missroserose: (Inspire)
Anyone who's seriously tried to do creative work will tell you that it's difficult. (Most people who haven't, conversely, will think it's got to be pretty easy - you're just sitting around making things up, right? But I suspect that has a lot to do with our culture's devaluation of creativity, and frankly it's a discussion for another day.) It's difficult and demanding in a different way from standard, do-a-job-and-draw-a-paycheque work. The generative process doesn't conform to a schedule, it's not a case of "I can play with clay for five hours and have three sculptures ready for firing at the end of it". Sometimes you spend days (or weeks, or months) gestating a project, working hard to make it grow, only to discover that it's missing something vital and is essentially stillborn. And sometimes (all too rarely, but sometimes) you'll be doing your everyday activities, walking to the post office or whistling in the shower or about to drift off to sleep, and the tumblers will suddenly align in the back of your head and the key will turn and then OH MY GOD INSPIRATION I HAVE TO MUMBLE THIS SEMI-COHERENTLY INTO MY PHONE BEFORE IT'S GONE. (I suspect the bedmates of creative people must be some of the most patient people in the world. Also, I may need to invest in a waterproof phone case.)

In my case, last night that very thing happened and I suddenly had the answer to a question I'd been pondering, on and off, for more than a month. What makes it especially interesting (and gives rise to the "tumblers" metaphor, above) is how many layers such inspiration can have. The question ("What are you going to call your writing blog?") wasn't particularly important on the surface, but now that I have the answer, it's given shape to a number of questions and ideas I had that were previously far more formless. Some of this is almost certainly the power of naming to shape ideas, but some of it is, I think, the bottom-to-top nature of this kind of inspiration - it works itself out in your unconscious, slowly winding itself together through your subconscious until suddenly it pops out of the soil into your conscious brain, and you have an entire network of roots to plumb. (Pardon my mixed metaphors. It's not like I'm a writer or anything. :P)

On a more personal note (if also related to the wonderful way inspiration tends to send its roots into everything), I finally finished the short story that was supposed to be a day-or-two distraction and ended up taking two weeks and turning into a novelette before it was done. I'm actually pretty pleased with it, too. It needs some polishing, but with a bit of work - and copyediting, and a cover, because if I'm doing the self-publishing route, I'll be damned if it's not going to be professional - I think it will be saleable. And given that it's the first thing I've written all the way through with the active intention of putting it up for sale, that's a pretty positive outcome. Fingers crossed it doesn't turn out that I'm completely wrong and my beta readers (note to self: acquire some beta readers) send it back with a giant "HAHAHAHAA" scrawled on the first page. Metaphorically.

Funny moment: after finishing the story, and giving it a once-over, my first thought was - I shit you not - "Okay, time to head over to GoodReads and mark that as 'read'." I'm...honestly not sure if that's a good sign, or a bad sign, or just an indication of precisely how much time I've spent on GoodReads in the past year (reading and rating 109 stories in a year will instill certain habits, I suppose), but it made me laugh.
missroserose: (Partnership)
I have a date set for my audition for Berklee. December 15, in Los Angeles - apparently applying early got me a spot on their audition tour. I'm a little surprised, as I'd put down Boston as my preferred audition spot and Los Angeles as second - they said on their website they prefer as many folks as possible to audition at the actual school, and I figured hey, it'd be an excuse to go back. But I'm not complaining; LA is a bit easier to get to from here. About the same travel time, but no TSA hassles, and better food options.

After only a moderate amount of freaking out, I got the number of a woman who does voice lessons here in town, called her up and explained what was up. She seemed interested, and said she'd be happy to help me prepare. Hopefully her instruction style will be something I mesh well with; if not, though, I'll just do my best to get anything I can out of it. It's only for seven weeks. (Ulp. Seven weeks.)

The surprising part, however, came this evening. I'd emailed the admissions office with a question about transcripts, and hadn't heard back in a few days. I had meant to give them a call tomorrow with my question, but late this afternoon I got a call from a young man (probably a student employee) who introduced himself as a student at Berklee who was calling because I'd applied and wanted to see if I had any questions. And (surprisingly, at least from my experiences with college administration) he actually knew the answers, including whom I should send my transcripts to and in what format, and some specifics on the audition process. I was impressed - that level of organization, proactivity and student-friendliness is completely at odds with my previous experiences with institutions of higher learning, which had been much more along the lines of Kevin Pease's eternal "You are the inventory" quote. Maybe that's the difference between going to a $5,000/semester school and a $25,000/semester school? Fingers crossed it's a representative sample, anyway. It's certainly bumped my opinion of them up a few notches.

And good news - one of the things my Friendly Student Employee was able to clarify was that there are additional tuition scholarships available aside from the Presidential, ranging from a few thousand dollars to a full-ride; better yet, those are completely merit-based, whereas the Presidentials are both merit-and need-based. So my chances are at least a little bit better than 7 in 4,000.

Onward and upward...
missroserose: (Partnership)
I have a date set for my audition for Berklee. December 15, in Los Angeles - apparently applying early got me a spot on their audition tour. I'm a little surprised, as I'd put down Boston as my preferred audition spot and Los Angeles as second - they said on their website they prefer as many folks as possible to audition at the actual school, and I figured hey, it'd be an excuse to go back. But I'm not complaining; LA is a bit easier to get to from here. About the same travel time, but no TSA hassles, and better food options.

After only a moderate amount of freaking out, I got the number of a woman who does voice lessons here in town, called her up and explained what was up. She seemed interested, and said she'd be happy to help me prepare. Hopefully her instruction style will be something I mesh well with; if not, though, I'll just do my best to get anything I can out of it. It's only for seven weeks. (Ulp. Seven weeks.)

The surprising part, however, came this evening. I'd emailed the admissions office with a question about transcripts, and hadn't heard back in a few days. I had meant to give them a call tomorrow with my question, but late this afternoon I got a call from a young man (probably a student employee) who introduced himself as a student at Berklee who was calling because I'd applied and wanted to see if I had any questions. And (surprisingly, at least from my experiences with college administration) he actually knew the answers, including whom I should send my transcripts to and in what format, and some specifics on the audition process. I was impressed - that level of organization, proactivity and student-friendliness is completely at odds with my previous experiences with institutions of higher learning, which had been much more along the lines of Kevin Pease's eternal "You are the inventory" quote. Maybe that's the difference between going to a $5,000/semester school and a $25,000/semester school? Fingers crossed it's a representative sample, anyway. It's certainly bumped my opinion of them up a few notches.

And good news - one of the things my Friendly Student Employee was able to clarify was that there are additional tuition scholarships available aside from the Presidential, ranging from a few thousand dollars to a full-ride; better yet, those are completely merit-based, whereas the Presidentials are both merit-and need-based. So my chances are at least a little bit better than 7 in 4,000.

Onward and upward...
missroserose: (Book Love)
Like much of rural Arizona (i.e. places that are Not Phoenix), Bisbee's a pretty low-income area. The median household income here is just under $28K, or only a little over half the national average. Brian's and my household income took a huge hit when we moved here thanks to my un/underemployment, but we're still firmly in the top 25% of earners here. Additionally, there's little infrastructure or aid to be had from either local or state government; they'd all planned their budgets around the obscene property taxes they were collecting during the housing bubble, and are therefore still reeling from the sudden evaporation of that anticipated money. (Visiting Alaska made the contrast especially stark; they're both "frontier" states with some definite similarities in attitude, but Alaska has a well-funded and relatively well-managed government that actively works to build infrastructure and has numerous programs to help its rural areas. Arizona has far less cash coming in, and what does come in through taxes or grants from the Feds is almost exclusively kept within Maricopa County, a point of some resentment for the rest of the state.)

I'm not writing about this to complain; one of the things that I really love about this place is that, even without a lot of ready cash, people here do their best to pull together and make a community anyway. Lots of potluck dinners, lots of live music, lots of inexpensive classes for yoga or dance or art of all sorts. But there are absolutely some downsides, especially if you're a kid - geographic isolation, very few things to do, very little money for new programs - they can only afford to keep the schools open four days a week.

That's why I'm posting a link to this fundraiser for the Community Montessori School here in town. This is grassroots work at its finest - a bunch of people getting together and saying "This situation sucks. What can we do to change it?" and then actually working to change it. I know many of them personally, and have helped with the renovation work on on the house they're renovating - it's a beautiful building and is going to be a fabulous school. Additionally, Emily Munoff, the proposed director, is both eminently qualified and one of the sweetest and kindest people I know. They've been working on this project for four years, and they're getting very close to opening; hopefully this fundraiser will help put them over the edge.

One would hope that this goes without saying, but I'm not posting this with an inherent expectation of contributions from anybody, nor am I going to think less of anyone for passing on the opportunity. I don't think anyone in my LiveJournal friendslist lives in this area, so none of you have particularly close ties to what happens with the community here, and we all know how many worthy causes there are for any spare cash you might feel like donating. But I wanted to post it anyway, because it gives me heart to see people actively working to change a crappy situation, and perhaps to inspire others to do the same. They did it...maybe you can too.
missroserose: (Book Love)
Like much of rural Arizona (i.e. places that are Not Phoenix), Bisbee's a pretty low-income area. The median household income here is just under $28K, or only a little over half the national average. Brian's and my household income took a huge hit when we moved here thanks to my un/underemployment, but we're still firmly in the top 25% of earners here. Additionally, there's little infrastructure or aid to be had from either local or state government; they'd all planned their budgets around the obscene property taxes they were collecting during the housing bubble, and are therefore still reeling from the sudden evaporation of that anticipated money. (Visiting Alaska made the contrast especially stark; they're both "frontier" states with some definite similarities in attitude, but Alaska has a well-funded and relatively well-managed government that actively works to build infrastructure and has numerous programs to help its rural areas. Arizona has far less cash coming in, and what does come in through taxes or grants from the Feds is almost exclusively kept within Maricopa County, a point of some resentment for the rest of the state.)

I'm not writing about this to complain; one of the things that I really love about this place is that, even without a lot of ready cash, people here do their best to pull together and make a community anyway. Lots of potluck dinners, lots of live music, lots of inexpensive classes for yoga or dance or art of all sorts. But there are absolutely some downsides, especially if you're a kid - geographic isolation, very few things to do, very little money for new programs - they can only afford to keep the schools open four days a week.

That's why I'm posting a link to this fundraiser for the Community Montessori School here in town. This is grassroots work at its finest - a bunch of people getting together and saying "This situation sucks. What can we do to change it?" and then actually working to change it. I know many of them personally, and have helped with the renovation work on on the house they're renovating - it's a beautiful building and is going to be a fabulous school. Additionally, Emily Munoff, the proposed director, is both eminently qualified and one of the sweetest and kindest people I know. They've been working on this project for four years, and they're getting very close to opening; hopefully this fundraiser will help put them over the edge.

One would hope that this goes without saying, but I'm not posting this with an inherent expectation of contributions from anybody, nor am I going to think less of anyone for passing on the opportunity. I don't think anyone in my LiveJournal friendslist lives in this area, so none of you have particularly close ties to what happens with the community here, and we all know how many worthy causes there are for any spare cash you might feel like donating. But I wanted to post it anyway, because it gives me heart to see people actively working to change a crappy situation, and perhaps to inspire others to do the same. They did it...maybe you can too.
missroserose: (Show Your Magic)
Let's have a little thought experiment.

Let's say that you, as a normal person, come across a blog post on the Internet. Not from anyone you know - perhaps a friend of a friend, or something that's been spread around a few social networks. In the blog post, someone who finds themselves in a really awful situation financially is asking for help, and perhaps offering whatever small thanks they can in return for donations.

Now, you consider yourself to be a compassionate, generous person (whether you are or not doesn't matter - we're all subject to the Lake Wobegon Effect, where we all think that we're better than average when it comes to desirable traits). But for whatever reason, you decide that this post, heartbreaking as it is, isn't something you feel inspired to donate to. Perhaps you're still paying off your Christmas spending. Perhaps you're saving for a vacation. Perhaps something about the person's story seems bogus to you. Perhaps you (likely subconsciously) figure you don't know this person and therefore aren't likely to get much in return from helping them. Perhaps things are just financially tight and you don't feel like you're in a place to hand out money. Perhaps you're afraid that if you give money to this person, you'll have to give the same amount to the next plea for help, and so on, and there won't be any left for you. Any number of reasons, many of which are perfectly valid. It's your money, after all.

The problem is, we're all socially conditioned (to an extent) to want to be generous and compassionate. Partly so that other people will think well of us, and partly because it's how we want to think of ourselves. So when you don't wish to contribute, which your conscience tells you is greedy (because really, how many of us first-worlders honestly can't spare $10 to help that mother in need?), you put yourself in an uncomfortable situation, mentally. Your self-perception is clashing with your actions. In psychological terms, you're experiencing cognitive dissonance.

There are several ways to deal with this uncomfortable state of affairs. You can:

[a] Donate anyway, thus quieting the worry that you're not as generous as you think you are
[b] Abandon the ideas of generosity and compassion as virtues you aspire to
[c] Find reasons why the author of the blog post isn't really in need, thus proving that it's not you who is greedy, it's the person asking for handouts

Obviously, none of these options are ideal. If you go with [a], you'll feel like you've been manipulated into giving away money despite your better judgment, which doesn't make anyone happy. if you choose [b], you end up like the Randian libertarians, proudly claiming that anyone who struggles financially must be there because of their own choices and has no one to blame but themselves, despite that being patently untrue.*

Ergo, [c] is by far the easiest option, and therefore the one most people take. Because if that's what you're looking for, it's never difficult to look at someone's story and find reasons why they aren't really deserving of help. Maybe they made some poor financial decisions. Perhaps something about their story doesn't add up, and therefore they're probably a scammer and you'd just be throwing away your money anyway. They're probably just like that couple you read about the other day, living in a million-dollar mansion and collecting welfare.** And even if they are genuine, why can't they go to a charity/get public assistance/etc. etc.?

Obviously there are significant flaws in this line of reasoning. No one is perfect; no one is going to always make the best decision 100% of the time. Sometimes a decision ends up being a poor one in retrospect, sometimes we make an objectively poor decision because we value something about it more than the society at large says we should. There's no such thing as the poor person who's done everything right, just as there's no such thing as the rich person who's there because they did everything right (Randians, take note of #6 on this list). Outside influences and just plain luck both play a huge role in people's life circumstances, far greater than we pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps-conditioned Americans like to believe. But we tell ourselves (and each other) that these things must be true, despite knowing nothing about the specifics of a person's situation or being in any place whatsoever to judge them, because that makes us feel better about ourselves (and each other). And since we weren't going to donate anyway, what's the harm?

To answer that question, let's try another thought experiment.

Let's say that, through a combination of bad luck and poor decisions, you've ended up scraping together pennies from between the couch cushions to make certain you've enough to eat. You're sure (or praying, anyway) that this is a temporary poverty, that you'll be able to climb back up that mountain of unpaid bills and get back to your usual middle-class life, because you certainly aren't poor. But a boost to get you through this spot could make the difference between making it up that mountain and getting buried beneath it. Perhaps you don't qualify for assistance, or perhaps you simply can't get past the "only poor people need public assistance, and I'm not really poor" mental roadblock. For whatever reason, you're desperate enough to put up a blog post asking for help.***

Lots of people read it. Some of them pass it around on their social networks. Some people send you some money, money that might help you have electricity and water next month. Lots of people don't, for any of the above (and, again, perfectly valid) reasons. Some of those people who don't donate nonetheless post encouraging messages, offering other means of help or even just moral support.

And then, as the link gets passed around, and people further from your immediate social network read it, you start to get the negativity. People who've never been part of your life before going on about how you should have done this, or shouldn't have done that, despite having no idea what situation you might've been in when you made those decisions. You know that you should just ignore them, these people are talking out of their ass, but nonetheless they're powerful enough to wipe out all the good feeling generated by the previous encouraging posts - people are simply wired to respond more strongly to negative feedback than positive. Even if your decisions are worthy of questioning, chances are you've already gone over and over them in your mind as things got worse for you, so other people pointing out your mistakes is only going to increase the endless self-questioning and adrenaline and fear that's part of being in desperate financial straits.

Look, everyone. It's easy to be an all-singing, all-dancing, all-knowing jerk. It's easy to assume that the people asking for your help wouldn't actually need it if they just worked a little harder. It's easy to think that the people begging for money on the street are all drunkards who'd just spend your spare $5 on booze instead of food. It's easy to write a self-righteous comment about how they should've just done xyz and everything would be better. It's easy, and it leaves your self-image intact, and it makes you feel virtuous. But all of that comes at the expense of the person with the the least to give - i.e. the person in need.

Thing is, I'm not saying we should all donate every time someone asks us to. There are so many worthy causes, so many people in need, that even if we wanted to we wouldn't be able to give to all of them. And we're human, too - just as the person asking for help might have made a poor financial decision that contributed to their current state, we might look at their post and think "I'd like to help, but I'd really rather buy that professional-quality hair straightener I've had my eye on"****. It's our money, and ultimately no one gets to decide how we spend it but us.

So here's what I propose for option [d], which is a little harder than option [c], but ultimately makes everyone happier: Stop judging yourself.

You might think the answer is "stop judging others", but if you look at the chain of logic outlined above, you'll see that judging others lies inherently in self-judgment. You judge yourself as greedy for wanting a hair straightener (or whatever) more than you want to help someone, so you turn around and judge the person asking to alleviate that. But instead of making yourself feel better at their expense, you can do something that's a little bit harder, but that makes everyone happier: Stop judging yourself.

And when you do, you'll realize there are lots of ways you can contribute to making someone in a dire situation feel better that don't cost a cent.

Instead of assuming the homeless man with the sign is a drunk and hurrying past him, smile and make eye contact.*****

Instead of writing comments claiming the mother with medical bills should take her kid out of private school and then everything will be hunky dory in her world, write something encouraging to her. Or spread the link around.

Instead of judging yourself, accept that you're human, and won't always do what you imagine to be the "right" thing. Find other ways to contribute, like writing a blog post persuading others to choose a mindset based in hope and abundance rather than fear and scarcity.

Virtue isn't a zero-sum game. No one's going to think less of you for not donating to a particular person or cause.****** But a smile or a kind word costs nothing, helps a person in a bad place feel like the world isn't completely out to get them, and makes everyone who sees you feel better besides.

It's difficult enough for someone to ask for help when they need it. Let's make it an occasion for hope, not despair.

----

*Judging by my admittedly unscientific surveys of various message boards, this mode of thinking has seen a huge surge in popularity over the past few years. I have a theory that this likely stems from the sudden impoverishment of a large section of the American populace and therefore rise in neediness over the past few years, which has thus inspired guilt in many people who haven't lost their jobs and/or aren't struggling financially. It's sad that so many people have gone with that option, but at least a little hopeful because it means they were feeling guilty in the first place, which means generosity as a virtue hasn't fallen completely out of fashion.

**Which is likely a misleading story in and of itself - what if that couple lost all their money in the economic crash and are underwater on their loan so they can't sell the house and under loads of debt? Would you really begrudge them a few hundred dollars a month so they and their children could eat?

***And if you think you'd never be that desperate, I can only congratulate you on your self-reliance and hope that you're never in a position to find out otherwise.

****Guilty, yes I am.

*****You'd be surprised how many of them will smile in return, even when you're not giving them money. When you're at that social level, just having your existence acknowledged is a gift.

******And if they do, it's more a reflection on their own self-judgment than on you.
missroserose: (Show Your Magic)
Let's have a little thought experiment.

Let's say that you, as a normal person, come across a blog post on the Internet. Not from anyone you know - perhaps a friend of a friend, or something that's been spread around a few social networks. In the blog post, someone who finds themselves in a really awful situation financially is asking for help, and perhaps offering whatever small thanks they can in return for donations.

Now, you consider yourself to be a compassionate, generous person (whether you are or not doesn't matter - we're all subject to the Lake Wobegon Effect, where we all think that we're better than average when it comes to desirable traits). But for whatever reason, you decide that this post, heartbreaking as it is, isn't something you feel inspired to donate to. Perhaps you're still paying off your Christmas spending. Perhaps you're saving for a vacation. Perhaps something about the person's story seems bogus to you. Perhaps you (likely subconsciously) figure you don't know this person and therefore aren't likely to get much in return from helping them. Perhaps things are just financially tight and you don't feel like you're in a place to hand out money. Perhaps you're afraid that if you give money to this person, you'll have to give the same amount to the next plea for help, and so on, and there won't be any left for you. Any number of reasons, many of which are perfectly valid. It's your money, after all.

The problem is, we're all socially conditioned (to an extent) to want to be generous and compassionate. Partly so that other people will think well of us, and partly because it's how we want to think of ourselves. So when you don't wish to contribute, which your conscience tells you is greedy (because really, how many of us first-worlders honestly can't spare $10 to help that mother in need?), you put yourself in an uncomfortable situation, mentally. Your self-perception is clashing with your actions. In psychological terms, you're experiencing cognitive dissonance.

There are several ways to deal with this uncomfortable state of affairs. You can:

[a] Donate anyway, thus quieting the worry that you're not as generous as you think you are
[b] Abandon the ideas of generosity and compassion as virtues you aspire to
[c] Find reasons why the author of the blog post isn't really in need, thus proving that it's not you who is greedy, it's the person asking for handouts

Obviously, none of these options are ideal. If you go with [a], you'll feel like you've been manipulated into giving away money despite your better judgment, which doesn't make anyone happy. if you choose [b], you end up like the Randian libertarians, proudly claiming that anyone who struggles financially must be there because of their own choices and has no one to blame but themselves, despite that being patently untrue.*

Ergo, [c] is by far the easiest option, and therefore the one most people take. Because if that's what you're looking for, it's never difficult to look at someone's story and find reasons why they aren't really deserving of help. Maybe they made some poor financial decisions. Perhaps something about their story doesn't add up, and therefore they're probably a scammer and you'd just be throwing away your money anyway. They're probably just like that couple you read about the other day, living in a million-dollar mansion and collecting welfare.** And even if they are genuine, why can't they go to a charity/get public assistance/etc. etc.?

Obviously there are significant flaws in this line of reasoning. No one is perfect; no one is going to always make the best decision 100% of the time. Sometimes a decision ends up being a poor one in retrospect, sometimes we make an objectively poor decision because we value something about it more than the society at large says we should. There's no such thing as the poor person who's done everything right, just as there's no such thing as the rich person who's there because they did everything right (Randians, take note of #6 on this list). Outside influences and just plain luck both play a huge role in people's life circumstances, far greater than we pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps-conditioned Americans like to believe. But we tell ourselves (and each other) that these things must be true, despite knowing nothing about the specifics of a person's situation or being in any place whatsoever to judge them, because that makes us feel better about ourselves (and each other). And since we weren't going to donate anyway, what's the harm?

To answer that question, let's try another thought experiment.

Let's say that, through a combination of bad luck and poor decisions, you've ended up scraping together pennies from between the couch cushions to make certain you've enough to eat. You're sure (or praying, anyway) that this is a temporary poverty, that you'll be able to climb back up that mountain of unpaid bills and get back to your usual middle-class life, because you certainly aren't poor. But a boost to get you through this spot could make the difference between making it up that mountain and getting buried beneath it. Perhaps you don't qualify for assistance, or perhaps you simply can't get past the "only poor people need public assistance, and I'm not really poor" mental roadblock. For whatever reason, you're desperate enough to put up a blog post asking for help.***

Lots of people read it. Some of them pass it around on their social networks. Some people send you some money, money that might help you have electricity and water next month. Lots of people don't, for any of the above (and, again, perfectly valid) reasons. Some of those people who don't donate nonetheless post encouraging messages, offering other means of help or even just moral support.

And then, as the link gets passed around, and people further from your immediate social network read it, you start to get the negativity. People who've never been part of your life before going on about how you should have done this, or shouldn't have done that, despite having no idea what situation you might've been in when you made those decisions. You know that you should just ignore them, these people are talking out of their ass, but nonetheless they're powerful enough to wipe out all the good feeling generated by the previous encouraging posts - people are simply wired to respond more strongly to negative feedback than positive. Even if your decisions are worthy of questioning, chances are you've already gone over and over them in your mind as things got worse for you, so other people pointing out your mistakes is only going to increase the endless self-questioning and adrenaline and fear that's part of being in desperate financial straits.

Look, everyone. It's easy to be an all-singing, all-dancing, all-knowing jerk. It's easy to assume that the people asking for your help wouldn't actually need it if they just worked a little harder. It's easy to think that the people begging for money on the street are all drunkards who'd just spend your spare $5 on booze instead of food. It's easy to write a self-righteous comment about how they should've just done xyz and everything would be better. It's easy, and it leaves your self-image intact, and it makes you feel virtuous. But all of that comes at the expense of the person with the the least to give - i.e. the person in need.

Thing is, I'm not saying we should all donate every time someone asks us to. There are so many worthy causes, so many people in need, that even if we wanted to we wouldn't be able to give to all of them. And we're human, too - just as the person asking for help might have made a poor financial decision that contributed to their current state, we might look at their post and think "I'd like to help, but I'd really rather buy that professional-quality hair straightener I've had my eye on"****. It's our money, and ultimately no one gets to decide how we spend it but us.

So here's what I propose for option [d], which is a little harder than option [c], but ultimately makes everyone happier: Stop judging yourself.

You might think the answer is "stop judging others", but if you look at the chain of logic outlined above, you'll see that judging others lies inherently in self-judgment. You judge yourself as greedy for wanting a hair straightener (or whatever) more than you want to help someone, so you turn around and judge the person asking to alleviate that. But instead of making yourself feel better at their expense, you can do something that's a little bit harder, but that makes everyone happier: Stop judging yourself.

And when you do, you'll realize there are lots of ways you can contribute to making someone in a dire situation feel better that don't cost a cent.

Instead of assuming the homeless man with the sign is a drunk and hurrying past him, smile and make eye contact.*****

Instead of writing comments claiming the mother with medical bills should take her kid out of private school and then everything will be hunky dory in her world, write something encouraging to her. Or spread the link around.

Instead of judging yourself, accept that you're human, and won't always do what you imagine to be the "right" thing. Find other ways to contribute, like writing a blog post persuading others to choose a mindset based in hope and abundance rather than fear and scarcity.

Virtue isn't a zero-sum game. No one's going to think less of you for not donating to a particular person or cause.****** But a smile or a kind word costs nothing, helps a person in a bad place feel like the world isn't completely out to get them, and makes everyone who sees you feel better besides.

It's difficult enough for someone to ask for help when they need it. Let's make it an occasion for hope, not despair.

----

*Judging by my admittedly unscientific surveys of various message boards, this mode of thinking has seen a huge surge in popularity over the past few years. I have a theory that this likely stems from the sudden impoverishment of a large section of the American populace and therefore rise in neediness over the past few years, which has thus inspired guilt in many people who haven't lost their jobs and/or aren't struggling financially. It's sad that so many people have gone with that option, but at least a little hopeful because it means they were feeling guilty in the first place, which means generosity as a virtue hasn't fallen completely out of fashion.

**Which is likely a misleading story in and of itself - what if that couple lost all their money in the economic crash and are underwater on their loan so they can't sell the house and under loads of debt? Would you really begrudge them a few hundred dollars a month so they and their children could eat?

***And if you think you'd never be that desperate, I can only congratulate you on your self-reliance and hope that you're never in a position to find out otherwise.

****Guilty, yes I am.

*****You'd be surprised how many of them will smile in return, even when you're not giving them money. When you're at that social level, just having your existence acknowledged is a gift.

******And if they do, it's more a reflection on their own self-judgment than on you.
missroserose: (After the Storm)
Finally headed home. On the one hand, I know it's been a while since I stepped off the plane last - if nothing else, the trees have gone from just slight patches of yellow to completely yellow and half-bare. But on the other, it's really hard to believe it's been a whole month, even though I've accomplished a lot in that period. My mother's new place looks fantastic.

Brian came up for the last week, and we had a lovely time. In some ways it felt like a second honeymoon - he wasn't all stressed about work, and since we were staying with my mother finances weren't a big issue, so we were able to just relax and help her with her housewarming party and things. I think a lot of folks don't even realize how stressed out they get day-to-day until they're suddenly in a situation where nobody's putting any demands on them. I know it was true for me, and I'm glad Brian got to experience some of it too.

I didn't get anywhere near as much writing done as I was hoping, and indeed there was one point where I was ready to give up on the idea altogether. Fortunately I seem to be biologically incapable of maintaining a depressive state for longer than a few days, and while I'm still nowhere near 100% sure I'm going to get anywhere with this, the way forward seems...clearer, I suppose.

Apropos of nothing at all? I'm so doing "Bat Out of Hell" next time I'm at karaoke. You all may consider yourselves invited/warned.

And we're boarding. Overnight in Seattle, then to Tucson and driving home to Bisbee. I've missed our friends and the kitties like crazy lately...
missroserose: (After the Storm)
Finally headed home. On the one hand, I know it's been a while since I stepped off the plane last - if nothing else, the trees have gone from just slight patches of yellow to completely yellow and half-bare. But on the other, it's really hard to believe it's been a whole month, even though I've accomplished a lot in that period. My mother's new place looks fantastic.

Brian came up for the last week, and we had a lovely time. In some ways it felt like a second honeymoon - he wasn't all stressed about work, and since we were staying with my mother finances weren't a big issue, so we were able to just relax and help her with her housewarming party and things. I think a lot of folks don't even realize how stressed out they get day-to-day until they're suddenly in a situation where nobody's putting any demands on them. I know it was true for me, and I'm glad Brian got to experience some of it too.

I didn't get anywhere near as much writing done as I was hoping, and indeed there was one point where I was ready to give up on the idea altogether. Fortunately I seem to be biologically incapable of maintaining a depressive state for longer than a few days, and while I'm still nowhere near 100% sure I'm going to get anywhere with this, the way forward seems...clearer, I suppose.

Apropos of nothing at all? I'm so doing "Bat Out of Hell" next time I'm at karaoke. You all may consider yourselves invited/warned.

And we're boarding. Overnight in Seattle, then to Tucson and driving home to Bisbee. I've missed our friends and the kitties like crazy lately...

Baby steps

Jul. 31st, 2011 10:42 am
missroserose: (Show Your Magic)
It's a little odd. I've thought about writing fiction to submit for publication any number of times, and even started a piece a couple of times, though I've never actually made it. So you'd think that, when I finally get to the point of sending something in, I'd feel pleased and triumphant, instead of scared and vaguely ill.

Still. It's a step.

Baby steps

Jul. 31st, 2011 10:42 am
missroserose: (Show Your Magic)
It's a little odd. I've thought about writing fiction to submit for publication any number of times, and even started a piece a couple of times, though I've never actually made it. So you'd think that, when I finally get to the point of sending something in, I'd feel pleased and triumphant, instead of scared and vaguely ill.

Still. It's a step.
missroserose: (Show Your Magic)
So, yes, I decided at the last minute to participate in NaNoWriMo. I didn't really advertise it at first because I wasn't certain it was going to work and I didn't want to get my (and other people's) expectations up. But it was supposed to be the best solution to people with my problem of overthinking and perfectionism, and I've started about six different stories and not gotten anywhere past the beginning, so I decided to give it a go.

Surprisingly enough, it seems to be working. I just broke the 10,000 word mark, after months of only rarely getting any farther than 2,000. Admittedly, I technically broke the rules and gave myself a 3,000 word handicap - you're supposed to start with a brand new project, but I really wanted to see if I could figure out where this particular story was going, plus give myself a bit of time to ramp up to the daily 1,667 word mark. And it's really true - the combination of the positive feedback from the website (it's fun watching the little bar graph go up each day when you post your word count!) and the actual, real (if self-imposed) deadline does wonders for your output. Admittedly, it's not great output, but it's not all bad, either; and looking back over what I've written and going "Hey, some of this is actually pretty good" helps motivate me to keep slogging through the less-than-perfect bits.

I was amused that one of the first pieces of advice they give you is to tell everyone you know about your new novel project. Unsurprisingly, week 1 is generally buoyed by new-project excitement, and week 2 is where most people start to drag, so the best defense against slacking off in week 2 is the threat of personal humiliation. I'm hoping this doesn't end up being the case for me (especially since week 1 started out as kind of a slog, what with the getting used to shutting up my inner editor and all), but I figured that since we're on the cusp of week two I'd post about it anyway, if only to own up to my eventual failure.

Or, heck, maybe I'll succeed. Maybe I'll doubly succeed by finishing on time and going back and editing it into something workable. Maybe I'll even manage to get it published.

Wouldn't that be something?
missroserose: (Show Your Magic)
So, yes, I decided at the last minute to participate in NaNoWriMo. I didn't really advertise it at first because I wasn't certain it was going to work and I didn't want to get my (and other people's) expectations up. But it was supposed to be the best solution to people with my problem of overthinking and perfectionism, and I've started about six different stories and not gotten anywhere past the beginning, so I decided to give it a go.

Surprisingly enough, it seems to be working. I just broke the 10,000 word mark, after months of only rarely getting any farther than 2,000. Admittedly, I technically broke the rules and gave myself a 3,000 word handicap - you're supposed to start with a brand new project, but I really wanted to see if I could figure out where this particular story was going, plus give myself a bit of time to ramp up to the daily 1,667 word mark. And it's really true - the combination of the positive feedback from the website (it's fun watching the little bar graph go up each day when you post your word count!) and the actual, real (if self-imposed) deadline does wonders for your output. Admittedly, it's not great output, but it's not all bad, either; and looking back over what I've written and going "Hey, some of this is actually pretty good" helps motivate me to keep slogging through the less-than-perfect bits.

I was amused that one of the first pieces of advice they give you is to tell everyone you know about your new novel project. Unsurprisingly, week 1 is generally buoyed by new-project excitement, and week 2 is where most people start to drag, so the best defense against slacking off in week 2 is the threat of personal humiliation. I'm hoping this doesn't end up being the case for me (especially since week 1 started out as kind of a slog, what with the getting used to shutting up my inner editor and all), but I figured that since we're on the cusp of week two I'd post about it anyway, if only to own up to my eventual failure.

Or, heck, maybe I'll succeed. Maybe I'll doubly succeed by finishing on time and going back and editing it into something workable. Maybe I'll even manage to get it published.

Wouldn't that be something?
missroserose: (Life = Creation)
Just under 3000 words total. Less than I'd hoped for, but more than I've managed any other week. So I'll call it a promising start.

Admittedly, they're from two-and-a-half scenes that don't quite follow each other chronologically, but who says you have to write a novel chronologically? I figure if I focus on getting the important bits down, the rest will fall into place a bit more easily.

Also, I had a nice realization going through writer-advice websites here and there: I'm not quite as much of a raw beginner as I thought I was. Sure, I've got a long way to go before I've got a manuscript (and a hell of a long way to go before I've got anything saleable), but I've at least got the fundamentals down, and a pretty good sense of judgment as to what works story-wise and what doesn't. I guess the lifetime of voracious reading, seven years of blog-writing, and occasional fanfic/porn stories have helped more than I realized.

I also like to think that I have a slightly more realistic attitude towards the kind of work it'll take to get something saleable, and then, y'know, sell it. Part of the reason I've been so hesitant to start has been because I know that there's no angelic chorus descending from on high to declare me a Real Writer - if I want to get anywhere with this, I'm going to have to do the work myself. The real question, then, is going to be whether I actually follow through on said work, no matter how long it takes, or let this fall by the wayside.

I like to think I won't. But time will tell, really. At least now I've taken that first step.
missroserose: (Life = Creation)
Just under 3000 words total. Less than I'd hoped for, but more than I've managed any other week. So I'll call it a promising start.

Admittedly, they're from two-and-a-half scenes that don't quite follow each other chronologically, but who says you have to write a novel chronologically? I figure if I focus on getting the important bits down, the rest will fall into place a bit more easily.

Also, I had a nice realization going through writer-advice websites here and there: I'm not quite as much of a raw beginner as I thought I was. Sure, I've got a long way to go before I've got a manuscript (and a hell of a long way to go before I've got anything saleable), but I've at least got the fundamentals down, and a pretty good sense of judgment as to what works story-wise and what doesn't. I guess the lifetime of voracious reading, seven years of blog-writing, and occasional fanfic/porn stories have helped more than I realized.

I also like to think that I have a slightly more realistic attitude towards the kind of work it'll take to get something saleable, and then, y'know, sell it. Part of the reason I've been so hesitant to start has been because I know that there's no angelic chorus descending from on high to declare me a Real Writer - if I want to get anywhere with this, I'm going to have to do the work myself. The real question, then, is going to be whether I actually follow through on said work, no matter how long it takes, or let this fall by the wayside.

I like to think I won't. But time will tell, really. At least now I've taken that first step.
missroserose: (Default)
A new version of Nas' "Black President", with the "Yes we can" refrain changed to "Yes we did...change the world..."
...followed by The Cars' "Let the Good Times Roll". Possibly coincidental, although I doubt it.

For all that I'm cautious about expecting Obama to live up to his promise, it's hard not to get swept up in the excitement. Especially when I'm driving to work on approximately the fifth sunny day we've had since January, and it's a gorgeous sunrise.
missroserose: (Default)
A new version of Nas' "Black President", with the "Yes we can" refrain changed to "Yes we did...change the world..."
...followed by The Cars' "Let the Good Times Roll". Possibly coincidental, although I doubt it.

For all that I'm cautious about expecting Obama to live up to his promise, it's hard not to get swept up in the excitement. Especially when I'm driving to work on approximately the fifth sunny day we've had since January, and it's a gorgeous sunrise.
missroserose: (Default)
I do not envy President-elect Obama in the least; he's got a hell of a lot of work ahead of him, and a number of falls to take that he likely can't do anything about. But I'm very happy that he's won, and I sincerely hope he turns out to be even a fraction as different and special and wonderful as he promised during his campaign.

But if nothing else, he's intelligent, calm, measured, and rational, and that puts him miles ahead of most potential candidates. And charismatic. I won't have to instinctively wince every time someone turns on the television.

And for the first time in years, I finally have some hope for our country's future.
missroserose: (Default)
I do not envy President-elect Obama in the least; he's got a hell of a lot of work ahead of him, and a number of falls to take that he likely can't do anything about. But I'm very happy that he's won, and I sincerely hope he turns out to be even a fraction as different and special and wonderful as he promised during his campaign.

But if nothing else, he's intelligent, calm, measured, and rational, and that puts him miles ahead of most potential candidates. And charismatic. I won't have to instinctively wince every time someone turns on the television.

And for the first time in years, I finally have some hope for our country's future.
missroserose: (Default)
Not to sound like an Obamaton, but really, there's just not that much more to be said.

If you consider yourself an American, or even if you simply care about the subject of race and its unfortunate volatility in modern life, you need to see this speech.

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