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’.

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.

 

 

 

Spring…Building?:(Re)Constructing My Author Platform

So, I’m in the process of working out a social media plan as part of that necessary evil, the author platform!

Plus, I need to fine-tune it to get a handle on my online interactions as, thanks to Comcast and other internet service providers, and the state of New Mexico, I cannot get reliable internet access to run my business and my writing career.

Until I get a working plan and schedule in place, some of my blog reading (and other social media interactions)  will be pretty sporadic. But, once I weather through this process, I hope to be interacting a lot more online, and a lot more efficiently.

In addition to the above process, I’m working as hard as I can to find employment out of state (feel free to talk up the wonders of your home state!), and I hope to relocate sometime this summer. There’s tons of other motivating factors: I miss the ocean, I can’t find a decent-paying job here, etc. etc., blah blah blah, whine, whine. *laughs* But, again, the main reason is that I cannot get internet service at my house. Who knew that being without internet would make such an impact on things, but it has been very stressful lately.

It’s not helped by the fact that it’s like Mad Max out there in trying to commute to the place where I can get online for a couple of hours in the morning before the day job. (And I’m from Florida, where we all drive like jerks). But my goodness, I’ve nearly been run off the road by people passing me on the double yellow line, I’ve also nearly been run off the road by people coming the other direction. (Apparently it’s a thing where New Mexico drivers like to take up the whole road, regardless of whatever traffic happens to be coming the other way–other vehicles, commercial trucks, school buses, you get the idea, and they are all fair game to the typical New Mexico driver playing the game of chicken.)

And, for some reason, even when it’s just faintly twilight, New Mexico drivers cannot live with darkness. It’s not even dark and it’s all “OMG YOU’RE DRIVING WITH ONLY YOUR PARKING/SAFETY LIGHTS ON” (or whatever they’re called) and New Mexico drivers are suddenly concerned with driver safety to the extent that they will honk, flash lights, and slow down and gesture to you frantically out of the window (as they almost run themselves off the road) to get you to turn your full lights on.

And, speaking of lights, oh boy, are New Mexicans addicted to their high beams. I have some vision damage, and I don’t have any problems driving around with no brights on at night. But, my guess is it’s something to do with the fact that they are going 90 to 100 miles an hour down some tiny rural road (and, no, for once I am not exaggerating about the speeds here) and these drivers will not only not budge an inch as they take up the whole road for themselves, but will refuse to turn off their brights. And these drivers, boy, if they are behind you, they just love to tailgate you with those brights on. You almost wish they would pass you, even if it means they run you off one of New Mexico’s crumbling, pothole-ridden roads and into a tumbleweed the size of your car. The only time they slow down is when it rains, and, even if it’s just a tiny sprinkle, it’s like it’s an end-of-the-world deluge to these sun-dependent New Mexicans.

I’m actually quite terrified to drive anywhere in New Mexico these days, and I’ve driven across this country multiple times: Manhattan at rush hour, Atlanta, Connecticut with their aggressive commercial truck drivers, and Florida, of course, and I have a death grip on the wheel the entire time I’m commuting to my internet service location or to the day job.

No wonder why I write horror these days… *laughs*

Anyway, back to the point of this blog, feel free to share any author platform building tips, or even talk up the wonders of where you live, as I’m open to moving almost anywhere there’s a water source and job possibilities!

Happy almost Friday!