The Wall*–An Essay by Willow Croft

*Read while listening to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”.

I was chatting with someone about a nonfiction book we are hoping to collaborate on, and we both have ADD so the conversation turned to social media (Okay, so I may have steered it a bit onto that topic).

But it has been on my mind lately, accentuated by an article/essay by Peter Derk I recently read, titled “Writers Don’t Need Social Media”: https://litreactor.com/columns/writers-dont-need-social-media.

I have been circling on this topic in my mind for a while now, and I finally got some clarity. “I want to have more control over my content,” I said. And the heavens opened and angels sang. (Well, not really, it was just another bland day in my rickety, stinky apartment.)

“I want to have more direct contact with people,” I continued. “Like through my blog.” And a bunch of other thoughts that sounded really good in my head.

And then I read Peter Derk’s post. And I picked up one of the books he recommended from the library: Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Now by Jaron Lanier. (I read it last night.)

And yesterday I was on Twitter, and I saw this tweet flash past–something about about how people have finally hit the wall in the COVID situation. And I paused, and scrolled back up, but then Twitter refreshed and the tweet was gone forever. And then I got really frustrated. And then I got mad at myself for how ridiculously frustrated I was and how much time I spent looking for that gem of a post. And I realised that this happened way too often with Twitter, and with elusive tweets from the people I follow. I realised how much I was missing out on even during the small window of time I allotted to Twitter.

And I thought, “What is it that writers really want me to do? They want me to read their books.” (Or artists with their art, etc.)

And that it is a very simple discussion, without all the noise of Twitter and social media.

Fantastic Author #1: “Willow Croft, buy and read my book.”

Me: “Okay!”

And the only complicated part of that process is that I (according to the actual quoted State of New Mexico standards back when I was living in that state) am classified at 153% below the national/state poverty level, and I generally have no money to buy books.

And that’s with a day job, before I was furloughed. Who knows what my classification is at now, here in Kansas, with still no day job.

But I still began thinking about the “wall” people have hit.

And I read Luther M. Siler’s venting-themed blog over his latest experience with online teaching. https://infinitefreetime.com/2021/01/26/venting-ignore/

This is probably not related to his point(s), but for years now I have decried the standardized educational system. In fact, I have vehemently spoken out against the increasing standardization of most things in society these days.

In fact, one could look at the whole COVID situation and think “Jeez, ‘they’ have us right where they want us.” And, no, I am not espousing any sort of conspiracy theory or dark forces behind the pandemic–besides, I am too busy trying to find work to entertain any thoughts about that on even a writer-inspiration front.

Talk about standardization, though.

I have witnessed the job hunt go from paper applications you fill out in stores to digital employment kiosks you have to stand there and fill out to “fill out the application online”, which I now interpret to mean that an algorithmic software that “fires” you before you can even say “Here’s my one-page CV/Resume that I have spent eons on consulting with experts and tailoring to the job at hand and even picking the correct font and layout and which your system is telling you I’m complete garbage even though I have an INCREDIBLY vast array of skills, talent, and experience.”

And now even many job search sites, which I considered a refuge in which to submit an actual resume/CV now have links that send you to the employer’s website, where it takes an hour to complete one application (ten times as long as it took me to fill out a paper application in the old days) so they can then “fire” you algorithmically.

And now, at least one of these job sites has a feature now where I have to take a STANDARIZED test to “prove” that I’m good enough to work for this company. (And I’m not even getting reimbursed for my time and energy and work. Hours wasted.)

Which I never am (good enough). In fact, let’s look at it statistically (even with my mad skills I think I have), I have been applying for a job-any-job-liveable-wage-job since 1995. I have been back to school twice (a BA and a Masters) On average, I’ve applied online for about five to six jobs a day, seven days a week. I even, back in the 90s, went through the phone book and dropped off/mailed letters and resumes to a wide variety of companies (One interview, where I was offered 4 dollars an hour.)

Temp jobs, substitute teacher, an educational aide job, where I earned $600 a month, hell job teaching sixth grade (re Luther Siler’s rant: teachers get it from all sides: parents, students, supervisors, staff, and other teachers), and jobs where I was told I had to keep to a verbatim script or I’d face wage or hour-reduction penalties (Florida’s Right to Work state at…non-work), and interviews where the conservative business clothing I borrowed money to buy was deemed “not good enough to work in her office”.

And I still have no job.

So back to my discussion about the wall.

Yes, the COIVD shutdown has been terrible in many different ways; job loss, social isolation, separation from friends and family, and even the painful, heart-wrenching illness and deaths of loved ones. It’s been well covered by better writers than I, and I don’t mean to belittle what you are going through.

But what I want to say–what the whole point of my blog post is that it’s not just COVID that is creating a terrible situation for all of us.

It’s that we are now face to face with the awareness of how bad things have been all along. Of what society has become. Of what we have become, and accepted, in order to live in the world today. And we hate it, all of it, no matter what our personal, political, and/or religious and spiritual beliefs are.

We have ignored the price we had to pay with the planet, with the lives of animals and nature and unpolluted water and air, with the lives of children and their health and minds and their free, creative spirits; and even with our own physical and mental health.

That the systems we created suck.

That, for many, our jobs suck.

That, for many, our lives have sucked and we didn’t even realize it.

That even if we thought our lives were great on the surface there was still a small, disquieting voice that whispered at us in the wee hours of the night: “Wake up, something’s wrong.” And you get up and check the already-locked doors and the alarm system and that the kids are sleeping safe in their beds and the pets are fed and the refrigerator door is closed and nothing is out of place, so you go back to bed and wait for the light of day. To wait for things to change. To be different.

But it isn’t. Because the truth is the world, too, sucks and by our own hands.

And COVID is a brutal reminder that we are now having to pay the price.

But things don’t have to continue to suck. We can sacrifice, shake off the sleep of rote conformist jobs and standardized school systems and social media and binge-watching and hate and fear and misery and commercialism.

We can build a new world, or we can just sit here in our isolation and hope and pray for the day when things can to go back to the same-old same-old sucky system.

Which will you choose?*

*As long as it isn’t storming the U.S. Capitol. Just sayin’.

Reading Binge and Other Favourite Things…

Well, things are still shut down here in some ways. Mainly because my life has been in shutdown mode since circumstances dictated I had to move to the land of no internet and no cell phone service, otherwise known as the state of New Mexico. *laughs*

But I’m still keeping up with the (now exclusively out-of-state) job search and still writing and pitching as much as I can in the meantime.

And, of course, I’ve been participating in the reading binge a lot of us literary-loving souls have been indulging in since the shutdown started!

In addition to tackling my book to-read pile, I’ve jumped into my magazine/journal to-read stack: Witches & Pagans, Renaissance Magazine, Smithsonian, Preservation Magazine, Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, Stonecoast Review, Fireside Quarterly, Celtic Life International, Sirens Call, Apex Magazine, and even Reader’s Digest, as well as many more, both online and in print. (Gone are the days, it seems, when I read the magazine as fast as it arrived in my mailbox.)

Some of these I’ve had subscriptions for a while now, and just never had time with working the day job and trying to launch, and foster, a writing career to finish reading them. Some I got for sample copies to preview.

Some are both, which I carry on a subscription for because I not only want to support magazines and journals, but for which I’ve also become a dedicated fan of.

Among my new favourites are the Ellery Queen/Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines. The stories are so good! And perfect for pandemic reading!

On that note, then, I’m considering doing a “Favourite Things” feature on my blog here for a little while. I mean, there’s so many great bloggers out there doing interviews and feature pieces on authors already, and I wanted to do something a little different (which, yes, has probably been done before too LOL).

So, if you’re a writer/blogger, reach out to me and I’ll add you to one of the features that I plan to post on Fridays. With each feature I’ll have a new “Favourite Things” question, and I’ll post up answers, and links to your blog and such. It’ll go until I run out of questions to ask!

Swimming Away From the Current…

I had planned to use this shutdown time to write article pitches and submit them to magazines. Good intentions, right?

I began to realize that I wasn’t current enough on what’s trending write articles for some of the places that I’d hoped to draft pitches for. That, in fact, I’d never really been that up-to-date in terms of pop culture and current trends and the like, barring a brief period as an uber-cool (*cough* pretentious little snot) goth in the early 90s. So I was stuck trying to get ahead of a different non-pandemic-related curve.

But I realized was fine with not being trendy. I mean, sure, I spent way too many years trying to be the cool kid in the room, instead of the quiet nerd in the corner who had closet dreams of playing D&D and collecting comic books. And, as an adult, I spent too many years trying to conform so I could just “get a job.”

Not that getting a job isn’t important. I couldn’t write without my day job, even though I still struggle to support myself on that income. But I’ve conformed and worked hard and been outstandingly tenacious in my quest for a decent-paying job, and I still have nothing to show for it.

And, at risk of downplaying the importance of an author platform, or, even more importantly, the amazing and loyal followers that support the author, I realized that I don’t have to be current. There are plenty of talented writers out there that have their finger on the pulse of society, are on top of trends in movies and pop culture and even in writing, and they write it well.

In light of that it’s my responsibility as a writer to find my niche. (Which writing-tips articles galore also cover, of course!) But more than finding a niche is finding yourself. After all, what is writing for but a way to explore all the parts of yourself that aren’t seen in your day-to-day interactions with people.

For a few years after I overcame past conditioning and allowed myself to write (and even now, on some days) I wanted so badly to make up for all the time I lost in the thirty-some years that I didn’t write. And that’s where I could have sank and not swam.

Oddly enough, most of the development I’ve undergone in the past few years has been through a cyclical process of elimination–a whirlpool that gets tighter and cleaner as I get closer to the core. (I wrote a poem about this process, which was also inspired by a recent experience at a local convention. I’m not even sure if the poem is still posted on my blog or not.)

And that it’s perfectly acceptable to like classical music and comedies and outline by hand and write the first draft out by hand and have refillable pens and pencils or even a quill pen and (recycled) paper and get lost in the past and prefer tiny, cozy kitchens in old homes over culinary expanses with gleaming stainless steel appliances.

So, I’m exploring more old-school ideas and approaches to networking and mailings and establishing an author platform which may not even be trending at best, or at worst, be an utter failure, but that’s okay too.

We don’t all have to be trending.

We just have to be successful at ourselves.

And, for me, right now, that’s writing horror.

What’s your “you” right now, during this time of potential reflection and reassessment? Share if you wish to, in the comments.

 

 

 

Getting Lost in a Good Goodreads Binge…

AbandonedArmyBase
A potential site for my upcoming middle grade horror book? Or is this what the world looks like out there without humans after a month? *laughs* (Photo Courtesy of Canva 2020)

 

I’m starting to get a little rambly with the shutdown. And I was pretty bad for rambling on and on even before the pandemic restrictions…

Anyhoo, I’m finally getting caught up on everything that got pushed to the wings when I was working the full-time day job and trying to write full-time on top of that.

I finally found enough time to squeeze some reading in: Beautiful Darkness by Jay Wilburn (which I read in order to review on Madness Heart Press) and so that may be posting sometime soon (at that website’s/publisher’s discretion, of course).

And manage my social media on top of all of that. But now I have plenty of time to waste! Well, not really, as I seem to be even busier than before the day job. 

When I’m not wasting time pining over homes for sale on Old House Dreams and Circa Homes, I am spending more time than I should on Goodreads. I love that site almost more than reading everybody’s blogs. If I didn’t set a timer, I could spend hours there reading reviews and checking out new books…

But, I got my middle grade horror/suspense manuscript back from the editor (Lady Knight Editing: https://ladyknightediting.com/) and so it’s back to the grind on the next round of edits and rewrites. Hopefully (ha ha :-p) I’ll be done in time for #PitMad.

So, I’ll have to start minding my “Ps & Qs” on my blog, and work on my blog’s tone so that it can also appeal to a younger audience. But maybe by then, I’ll be able to get a custom website to go with the book’s release. 

And it’s time to go shopping, pandemic-style, soon. And who doesn’t want a kitty-cat mask to wear out and about?

Other than that, I’ve been re-watching Psych, and I just love Dulé Hill for the class and polish (well, mostly!) he brings to counteract James Roday’s goofball character.

And, that’s it. That’s enough rambling. Gotta go order supplies for my spoiled, fat, ex-feral kitties. And get back to writing and editing and snacking in-between!