Monday, May 2, 2011

Where the Boys Aren't: Guest Post by Porter Anderson

Thanks so much to Porter Anderson (right) for this guest post today! Porter is a 28-year career journalist whose venues have included three of Time Warner's CNN networks, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media. He is a member of Digital Book World, the American Men's Studies Association and the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Porter has registered for the 2011 Memphis Creative Nonfiction Workshop this coming September. He responded to my challenge for guys to "man up"... who will join him? Here's his post:

Since my first days in journalism, when mentors were mentors and newspaper readers roamed the land, I have known, of course, that the lead of a good article never states what the piece is NOT about.
In the interest of clarity, however, I'm breaking that rule.

1. I do not say, believe, or mean to imply that there are too many women in writing workshops, webinars, seminars, book camps, book groups, or at conference events called (Whatever)World.
2. I do not say, believe, or mean to imply that women are doing anything wrong about anything, ever, anywhere, anyplace, for any reason, anytime, no way, Josée.
3. I do not say, believe, or mean to imply that I don't like women. Especially in literature. If I could become Joan Didion, I'd be the happiest former man alive.

Somewhat in line with that thought, in fact, I give you Maia. She is 4 years old. She lives in New Hampshire. She's the daughter of the formidable master of meditation and author Bodhipaksa(@bodhipaksa) of Maia announced to Bodhipaksa recently, "Daddy. I am Neil Gaiman." Maybe because I once at CNN interviewed the man I was told was Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself)—and figuring that Maia is registered for BEA by now—I believe we need to consider a subject we don't talk about much but should: When it comes to writing-community events, where are the guys?

How I came to write this

Susan Cushman (@SusanCushman), who's directing the September 23-25 2011 Memphis Creative Nonfiction Workshop was bold enough to point out on the workshop's website that women were leading men in registration, five-to-one. I told her I wasn't surprised.

• My first writer event was in 2006, one of Don Maass' popular weeklong "intensives" at Hood River, Oregon, about writing "breakout novels" or having a breakdown trying. Colleagues who were there concur with me, it seemed about 85-percent women.
• In another writing retreat near Biosphere 2 in Arizona in 2009, I was the only man who enrolled, and I worked for a week with 12 fine women writers. Some of them churned out prodigious reams of copy while I sweated over a paragraph and made javelina sightings in the cacti.
• On the Greek island of Skiathos in 2007, I was one guy with six women. No javelina. Unforgettable calamari. And an airport that's easily the best bus station I've ever flown into.
• In a just concluded "Build Your Author Platform" course with Dan Blank (@DanBlank of @WeGrowMedia), I was one of two guys. We worked with Dan and eight or nine women I enjoy thoroughly, good colleagues still in touch.
I have other examples, but you get the picture.

Why I noticed and care

The project currently kicking my ass (as @spressfield warns us) is a novel in the masculinities. It involves men's identity. While there's one male gender, men's studies experts recognize multiple masculinities that are "performed" more than they're genetically patterned. Which is to say, who was a guy before he learned his masculinity?
Having male colleagues with me at writer-training events would have been a huge help in testing my agonized prose against male ears, discussing plot and perspective points relative to varying masculinities' sensibilities, and sharing taxis to avoid having to ask directions to the airport.

Numbers from others

I've asked. We don't seem to know how many men and how many women are actually publishing books annually. What's more, that metric becomes ever more elusive as self-publication pushes more content into the system through largely unmonitored channels.
It's hard to get the attendance ratios at our big events, too.

• Some good people with the Digital Book World (@DigiBookWorld) Conference in New York in early February say they think they saw a roughly 60-40 female-male ratio at DBW11.
• Writer's Digest (@WritersDigest) Conference people say they think WDC11 was closer to 50-50. However, Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman), who is among the top observers of the national writing scene and the former publisher and editorial director with Writer's Digest, tells me that participation in WD's activities runs "probably 70-percent women—that's the case for nearly all Writer's Digest products and services."
• Association of Writers and Writing Programs (@awpwriter) Conference organizers say that among 1,168 of the 9,000 attendees who have answered their survey, 320 say they are male, 843 say they are female, and five decline either option. Realize, we may be gauging whether women fill out surveys more readily than men do, but it's as close as we get.
• O'Reilly Tools of Change Conference personnel had no ready ballpark estimates, but didn't disagree with my observation from mid-February: TOC might be the one such event I've seen that tips toward men because it's a summit of technology, which of course trends male. @MargaretAtwood was worth at least four rows of men in the plenary sessions.
• Christina Katz (@thewritermama), who has deftly positioned her suite of writer courses in the context of women's and parents' interests, nevertheless does see a few men enroll from time to time. I think that's impressive, a credit to her welcoming presentation.
• Last year, I explained my need for male colleagues to Montreal author and playwright Kent Stetson. He offers an extremely good Skype course based in E.M. Forster's bracing 1927 lectures at Cambridge. Kent pulled together a group of four swell writing men on two continents for an eight-week course, all of us working on material that in one way or another would benefit from the responses of other men. His normal enrollment draws more women than men. On May 14, he's starting a new four-week course unstintingly hashmarked #PorterEndorsed. Click here for more information.
Based on my own six years of events-going, unless that 4-year-old Gaiman and his fellows are high-heeling it in pretty good drag through BEA this month, even that writerly-communal confab will be peopled by more women than men.

So I asked

Author Bob Cowser, Jr, who's on the Memphis CNF Workshop faculty in September, told Susan Cushman that he thinks men can be uncomfortable sharing the intimate experience that goes into nonfiction. Fine as far as it goes. But my experiences of the missing men have been across the board, not just in nonfiction contexts.
Here are selected lines I got from women about it.

"Men tend to devaluate situations where there are a lot of women."
"Men want to do it, themselves, figure it out alone, suffer through it. They don't like sharing the process."
"Men don't tend to take advice from women. And they don't like to waste any time learning. Men want to write; they write; they just do it."
"Women tend to be more collaborative, while men are more competitive. Men also don't like to take direction, especially within earshot of anyone else. There's a lot of research in education, too, that shows boys learn by doing. That can be considered disruptive by some."
"I do find many of the other women I meet at writers' events looking at them as ways to get away from the house and socialize, at least as much as they see them as professional career trips. Those are the ones who get addicted to taking courses. They never write. They just go to events."
And here are selected lines I got from men about it.
"As a teacher and a coach, I was often reminded that men prefer to 'just do it,' even at the risk of failing, rather than seeking advice, assistance, mentoring, feedback, support. We've monumentalized the stubborn, hard-drinking, manly man, island-unto-himself icons of successful male writerdom in the West for centuries."
"The WDC11 won't be the last conference I attend. I was 90-percent finished with a manuscript for a novel and I needed to go drink from a fire hose... sort out the publishing industry... make contacts...use the conference date as a motivation to complete the manuscript."
"I attended presentations trying to primarily identify thought leaders I could follow up with. Many of the women were more 'in the moment' and trying to learn from the speaker at the podium."
"I've been to four or five writing courses...and yes, the majority were women...and, yes, they did seem to socialize a lot. I've spoken to some who have been working on the same manuscript for ten and fifteen years. It's almost like getting published is not the goal."
"Ego may also play a role where men feel they don’t need a primer course. And some men just prefer to work in isolation, the anti-social aspect, and just not talk about their work, keeping it to themselves."

Bottom line(s)

I'm sorry more of the guys aren't with us. And that's in no way a criticism of the many women who are.
The last census figure I saw reported 50.9 percent of the US population to be women. And whether we're working in fiction or nonfiction, surely the way to make something of interest to humans is to maintain and explore our work together, as happens in life.
You remember life. Well, of course you do.

There's more about Porter Anderson, a journalist and producer, here.


Bob Mayer said...

As the only make author on the Romance Writers of America Honor Role, I've seen the same thing, except at RWA events it's usually 99% female. One reason, I believe, is that women are more willing to be open to learning, while men want to believe they can learn it on their own or already know. It's a standing joke that men won't ask for directions while driving, but perhaps they won't ask for directions while writing either?

Porter Anderson said...

Your observations sound right, Bob. Men seem to agree (as do women) that organized learning settings are a lot easier for women to approach than men.
We don't seem to want to ask the way on anything! :-) Thanks for commenting, bests with your work!

JDuncan said...

It certainly makes sense. Men don't like to ask for help (much to their detriment usually), and will prefer to screw things up countless times figuring out how to get it right, then get some advice/feedback and cut down on their grief.

I can relate to this. I love being able to figure it out on my own. There's a certain sense of greater accomplishment if it's just you compared to having the help of a number of others. It gives the sense of not being good enough to do it on your own.

That said, I love writer groups/conferences/workshops/etc. You learn so much just interacting with other writers. You make connections and get to feel like part of a larger community. Self-accomplishment is great for the ego, but at the cost of feeling isolated in the process? Not worth it guys. Get out there and be a part of things. The pros far outweigh the cons.

In addition, as current ratios stand now, is it really a problem to be surrounded by like-minded women? Really?

Porter Anderson said...

I think you've got it right, the pros of efficiency in learning and the companionship of community outweigh the cons. Might be worth mentioning this to some of your male writer friends and see if they'd turn up at an event to see. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Carol Buchanan (CarolBMTbooks) said...

That may be true of some paid workshops, but I attend a local, weekly writers' workshop group that consistently attracts either 50-50 men and women or more men than women.

Last week, I was the only woman with six men.

What a treat to get their perspectives on my male characters!

Robin Weeks said...

You're right on the ratios. Women are definitely more likely to attend a writer's conference. I was thinking about this and I noticed that my favorite male authors all attend conferences. Wonder if that's significant....

Porter Anderson said...

Wow, Carol, that's terrific that you're seeing such even turnout (and great that sometimes it's even more men than women, but I still feel a good, solid balance is the best). Congrats on that, you guys are obviously doing some things very well!

And Robin, what an interesting point about your favorite male authors being conference attendees. Does seeing them at conferences and having a chance to be in touch, interact, make a difference in your interest in reading them?

Anonymous said...

Being a guy you (and the comments of the women you asked) may well be correct. I like to suffer through it alone, one reason it took me two years to get into social media. I learn faster from reading books and pushing through the writing than from listening to a speech or lecture. Given that, the process becomes a solitary one. Men, like male bears, love their caves.
Although seeing the high ratio of women at conferences makes me want to take pity on the other guys which is something I'll be keeping in mind in the future. Can't leave a brother behind, ya know :)
Thanks for a very enlightening post Porter!

Elizabeth Moon said...

That's what I've seen in general writers' conferences, though in one at least 30% of the participants were men. But in science fiction settings (writing track panels and workshops at SF conventions, the sole SF panel at the recent Texas Library Association annual meeting) male attendance is much higher, often higher than female (not at the TMA panel, however.)

In terms of attitude, the male unpublished writer seems to want validation of what he thinks more than advice/guidance/knowledge (esp. from female presenters.) When I judged a contest at one general-fiction conference, the male writers I spoke to afterward were far more defensive and annoyed with what was intended as constructive criticism than the women were.

In the SF context, the unpublished male writer is also very much into "Yes, but..." excuses, distrust of the instructor's knowledge or competence, and conspiracy theory among publishers to explain his failure to sell his work.

Female unpublished writers want validation, of course, but seem much more open to learning from presenters of either gender. They over-assume that criticism reflects a lack of talent on their part (rather than lack of appreciation, competence, or knowledge on the part of the person giving the criticism.)

This fits with an article I read on classroom attitudes which stated that girls blame themselves for a lower grade, and boys blame the indication that unwillingness to learn from others in an organized setting starts early and (if you want to change it) will have to be changed before "You aren't the boss of me!" takes over.

That said, as a writer I didn't attend lots of conferences, am not in a writing group or workshop, and much prefer to figure out the writing end of things on my own. And I'm female. So as usual there's a range of attitudes and behaviors across the gender lines.

Porter Anderson said...

Hey, Gene, love your rationale, lol. Yeah, at bottom, writing has to be solitary unless you're writing some kind of group project (and you know what Shaw says about working by committee, lol). I'm actually like you, though - it took me a long time to start trying these events, and social media. They're actually helpful in terms of speeding up part of the process, except the actual, solitary doing, you still get all that to yourself, lol. And there are enough of us guys showing up at the larger ones, at least, that you won't find yourself "odd man out." Give an event a try when it suits you, not when you feel pressured by some damned guest blog post I write. :-) Consider the Creative Nonfiction Workshop coming in September in Memphis. ( ) At least two men coming and men on the faculty, too, and should be good. Thanks for chiming in, great to have you reading and responding!

ficwriter said...

I attended the first Writer's Digest Editor's Intensive (scary title, I know). I agree with Jane Friedman that the men to women ration was 50/50. I asked a few of the guys why they chose that particular conference and got the same answer from each one: The 50-page critique of their manuscript by a professional editor. So perhaps conferences should offer tangibles to attract more men.

Porter Anderson said...

Elizabeth Moon, thanks for your comments, sorry some travel is hampering my ability to answer folks quickly.

I, too, have seen more male participation in sci-fi settings, of course -- as with tech, the field tends to trend male (as Hollywood will tell us, lol).

I've also seen what looked like, at times, defensiveness among men in constructive-critical settings, along the lines you mention. But I have, however, seen this in some women, too, and occasionally in private comments shared after a session, rather than in group moments. Along the lines of "I didn't feel like I could say it in there, but I think she's way off the mark on that critique."

This makes me wonder, actually speculate, if sometimes the real distinction in such cases is that men might feel more empowered to openly question comments, while women are prone to question them outside of the bigger circle, not feeling it's OK for them to speak up in open session? Just a thought.

I tell you what I like about the comments here and in some tweets I've had today, and that's the wonderful lack of "charged" language that can bring emotional heat into these discussions. Some of my writing buddies from Hood River, female and male, were ready to airlift me to safety when I first mentioned that I'd like to write this piece, lol. I told them I thought that if I started by saying there is no blame here, no wrong person, no right person, no incorrect or correct way -- just a phenomenon that looks like fewer men than women participating -- then there should be a chance we could all look at it, think about it, and have a healthy talk.

So far, that's happening, and I really thank you for being part of it! All the best with your writing, too.

Porter Anderson said...

Darrelyn (@ficwriter), thanks both for this good comment and for your gracious tweet! I think you're getting at something very apt when you point out the interest men might have in such tangible ROIs as critiques at events.

Susan will want me to mention that the Memphis Creative NonFiction Workshop does offer all participants just that. :-)

In fact, that clearly matches the analogy to shopping I found myself formulating along with some of the men I talked to. Men, these guys said (and I certainly am proof), decide what they need, where to get it, they go buy it, and they're done. Women, by contrast -- and in general, of course, with exceptions -- are thought to tend to enjoy the experience of shopping for its own sake. At least this is popular perception egged on by sitcoms with a lot of time spent on shoes. :-) Similarly, these guys were telling me, if they approach a writing event, it's likely because they've analyzed what they think they need or want, chosen an event they think can deliver that, and gone for it. As you say. A sense of something tangible.

And by the way, just for clarification, Jane was actually the one telling me that most WD events overall tend to trend toward 70-30 women to men, while the specific WDC11 organizers I talked to felt they were closer to 50-50 in this year's conference.

Cheers, and thanks again for reading and responding!

Susan Cushman said...

Thanks to everyone for such insightful comments, and of course, to Porter for stirring the pot:-) Elizabeth: your comment about men wanting validation more than guidance is interesting, but I hope that's changing. Love what Robin said about her favorite male authors attending conferences, and yes, I think there's a connection. Darrelyn: we're offering a manuscript critique at this conference... really, it's the center of the workshop, so hopefully guys that want feedback will sign up!

David Byck said...

Porter, I have experienced the same overpowering women-to-men ratio as you mention in your post. But more importantly, you mention you are working on a manuscript. I enjoyed your writing style in this post and look forward to seeing your novel "Breakout". I especially liked your line: "An airport that's easily the best bus station I've ever flown into." Go well, David Byck

Anne R. Allen said...

Maybe it's because 80% of readers are women? I can't tell you where I saw that statistic, of course. Maybe it's just fiction readers.

But that's certainly been my experience. I must confess that in my youth, I once went to the horror writers workshop at a conference although I had no interest in horror whatsoever, because that's where the few men were hiding.

I do think there may be more male writers who prefer to write in caves. They're usually the ones who are most furious when their faux Hemingway doesn't get a contract on the first query.

Porter Anderson said...

David, thanks for your comment. I'd like to see that "breakout," myself, lol. The important thing is that you've gone to writing events instead of staying strictly in the "cave" that others here in comments are discussing as men's favorite writing space.

I confess, the cave is my favorite place for creative writing, hands down. If writing news, I feed off the energy and stimulus of a newsroom. But when it comes to my "own" work, things Reuters and AP have never reported, I simply cannot write it in a group setting, it's a private act. So where I've really faltered in writing events has been in programs that expected participants to sit in a room and write among others. Always felt like somebody might start singing "Kumbaya," you know? :-)

Thanks again, keep writing ahd heading out of the cave when an event seems right, yourself!

Porter Anderson said...

Anne Allen! Great to hear from you, thanks! I like your post on things English majors need to unlearn to be succesful authors. ( )

I've heard such figures about the percentages of readers who are women, but I think they're suspect. I believe what we're measuring is how many women will SAY they're readers vs. how man men will admit they read.

Our culture registers intellectual activities, including reading, as unmanly.
Some sociologists call this the "guy code," made up of societal dictates for what is "masculine" and what isn't. The best current people to read on this, if you're interested, are Michael Kimmel ("Manhood in America" and "Guyland") and Kay Hymowitz ("Manning Up").

Personally, I'm always impressed on planes how many guys, both younger and older, are reading books. And e-readers are helping, not because they're gadgets (though we guys do love our gadgets) but because you can't tell what we're reading on them. I can tell you I'm just reading some PDFs from the office or the Times on my Kindle so you won't know I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver. No telltale bookcover, no intellectual stigma.

Has everybody taken a look at Nathan Bransford's blog, by the way? His MG book releases on the 12th, so he's doing a "How I Write" piece every day this week. You'll love the picture he has of himself writing. Very male. :-) .

Thanks again, Anne. My favorite line in your blog on English majors: "Henry James has a lot to answer for." I mean really. :-)

Kory Wells said...

Very interesting discussion! As a member of my county's "One Book" community read project, I have especially become interested in the reading habits of men and appreciate these tidbits of insight.

On the subject of publication rates by gender, although rates in lit journals certainly may differ from those of books, this post on The Southern Review's blog, by the late Jeanne Leiby, is quite interesting. Overall, TSR found a 60/40 male/female pub ratio - but males and females were also submitting at that same ratio. However, some interesting anomalies by genre do appear.

Anne R. Allen said...

Wow. Guys like Kindles because nobody knows what you're reading. Eye-opening insight. Of course. Men are SECRET fiction readers. I know this for a fact. My super-macho stepdad used to like to read Jackie Collins and Jacqueline Susann. He went to such lengths to hide the covers!

Glad you agree with me on Henry James. I've caught some flak on that.

Porter Anderson said...

I tell you, Anne, your super-macho stepdad was one dude I could understand. Saw a guy on the subway today trying to hide the cover of "Dr. Zhivago." Not even Pasternak is sacred. And yeah, good to see you turning the screws on Henry James. :-)

David T said...

Thank you, Porter.

From a slightly different, yet related angle (songwriting)...

I--like many dudes, apparently--like to write alone, writing and rewriting, doing and undoing and re-doing in the "safety" of my own company. I have written collaboratively, but ONLY with others with whom I'd established a level of trust and mutual respect. In the few true workshops in which I've participated, I felt an overwhelming self-consciousness in being "exposed"--not my emotions or inner life, but having my thoughts seen (and critiqued in unfinished form. I've always found writing--over and against speaking--to be, again, a safe place, one in which I could gather and polish my thoughts before exposing them to others; workshopping has, thus far, taken me out of that safe place.

Susan Cushman said...

David T: I've never participated in a songwriting workshop so I can't say how they compare with nonfiction or fiction writing workshops. Either way, I'm sure one should be at a point with their work where they feel "safe" sharing and asking for critique. Maybe this isn't for everyone, but the workshops I've participated in have been extremely helpeful to me in my writing. Also the craft talks and networking and social events are usually quite nurturing:-)

David T said...

Thanks, Susan. As much as I shy away from sharing my (song)writing within a larger groups, my most productive writing spells have always come when I've had a small group--or even just one other person I can trust--to bounce ideas off of and from whom I can get honest, constructive feedback. I suppose there is a basic humility needed to be open to enlarging the group within which one shares one's work--something I could definitely use...

Porter Anderson said...

I haven't found it easy, myself, David, this sharing business in large settings. Not even sure it's very helpful to me. (I'm always reminded of watching, as a critic, as whole audiences hurled their "suggestions" at playwrights onstage after a performance, the sort of "audience workshop" thing that non-profit theatres inflicted for a while on writers.) I find one or two people's availability more helpful, but I also worry that it becomes a burden on that one or two people. It's tricky business.

I find that I use writing events far more for the contacts and business-informational aspects than for critique and writing-in-process work, which tends to echo the value seen in such things by the guys I spoke with for the post.

Taurean Watkins said...

You recently replied to an e-mail of mine today, and I'm glad you took the time to link me this blog post. Thanks.

In my experience, part of the problem is sometimes our society can't let go of stereotypes for boys and men that at least in some parts of the world, we are for women, and I wish more men (Women too) would just open their eyes. We can accept girls who don't play dolls at 6, and don't like to cook, and still marry and make a loving home, if they want, or not.

But we still expect boys and men to be a certain way, and while (I hope) this might not be true everywhere, I saw it growing up, and I still see it now, and I worry about the boys who may not have the resilience and some support I have from my family, will lose touch with themselves in a society that continues to try and make them what they are not.

To be continued...

Taurean Watkins said...

You so sincerely expressed what I've wanted to for YEARS, but without giving the wrong impressions, I'm certainly all for equality for women worldwide, and I make no bones about it, but I wish we could just start accepting men that don't fit the traditional mold, without unjustly labeling them as "Gay."

However, this problem has nothing to do with your sexual orientation AT ALL.
Yes, women can be more collaborative, but sometimes boys and men just aren't given the chance to collaborate, I'm probably the only guy I know who isn't in lust for completion, and as extremist as I know that sounds to some, I feel that competition among men is just part of the culture, to the level of paranoia, and I feel the more schools and male-oriented programs still think of boys and men as one way, and if you're not fitting that mold, you're left by the wayside.

Also, I think part of the problem is there's still a perception that all boys and men need to be treated like there in the army to learn self-discipline and respect, and while some may need that, others would be emotionally destroyed, and they're no less weak than all the "Go-getter" women in my family, and in publishing now, whether their agents, authors or editors, or all three!
As it pertains to writers, I think part of the problem is the few male authors who are just as competent in their craft as their female counterparts aren't as diverse in what write. As much as I'd love to support more male authors, often in my reading, I'm likely to find the books I want to read are written by women, which is saying nothing bad or rude about women, I just want to have more men authors I can say "This guy writes what I love reading" or dare I say
"I want to be like you when I grow up." There are some male writers I felt that for, but I can tell you two key things-

They're not in Neil Gaiman's or Jeff Kinney's level of noteratity
They're not journalists (Not that I'm bashing journalists in the least)

Despite what the statistics say, I can't be the only guy who read more fiction than nonfiction in my teens, and still do now, and as much as I respect nonfiction writers and journalists no matter the gender, I don't want to be a journalist, and I feel we let "Majority Rules" reach extremist levels, in publishing and in life.
It's not that boys and men always don't want help or won't ask for it, but sometimes people aren't in tune with the help their asking for. I agree that it's hard for me personally to take direction, but that's often because people think the drill sergeant way is the ONLY way to reach boys and men, and that's not true for me, or for others, and if we don't start giving today's and future boys and men more middle ground male role models, we're going to do them the same disservice we've done to women and girls worldwide since biblical times, and sadly still happening the same it was then.

AS much as I berate myself for struggling to continue my education and eventually leave the proverbial nest, if I'm doing one thing right besides not giving up on education or my writing, it's not being afraid to show my feelings.

Yeah, I got teased for not hiding my tears, or being able to knock the bullies into next week, but I'd rather be laughed at than turn myself into something I'm not.

If what I said here when I first started my blog doesn't should my willing to be vulnerable (Which is hiatus now because I needed a break from thinking about publishing the way I had to in order to stay relevant) I don't know what will-

Anyway, thanks for saying what I wish I could've said, in the sensitive and thoughtful way you expressed. I hope one day I can be one more man in field.

Porter Anderson said...

Taurean, thanks for your many, heartfelt thoughts here. There actually are many men around who aren't interested in being niched in older stereotypic concepts of manhood, and society is fortunately coming around (slowly) to realize there are many masculinities -- just about as many as there are men -- not just one. So make of yourself what you want and know yourself to be, and the experience will, of course, inform your writing and other work at every turn.

All the best and thanks for the input!