Monthly Archives: January 2014

Sadistic Philosophy

I go “Holy Crap Some People” at least once a day. Some days it’s the “Holy Crap Some People” of disgust and anger and annoyance and down to outright rage, some days it’s sheer boggling at the things humanity or specific humans come up with, some days it’s even less quantifiable than that. Today’s HCSP comes via ThoughtCatalog, a website I don’t actually frequent but this blog entry has been popping up on my various media so often I thought I’d give it a look. Holy Crap. Some people…

(The title is “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry” and that about sums up the entire contents.)

And I’m sure to some people it’s hilarious that I have this drawing back horrified cat gif reaction, because I am neither married nor do I have kids. Nor do I intend to get married, although the boy and I have been together for 11 years and hopefully will be together for many more, nor do I intend to have children, although I have never emphatically and permanently ruled out that possibility. I like children well enough, there are just Things I Want To Do. And that’s fine. My cousin, who’s around my age, is as far as I know even legally unmarried but has two children with his long-time girlfriend, and that’s fine too. By the time my mother was my age she had one child with another on the way and had been married twice, and that’s fine too. It’s all fine.

But why do I need to say that’s fine? Why is this at all a thing?

I don’t have strong opinions on what women should do because they are women. Sometimes I have strong feelings in a particular moment, then I settle back down into a more even keel of, well, not all women are able to do this/in a situation where this is necessary/feel like doing this, so people should do what they can and want to do. This is, by and large, my default setting, I’m sure it’s come through in other blog entries. I have strong opinions on some things! Democracy. Rape culture. Universal health care. What other people should do because they are $gender or $race or $religion or $FavoriteTVShow is not one of them. Life’s too short. I have two novels to get out of edits, a handful of dime novels to write, entries to blog, leather to craft, sewing to do, a day job to work, my wife to murder, and Guildor to frame for it. I really, really do not have time to worry about what people who are not me or anyone I depend on in large ways or small should or shouldn’t be doing. Amy Glass seems to spend at least a couple hours of one of her days worrying about what other women are doing and how they think of themselves. That’s fine. If she feels that’s important to her, she can spend the rest of her life telling women what a wife is and that they shouldn’t fall in love if they want to be at all successful. That’s her truth, to get back to some of my raised-by-hippies roots for a second.

So, Kitty, why the hell are you writing about it then? Because people read posts like this, and they believe it. They think less of themselves because they have fallen in love, because they have chosen to be a wife and mother and take care of a home rather than go out and get a career, and they believe that one choice is better than another. And that’s one of the things I do have strong opinions about. Your choices are your own, and my choices are my own, and the only choices I will feel bad about are the ones I have made in contradiction to my own inclinations. I have such strong opinions on this that I try to hold myself to it even when someone makes a choice I would strongly disagree with for myself, on things like sexuality or political stance. Choose to live your life and find love or a career or a family and children because you want it. Not because a blogger says falling in love and settling down with a partner is a lesser thing to do. And so should you.

There are bad choices, I’m not saying that there aren’t. You can choose to step into someone’s fist or duck or block, and out of those stepping into the first is definitely the worst. You can choose to spend all your money on boats and horses or you can choose to spend some and put away some for a rainy day, and one of those will definitely make you unhappy if it starts raining later. There are choices that will make sense in the long term and hurt now, and there are choices that feel good in the short term but you know you’ll regret later. And then there are choices that make no difference to you essential health and comfort, that are yours to make, and no one else’s business.

I have a theory that people spend so much time worrying about other people’s choices because either they don’t know what it is they want, or because they have adopted someone else’s idea of what they should want for their own. In either case what they’ve chosen doesn’t fit, so they try to convince themselves that it does, voraciously, viciously, and with every tool they have available. They strike out in an attempt to justify themselves to themselves by making themselves the only acceptable form, and in doing so, reveal their desperation. It’s hard, yes, to figure out what you want in life. You can spend a lot of time making choices that don’t satisfy you, over an over again. But it’s worth while to find something that fulfills you, whether in the arts or in business or in the home or in a crowd or by yourself. Whether your life allows you to do it for a living and fill your days with things you enjoy, or whether you have to slog through days to pay the bills and spend only fragments of leisure time on something that is your choice, that makes you happy. It’s not lesser. It’s not a waste of time to do a thing that makes you happy, and you should not be looked down on it.

But choose for yourself, as much as you can. Don’t choose for others, and don’t allow them to choose for you. I have taken a quote from the Marquis DeSade’s letters on this point, and whatever the legacy of the rest of his writings, I hold true to this one: “My manner of thinking so you say, cannot be approved? Do you suppose I care? A poor fool indeed is he who adopts a manner of thinking for others! My manner of thinking stems straight from my considered reflections; it holds with my existence, with the way I am made. It is not in my power to alter it; and were it, I’d not do so. The manner of thinking you find fault with is my sole consolation in life; it alleviates all my sufferings in prison, it composes all my pleasures in the world outside, it is dearer to me than life itself.”

Public Face

So. One of the things I’ve been wrestling with lately is publicizing my own work. And, honestly? Publicity scares the crap out of me. Asking people to blog about or tweet or otherwise share my work? Yeah, no. Writing ad copy? I’d rather clean and gut food animals. Making promotional materials? Where the hell do I even begin? How do I promote myself? Who the hell knows? I wrote a blog entry last week and I didn’t even put it on Twitter because I was afraid I was incoherent and rambling. The only way people knew it existed was because my mailing list auto-notifies when a new post is added. I suck at publicity. Which is why it’s probably a good thing I’m not doing this for a living.

I mean, there are some things I am good at as far as putting on a public face. Passive advertising, we’ll call it; looking like a competent, professional adult online. I habitually “speak” on the internet, which is to say post, with proper spelling and generally in complete sentences, or dialogue-like sentence fragments. I don’t cover things in bright colors or use auto-play for any audio I might ever post. There are also some ways in which I make it harder on myself: I swear a hell of a lot. I have a strong dislike of posting pictures of myself on the internet, one might almost call it a phobia except phobia generally applies when there aren’t real, probable consequences to your actions. You don’t have to go looking very far to see the number of articles about how women are treated and judged on the internet, and it’s worse if they have pictures up. Call it self-protecting. The active stuff, though? I’m learning. But I have to develop the habits to post about my work, to track down all available outlets, and I have to develop the attitude that I am willing to put it out there or, well. See also: publicity scares the crap out of me. I will panic and back out given any chance at all.

 

This is the only time you’ll ever hear me devoutly and fervently wishing for a major publishing company to pick me up, because it would be so easy just to not embarrass them in public and let them do all the submitting pictures and writing ad copy for me. So easy.

All right, so. I’m working on being a better publicist for my own work, so what can I do? Apart from, you know, have good content and putting it out there on time when I say I will. First off, pick your indie publishing house carefully. I started off going with one service only to realize that I couldn’t distribute in all the formats I wanted to, and the only advantage was getting print copies, which I scared myself out of doing anyway. Don’t be me. Don’t do that. Research, research, plan, and research some more. Then decide. There is absolutely nothing worse than trying to put yourself out there as being able to do or be all these things and then realizing that you only have half an idea what you’re doing. Even if half an idea is good enough to get it done, fear will do the rest. Secondly, make friends with booksellers. Make friends with librarians. I don’t mean opportunist friends who sidle up and go “Hey, hey, little kid. Pawn this book off on you?” I mean actual friends. Listen to what they say. Commiserate with them. Share interests! And for the love of god, listen to what they tell you. Librarians are the keepers of the knowledge. Booksellers are the keepers of the lists of people who want to buy books, and how to get things to those people in exchange for cashy money.

The first two stages are the acquisition of knowledge, and the third stage comes in two parts. The first part is establishing an online personality. You are your brand, and to the extent that this personality associated with this name (it doesn’t have to be your name or even your username) and these social media accounts, your brand is you. Go out there, make friends! The world, or at least the internet, is your oyster. The second part, and I cannot stress this strongly enough, do not show your ass in public. Do not be that person. Do not go off on long-winded tirades about how X has treated you unfairly, where X stands for anything from this author to this critic to life. Whine at length to your friends, not to your audience; they generally don’t want to hear it. Do not start airing your grievances about a subsector of people who you think are uncouth freaks from Hell, do not preach or proselytize, do not be pushy, asinine, or unpleasant. As time goes on and you learn more about your audience, and as they come to learn more about you, just like in any relationship you’ll learn more about what you can say and what you can’t. Sometimes you can get away with massive trolling! Look at Orlando Jones. Or don’t, you may be blinded by his beauty. Sometimes you can get away with being incredibly uncouth and disgusting, and for that I give you Warren Ellis. Sometimes you can be fierce, or pushy, or assertive, and sometimes you may reckon that the cost to you is worth it, see also the dichotomy of women being pushy or bitchy for the same behavior that in men is called being forthright or assertive. You may decide that the people who think you’re being a bitch, you can afford to lose. By all means, kick them to the curb!

The internet is forever. Even in the rare circumstances when it isn’t, when your mistakes get lost in the noise rather than the signal, pretend it’s forever. The easiest part of having a public persona is being polite and nice online; it’s also the hardest. Get in the habit of taking a second to think before you post things online to the general population, is this something I want out there for the masses. When you get to the stage where you have guest blog posts, interviews, advertising copy listed on all the indexes, and people discover you and go to see who you are on the web, you’ll be glad you can present yourself to your new readers with an appearance of effortless grace.

Make It Simple (To Last Your Whole Life Long)

So, a thing happened to me a couple weeks ago. Sometimes at work the work goes by either too quickly or very little at all, and I end up at loose ends in the back offices of the store. And then, if needed, I go out and hang out at the front desk and play checkout girl. Sometimes it’s quiet; I do a lot of reading or knitting there, we all do. Sometimes, people come in and have questions. And sometimes they bring their kids. Inevitably, some kid wants to sit and treadle the spinning wheels like it’s a bicycle, going far too fast. Usually, if we have enough people that someone can go away from the front desk, I or one of the aunts will go and do a spinning demonstration.

I did one on Thursday, day after New Years’ Day. A family who were, I suspect, on vacation, they had the look of people wandering around staring at everything in wonder, even the trees by the streets and the parking meter. Most likely tourists, none of whom had intended crafting purpose. Though for all I know they might have gotten entranced by the yarn and decided to knit or crochet something. The daughter, maybe somewhere around 8 or 10, went and stood by one of the castle wheels and started chattering at her parents about how it worked. I have no idea what she said. But she was really interested, so I offered to give them a demonstration on one of the other wheels as the belt (well, cord) had come off the wheel they were playing with. I went over to our floor Lendrum and did some spinning and did my spiel and made a 2-ply bit of yarn and gave it to the girl by way of demonstration. Pink yarn, or maybe lavender, something of that ilk was in the demo basket. She loved it. As I walked back to the front desk I saw her gravely passing it to one of the adults to hold while she put her coat on so she didn’t lose it. This is something I don’t remember about spinning, or any of half a dozen skills.

I had a similar moment with my language abilities last night. By now I’ve only been spinning for three or four years, but grew up with this branch of the family doing all of these crafts as a matter of course, I literally cannot remember a time when I only spoke or understood one language. This is simply how I’ve lived. And sometimes (depending on what it is, a lot of the time) I forget that what’s ordinary to me is amazing and magical to others. It helps to keep this in perspective. Swapping skills with other people, where I teach them to spin or speak Spanish or what have you and they teach me music or dancing, it helps to remember that part of the reason they look so effortless when other people do them and so crap when I start doing them is that I’m years behind where they are in terms of experience. Never mind the hard process of finding out that some skills are harder for you than others.

Let’s take another tack.

I read two articles this morning, actually an article and a blog entry. The first article was how anti-religious sentiment was on the rise in the world. I don’t mean anti-religious in general, I mean both anti-general religion and anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-pick-a-faith. Except, oddly, Hindus and Buddhists and folk religions. Apparently everyone’s so busy hating the others they haven’t bothered to hate on Hindus for a while. I read that, and then I scrolled through my blog roll and found a post about being called to share by God, or wishing to be so called. I know, I know. You can count the number of times I’ve brought up religion here on the fingers of one foot, but I promise it’s relevant. Anyway, reading this article gave me hope. Not everyone who feels called by their faith or their deity to bring unto the masses means called to bring conversion at the barrel of a gun. Sometimes it just means, bring a shoulder to cry on. Bring hope. Bring laughter to share. Bring what you have, share it around. Bring wonder to a child who might be tired from being dragged around by her parents all day, by showing her something that may be ordinary to you, but is magic to her.

See, from the time we’re born we start learning things. We learn inward and outward, we learn things about ourselves and the way the world works for us (because the way the world works for me and the way it works for my Dad and the way it works for my Grandpa are very, very different things), and we learn skills and stories and things to do, outwardly. And if we learn a thing often enough, it becomes simple to us. It becomes so ordinary that it loses its special and we take it for granted. But what’s simple and easy for us is like magic to other people. What we understand so easily, other people find complex and mysterious. And if we find occasion to share it with someone else, we might remember that sense of wonder we felt when seeing it done by someone else, or doing it ourselves, rightly, for the first time.

This is one of the reasons I believe that writers must read. Dancers must watch. Crafters must go to craft shows and study not just the other craftsfolk, but also their audience. Look at the people staring in amazement, or watch (or read) and feel that amazement again yourself. And remember that this feeling here, that uplifting and joyful feeling, is why you struggle through the hard parts.