Tag Archives: ego

Can Writers Be Rockstars?

Rock stars and movie stars and known for their blowouts, the drug and alcohol abuse, their indiscretions mostly because they’re so rich and famous they’re always in the limelight. Over at Terrible Minds Chuck Wendig argues/pokes fun at the image and says we need writers to be rock stars. But have we ever had them, those memorable characters known more for their antics with drugs, alcohol and sex than for their writing (almost), or those with personalities that would have them locked up if it weren’t for their mad genius?

Wendig names Oscar Wilde, Hunter S. Thompson and Ernest Hemingway as characters in the past that had that crazed star image. William Burroughs would also enter that arena. Phillip K. Dick and Thomas Disch had a legendary hate on of each other. Dick, paranoid and spaced out on some substance hated Disch who was gay and reported him to the FBI (or maybe it was the CIA). I only learned this though reading Disch’s last book The Word of God. Disch got his last digs in at Dick in the stories (part fictional/part autobiographical) in the end. But these guys are all dead guys so they don’t count.

writers, rockstars, movie stars, assholes, prima donas, drugs, sex, bad boys

Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, Flickr

Who are our living writing rock stars, the bad boys and girls of the literary world, the ones whose pens drip a venom that pales to their verbal vitriol, their nasty antics, their crazed abuses of the body? Someone pointed out that perhaps it’s because rock stars are younger and writers older when famous that age tempers these antics, but what can we say about Keith Richards then, though the Janis Joplins and Amy Winehouses definitely fall early in the realm of substance abuse. Perhaps it’s because we don’t look at authors whereas we watch movie stars and listen and watch rock stars, that makes a difference. Writers create characters and your imagination takes over. Who wants to find out they’re an elderly housewife of three or that they’re old and fat and greying? Just doesn’t live up to the glamor, does it?

Wendigs subcategories are: Erratic Author Appearances, Intensely Weird Drug Habits, …Making Rock Star Demands, Insane Hobbies on Display, Jack Up Our Books With Rockstar Juice, Groupies+Entourage=Awesome, …Writer Cribs, …Hookers, …Public Urination. Hmm, granted this piece is high on irony, I guess this might be considered a primer for the famous on what not to do. For writers, maybe we live out all that through our characters so we’re less likely to act it out. The TV show Californication  probably comes closes to the fantasy of a rockstar writer. Of course it’s Hollywood so everything is skewed there.

So who is alive who might be considered a writing rock star for wacky habits? Harlan Ellison is definitely one. Not that he’s defecated in anyone’s mailbox (that we know of) but he’s more than spoken his mind, trounced people verbally and on the page and been known to do a few “rumored” deeds such as signing a woman’s breast or leaving the garden slug dessert (search my posts for more on this). Samuel Delaney was known for his erratic author appearances. Neil Gaiman is mentioned as someone who should be a bad boy but is relatively tame. Wendig did miss that Gaiman has an entourage. If you’ve seen if at a convention there is usually a contrail of black-clad gothettes following him about. Sadly, I cannot think of any bad girl writers.

I tried once to tell the writers group I belonged to that we needed to hang out in bars and perpetuate a lifestyle that could be more infamous than our writing. No one went for it though. Maybe I’d be better known if I had. :) But the piece is right; overall we’re not the same prima donas as rock and movie stars. Check out Wendig’s article, and If you can think of a living writer known for strange, bad, erratic or aberrant behavior, post here so we can start a list.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, drugs, entertainment, humor, music, people, Writing

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The massacre in Norway is in some ways not new. Unfortunately, it’s a common enough scenario; yet another example of the endemic problem of judgment, racism or bigotry that infects this planet. Granted, there are people of unstable or extreme personality types such as narcissists who believe only they matter, or sociopaths who don’t really care about anything but their own gratification. I don’t know the statistics but I’m betting half of all massacres, multiple murders and suicide pacts are from unstable personalities. Religious temperament is probably responsible for the other half.

peace, war, fighting, getting along, coexisting, bigotry, racism

Creative Commons: co_exist_by_c3b4

If we rule out that all religious beliefs make you a little crazy or that racism is only practiced by nutjobs, then we have to believe that people have extreme views and sane minds. But what’s at the basis of all the bigotry and hate crimes?

It’s a belief that someone is “other.” I am green and you are purple. Therefore you are different, not like me, maybe an alien and I can’t trust you. Or: You believe the flying spaghetti monster is god and I believe in Cthulhu. Therefore you are evil and should be shot down for spreading spaghetti monster worship, which is wrong. This I believe.

These examples are all about judgment and belief. A belief that I am better, my way of seeing the world is right and yours is wrong for some reason. I believe I am more favored by god but somehow you’re not or bringing in the wrong god. But what does it offend? Our sensibilities?

I may not like you walking around and showing your plumber’s crack. I may believe your religion of wearing orange cones on your head is goofy. I might see you eating cucumbers as a sign of true evil or that when you sing you are opening a hole to the world of darkness. But no matter what I BELIEVE, what really matters is, are you hurting me?

I mean tangible hurt, not some imagined slight to your soul or psyche. To me this is what it all gets down to and what we should remember. I might not like it, but is it hurting me or do I still have my freedom of movement and thought? I believe, like or worship this. Does it hurt anyone? No. Then I can do it. I can marry the rock in my garden, make sweet love to a chocolate croissant or worship the almighty slug. I might be seen as deranged but I’m not dangerous.

So everyone needs to take a deep breath and in that moment of judgment and hate boiling up in your guts, just step back and ask: Is he/she hurting anyone? If not. Then leave them alone to live their lives as they please. After all, it’s what you would want people to give you.

2 Comments

Filed under crime, Culture, news, people, politics, religion

The Muffins Lasted Longer Than the Relationship

There are dates and there are dates. The first is the type that you eat, that you could possibly put in a muffin. And the second is the type you do with someone, presumably someone you’re interested in.

I have had either the misfortune or the…adventure of dating from time to time. Here’s an example of what I might have to put up with. The other night I was out with friends for a drink. This guy decided I was beautiful, but like most lines after a few drinks we must examine them like insects crawling across our sandwiches. Motives are always suspect because often the guy wants nothing more than to be the cream in your coffee. And lo and behold this guy told me he loved me. I said, “No you don’t. You’ve just met me.”

Do they really think that will work? It didn’t work when I was 20 and it doesn’t work now. He proceeded to say he really wanted to date me and that he didn’t just want sex but a relationship, but he was all over me and that turned me off. It adds a teaspoon of cynicism right at the beginning.

But really, this post is about muffins. Sort of. For a short spate, I dated someone this summer. He worked in a muffin factory. These muffins were dense, moist, full of flax and sturdy enough to keep me filled for half a day. That description doesn’t work for the man, but he sometimes gave me a few muffins to take home. I ate the last one today. I haven’t been eating them throughout all this time but the muffin lasted in my fridge through August and September. No mold and mostly still moist. The relationship on the other hand, lasted five dates, or over about six weeks. The muffin had staying power and might have been the better part of the deal. All I can go on is what I got.

But muffins have it easy. They only have to relate with your digestive system. And though that can cause its own havoc, the communication is fairly straightforward. You either like or don’t like the taste, eat, feel full, and then your body processes the nutrients into wanted and not wanted, and then you get rid of the rest. Hmmm, maybe a relationship is a lot like eating.

However, communication seems to be one of those weird things that takes more twists and turns than food sliding through your gut. I have enough male friends who are in relationships they aren’t happy with, but they won’t leave their partner. Why? Well, some argue that “she wouldn’t survive without me.” I call this reverse egotism. The man decides that the woman is incapable of moving on or existing without him, when somehow she did so before they met. Often it’s really because the man doesn’t know if he’d survive on his own, he’s never broken up with a woman, or he’s afraid of his loneliness.

On the dating end, I’ve had a guy give me his phone number but it was a dud number. So why did he even bother? I was not going to die if he didn’t give me his number in the first place. And often we’ll hear, I just need space, I want to be alone right now, or nothing, just silence. If these phrases are lies instead of the truth, we’re bound to find out, as I have. I can actually live quite easily with someone saying, “I just don’t think this relationship will work,” or “I’m actually interested in someone else” to some other far-fetched and less truthful statement.Especially if I’ve only had a date or two.  My emotional investment is pretty low and I’m capable of moving on and forgetting I actually dated the person.

You’d think people could just say the truth, be honest. But somehow they believe a little lie will be less painful than the truth. I have used “men” here in my analogies because that’s who I’ve dated but I think in some instances these scenarios would hold true for women. Except I bet that a woman who is done with a relationship is more likely to leave it, overall, than say “he couldn’t survive without me.”

So in the meantime, between these dates where the ingredients are missing or suspect, I’ll stick to home cooking and leave it to the food to communicate with my body. That at least is always an honest interaction.

Thanks to anaumi for the picture: http://i629.photobucket.com/albums/uu13/anaumi/muffin.jpg

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, food, humor, life, people, relationships, sex

Indian Olympic Team Snubs Charity

India has a small Olympic contingent in the 2010 Olympics. Although India sports a warm climate, there are mountains in the country but not a lot of winter so it makes sense that there might only be three winter athletes. It also makes sense that although India has over a billion people and a sixth of the world’s population that there might still be a lot of poverty.

It doesn’t make sense that three athletes representing their country should not even be given matching outfits for the opening ceremonies. The Indian government spent about the equivalent of $2000 for each of the eight team members, which is not a lot for the length of the Olympics. I don’t think the government is that poor but I’m not an economist.  But here’s something else that doesn’t make sense. On arrival of the eight members (including the three athletes) in Canada the local Indo-Canadian community found out about Team India’s plight. A local Indo-Canadian businessman chipped in, and had suits made up, and the community raised $8,000 for expenses through a local radio host.

Before that, luge athlete and flag bearer Shiva Keshavan was given about $9,700 by a group of lawyers so that he could get a new sled. The Indian government has put out a statement saying they did supply uniforms (which were supposedly mismatched) and some money, as well as giving Shiva $2o,000 the year before for his training. I don’t know how $20,000 translates in India compared to cost of living and other expenditures but it probably goes farther than here, but how far?

It’s unclear whether the outfits were done in time for the opening ceremonies but most likely were. However Keshavan was not wearing the outfit. And it seems that the $8,000 raised by the Indo-Canadian community has been turned down by Team India (after Keshavan said they were grateful) with the comment that they will not accept charity and are embarrassed.

I think it’s time to leave egos at the door. Olympic athletes don’t just compete for themselves but for their countries. A country is made up of individuals and it’s obvious that the Indo-Canadian community here cared enough to want to help. They wanted their athletes to look good and do well and win for all of them.

And on top of that, Keshavan accepted money from the government of India as well as from the lawyers. In fact, almost all Olympic athletes accept charity, or donations to further their training, whether from governments, organizations, benefactors or other commercial donors. How does the Indian team (which member has his knickers in a twist over this?) decide that this is not acceptable? If they’re embarrassed by their government’s lack of funding, the damage has already been done. They should be grateful that their fellow country men and women are wishing to participate in their own way and help out.

If a country is poor and people chip in I think that just shows more of a team spirit to those who are happy to be behind a team, to support them and cheer them on and do a little bit in any way they can because they are not the athletes. It should be country’s pride in helping, not embarrassment in accepting.

And what will the overabundance of Team India’s pride get them in the end? Probably nothing, including no support from the local Indo-Canadian community and no medals because they didn’t accept what was needed. Team India, take some humility here and use your pride in your athletics, and be happy that some people were willing to help.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, fashion, news, people, sports

Writing: Taking it Personally

This could just be called Writing and Ego for any time a writer submits a piece of work to an editor, ego does get involved. We write because of ego, because we think we have something to say, because we think we’re good enough, because we want to be rich or famous. But to write means also to be able to disengage the ego some.

The other night I was talking with someone who has a friend trying to be a writer. Great. Everyone should try to pursue their dreams. But writing, for 99% of us, takes work. A lot of work. It takes honing your craft. It takes knowledge. It takes a certain skill and perception that is ephemeral, that could be called ideas but is also your unique way of stringing them together. It takes perseverance. And yes, it takes luck.

The first part, learning your craft, is where everyone must start and stay to a degree. It is always a judgment call as to when you think your piece is ready. Once it’s been written, reworked, critiqued, rewritten and edited, it is then ready to send out, maybe. But sometimes you must take a leap of faith and submit the story or poem. Every writer can benefit from workshops, classes and writers’ groups. If I could afford to do it more, I’d take more workshops. Until I’m selling my pieces 100% of the time I still have something I can learn. To think otherwise would again be ego. A workshop might just be a new way to work or come up with ideas or just the camaraderie of other writers, because, as any writer knows, writing is a fairly solitary process.

Selling your writing takes the knowledge not just of how to write, but of the submission process. Sometimes people have an idea, their cherished baby, and they write it and then send it out. If you haven’t learned much about writing or even had your story read by knowledgeable people (editors, not friends unless those friends are writers/editors) then you jeopardize your chances at publication. Such basics as grammar can stop an editor from reading an otherwise great story. Editors read so much every day that they have no patience for people who cannot follow basic grammar, spelling and guidelines.

No one can teach a person ideas, but there are workshops that look at how to take those rough ideas and chisel them into the best and most clear idea, compelling, interesting and filled with tension. But the beginning idea must be interesting in and of itself and unique, not done before. There are many stories, even within a genre, that follow certain motifs. Each one that is published must present something new.

Next, and how we get back to the person trying to be a writer, is perseverance. He had sent his work out to a publisher or two and when it was rejected, he took it personally. They (those faceless editors) hate him. Really, the editor or publisher doesn’t know most beginning writers from Adam. The writers too, are faceless. There is rarely anything personal unless you take to insulting the editor in your cover letters.

It may not even be that your story sucks. Here are just a few reasons that an editor/publisher may not have accepted your story/novel, which has nothing particular to do with your work:

  • doesn’t fit their theme
  • they’ve just spent two years publishing books on this topic and the market is glutted
  • budget cuts
  • there are limited slots and even some of the good stories must go
  • you wrote on a topic that the editor personally hates
  • the slushpile has grown so big that there is some wholesale rejecting to get them caught up (not as frequent but it can happen)
  • they’re changing their focus
  • they’re folding (I’ve sold too many pieces to magazines/anthologies, which were then never published because they closed down–I call it the kiss of death)
  • the structure of the magazine/anthology has changed (I sold one story to an anthology which then went to a different publisher and then was halved–although I received a kill-fee the story was never published.)
  • the editor has changed

Those are a few reasons that has nothing whatsoever to do with the writer. Grammar, typos, conflict, tension, characterization, plot, theme, structure and flow have to do with the written piece. Editors also reject on those reasons, if the other reasons haven’t come into play first. Again, this is rarely personal. They don’t know you. They base their thoughts on the manuscript before them.

This is why perseverance is the mainstay for most writers. It is a very tiny percentage of us who can send out our work and sell it on the first go. My ego had to accept that I wasn’t the greatest writer since sliced bread. Otherwise I would sell everything or mostly everything. I’m still a small pea in a big pod. Even the best writers, the award winners, don’t sell some pieces. You and me and most other writers have to keep writing and submitting. If I’d quit after my first year, I would have only sold a couple of poems. I keep going, getting better the more I write (and read), the more workshops I take, the more I discuss my ongoing projects before submitting.

If you want to be a writer, you’ll need to disengage your ego enough to get through the rejections. At one time I could paper my bathroom in acceptances and my house in rejections. Now I might be able to paper a house in acceptances…and several houses in rejections. So it goes. If you take it personally, if you want to be an overnight sensation, if you get overly depressed or angry at a rejection, then you better not be a writer.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, life, people, Publishing, security, Writing

Vanity Searches

I spent a couple of hours this week searching myself out. Why? To fluff up my ego? Hardly likely. A vanity search will often reveal how insignificant we are in terms of the Google universe. At least I’m on the first google page but not so much for my published stories as for this blog. So maybe I’m the second most famous Colleen, on Google, for what it’s worth. Which is not much.

But still, I thought I better find what’s listed about me before it all disappears. Should there come a day for me to prove I published something or to apply for a grant, then in some cases this may be the only published proof, such as my online flash fiction “On Wings of Angels” in Vestal Review7. I found that still up and printed the page since I didn’t have a “published” copy, it being only internet published.

The vanity search also let me find out I had received two honorable mentions for my story “Hold Back the Night,” which had appeared in the Red Deer Press Open Space anthology. I’d known I had received an honorable mention in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best SF, but only a few years later did I find out the story had received the same in Datlow and Windling’s Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. One story, both SF and fantasy honorable mentions, when there was no SF I know of in it. :) But who’s complaining: not me. Still, the vanity search has shown what few reviews of my work are still out there and though none scream that my work is stellar, most don’t say it sucks either. And I do have the distinction of “Hold Back the Night” being the only story in the anthology to receive two honorable mentions, plus having been shortlisted for the Gaylactic Spectrum award (a gay character in speculative fiction), which I only ever found on the net and otherwise didn’t know about either.

But still, I’m a small pea in a large pod and there are a lot of Colleen Andersons, some 80 google pages in fact. There is a songwriter and poet (Mother Wit) who seems to have the most hits, plus another writer with the same name. There’s a minister, a scientist, a professor, a real estate agent, a tax assessor, a nurse, etc. Of course I’m some of these things too. But I’m certainly not the only Colleen Anderson and perhaps I’m not the real one. I’ve run into a couple others in this city alone.

Still, a vanity search can be enlightening in just how many of your posts or even how your address ends up on the internet. I can’t help but think of my childhood nemesis Laura Morse who lived two doors down from me. We met at the age of 4 and never liked each other, and had the dubious pleasure of spending grades 1-12 together, going to the same schools. Her younger brother and mine were the best of friends. We were barely playmates. She used to say she would only read books that had her name in them.

Searching for Laura Morse today doesn’t turn up her name but then she married and changed her last name. Yet, google might still be useful to her if she has to find books with Laura in them (more by authors though, than characters, though google’s new wish to scan everything would change that). One can only hope her horizons have broadened.

And we, that fill one page in 8o, hope that some day there may be many pages, indicating perhaps a rise in pay for being a writer. Of course, one could always do something notorious and then your name would rise on the google listings. In the meantime, I now have printed copies of any reviews, should I decide to try and get a grant for writing speculative fiction. Hmm, I think I’ll wait a bit longer.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, fantasy, horror, internet, people, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Living in a World of Rejection

Everyone gets some form or rejection at some point in their lives. If you’re fairly well balanced, you can take it in stride, maybe momentarily sad/disappointed/angry but you move on.

However, to reject seems a much harder action for some people to commit. Take the thinner side of relationships–that is, dating. How many times has it happened that someone says, “I’ll call you,” when they have no intention of ever calling? Or the slow disappearance of the person you’re dating, who can’t manage to say, “I’m no longer interested,” but instead becomes distant, talking less, laughing less, making love less or with less passion?

Really, who is being fooled in such relationships? Not the one being dumped slowly, unless they’re in complete denial. And if you haven’t learned by now, a slow dumping is much more wounding and demoralizing than a sudden one. Though that shouldn’t legitimize never calling again but still having the guts to say, “Look, this just isn’t working out,” or “I’m really more into my book than you,” or whatever. It comes down to communication.

However, I believe there’s often ego tied up in this that people don’t realize. “Oh, I couldn’t tell him/her I don’t want to see them anymore. It would crush him/her.” Yeah, I’ve been reduced to ashes every time some guy never called. Give me a break. Ego ego ego. Not needed. People survive, they move on. They continue to live their lives. Someone I’ve dated is not all-important in my life. (A longer live-in relationship could be a different story however; more time is invested.) If you’ve only had a few dates with someone, be decent and say it’s not working. Don’t be a worm wriggling away without the guts to say anything.

Which gets to the real point of this. Writing. I’ve been rejected so many times I cannot count. I used to say I could paper a house with rejections and a bathroom with acceptances. I think I could now paper a good-sized bedroom with acceptances. But the point is, a writer lives with rejection all the time. And it’s not just because personalities don’t mesh (well, maybe sometimes it is), but it’s more personal; it’s one’s writing that gets rejected.

Writing can be the blood and soul of a writer. A good writer can separate enough to take constructive criticism. A writer can also be completely emotionally unstable and think that you’re ripping the arms off their baby any time you say anything against their perfect child. That’s not a good writer, who will never get the perspective to see what is wrong with a story. That’s a crazed writer who might, from time to time, write well, but only if they can take criticism.

Still, no matter how professional you are, how gracious, how open and noble, how thick your skin, it can get to you. The perseverance of most writers is akin to beating your head against a wall with a nail sticking out, knowing it’s causing you to hurt and bleed, but still doing it, hoping you can pound that nail down. What gives first? How prevalent is depression amongst writers? Ask them.

Writing is not for the weak at heart. Over the years and the many workshops/writers groups I’ve been in I’ve seen people freeze up. Some never write again when they find out their perfect child has a flaw to some people. Some are closet writers, writing away, but paralyzed to submit or let anyone view their work.

And there you go; submission. A writer must be submissive. Passively and meekly sending in stories and poetry to the mighty god-editor of doom, awaiting the call or the casting out. You must submit your writing and submit to the will of others.

Now, when you look at the aberrant or colorful personalities of past writers: Dylan Thomas, Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron, to name a few, is it any wonder they turned out the way they did? And of course one can ask: does writing attract the unique personalities or does writing create them? Does a writer who has experienced the numerous rejections by editors become more compassionate in rejecting people in a relationship or less? Does the one condition have any correlation to the other or is it strictly one’s personality that dictates the way of rejection?

Whichever it is, the rejector should always reject gently and clearly, whether in a relationship or in writing (there are always exceptions). And anyone considering the life of a writer better be ready to face rejection and realize that nothing is perfect in the world to all people. Something can be rejected a hundred times before it is accepted (even true for relationships but not with the same person–that’s stalking). So here’s to a thick skin, persevering and weathering the rejections.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, erotica, fantasy, horror, life, people, poetry, Publishing, relationships, science fiction, Writing