The article, How to be a Failure for a Month, Year, or Decade and Still be Okay, written by Christina Fitzpatrick is a witty, sometimes funny, essay on how much it sucks to be a creative type in a world of people who think 9-5 with a steady paycheck is the only sane way to live.
She laments on the unsolicited advice:
In bars, at dinner parties, even minding my own business on airplanes or among close friends — everyone wants to give me advice. Maybe you should become a schoolteacher? A paralegal? How about a nurse? A nurse in a psych ward?
And then gives advice (7 rules to be exact) on how to stay sane as a creative type whose income or job description isn’t as concrete as others would like it to be. My favorite was #6, “Avoid Shitty People“.
What kind of shitty people? The ones that say, “So are you still writing? Acting? Competitive eating?” The ones who say it with an intonation of incredulity, the ones who treat anything you’ve ever achieved as something distant, small, or lackluster. The ones who mention someone else who’s doing everything you do better at a younger age with more money to show for it. This person is shitty — far, far shittier than the dude who stole your purse or ransacked your bank account or forgot to tell you he was cheating on you. You wouldn’t hang out with the purse thief or the identity thief or the heart thief, so why are you hanging out with the good-vibes thief?
Avoid him. Keep your prized feelings in a safe. Lock your windows and doors. If he still appears, through an air vent or forgotten crawl space, inform him that you are feeling murderous. And be compelling.
Avoid shitty people. That’s pretty much my New Year’s resolution from now on. Every year. Even if I didn’t know a single shitty person, or any persons who are not shitty generally but have their weak moments, it would still be my New Year’s resolution. It’s just so good in that way that it applies to everything you can think of, and it makes you smile about things that are otherwise, well, shitty.
I pulled this week’s word from Fitzpatrick’s 6th rule:
I didn’t meet Queen Latifah.
Here’s what happened. There was supposed to be a smallish reception after the Women’s Leadership Conference where Queen Latifah would be, and the hype was that the reception would be small enough to meet her.
There was a reception, but the organizers didn’t screen anyone coming in. No badges were inspected, no check-list was checked. People just streamed in. I don’t know, maybe they were all supposed to be there, but the lack of formality was suspicious.
When the Queen entered the reception hall through a back door, there was no announcement made. Predictably a mob quickly formed around her and the organizers scrambled to assemble some order. And by order I mean they hastily put up a small rope which corralled about 1/100th of the mob into a “line”, which was really just a smaller mob funneled in at the closest proximity to QL. Everyone else was still in an unformed blob with people pushing, and cutting into the line at the end of the rope en masse.
Those people that cut the line? They got a picture or an autograph. Those of us who held the line? We saw the camera flashes and heard the squeals from a not too far, but far enough distance.
And just as the line started thinning out, just when I was only about 10 people behind, the Queen pouted to the crowd that she had to go.
Let me just pause here for a moment to point out that the theme of this conference was, “Be Bold”. Apparently some women confused “bold” with “rude”.
Now I am the first woman to bristle at any woman being labeled as some kind of misbehavin’ because they go after what they want, but this wasn’t that. This was just a case of bad behavior getting rewarded.
And I was miffed about it. I wasn’t about to push and steal and cheat just so I could get an autograph. At the point that I realized this wasn’t going to be a civilized reception of grown women behaving like grown women, I would’ve dropped out of the line. But I had been carrying around a book with me all day, the book my friend wrote, and I wanted to give it to Queen Latifah. That was my task. For a moment I contemplated throwing the book at her (ha!), but didn’t want to be that woman. The woman that took out Queen Latifah’s right eye with the sharp corner of a book of poetry. That woman who got tackled by security and hauled out of a leadership conference for causing a scene.
So as Queen Latifah slipped through the back door, I slid the book back into my bag, wondering when the world might be set up to reward those people who know when is the right time to break the rules, and when doing so is just a childish act of selfishness.
For the record, on stage and in the crowd, Queen Latifah was every bit of down-to-earth, sassy, funny, sweet, and kick-ass as you would think.
Your word this week my word-nerdlings is:
Hunkering down for another major snowstorm. I could feel the outer tendrils of it this afternoon – a gray-white brooding sky, dropping temperatures, and that peculiar looming stillness that precedes storms. Though I never can tell if that stillness is imagined, something to do with anticipation.
Several years ago I and about 100 other people were caught outside in a freak storm. A downburst is how they described it after. All I know is that one minute we were all gathered in a huge party tent listening to the rumble of an approaching storm, and then suddenly there was no tent. Just quarter sized hail, screaming children and frantic adults, chaos, flying debris, and a ferocious, shrieking wind that was snapping every tree in its path.
None of us ever really got over that storm. Everyone survived, and miraculously there were few injuries, but ever since many of us have a heightened awareness about weather. There’s always some unconscious part of me sniffing the air, watching the sky – listening with animal senses for Mother Nature’s mood-shifts.
Even so I love snowstorms. Always have. So long as you properly respect snow, I count it as the least damaging or dangerous kind of weather, and when it comes down hard it’s going to softly stop the world for a tiny bit. Keep families home, and tuck everyone in.
Your word this week is:
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Since my last post, I saw a friend debut her book of poetry, saw her read at Yale, and had dinner afterward with her, other amazing alum sisters, and some of the students who came to hear her read. Good food, wine, amazing conversations, and buckets of fun that lasted far into the night (the next morning if you want to get technical).
Then I found out I was invited to a small networking event with Queen Latifah.
I’m gonna let you sit on that for a few seconds while I scream into a pillow.
Then my amazing friends helped me come up with the funds to actually GO.
If things couldn’t get better, I was also asked to coach someone to write their book, and this will now be my second book coaching project. I’m honored to help people in this process of giving birth to their ideas.
And it all wrapped up last night with another gathering of my alum sisters, more good food, more wine, more laughter and amazing conversations.
I’m writing this all so fast that I’m not doing justice to the tremendous power that just blew through my life. Gah! It’s all coming out like high school babble over prom. I just want to get the prompt out to you. This week’s word is from (of course it HAS to be) A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying (The Andres Montoya Poetry Prize), by Laurie Ann Guerrero:
P.S. You should buy this book. It needs to be in your poetry collection. I’m in the acknowledgements, so you might even figure out who the woman is behind Velvet Verbosity. But ha! The acknowledgements are three pages long!
P.P.S. I just want to take a second to properly give respect to whatever forces aligned this last week, because it was so good I’m a little scared that next week might decide to kick my ass just to keep me humble and balanced.
P.P.P.S. I’m a day late, so YOU get an extra day for 100 word goodness. The challenge is open until Sunday!
A pot of chicken is on the stove. It’s hours past dinner time but the cold makes me do funny things to comfort myself, like decide to make a chicken pot pie at 8:00 p.m. that won’t be ready until 10:00 p.m. Clearly I don’t follow an eating plan. The life gurus would shame me for such behavior, but I won’t care one wit when I’m cozied up with a steaming plate of pie after the family has wandered up to bed.
Through a long trail of this leading to that, I was thinking about mystical, well-written fairy tales so I pulled out my favorite book, Possession, by A.S. Byatt. Your word this week is from that tale:
So the tailor was let in, and there was a strange household. In a rocking chair stood a brilliantly coloured cockerel and his pure white wife. In the fire-corner stood a black-and-white goat, with knobby little horns and eyes like yellow glass, and on the hearth lay a very large cat, a multi-coloured, mazy-patterned brindled cat, that looked up at the little tailor with eyes like cold green jewels, with black slits for pupils. And behind the dining table was a delicate dun cow, with milky breath and a warm wet nose and enormous soft brown eyes. “Good morning,” said the tailor to this company, for he believed in good manners, and the creatures were surveying him in a judging and intelligent way.
Tomorrow I’ll be traveling to Yale University to see my fellow Smith alum and friend Laurie Ann Guerrero read from her newly published book of Poetry. If you’re inclined you can check out where to find her book, and hear about upcoming events on her Facebook page.
See you around word-nerds!