Are You Nobody too?

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

by Emily Dickinson

(published 1891)

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

 How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog – 

To tell one’s name – the livelong June – 

To an admiring Bog!

Probably the biggest message we have to get across in our life is who we are and what we’re about. But I hadn’t thought about it much until seeing  Sally Hogshead‘s blogpost today.

Today on the Hogblog, she posted a video about how most of us were raised with the idea that ‘the best wins’. Yet now, we live in an era of 9 second attention spans, and being the best and hoping attention, success, notoreity, and prosperity ‘will come a-knockin’ ” is naive. We may deserve it, we may be the best, but that’s not enough. Truthfully, it never has been. Just go back a century or 2 for famous examples.

Emily Dickinson (author of the above poem) and Van Gogh. Infamous names, highly revered bodies of work, and neither of them ever saw acclaim in their lifetime. They lived and died in the 1800s–simpler times, smaller populations. They were each introverted and social outcasts. Van Gogh never sold a painting in his life, and Dickinson had a few published works, but compared to the volume created it was not much at all. It took their deaths, someone else’s discovery, and subsequent release of their body of work for any real judgement and notoriety to even begin. 

Almost 200 years later, today’s artists (all of us) live in a substantially more crowded world. Do any of the living really want a tragic stereotypical artists fate–all the money is made AFTER you’re dead, by someone else? I seriously doubt it.

Let’s say you had manuscripts or art hidden away in your apartment, house, or a storage unit. Would anyone find it, or take the time to hunt for it if you suddenly perished? if they don’t know it exists, who would bother to look other than the executor of your will? Not everyone writes a will before their time is up, either. If ever there was a time to die in assured obscurity, your best lost unless you take a risk and share it, it’s now.

What is your life’s work worth to you?                                                                                                                                  What is mine worth to me?                                                                                                                              Is it how you want to be remembered for eternity?   

If our life’s work means anything to us, then keeping it to ourselves makes little sense today or tomorrow. It also makes little sense to hide it by default because we suck at self-promotion. If we as individuals will occur again as the person we are now, we owe it ourselves to share what we create. No matter how insecure, self-critical, self-concious, introverted, shy, meek, or all of the above we might be.

‘Notice I say we. I can’t say I have all the answers about self-promotion, or even that I rock at it. I’ve just learned its importance the hard way.

I think Hogshead has a lot of good ideas and why not? She worked in advertising, a field I studied but never could break into as a designer. I am highly creative, but the gift of gab is not mine. At the time in my early 20s, I mistakenly thought my portfolio would do the talking. I mean, how seriously would I be taken if I had a big ego? Boastful self-selling I could do would come across as transparent and ridiculous. Would you believe a fresh grad who made false guarantees about what their work would do for you? I wouldn’t. Not to mention a lot of ‘Ad-vice’ books said not to brag or have an ego or your resume will be trashed for sure. So I felt justified in relying more on my portfolio, answering questions I was asked, and being a nice person. Apparently my samples weren’t bad, but they weren’t fascinating either, and I was a forgettable interview. I would probably be better remembered if my work sucked.

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It’s worth asking ourselves: Are we the best? Are we the worst? Are we mediocre? Do we want to be the best? We’ll never know if we don’t release work and promote it.

Thankfully getting content out there has never been easier, the only thing holding us back is ourselves. We also live in the age of Beta release, so the cataclysmic, career-killing disaster we all fear happening is unlikely. There’s too much else going on to pay attention to one person for that long. You can always rework, retool, rec-create, and re-release. 

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Hogshead has an interesting quiz on finding your unique fascination trigger blend, and a program on how to hone those triggers and be more fascinating in everything you do. See her website for more info. She regularly posts presentation excerpts on Facebook as well.

 

What will it be, creation or destruction?

“Negative emotions fuel brilliant art. Art brings together what violence tears apart. ‘Shoot photos,not people…”

Today’s twit relates to last Friday’s events, but the bigger picture of how shootings of innocents are a recurring theme in the United States. Every time this happens, there is a call for gun control. It’s even louder in an election year like this one. And there is a backlash by people who own and can use guns responsibly of “don’t you dare take my guns.I have a right to defend myself and my family.If you take away guns away from the responsible owners and you’re left with streets full of illegal ones in the arms of thugs.” Both sides make very good points.

Sadly, I fear this sort of thing could easily repeat itself, even if guns, both legal and illegal, left the face of the earth tomorrow. There are will be other weapons, because we have a lot of them. But more importantly, there are always more disenfranchised, angry, vengeful individuals out there just waiting to blow. They don’t know themselves, they are festering with negative emotions about to consume them whole, they hate how they feel, they didn’t like themselves to start with, no one else seems to care, and the only way to focus and channel all this negativity is violence. They want to be in control for a change, make someone else feel like the victim. If you threaten someone else’s life and point that weapon at them, they really pay attention.

                         ‘What a disgrace–for them, for the country, for the world. 

‘Committing an act of violence is an individual giving their own life away before he or she attempts to take away anyone else’s. So how do we prevent people for reaching this point and deciding violence is the only answer? 

I really feel emotional intelligence and arts exposure have tremendous potential in these areas. One way to get the future off to a better start is our children. ‘Every one of America’s children needs to be told as early and often as possible that they’re not some uniform wearing little sponge who exists to memorize facts, do what they’re told, and don’t cause trouble. Their schools and homes need to be a playground for individual expression. They need to be taught they have a voice, unique to them, that needs to be nurtured. This voice may be in spoken word, written word, music and sound, paint, film. In social sciences telling stories of humanity or space. Even the more logical science and math oriented children have a creative voice. 

They have an obligation to themselves and the world to find that voice, hone that voice, and use it constructively. This is not a luxury in the community budget during economic boom times only, it’s a societal necessity in any economy.

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On a somewhat related note, I honestly wonder how much less violent Americans of all ages might be if we were all more self-aware and emotionally intelligent. Negative emotions are inevitable part of life–failure, rejection, disappointment, disillusionment—for every single one of us. What’s key is what we each do when a crisis happens.

Art is a far superior choice to violence. It brings together what violence tears apart.

Everyone is enriched when we constructively share our experiences. 

 

Shades of Cliche

“Thank you EL James for forcing us to find new ways to say “fifty shades of grey”. If we can’t rely on cliches, it gradually ‘whips’ our conversation skills into shape…”

That was today’s (7-20-12) twit at Currying_Favor. If you open a new browser window right now, and type “fifty shades of grey”, or “50 shades of grey” in the search field, ‘guess what pops up?  A mere 77 million entries about the immensely popular book trilogy by EL James. You would be very lucky in those findings to locate anyone discussing the old idiom, very cliché phrase “fifty shades of grey”. I really didn’t hate this particular cliché, but it’s over now.

As a word-geek and a writer, I should hate all clichés with equal disdain. But I actually didn’t mind 50 shades so much because it conceptually hinted at people having different perceptions, or to use a cinematography/photography term, “takes”, of the same situation. We’re all individuals and this is reflected in how we experience life, express our observations about life, and how we interpret every experience that follows.

I could easily hate ELJ for sacrificing this cliché phrase to sell books, but for the sake of language and original thought, I think I owe him/her gratitude instead. After all, if we’re all so different and individual, why do we need clichés to communicate in the first place? Why do we use these tired phrases inexhaustibly, or that is, until some racy, sexually explicit book becomes a bestseller, changing the phrase in everyone’s mind for the foreseeable future forces the issue? ‘Mark my words, from now on if anyone tries to use that phrase in its original sense they will have to counter with “oh I don’t mean THAT book”. In the time it took to utter that disclaimer–too late for any listener’s mind making a beeline for the gutter, mind you—the speaker could say something originally thought out.

 This brings me to the theme of this post. I think it’s a worthwhile dare that we all practice ‘organic conversation’ as much as possible, and avoid clichés. Especially with people who mean a lot to us.  Constant cliché usage doesn’t build relationships or illuminate interpersonal understanding. It just gets the current communicating done–quick n’ dirty, you know, whatever works…

 A cliché is a pre-fabricated conversation nugget. It’s a way to say something without really saying anything in particular, after all it wasn’t your thought or your words. Your thoughts, put into your words, would be a “real live photo” you took of how you felt. Using a cliché is inserting an animated GIF instead. This style of communication suits many workplaces–everyone is busy; communication is weak, harried, and last-minute; and people aren’t necessarily friends outside of the office so there’s no relationship to be sabotaged. [There’s just no relationship being built there, either.]

When we work a lot, it’s easy to have a workplace communications style bleed over into our personal lives without even realizing it (myself included.)  But over time, this style of communication has disastrous consequences. We find we don’t know each other anymore. If clichés are how we communicate all the time, with everybody, others are not getting to know us and we’re not getting to know them, either.  Basically, our dialogue is wearing pajama jeans–it’s comfortable and effortless for us, but it looks pretty slack and lazy to everybody else. Over time, it stinks. And those people might have really wanted to know the real you.

Furthermore, I suspect the more we let our brain use clichés, default phrases, wear those pajama jeans, basically, the less we “exercise” it, the more we invite it to age, become depressed and decay. This muscle runs our entire body and our life; we owe to ourselves to use it more, in a variety of ways.

So, in conclusion, I think I am an activist for organic conversation. I promise it’s a worthwhile effort that will be rewarded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Death of Happy Accidents

With so much destination-focused or results focused searching going on online, it’s all about getting what you asked for or what you wanted, as quickly as possible. Order it, ship it, move on. 

Getting what you want is great. It’s achieving a goal, getting closer to finishing a project, and a sense of accomplishment. Over time it proves reliability. It’s hard to argue with getting results when you’re an American. But I will argue that always getting only what you originally sought can mean missing something big.

Take shopping online. By shortening and simplifying the journey, with a guaranteed destination, the ‘happy accidents’ have been weeded out. I am old enough to have lived in a pre-web convenienced world. There’s things about the old-school ways I will miss if their serendipitous opportunities fall by the wayside.

For instance:

  • What about finding what you didn’t originally want, but you might really love? Like that band CD you discovered in the used bin at the CD store that was just a few years ahead of a big arrival, or had a cult following, never really arrived in a big way, and that only makes you love them more?
  • What about things you didn’t even know were out there, that you might really love?
  • What about something you weren’t looking for that snags your attention with its novelty, isn’t your usual thing, that you learned to appreciate more over time? 

Most webshopping offers similar stuff to complement your purchase and add to your order, but it’s based on the crowd’s and previous shoppers tastes. It’s nice to know what else is out there that’s similar, but there’s no way I’m buying something or doing something based on what everyone else has already done. That method of thinking is best left in adolescence. Back when you don’t know any better, and want to do what your friends want to do, at all cost.

The internet took a lot of the romance of the journey out of shopping or just checking things out. It gives you a browser, but it made going somewhere and doing actual browsing–“walking and looking around” obsolete. [And as a brief tangent, is it any wonder most webusers have acquired ADD or ADHD when you can be looking at six or more windows at once, get texts, get email, and get calls? This means the notion of “undivided attention” is obsolete as well, but that’s a topic for another day.]

 

I am pretty used to being a little Luddite anyway, so I think I’m going to make a point to keep doing things old-school, as time allows. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stumbled on great stuff I wasn’t looking for by going about things ‘old-school’—getting out of the house and trying to hunt something down.

Flipping through a magazine with no particular agenda other than I like seeing beautiful things, old or new.

                      I get inspired all the time by things I was never looking for.

And these days I have a cameraphone and virtual notepad to make a note of it, so it’s the best of both worlds. For now.

 

 

Media Dreams and Inevitable Reality

I remember my parents saying when television came out, there was a lot of talk about it’s potential as an educational tool. ‘Watching the medium age, though, it was evident for my parents and the generations that followed, that television wasn’t living up to its potential. Those that have tried and the survivors that continue to try always have lackluster ratings and are lucky to stay afloat year after year**. The television is mostly an entertainment device and a social crutch, not an educational tool. And it hasn’t given us world peace, or even an 100% literate society that always eats its vegetables.

I didn’t really appreciate the truth of my parents observation until I watched the internet evolve, go mainstream and age in my lifetime. It is truly amazing to have this library of our planet’s activities available 24/7 in people’s homes. I truly did not see this thing coming when I was little, and now I like many people, can’t imagine going back to life without it. I think I can say that this is the case for a lot of people 50 and younger.

That being said, just like television, it’s got a lot of indulgent, convenient, distractive, base-nature content. It seems that no matter what goals we have for the new media platforms we create, our base nature always reveals itself in the bulk of its popular content. Simply put, food, sex, status are always there, no matter what.  

**Only PBS and a handful of cable channels live up to the original dreams about television’s potential. PBS receives limited government funding, and asks viewer donations practically year round to take up the slack. Other channels, available only through cable package, have joined in the reality show craze by offering slice of life programming to get better ratings (yes, TLC I mean you). Oprah is struggling with her own cable network, which I am sure has high-minded ambitions, like the latter years of her network show. Hopefully a viewer develops some compassion for the subject and their challenges (real or imagined), but there’s little educational value beyond that. News channels are very ADD and few have thought-provoking shows. Even if they discuss an issue for more than 30 minutes, it ends with the credits and tomorrow is a whole new issue.

Hey Jealousy, and a new blog from Kathleen W Curry…

I read something over a year ago that stuck with me, and it seemed a good kickoff theme for my first post here.

“I try to see a movie a week. Nothing gets me more charged up than jealousy of another person’s genius—it’s incredibly stimulating and makes me feel supercompetitive.” —Mindy Kaling, O magazine 2/2011

I liked that Mindy shared jealousy as a creative boon because it was refreshing to hear a woman say that. She is Kelly Kapoor on the Office; she’s also written and directed several episodes of the show.

A popular stereotypical situation for women in movies and reality TV is we’re ‘all crazy bitches out to tear each other’s eyes out’. I dont think it’s schmaltzy, romcom, or “Christians-only” territory to show women working together, being inspired by each other, a healthy rivalry partnership that doesnt turn lethal or get wrecked by some guy, girl, or other third party.

You know who I always envied in a good way? Carrie Bradshaw. Not the shoes, not the clothes, not the sex, not the city. It was that she got to write about relationships in all their complexities for a living. What an awesome job, and she wasn’t a psychologist or a social worker.

This blog, unlike other ones, will focus specifically on communications, words, language, relationships, advertising, graphic design, media, culture, and issues that come up related to these. It has a companion twitter account at Currying_favor.