Take heart, writer. Your voice is just different.
Those are the words that I longed to hear during my struggle for publication. It seemed that every outlet wanted to mold me into the industry’s ideal writer. For a subjective art, there certainly are a lot of rules and expectations. The longer we cave to the whims of an industry that is controlled by the tastes of an elite few, the further writing becomes not art but mechanical production.
Had Derrida listened to his teacher, would we now have his books? Thankfully he did not. Certainly I agree that active voice is better than passive and that wordiness can bog down the pace, but I don’t agree with these arbiters of an author’s fate when it comes to what makes a great work. There is a huge push to hear the voices of the oppressed–which in it’s heart is good, but don’t forget that it is more likely being done in the same vein as Poverty Porn–images of poor people with celebrities and the like–to make money of a niche. It’s just as racist to say that a black author is better than another because, well, they’re black and they know suffering, or something. No. They’re as good, because they’re good at writing and the melanin in their skin doesn’t determine that–though it has been made to determine their experiences. Likewise, I am not better at penning stories about women, simply because I am a woman. Our society has precluded the experience of woman, so to find an authentic woman is a feat–good luck to a person of any gender in accomplishing it.
That last statement is indicative of the subjectivity in writing. The reader will determine how well you communicated your ideas. From one to the next that success is going to waver. One author doesn’t speak for a whole generation. That’s a myth. Greatness has been told to us in a lot of cases. I used to wonder, while sitting in class, what makes these books so much more important than these other books. Why this author and not that one?
Semiotics was the focus on which I did most of my graduate work. The subject matter isn’t easy. It’s full of a lot of conceptual ideas and philosophy, psychology and history. You’ve really got to know the archetypes of culture to push into it even a little bit. Symbolism and similar studies feed into it, like–one of my favorites–intertextuality. Semiotics is a branch of literary analysis that picks apart the parts of meaning making.
Fascinating questions abound. Learn more about Derrida below…and read some of my work on the topic of semiotics at K. on Writing.
Jacques Derrida, Philosopher
Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher, born in Algeria. Derrida is best known for developing a form of semiotic analysis known as deconstruction, which he discussed in numerous texts. Wikipedia
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What would you do if you won the lottery?
Welcome to my blog, from P.j. MacLayne‘s Blog.
First thing I’d do, assuming this is the big one? I’d pay my graduate student loan and start shopping for a house. Oh, god, How I want a house and stop renting! I can see it, the yellow siding and white trim, a cheery bright garden where my dog can frolic in the sunshine. MAGDRL would finally let me adopt that Great Dane! I could open a whole kennel for rescue Danes! My heart is overwhelmed with the joy that would bring me. Just thinking about it, I smile with gratitude.
The next thing I’d do, once I figured out how much to get the house–invest some money in some safe growth perspectives. Not all of it, but I figure, I’m going to need that egg to grow if I’m going to accomplish my goals which will be literally at my finger tips. Those goals include having enough to retire immediately, continue to own that new house I am buying, healthcare and care and maintenance for my dogs and self. Not to mention all the money for that garden! But the biggest goal, I want to create a school in Upstate New York geared to the performing arts. I would start with film and theater, and eventually grow it to include movement and dance, some avant garde, writing would be at the heart of it all–Of course there would be investors, but the burden of the majority of that initial investment would be totally be on me. At least, that has been how all my endeavors play out.
With those things in the works, I’d start to make plans for donating to my top charities, which you can find here. They are a must. I cannot see gaining that much and not sharing it with the things that mean the most to me. There is so much healing that needs to take place in the world and that healing is best done by those who look for nothing in return, at least not for themselves. I fully expect others to benefit from the windfall that I hand over to them. Even if they were ungrateful, I wouldn’t care, because I would know that I had done the right thing. Nothing else is needed in that transaction. The charities that I support do great work, necessary work. They can be as blasé as they want! But, I think they’d be ecstatic to see that money, and not at all casual. But, please, no public recognition, cause I totally have stage fright and I get easily embarrassed–don’t make me talk about myself–or pat myself on the back. I just–I can’t manage that with the grace I see so many celebrities have. There is always going to be someone saying I’m so full of myself, I guess, so I shouldn’t really mind.
Once those things were set in motion, I’d do something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. I’d go here: And, I’d cry. I’d cry because I was so goddam grateful and happy and relieved and finally, at long long last doing the things that I want to do and making a difference in the world, and then I would breath–breath deep and long breathes. I’d close my eyes for a moment and just be there, in that moment. Opening my eyes, I’d calmly smile on my good fortune. And, I would relish that this was no dream but my reality.
Then, I’d march my butt over to Barefoot films, which happens to be in the same city and offer them money in exchange of helping me produce my book into a film. I’d forgo my salary, asking them to reinvest it into their other projects or my project. And if they took up my offer, I’d take the rest of my time in Germany to enjoy the sites and relax and reflect and be free. That is until they called me up for revisions on my script, and I had to get back to work.
Then, I will come home, and find a great adoption agency and adopt a little girl. By this time, I’ll have already had a biological child, so it’s time to open my home to a second child, one who is in need of parents and already here. Where from? Oh, lord, there are so many places that children need to be rescued from, but I have always had my eye on China. I want to save a girl from slavery, just because she had the balls to be born female and poor. My money and my heart can step in the way for more than one, so maybe I will. Why not? I am needed and willing.
Did I mention I retired from my day job? Well, then. I’m going to need a sweet set up in that new house for cranking out books in style. I’ll be replacing my out of date laptop, upgrading my desktop, getting some graphics electronics, and a shelves and a desk and lighting and a light table and…Scott D…what else do I need? Oh, BTW, here’s a few hundred grand to expand your business, thanks for everything you do, buddy. From the covers to the time, and the jokes. (Put some of that away for the girls.)…back to my office, I’m going to need new photo equipment and lighting equipment. Art supplies. Lots and lots of new pens! I love me some new pens! And one comfy chair for behind the desk. One stool for the work tables. A couch from the 60s, and some chairs, a table, library and cognac bar. I think that will pretty much set me up for how I visualize that my space should be. (Make sure that’s a wood floor boys, I like to scoot around in the chair. Keurig…
….Where else did you expect?
I haven’t even gotten to this yet….
Dare I mention the Maserati?
I will also, of course, have a van for the kids and Danes…
Hop on over to see what Zeecé Lugo would do if she won the lottery….
Zeecé Lugo was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Brooklyn. She joined the Air Force and saw the world. She got a degree in English literature from Saginaw Valley in Michigan and then became a science teacher at Miami-Dade. Figure that one out! She now lives surrounded by mountains in a Caribbean island with her fifteen-year-old little dog, Wicked. She stays away from the news, pushy people, and up to recently, social networking. She is finally doing what she always wanted to do; she reads, she enjoys the views surrounding her home, and she writes. Her first novel, Daniel’s Fork, is available as a FREE DOWNLOAD here. A Time for Love (a novella sequel) and Edge of The World (short story) are also available at major eBook sellers. She is currently at work on her next novels. Zeecé Lugo is her writing name.
Zeecé has always loved reading. Her early loves were Agatha Christie, Victoria Holt, Dorothy Eden, Issac Asimov, Ursula K. Leguin, and other such writers that are now out of fashion. Tolkien is a love that came back into fashion. Below are links to indie novels that you can download, many of them for FREE, and that she herself has enjoyed and recommends. This links will take you to downloads for most popular formats including Kindle and ePub, at Smashwords.
Born and raised among the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania, P.J. MacLayne still finds inspiration for her books in that landscapes. She is a computer geek by day and a writer by night who currently lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. When she’s not in front of a computer screen, she might be found exploring the back roads of the nearby national forests and parks.
The opportunity to mention this brief op-ed by one of my favorite writers has come up a few times in the past few weeks. I want to share it, because…Toni Morrison ((sigh)) is sublime. During the course of my undergraduate studies, I was introduced to Morrison’s work (Beloved) and have been enchanted by her as a writer ever since. We writers seek out models on which to frame who we are. There are so few women out there successfully making a career—that we hear of—and squashed under the grandeur of male writers. I could totally use that as an excuse, but I refuse to buy into excuses as I turn 40 years old this year. It’s taken me two of those decades to eek out my small niche. I’m still carving it, and will be doing so until I pass on to…whatever there is.
The title of the piece attracted me, but I gratefully knew that face in the picture as it went down my newsfeed. Glee. Her appearance has been heartwarming to me, part of her charm. I am in love with how people look, their differences and similarities, as unique as snowflakes. Diversity makes me excited. So, I guess it’s a no-brainer that I am drawn to writers who are not white males…but the truth is, I love them too. Morrison’s work is memorable, and thus her face became memorable and charming and heartwarming to me, because it reminds me of college, of Beloved and the shock to the core, of a woman being published and taught in literature spaces. She reminds me of me, regardless of her background, ethnicity, economic status, or anything else. She is what I hope for.
The piece she wrote for The Nation’s anniversary echoed a theme that other writers and I had been mulling: Writing through Crisis. What is crisis? Well, it’s whatever has you flagged as you try to push through your day. It can be large or small, but it’s yours, and your feelings about it being a crisis are entirely valid. Just like the arts are subjective, so are our reactions to the world in which we live. For instance, my two decades struggling for a place in the publishing world, and how I dreamed and how I cried, how I was certain I was over it and how I was certain this would kill me. There isn’t a place for self-pity in most situations. Self-pity is the language of fear. Though depression determined to take me down before I could accomplish my goals, I spoke back to it, eventually, without fear and moved forward. I did not let fear, crisis, stall me. Every day, I think, I must be ready for the next leg of this journey. I cannot be caught unprepared. You’ll only get one shot at a time, and those shots will be few and far between. No place for self-pity and no room for fear.
I am damn freaking proud of my writing! The time and money invested in this career is priceless. And, you have no idea how alive these characters and stories are inside my head (unless you’re also a writer. Maybe actors do, too), unless you take the time to engage me as another human being. I’ve been crafting the written word for nigh on 20 years. I switched majors mid-undergraduate because I knew I couldn’t live the lie that I was a biologist (sorry to the animals. I love you, still). So I changed to English and History and have been that route ever since. This might have been a form of Social Arson, as I totally changed my social group and economic future in this decision.
My first and foremost passion is the written word. I can’t express to anyone with any certainty that they will understand the depth of that passion. Let me put it this way: I gave up the possibility of a lucrative future as a scientist to do this thing called writing. So, I am really passionate about my art—you don’t just turn your back on stability and a good career for something you’re meh about.
More important forms of Social Arson take a bit more explaining to do. I’d say that they’re essentially two sides of the same coin: the bully and Pomposity. Let’s tackle them sort of together…I’m told time and again not to talk about my work in my social media posts, but to rather deflect to other things, so I can be more likeable. How much is too much of ignoring what it is I do? How much talking about what I do is okay? I don’t know. Literally, I could geek out with you every minute of every day for a month. Then I might tire of the topic. But there will always be more books for me to geek out with my readers over. And, oh, I want to geek. I want to chat with you, answer your questions, get into the analysis of what drives the characters, and maybe even me. In this clime of social media, unprecedented access to just about everyone is a boon of which we hardly take advantage. I will tell you why in a minute…
So too, the unprecedented access to education and training provides unlimited resources from which to pull. At 36, I did something I never thought I would do. I went back to school and got my Master’s degree. After graduating with a 3.92 GPA, my intelligence is still questioned and my ability to do my work, doubly doubted. I’m bullied on a lot of posts I make. Would a man suffer this same result, before an eye was laid upon his work? I don’t know, but I wager that it would have more to do with how he has expressed himself in the past and not his anatomy. (I use my first-name initial for my author name because my great grandmother was Kay—short for Katherine—not because I am trying to hide my gender. My first name is Kelly, a name my dad picked out). Long story short, I am well trained in the work I do. I can research and analyze just about any topic (please don’t ask me to do physics and math…I am really bad at calculus and hardly remember the stuff between trig and that). I am the point person for many colleagues who are looking for information on things from A to Z. They know I can google to beat the band, and drill into scholarly articles like a diamond tip. However, a man that does the job half as well will be taken twice as seriously. There is nothing I can really do about that, as the patriarchy of it is so ingrained in the social structure we don’t even see it/sense it in our reactions and actions. I simply am expected to perform at 200% and take zero credit.
Therein is why I think that talking about myself is taboo. It’s a patriarchal view of how artists should behave—freely with their art, as in their art should be given away for free, regardless of the effort put into it—because it’s art and that’s somehow not worthy of a commission or respect. I defy that idea, because where would we be without designers and the like. Does anyone really understand how much art affects nearly every aspect of every niche? Sure it might actually be that I haven’t learned the finer points of talking about myself. Who likes to do that? Narcissists! It’s uncomfortable, because you know the other person is rolling their eyes so hard on the inside that they can see their brain tissue. But why can’t the audience be interested in direct communications? I don’t know about you, but I like to find out things about the movies coming out, products coming out for sale, and so on. I can’t really do that if the creators behind them remain hush and humble, talking about everything else but. Does this sound like dating games to you? What is with all the social games we have to play in order to participate? Being direct is no longer respected?
So what do you do? You share an article with a bit of opinion and sit back and wait for someone to light a match to your straw house. Inevitably there is someone out there who will. This type of person needs to insult and abuse others to stand out, that’s how they run their bid for attention—sociopaths, functioning Asperger’s, or narcissists. Yes, Narcissists, again! But these guys are the real ego problems on the block, not the artists sharing his/her work. And, for the love of Mike, while we’re discussing communication difficulties, remember that there are those who genuinely cannot help themselves (Asperger’s, Autistic, TBI, social anxiety disorder…). We have to understand that not everyone is going to communicate perfectly. However, there is a real choice in the words that abusive personalities throw down, and there is a palpable difference. For one, they don’t recognize the humanity of the person they interact with at all.
It is up to each of us to take better care with the way we interact, as there is another person behind the screen, the person the words are directed to. Being mindful of one’s actions and words is not just for the comfort of others. One’s reputation is at stake. Constantly quipping and nagging on others gets old very fast, and the person who does it will find him/herself surrounded by fewer and fewer people, until all that is left are those who aren’t even really there (bots, fake accounts, people who sign in once a year). They will be known as someone you don’t want to know, and that won’t change easily—word of mouth, their willingness to realize their own fault in the matter, behavioral growth (in the right direction) will all effect outcomes in the future. Imagine what that does to your business? Lack of trust and being disliked can make business impossible.
Figuring out interactions is where frustration enters. When frustration builds, people look for answers that will alleviate the uncomfortable position they’re in. Some blame and some lash out in other ways. Whatever happens when you explode is what I like to call social arson. You burn the house down, cutting communication. Sometimes that is a healthy response, because no one should accept being bullied by anyone on line or in real life. You know what I’m talking about, that guy/girl who always knows the answer to everything, corrects you on everything, is there to point out every mistake and just grinds you down day after day—the same person who tells you they’re your friend and you need to not take things so seriously or that they mean well and are just busting your stones. Well—let me tell you—your feelings that you’re being trampled on are valid and you don’t have to accept allowing the cycle to continue. So, committing social arson (tell them off, unfriend/block) in this case isn’t a problem. But what if this person is someone you need to work with? You can still socially distance yourself without burning those bridges. Be less available. If that’s not possible, and there are cases where this is true, coping skills will come in really handy.
Working with people who are easily set off, or looking to find fault isn’t easy. In the same vein, what about those who actively seek the failure of others, through imploding advice? For instance, I have wondered if those who deal with brand building of a product (usually an item of artistic quality, such as films, books, and visual art) tell artists to quiet down about themselves because they want to clear the field. In other words, while I dole out my advice, I am gaining momentum in the field and the silence of my peers helps me to better stand out. Honestly, to what effect does zipping my lip about my books turn into interest in those books? If I tell no one about my work, in this world of short attention span, and little time, they will be onto the next thing. Right? Yes! So what is the happy medium, because I don’t ever see this discussed (unless, you buy X-Guru’s advice book for $20), just the exasperation expressed at (or behind the backs of) those trying to eke out a place in the world, and awkwardly doing so. I totally get the frustration of this, but I also understand the social arson you can commit on yourself by overdoing the ‘let’s talk about me’ stuff too much. Unfortunately, as I said before, I am not sure where these lines in the sand are—probably because they are so individual—situational—to every person you’ll encounter, meaning they’re fluid, so you have to be intuitive and respectful. I probably commit social arson of this kind weekly. I don’t find it annoying to see someone post about their work. In fact, I expect them to do so.
Advice taken—because most of us writers are introverts and prefer less contact and self-expression beyond our comfort zones, I have created a blog. I blog about many topics, and I share those blogs twice a week. On Wednesdays, it is absolutely someone else’s time to shine. Yes, you can submit an article for posting! I want to share my space with you. Regardless of wanting to talk about my books—I also want to talk about you and your interests. I keep the forum open and do my best to keep the ground clear of those looking to troll (foul mouthed* narcissists with matches). I only ask that we refrain from insulting language that makes your counter point a personal attack (don’t say things like News Flash…., Your statement is ignorant, or stop crying about x, y, or z, and, dear lord, stop saying special snowflake). This is not a contributing comment to the open discussion forum, it’s meant to shut people down, to hurt feelings, and make them leery of sharing anything else in the future. For instance, I posted about lack of education being a leading cause of the fall of Rome. I was dragged out by comments from two males who saw only that portion of the statement, and focused very narrowly upon it, disregarding the article about innovation and the lack of it—a root cause for social decay being poor education standards—such as Rome fell under giving way to the Dark Ages. My professor for that course would roll in his grave over their comments (though I am not certain he’s passed away, he was quite old at the time in 1996). Semantics is not a bed of straw to light on fire. But narcissists who hang on all your words, they will light that fire as soon as they smell even the smallest bit of dry straw from which to start an inferno and blame you for the damage that ensues. They need to, because they feed on the attention they get from it, and making it about themselves, and raising themselves above others. Your response will always and forever be the beginning of the fight, as they will never take credit, because that diminishes the luster of their rising star. And, that is why so many are reluctant to take advantage of using social media to communicate with potential friends, networks, or audiences. Social Arsonists. They existed prior to the internet and will exist long after. They’re the ego case that makes everything a mess by arguing where there is no point. They’re the ones who nitpick a word choice to death, and get offended that someone points out that they might have issues since they’re so driven to find fault. And, also, the ones who seek to undermine others to advance their own agendas.
Regardless of social arsonists…
I am damn freaking proud of my writing. I am highly educated. I own my social media pages. When readers don’t respect my posts, they are welcome to post on their page about the issue they have with my word choices, but they don’t have the right to bog down my post with their pointless criticism and diminish the mood of the room. The forums I use are not a place to abuse others—again, rebuttals are welcome on the offended person’s page, where whatever vitriol they desire can rain down like a volcanic eruption. Because, butt hurt talk is more tired than egotistical chit-chat. Above all, it is true, my social media outlets are about me. Imagine the audacity of that. Except, that is just an obvious fact. Theirs is about them. So those spaces, they’re for the discussion of my work, to learn about topics of interest to me, which you might not have been exposed to before, and all without getting twisted up. People’s pages are not debate forums (there are groups to join for that and I highly encourage those seeking debate to do so before they wear out their welcome with everyone in their sphere of contact). No one likes overbearing, domineering friends or acquaintances.
When you stop in to see me, I want to talk about my books and the topics that move me with you, in a healthy and constructive way. I want to create a safe space for you to communicate with others and enjoy your time online. That’s not too much to ask. Hey, we could start by sharing or swapping blog posts, reviewing books and otherwise working together. I look forward to adult conversation, not social arson. Thank you for reading this long diatribe on cyber-bullying and the effects on social media and art.