Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Complicating Queer Community

Apologies for not posting (again) on Saturday. Minnesota has been having a heat wave of epic proportions and I found myself seeking refuge in the Guthrie (for the last time this summer, *sob*) and in a swimming pool at a friend's apartment building. It's still hot, but I've moved out of my apartment, waiting to move to the new place, and am currently residing at my parents' house which is blissfully air conditioned. And so, I'm going to attempt to tackle this blog post, even though it scares me.

Why does it scare me? Because I'm writing on a provoking topic which I don't have total direct experience with and, considering the strange and sudden increase of traffic on this blog, it's likely to gain me some harsh feedback (which I probably deserve). So I'm a little nervous about posting it, but I feel driven to anyway. Why? Because I think having a dialogue about issues is important - even if I'm wrong. And though this isn't necessarily a dialogue - because it's a blog post and it's all "me me me" - it's the best I've got. So here it goes.

I came across this post on Tumblr a week or so ago and it caused me to get suddenly upset and then very, very confused: 


First off, if you are new here or don't happen to know, I am a cis hetero female person (or: I identify myself as female, and I was physically born female. And I'm straight. And a human). Reading this post as a cis hetero female person, I was kind of taken back by this. I live in Minneapolis, considered by some to be a gay Mecca, and I'm often interacting with the queer community (yes, this is a label for a certain group; hold your thoughts on that - I'll get to that (eventually)). Throughout my experiences, I'd have to say that excluded is not something I would ever initially tie to the queer community. If anything, they are incredibly accepting. And so, I tried to parse out this very short but seemingly complex post in my mind, trying to understand what this post conveyed, especially to the people who had reblogged it (of whom there are quite a few). What follows are my thought processes in trying to understand it.

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Before I begin that, however, I would like to state something right from the get-go because this is a very sensitive topic. I am no expert on queer studies, GLBTQA rights, being gay, etc.  I understand I am an outsider to all of this. The fact that this post is not immediately expressing some truth or known understanding to me may be telling in itself. But I am an ally and while I don't believe I should be commended for it ("gold star for you, you care about queer people!" - please, no, don't commend me believing in basic human rights) I do think that allies are important. I understand that often allies overshadow other groups, which is unfortunate (such in the case of the acronym GLBTQA, where is A is sometimes thought to mean ally, but is also supposed to stand for asexual and leads to asexuality being overlooked) and while I don't see the need for allies to be added into an acronym, I would also like to combat the assumption that all straight allies are cis-gendered assholes or presumptuous, glory-hungry allies who want a cookie for having gay friends. These are assumptions often made by the internet, and I don't much like them. Nor do I like the assumptions made about queer people or the queer community or the idea of a queer community itself.

Let's star there. The idea of a queer community is nuanced and complicated. There is no comparable facet for straight people because we're the hegemonic norm. There aren't straight clubs or a straight community because we're still considered the majority and thinking that we need a community like that when we can turn on the TV and see heterosexual relationships and kiss comfortably in public and people assume or significant others are of the opposite gender would be ridiculous. Thus, there's the idea of the queer community, a space for people who do not fit in this little box of hegemonic normalcy (which is extraordinarily restrictive, even for straight people) to better express themselves and rebel against the stagnation of a restricted way of being.

Of course, this idea isn't without its problems. In my personal experiences, there is no one queer community to rule them all. There are a lot of different, diverse, interesting people who identify as queer who have lots of different opinions and lots of different things to say. But too often I see the idea of queer community whittled down to something more simplistic and it worries me. For instance, the other day I saw a post on Facebook from a friend of mine. It was an article about athlete Tom Daley. My friend had posted it with the comments "For those who like Tom Daley (aka every gay ever)." Someone commented that most women also liked Daley and my friend commented back, "If you were a gay man, you'd understand how much of an icon he is in our community... " Okay, so I'm not a gay man and I don't know anything about Tom Daley, but if I did, I gather I could probably understand pretty easily why he's such an icon. But to the entire gay community? Ehhhhhh... I'm going to say no. Because when I think of the gay community, I think of a lot of diverse people. Including lesbians. Unless there is a group of lesbians that really support Tom Daley as an athlete - which there totally could be - then I'm going to have to strongly disagree with my friend here. Even just amongst gay men, there have to be gay men who are disinterested in Daley, because Daley represents only one kind of man. Sure, there are certain ideals just like there are in the straight community, but why focus only on that? Maybe I just want some more confirmation on this because I happen to be a straight girl who doesn't care about Tom Daley.

This may seem really minor, but it does worry me. I had the understanding that the queer community formed to get away from assumptions about identity and sexuality and to celebrate diversity that was not being seen elsewhere. However, it seems like certain kinds of diversity are continuing to be excluded. Gay women, queer people of color, people who are transgender, asexuals, bisexuals, pansexuals, I could go on. The idea of a queer community is supportive and can be positive, but it can also be very limiting. I may not have first hand experience, but I'm a person who doesn't fit into the queer community but doesn't really thrive in the hegemonic norm either. But I thought the whole point of a queer community was to not be exclusionary, to be diverse. The problem with heteronormativity and hegemony is that it isn't diverse - it supports a niche idea, and that's it. I don't want the same thing to happen to the queer community, where in order to gain popularity they exclude people or color or queer women or other identifying groups. And some people don't even like the label queer or gay because they find it a pejorative and would prefer something else, or no label at all.

This brings me to another concept present in the Tumblr post: exclusion. The post talks about excluding cis hetero people and perhaps I'm hung up on the verb of this more than anything else. While it's true that cis hetero people don't need representation in the queer community, I don't think exclusion is the proper word to use. It's an active word and I think the separation is more passive. Generally, I think that many cis hetero people don't care much about the queer community and that caring more and wanting to be involved (note: involved with, not identifying with) would be a positive thing. However, this engages with another issue - the difference between acceptance and tolerance, as well as mainstream versus subculture.

Right now, I believer that the queer communities (plural because I want to complicated the idea of it) are a subculture working towards tolerance. However, I see a lot of action that seems to point towards the desire to be a mainstream group that has acceptance. There is a difference - tolerance would allow for basic human rights, less to no discrimination, and fair treatment. Acceptance is a much more complicated issues. No group has ever fully reached acceptance in the United States of America (and many, still, haven't fully achieved tolerance). Acceptance is a wonderful goal, but it is also difficult to achieve. It rests on the the hope that everyone can love and accept everyone else which, unfortunately, the human race doesn't have a very good track record for. I'm not saying that striving for acceptance isn't possible, but I believe it's important to see the difference between the two - especially when there are cis-hetero people who are still being widely discriminated against based on race, faith, or nationality. While it would be wonderful to see queer people represented as much on TV as heterosexuals and treated the same by the media, it is also important to recognize how few groups have achieved this and that the queer communities do not exist alone in a vacuum - they are all engaged with race, nationality, faith, economic standing, and so forth. While there is a push to label things as a "queer issue" or to be constantly vigilant about queer rights, I think it's important not to get a narrow focus and live for only one cause. The world is wide and broad and complicated and everything ties together. The reason I support queer rights so vigilantly is that I can see how they tie in to so many other issues and philosophies and things I believe myself. A class I took in college talked about how once all of our causes were more integrated and now they are splintered off into separate issues and it seems you have to give your back to just a few instead of several. I'd love to see a movement back towards combining feminism, racial equality, queer rights, and other back into one main camp. I think this is possible, but seeing things only through the scope of a "queer issue" could be limiting. I'd also like to acknowledge that for some, being queer isn't about ever being mainstream - some do not care about ever reaching acceptance. Perhaps if acceptance were ever reached, it would be come as limiting as heteronormativity because groups would have to be overlooked in order exist in such a state.

With that mindset, perhaps that's where the exclusionary aspects are coming from. Perhaps there is a need to exclude straight cis-people because there is a worry that things are becoming too "mainstream" so to say or watered down with people who are not part of the gay community trying to invite themselves into queer culture, or issues with acculturation. Gay rights has suddenly exploded into the mainstream, especially through music such as Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" and Macklemore's "Same Love." I get the feeling that generally people care more about queer rights and are becoming more accepting (then again, I live in Minneapolis). But I can also understand the fear that people just want to care about gay rights because it's trendy or they want a gay friend because *insert stereotypical idea here*. I don't think this is happening broadly (happening in some situations, certainly) but it's something to be aware of. I think that more visibility is better than none, but it will take effort to maintain complexity (which is why I began stressing the importance of keeping the idea of queer communities diverse). That being said I'd like to further engage with ideas of acculturation.

While acculturation would better suit a culture that is perhaps more distinct from the mainstream than certain facets of queer culture(s), I can see how it would be useful there. For example, there is a club in Minneapolis known as the Gay 90s. It is recognized as a gay bar but is not as popular for GLBTQA people to hang out because it has become popular and trendy for straight people to come to. You begin to see how this is an issue.

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As a person who spends an absurdly large amount of time in gay bars, I feel guilty about this. However, I don't go to gay bars because they're popular and trendy. I go because the friends I go with happen to be gay. During a celebration on July 31st for the activation of the marriage equality amendment at midnight, my friend Kelsey asked, "How does it feel to be the token straight friend?" I realized that out of my friend group, I was the only straight person. And I loved it. I go to gay bars because that's where my friends want to go. Maybe this is some kind of infiltration that I'm unaware of, but it's not like I'm forcing my presence there. I'm just... there. And it's cool.

There's much more to say about the straight people at gay bars thing, but for now I'm going to table that discussion because I don't get the vibe that this post is commenting on acculturation really. If it is, it isn't clear to me how that is. Instead, I'm going to move on to the comparison part, which is the issue that really has be concerned and I find it the most isolating for people both in and outside queer communities.

The comparison of the queer community to homelessness is strange and frustrating to me. I know that it's meant to liken straight cis people to millionaires who have power and luxury (which is something a lot of straight cis people don't have, actually), but the comparison to the queer community as the homeless is odd. While there are both terrible stigmas attached to being in the queer community and being homeless, homelessness is something that is considered transitory, a state that one does not want to be in forever. While there is nothing wrong with being a homeless person, the situation of homelessness is not a positive thing. Being GLBTQA, however, is not meant to be transitory - it is permanent, final. Baby, I was born this way. It is meant to be celebrated and cheered on. Homelessness is something that we want to end; queerness is something we want to expand. However, this post shows both as negative and seem to insinuate that queerness should be changed and appears to actually argue for what it should be against. 

The post is probably trying to say something about how straight people and millionaires don't care about GLBTQA members as well as the homeless and thus exclude themselves from their issues and don't try to help their causes. But I find this a very odd way to express this idea. And at this point, I no longer know what this post is trying to say; I'm just offended.

What confuses me further is that the same user who reblogged this post also wrote this text post:


http://upload.wikimedia.org
This post I completely agree with. The issue with social justice online is that it often attracts people who only think the same things and thus all of the same ideas are discussed. Maybe I don't understand the other post because I don't know the sort of people who would support that kind of idea. Maybe if I did I'd still think they were wrong. I can't say. I am, however, curious about it and want to better understand it, even if I do continue to think they are wrong. It might seem strange that I care so much about a little Tumblr post that's only twenty two words, but I care because it was reblogged over 4,000 times. These things matter - it clearly resounds with a lot of people. Some voice and sentiment is being stated here and it is supported in some way. I'd like to know what that is. When I don't understand something, I want to go out and explore it, not be told I won't understand it or be shunned away from it because I don't belong in that group. I would like to see that what I've theorized on the post is wrong - and if it's wrong, please kindly tell me why. But on the off-chance that I'm right, I'd like the ability to try and complicate discussions about queer communities, GLBTQA rights, and working with allies, not to demean what they are doing but to better the work and widen the scope. Being human is complicated - and I'd like to see representations of GLTBQA communities that are complicated as well.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I Fought the Law and the Law Won

Since I've been using this as a platform for which to spout my job-searching woes, I will henceforth continue on in the mad deluge of job searching and soul searching and where I've ultimately ended up.

After applying for quite a few jobs and not getting any responses, I decided to rethink my plans for the fall. What if, instead of looking for a temporary job or position that would provide income while I wrote but wasn't something I was real excited about I considered something a bit more permanent? I'd noticed that there were a lot of openings for paralegals or legal assistants while trying to find administrative assistant positions and did some looking into that. Certainly I'd heard of paralegals but didn't really know much about what they do.

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Research and writing. They do lots of research and writing for lawyers in their firms, as well as sometimes doing interviews with clients, filing documents in the court system, and creating documents. Basically, this job combines all of the things I'm good at, pays well, is in a field I'm interested in, and is in a growing area, rather than a decreasing one. Also, it would allow me to dig into my passion for helping people and in social causes, as well as still allowing me to do fictional writing on the side and use my bachelor's experiences in new ways. Is possible that I might have actually found something to do with my life? Yes, yes it is.

Of course, I have absolutely zero legal background which, for paralegals, is okay. I don't take the LSAT and don't go to law school. Instead, there are associates degree or bachelor degree programs for paralegal work which can take anywhere from nine months to a few years to complete. Considering I've got transfer credit from my B.A. degree at the U, it should take me less time. And so, I've enrolled at Globe University, a sort of business school that has many campuses around the state of Minnesota. The campus I'm at is downtown, right in the heart of city, and is just a quick bus ride away. I register for classes this Thursday and start classes on October 7th. The fact that I'm actually excited to take classes about legal vocabulary and torts is perhaps a little concerning, but I'm thrilled.

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It's a bit funny, really, because I've been interested in law for quite a few years but just avoided the whole thing. I made the mock trial team my freshman year of high school (something I was told was very hard to do) but then dropped out because I was totally intimidated, not ready to make that sort of time commitment, and not yet in a place in my life where I was willing to challenge myself in such a way, alas. During econ class my senior year of high school, I owned the closing argument of a debate on the Iraq War and my team won, much to my glee. I realized I loved logic and philosophy my freshman year at college (even if my Socrates class was one of the most painful classes I have ever taken),  had another interesting debate my sophomore year of college, and ultimately realized that I'm pretty damn good at studying rhetoric and language and conducting research partway through my senior year. Why these weren't signs that maybe I should considering something like law, especially when I care a lot about social concerns and have a big justice streak seems like a "well, duh" moment, but I think it's because while in school, I never thought I was able to do such work. Learning legal jargon and working in that sort of setting seemed utterly impossible. Now, after graduation, having the experiences I've been fortunate enough to have at the Guthrie, and realizing what I can really see myself doing work-wise, it's become obvious where it wasn't before. Though my father always encouraged me to consider law school, that sort of study doesn't really interest me. I like law, but I'd much rather be researching and writing than presenting it. (I've now got this running idea in my head that the courtroom is like a theater, where paralegals have written up or gathered certain materials like a scriptwriter or a dramaturg and lawyers are the actors performing the evidence for the audience/court. This may be because I've been spending time working on the CLE classes the Guthrie has.) Now that I know this particular field exists, I'm realizing how really interested in it I am. It's been the perfect storm of things coming together - my personal interests, my undergraduate work, my friend's interests and having a friend who is a lawyer, working on the CLEs at the Guthrie... it's all come together rather marvelously.

So that's how I've ended up going to college for the second time and I couldn't be happier about it. That might mean eventually more law-related blog posts on here, but we shall see. It's an exciting new adventure and I'm very eager to begin it. :D

FYI: there is a feminist Ryan Gosling meme for everything.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kindle Worlds

I came across this quote the other day while randomly scrolling through Tumblr:

http://sometimesijustcant.tumblr.com/post/57794502215/fan-fiction-is-what-literature-might-look-like-if
I thought it was an interesting tie-in to a topic I've been asked to write about, that of Amazon's new project to publish fanfiction and sell it on their site through a forum called Kindle Worlds. Unlike other fanfiction sites such as Fanfiction.net or Archive of Our Own which shares fanfiction for free, Kindle Worlds sells fanfiction. Which is complicated and intriguing.

http://www.technobuffalo.com/
Initially, I like the idea of selling fanfiction. As a writer of it (though very inconsistently), it would be nice to make a little monetary gain from it. But as the quote above suggests, I don't write fanfiction for money. I think one of the most compelling things about the process of writing it and reading it is that there isn't any monetary element involved. The only gain is enjoyment and exploration of a cultural object and connecting with other people who like the same things you do. However, fanfiction has been published elsewhere for profit for a long time. Many Sherlock Holmes fanfiction pieces are published and bought and sold, and thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey, attention to such forms of publishing is really gaining attention. Of course, I think that's also to the drive that fanfiction is thought to be about sex and shipping (ie: relationship pairing between characters) which is not the case for all fanfiction. Thus, using Fifty Shades as an example is troubling. I'd like to think that Kindle Worlds is looking for a new way to appreciate and share fanfiction and fandom practices and not about companies wanting to profit off the possibility of possible Fifty Shade stories or spread sexy tales that deal with well-known cultural objects like wildfire.

This begins to deal with complicated issue in fandom: money. Fans already spend money to enjoy whatever it is they fan over, whether through going to movies, buying music, paying their cable or electric bill, or buying a computer and wifi connection. The fandom itself, however, hopes to get some return for it. Artists sell prints and sketches, as well as putting their drawings on t-shirts, bags, hats, etc. People create things to sell that are related to their fandom. This competes with what merchandise might be authorized for the cultural object and feels a little bit like buying local - you're supporting an independent artist rather than a larger corporation and getting something rather unique. However, this same idea doesn't seem to be expressed when it comes to writing.

Perhaps its because we're so used to getting fanfiction for free on the internet. With free fanfiction sites, it would seem like selling fanfiction wouldn't actually work. Because art can be shown on the internet for free, writing is shared the same way. However, one can buy a print but can download a free copy of a fanfiction story. There's a sort of difference between the drawing and writing in fandom and a difference in how we think about the two things. We're willing to pay for the art, but not for the story. Even as a writer, I'd love to have people pay for my writing, but I don't feel willing to pay for someone else's and find the idea of selling my fanfiction rather odd.

In short, Kindle Worlds is an interesting concept but one that would require a redefinition of how fandoms are currently operating. Will it work? It's too soon to say. But it continues to bother me that this began after Fifty Shades became a hit and that the focus seems to be on buying products related to certain fandoms, rather than supporting authors who write about certain fandom characters. In a way, it seems like a way to extend marketing. In fact, I would be curious to know if only certain fandoms are accepted for publication on Kindle Worlds and whether this is connected to a certain agreement with Amazon and companies that own the rights to specific characters. I'd like to think positive about the whole thing, but as I'm very connected to ideas of fandom that aren't about money and are working to make mass culture more like folk culture, it's a tendentious issue for me and one I'm continue to have mixed feelings about.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Guest Post: Women Who Change Things - Why We Still Need Feminism

Today I present to you the first official post from my new co-contributor, Paulina Muller! Paulina is from Fulda, Germany and currently attends the University of Bremen where she studies Geosciences. Paulina is a brilliant, wonderful human being and I'm grateful to have her share her marvelous thoughts here. So, without further ado, here's Paulina!


Today I realised that I have become a feminist.
A rather strange thought, considering that I’ve been reading with a feminist eye for about a year now, and have held a few feminist opinions for quite a while. It is the active wish to change things, to make my own life an example, that has become clear today, and it’s both the end and the start of a process.
How can that sort of realisation be so sudden? Well, I think it’s because I have read two rather impressive books over the last two days – The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, yesterday and Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier, today.
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The Help, if you haven’t read it already (and you should), tells the story of coloured maids and their white ladies in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s, and two of them who ignore the boundaries and work together for change. To change their world. Because in their world, the women have to change first, because only then the children will learn the change and make it real when they grow up.
Remarkable Creatures is about the lives of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot. They were the first fossil hunters in Lyme Regis right at the start of the 19th century, and among the very best – and they too changed their world. The strange beasts washed up on the shore and embedded in the cliffs questioned the story of the world – how could there be animals that were obviously extinct, when God created everything to the best? Could humanity ever become extinct? Could it be possible, that the only explanation for these findings was a God that made mistakes? 
The maids of Jackson risk everything – the livelihoods of their entire families. Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot hardly received credit and were almost social outcasts for their unladylike fascination with long dead animals.
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Admittedly, both accounts are fictionalised, The Help in plot and Remarkable Creatures probably in characterisation. But these stories have their roots in reality. And they are about women who fight against a stubborn society, women who fight to be themselves and try to change the world around them to damn well accept it. Women who ignore conventions of what it means to be ladylike. They did it fifty years ago, they did it a hundred years ago, a hundred and fifty years ago and two hundred years ago. Why then, if women, and only considering Europe and America, have tried for decades and centuries and in ever increasing numbers to reach equality with men, this has not yet been achieved?
Do I really have to call myself an Equalist, as one of my mates suggested? Are there enough wrongs inflicted on men to warrant a fight for both sides? You can’t measure up pain against pain (and maybe that’s too strong a word), but as it is, I’ll remain with Feminist. Because I believe that saying, “well, men too suffer in this society” doesn’t cut it. They might suffer emotionally, but we are looking at material inequality. In other words, the difference is not so much a diffuse, obscure cultural thing, the difference, in short, can be quantified and it’s unit is the Dollar, the Euro.
Being a woman, on average, means lower wages, and I daresay, a higher cost of living. Why? Women are mainly responsible for children. I’m only guessing here but with so many divorced marriages, there are a lot of women who care for their children alone, more than men in similar situations. Women (well, here in Germany at least) have to pay more for insurances. Women are often blocked from high positions because they have or want children.
How about the cultural and emotional side?
Women who don’t have children and a career instead are reason for the lament that the birth rate is so low. Women who have children and still go to work are called callous, cruel, bad mothers because they don’t raise them themselves.
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Woman who dress in a feminine way are subjected to the Male Gaze. Women who don’t are ridiculed or ignored.
A (male) comedian talking about his girlfriend and how silly and un-understandable she is, entertains tens of thousands. In fact, his show holds the world record for a live comedy show with an audience of 70 000 in Berlin in 2008. It’s revolting.
But nothing of this is new to you, I suppose.
I study Geology (that is the short version). I could have a scientific career. It’s just an option, but it’s a bit scary. But if I did that, I’d have to work in an environment of men for the rest of my life. Sod that, I’d have to anyway, it’s bound to be Geophysics for me in some way and let me tell you, there’s not a lot of girls studying with me and somehow I doubt that our percentage has shrunk over the years.
That’s not bad, I’m fine with guys, they tend to accept me almost as one of them.
But a geologist nowadays has to be prepared to leave Germany to have a chance close to a 100% to find a job. Even if it doesn’t come to that, I’d love to work sea-based, that is, on a ship. Which means frequent-ish, long-ish times spend aboard and not at home.
At this point this is all speculation, I have only been at Uni for a year. But if I get the job of my dreams, I’ll have to be ruthlessly modern to manage a family life with it, because I don’t see myself as the sort of woman who is content to stay at home once she has children. My mother didn’t and her mother didn’t either (both couldn’t, to be fair, but it means I never knew otherwise).  Which leads to the problem that all this sets a lot of conditions for a man, and I’d want one to have a family with.
In my future I see the problems of the modern woman, linked to the problems of the modern family, invariably linked to the modern man. And since the woman has changed, the man has to change with her or the family is doomed. And isn’t the family the core of society?
So that’s why I think we need outright Feminism. Not so much to change the women, because they do it on their own. I don’t think my mother consciously intended to raise me as a feminist and neither did my grandmother, but their lives are necessarily role-models for mine and if I look at it that way, I couldn’t have turned out otherwise.
http://nirmukta.com
No, we need Feminism to tell the men about the Modern Woman, who she is, what she wants and what she needs. And that if they don’t recognise her now, they will when their daughters are leaving school, leaving university, and they realise that in our times, we need everyone to be modern. And I believe that this is already happening. Fathers and grandfathers want successful daughters and granddaughters. The sons and grandsons are taught by their mothers that their sisters are worth just as much.
But it’s not yet enough, and it’s something that still needs work. Women have the power, because they teach the children. When women and men do that in equal amount, we’ll know that we’ve arrived.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Some Work Related Thoughts

After much waiting, I finally got my college diploma in the mail last week. Given the fact that job searching has been incredibly fruitless, finally getting this very expensive piece of paper made me feel a bit better about life.


I particularly love the wording on this; the University has "conferred upon" me the "degree of Bachelor of Arts with all its privileges and obligations." Privileges and obligations? Hell yes. Clearly B.A. stands for Bad-Ass. Who needs a job? I am burdened with glorious purpose!

http://proxy.hackurity.net
But in all seriousness, I really need a job. By September, my work as an assistant building manager will be over and I will be completely and thoroughly unemployed if I don't find something else. I have applied for waitressing jobs, administrative assistant positions, a gift shop position, and so far have only been able to get an interview for the gift shop gig (and still impatiently waiting to hear back). I'm getting really nervous that I'm for some reason unhireable or that the economy sucks so bad that my magical piece of paper that is meant to give me some sort of advantage is less magical because there's only thousands of other people who received them last May and they have better qualifications than me - and they are also fighting to get a job. The latter is definitely true. Let's hope the former isn't as well.

Long story short, I am nervous. Meanwhile, I'm trying to come up with more harebrained ways of working on writing to make a little cash. First off, I've still got these free downloadable copies of my ebook, First Light, to give away. I have been assured it is full of typos (whoops) but that figures, considering I was my own proofreader. However, I've also gotten pretty positive feedback about it thus far. Yay! Anyway, I have about fifteen of these free downloads to give away, so this is how it's going to work: it'll be first come, first serve. If you want one, it's yours - until I run out of them, at least. I can either mail it to you or email you the code, whichever you prefer.

Secondly, I'm trying to decide if there's a market for commission writing. I know that painters and drawing artists have an advantage with this, but I'm curious if for three or four dollars if anyone would be interested in throwing me a topic and having me write up some sort of...something. I did this as a Christmas gift for a group last year and it was really fun. Now I'm wondering if I can actually profit off it, though it seems strange to me when I have my writing out here entirely for free. I'm also wondering if anyone would actually donate if I created a Paypal account out here, but I don't think I can bring myself to ask for donations - there are artists out there who need the assistance far more than I do. And so, I'm just considering the commission stuff for now. Let me know what you think and I'm going to keep working on job search stuff and keep on blogging. Unfortunately, there won't be post this Saturday as I will be at a friend's cabin this weekend, so instead, I'm adding the new Thor trailer to the end of this post for you to watch and flail over in my absence:


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Creativity and Communication, or: More Thoughts on Playing in the Sandbox

http://www.leannepenny.com
Last Thursday night was the final session of another acting class I'd been able to take at the Guthrie through my internship, this one called Spontaneous Creativity, which focused on... well, yeah, spontaneity and creativity. I absolutely adored it, much as I did the Intro to Acting class - its focus on present-ness and being in the moment, like yoga, is incredibly refreshing and energizing. But this class also gave me an extra boost of confidence in the old creativity department. Here lately, I've beginning to worry that I'm running out of things to write about, on this platform and in fictional aspects. I've been doubting that I actually am creative (which makes me think of this absolutely terrifying video about how creativity is approached in children's shows. Found it on Tumblr a while back and it's haunted me ever since). I write about my own experiences - that's what I know. But I often worry that that's not good enough, that I am not interesting enough, or diverse enough or... well, downright creative enough to be able to write about anything with a unique twist.

After taking this class, I've been more confident about my abilities. Yes, I am limited by my own experiences - but many of them are unique or my view on them is different from how someone else might see it. Acting allows me to work through this in an interesting way - in the final class, we formed groups of two or three to perform a scene based on only seven words. We could only say these seven words once and use them to create some sort of situation or story. Most of the story had to be told through gesture and body language. In my group's scene, I was a waitress and I was terrified that I wouldn't be clear enough as to what I was doing. But apparently it worked - the audience (our other classmates) guessed almost exactly what we were doing. Though I have never been a waitress, I can imagine what it's like to be one and express it. This sounds simple and obvious but I felt confident in the actions I was doing while acting. It wasn't as if I were stumbling around trying to think of actions to do - I came up with fairly clear ones, drawing off the numerous times I've been to a restaurant, my recent and very short stint as a barista (two days; it might be record), and hearing my friends and family talk about restaurant work. Acting it all out gave me a different perspective from just hearing about it or writing about it - actually physically doing it blended my personal experiences and perception with a collaborative effort to convey a story to a group of people who are trying to understand what we are doing. Because it was vital to be understood and we succeeded, I felt some sort of confidence at this. The more I write and longer I live and the more I learn about humans and being human, the more I realize how difficult it is to communicate with each other. Our high functioning brains are brilliant and have built cities, but my God, sometimes it's so difficult to express the simplistic of things to each other.

Acting, I think, helps us out a bit with that. There's a quote I saw the other day from Ben Whishaw, from an interview he did for The London Magazine, that I especially like:
Theatre is about watching real people, in the moment – a connection between actors and audience. It’s a lie that takes you out of yourself. I think that’s important when everything we hear about is austerity and economics. There’s more to life than that.
http://media2.s-nbcnews.com
Acting really does take you out of yourself. You stop worrying about yourself as an individual and begin to get a wider scope on things. Perhaps I'm connecting it to running because I've been doing a lot of that lately, but running also gives me a detached sense - I'm really focused on my body, but I'm also very focused on what's around me, from the pavement so that I don't trip to the landscape, focusing on things I'd never noticed or seen before. My mind feels very different when I'm running - less burdened, more open, more expansive. I end up feeling better physically and also more connected to the city, watching people as I run past, exploring new routes through Minneapolis and learning about my city. There's something about acting and running in how they interconnect with the mind, body, and the world. And they are also both very, very addicting.

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I really, really enjoy acting. As a writer, it gives me a different creative perspective and view on things. Somehow, I want to keep this alive - maybe through more acting classes, clearly integrating aspects of it into my everyday life, doing murder mystery parties (because of reasons), and playing anarchy tag (it's like regular tag but everyone's it all of the time. Further details upon request :D). But most of all, what acting does encourages me to keep thinking and questioning and playing in the sandbox and, most of all, reminding me that we are not as alone as we might think. We may be separated by our minds and bodies, and language may be the biggest abstraction there is, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to bridge the gap between what we see and what others see.