Stephen King, Owen King, and #MeToo

“That instinct, to doubt what women say, it’s always there. To find some reason not to take their word. Men do it…but we do, too. I do it.” P. 439 of  Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties.

I’m on page 495 (of 700) of the above captioned book. This quote struck me for many reasons. But, it touches on the spirit of what’s happening in response to the #metoo movement. The problem of sexism and abuse is not the fault of a specific man or group of men. The problem is not strictly even about men. The problem is the culture as a whole. This is a culture which treats women’s words as suspect or frivolous, and men’s words as authoritative and important. Even if the man is lying. Even if the man doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Even if he is not credible. He is given a kind of “benefit of the doubt” (also called privilege) that women, by contrast, have to work long and hard for, if it’s ever given at all.

In the novel Sleeping Beauties, the women are disappearing. (There are no real spoilers here, but if you don’t want to know anything about the book, skip ahead to the next paragraph). They are falling asleep and not waking up. They are not dead, but they are no longer around. Without them, the tiny town in which the story takes place is falling apart. The problem is global. Chaos is reigning all over the world. Women are trying hopelessly to stay awake. Men are trying to live in a world without women. Some men react with sadness; others take to violence. But, throughout the story, the authors comment subtly on the state of male/female relationships.

I don’t know how the novel is going to end, but I can confidently assert my opinion in real life: men and women need each other. We complement each other. Women’s words, their feelings, their experiences, are just as important as men’s. There is nothing we can’t do, if given a fair chance. For tasks where physical strength is necessary, we rely on men on to help, but it is not a requirement. Humans are always creating ways to do things that are physically impossible without mechanized assistance. Men can nurture children and care for elderly parents, just as women stereotypically do. There is wisdom, however, in the division of labor.

This division of labor does not always line up according to gender. Some men are better with children than some women. Some women are much more rational and are better leaders than men. There are gender tendencies, but we are not locked into those. Those difference merely let us know that we need each other. Tasks should be divvied up according to talent and interest, not genitalia.

As we embrace both sides of our natures, we become more mentally balanced, confident, and whole. As a woman, I have some stereotypically female traits: I love babies, I am interested in relationships, I love to make my environment beautiful, and I prioritize people over money and things. On the other hand, I rarely cry, I hate to shop, I’m highly rational, and I’m task-oriented more than social. A man who would balance me out would probably have opposite or complementary traits. Polarity causes attraction, and nature is always seeking a balance.

So, with all the noise and sad news out there, let’s not buy into the idea that we are enemies. Some men do hate women; and some women hate men. But the truth is: we need each other. Sexual harassment is not a women’s issue. It’s a human issue. Listening to women, and taking care of our little girls, is about preserving our human societies. We cannot thrive in a world where women are regularly abused while gaining educations, earning livings, or simply walking down the street.

Men can help protect our societies by protecting the women. Women can express gratitude, acknowledging the good men in our lives who do this automatically. Women can help themselves by refusing to buy into the cultural idea that our thoughts are less relevant than men’s. Discrimination often leads to self-hatred and insecurity. We can’t let this happen. Keep speaking up, ladies! Even when it’s hard. Even when people don’t listen at first. We need our women. And we need our men.

United, we are a human family. Divided, we are each other’s worse nightmares. We get to choose.

 

Peace and love,

Raven

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Creative Jealousy

Creative jealousy is something that can strike a writer at any stage of his or her career. It can hit anyone, but creative people seem to be especially prone to it. Art (of all kinds) comes from deep within. So,  it’s easy to become insecure when you see other people “soaring ahead,” while you’re sitting in front of your computer staring at a shitty first draft or struggling with writer’s block.

You know this feeling is counterproductive, but you can’t seem to help it. I’m here to let you know that you can help it. With practice, we can train our minds and manage our emotions. As writers, we want all the drama to appear on the page, not in our heads. Here are five things we can do to kick creative jealousy to the curb:

  1. Practice self-care. Daily, not sporadically. Meditate, exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep. You cannot get mileage out of a car with dirty fuel or no oil. Take care of your body and mind, and they will take care of you. You can’t afford to blow this advice off. At birth, you’re only given one body, one mind. That’s it. Everybody has time to meditate for 5 minutes and eat quality food. Exercise can be as simple as 10 minutes of calisthenics or a walk around the block. Sleep is trickier. But, a little known fact is that the more you meditate, the less sleep you eventually need. But, regardless, sleep debts must be paid. If you don’t get proper rest, the deficit will show up in other ways – shoddy work, short tempers, belly fat, and diminishing returns. Take good care of yourself.
  2. Realize that social media is a “Best Of” version of that person’s life. Most sane people do not post about how terrible their lives are, or how poorly their careers are going. People post what they’re proud of, what they’re interested in, and what they want others to see. The only way to really know how someone is doing is to personally follow them around 24/7. A better use of your time, however, is to view other people’s websites and timelines like movie trailers. Have you ever seen a great trailer for a sucky movie? Me too. Keep that in mind.
  3. Create, don’t consume.  If you are a creative person, your goal is to make content for others to enjoy, not sit on the internet worrying about what other writers are doing. Writers need to read, of course, but following other people’s careers online is not necessary. If looking at someone else’s work is part of your research, that’s fine. But if you struggle with jealousy, work on your own stuff before you look at what others in your field are doing. Even if what you’ve made is not wonderful, it’s yours. Creating your own stuff shows you that you’re moving in the right direction. Anyone can be a critic, and most people are. Few people, however, have what it takes to keep grinding out material year in and year out. Be one of those people.
  4. Channel your jealousy. Rather than focus on how much better someone else is doing than you, be mindful of how destructive that negative energy is. Instead, put yourself in their shoes. Think how happy they must be to have achieved x,y, and z. Be happy for them. Or, if you can’t manage happiness, go for imitation. Learn from them. Find out what they’re doing right. Befriend them, if you can. Offer to help them in some way. It is said that we are the sum total of the 5 people we spend the most time around. So, it can only help you to be nice to people who are where you want to be.
  5. Appreciate the Self. Realize that each human (including you) is unique, with a special set of pros and cons. No other person has exactly the same package to offer as you do. Get rid of the scarcity mentality – the idea that there’s only so much work out there, and you have to claw and scratch, and step on other people to get ahead. That old idea has never been less true. New distribution outlets have expanded our opportunities. Only you can do what you do, the way you do it.

No one ever knows what will be “in” at any given time. So, be yourself. Make what you make and do it well. And don’t worry about what other people are doing. Besides, they’re probably worrying about what you’re doing.

There’s power and magic in you. Focus on that, and let the world see you shine.

Peace and love,

Raven

 

The Best Writing Advice

The best writing advice I ever heard was just to write. Very non-sexy, right?  But that’s it in a nutshell. Write.

There are lots of tips out there about how to write compelling characters, how to structure the plot, and how to market your finished work. But the advice that has helped me the most is this: sit butt in chair, and…go!

And read. That’s the second best writing advice I’ve ever gotten. As I read, I get a growing feel for what works and what doesn’t. Reading also informs me on what has already been written. That still leaves the problem of time.

Time is, and always will be, a problem for everyone. For artists, who are often trying to balance day jobs with their real passions, time is a big deal. There are no fancy tricks to finding time to write, either. Figure out when you’re at your best, then find a way to write at that time. I’m best in the morning. So I peel myself out of the bed and write in the mornings. Nothing fancy, nothing sexy.

But it gets that first draft written.

Emphasis on first draft. The only way to get anything written is to just write. The first things that come to mind will usually suck. I write them anyway. I hold my nose, and write them anyway. I wouldn’t dare show anyone, not unless I were being held at gunpoint. Then, yes, I would reveal my first draft. Other than that, first drafts are private, secret territory. The next few drafts will probably be better. Nevertheless, putting words on the page is the goal.

I wish I had juicier advice. But I don’t. If you want to write (or paint, or start a business, or do stand-up comedy), just do it. Don’t ask for permission. Don’t worry about money, fame, or critical acclaim. Just do a whole bunch of it. And repeat.

Have a beautiful, creative weekend.

Peace and love,

Raven