#IWSG: Writing, work, and the highway to hell

Happy IWSG Day! For those who are new here, I participate in the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. This month’s optional question is: When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

First, sorry for missing September, y’all. Please don’t kick me out of the IWSG club. There’s a lot going on in my life right now (see my last few posts if you’re interested–but, spoiler alert, I’m moving), and I couldn’t get it together last month.

Now for this month’s question. I’ve noticed that a lot of us in the writing community get hung up on our identity as it relates to writing. So, pop quiz:

I am a writer if I:

  1. Am traditionally published
  2. Am self-published
  3. Blog
  4. Write for fun, but I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a rusty soup spoon than let anyone see what I write.
  5. All of the above

The correct answer is, 5. Here’s a more concise version of the pop quiz:

Do you write?

  1. Yes. Congratulations–you are a writer.
  2. No.

I spoke with a writer friend a couple of days ago. This woman’s poetry has won awards in our statewide literary contest, but she assured me that she is not a writer. She’s a finalist in this year’s contest. She’s working on a memoir. But she isn’t a writer. She just dabbles. I should have recommended she join the IWSG. Like the rest of us, she’s mastered the insecurity part as well as the writer part, even if she doesn’t know it.

So, fellow insecure writers, here’s your daily affirmation. Strike your favorite power pose and repeat after me:

I. Am. A. Writer.

One more time, with feeling:

I. Am. A. Writer.

C’mon, you in the back row with the sunglasses and backwards ball cap. This ain’t the back seat of the school bus. Get on your feet and shout!

I. Am. A. Writer.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the phrase, “working writer.” I’ll admit, that has a slightly different connotation to me. It includes the (other) dreaded W word, “work.” So, what does it mean to be a *working* writer?

Well, I dunno about you, but writing is definitely work for me. Dang hard word. Some of the hardest work I do. Even harder than packing up everything I own for my upcoming move.

But of course “work” has another meaning–the thing we do for money, our career. So which definition do we want to use? (Yes, I’m a writer–I love to play with words and their meanings.) I’ll give you my personal definition of a working writer, but I want to be very clear that it is just that: my personal definition. I am not the self-appointed gatekeeper of the writing world. My definition applies to me–and only me. You get to decide for yourself what being a working writer means to you.

So, here’s my definition:

A working writer is a writer who aspires to share their writing with others and is taking concrete steps toward that goal.

Notice: I didn’t say a word about getting paid. I didn’t say a word about getting published. I didn’t say a word about being “good.” And I for sure didn’t say a word about being self-supporting as a writer (my understanding is that most midlist published writers can’t make it without an additional source of income).

My definition implies a degree of “seriousness,” if you will. Some intent. A goal. A purpose beyond self-entertainment. And as you might guess, that ties in with my definition of, “work.” Something doesn’t magically become, “work,” just because it earns money, and something doesn’t magically become “not work” if it doesn’t earn money. Same for earning external recognition (e.g. getting published). Work, to me, means some kind of focused effort to create something for others as well as yourself. I’ll admit I haven’t carefully analyzed all possible implications of that definition, but it seems to match my view of work pretty well. Work as service, I suppose.

Work is a loaded word in US culture. We were founded in part by Puritans, who, as I understand it, seemed to divide everything into two categories: work (which was godly, had value, and demonstrated that you were one of the elect, predestined to go to heaven) and everything else (which was frivolous, ungodly, and likely to indicate you were buddying up with Bon Scott on the Highway to Hell).

Diversion alert! Play this video and crank it up. It may be frivolous and ungodly, but it’s worth it.

Official video for AC/DC’s Highway to Hell

Sadly, these ideas persist today. We are taught to value “work” above everything else and to sacrifice everything else for “work.” And “work” is usually defined as something we get paid to do and that is valuable primarily because someone will pay us to do it. If we enjoy it, and/or if we can’t assign a market value to it, it isn’t “work”–and therefore it’s frivolous and a waste of time and we might as well ask Bon Scott for a piggyback ride.

This idea is toxic. (Though if Bon Scott weren’t dead, I’d probably ask him for a piggyback ride, and he’d probably drop me, because he’d be drunk. But I digress.)

It’s toxic to the arts, certainly, and it’s also toxic to the human soul. It robs people of the ability to do something for the pure joy of it without feeling guilty–and that guilt pollutes the experience, so that it is no longer one of pure joy.

Diversion alert: I am now blasting Highway to Hell loud enough to rattle the walls of my spare bedroom. For the pure joy of it.

OK, back to work–literally and figuratively (but AC/DC is still blasting away, because who said work can’t be fun? Oh, yeah, the Puritans. But they’re dead, so screw them.) It’s hard to avoid value judgments when talking about work, and I know my definition includes an implicit value judgment straight out of the Puritan handbook: it mentions goals and doing something for others. Feel free to argue with that definition. You might convince me to change it. I am, after all, a product of the same Puritan-based culture I’m complaining about.

But I do think work involves some kind of effort that goes beyond the self, not because the self is bad, but because I believe we can find a higher purpose in getting outside of ourselves and touching the lives of others. And it takes effort to do that–in other words, work. See? I can’t escape the Puritans no matter how hard I try.

And, to bring our discussion back to writing, when we write for others, we have to dig deeper to make sure we are communicating what we intend to communicate. We have to tap into age-old methods of storytelling that resonate with other humans, create characters our readers can identify with, and choose our words carefully so they carry the meaning we want to convey. And all of that is, you guessed it, work. But it also deepens and enriches our own experience of writing–or at least it does for me.

And I finally had to turn off AC/DC, because I couldn’t concentrate on crafting this post while bouncing around in my chair to the bass line from “Thunderstruck.” Maybe the Puritans were right about having to choose between work and fun. Dammit.

#SoCS: Old and new

The home we’re buying in Tucson

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/10/02/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-oct-3-2020/. This week’s prompt is “new/old.” Use either or both of the words “new and old” any way you’d like. Bonus points for starting and ending with either one.

Old house, new house, old job, new job, old place, new place. This weeks’ prompt is timely. As I’ve written in my last two posts, I’m in the process of relocating from Flagstaff, AZ to Tucson, AZ for a job at the University of Arizona. This week I became more seriously focused on wrapping things up at my old job. My office walls are nearly bare, my desk is nearly clean (truly a shocking sight), and my email inbox is nearly empty. I have about 3 more days. People have started saying goodbye, an oddly impersonal experience in the age of COVID. There’s that moment after everything has been said, when we would normally hug but instead stand there awkwardly before giving a small wave and going our separate ways. It reminds me a little of middle school dances, with boys on one side of the gym and girls on the other, awkwardly approaching each other but not too close. My wonderful colleagues are planning a farewell party for me next week–in person with masks and distancing and also on Zoom. Maybe if I pull my mask up high enough, my co-workers won’t see me cry.

My email is set up at my new job, and I’m starting to think more about it, about what I want to accomplish in my first day, first week, first month. I’m excited and nervous as I always am when I start a new job. In some ways, it’s like the first day at a new school: Will they like me? Will I make a good first impression? Will I make it through my first day without saying something stupid? (answer to that last one: almost certainly not).

This weekend we need to pack like fiends, because I start my new job in 2 weeks, and we move in 3 1/2 weeks. It seems like every part of packing takes longer than I think it will. Find the right sized box, find the tape, figure out the perfect tetris challenge of fitting everything into a box that’s just slightly too small… rinse, repeat. We’re also sorting through 6+ years of accumulation to figure out what will fit in the new house, where it will go, whether or not we need it in this new chapter of our lives.

We’re having a run of spectacular fall weather here, warm days, crisp nights, aspens turning golden, cottonwood leaves crackling in the breeze. We walk each day, drinking in as much as we can of our beautiful rural neighborhood, our view of the San Francisco Peaks, a night sky that puts a planetarium show to shame, the scent of ponderosa pine with undertones of skunk. In less than a month, we will be city dwellers again. Our new neighborhood is cute and conveniently located, but it isn’t 2.5 acres at the foot of the highest mountains in Arizona. On the other hand, trips to the grocery store won’t require nearly an hour of round-trip travel time. And winter will be sunny and 75F, not windy and 15F. We’ll trade snow-flocked pine trees for a saguaro strung with Christmas lights–if I can figure out how to put Christmas lights on a cactus without skewering myself. I expect I’ll be a human pincushion by the time I’m through. So, tradeoffs.

But, to close on a philosophical note, all of life is a series of tradeoffs. Tradeoffs that shift as our priorities change, as our bodies age, as our interests become more focused. Out with (some of) the old to make room for the new, for the things that are a better fit for who we have become.

And now I need to sign off, so I can pack some of the old into boxes that are just slightly too small.

#SoCS: Boxes, boxes, boxes!

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/09/25/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-26-2020/. This week’s prompt is “container.” Use the word “container” any way you’d like. Or think about a container of some kind and write about it. Enjoy!

I almost didn’t do a Stream of Consciousness Saturday post today, because I am super-busy. Then I looked at the prompt and had to write, because the prompt connects nicely to why I’m super-busy: I’m moving, and I’m supposed to be putting stuff in boxes. And, duh, boxes are containers.

I could wax metaphorical about how moving makes you put your whole life in containers or how going to a new place frees you from the metaphorical box you’ve built for yourself in the old place, but I don’t have the bandwidth to pull any of that off effectively. I will say, though, that I enjoy moving to new places, because relocating provides an opportunity for me to hit the reset button on my life. New place, new job, new house, new friends, new activities… I can rethink what I want in my life at this time and design my life in the new place accordingly. This move in particular feels like the beginning of a new chapter for my husband and me. Our son will live in a guest house on our new property, so he (and we) will have more independence. We won’t quite be empty-nesters, but it’s a step toward that. I’ll have less land to cultivate and take care of, which will be a challenge for an obsessive gardener like me but will also be liberating. No more finding someone to water while we’re on vacation (new yard will be small enough to put everything on drip irrigation with a timer). No more spending hours on weeding and watering and tidying up. I’ll still get to garden, but it can be more about fun and less about being a slave to outdoor chores 9 months out of the year.

As I age, I find my interests changing and want to prioritize my time differently. I’d like more time for writing and travel, which means I need to cut back on other, lower-priority tasks. I hope the new place will help me do that. I hope it will be the right container for the life I hope to build.

#SoCS: To be uncollared

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/09/11/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-12-2020/. This week’s prompt is “collar.” Use it as a verb, a noun, or metaphorically.

One of my first thoughts when seeing this week’s prompt was that a collar is a form of restraint. We put collars on dogs to restrain and control them. Police collar suspects. I suspect my mind went immediately to the idea of restraint, because I’m entering a new chapter of my life, and I want to be less restrained.

I’ve accepted a new position in a new city (Tucson, Arizona), and we’re in the process of selling our house, buying another, packing, and clearing out clutter. Moving to a new place and taking a new job are always opportunities to rethink what you want in life, to design a new life that meets your current needs. That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.

We want our new place to have a separate space for our son, so he can continue transitioning to independent adulthood. I’m planning to—horrors—downsize my gardening so it’ll be easier for me to travel, and I can spend more time writing and relaxing instead of watering and weeding. And we’re going to downsize on the home front—at least a little bit—so we can spend less on a mortgage and more on travel and other experiences. In other words, we want to be less restrained.

I feel like I’ve spent most of my life with various restraints—family obligations, mostly, but also budget, pets, garden, too much stuff… you know, just like everybody else. But as I get older, I want less of that. I want to be untethered—or at least less tethered—so I can do more of what I want to do and less of what I have to do. This old dog wants to loosen her collar a little, maybe trade it for a lighter, less-restraining model. This old dog wants to be free.

#IWSG: Genre-morphing–and a question for my readers

Happy IWSG Day! For those who are new here, I participate in the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. This month’s optional question is: Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

Before I get to this month’s question, I have a question for anyone reading this post: Would you be interested in a series of posts loosely related to self-help for writers? I’m not talking about over-the-top, Stewart Smalley style self-help but rather some practical ideas from self-help literature, applied specifically to writing. I’ve been looking for a focus for this blog, besides my own self-indulgence, and I’m interested in helping other writers find time to write, build positive habits, set goals, and make progress. What do y’all think? Has that topic been done to death, or is there room for more?

OK, now for this month’s IWSG question. My first novel, Vanishing, Inc., started out as a murder mystery/ghost story and morphed into a time travel romance. Both paranormal, but other than that, pretty different. I woke up one morning with the idea of a terminally-ill woman in a 19th century cottage built on a thin place. The closer she got to death, the thinner the veil would become between this world and the next, and the more she would be able to interact with the house’s spectral residents. I imagined that the ghosts would somehow reveal that a murder was committed there, and our unfortunate protagonist would have to identify the murderer before she died.

Somewhere in the early planning, my idea shifted. My protagonist became a battered wife hiding from her abusive ex in a small Arizona town. She rents a cottage built on a thin place–a fact she discovers when a man from 1910 materializes in her living room. Once I landed on that concept, the various plot pieces more or less fell into place, which is a lucky thing, because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

It’s now about six years later, and Vanishing, Inc. is in what I sincerely hope is the final round of revision before I hire a professional editor. Then there will be another round of revisions, and then I’ll enter query hell. I still hope to write the ghost story, but I see it being more of a novella. Someday…

#SoCS: I have more, but I need less

Purely gratuitous picture of the forest near my home, where I went hiking early Thursday morning.

More. That’s the prompt for this week’s Stream of Consciousness Blog Hop, hosted by Linda Hill. Right now I have more. I keep getting more. And I need less.

Yeah, I know, that probably sounded really ungrateful, but hear me out. My life is very full right now–full of good things and difficult things and mundane things, the things that make a life. But it’s one of those times when there’s just too much. I volunteered for an activity that, while enjoyable and of service to my fellow writers, is going to take a big chunk of time. My husband is having major surgery in 3 weeks, so I have to prepare to take leave from work and stock up on groceries and make meals ahead and, and, and… We’re waiting for my son’s COVID test results, meanwhile we’ve all had mild symptoms, so we’re trying to do everything we need to do before surgery without leaving the house. I’m revising my second novel. I’m considering hiring an editor for my first novel. I’m finalizing a short story. I’m trying to find a publisher for another story. I’m contemplating some other life changes. I’m in peri-menopause. I’m cleaning and decluttering. I’m cooking every meal at home because, you know, we might have COVID, so we aren’t going out. And I’m overwhelmed. And, oh, yeah, I’m working full time. Wheee….

Whew. Now that all that is out of the way, I want to emphasize that I’m grateful. So grateful. If we do have COVID, our symptoms are mild. Mine are already gone. Husband can’t taste his food, but otherwise, he’s fine. Son is almost back to normal, though he can’t taste his food either. Me? I can taste my food just fine. Too fine. All I want to do is eat. If this is COVID, then we are truly fortunate to come through it so easily.

My life is full of new opportunities and excitement and joy.

It’s high summer, and the weather and the garden are beautiful. I live a half mile from the Coconino National Forest, so I can hike amid the ponderosa pines every day if I want.

I’m gainfully employed–unlike so many–with a job I enjoy.

I’m healthy, and I’m happy.

So yeah, I’d like a bit less–fewer commitments, some time to lollygag and lounge and read and play–but my life is beautifully full. I have more. And it is wonderful.

#SoCS: Clearing the clutter and creating a fresh start

Hellebore from my Portland garden over 10 years ago. Hellebores were the first flowers to bloom each spring, a welcome sign of renewal every rainy January.

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/07/03/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-4-2020/. This week’s prompt is, “toss.” Use it any way you’d like.

I’ve spent a little while noodling on this week’s prompt. Tossing manure in garden beds? Toss-ups? Tossers (a great British insult)? I landed on the idea of tossing things out, on clearing clutter from my life, getting rid of what I don’t value (much) to make room for what I do value. I’ve been doing that literally and figuratively for at least the last year or so.

I’m big on renewal. I had a lit professor back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was an undergrad, who talked about American optimism and how the idea of starting over is ingrained in our culture. That resonated with me then, and it resonates with me now. I’ve always loved the beginning of fall, when the new school year starts, because it feels like a fresh start. I enjoy moving (well, OK, not the actual process of hiring movers and having them steal our DVDs, nor the process of selling our house to some jerk who wants to lowball us and have us do $15,000 worth of repairs). I enjoy the process of starting over in a new place with new people and new possibilities. Having a clean slate forces me to think about what I really want in my life rather than to keep doing the same old stuff.

But I’ve learned that renewal is possible without something as drastic as moving. I can lighten my load, again, literally and figuratively. I can toss out stuff I don’t use anymore to make room for things I will use, or, better, to create space uninhabited by crap. Open space, empty space, is relaxing and peaceful and inspiring. Clutter is exhausting.

I can rethink my commitments and drop a few to make room for my current priorities (like writing). I can drop an old habit that doesn’t serve me well and replace it with one that does. Example: I read a book called The Miracle Morning a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been revamping my morning routine based on its recommendations. I’m actually more excited to get out of bed in the morning now, and I’m getting up earlier, too. Today–a Saturday and a holiday–I rolled out of bed at 5:40, and I started writing this piece at about 6:30. Anyone reading that last sentence who knew me even a year or two ago probably thinks my soul has been snatched by aliens, and I’m now a pod person.

So if you’re feeling like your space or your life is too full or full of the wrong things, you can change that. You can toss out what doesn’t serve you well and either replace it with things that will help you meet your current goals or enjoy the newfound space in your world. Remember:

Today is a new day.

Today is a fresh start.

What would you like to toss out? How would you like to remake your world?

IWSG: Be more confident in four easy steps

Happy IWSG Day! For those who are new here, I participate in the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. Details and signup here. This month’s optional question is: There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

I’m going to be a rebel this month and not respond to the optional prompt, because a) I’m still a novice and don’t feel qualified to talk about what’s going on in the publishing industry, and b) I want to share something I discovered last week that helped me, both in my writing life and my library life.

I’ve been trying to build personal development into my days, because it motivates me and helps me stay positive, even when life is… challenging. Until today, my university had a campus-wide subscription to LinkedIn Learning (we’re now moving to Udemy to save money, so I have a new resource to check out), and I’ve been taking advantage of that to grow my skills. Last Monday, I logged into LinkedIn Learning and saw a short session called Complete Confidence in Minutes. It was about 30 minutes long, and I wanted to walk for 30 minutes, and who doesn’t need more confidence, so I hit Play. The presenter was Selena Rezvani, a consultant and speaker on women’s leadership. I won’t try to summarize her entire presentation, but I will share her four power statements, short affirmations that may inspire you to feel more confident as you take on new challenges:

  • Today is a totally fresh start.
  • Be afraid and do it anyway.
  • I move on from setbacks completely.
  • Change is inevitable and good.

Every one of these resonates with me as both a writer and a leader:

  • Today is a fresh start. I am not bound by who I was 30 years ago or last year or yesterday. I’ve been slacking off on my writing? Today is a new day! Today I can make progress. I am not a slacker. I’m a productive writer–starting today. This idea is so liberating!
  • Be afraid–and do it anyway. Being afraid doesn’t mean you’re a coward. Fear is a normal response to risk and to the unfamiliar. Courageous people aren’t free of fear (in my experience, only drunks and clueless people are free of fear, because they aren’t able to recognize risk). Courageous people are afraid, sometimes knees-knocking-like-a-skeleton-in-a-windstorm afraid, but they push forward anyway. This kind of courage is essential for writers. Every time we let someone read our stuff, every time we create a blog post, every time we submit a story or a query, we’re taking a risk. We’re putting ourselves and the precious fruits of our creativity out into the mean, cruel world. We might get rejected. We might get criticized. We might get ridiculed. But unless we want to keep our writing locked away in a drawer for our hapless heirs to ceremonially burn in their fire pits after we’re gone, we have to face the fear and do it anyway.
  • I move on from setbacks completely. This simple statement was exactly what I needed to hear last week. I’d had a setback that, for reasons I didn’t and still don’t understand, bugged me way more than it should. Moving on from setbacks is another skill that’s essential for us writers. We’re going to get rejected. Our story that we lovingly crafted and are so, so proud of–will get rejected. With a form letter. And that will happen over and over and over. If we can’t move on from setbacks, we’ll never be able to share our words with the world.
  • Change is inevitable and good. Raise your hand if you love change. Anyone? Bueller? Yeah, didn’t think so. Change is good for vending machines. Most of the rest of us hate it or at least find it stressful. I’m a novelty-seeker, and I still get discombobulated by change. I knew how to do whatever-it-is the old way. I was competent. Now I’m not. Ugh. I suppose this statement relates to the optional IWSG prompt for this month, since the publishing industry has changed so much in the last decade and likely will keep changing. What works today will fail tomorrow, and we’ll have to learn new ways to share our words with the world. We can complain about it and dig our heels in and pitch a good old-fashioned fit, or we can learn to roll with it and–this is key–find opportunity in it. I’m trying to change the way I look at change, to stop moaning and consider how the change might be good–for me and for others. I’ll admit, that’s been a challenge in the age of COVID, because most of the changes associated with the pandemic are less than wonderful. But at the same time, I’ve managed to find opportunities for self-renewal (like Selena Rezvani’s presentation that inspired this post) and self-reflection that I almost certainly wouldn’t have made time for in my pre-COVID world.

Cheesy as it sounds, I’ve been reading these four statements as affirmations each morning, and they’ve improved my attitude and, yes, my confidence. I hope they do the same for you.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have any tips for building/increasing confidence? Any affirmations or quotes that help you step out of your comfort zone? Share ’em in the comments!

#SoCS: A skeezy wrestler, a skeezy pickup line… and me

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/26/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-27-2020/. This week’s prompt is, “coffee, tea, or me.” Find a flirty phrase of your own or use “coffee, tea, or me” in your post.

I’ve been lucky to not be on the receiving end of too many skeezy pickup lines, but one sticks out in my mind. Back in the early 1990s, my husband and I were living in northern Georgia, where we’d moved for my first job after I graduated from library school. He’d always dreamed of being a professional wrestler (hey, who am I to judge someone else’s dream?), and he found a local wrestling outfit that would train him and give him a shot. And so his wrestling career was born.

An aside: his first character was called the Seattle Storm. He wore a mask and spandex shorts with a storm cloud on the butt. His theme song was, “Smells Like Team Spirit” (we’d moved there from Seattle), and his shtick was to antagonize the local good ol’ boys like the invading Yankee he was. They hated him. It was hilarious.

Later, he became a good guy (a babyface for you wrestling aficionados) called Adrian Champagne, complete with sequins, rainbow feathers, and a mullet worthy of Billy Ray Cyrus (Miley’s dad for you young ‘uns).

Anyway, back to the pickup line theme. Every now and then, they’d have someone from a larger wrestling outfit wrestle there. Naturally they’d promote the event as though Hulk Hogan himself was descending upon Rossville, Georgia, for the evening. And some of the fans would act like the guy was a big star. Well, one night, I stepped outside between matches for some fresh air (summer… Georgia… small, stuffy building filled with screaming wrestling fans…), and the “big star” was out there too. We exchanged hellos, and start a conversation. And that’s when it happened, when I became the target of the worst pickup line I’ve ever heard:

Skeezy wrestler who shall not be named: Are you here with anyone?

Me: Yeah. Adrian Champagne is my husband [side note: that is not a sentence I ever imagined myself uttering]

Skeezy wrestler who shall not be named: If you ever get divorced, call me.

And there it is, folks, the story of the time a professional wrestler hit me with the ickiest pickup line I’ve ever received. “If you ever get divorced, call me.” Still makes my skin twitch.

p.s. to the skeezy wrestler who shall not be named: I’m still not divorced. Get lost.

#SoCS: When the only tool you have is a hammer…

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/12/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-13-2020/. This week’s prompt: nail.

As I read the news and think about the protests going on right now, I’m often reminded of the old saying, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” That seems to be one of the fundamental problems with policing in the USA (systemic racism being another, bigger, problem). When use of force is the only tool in your toolbox, when it’s what you’re trained to do, it’s what you do. When you’re trained to fight crime, you see potential criminals. More broadly, you see what you look for. Combine that with systemic racism that causes many people–not just police–to see people of color as potential criminals, and you get an environment in which a white officer can murder a black man slowly in front of an audience. An environment in which scenes of indiscriminate police brutality play out across the country in video after sickening video.

I haven’t posted much, here or on social media, about these issues, because I need to shut up and listen. Many people, especially people of color, have a much deeper understanding of these issues than I do, so I’ll let the previous paragraph stand as my only commentary on the issue, at least for now. Instead, I’d like to encourage all of us to consider how our perspectives are limited. How the particular hammers we carry cause us to see only nails where we should see nuance.

We are humans, and humans are limited. We are shaped, both obviously and subtlely, by our identities, our upbringing, our culture, our religion, and our life experiences. And we are also limited by those things. They condition our views, our perspectives, our reactions. This is normal, but we don’t have to be ruled by, blinded by those limitations. We can read, educate ourselves, and most importantly, listen to those whose identities and culture and experiences are different from ours. Listen to their lived experiences. Learn from them. Approach situations with humility born of our limited perspectives rather than the false certainty born from our personal blinders. Use our new knowledge to develop tools other than hammers and to see more than nails.