career, writing

Using your words

When you know you’re in the right, but claiming the ability to act as a full person still takes bravery.

Over…likely, the past month, my efforts have shifted from honing my writing skills, to craft and design. I have realized that becoming a freelance writer is more than within my grasp. I am more than capable. The question has been whether I want to take the repercussions of speaking my mind. The problem is, whenever anyone says something that’s important to anybody, someone else has a problem with it — because knowledge is power, and the denial of accurate, clear, usable, validating information is the denial of power, and denial of agency, to that person who finds it important.

And I know I can help the people who find what I say, important. I know, that is, that I’m on a side I can live in peace with. I didn’t always know that, but my view has gotten much clearer, recently.

I can see that when I was younger, I had a much more simplistic idea of potential anonymity as an author. These days, it’s very apparent to me that anonymity doesn’t necessarily exist, when writing for publication. Perhaps before the Internet existed, that was possible…it isn’t, now. Not without some type of global privacy regulations that could be applied to the owners of sites which distribute other peoples’ private information…and not without in some way disabling the tracking of aliases of authors who have not committed crimes.

(Of course, to some, the “wrong people” writing and speaking, might as well be considered a crime…and the Library of Congress is not exempt from politics. It is the Library of Congress. Not a national library. Not the people’s library.)

The obvious issue is that elements protecting the privacy of authors can be circumvented, and we trust strangers on the Internet, far too much. Tim Berners-Lee’s original Internet, that is…doesn’t seem to have included protections for information that wasn’t supposed to be shared. Perhaps it wasn’t intended to have grown as large as it has, or to include the people it does. As far as I can see, it involved utopian ideals, but…utopias can fail. Especially where failure was never expected; where the ideal was implicit that people would be decent and responsible, not malicious.

In other words…we do not live in a utopia, even given the chance to live in a utopia. The most brilliant and insightful ideas can still be bent towards destroying our own kind and utilized by the most inept, ignorant and callous among us — because of how our societies are set up.

What I’m taking as my provisional reality is the assumption that if someone wants to know who I am, that information is not impossible to obtain. There is also the question of whether I actually do want to be known for my ideas; if “good trouble” is not a bad thing to get into.

I am aware of the First Amendment. I am also aware that a portion of this society is biased against me because of what I am, and that laws are not applied even-handedly. They’re applied by people with biases, assisted by computers which have likewise been programmed by people with biases. Both those factors — and others, like poor school funding sourced from low property taxes which relate to intergenerational poverty and a history of segregation (among other skewed variables), reinforce systematic outcomes of inequity which are then blamed on factors such as race and essentialism: that what people look like defines who they are and what they can be and become.

The issue I have been dealing with is the relative peace of my life since I got out of the main fray that I was dealing with as a young adult. I’m moving out of the phase of being a student, into the phase of being a working adult, hoping to eventually become an independent working adult…which has other attendant, “issues.” Like the rewards (and penalties) of conformity, and silence.

But writing implies communication. Communication infers saying things that not everyone may agree with — at least, at first.

In essence, it ensures conflict. I’m not a person who seeks conflict. But I can see that there are some things worth fighting for, that the world can be better than it is; that we can be better than we are. In this world, change is preceded by conflict; and not everyone right now is living in a state which guarantees a sustainable, hopeful future.

I guess part of that is my utopian idealization. But if you’re going to have to fight, it’s good to know your ultimate goal. What you’re fighting for is one of those questions that can’t be avoided if you want to keep up your pace and your work. Even when a life of quiet, dull, closeted obscurity beckons.

DISCLAIMER: This entry is not meant to represent the views of any organization, professional or otherwise; I am representing myself, and myself alone.

art, career, creativity, fine arts, painting, psychology

Other people and their rules ;)

I think I’ve been learning some stuff about myself, particularly through the observation of workplace dynamics; and getting into both Cataloging and watercolors — and realizing what strengths each draw off of. It’s kind of instructive, actually, getting to know where people are coming from, which gives insight into why they say what they do.

One of these people is an artist, and the other is very focused on rules and propriety. Though they’re both very social, the tension between them is hard to ignore. In turn, I can see this as an outward reflection of my own tendencies (especially where it has been obvious they have each connected with and encouraged me in areas in which they specialize, or want to specialize).

I recently signed up for a Watercolor class in order to invest some time in my right-hemispherical thinking. I mean: I’ve done this for work. Why wouldn’t I do it for myself? (As a side note, it was much easier to get back to work on the Cataloging homework, after I had done this.)

A large issue I’m dealing with in my Art is the perceived need to plan, and killing spontaneity. I’m pretty sure this has to do with trying to pigeonhole and rationalize everything and make it methodical and rule-bound and systematic, which is a tendency encouraged by my study and my work. I’m trying to get away from it, though it’s difficult.

It may be made more difficult by medication which brings the rational part of my mind forward. When I was younger, unmedicated, and dealing with a couple of different diagnoses, it was much easier to be creative. Right now, though, I’m trying to work through a block, which makes it hard to even sit down to paint. I know I could be doing other things with my time, on which I would get more of a monetary return…but then the question is, does everything in life have to be directly about money? Or business? Or survival?

I guess that’s what a semester of Microeconomics will get you. That, in turn, descends from a dream of being able to make a living doing what you love. Making money off of what you love means monetizing it; meaning either you’ve gotta get creative and you’ve gotta have a lot of hope, (or be married or independently wealthy,) or it’s probably not going to happen.

Or, I could just be negative on this point. What I see is that being a professional artist entails a lot of risk — more risk than I’m willing to bear. From what I hear, it’s also hard to repay art-school loans, because of low returns after graduation.

Then there’s the question of why I wouldn’t invest in myself and my own happiness, and what I want to do in my life, besides work. It’s kind of obvious why I would want to take a watercolor class, because I could use assistance in restarting. However, I don’t think that community college is the way to go, this time.

For one thing, I’ve already gotten an AA in Art…though I could take higher levels of Watercolor and get back into Drawing, I’m not sure of the use of that without access to upper-division and Master’s levels of work. There’s also the question of where or how I would use the skills, which makes the cost of tuition seem unreasonable. In addition to that, I haven’t heard anyone say how much they appreciated art school (not community college, but art school); the ones I’ve known (college instructors) seem to think that it put in too many barriers between them and what they wanted to create.

I know that in my case, there were a lot of personal preferences passed down from my instructors’ instructors, that got emplaced as gospel for the entire class…which started as just one person’s personal preference. I mean, I heard a lot of stuff (I’m paraphrasing, here) like, “paint from life, not from a photograph,” “always paint the edges of your canvas,” “loosen up,” “what are you afraid of,” “don’t make sketchy marks, find a line and commit to it,” “don’t draw anime in that teacher’s class,” “don’t use opaque white in watercolors,” “draw the entire image at once, not one section at a time,” etc.

To people who know what the art-speak above means, it might be seen as helpful, even if just because it’s culturally ingrained; however, what is unhelpful is the fact that your students (especially at community-college/lower-division undergraduate level) may not understand that art-speak; and all these rules that you’re giving them, should they take them to heart while not understanding them; why you said them; what you meant; what the history is behind what you meant; or how to do what you’re asking them to do; are likely to impede what would otherwise be their natural growth. Growing on their own may cause them to shed what you see as bad habits, in the future, by themselves. But your discouragement and insistence that they be masters now, risks freezing their process so they never reach that point.

This is in addition to all the would-be teachers on the Internet who have their own opinions and angles and judgments of other peoples’ work and process and why theirs is better (and, likely fortunately, I can’t remember what I was referencing, here — other than minor incidents). The issue is that if you take everyone’s opinions to heart, you just basically can’t do jack without doing it in some way that someone will call wrong, and you would accept it as wrong, because you’ve already decided to let those peoples’ self-serving opinions override your own judgments of quality. So then, taken to an extreme: if you internalized every criticism someone leveled on process online, you couldn’t ever do anything “right.”

Giving a list of forbidden practices instills a sense of inferiority in someone who is just trying to help themselves develop. There is a case for pruning back bad habits, but you don’t prune a sapling back until it’s a stick and expect it to flourish (though sometimes it happens, if you get one with enough life force).

And doing things, “right,” or, “according to the rules,” makes some people feel safer. As in Cataloging, which is an extremely regimented method of making sense out of content, with the dual aims of access, and uniformity. My coworker who is apparently into Cataloging has expressed a fondness for rules which I don’t share, except when they allow me to shift the blame of enforcing a rule (which I didn’t make) off of myself, onto Library policy. (Bureaucracy at work…)

An example — an easy one — is the question of whether motor vehicle accidents would still happen if everyone followed the rules of the road. Most people do, most of the time, which is probably why the roads aren’t more full of carnage. But there’s an assumption that if everyone followed the rules, no one would get hurt. Is it true? I’m not sure. (What I can be sure of is that it’s a good thing that most people follow most of the rules, most of the time, because it makes things largely predictable, except for the errant vehicles which pop up on a daily basis…)

Then there’s the question of whether some rules are justified, or impact certain groups more than others. For example, the question of whether two people of the same sex can marry, which disproportionately affects non-straight people; or the question of whether abortion is ever a morally justifiable option, which almost exclusively affects women (I say, “almost,” because there are female people who do not consider themselves women, and there are men who were born with female anatomy, who can still carry children).

In other words…questions of right and wrong are being brought up in my life, right now, I suppose. It’s clear to me that I do consider myself a very ethically integral person, but I also know that sometimes ethical integrity means breaking rules (as rules aren’t always neutral, beneficial, or morally justifiable; they’re just rules). Dealing with the Art, and the avoidance of the Art, along with observing the psychologies of my co-workers, and dealing with the possibility of becoming a Librarian, is bringing this up for me.

Though I’m pretty sure that systematizing my thought isn’t something that I want to aim for, at this point. After all, I’m not a machine…