Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Crowding the spotlight

Every day I get an email from Google Alerts about something I've written and posted or something I've written that someone else has borrowed without permission, like this morning. I was notified that a web site was using one of my recent posts to advertise their site and services. I contacted the site and told them they were using copyrighted material and to either remove my work or contact me to discuss payment. I don't mind my work being reprinted elsewhere but I also expect to be paid and that they ask for my permission first.

Being a writer is a double-edged sword. As a writer's work is more available and more people read it, there is the tendency to feel like the spotlight is on you. In that way, it's like a having guilty conscience: everything is aimed at you. All those looks, people thinking you've done something wrong, people knowing what's on your mind and in your heart, and it can be exhausting. The writer is center stage in the spotlight and a lot of people want to crowd in there, too. It's especially true about some of the things I write because, as much as they like to think they're unique, people are very similar. That is why writing about situations and relationships has such a far reaching effect; people are basically the same. The problem is that sometimes people see themselves in what I write and they just aren't there. It's hard to convince some people that what I write is generic and often a combination of several people and situations, but that's the trouble with the spotlight. Some people love to be in the center and want everyone to look at them, often because they feel they've been the butt of a joke or the subject of a particularly bad situation.

A few years ago I wrote about meeting someone when I was out running errands and described the person as Uriah Heep. If you haven't read David Copperfield by Charles Dickens you would miss the analogy. Uriah Heep was a slimy worm of a person, always working his way into a position of power while he wrung his hands and talked about how he wasn't worthy to be noticed because he was a humble person and beneath notice. Someone I knew emailed and asked if the post was about them even though they didn't live nearby and I couldn't have met them while running errands. You have to wonder about someone who reads something like that and sees himself portrayed. Obviously, something struck a nerve. But it wasn't about him.

I write for many reasons: to illustrate a point, to share scraps of my life and what I experience, to connect with others and just to write. I seldom know where the muse will take me when I begin to type. I almost always have a point but seldom have a single person in mind, unless I'm writing a review or about the important people in my life. So, unless I mention someone specifically, the focus is a composite of many people and situations I know. And yet, there are always those people who are convinced what I write is all about them. They're crowding the spotlight, often to make themselves seem more important than they are or to play the victim. Just like the person who saw himself in the hand wringing, slimy worm always apologizing for putting himself forward and working his way closer and closer with evil intentions in his heart, there will always be those who feel the need to crowd the spotlight. After all, why wouldn't it be about them since they are the most important and relevant person in the world? It's just like a narcissist to believe the sun rises and sets to shine on him.

It's gratifying that people read what I write because it's part of the reason I write -- to reach people and make them think. It's also scary because there are people who believe it's all about them and that can have some disastrous and sad results. That's how stalkers begin. They hide in the shadows, watching and waiting, holding on to perceived insults like a festering boil, just waiting for the moment to spit out venom. The characters and subjects on which they focus says so much about them, especially when the stalker blames the writer. It's like a guilty conscience.

I am glad when what a write touches a nerve or reminds someone they're not alone. It's part of the reason I write. I smile when someone lets me know that my writing helped them to see past their blind spot. I worry when anyone decides without clear and undeniable proof that they have been maligned or that I'm telling all their secrets and laying them open to ridicule. Those people have serious issues and need serious help.

Like one of my friends who stood in the spotlight recently for her fifteen minutes of fame when Barack Obama walked up onto her porch to shake her hand, everyone gets a turn in the spotlight. Be wary of anyone who keeps taking center stage and crowds the spotlight, especially when they play the victim and point to all the reasons they are special. Those people are dangerous and their guilty conscience is showing. It's like a vindictive woman dredging up the past to punish someone for something that happened years ago; they just won't let go. They like being the victim. They like playing the wronged woman. They just can't keep from crowding the spotlight. And they're dangerous. At such times, it's best to move quickly and quietly to the exits in an orderly fashion. Save yourself. You cannot save them.

Today they're obsessing about someone else. Tomorrow they might obsess about you. They can't help themselves. They're not happy unless they're in the spotlight and crowding everyone else out.

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