gvdub: (politics)
Recently, a number of friends have sent me links to online petitions for one thing or another. When I realized I was getting unreasonably annoyed at this, I had to give it some thought because these are, after all, friends for whom I care. Here are the conclusions I've come to.

1. Online petitions are worth exactly as much as the paper they're printed on – in other words, nothing. They cannot offer proof of anything. Anybody could collect hundreds of thousands of email addresses (znc I can point you at a number of places that will sell you exactly that) and paste them on a petition. 'Signing' an online petition might make you feel good, or as if you've taken action, but it doesn't really accomplish anything.

2. That list of email addresses can be harvested and sold to spammers. I wouldn't be surprised if a number of circulating petitions are being used for exactly that. What do we really know about the people who are behind any given online petition, anyway?

3. Signing a petition makes many people feel as if they've been let off the hook. They've done their bit now, and don't have to worry about it anymore. This leads to complacency and a sense of powerlessness and frustration when the outcome of that particular issue isn't what the signee desires.

There's a lot more that I could extrapolate, but those are my initial thoughts.

I'm a big believer in social activism, individual initiative, and community involvement. But I think that you need to get your hands dirty. Care about an issue? Do some research to make sure that you've got all the facts and that particular rock is someplace you're comfortable standing on, then get out there and work for it. That's how stuff gets done. Knock on doors. Talk to people. Try to help them see things from the same angle you're looking from. Show up at that council meeting/school board/senate hearing/environmental impact study/what have you yourself, get up, and be a goad. Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, whatever they're afflicted with or comfortable about. Question your own motives. Make doubly sure that you really mean what you think you mean. Listen to the other approaches to the problem. I mean, really listen. Try to put yourself in their shoes, the same way you would hope they put themselves in yours. If somebody gets stuck somewhere in the process, offer them a hand to pull them out, no matter where they sit in relation to you. Life's too short to not bear our common humanity in mind at all times. Everybody wants the same stuff, and if we play our cards right, we can all come out of this okay, although 'okay' may not necessarily be what we thought it was going to be.

Or at least, that's what I believe.
gvdub: (Default)
As writers, possibly the most heroic thing we’re called on to do on a regular basis is face a blank page and start writing on it. It’s a leap of creative faith – that we can reach into that stream of story that’s constantly happening around us, grab hold of the tail of some passing thing and wrestle it out onto the page, polished up all nice and shiny for readers to devour, ponder, or let linger on their palate, letting all the flavor soak in. If we can do that without letting our voice get in the way of the story, but still maintain enough voice for the reader to say, “I want to read more stuff like that.”, then we’ve accomplished something that might just be worthwhile.

It’s easy, especially for writers who are clumsily advancing through the early steps of getting a grasp on the craft to get side-tracked by talking and thinking about the process of writing. It can be far simpler to examine how you go about writing something than it is to just write it. Personally, I’ve got at least six different programs that claim to help you organize your writing in some way, shape or form. I can sit and play with virtual index cards on a virtual corkboard until the cows come home, realize the last dairy farm in the San Fernando Valley disappeared years ago, discuss what to do, then turn around and seek fresh meadowland elsewhere. During all of this, I haven’t done any actual writing, but I feel as if I’ve accomplished something because I’ve changed the color of the virtual pins on the virtual cards so that, if you squint at the corkboard from sufficient distance, it looks vaguely like a 4-year-old’s rendering of Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon”. See what I mean? Dangerous. Or you get on IRQ with another member of your writing group and type back and forth about the piece you’re (not) writing. The best advice I’ve ever gotten from all the books I’ve read about writing and the pros I’ve talked to is “Shut up and write.” Advice which I will now follow. See you around, and maybe next time I’ll have a story that’s finished, as in written.

cross posted from Less Than Meets the Ear

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GVDub

May 2009

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