It’s hard being judged. No matter whether it’s for your gender, your age, your body or any other surface aspect, knowing someone is looking at the outside of you and making determinations about what’s on the inside is discouraging, to say the least.
People are like icebergs. We only see the tip and unless we take the time, we never know about the hidden depths below the surface. It’s easy, and lazy, to look at someone and determine their intelligence, their creativity, their life skills and their worth by an outer inspection, or even a casual glance. Such neglect robs the viewer of the surprise of true character.
This is even more apparent for a writer. Characters need layers as much as they require physical descriptions. There should be hidden depths that add spark to the story and make the reader long for more. I would caution those who wish to hone their writing skills with an admonition: if you are depending on the surface to tell you about the inner person, then likely you are writing stereotypes and not real characters. Be careful you don’t judge away the best part of your story.
It’s important to stand out in a crowd. I know, I know, that’s not what we heard when we were kids. Standing out was not the recommended behavior for those whose goal wasn’t to be voted class clown in their high school yearbook.
Still, as writers, it’s what publishers and marketing firms and even readers tell us our books should do. I don’t know if they are right or not, as I’ve apparently not stood out from the crowd enough to discover that answer. The New York Times has not yet come calling to make sure they spell my name right on the bestseller list.
I have discovered though, that sometimes what it takes to stand out is blunt honesty. I uncovered this tactic recently while driving around the city I live in. I don’t know how many panhandlers there are in other places, but my town has turned this into a regular job for a lot of folks. And some of them are using a very creative approach to standing out from their particular crowd. In the last few weeks I’ve seen a couple that made me take note.
One went for the “let me cry on your shoulder” approach with the following sign:
“Homeless due to poor taste in men”
Another decided to throw caution to the wind and act as if we were all his buddies. His sign read:
“I want a beer”
I didn’t stop and chat to see how their attempts at creativity worked out, but they reminded me of something my dad once told me about one of his college professors. He said sometimes they would get papers back with answers marked wrong, but out to the side they would say “OTC +1”. The professor told them he’d given them one point for “the old college try”. Hopefully these folks got a least a buck for trying to stand out from the crowd. I’d hate to see that kind of creativity go to waste.
I’ve been reading the comments sections of posts. Perhaps a bit too much:
The black cloud of negativity, who says things like:
“George R.R. Martin is the most overrated writer in the history of fantasy/sci-fi. His books read like a contract and substitute shock value for originality and talented story telling.”
“You want fluff, read a Dragonlance novel or that shite Gabaldon series.”
And I won’t even go into the comments on the #AskELJames fiasco on Twitter.
For the most part, those in many professions don’t get critiqued by total strangers online. Artists have become, for some unfathomable reason, the target for a kind of criticism that goes beyond taste. It isn’t enough these days to say a particular work isn’t the type you enjoy. It must be slammed into the ground, the artist portrayed as stupid, untalented, etc.
“I don’t like it” isn’t acceptable anymore. The very fact of dislike now impugns not only that work but everything an artist does and even who they are.
I wonder if those who do this have ever considered that wiping out the confidence and the desire of those who make art may leave them without anyone to criticize at all. How many artists give up under the weight of uninformed and untrue insults their work receives? And how many careers are damaged by the platforms so easily available to those whose only talent is to criticize?
I am reminded of an old adage: those who can, do. The twist these days comes in the second part of the saying: those who can’t, criticize.
Sometimes I believe there is always a way…sometimes I wish the door would close forever. Life is a complication of choices, death a clear-cut selection.
Sometimes I think now is as good a time as any…sometimes I think yesterday was easier, it held more promise, perhaps more delusion. The truth lives more in today, taking hope in its own direction.
Sometimes there are no answers…sometimes there are no questions, simply facts. I am responsible for me, no one else, even if no one recognizes me anymore.
At this point in my life, no one seeks my heart with the intensity of a lover. Many are in my heart, but they arrived there by default or have been there so long they don’t notice its walls surrounds them anymore.
I realize day by day my heart has become a city that others inhabit but no one owns…or wants to own, at least not more than a small piece of it.
I’m beginning to suspect this is the year I lose my mind. It’s doing more than wandering these days and I get a bit frightened by some of its observations about the state of things.
I’m also not always sure who it’s talking to. It doesn’t appear to be me because I don’t know what the hell it’s talking about and if anyone talked to me in the voice it uses I’d run away far and fast.
My worst fear is becoming the belief that I can’t lose my mind and I’ll want to. That I can’t get this new strange dialogue in my head to go away. Instead it will only keep talking to me about weird shit in a voice I don’t recognize until I succumb and start answering back in nonsense rhymes. Why my answers should be rhymes I don’t know. Something just tells me the voices would like that.
“I’m sitting here, all my worldly, and some not so worldly, possessions packed away in a 10×20 shed, wondering what the next step in my life will be. I’m an unemployed writer/historian/filmmaker and a mother/grandmother whose children have been supportive enough not to force me into a home when I told them what I planned. I own a car that is virtually theft-proof because it looks like one the Beverly Hillbillies would have turned their nose up at, and a dog that likes to throw things. So what’s the obvious next step for a woman like me?”
I wrote these words over three years ago. Believe me, the next step wasn’t obvious in the least. My hope was to write the next great “Woman on a Journey of Self-Discovery” bestseller. Turns out my new life was less of “Under the Tuscan Sun” and more of “In the Glow of the Wal-Mart Sign”. Still, it’s had its moments. So now I’m taking computer keyboard in hand and sharing life’s craziness. The first step is learning how to put together this space. In case you can’t tell (in which case you are worse off then I am), I’m winging it. Hopefully the visuals will get better with time. If you’re up to it, come and join me. Trust me, it’ll be fun…