Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Don't Quote Me

Many people have the wrong idea about blogs, especially about personal blogs. Seeing their lives through someone else's eyes is seldom pleasant, especially when the view is unflattering.

Like paper journals where people keep secret thoughts, wrongs done, drama chronicled, life's dramas are kept like moments frozen in time. Pain and hurt and heart break color the words and seem to be an unreliable truth, but they are the writer's truth seen through their emotions and their experiences. Anyone looking from outside, especially those involved, would see things in a different light and perspective. Ask a villain and he will see himself as the hero and vice versa.

Relationships are complex. In her heart of hearts, Cinderella knew she was abused, but she looked for the small moments of happiness and was glad she was able to remain in her father's home, her family home, whatever the cost. She knew her stepmother was an evil woman and her stepsisters spoiled brats, but Cinderella was determined to find happiness wherever she could. It was a fairy tale after all.

Had Cinderella been a writer or kept journals, maybe she would have been more willing to put the truth -- her truth -- out there. Her stepsisters and stepmothers would have seen things in a different light. Cinderella was a burden they were stuck with because Cinderella was the only reason they were able to live in her father's home and waste her father's wealth. They couldn't get rid of her, so they mistreated her, abused her, made her their servant when they could no longer afford to pay the servants.

No doubt Kim Jong-il saw himself as the saviour of his people driving them toward an equal footing with the leading nations of the world. That he had to starve his people, take foreign aid and food for them and turn it into nuclear arms while he lived in luxury and splendor was of no importance as long as he got what he wanted. The rest of the world sees Kim Jong-il as a tyrant, a despot, a terrorist working hard to hold the rest of the world hostage with his nuclear capabilities, standing on the backs of his people and grinding them into the dirt. He is a villain. He sees himself as a hero.

As I've said many times, it's all about perspective. There may be a landfill at your feet, but if you live on the cliff above it and your view is a perfect unbroken vista of trees and cities and sky, you never see the landfill.

In blogs, the writers use dialogue to dramatize an incident or a moment. It's not meant to be a direct quote, but the gist of a conversation. The writer isn't writing a factual article but dramatizing a bit of their life. The dialogue is accurate in what it says even if it's not a direct quote, or is a boiled down version of a quote. It's life. It's art. It's gossip. It's the aroma of life. It's drama.

Since the Internet offered a place to be heard, people rushed to put their perspectives and views out there. It reminds me of a book co-authored by Arthur C. Clarke, The Light of Other Days, in which young people were freed from social constraints by having wormholes installed in their heads. Young people had no qualms about having sex in public on benches and on the street, taking public displays to affection to a whole new level. Through the wormholes in their heads they could see everything: past, present, and future. There were no more secrets. All lies were laid bare for public consumption, so why hide the truth of their lives or their bodies? Young people walked around naked and lived their lives in the open. In a way, the Internet is similar, allowing people a public voice where they lay bare their secrets -- and their drama.

Enter indie publishing with instant access to programs that allow writers to get their books and dreams into print and out for sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble (which has recently succumbed to financial pressure), Apple, and small presses. Writers don't need to slave over their words, put them into manuscript format, and send them to traditional publishers and agents while they wait for an answer, collecting rejections and rewriting endlessly until someone, anyone, in publishing gives them the nod. Access is available and writers, good, mediocre, and bad, are taking advantage.

Indie authors consider themselves heroes. Traditional publishers and agents see them as villains, as the enemy. Vanity publishing has become independent publishing/self-publishing and has gained credibility. The world is changing and we may not be far from Arthur C. Clarke's vision of the future -- without portable wormholes for now.

In the meantime, bloggers and writers will continue writing their truth no matter how many people cry foul. Their families and friends may not be pleased, but their voices will be heard -- are being heard -- have been heard -- and they will continue to write with and without direct quotes.

This is life as art and art as life.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Getting the Words Out

This past year has been difficult personally, but the biggest hurdle for me as a writer was losing my beta reader. We've been together through thick and thin, bleeding virtual red pencil over each other's stories and commenting, asking questions, and even hotly discussing different points. She was my partner in writing, but I didn't feel I could go to her any more since she was now a bona fide editor. I didn't want to take up her time, and that decision (mine alone) had a deleterious effect on my writing. I couldn't find the rhythm any more or was completely stalled.

It is difficult finding someone to work with, someone to trust completely, and someone I respected. She was that someone and I was bereft. Add in the death of my mother and my youngest grandson Connor and my year was pretty much shot. I seldom opened my files and wrote anything except for dribs and drabs here and there. After talking with her tonight, we are back in business. She's writing again and so am I. Best of all, I have my beta reader/editor back.

I often wonder what other writers consider necessary tools, aside from computer, typewriter, pen, pencil, or whatever instrument is used to put the words on the page -- virtual and paper. I never really thought about it until recently. For me at least, a good and trustworthy beta reader I respect is a necessity.

One other tool is not caring what anyone else says as long as what I put down on paper is my truth and my creation. I have worried far too much about reviews and ratings and social networking to the point that I have allowed such trivialities to hamper my writing.

For some reason, I began thinking about Roark from Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and how Roark didn't care if he wasn't popular and his work was trashed in reviews and in the press. What was important was the work and the integrity of what he created. I've not had much integrity in my writing anywhere but in my paper journals and when I blog. I couldn't find the integrity in what I was writing because I was twisting myself into an emotional and creative pretzel, and the pretzel wasn't very creative at all. More than anything else, I need to remember that I write for myself above all. I write to please myself and say what I have to say without thought or regard for trends and social networks and how it might affect the way people see me.

Someone recently told me that I have to be the hero of my own life.  Who does not see themselves as the hero of their own life? How else could some people do the things they do? I'm not a criminal or a nut job or even someone who is unbalanced, but I do see myself as the hero of my own story, even when I fall down, make mistakes, or falter. Why should I not? After all, making someone else the hero of my life means I give them power to decide my life when that is not the best for me or the way to live life at all. If nothing else, I will be the hero, a flawed and fallible hero, but a hero all the same.

Or heroine as the case may be.

Integrity is what I need to be able to function and second guessing myself and my work is no way to be productive.

Today is my birthday. The one gift I gave myself was permission to write what I want regardless of who else approves or even likes it. I write for me in the same way I have been keeping journals for more than 20 years. That is the way I will get the words out -- of me -- and onto the page.

Whether you like what I write, disagree, agree, don't care, it isn't about you. It's about me. My voice. My vision. My words. Come along for the ride or stay behind. It doesn't really matter. Those who find my books and read and understand will continue to buy and read my books. The rest do not matter. At least not in the grand scheme of things.

Each person must find their own path. This is mine.

What is yours?