Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Writer's Rant: 10 Reasons I Don’t Tell People I’m a Writer Anymore

I used to happily declare myself “a writer”. I’d (admittedly) find a way to slip it into conversation. I’d proudly list it as my occupation on doctors’ office forms. Somewhere along the way, though, I realized letting people know about what I do is more trouble than it’s worth. If you’re a writer, maybe you can relate to my 10 Reasons.

  1. People are insanely, unreasonably happy when they beat me at Words With Friends. As if the ability to put sentences together has anything to do with what tiles you get. By the way, I know you’re cheating. No one knows what xebec means. 
  2. People expect me to dress fashionably, especially at book signings. Doing something for a living that you find mysterious does not make everything about me unusual. No, I did not make these earrings.
  3. People expect me to know every author and every book on the market. Did you read [insert obscure book title you’d never heard of until someone suggested it in book club]? I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I don’t know who wrote what classic book offhand, remember details about books I read in 10th grade English Lit, or live my life studying my profession. I love to read, and of course I try to be well read, but if there’s a choice between reading Moby Dick or reading Heart of Darkness on a Saturday night, I’ll choose drinking vodka at least half of the time.
  4. People ask me to read things that they wrote. Or that their children wrote. Or that their grandchildren wrote. If I wanted to read badly executed poetry, I’d read my 4th grade diary. By the way, I think you are a great friend, but you won’t think I am after ten minutes of hacking into your debut novel. No one's first attempt is the finished product, and I’ve spent too many years criticizing my own writing to remember tact when speaking about yours. (Also, just because I write doesn’t mean I can revise your resume for you.)
  5. People correct my social media status updates/blog entries. Unless you are an English professor, and unless I’m submitting a term paper to you, please keep your red pen in your pocket. Writing status updates and tweets are not WRITING in the creative or professional sense of the word. You caught me with a “their” instead of “there”? Congratulations. I was in a hurry and you’re a douche. Also, I don’t keep my editor on speed dial for reviewing 2AM FB statuses about why I can’t sleep.
  6. People assume I’m an expert on the things I write about. Yes, there was a terrible fire in that story I wrote ten years ago. No, I’m not in fact a firefighter. You should probably be looking for a fire extinguisher now.
  7. People want me to write about them. Well, if you insist. I do like to write about grisly crimes. I could start plotting your death by working through the details of it in my next book. Okay, just kidding. I’m sure I could name a character after you though, as long as you don’t ask me later why I named a crack whore after you. No, it doesn’t mean anything that “your” character is: overweight, comically short, nasally or unfunny. I didn’t actually base the character on you. It’s just a name. Unfortunately, there’s no call for a gorgeous Russian princess with your name in this or any other book.
  8. People think I’m waiting to make it big. Writing a New York Times Bestselling book is surely the secret dream of every writer out there, and of course, I'd love that, too. However, it’s like winning the literary lottery. Heck, being published is like winning the literary lottery. This may shock you, but I write because I enjoy it (and someone is sometimes paying me for it), but I’m not holding my breath waiting to see my name on a list. There are plenty of writers out there who are neither bestsellers nor broke artists. We happily float somewhere between writer’s block and delightful fluidity, and surprisingly, we do not sustain ourselves solely on Ramen noodles while doing it.
  9. People think what I do is a hobby. “Oh, you’re a writer? That’s really cool! So, what do you do for, you know, a living?” OR "Can you actually make any money doing that?" OR "Well, of course, I'm sure you just do it for the love of your craft." (The third is always a good excuse to underpay a writer.)
  10. People think what I do is easy. Do you know how often I wished I’d become a mailman, or a waitress, or a court reporter? There are times I wish I had a job title that didn’t have to be clarified or a workday that ended at 5pm. (A writer’s job is never done. When we’re not writing, we’re thinking we should be writing.) Conversely, people sometimes think what I do is incredibly hard. “Oh, I could never do that!” This often makes me feel worse. Writing isn’t rocket science. I’m not discovering the cure for cancer. No one’s life hangs in the balance. I don't do anything practical that affects your life in a specific way other than to entertain you. I’m not a nurse, doctor, electrician, plumber, grave digger. Most of the time, I just pour stuff out of my head, and I’m slightly embarrassed when I actually get paid for it.

As a writer, I know I shouldn’t just end my ranty blog with the last point, without some kind of conclusion or summary. Just like I know half of my arguments contain fragmented sentences and one or two may end with prepositions.  Rather than correct my grammar, or secretly compare my writing skills to yours (didn’t you read #5?), tell me instead, writers, which of these is on your top ten?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Marilyn Manson: A Concerted Review of Yesterday & Today

I went to the Marilyn Manson concert yesterday at the Fillmore in Detroit. Almost 15 years ago, I saw him at the State Theatre (same venue as the Fillmore, different name), and I was struck by the differences 15 years can make.

Before I take a trip down memory lane, let me say that I really enjoyed the show. I was worried that it would suck, because I'd heard the rumors about his European tour. Rumors that he was high and rambled incoherently during the show, didn't sing half the lyrics, kept leaving the stage for long gaps of time, and basically ended up getting booed off a few times. Not my experience at all at this show, although the opening act "The Butcher Babies" made me wish I was high and had me rambling incoherently to my husband about how horrible they were. (They were like cookie monsters in latex, though their grunting wasn't very good, so even cookie monster singing is kind of a compliment.) My husband and I both agree that their performance would have been greatly improved if they were naked and didn't have microphones.

Anyway, aside from the opening act (which let's be honest, I've never gone to a MM show because he's great at picking good opening acts), Manson's 1-hour set rocked. But I couldn't help but compare the show with the last time I'd seen him there...

Marilyn back in the Spooky Kids days...
Marilyn this tour

1. I'm not sure who has gained more weight, me or Mr. Manson. Both of us look fifteen years older, but it was a little disappointing that Marilyn used to strip off clothes throughout the concert the drunker he got, and now, he adds clothes.At one point he had a shirt, jacket, and priest's habit on to hide his belly and all I could think about were the old days when he'd strut his skinny tattooed arms around, naked from the waist up. (And sometimes the waist down.) To be fair, last concert I was wearing a little black dress and high heeled boots - this time around, I went with the t-shirt over long sleeved shirt look with knee high ass-kicking boots and jeans. It was easier (and too cold for a corset last night).

2. When things used to fly from the stage, you ducked. It could be something bloody, covered with urine, or otherwise harmful. Now glitter gets shot at the audience.

3. The mosh pit has aged. I know, because 15 years ago, I elbowed my way through the pit to the front row. The entire main floor back then was a battle to stand upright, and I had bruises the next day from being pressed up against the bars as the crowd heaved against my back. This time around, I stayed put on the second level, watching the pit (which consisted of a half-dozen guys, carefully circling each other as if preparing themselves and each other for the smash - "I'm ready, are you ready? Not too hard, okay? I have to work tomorrow" - and even a few women, proof in general that the mosh has aged. If you can mosh in heels, you're not doing it right.) The floor in general still had that gentle wave as everyone pushed to stay upright, but they might have just been grooving to the music. The fact that I could see it from afar instead of being in it are further evidence that I've aged, too.

4. Crowd surfing has changed. There was a consistent tide of surfers last night, but surfing is much more difficult when EVERYONE has a cell phone in their hand. I saw lots of wipe-outs last night, mainly because the younger kids in the crowd looked confused whenever a 40 year old man tried to jump on their heads. "Wait, what? Stop recording the show with my cell phone so I can hold up your fat ass? Wha??"

5. Mr. Manson has lots of toys now. Lazer fingers, a menagerie of face masks, bladed microphones. Everything was much more polished this time around. Polished if you ignore the fact that the show's rhythm is frequently interrupted when Mr. Manson fetches these toys or changes costume. I think they used to avoid giving him sophisticated props so that he couldn't screw them up. It was sad that he was sober enough to operate all his toys.

6. The girls in front of me kept edging back, which was really annoying me. I had my heavy boots on, and they're lucky, cause I was getting ready to start kicking some knee backs. Eventually what we realized was that they were moving back because the guys in front of them were smoking pot. (At least the State Theatre/Fillmore hasn't changed!) Instead of kicking, I started pressing forward. Pot smoke today is much preferable to the smoke machine air we used to inhale by the stage - and the contact buzz got rid of my headache for most of the show too.

7. Mr. Manson reminisces about all the naughty things he used to do - but doesn't do them anymore. "Hello Detroit!! Last time I was here I almost got arrested for fucking a man's head!!" Crowd screams wildly. Maybe we were expecting him to give the middle finger to authority again and grab somebody from the audience to assault him or her mercilessly. Unfortunately, this big talk was just his segue into the next song.

It might sound like I have more criticisms than praise for the show, but it's not true. I was head bopping through Manson's entire set. He played a great mix of his new and old stuff - not too much new...just enough to remind us he's still making music, but not so much that we couldn't enjoy singing along to the stuff we know and love. He also did a cover of "Personal Jesus" that was really good that I hadn't heard before. Manson is the king of finding the perfect covers, with good beats that he can exploit. (Here's a youtube on that song, not recorded by me of course -

To sum up my before and after Manson, I'd post pics of me and hubs 15 years ago at the concert and yesterday's pic. But I can't - because back in "the day" we didn't spend more time taking pics of ourselves to prove we were somewhere than watching the actual show. These days, we don't either.

We took one pic before Manson took the stage...and even that felt a little lame.