Ziploc bags. My body of work is driving my brother to the nephrologist and teaching second graders to find similes and creating the song lyric slideshow for Sunday morning church and listening to a friend while I fold socks.
My body of work is four bodies: bodies I held inside my body for as long as I possibly could, laying my body on the couch each day, ignoring both its protests and the studies that say bedrest produces no measurable benefits, only getting up for the toilet or the shower, until the February December April July day when my body gave way and their bodies hurtled, some too soon, into the world. My body of work is four bodies that I nourished with my body, attaching my body to a green hospital-grade breast pump in the middle of the night, ferrying the bottles to the NICU in the morning, reaching my fingers through the portal in the side of the plastic isolette to stroke their little calves to say hello. My body of work is four bodies I no longer bathe, wipe, buckle, clothe, swaddle, or carry. Four bodies I still snuggle, feed, spit-polish, and prod.
“Another way to think of it,” she says, “is that your platform is your credentials.”
Ah, yes. Credentials. My bona fides, the chops that qualify me to write this particular book. My credentials, I think, are the hours I have spent on my therapist’s couch. The hours in the psych ward, the hours in the self-help aisles of the bookstore, the hours with my face pressed into the living room rug. What other credentials for writing a book about the time your life fell apart and got pieced back together again can there be?
Of course, the world does not owe me a book deal. So I spent more time growing a family than a platform. So a sales and marketing team decided not to take a risk on the size of my intended audience. Who am I to argue?
My oldest son’s home room teacher emailed tonight to say that my son is a pleasure to have in class. He is “a silent leader,” she says. “The students really look up to him and many have mentioned they feel they can be more successful seated by him. I'm so glad I get to have him as a student.”
I have written a book, and I hope someday it gets published, platform or no. But tonight, my body of work is a boy who sets an example for his classmates.
For tonight, that’s enough.