Monday, June 15, 2015

33 Chickens That Look Like Freddie Flintoff--Um, not really

In junior high, I was infatuated with a girl. I asked her out like fifteen thousand times, and she always said no, but was always gracious to me. My best friend and I schemed about getting dates with her, and I wrote love poems I never shared with her. When she went to boarding school, I realized I’d never have a chance with her, and not for lack of trying but simply because of sheer distance. I began writing seriously then, but not for publication. I wrote stories that involved me saving her from school bullies, house fires, and dragons. Then, something clicked in my brain and I just began writing, and I knew then that that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life—to tell stories. My grandmother purchased a year’s subscription to Writer’s Digest. I poured over those magazines and kept them until my early twenties. I purchased at the age of fifteen Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and I still have that copy, taped up and dog-eared. At sixteen, I don’t think I really knew what a fiction writing career looked like. It involved learning how to type, being alone, smoking, wearing cardigan sweaters, and moving to New England.[1] I imagined my future books on bookstore shelves. 

It was a very romantic idea of the writing life.

Over the last few weeks, I’v been thinking about what it means to be an author of the twenty-first century. I still want to tell stories. I own a couple of cardigans and a few sweater vests.[2] I've been trying to quit smoking for years, I’m surrounded by people, and you can’t find a single one of my novels in any brick and mortar store. You have to buy my stuff on Amazon. I’m okay with these shattered high school illusions because I’m still telling stories, but what I’v realized over the past few weeks is that being an author is not just about writing stories.

We have become what Internet marketing gurus call Content Provders. We’re like BuzzFeed only more personal.

What can get dangerous for the twenty-first century content provider is turning into that 13 year old boy continually asking out the pretty girl in the second row of morning home room. Facebook for a while, for example, was inundated with clickbait:

  • An Out of Work Comedian Tries to Purchase a Bottle of Coke. The Reason Why Will Make You Cry.
  • Emojis That Would Upset an Amateur Clown
  • 15 Sex Tips That Londoners Won’t Believe Actually Exist
  • 33 Chickens That Look Like Freddie Flintoff[3]

Twitter still is inundated with authors screaming “Buy My Book,” and, heck, sometimes I even fall into this trap.[4] What I didn't get when I was 13 is that girls don’t want to be bombarded everyday with the same question over and over—Do you want to go out on a date—Do yo want to buy my book—No. The answer is always no.

At least when I was 13, the girl I was in love with was always gracious. In the real world of the Internet, not so much. People turn you off like a bad TV show.[5] Or move away to boarding school.

[1] Ironically, I’m moving to New Hampshire later this month, but by coincidence only.
[2] I own these items because I livein Wyoming and we have bitter cold winters that get down into the negative twenties. Actually, this is not as bad as it sounds. People automatically think frost bite, but I commuted to work on a bicycle in that weather and have friends that do the same.
[3] To be fair, according to an Atlantic Monthly article, BuzzFeed never uses clickbait, and my clickbait headlines were generated because I’m not that boring creativewise.
[4] Banana Sandwich is only $2.99 on Amazon today. Free for Prime members. ;p
[5] Like Phyllis becaue I’m pretty sure no one remembers that TV show except me.

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