Creativity

Supplies: My Positive Role Model

Queen Rumania  (LOC)

from Library of Congress Flickr Commons Collection

Actually, I have so many positive role models it’s hard to pick one.

Right now I”m thinking of Dawn. Dawn decided what she wanted to do and did it. She has told me she has a no-drama policy. If someone is too prone to madness she drops them or just refuses to engage. She is surrounded by really great friendships and she is a great cheerleader to her friends and their creative projects. She’s an example of doing life and career right – with sincerity, based on real relationships rather than on relationships-for-a-reason.

So far, it’s worked quite well. I often refer to her as a fairy godmother. Don Fairy Godmother.

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Supplies: My Negative Role Model

Gunmen going to Sing Sing  (LOC)

From Library of Congress Flickr Commons collection

Oh boy do I have a negative role model. Actually, I have at least three, possibly more. I’m going to hybrid them and pick things I’ve seen or heard from all of them. It’s like an archetypal negative role model. I should add that to my tarot deck – or maybe that’s what the Devil card really represents.

What bothers me specifically about the collective behavior is that it’s delusional, narcissistic … and really unimaginative. It’s the person that got upset that Mark Wahlberg went from Marky Mark to a successful career as an actor/film producer.

“So what, he can only do one thing?”

“Yes!”

Well, that’s bullshit. 

I am a more-than-one-thing artist and I reject this message.

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There are the name droppers. “Oh I met this famous person whose name you don’t know and he just adored my painting/book/personal style. You really should go meet that person and see what it might do for me – I mean, uh, you.”

… or I could focus on sincere relationships with supportive people and not take into account their connections or fame unless I am encouraging them to use those for themselves in some manner. When it counted, my real friends helped me in the ways that mattered. My name dropped from a celebrity’s lips means jack especially since most people will remember the celebrity and not what the celebrity says unless locked in a good hate-on fever.

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There are the “suffering artist” stereotypers, and that one stretches far and wide. Most recently a well-meaning friend posted some biased, very poorly researched Thought Catalog drek to my Facebook wall that encouraged the idea that all artists – especially writers – have something wrong with their brains that turns them into depressed crazy people, the implication being that maybe if we didn’t right we wouldn’t go crazy.

The article enraged me on multiple levels. First, Thought Catalog is a cess pool of confirmation biased base shit. I followed it for awhile just to see what it had to offer  and it is one of the great shames of the Internet. Essentially it’s people who are great at expository writing and terrible at critical thinking. Second, anytime you imply an entire population is x/has x without evidence based research to support it (and this had none) then you are currying bigotry for some purpose. Third, it stigmatizes depression. Fourth, the article stigmatizes creativity. Fifth, it seems to fail to connect that when depressed people are in their extreme low points they aren’t creating. Creation – art therapy and upward – is the neural activity that gets people out of depressive loops. It’s not 100% but it’s a factor. To assume a writer is automatically depressed or will get depressed because s/he writes is just offensive.  Depression and creativity are both complex. But creativity is NOT  disease, is not psychological smoking that will lead to a disease and in most cases probably does not exacerbate a disease.

Writing does not do bad things to my organs, least of all my brain.

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There’s the whole special snowflake shit. Oh the writing life is so difficult. Oh, all good writing and creation comes from a certain self loathing. Comedy comes from self loathing. Oh, you can’t be healthy or seek healing and still create.

Every day of my life informs me that this above line of poison is absolute screaming bullshit. The times in life that I suffer are the times in life that I’m not writing. When I’m writing I’m getting progressively better and working on my issues has made me a better, more empathetic human being and writer. I can also be funny as hell – and it’s not centered in self-hatred. The self-hatred schtick? Blech. Boring and predictable.

We are not special snowflakes. Originality isn’t worth thinking about – enjoyment is what really makes a difference.  Writing really is like dating: nothing good is going to happen unless you find a way to have fun with it. The acclaim/flattery/critical praise is for people that would rather read reviews than go on to the next project.

In a way, my writing career does have something in common with my corporate career: in corporations I hated, I always stepped away from office politics and reminded myself I was here to do my own time. Writing is my calling – so rather than doing my time, when I’m dealing with attention-seeking colleagues, it’s really about having my time. That means not giving it to them by not indulging the rhetoric of the special snowflake.

 

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Supplies: A Monologue of Tragic Attempts

Image taken from page 22 of 'Bateman's Tragedy: or, the Perjur'd Bride justly rewarded. Being the history of the unfortunate love of German's wife and young Bateman. [A chap-book, in prose, with the original ballad, entitled “A Godly Warning to all Maiden

from British Library Flickr Commons collection

This exercise is “write a monologue” of the worst stories/excuses of people that have succeeded once and refuse to go out again. It may just be a loose collection of quotes.

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Oh yes, I pitched that idea – and someone wrote the exact same book ten years later. My idea was stolen!  I could write, but I only like to write in restaurants and then the staff befriends me and I can never get anything done. You know how it is – you get something out there and then everything is so commercial. It really comes down to who you know and this person at this publisher just hates me. I’ve heard all these rumors about people at other publishers. After awhile, everybody wants your advice and they get pissy when you can’t take time out for each and every person. We watched performers before us and they used the exact same material we were going to! Oh, I want to write or make a TV show or whatever but there’s just nothing original to do anymore. Honestly, I could make it but people would just shit all over it anyway. It’s so hard to do anything worthwhile. Well, that takes so much money. I hate everything there is out there and it shouldn’t be my job to make something better. I met this other author and I just don’t want to turn into that guy. Well, yeah, I heard that project but I’ve never heard of that person – the research is great but we’re looking for a name. I have to take a day job so I guess that means I’m a failure.

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I’m sure there’s so much more – often I block and dismiss because it’s easier than absorbing the grandiose stupidity.

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Supplies: The Chorus of Woes: Real Gripes and Conversions

Theatre Royal chorus, Tamarama Beach, ca. 1938 / by Sam Hood

State Library of New South Wales – Flickr Commons Collection

The Gripes

This is a series of real gripes about my current writing projects.

I’m scared it won’t be good enough. I worry I won’t finish it on time. I am having to take Mabon way out of the Pagan religious sphere into mainstream associations and what if people get all butthurt and start wailing that it’s not Pagan enough? What if they complain that I am not Pagan enough? My publisher is a much different publisher than it used to be but way to many people have developed confirmation bias – if it’s good they’ll just ignore that it’s good and carry on as though it’s still that old publisher from the 90s. I keep running into physical issues while I’m trying to write and accomplish. It’s starting to frighten/worry me a little. What if nothing I do is enough, ever? What if my back goes out again when I’m trying to work? I try to tough it out but it is truly difficult to focus enough to write when your body has gone crazy on you. I’m also worried about balancing it against the book coming out this year. How do I do promotion for that when I am embroiled in a contract right now? How the hell do other writers manage this stuff?

Conversions:

1. I’m scared I won’t be good enough.

Conversion: Of course I’m good enough. They gave me the contract because I have demonstrated since 1999 that I am good enough for such a project.

2. I’m scared I won’t finish in time.

Conversion: You have expended the most effort on the heavy research part. The other stuff involves things you write all the time that come very naturally to you. You can do this. If you really are worried about being stuck, contact your editor. Remember, this time you do have a more formal editor who will likely be revising along with you.

3. What if people complain I am not Pagan enough?

Conversion: The people that complain of such things are not the arbiters of judgment that they wish to be. And a good thing, too, since that’s not a call any human being is qualified to make.

4. My publisher’s reputation …

Conversion: Has never once put them at risk of going out of business. Let them worry about it.

5. The physical issues …

Conversion: You have a therapist. Your insurance covers the best healthcare network in town. Your chiropractor/orthopedic physical therapy guy is fantastic. Keep hitting the gym, keep doing your stretches, keep taking your allergy shots and medicine. You will be fine.

6. Promoting Divorcing a Real Witch while writing other books …

Conversion: You already decided to just do a local tour. You may have to wait until later to do the workshops or put together the documentary. Because it’s a rare topic you have a lot of room to do cool things on the backlist. The world may think now! now! now! on books … but the books you buy new don’t always have copyrights from this decade. It’s one of those things that you have more time to do than you think.

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The Chorus of Woes: My Ridiculous Complaint

Chorus rehearses, c. 1920s/30s / by Sam Hood

from State Library of New York Flickr Commons feed

This is an exercise – to create the most ridiculous complaint about my own life I possibly can.

COMPLAINTS OF  RIDICULOUS NATURE FROM MY OWN LIFE:

Oh, I am so put upon. I work from home every day and yeah, I can get up when I want but then sometimes I do and it’s like I can’t get everything done all day. I share a car – sure, it costs virtually nothing in maintenance as it’s a state-of-the-art electric car but then no one understands the issues I have with it, even though they’re virtually nothing. Well yes, my house has a fireplace and an attached garage and a shared garden – and even though it’s part of an HOA it can all be so much work. My god, the meetings we have to have once or twice a year to hash it all out. Sure, my neighbors are pleasant and all, but it’s a meeting. Ugh, they even move it along with Parliamentary procedure! My closets are way too small – they’re just overflowing with clothes, it makes those have-nothing-to-wear days SOOOOO much worse. And my god, I am so freaked out by these book contract deadlines. How can I ever possibly get them done? It’s just so much pressure – who writes a 30K book in less than six months? What about art, perfection, being big name Pagan enough? It’s like they expect me to have a living personal practice!

– END –

*snort* that is pretty funny.

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Supplies: the Celebrity Zone

Mari Aldon makes Governor Warren laugh at the celebration for "Distant Drums" premiere: Saint Augustine, Florida

Maria Aldo w/Governor of Florida – Florida Memory Collection – Flickr Commons

The Celebrity Zone is where we manifest one of our culture’s worst diseases: projection. We project onto celebrities to the point that many have tantrums when any of them exercise free will and deviate from what their audiences want. It does merit some self-examination – because celebrities are people, first and also usually artists. Like us. Ones who want to do their own thing.

Hm … Celebrity I have Ridiculed: Paris Hilton and Anna Wintour. I might take back some of what I have said about Paris – secretly, I suspect she’s very, very smart and might not be as soulless as she makes herself out to be. I remain convinced that Anna Wintour is a horrible person who lives to destroy other artists because changing the world to a healthy aesthetic would destroy her empire as she has built it.

Celebrity that handles himself/herself with grace: pretty much any celebrity you haven’t heard much about. That’s the only really graceful way to do it. It sounds counter-intuitive but I actually think Britney Spears has become quite gracious. She went through an appalling bad patch – so have I, thank God with no cameras on me – and she has risen above and seems to be finding her creative voice again. I don’t think the comparisons to Madonna were warranted – she hasn’t danced the line on her projections quite so well. But she is uniquely herself and she seems well on her way to embracing that.

The role model I would choose for dealing with the Celebrity Zone: Stephen Colbert. John Oliver is up there too. First, comedians are our truth-tellers. You can get more truth in comedy than anywhere else. I am passing over John Stewart because, while I share his outrage, he veers into the verbally abusive when expressing it. Detached humor is far more productive. I also admire that Colbert leverages his “no one need take me seriously” into a great deal of creative freedom. He can do whatever the hell he wants and people will just nod to it.

My celebrity zone landmark? I don’t know. I have received fan mail – usually “help me” type stuff that I won’t answer because it’s never something that the person can’t help him/herself with already. I’ve been quoted as an “expert source” by other writers outside my fields on occult stuff more than once. My face has been used in national social media campaigns by major companies. I just appeared in every major publication in my city last November. I still have to introduce myself when I stop somewhere for a drink.

Street recognition maybe? Even with all that most people have no idea who I am. I suppose posting to a Pagan forum and not being provided with instructions on how to wipe my ass when I ask for the toilet paper might be a sign of admission.

As for the celebrity behavior I will never indulge in… probably the “Do you know who I am?” More likely I will fumble, wide-eyed: “Oh, do you need an ID? Sorry, wait a minute. Oh hey, there’s a crushed mint in here if you want it!”

I’m a writer. We may have a fan base but very few of us hit the Celebrity Zone. I’m glad of that because I really want to be a portfolio writer.

 

 

 

 

 

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Supplies: Evade the Radar

Radar Scanner Near Chesapeake Beach, August 1973

from the US National Archives Flickr Commons stream

Evade the Radar is simply keeping your mouth shut until whatever it is is done. I believe in that. When you grow up surrounded by monsters, you learn to keep secret the good things most of all.

I even have a small parable from my own life:

Back in college I got roped into a game of football with a mixed group of men and women. Everyone thought I was completely non-athletic and at that time, to some degree, they were right though not to the degree that I led them to assume. It was then assumed I was completely incompetent when it came to all sports.

My team figured out that the guys we were playing were so wrapped up into this perception of me that they were literally playing around me. One guy especially wouldn’t lay a hand on me. So I volunteered to run interference.

During the play, he said “Get out of my way!”

I grinned and kept my pace in front of him. He assumed I was being an idiot. Only after the play was finished and my team scored did it dawn on him. He stared at me, wide-eyed. “You were running interference!”

“Yup!” I gave him a shit-eating grin and walked away. All he had to do was tackle me – but I got through completely unscathed because he couldn’t adjust his perceptions enough to accept me as a full player.

In some ways it was dual karmic payback. When I met him I assumed he was stupid/lazy academically and acted like he was. That wasn’t true. His assumption about my ability to play sports at all fell along the same lines.

I never mentioned it again. Neither did he. But he also didn’t underestimate me ever again, either.

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Supplies: Tokyo Rose

Kawasaki Ki61 Hien “Tony” as found at Tokorozawa Air Bae near Tokyo, 1945.  The airplane carried two B-29 “kill” markings under the cockpit.

from San Diego air and space museum archive – Flickr Commons

Also “Monster in the Ear” referring to the earlier Monster in the Mirror exercise. This is that person with a sweet, seductive voice attempting to get you to abandon your mission.

This one is often the same as Monster in the Mirror. For me, it’s not. The monster I could see I knew was a monster on a gut level. But Tokyo Rose… for me, that was how my very existence conflicts with the need for male approval. The fact that a lot of men reading this will roll their eyes and puff a breath is a sign of how much of a problem there is – just admitting that there’s a problem there, constructed into our culture, prompts them to try to erase and dismiss it. I have male friends who, thank the Gods, are stronger than that and better than that. I cherish the ones that do recognize that all this stuff women talk about is real – and who can listen to what’s going on without making themselves out to be the implicit victims of it.

In my case it goes back to minituarizing: these are the men, who, recognizing my ambition, immediately try to shame me for it. To listen to them I am abandoning my real values. I am becoming shallow. They are so, so surprised that someone like me could be so selfish.

Because while ambition and power in men is admired, ambition and power in women is an automatically assumed evil. Now, there are ambitious women that get where they are by doing terrible things. But there are far more ambitious women that get a lot of shit they don’t deserve, because people are so determined to project evil onto them that they refuse to see the truth of these womens’ action.

It happens across genders in the Pagan world. “Oh no, don’t do that. There will be vandalism. That information might be misused. But then you might make some money and that’s not what the spirit of Paganism is all about!” Since I alas am too polite to say “That is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever heard,” nearly as often as I want to say it I have to smile and all too often let these self-righteous nonos bully me into changing course.

These incidents are often why I used to work in secret. I just kept my project to myself until it was too late for anyone to stop me – then all they had was after the fact sniping.

 

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Supplies: Snipers

Col. C.B. Winders [i.e, Winder]  (LOC)

from Library of Congress Flickr Commons collection

The whole “friendly fire” thing has hit me more times than I can remember. Usually it’s subtle, though the first attack I remember didn’t start that way. In high school, my neighbor and former friend suddenly took to sniping attacks. She would actually run up, say something unbelievably nasty about some good thing you were doing and then literally run away before you could respond. If you tried to call her on her appalling behavior later, she acted as though you were the crazy one. She did it so, so many times …. once, when my family was hosting a Japanese exchange student. Her father was on a steel mill layoff. I expressed empathy. She snapped, at some point, “Why don’t you ask your little Japanese friend about it?” Then she literally ran away home as I sat there open-mouthed.

A few months later she came over, supposedly to say hello to me, while I played pep band during a boy’s basketball game. She asked me why pep band only played boys’ games. I didn’t disagree with her at all , and I told her that we were told it was because we only do games on Fridays and Saturdays. She actually snapped something about it being a “flimsy excuse and I knew it” and literally ran off – as though it were somehow my fault and it was my job alone to overturn the entire system.  Note: this behavior really doesn’t work in customer service, either.

I realized then that there was no way in hell this girl was my friend. She was just a nasty little snake in the grass out to make everyone feel like shit while pounding her chest about how she was oh-so-superior. To my disgust, far too many adults bought into her act. Her mother seemed to encourage this tactic.

Little Miss 1950s called and are disgusted too is long since out of my life and there’s no way she’s ever coming back into it. Thank God. These days my friends are real and not abusive female competitive syndrome driven sociopaths, another thank  God and hallelujah.

Now I have my group of sanemakers that help me figure out what the hell just happened and why. While I’m still usually on my own for an action plan on what to do about it, at least I have some support along the way.

Still, I am sometimes subject to more subtle sniping attacks. People that interrupt me/shut me down when I think I’m safe expressing how I really feel about a situation, people that literally ignore a boundary I just set down, people that say they will do one thing and in so doing create a host of additional problems for me.

There’s a TV show called House of Lies that I watch because I love both Don Cheadle and Kristin Bell. It’s dark and usually focuses on people being the best at being their worst selves. Even so, sometimes glimmers of wisdom appear though phrased in dark, nasty ways. In an episode I watched last night (it’s 2/18 as I write this) Joanie (Kristin Bell) is in a pool with a client who has just been ousted from his own company. She tells him, “You always know you’ve accomplished something when people try to erase you. You do something great, they tell you how it’s not that great, how it’s not really your accomplishment, how it could have been done better. That’s how you know you’re really doing something.”

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