Monthly Archives: July 2012

On Writing, Life, & Wearing Pants

I admit that I haven’t picked up a Writer’s Digest in many, many years.  I’m fairly certain that NIN and Madonna were top of the charts the last time I read WD.  In fact, if George Lucas was writing about the last time I read this particular magazine the words “long, long ago” would probably feature prominently.  But I do recall being equally disgusted a couple of decades ago with their asinine advice as I am today.

And for some reason, this advice seems to be repeated over and over again through the years, online and offline, and whenever anyone is giving “advice” on writing.  That advice is – ignore everything but writing.  According to the experts, you should live in a filthy house, shuffling around in house-pants and slippers, surrounded by children and pets who live on whatever ever snacks they can paws out of a cabinet or find in the carpet.  At the same time, these experts are extolling time-management.

Maybe, and this is just a suggestion, they could learn to manage enough time to shake out the rug and use a little Pledge now and then.  I don’t find dust bunnies and dirty dishes particularly inspiring and I actually like getting dressed.  I am sure that some writing can be done pantless, although it might be better unmentioned what kinds.  Even Hemingway put on slacks most days.  They don’t let you into the better class of bars unless you do.

Writing isn’t your life.  Writing (or any other kind of job/hobby/pursuit) is a part of your life.  Your life also consists of laundry, lawns, bills, family, pets, and, dare I say, pants.  Life is all the things you like to do plus all the things you have to do.  Hopefully, those lists even out and on good days the “like to do-s” outnumber the list that includes cleaning out lint traps, changing air filters, and trying to decide if that’s a “good” spider on the wall (up for relocation to the garden) or one that I’d best go at with a magazine.

If you disagree and would rather spend your day in your underwear, eating Cheese Nips, and extolling the artistic virtues of filth and disrepair, more power to you.  But don’t expect me to visit or do your dishes.


All the World’s a Tweet

I was struck by an article I read and the notion that social media is changing grief or probably it would be more accurate to say changing how people perceive national and global tragedy.  In the past, it was up to journalists to give a face to tragedy.  They made victims and survivors alike real to readers or viewers.  Police officers, hospital personnel and first responders may’ve seen real people.  You would certainly get to know someone during an investigation or throughout months of therapy, but to the average reader (or viewer) people were “a thirty-something brunette with sharp features and an equally sharp wit” or “a plucky blonde who worked the day-shift at Starbucks and volunteered at her local animal shelter.”  You were what the media tagged you as which may or may not have corresponded with who you really were or who you believed yourself to be.

With the advent of social media tragedies have real faces beyond graduation and CV pictures and quotes from friends of the deceased.  The dead speak.  You can read tweets, posts, and blogs from people who just yesterday were living and breathing and tweeting and posting.  Maybe they did a little trolling too.  Maybe they weren’t perfect or sometimes even likeable, but they were all utterly real.  Social media is telling like no other channel of communication.  It’s informal, it’s piercing, and it reveals the heart of things.  It gives us people’s likes and hates, their rants and raves, it shows us who they were and who they believed they were – which can be even more important.  It lets them define themselves with cartoon avatars and quotes from Monty Python and Mark Twain.  It’s all a glorious mad jumble a lot like life itself.

Shakespeare wrote “all the world’s a stage,” but perhaps if As You Like It were written today, Jacques might lament “all the world’s a tweet” or status update or blog.  We are mere players in social media.  Play being the optimal word.  There are no professionals even though you can make a good living at optimizing the written in digital and social.  It’s a sort of digital witchcraft.  How magical is it to unfriend the guy that dumped you and watch him disappear (at least from your friend list and your feed?)  There’s something more than the mundane about even the most over-used tweets and posts that keep us clicking like.  TGIF.  Like.  Another Monday. . .  I feel your pain, brother.  And to see those posts echoing from accounts that no longer have living posters is magic too.  It’s as if the account holders are still with us waiting for the weekend, reading our posts, and maybe liking a page or two.

I still remember a speech I heard when I was in high school.  A retired police officer was talking about responsible driving and vehicle safety and he recalled an accident he has responded to years before.  You could tell it was still real to him.  Maybe he saw it every night.  But I’m sure he saw it clearly each time he gave this speech.  The officer described the girl in the accident as being “blonde and blue-eyed and cute as a button.”  He went on to say that he hadn’t been able to save her and that if she had her seatbelt on she may’ve lived.  The part of the story that I’ve always remembered was his description of her.  I always wondered (as a bitter teenage girl) if the girl had been overweight and red-headed or brunette with acne if she would’ve found her way into his cautionary tale.  The fact is that we are how the world sees us to a great degree.  But because of social media the world sees us through what we post.

Our photos, tweets, shares, and posts make us real.  They live even when we don’t.  There’s poignancy in that.   After all, life isn’t about “the big events.”  Life is day-to-day.  Life is picking up kids from school, doing the laundry, and taking the dog to the vet.  Life is work and the weekend and being annoyed that Starbucks put milk in your coffee instead of soy.  I’m grateful to social media for reminding us of that, and for reminding us that at the heart of it all we’re much all the same.  There is more that connects us than that makes us different.  We all play our part and have our entrances and exits.  There is a great deal of beauty in that.