Monday, August 18, 2014

Context. And, perspective…

I could have titled this entry a lot of different things. Why I Shouldn’t Be Allowed Online Alone or Alienating Writers, Readers, and the WORLD in 140 Characters or LESS! Both spring to mind. But in the end, it really is about context. And, how I handle it (or anything else) is really about perspective.

Earlier today, while I was sitting in my car waiting for one of my kids, I was messaging a friend on Twitter. We were talking about a lot of things, but one of the main topics (of this conversation and maaaaany others) was how neurotic and basically crazy I am. That ALL writers are. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t WRITE. Who would volunteer to have a bunch of characters stomping through their head all day and night, waking them from deep sleep or making them pull over on the side of the road to make notes? Poking our brains at two in the morning. “Did you put that notepad next to your bed? NO? That was foolish. Boot up the laptop. Might as well put some coffee on, because it’s going to be THAT night! You’re welcome! :D”  You’d have to be a little crazy to love that. And, I do. I think most writers do. And, not just writers. I’m that kind of reader too. I stay up late, skip meals, ignore phone calls just so I can READ. We don’t just want to enjoy the books we read, we want to LOVE THEM. We want to be absorbed, we want to laugh and cry and feel all the joy and wonder that comes from walking in some character’s shoes for a while. Readers are just like writers in that respect. We are wonderful, gloriously crazy creatures. We are obsessive. We are dedicated. And we are eccentric. We love what we love, we hate what hate—or, better! We sometimes love what we hate, too—and we love to tell the world about it.

SO, anyway… When my friend, a fellow author, was worried that she was coming off as crazy and obsessed with someone in the publishing world she was working with, I told her that her questions/concerns weren’t too crazy and that she should see some of the authors on the message boards because they’re… eccentric. Now, I’m paraphrasing because I have NO IDEA the exact wording. Why? Because I realized SECONDS later that I didn’t send that as a PM, noooooo. NO. That was public! Because I’m just that awesome. Now, if our entire conversation had been public—with or without my realizing it—I wouldn’t have worried a BIT. Everything we talked about was true, a little self-deprecating, a little funny to anyone who’s been there, and—here’s the important part—in context, it was all positive. She was stressed and I made a flippant joke to make her feel better.

Once I realized what I’d done, with my heart pounding so hard it vibrated my seat, I managed to delete the tweet. Despite my shaking hands and the bile rising in my throat.

Context is a big deal. HUGE. It’s a make-or-break thing. 140 characters might not seem like much, but with a little context—or lack thereof, in this case—they can be pretty damning.

But that leads me to perspective. As I was sitting in my car, wishing I had an emergency Xanax rolling around, I was talking to a different friend. She listened and gave all the appropriate “oh nooooo” responses. Then I clicked on a link about something in the news. (Aside: Just me or is the world particularly shitty lately?) Then perspective sank in. I’d messed up—publically, no less—in a pretty bad way, one that could come off as a little dickish. But… I’m not being shot at. I’m not being bombed. I’m not in danger because of my orientation or the color of my skin. My children are fed and healthy and safe. They’re not dead in a street, or a desert, or the trunk of someone’s car. When I look at my life, everything I have to be thankful for, everything I wish I could change about the world, all the hurt and pain... I’ve got it pretty good.

I may be the online version of a klutz who stumbles headlong into a wall while simultaneously flipping a bowl of boiling soup into someone’s crotch, but I’m doing pretty good otherwise. Sorry if you got splashed with my soup fumble, though.

…I guess that’s not the best example. Hot soup to the crotch doesn’t really improve with context.


So, I will forge ahead and stop sweating over every typo or, ya know, public-instead-of-private message, and keep trying to get it right with social media. God help me.

NOW, to keep this blog from becoming the place where I list my sins and mortifying moments, here’s a (very!) little teaser for something I’ve been picking at. I hope to finish it and post it this month.  I also hope you’ll be distracted enough by it not to realize what a blundering ass I am. Or at the very least, forgive me for being a blundering ass. >_<

The club was jumping, hot and loud—just the way Gavin liked it. He’d been dancing with one of his friends all night, hoping that Ben would take his invitation and meet him there. It was his eighteenth birthday after all, and Ben had been keeping him at arms-length for an entire year. Ever since they met. But tonight? Gavin was finally legal and he knew how he wanted to celebrate.

Friday, August 8, 2014

And bad mistakes, I've made a few...

My laptop! He is all better! Pro tip: Never leave your earbuds on your keyboard. Just sayin’.

Now for why I decided to update today. I hope you'll forgive me, because I can already tell this is going to be longwinded and probably boring. And will have little to do with writing or my characters because, well, I have no excuse. Sorry!

So, the camping trip was pretty much awesome. It started out VERY rocky, with a three-hour late start and then a search for a campsite because our favorites were either full or closed, but in the end, we found one! Of course, it took us over five hours in the car to find a beautiful campsite only an hour and a half from where we live, but, uh, there were Firefly quotes and good music, so that’s not so bad, right?

When it was all said and done, we had an amazing time. My kids cracked me up, my sister and I got to chat and just hang out, which is rare for us since we’re almost always running in the opposite direction. Most importantly, I got to really connect with my kids. We talked about everything and nothing. We laughed, we teased each other, we ate junk food, and we did it all without wondering what was going on away from our little campfire.

The older they get, the more important those kinds of days become. When they were little, it was easy to hold their attention and easy to get them to talk to me. Now, though, I have to compete with their friends, their dramas, their TV shows, their online life, their… worlds. And I know that’s how it’s supposed to be, but, damn it, I still want in there somewhere. Thankfully, when I try to collect them to me and hold on for a few days, they let me.

 My oldest daughter opened up to me about some online stuff she’s been dealing with. Nothing too bad and nothing directed at her, but it’s coming to a boiling point for her and her friends. We had a long talk about it and I gave her my advice on the topic. I basically told her to stay as far away from drama—online or off—as possible. I chose to share with her one of my worst moments, one that I’m not proud of and one that still makes me burn with regret and shame when I think about it. It was an online altercation, one that I started, one that degraded quickly into bullying and people—good people, friends of mine and friends of the other person’s—saying some truly awful things. Online. Where it sits forever. Where it can’t be taken back.

 I won’t go into it all here because, like I said, I’m still ashamed by own behavior, but I did tell her the whole story, a good bit of it through tears. I explained to her that when you hurt someone, even years later, the regret doesn’t go away. And, when it’s a stranger online, it’s almost worse than someone you know in real life because you sometimes can’t go back and apologize. I’ve thought about it, thought about looking the person up and trying to figure out how to get ahold of them now, but… Well, honestly, at this point I’d be afraid of opening up a painful memory for someone that they’d probably (hopefully) moved on from, all so I could what? Assuage my own guilt? My daughter and I are similar creatures. I know her quick, hot temper because it’s mine. I also know her kind heart and her goodness and her gentle soul, and I know that if she makes the same mistake I made, it will bother her for years to come. Just like me. For better or worse.

 I don’t know how that’s going to play out for her. I could’ve shared plenty of stories about how I was hurt by something someone said, times when I got the verbal thrashing that left me bawling. Maybe I should have. But I hope sharing my really awful experience—where I was the one on the very WRONG side—maybe it will mean more to her and maybe it will stick in her memory the next time she feels like saying something really ugly to someone else, something that may wound them deeply.

That was one of the most important conversations I’ve had with one of my kids in a long time. I sometimes feel like we share a lot of the awful things that have happened to us (not that I’m knocking that—I think that’s really important too) but we—or at least I—rarely talk about the seriously big mistakes I’ve made. It’s uncomfortable to tell anyone that I’ve done stuff I’m ashamed to admit. Hell, if I were comfortable talking about it, uh, I wouldn’t really be ashamed, right? But maybe it’s important to get that stuff out too. Maybe it’s important to own that you screwed up, own that you did something you wish you hadn’t, something that gnaws at you for years. In the end, we’re all flawed, we’re all… human.

Maybe that’s why I’m posting about it publically? Maybe I’m hoping that it will help someone. If you were the one who was picked on or made to feel bad by someone, you’ll know that maybe that person still feels bad about it. If you were the one who made the really bad choice and said the really hurtful things, well, you’re not alone. I’ve been on both sides of it and both sides suck and the only way to make it better is to just avoid it in the future. Were you a total asshole to someone? Apologize if you can, but if not, hey, try not to do that again. Did someone treat you like shit for really NO good reason? I’m really sorry that happened to you. I’ve done that to a couple people and I still feel bad for it.

Then, of course, there’s that third group of people who maybe just *are* assholes in general. The rest of us will be over here, eyeing them warily. >_>

Anyway, thanks for letting me ramble at you. I hope everyone out there is having a good day and that you're surrounded by people who make your day better.