Opinion: Instagram v. Twitter

As a writer who is trying to gain recognition, I’ve done what dozens of writing magazines, podcasts, and Facebook pages keep telling me to do: have multiple platforms on multiple social media sites.

This has been a…mostly unsuccessful endeavor on my part seeing as I find social media a distraction from what I really should be doing (a.k.a writing). However, I have found a friend in Instagram, what I once believed to be one of the most self-indulgent websites out there.

I used to think Twitter was my best bet for gaining attention (and perhaps it is) but I find Instagram to be miles superior for these reasons:

There isn’t nearly as much drama on Instagram as there is on Twitter.

Or at least I’ve found this to be true in the writing community. Every time I logged on to Twitter I was instantly flooded by tweets about who was pissed with who. If I were to rename Twitter I would call it Who Are We Mad At Now? It was like being stuck in high school math class all over again. On Instagram, people just take well posed pictures of books, spiral notebooks, or their laptops. Nobody is offended, nobody is being offensive. Everyone is just having a good time looking at cool pictures.

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You can type much more. 

People often praise Twitter for it’s brevity (it being the soul of wit and all), nonetheless, I think that’s how most people get in trouble. They can’t adequately explain themselves in that many words so they often come off as arrogant or uninformed. I much prefer Instagram with it’s (so far) 2,200 character limit. I don’t think anyone needs that many characters for a single post, but it’s good to have that much space available.

You don’t have to constantly think of something witty to say. 

Updating on Instagram is easy. All you have to do is snap a picture of something, make a hashtag, and boom. You got a post. With Twitter I had to continually read and reread my tweet to make sure I wouldn’t offend someone, rework it, and before I knew it, I had spent 10 minutes on a single tweet. This is a colossal waste of time. I would much rather take a photograph of a gorgeous bookstore I saw than try to convince people how smart I am because of who I voted for in 2016.

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If Twitter is your thing, that’s fine. But if you find yourself getting tired of the constant drama and character limitations, I recommend giving Instagram a try. I’ve followed a lot of interesting people this way and I truly believe it’s the superior website if you’re looking for people to communicate with on books and writing.

 

A Good Habit is Hard to Find

I’m trying to change my habits.

But the bad ones just seem so engrained into me that if I were to exfoliate them like dead skin off of a calloused foot, I would have to keep going until I hit a bone.

My bad habits are the axis on which my bizarre world turns. They make up who I am.

Luckily I don’t smoke or drink in excess. However, my propensity to procrastinate on my life goals and resist improvement are just as hazardous to my future.

If I have an assignment or task given to me by a third party, I have no issue doing it. When it comes to providing goals for myself that have no consequences for anyone else, however, I struggle to keep them.

Especially when it comes to my writing goals.

I open the story, type one sentence, decide it sucks, and then set my laptop on fire.

My Instagram feed is awash with inspirational quotes about persistence, but none of them sink in. Even if a chubby old nun were to burst into my room one morning and sing at me to climb every mountain, I’m still not sure if the message would come through.

Regardless, I desperately want to be the type of person that sets goals and achieves them.

I also want to be the person that can look up funny internet videos until 1:00 in the morning and be fully awake for their morning shift.

But mostly that first one.

I just have to remember that others have stood where I stand right now and were able to overcome even greater odds. I will keep my head high and remind myself:

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Quality Posts vs. Quantity of Posts

I don’t really do New Years resolutions, but I am hoping to produce at least two blog posts every week in the future.

The problem with this is it can be difficult coming up with something to blog about.

I can make a list of all the things I want to write, but most of these ideas never come to fruition. Sometimes I don’t have as much to say about the topic as I thought I did, sometimes I have too much to say, or sometimes I just lose interest in the subject altogether.

I could write every single day if I wanted to, but in the end it all boils down to quality v. quantity. Conventional wisdom says you should favor quality over quantity. However, realistically, you’re expected to have both.

I don’t know about you guys, but I have to meditate on things. I have to let ideas stew in my head for a long time before I can properly articulate them and share them with the world. On occasion, I become so wrapped up in creating the best possible post that I go weeks at a time without posting anything.

However, I’m going to attempt to let more of my thought bunnies free rather than keep them cooped up.

Being a perfectionist, I think, can be just as bad as churning out crap every day. How can you improve if nobody sees your work?

So here’s me trying to update more frequently and produce fun content for all the book and writing nerds out there.

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Annoying Clichés Writers Use (Featuring Adorable Cats)

Women having hair that is waist length. 

Most women I know don’t have hair that is waist length. Do you know how hard it is to brush a monster that long, or keep it from getting caught in everything? Mine only went down to my shoulder blades and I had to chop it all off because I kept getting it stuck in doorways. There’s also the grooming and upkeep you have to take into consideration. Who has the time to blow dry and style that much hair? Not most people.

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Hooman bed is best bed 

People with gray eyes. 

In my twenty plus years of existence, I have met maybe two people that have gray eyes. It’s an even rarer eye color than green. So why do I keep coming across people in books with gray eyes? It seems like every other character in books these days have them. It’s like some writers can’t find a more creative way to describe their characters. I don’t know. Give them a beauty mark or something, a scar, anything else but gray eyes.

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Rawr

People biting their lips/digging their nails into their palm so hard they bleed. 

Out of all the clichés I’ve mentioned thus far, this is one of the most annoying. Particularly because nobody does thisEVER. I’ve even tried to do this myself. Whenever I come across a passage like this, I purposely dig my fingernails (which are long and kind of sharp) into the palm of my hand as hard as I can. It leaves an imprint, but it  has never come close to breaking the skin. Same goes with my lips. Nothing. Even if your lips are the consistency of rice paper, they probably won’t bleed. So why does this cliché even exist?

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I can haz milk, hipster hooman? 

Author/character filibuster. 

What’s more fascinating than a writer/character stopping the novel to tell us what the moral of the story is? Literally anything else. I get that dialogue in a book can’t always sound perfectly natural, but it takes a reader out of the moment when you give a character a speech that goes on forever. Nobody can give a speech that detailed on the fly. It doesn’t flow well with the rest of the story either.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” SPOILER FREE REVIEW

I had my misgivings about this movie the first time I saw the trailer. Sure, I wanted it to be good, but I was concerned about having a universe that’s so spectacularly British expand to the other side of the pond.

However, this story…this story was great.

From the beginning, this tale hits the ground running and does not stop. There are some quiet moments, but it is very plot heavy for the most part.

The pacing, I think, was one of the movie’s greatest strengths. It didn’t give the audience any opportunity to become bored. Screenwriting and novel writing are very different animals, so my concern was that it might be too slow or exposition heavy. This did not turn out to be the case. There was a lot of action in this film, especially with apparitions. God, the apparitions in this film were beautiful.

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While I loved this movie, I will grant you there was one problem that stuck out the most: the characters.

Don’t misunderstand, I don’t dislike these characters. The problem is you can tell there’s so much untapped potential to them, but the main focus is on the plot rather than exploring their identities. While I love Newt, there’s hardly anything you learn about him throughout the course of the movie that you can’t derive from the trailers. What you see is pretty much what you get.

The two characters that suffer the most from being underdeveloped are Tina and Jacob. I like these characters but I want to love them. I think that if these characters had been played by less capable actors, they wouldn’t have been nearly as likable.

If I were honest, there are moments that are totally predictable, but not so much that they ruined the film. There were some genuinely heartwarming and funny moments. I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did, but I am very glad that I gave it a chance out of loyalty to the Harry Potter franchise.

Overall, I give this movie a solid A.

While not always original, it is most definitely spell-binding.

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Sucking (Writing) a Little Every Day Part II

I wrote a post around 6 months ago about how I was going to write every single day, no matter how much the product sucked.

And for a while, I stuck to that goal. However, in recent months I’ve had difficulty maintaining.

Some reasons are legitimate like I have had homework to do and personal matters arose. However, a lot of this stems from my self-doubt and internet addiction (see “I Can’t Write At Home. The Internet Wants My Soul”).

Half of the time it’s like I’m pushing against an invisible barrier that I can’t seem to budge. I prepare myself to write, but as soon as I open the page or word document, I freeze up. Everything goes blank.

Maybe it’s because the story I’m working on is going to take more time and effort than I originally thought, or because I am wanting to change the direction of it and am afraid that I’ll take away all that was good about it before.

Since I’m due to graduate soon, I will be expected to get something called a…jobe? Joab? Something like that. Anyway, I won’t have nearly as much free time at my disposal. This means I need to kick it into high gear if I want to birth a book into the world before I’m in my 30s.

I need to go back to writing for at least an hour every single day. That’s every single day.

Not days that I feel like it, not days that it’s convenient, every day.

Even when it feels like I’m sucking.

The Short Guide to World-Building for Noobs

For some people creating new worlds is easy. For others it’s a bit more difficult. Here are a few things I’ve learned from experience:

Write more information about this world than you will use in the story. 

Get out a notebook and write down as much about this world as you can: the landscapes, the history, the language, the climate, the people, everything you can think of. However, keep in mind that most of what you are creating will not make it into the finished product. People don’t like being bogged down by too much information. Nonetheless, it’s important that you have this background information so that it feels more organic. You don’t want the reader to feel as if you’re making it up as you go along.

Remember where you live affects who you are as a person. 

Regardless of how you may dislike where you live or the customs you grew up with, it’s undeniable that where you are born affects your view of the world. The same should be said of your characters. For instance, people who live in less forgiving climates tend to be tougher than people that don’t. Think about your character and how their environment shaped their personality. Did it embolden them? Make them fearful? What side of the mountain they came from can make a difference in their development.

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Travel. 

Exploring new lands, tasting new food, and mingling with strangers is the best way to get your creative energies flowing. This is especially true when it comes to world-building. Traveling can broaden your horizons and inspire you to create new worlds that may nor may not resemble this one. You can look up photographs on the internet about certain landmarks, but it’s no substitute for being there yourself.

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Read about other cultures. 

This doesn’t mean you should directly or disrespectfully rip off of other cultures and their beliefs. However, exposure to new ideas (or at least ideas that are new to you) can inspire you to create your own. Study different religions and sciences. Read short story collections from other countries. Do as much research as you can about different environments.

Good luck!

Book Review: “My Salinger Year” by Joanna Rakoff

WARNING: CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS FOR THE AFOREMENTIONED MEMOIR. 

A synopsis taken from the writer’s website:

At 23, after leaving graduate school to pursue her dreams of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff moves to New York City and takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent of J. D. Salinger. She spends her days in the plush, wood-paneled agency, where Dictaphones and typewriters still prevail and old-time agents doze at their desks in the late afternoon, and at night she goes home to the tiny, threadbare Williamsburg apartment she shares with her socialist boyfriend. Precariously balanced between glamour and poverty, surrounded by titanic personalities, and struggling to trust her own artistic talent, Joanna is tasked with responding to Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. But as she reads the deeply candid letters from his fans, she finds herself abandoning the agency’s form letter and writing her own responses. Over the course of the year, she finds her own voice by acting as Salinger’s, on her own dangerous and wonderful terms.

Pros:

The writing style. While the premise intrigued me, what drew me in was the author’s voice. From the first page, Rakoff grabbed my attention and held it tight for the duration of the novel. I’m not much of a non-fiction reader so I was entranced by the novel-like style in which it was written in.

New York City. I loved how she describes New York in all it’s hipster-y splendor. She talked about the shops, the club scene, the restaurants, just the attitude of the city. Admittedly, I think New York tends to be over romanticized (particularly by those that live there), however, she was able to capture my awe and attention. It wasn’t an overblown love, but it was enough to show me why this city is considered so magical to some.

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It’s a story about growing up. I am around the same age Rakoff was when these events took place, so I found myself in her. She addresses many of the drawbacks of growing up such as paying the bills for the first time, growing apart from friends, watching other people make it big and become successful, and the doubt you experience in your own abilities. More than this, however, she accurately describes the loneliness of going through life, feeling as if nobody cares about you. It’s a relatable book, particularly if you’re in (or have recently graduated from) college.

Cons: 

The dust-jacket is misleading. While Rakoff’s job of responding to the Salinger’s fan letters is an important part of the memoir, the description makes it sound like it’s the crux of the story, or that she somehow mislead people into thinking she was Salinger when this is not the case. As I mentioned before, this story is more about growing up and figuring out what you want to do with your life than it is about Salinger or her acting as his mouthpiece.

Why Don?  Rakoff was never able to convincingly explain to the reader  why she stayed with Don, her roommate/boyfriend. From what I’m given to understand, she had a phenomenal boyfriend who went to California for school and….for some reason she didn’t go with him. She then decided to cheat on said boyfriend with Don, a egotist with little regard for Rakoff or her feelings, and even moved into a crappy apartment with him. My question is why? Why did she stay with him if she had a much better option? If Don had been the college boyfriend and she was just reluctant to let him go because of their history, I would be able to understand her thinking. However, that was not the case. I think it would have been important to discuss considering it probably reveals quite a bit about Rakoff as a person.

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Rushed ending. If I had to chose which part of this book was the worst, then I would easily say the ending. Up until this point, everything was well paced and shaping up nicely. However, there is no real emotional pay-off with her boyfriend Don. We don’t see or hear about the death throes of their relationship, the narrative just says she left him at some point for her much more desirable college boyfriend. There’s a jarring jump into the future where she learns about Salinger’s death and…nothing else about her life. We know she had kids and that she’s married to someone (she doesn’t tell us if this is the angelic college boyfriend of yore or not), but she doesn’t go into any detail about her life in the future. I wish we could have seen more since it would have been nice to know how her relationship with Salinger altered her adult life. Otherwise there’s not much point in including it other than to say “wow, sucks that Salinger is dead and stuff.”

Overall opinion: 

While I had a few problems with this book, my overall impression of it was a positive one. I was able to really connect with the writer and her experiences working at The Agency. It’s difficult to put down and I definitely think it was worth the read.

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The Suspending of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

I’ve read recently that Accomack County Public Schools are suspending To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for their usage of the N-word.

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, you can see for yourself in this exert from “Classic novels pulled from Accomack County Public Schools” :

Earlier this month, a parent voiced concerns to the school board about racial slurs in both of the novels.

“Right now, we are a nation divided as it is,” the mother is heard saying in an audio recording of the meeting on Nov. 15. She tells the board that her biracial son, a high school student, struggled getting through a page that was riddled with a racial slur.

“So what are we teaching our children? We’re validating that these words are acceptable, and they are not acceptable by any means,” the parent said.

Me:

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To those that have taken it upon themselves to suspend these novels, I have one question:

You have read these books, right?

The complaint seems to be that reading the N-word makes people feel uncomfortable. Well, here’s the thing: It’s supposed to.

You’re supposed to feel uncomfortable when you see someone being marginalized in these books. You’re supposed to feel indignant when a man who never did anything wrong is convicted for a crime just because he’s black. You’re supposed to feel angry, sad, sick, etc when you read the N-word.

Furthermore, just because a book has something in it, that doesn’t mean the book is in support of that thing.

For instance, The Dovekeepers has genocide in it. Does that mean it’s saying genocide is a good thing? OF COURSE NOT!!!

Tess of D’Urbervilles has rape in it. Is the author saying sexual assault is okay? NO!!

The entire point of both novels, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is that racism is wrong. That it’s morally reprehensible. That no one should subscribe to this way of thinking.

It’s so glaringly obvious that I’m genuinely bewildered as to how anyone could possibly miss that.

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But it seems as if these people don’t want to look at the big picture. They simply want to obsess over details instead.

Apparently if you don’t read about racism, evaluate offensive language, or discuss why it’s wrong to make judgments about others based on skin color, our checkered past will magically go away and we’ll have always been an accepting society.

Who would have thought it?

Maybe we should ban The Diary of Anne Frank and other books about the Holocaust too because those kinds of books could teach people to be Anti-Semitic.

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Can you name one person, one solitary person, who was inspired to become a bigot by reading To Kill a Mockingbird? One single soul? Do you know anyone who has read this book and thought “huh, racism seems pretty cool, now that I think about it.”

I can see a true racist being indifferent to it or claiming it’s propaganda, but I cannot name anyone who has read To Kill a Mockingbird or Huck Finn and decided to become a member of the KKK.

If you have, send me a photograph of this person. I want to see them. I want to put them on Ripley’s Believe it Or Not. I want them to be poked and prodded by scientists in a laboratory because this sort of thing does not happen. 

I wonder if Harper Lee or Mark Twain ever thought that their books would one day be banned by people who are against racism.

Someone please resurrect Mark Twain so he can write another book about how stupid people are in the 21st Century. I would read it so fast I would tear through it like tissue paper.

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