Odd online encounter yesterday.
Chatted with a stranger. Hellos exchanged, she asked me what I was doing all the way out in Oslo and how I planned on promoting my writing (mentioned in my profile)—these are easy segues into conversation for me, and I was flattered by the interest. Then, not even a minute into the chat, things got weird...
Ambiguous phrases, things about lines one shouldn’t cross, selling one’s soul, lonely people on the internet—it all seemed out of context (especially 40 seconds into a conversation). I thought maybe she was making some sweeping commentary on the internet culture, so I gave the benefit of the doubt and tried to follow along.
Then a suspicion scuttled up my neck, that she was accusing me of something.
“Please don’t do this.”
I looked around, to make sure I hadn’t somehow sat at someone else’s computer. I looked in the mirror, to make sure I hadn’t inadvertently metamorphosed into someone else when I wasn’t paying attention.
I said that, as far as I know, I had not sold my soul, and asked what it was she thought I was doing. But this went back and forth, going nowhere—the sort of conversation when someone accuses someone of something, but is angered further when asked what this is. Conversations like:
“There are some things you just don’t do.”
“You know perfectly well.”
“Let’s pretend, for a second that I don’t, and just say it.”
“Don’t deny it”
And so on.
Eventually, I was able to drag it out. Pasting the mess together in a semi-lucid order, it goes as follows:
1. My profile seemed predominately about my writing.
2. The only reason I had an online presence was to seduce lonely souls into buying my book.
3. I’d crossed a line that shouldn’t be crossed, sold my soul, become a literary whore.
4. Books should succeed on their own merit.
I was stunned...nay, let’s say flabbergasted (because I like that word). It was such naked hate and disdain for another person, dressed up as a plea: please don’t sell your soul, please don’t be a whore, please have some self-esteem.
Mind you, this doesn’t even classify high enough on the reason spectrum to be labeled a misinterpretation. There was no interpretation. This all occurred within two minutes of saying, “Hello.”
It seemed she was determined to have a dramatic confrontation with me...but she was the only one who received the script.
We can break these points down to their failing DNA, broken-helix strands (and I think I will), but let’s first take a moment to regard the most important fact:
I DO NOT HAVE A BOOK TO SELL.
I do have an upcoming novel that has been in drafts and on hiatus for the last 3+ years, but I have no links that lead a person to any place that involves spending money (let alone money that comes back to me).
But denying her accusations (and providing arguments about why they did not make sense) only infuriated her further and further convinced her of my guilt. Why would someone deny evil doings, if they’re not an evil doer?
No Proof is the Good Proof & Other Fallacies
So I said:
I DO NOT HAVE A BOOK TO SELL.
Hmmm, she pondered, and...aha! She pointed out that I had links to my Myspace and various blogs. To her Sherlockian credit, these facts are very true. They are so true, in point of fact, that they are true for the vast majority of the internet world. People on social sites tend to offer links or user names to other places that a person can interface with them (regardless of their occupation). Perhaps the internet is still an odd device to her and she assumes a link means it must lead to penis enlarging products. But, again, my links don’t lead to anything to sell....and how does that go again, kids?
I DO NOT HAVE A BOOK TO SELL.
But there was no arguing these points with her. I don’t have the transcript, but she typed something to the effect of:
“Honey, I’m X years your senior. You can’t pull one over on me.”
Alright. That certainly plays to the the theme of wisdom to the elders, and in this youth obsessed world, I often agree. But while years tend to build up wisdom in a person, that wisdom is relative, and the scales change from individual to individual.
In this case, let’s break down the logical fallacy she implies:
I am older than you, therefore, my accusations against you must be true.
So long as I make accusations against someone younger, they will be true.
Haven’t we all been in this situation...
“You’re a shape-shifting, reptilian alien come to feast on my adrenal gland.”
“Uh...no. I’m not.”
“Honey, I have seen sixteen more winters than you. I think I’m right.”
If all your years have done is make you comfortable in your judgment, to the point that you no longer question your assumptions (or even investigate them in a coherent manner), then they have not sharpened that judgment.
Some people think they are extra clever, shrewd, or insightful if they utter phrases like, "Yeah, right," or "Give me a break," a lot. It’s so easy to accuse and run...and then live under the assumption that your intuition is infallible (because reality has never had to test it).
Even if I had books to sell, and I mentioned them, how does that imply that it’s the sole reason I’m socializing on the net? Why can’t a person be there to socialize, but also just happen to be a writer by profession? Certainly it’s possible a stranger’s only interest is to sell you a book…but how would you know that off the bat? Shouldn’t you talk a bit and observe this person to gauge their character?
But there are those who don’t actually want to put in that effort. People are so desperate to believe they have strong intuition. Every. Single. Person. “Good judge of character” is one of the most common, self-proclaimed traits. It’s right up there with “open-minded” and “good sense of humor”.
Personally, I think it is very telling that she could not conceive of a scenario in which a stranger would want to talk to her without first having some nefarious purpose. But then...perhaps I just want to believe I have deep intuition and sharp eyes.
My Nefarious Purpose
And just why do I blog and lurk about the net?
I’ve written blogs (on LiveJournal, Myspace, etc.) for almost 8 years. It's a habit I enjoy. But what is the insidious original purpose of my blog? You'll have to go back to the first post to find out...
MY FIRST BLOG
There you have it. The start of grad school and what I had for lunch. Pretty sinister stuff.
And why else would I blog and twitter and such? Let us count the ways:
-keep in touch with loved ones far away and let them know what I’m up to (makes living on another continent easier)
-express some tough feelings when I’m far away (like when my GRANDPA DIED)
-occasionally flirt (I have no medical degree but am convinced flirtation keeps the heart palpitating)
-meet strangers for interesting conversations
-meet strangers to learn a joke I’ve never heard
-speak with other artists of other discplines (useful if you have interests in collaborative efforts like comic books and movies)
-experience view points from places I’ve never been
-get in touch with folks in new places I am going to (like Norway)
-advise and shop talk from other writers
This is just to name a few. And yes. I will mention things I’m working on, dammit. I’m proud of what successes and mistakes I can eek out from the long night of self-doubt. I’ll strut it a bit, when I can, and tell Mom and Dad to post it on the old refrigerator.
Greed Is Not the Dwarf of the Seven Deadlies Hiding Under My Bed
This lady barked at the wrong flashlight. Greed has never been my bag. I don’t mean to say my virtue is beyond reproach, but Greed implies a more practical mindset than I posses. Lust and Sloth always came easier to me and they are the ones I have to watch out for.
What does the Joker say?
“I’m just a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it.”
I caught one once and ended up in Oslo, and I’m still disoriented, tongue hanging out of my mouth.
No, if sales and fame were my prime motivator, I would not be writing fiction. I would be pumping out self-help guides and inventing religions for celebrities to follow. Perhaps, in my declining years, I will.
The Myth of the Sell-Out
I could stop there, but in her short rant, she implied that an author promoting their work was somehow an act of soulless prostitution. There exists a certain myth in the mass minds, even a subconscious predisposition to feel that an artist passing their hats around or making a living is somehow despicable, or at least, less than genuine to their art.
This is presumptuous bullshit.
It is a myth.
It doesn’t even make much sense and quickly dies under the light. Really this is a topic that belongs in its own blog post, but I feel it insults a number of friends and acquaintances of mine, who do share their wares, and who are not prostitutes and indeed have souls (great big bright ones full of swimming koi speaking enlightening riddles).
OK, break it down to brass tacks--this is how art/entertainment works: it does not fully exist until it has an audience to perceive it—it is the act of communication—the act of telling others about something and spreading it. THAT’S HOW IT WORKS! This is not an ambiguous concept.
What did she say?
“A book should succeed on its own merits.”
Sounds good...but that doesn’t actually happen until someone reads it. Did I just have to explain that? Really? A book of merit doesn’t magically appear on someone’s shelf.
I guess she must think that the highest virtue a writer can aspire to, is to write a book without telling anyone about it, then locking it away in a dark safe, and let it sit there and succeed on its own merit...and then lying about their occupation to others, or at least refusing to say.
"What do you do for a living?"
"Can't tell you...I don't want to be a soulless whore."
Does this smell at all like insanity?
And how come artists and entertainers exist in the only profession plagued by this myth and prejudice? No one else is ever made to feel bad for earning a living. If someone on Facebook mentions that they are a plumber in their profile, they don’t get told:
“Oh…so you’re just trying to get me to buy your plumbing expertise. You sell out! What happened to you? You sold your soul and your self-esteem to the machine. It used to be about the pipes, man! I bet you don’t even feel any passion when you pick up a plunger anymore. You dirty pipe-whore.”
Of course, if anyone is a plumber, and this has happened, tell me and I will share your pain. Cheers.
Do you know what horrible thing happens when an artist makes a living? They have more time to work on, explore, and hone their art.
All of this, of course, only has passing relevance to my particular encounter because, again:
I HAVE NO BOOK TO SELL.
The Big Fat Ending
I probably shouldn’t have acknowledged this bit of crazy with even this much typing...but it just stuck in my craw for some reason. Maybe it was because I was suffering a hangover yesterday and extra sensitive to bad vibes directed at me. That rouses the harsh-grinning, sardonic side of me to rise up and try and protect the little child within (who is now injured and crying on his blanky, thank you very much).
Rather than say anymore, I'll just sum up that strange, short encounter with this video:
Anything else to say?
Oh yeah...BUY MY BOOK.