Just deal with it

True: my zine is heading into editing tomorrow (!)
False: I think it’s awesome
True: I was this <> close to scrapping the whole thing yesterday
False: someone told me I was awesome, so I didn’t
True: There are a lot of good writers out there
False: Therefore, I shouldn’t even try

Today I gave my zine ‘manuscript’ one last lookie before I will send it in for shredding (editing). Needless to say, I’m a little bit nervous. I’d probably be biting my nails right now (if they weren’t already weak little stubs due to my my run-in with the persuasive nail technician.)

You see, just like the 5-year-old in this video dismantles the whole hip-hop world with
his 30 second spiel, so thousands and thousands of bloggers scream at me: it takes like hardly any skills to write!  Not to mention actual training…education…experience. Nada! You can just sit down and flutter your chubby little fingers over a keyboard and wah-lah! You have likes, hits, re-tweets!

But, like little Jordan recommends, I just have to deal–get over myself and get over everybody else– forget those pseudo-lives on instagram or facebook photos. It’s all just flamboyance, a highlight reel; we’ve all got our behind-the-scenes-boring stuff. It’s false to assume something about someone’s lives or skills or personality without ever knowing them. What I do know is true is that comparison only fuels fear, pride and jealousy.

Yes, there will always be those people who make parts of life, or certain skills, or jobs, or relationships look easy. At the same time, there will always be those who struggle with what we find simple.

Evergreens and oranges don’t grow in the same soil.
In the same way, we all have stuff that comes organically and stuff that doesn’t.

Maybe its time we just deal with it.

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The Art of Criticism: What Would Hester Heckles Do??

Every year around December 15th, my parents would commission me to write a family Christmas letter.  As an oldest child, naturally I lapped up this responsibility and found Xtreme pleasure in being able to sardonically expose my family via one 8.5X11 sheet of paper.  Inevitably, the ‘rents would read my work and deem the first draft much too “sarcastic” or “mean”… and annoyed I would storm off and hiss– “fine, then write it yourselves!” But… of course, being the controlish-freakish o.c. I was, I couldn’t really let it go.  So draft after draft my precious letter would morph into yet another mundane (though slightly more sassy) Christmas letter.

Ironically, today I yearn for the open critique my parents offered–just a little feedback–even if negative. Though critique burns at the start,  like any great wine the finish is well worth it. And my writing or thinking or something else I do usually improves or is at least challenged.

But because the “like” button on facebook has all but destroyed our ability to form opinions into words, I’ve decided (in oldest-child-bossy-pants-fashion) to offer some instruction on HOW to criticize/critique well.  (Let’s be clear on this, even if you don’t care about critiquing writing, you may have other areas of interest that could use some genteel nudging toward betterment).

Take a look at the below critique written to Zach, author of Funwater Awesome 3. (Zach included this in his zine BTW, so I think that says something about how good it was)

Zach:
Most people are fine with the pointless feel-good of your zine, but I, for one, want more than what’s in the flabby folds of your head. There is nothing practical in your zine! Nothing of quantifiable SUBSTANCE! Where are the true Tumwater tales, the lessons, the stories of some use to people of today? Good minds want to know. 
– Hester Heckles

Things to note:
1. There is no beating around the bush. No Minnesota nice.
2. And yet.. there is humor. “Flabby folds.” C’mon. You laughed.
3. He asks for specifics. He wants tales, lessons, and something a little more useful.

An easy/snarky way to deter unwanted parenting advice, I suppose
An easy/snarky way to deter unwanted parenting advice, I suppose

Take-aways:
I think we all stink at criticism/critiquing a little because, for the most part, it’s been done wrong to us. So we either 1. repeat the mistake, criticizing poorly (which leads to defensiveness or shame on the part of the other) or 2. avoid it all together (which leads to annoyance or dissatisfaction or worse on our part). But look at Hester Heckels– he did it. And so can we. We can be straight-forward, yet good-natured in our requests. We can help people and things grow without coming across like a bad-mannered, discontent sass-hole. It’s possible.

Your thoughts, critiques??

p.s. now next time I include a snapshot of some of my zine writing, you are well equipped to (kindly) lambast me.

The Post Office

The time and materials necessary to create a zine are seldom matched by revenue from sale of zines.– taken directly from wikipedia.

With all this winter-wonder landing on you like dead weight, maybe you have more time to think.
Maybe you’re wondering about taco bell serving breakfast and what Michelle Obama thinks.
Maybe you’re still hung up on Bob Costas’s eye. (good sport, he is).
Maybe you’re wondering about my zine and if it’s still happen’n.

Probably not, but I filled you in on the other two, so… here goes.

The zine. I’ve been a bit distracted by some contract writing and political thoughts and trying to keep my last-living plant still with us. But though it’s slow going, it’s going, and as promised, I’ll share a little tid-bit of what I’m working on.

 

it's pretty beat up, but no weird smells yet-- so I think he's still kickin'
he’s pretty beat up, but no weird smells yet– so I think he’s still kickin’

As a reminder, most fiction/autobio snippets/reviews in the zine will  be loosely tied together because of their affiliation(s) with Prior Lake (P.L.)
Snarky comments, bogus suggestions, and all forms of criticism welcomed.

The Post Office

There  few things in life that I like to blame for my problems. If I have a bad day or something goes awry, I allow myself to blame A. no one, B. myself or C. one of my scapegoats.

My list of Scapegoats:
PT Cruisers
Post Offices

With PT Cruisers the answer is obvious, but post offices, you may ask… why?

A few stories to illustrate
{1st story removed from post but will be in zine}

The Scapegoat

With walls the color of dried spit and the scent of fast-food slip resistant sneakers, you can expect to enter the post office and see a long line of other peasants, clutching packages, walking toward immanent disappointment at the spurn of a post-worker’s scepter.

“You’ll have to purchase packing tape,” or “Stamps just went up in cost.” They say unflinchingly and motion with two long creaky fingers for the next person to fill your place in line.

You grab the tape and head back toward the front. You gaze toward the postal worker with pleading eyes.
Justice? Your spot back?
Your eyes are met with a look of such glazed indifference from the postal worker you imagine a dementor may be sucking out your soul. Slouching, you once again retreat to the rear of the line.

Redemption

It’s inevitable. I have to mail a package. I have to or we’ll be charged for a bunch of vitamins and other junk we didn’t order and need to return. And even though they’ll make us pay the shipping, frankly, I can’t let them have the satisfaction of forcing those pills (literally) down our throats.

I leave our condo. Leave the cool, and traverse in non-swimwear into the August heat to a place that I’ve successfully avoided for months.

Upon arriving, I pause outside the door and take a last gulp of real air. Post offices always smell like regurgitated breath. I enter. I am greeted with as suspected, yes, but also with the friendly (!)  tobacco-stainless-smile of a female postal worker. Suspicious, I kind of smile back and edge forward to enter the line.

Cardboard, hot glue and new paper smells come into focus as I creep toward the abnormally high counter. A few minutes pass. It’s my turn; I’m summoned forward and offer up my package, a flawed oblation. I”m told, of course, that I need packing tape and it’s no surprise; the box is badly beaten, having once already made it’s rounds from sender to recipient.

I take my time finding the tape, assuming the back of the line is my fate anyways and lackadaisically scan the bright assortment of birthday boxes and cheesy cards.  I find the tape, evaluate the price, and remember I have to buy it no matter what.

I look up. The postal worker is beckoning. Inviting me to the front?  I creep cautiously  forward… so far no death stares from those in line … and reclaim my place. I hand her the package and tape. Nimbly, she reinforces it, fixing up the rips, then weighs it,  pronounces the price (which was notably less than expected) scans my plastic.
“Keep your packing tape in the car,” she says, “Most people forget it and ended buying it new each time.”

She is handing me a receipt now, smiling, wishing me a good day.
It’s  over? That easy??
I am nearly floating toward the door—feeling light, fulfilled. Such simple acts of service and I find myself smiling. I exit through the glass vestibule and  into thick summer sun, into peace and with one less place on my scapegoat list.
(Since writing this, the DMV has replaced the post office for reasons that I have no space or time to go into.)

What about you–have any scapegoats??