3 Ways Social Media Makes Us Terrible People

3 Ways Social Media Makes Us Terrible People

A little while ago, there was a video circulating the internet called “I Forgot My Phone.” If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here. If you don’t feel like watching it, it’s basically a commentary on how social media isolates us and while our lives are more accessible, social media actually disconnects us. We’re so focused on documenting our lives that we’re not actually taking the time to enjoy our experiences.

“I know it’s getting cold but I haven’t picked the right filter yet!”
I know I’ve been guilty of the same thing so I’m not pointing fingers, or at least I’m trying not to. What I’ve been noticing as a result, however, is that as we as a society are forgetting how to interact with each other in person. Behind our computer screens, we’ll post everything from the intimate details of our sex lives to pictures of poop. It used to be that people felt braver to behave badly behind their computer screens (see: any YouTube comments) but it’s starting to bleed over into our real life interactions. Websites like Twitter have led us to believe that every little thing happening in our lives is important and worth sharing with the public.

Someone on my Facebook newsfeed recently posted an update stating the time.
This really happened.
I wish I were making it up.
This sense of importance has translated into people thinking that they are the center of attention not only on their Facebook profiles but everywhere they go. Perhaps my views are just tainted by the fact that I work in the service industry but social media seems to be turning us into shitty people.
1. We are too impatient.
No one likes to wait. However, this sense of entitlement from social media appears to have not only made people dislike waiting even more but incapable of waiting. Come on, think about the last time you had to deal with slow internet or a phone that took too long to load an app.

Tonight was a perfect example. My husband and I went to the store and while we picked up a few groceries, we put in an order at the deli counter for a couple sandwiches. While they were making the sandwiches, we cruised around the store and picked out our groceries the way we’ve done a dozen times before. We came back and my husband saw a couple people fill out some slips for sandwiches and maybe thirty seconds later, sandwiches were finished and the people grabbed them and went off about their shopping. We thought it was odd that ours weren’t up yet so we waited. And waited. And waited. I was about to ask the lady behind the deli counter about our sandwiches when the couple came back up to the counter and declared, “Um, these aren’t our sandwiches!” The woman behind the counter gave them a look like they were slightly stupid and held up the sandwiches she had just finished making. The couple took their sandwiches and returned the others which, it turned out, were our sandwiches.

Normally this wouldn’t be too big of a deal to me because hey, accidents happen. But the sandwiches are labeled with the customers’ names as per the order slips that they themselves filled out. “Sue” looks a little different from “Emily.” But this is kind of my point–these people filled out slips for sandwiches and then assumed that the sandwiches that came up less than a minute later had to be theirs because clearly they were the only people in the crowded deli. People have become unable to consider that someone else might receive service before them because Instagram never says, “Hang on, fourteen other people are posting pictures of that same sunset. We’ll get to yours in a minute,” when they hit the submit button.

Which leads to . . .
2. We can’t fathom that everything we want isn’t available at the moment we want it.

People are not Google.
I once had a girl come into the bar and order a certain type of vodka. When I told her we didn’t carry that particular brand, she threw a tantrum. An adult, at least of legal drinking age, threw a full blown tantrum that the bar she was at didn’t have her preferred drink. I suggested alternate brands that we did have in stock and she begrudgingly picked one. After I made the drink for her I set it on the bar and told her how much she owed. The girl ignored me while texting something in her phone, no doubt updating her Facebook about what a stupid bar this was. I waited a moment and watched her proceed to use her purse to push over a stack of plastic water glasses that were set up at the water station beside her. She glanced down at the cups and then back up at me, holding out her card for me to run. “Oops,” she said, glaring at me with one eyebrow raised.
All because I told her we didn’t carry her favorite kind of vodka.

Or any drink.

We’re becoming ruder as a people because we feel this sense of entitlement that not only are we the center of the universe but everyone around us should be catering to our every need the way our computer does. Facebook wants to know what’s on our minds or how we’re feeling and we get so used to that mentality that it seems inconceivable that everyone else doesn’t care about us like social media does. We spend all this time staring at our belly buttons that we fail to notice that other people exist around us.

Which leads to . . .

3. We don’t have any perspective.

It’s easy to become consumed by Facebook drama. He said this, she didn’t like my post, they didn’t reply to my message, blah blah blah. This is why websites like White Whine exist. In other parts of the world, it’s a big deal if you didn’t get eaten by a lion today.

Or chased by a hippo. Those things are fucking terrifying.

In the grand scheme of our lives, none of the petty bullshit is going to matter, not even if some oblivious lady steals your sandwich at the deli counter.

So what am I saying? Is social media evil and we should all burn our computers? Absolutely not (and besides, computers are expensive and there’s only so much a warranty will cover). In fact, I think social media has its merits. I think it’s fantastic that I’m able to stay in touch with so many friends and members of my family and a lot of positivity spread through social medias.

That’s . . . not quite what I meant.

What I’m saying that we need to be aware of how much we control we give social medias. We should use them without letting them consume us. There’s nothing wrong with staying in touch or using the internet for fun but we need to remember how to unplug. We need to go outside or have a conversation or eat a meal without feeling the need to document every little moment. Instead of viewing our experiences through a camera lens, we need to view them with our eyes and learn how to be present and actually make memories instead of pictures.

Social medias won’t wither away and die if we limit our exposure. If we leave our phones at home every once in a while, it’s okay. They’ll be there when we get back. And by then, maybe we’ll have friends who have decided to help us unlock the next soul-sucking episode of Candy Crush Saga.

Think about it.

That’s What She Said- 5 Worst Movie Patrons

On the occasion that I venture out in public, I enjoy going to the movies.

Let me rephrase that: I usually enjoy going to the movies. Most of the time, I and all the other movie patrons are there to enjoy a film of our choosing. We select our seats, we munch on tasty popcorn with cancer-causing fake butter, and we watch the movie. We might laugh at the appropriate moment, shed a tear during an emotional scene, or gasp during a shocking or frightening moment. Generally, we behave like civilized adults co-existing in a public space.

And then there are the other people.

If you’ve ever gone to a movie theater, you know who these people are. They are the inconsiderate jackasses whose sole mission in life appears to be ruining other people’s enjoyment while being simultaneously oblivious that they are, in fact, not in their own living room. There are many incidents of people ruining the moving going experience but I have condensed them into six of the most obnoxious types of movie theater patrons.

1. The Afraid to Be Alone Guy

I like to go to the movies during the day, usually at one of the first showings because the older I get, the less I like people and there seem to be fewer of them at the early showings. On more than one occasion, I’ve been the first to arrive at a movie and I have the whole theater to myself. Although I only require one seat (two if I’m with my husband), the sight of an empty theater makes me want to prance up and down the rows simply because I can.

Pretty much exactly like this.

Then, just before the feature presentation starts, a lone patron will walk into the theater. Obviously there’s more than enough room for both of us, right?

No.

This guy insists on sitting either directly next to me or behind me. It’s like he couldn’t find a friend with whom to go to the movies and has an intense desire to make a new one. Either that, or he doesn’t understand personal boundaries.

2. 20 Questions

Anyone who insists on talking during a movie is obnoxious (and I’ll get to them in a minute) but a special breed of annoying comes in the form of that person in the theater who insists on asking 800 questions about everything happening on screen.

“Who is that guy?”
“Why is he doing that?”
“What did he say?”
“Where are they going?”

These people make me irrationally angry.

I’m not upset because they find something confusing. I’m upset because if they would shut their freaking mouths, their questions would, in nearly all cases, be answered by simply watching the movie. Which, I understand, might be a confusing concept for people who are at a theater. To watch a movie.

3. Constant Commentary

The larger, parent category for the 20 Questions guy is the person who insists on giving a play by play commentary on the entire movie. This type of jackass happened to my husband and me not too long ago when we went to go see This Is the End. We had the misfortune of sitting in front of a guy who, to put it simply, would not shut the fuck up.

It all started during the previews. After each preview, he loudly announced whether or not he wanted to see it to his girlfriend (who, as a side note, looked like she was sticky. I have no idea if she was, in fact, sticky, but she was the sort of person who just made you want to wash your hands). I figured that was annoying but maybe he’d stop when the movie started.

I was very, very wrong.

He continued to talk and give a play by play of the movie for the entire freaking time. The only relief we got from the commentary was when he got up to go to the bathroom every twenty minutes (kicking my seat as he went, by the way). One of his bathroom visits happened to coincide with when my husband went as well. Husband told me later that apparently the guy was a middle-aged dude who was coked out of his mind. He’d wanted to say something to him like, “Hey, maybe try shutting the hell up in the movie,” but he thought the better of it for his safety (and really, good call, Husband). We probably should have just gotten the manager of the theater involved since we were so annoyed but when it comes down to it, I don’t like to create problems for the staff. And with a tweaked out movie commentator, getting him kicked out might have actually caused more of a disturbance than his commentary was.

Plus I’m much braver behind my computer.

We managed to enjoy the rest of the movie despite the commentary. The ending of the movie was hilarious and we, along with everyone else, laughed at the hilarity on film. The kicker, of course, was that when the movie ended, the loud guy’s sticky-looking girlfriend glared at us and said, “God, some people are so noisy and laugh too much in movies.”

4. Date Night: Teen Edition

We’ve all seen these couples on Friday and Saturday nights at the movies. They’re adorable. Awkward, bumbling, and nine times out of ten one of them will spill popcorn on the other. They’re so sweet they’ll give you diabetes if you watch them for too long.

This is basically them in gif form.

Then the movie starts and they are quickly divided into two categories. The first category includes the couples that sit there quietly and watch the movie while pretending to be unaware that they are holding hands. These couples are fine because they’re too scared to say or do anything other than watch the movie.

Then there’s the other category of teen couples. These are the ones who see the dimming of the theater lights as their cue to start a full fledged make out session. Complete with moaning.

If I can hear you over a Michael Bay movie then
(1) you’re faking and (2) you need to take it out to the backseat of your date’s mom’s car.

Kids like that make me want to carry a spray bottle in my purse.

5. Babies at Midnight Showings

Let me be clear that I am not upset with the babies themselves. They are obviously not in control of the situation and if you’re two months old and know nothing of the world, violent explosions in The Dark Knight are likely going to scare you and make you cry.

As awesome as he was, Heath Ledger may have made me pee my pants.
Just a little.

My issue is instead with the adults who bring these tiny people to midnight showings (the same applies to small children in inappropriate movies). Yes, I think that parents should be able to still go out and enjoy movies that don’t involve cartoon characters. But I think those movies are better enjoyed with the children at home with a babysitter.

I know that parents can sometimes have a difficult time finding babysitters they trust, affording them, etc. I get that. But when I go to the midnight showing of a movie and see not one, not two, but THREE adults with a baby, I’m thinking that maybe one of them could have taken one for the team and stayed home instead of lugging around a poor infant who needs their rest to a very long, very loud movie.

Seriously, the Joker blows up a lot of shit.

So what to do about the annoying movie theater patrons? You could change seats, tell your friend to stop asking so many questions, get the manager to deal with a loud guest, tell the teens to keep it in their pants, and ignore the baby while silently hating all of the adults who are ignoring the crying baby.

Or you could always silently stew while eating your overpriced popcorn, try to watch the movie, and complain about it on the internet later. It’s your call.

Original Post

Staying Motivated vs. Settling

thats-what-she-said1

Finding time to write can be a real bitch sometimes. I work full-time (and we’re getting into the busy season at my job), I have a husband whom I like to spend time with, friends whom I’d like to see, family who would like me to check in so they know I’m not dead, and dogs that require playtime and cuddles.

“Please love me.”

Somewhere in everything I have to do, I also have to try and find time to write. It’s not easy–there are only so many hours in the day and my body eventually demands food and sleep (ugh, needy body). I’ve dozed off at my computer more times than I can count because I try and push myself to write for just a little longer and then I wake up to find I have typed seventeen pages of “ggggggggggggggggg.”

Sometimes I think it’d be much easier if I gave up writing and pursued something else, something with a much easier path. Because writing is hard. You sit down, pour your heart and soul into your work, and then hope someone likes it enough to publish it. Then, if it gets published, you have to hope that enough people like the work you’ve bled onto the page to buy it so that you can MAYBE make some money off of it. Because as long as you’re not making money (or at least not making much), you probably need to supplement with some other income which pulls your time and energy away from writing which can leave you feeling burnt out and exhausted with limited motivation to write.

 

This is me about 90% of the time. 

While I’m obviously talking about writing because that’s what I want to do with my life, I feel like this is applicable to anyone with a passion project. Artists, photographers, filmmakers, people with dreams of owning their own businesses–I feel like so many of us are in the same boat. We know what we want to do but we get caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day obligations. And that’s not to downplay our everyday obligations–I know I like having somewhere to live and food in our fridge (even if I forget to eat it).

Oh, right . . . food.

So what do we do? I’m certainly not at all suggesting that we give up on what we love just because it’s hard. But we need to find ways to keep ourselves motivated and we need to realize that if we want this, then it needs to be a priority. My writing mentor once told me that he writes at least one sentence of fiction every day. Oftentimes he writes more but he pushes himself to write at least one sentence because it helps him keep himself motivated and it keeps him going. I think this is a brilliant plan because they day you stop working towards what you want is the day you give up and end up feeling stuck. And that’s no way to live because before you’ll know it, years will have gone by and you’ll be telling people, “Oh, I wanted to do that once but it was too hard so I settled for less than I’m worth.”
If you want something for yourself, it’s worth fighting for. Is it hard? Of course. Are you guaranteed success? Of course not. But at least you’re putting yourself out there which is more than a lot of people can say.
____________________
Written by: Emily Regan

That’s What She Said- Plagiarizing Your Own Life

A piece of advice that seems to appear rather frequently for writers is to draw from their experience. I think this is great advice because if you pull from what you know, your writing will be more authentic and subsequently more intriguing to your audience. This isn’t to say that if you’ve never been a fighter pilot you can’t writer about fighter pilots, but it does require you to do a lot of research so that you have something to say about fighter pilots other than that you once watched Top Gun with your college roommate.

HIIIIIGHWAAAAY TO THE
DANGER ZONE!!!

But when you draw from your experiences, at what point do you go from using what you know to plagiarizing your own life? When I was in grad school, I had multiple workshops with a guy who shared stories that drew from his life. “Drew from his life” is probably too light of phrasing to express what it is I’m conveying here. According to his family, he had a tendency to write down exactly what happened and call it fiction after changing the names.

“It couldn’t possibly be you, Mom! Look, her name is ‘Shmom.’
Totally different.”

How much is too much when it comes to drawing from your life? Situations similar to what you’ve experienced? Characters based on people you know? Exact word-for-word conversations?

The last one might sound a little ridiculous. “What do you mean exact conversations? No one remembers those!” Trust me, this is a thing and if you’ve read some of my previous articles, I’ve mentioned this before. I’ve known people who, during a normal social interaction, have stopped the conversation to ask either myself or others to repeat what we just said as they scribbled it down in their moleskine notebooks and said, “That’s a great line! I’m gonna use that in a story later!”

But really, do we even own the rights to what we say in casual conversation? My previous article, “Eavesdropping on Strangers for Fun and Profit” would suggest we don’t. But is it even fiction anymore if you take a real situation and slap some fake names on it?

I don’t really have an answer. If you take a true story and change some details, I suppose that could fall into the realm of fiction. It could also fall into the realm of “creative nonfiction,” such as was the case with James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces. A lot of people (namely Oprah) got upset that he was peddling a “made-up story” as nonfiction but creative nonfiction bridges that gap which is where a lot of these true fiction stories should probably rest.

I Googled “angry Oprah” and came up with this picture and one of Rihanna crying.
I’m not totally sure where to go from here but I do know that
I am now afraid for that sad-eyed puppy and Rihanna.

How often do we tell stories to people but the small details change over time due to forgetfulness or blank spaces where our minds or other people fill in the gaps? Does that make us all embarrassing liars that should publicly apologize to Oprah and housewives across America? Probably not. But at the same time, that also seems like a much lesser offense than writing down every word people say and calling it original fiction.

I’ve decided to declare, once and for all, what is the acceptable way to plagiarize your life. To all the writers out there, you’re welcome.

Advice ain’t free.
I accept cash and all major credit cards except Discover because fuck you, that’s why.

OKAY: Drawing from your experiences and creatively re-telling a story from your life.
NOT OKAY: Being that jackass at a party who is too busy copying down the words you hear to have a real conversation.

As writers, we’re told to write constantly and we should. But we also need to find that balance and to know when to put down the pen and do something other than spend time with your own thoughts. Going out and experiencing things will ultimately make you a better writer and even if you don’t get a good story out of it, it’ll make you a more interesting person to be around so you can be this guy:

Not this guy:

You can read more at The Next Great American Writer

___________________

Written by: Emily Regan

That’s What She Said- The 4 Stereotypes at Every Writers’ Group

It’s fairly obvious I’m a writer, mostly because I tell everyone and their dog that I write.

Dogs really aren’t my target audience.

Subsequently, I end up meeting other writers and occasionally I am invited to join writers’ groups. I’ve attended a few and have a confession to make:

I hate writers’ groups.

I really do. At their best, I think these groups are circle jerks in which writers get off on how fabulous and talented they are. At their worst, these groups are toxic pits of jealousy in which people tear down others’ work in a petty attempt at making themselves feel better about their own work.

To me, writers’ groups are about as depressing and toxic as the Bog of Eternal Stench from Labyrinth.

In my experience with writers’ groups, I’ve found some patterns in the participants. Specifically, I’ve identified four types of people that seem to be present at every one.

1. The Albatross: This person has a magnum opus they have been limping along with for several years. They have gone through about 40 or 50 revisions of their work but when they open it up to the group, they are unwilling to hear anything else other than how brilliant this is. They are also completely unable to understand why Random House and the New York Times aren’t beating down their door in desperation for their work.

Identifying Items: A seemingly undeserved sense of self-importance and a 400 page novel manuscript clutched tightly in their hands and NO YOU CAN’T TOUCH IT!

2. The Borrower: They have difficulty producing their own ideas but after submitting your work to the group, this person will come back the following week with something eerily similar to yours.

Identifying Items: A smartphone with the recording device continually turned on and a moleskine notebook in which they write down everything everyone says, ensuring they suck the fun out of every social interaction.

3. The Idea Man: This person is always full of ideas but has yet to bringing in anything for the group to read. Next thing they will, they promise. For realsies this time. They seem to be more interested in hanging out and calling themselves a writer than actually doing any work.
Identifying Items: Cigars (unlit–they’re just for looks), scotch, and a distinct absence of pens and paper.

4. The Talent: This person is actually a very talented writer and hoping for some constructive feedback. Depending on the group, they will either benefit hugely or be squashed by The Albatross’s toxic jealousy.

Identifying Items: Pens, paper, and new content for the group to review.

If you’re a writer and you’re unsure of whether or not you’ve met these stereotypes, please read on to find a transcript of a sample meeting of a writers’ group.

The Writers’ Group
Borrower: Alright everyone, now that we’re all settled and we all have some snacks, I think we’re ready to get started.

Albatross: Since I have you all here, I’d like to go over chapter 37 with all of you again. *flips open his manuscript*

Idea Man: Didn’t we go over that chapter last week?

Albatross: I moved around a comma, it changes the whole tone of the section.

Talent: *reading* I don’t know, it seems pretty much the same as it did last week.

Borrower: Yeah, I wouldn’t have known anything was different if you hadn’t said anything.

Albatross: How can you not see it’s totally different?!

Idea Man: Sorry, it just seems the same is all.

Albatross: I’ve been working on this for six years, you don’t understand how much work has gone into this.

Talent: We’re not saying it’s not good, we just don’t see a big difference with one comma.

Albatross: *sighs* Whatever.

Borrower: I actually have something new I’d like everyone to check out so I can get some feedback. *passes out a short story*

Idea Man: Great, what’s it about?

Borrower: It’s about a young woman in Tennessee dealing with the aftermath of the suicide of her drug-addicted father.

Talent: Um . . . I’m sorry, I hate to say this but your story idea sounds kind of similar to the one I submitted last week.

Borrower: Which story was that?

Talent: The one about the young man in California dealing with the aftermath of the suicide of his drug-addicted mother.

Borrower: Your story is about sons and mothers and mine is about daughters and fathers. Plus yours takes place in California whereas mine is in Tennessee. It’s totally different.

Talent: Okay, um . . . hey, you haven’t said much, do you have anything for us to read.

Idea Man: *turns, mouth full of snacks* What?

Albatross: Do you have anything for us?

Idea Man: Um . . . it’s been a really busy week for me so I don’t have anything concrete. I’ve got some great ideas but I haven’t exactly . . . written them down yet. Next week though, I promise.

Albatross: *sighs* Fine . . . what about you?

Talent: I actually have the first couple chapters of a novel I’ve been working on that I’d like to give you and hear what you think.

Borrower: Really? *clicks pen open*

 

“Repeat that again, but slower this time.”

Albatross: *scanning the first few pages* Hmm . . . well, this is obviously a very first draft. I mean, you’ve only started on this. Books require years of work before they’re even halfway decent.

Idea Man: I like it. And who says you need to work on something for years before it’s good? Some writers might not need years of revisions.

Albatross: Oh what do you know, your main contribution to the group has been drinking Scotch and stuffing your face.

Talent: It’s true, it does need work. I’d just like to hear if you all think I’m heading in the right direction.

Albatross: *sigh* Well, I guess we could read it over during this next week and get back to you. It’s multiple chapters which is really a lot to ask of the group.

Idea Man: *snickers*

Albatross: Something funny?

Borrower: Oh look at the time, I think it’s best we call it quits for today. Hey, these chapters are for us to keep, right?

 

__________________

Written by: Emily Regan

 

You can read more at Emily’s blog The Next Great American Writer.

That’s What She Said- What Your Favorite Author Says About You

Writers are often begin as dedicated readers. This is the nice way of saying we were those weird, pasty kids who stayed inside all day with a book while everyone else made friends and went outside.

I searched for “chubby kid reading a book” and Google apparently translated that into Macaulay Culkin’s mug shot.

So yeah. There you go.

As you read, you start to collect a list of your favorite writers and, conscious or not, these are the writers that will influence your writing style. Even more than that, these authors can change your life. So, I have compiled an incomplete list of popular authors and what they say about you both as a writer and as a person.

 

Hunter S. Thompson

As a Writer: You will spend your life trying to recreate Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but alas—you are not Thompson. You lack the talent and the drug tolerance to even come close.

Pictured: Not you. Never you.

As a Person: You probably have a stupid tattoo. I’m looking at you, hipsters.

You know who you are and what you’ve done.

 

J.K. Rowling

As a Writer: You’re not afraid to be imaginative and, like Rowling, strive for complete storytelling without loose ends.

Also, wizards.

As a Person: You somewhat ignored Casual Vacancy and are still hoping Rowling is going to add books to the Potter-verse (Dumbledore’s life story, the Harry Potter books rewritten from Snape’s perspective, etc.).

 

Harper Lee

As a Writer: You don’t really “write” in any physical sense but “guys, listen, I’ve got this great idea for a book. It’s based on my life.”

No you’re not.

As a Person: You read To Kill a Mockingbird in ninth grade and haven’t read another book since.

 

Ernest Hemingway

As a Writer: You are a minimalist and try to make the most of as few words as possible. Your male protagonists often enjoy spending time alone in the woods.

As a Person: You once tried to smoke an imitation Cuban cigar but accidentally inhaled which made you cough so hard you threw up. When asked, however, you often describe your free time as filled with cigars and hard liquor.

“You are all inferior.”

Jane Austen

As a Writer: Your writing would probably best be characterized as romance or chick lit in which every male love interest is, in some way, a version of Mr. Darcy.

As a Person: You love the BBC and hope to someday find your own Mr. Darcy. Sure, there are other books and other love interests but who gives a crap, they’re not Mr. Darcy.

You also have lots of cats.

One of the Bronte Sisters

As a Writer: You yearn to emulate the feel of the English language from the Victorian era: women succumbing to the vapors, the mists on the moor at dawn, etc. Unfortunately, no one really talks like that anymore and it sounds like you’re trying too hard. Stop it.

As a Person: Mr. Rochester is your ultimate literary crush and you swear your boyfriend is so romantic and just like him! To the rest of us, he’s a douche who won’t bend the brim of his hat and once locked his ex in the closet to keep her from setting his mom’s house on fire.

To be fair, she was kind of a crazy ho.
Also, never ever ever Google “little girl house fire.”
You’re welcome.

Kurt Vonnegut

As a Writer: You spend more time cultivating your mustache than actually writing.

Your primary writing exercise involves trying to turn your name into a self-portrait.

As a Person: You probably have one of three things tattooed on you: “everything was beautiful and nothing hurt,” “so it goes,” or an asshole.

Seriously, this is a thing.

James Michener

As a Writer: You have an attention to detail that rivals Howard Hughes’s OCD.

As a Person: You’re that guy at the party who tells forty-five minute stories. They’re interesting enough, but dude, learn to chitchat and stop blocking the veggie platter.

Jacqueline Susann

As a Writer: You have a great talent for character-driven stories and your gift has you poised to be the Next Great American Writer. You are Brilliant with a capital B.

Oh hey, look what’s available from Barnes & Noble . . .
Hintety hint hint.

As a Person: You are the author of this column, Lana Del Ray, or over fifty-years old.

 

Lee Child

As a Writer: You have a “burn and turn” approach to writing, which is to say you pump out as many books as possible that all have the same storyline. However, this will probably work out for you financially. I mean, look at John Grisham and James Patterson.

As a Person: You’re my dad. And you hate Tom Cruise.

 

If I didn’t include your favorite author on this round, don’t worry. I’ll get you next time.

 

_____________________

Written by: Emily Regan

 

 

That’s What She Said- The Importance of Being Lucky

            As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, I pay my rent by working as a bartender. The two biggest holidays for a bartender are of course New Year’s Eve and the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day. The latter is often filled with an oversaturation of the color green, drunken patrons screaming for another Guinness, and buttons and hats pleading “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” (which, by the way, always amuses me that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m often reminded of college applicants claiming to be 1/64 Native American to get scholarship money).

“I’m also black. And a Pacific Islander. And Jewish. And Muslim. And a refugee. Please give me money for college.”

What has been interesting me lately, however, is the luck of the Irish. More specifically, the concept of luck itself. In one of my favorite films, Match Point, the main character, Chris, has a belief in the power of luck. During the opening narration, Chris says, “The man who said he’d rather be lucky than good knew a lot about life.” Then later, during a dinner conversation, Chris says that he thinks everyone is afraid to admit what a big part luck plays. This isn’t to discredit hard work, but rather that without luck, hard work will only get you so far.

This got me thinking about writing. The life of a writer is highly glamorized and I think in general, people tend to focus on the perks. You can create your own schedule, you have the freedom to work from anywhere, you can grow a magnificent beard.

Fuck yeah, Hemingway. Fuck yeah.

But getting to that point, getting to the perks (beard included, I presume), can be one hell of an upward climb. The rejection letters get overwhelming, the pay is either terrible or nonexistent, and each good idea feels like it could be your last.

It’s like Matthew Inman from The Oatmeal is in my head.

Then, presuming you write something you don’t completely loathe, you need to submit it  for publication. As much as I with Random House would knock on my door to ask for my manuscript, it doesn’t quite work out like that unless you’re a celebrity.

Yeah. This is a thing.

So you send out query letters, manuscripts, nearly everything short of your first born as you basically beg someone to love your blood, sweat, and tears enough to publish it. But even with all that hard work and dedication, you still have to hope for that right amount of luck that your work will fall on the right person’s desk at the right time. The first time I had a story published, it was with a Buddhist literary magazine, Sugar Mule, that I found quite randomly through a writer’s website. I picked it with a dozen numbers and flooded them all with my story. One by one, each of my submissions came back with the polite “thanks but no thanks” rejection form letter to the point where I’d become so accustomed to seeing the word “no” that when the editor at Sugar Mule said yes, it felt surreal. It just so happened that the editor, Mark Weber, happened to enjoy darker fiction and my story was just the right kind of messed up that he was looking for. But had I not submitted by chance to that specific editor at that specific magazine at that specific time, I might have received yet another rejection letter.

Sorry, you suck.

            Another example pertains to a writing collaboration I’m currently working on. I happened to meet my writing partner while I was cocktailing at my job last summer. It was sort of random how I ended up at my current job in the first place and then on this particular night, two cocktail waitresses were scheduled (which almost never happens) and I ended up chatting with a customer who was only in town for one night. We got to talking about writing which led to him giving me his card. I followed up and he invited me on to what could result in being a fairly significant project for my writing career. So many elements had to fall into place to make that particular connection happen and had one thing been different, that connection and subsequent collaboration wouldn’t have happened.

One could argue that these markers in my writing career were fated to happen, if you believe in that sort of thing. I’m not trying to discredit what anyone believes but I think the overarching theme of it all is luck and fate is just the name we give luck because fate sounds more final, more predetermined and we don’t like the idea that our lives are victim to so much chance.

The Chance Monster. Rawr!

If you’ve hung out through all of my ramblings in this column, you’re probably wondering what on earth my point is. Should we all just give up trying because our lives are ruled by luck? Of course not. Hard work is essential to getting where you want to be and what you want out of life. However, I don’t think we should discredit the role that luck plays in success. Who would Lana Turner have been had she not worked at Schwab’s? Would we even know who Harrison Ford is were it not for his working as a carpenter for George Lucas?

Hard work is important but opening ourselves up to opportunities, especially as writers, as crucial. My husband often says I’m lucky which may be true but I think a big factor in my luck is that I take advantage of as many opportunities as I can. As a result, I’ve traveled through Europe multiple times, I have my Master’s degree, and, most of all, I’ve been published. By strangers who thought my work was worth publishing. I like to think I’m talented (because really, what’s the point in trying if I don’t believe in my own work) but I put myself out there and hope for a little luck.

I think that ultimately, I’m not sure if I agree with Match Point’s Chris in his assessment of how it’s better to be lucky than good. I’d rather be both but we certainly can’t be solely one or the other. You can be good and unnoticed or you can be lucky and untalented but to be both good AND lucky–that’s what we’re all looking for. But better than that, I think we, the we struggling to break into creative industries, need to keep putting ourselves out there. The more we expose ourselves to, the more opportunities we create to allow luck to grab us.

Or vice versa. Whatever’s easier.

And hey, if nothing else, it might turn out to be a great story.

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Written by: Emily Regan