moon rolling its eyes

Steaking Out Privacy, Actor Idolization, and Wrong Writing Groups

I just saw a tweet about being consumed with existential dread and said, yeah, I get it. It’s why I’m having trouble writing these days. I’m three chapters in on the sixth novel of my Other Worldly series, but I haven’t drafted a word in weeks.

It’s not writer’s block. It never has been. It’s the malaise that overwhelms when the world is in chaos and your gender is under attack by misogynist Christofascists, including those who believe they have a privacy right to eat ridiculously overpriced steak at public rightwing watering holes run by elitist a-holes.

How about the privacy right of women to not be sexually assaulted, or not harassed in the workplace? How about the rights of female Americans to not be dictated to by credibly accused sexual predators?

If there was a woman in the moon, she’d be rolling her eyes these days.

Back to more of that existential dread. I go to the mailbox while walking my dog at 5:45 am because it’s July in Vegas, and there’s my alumni magazine, Alcalde, from the University of Texas at Austin (if groans ensue, I get it). On the cover is the (admittedly) tiny headline: “Bless the Mood.”

The accompanying photo provides no clue to this mystifying statement other than the predominant purple hue—ecclesiastical? Because it’s not exactly our school color—and all I can think is, just how far is my alma mater going to run with this blatant failure of both the State of Texas and SCOTUS to recognize and apply the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?

Do I really need a publication from a supposedly secular (loud, derisive snort here) university putting the word “bless” on its cover right now? Here’s my headline: “Read the Room.”

I thumbed to the article for an explanation and truly wished I hadn’t. My mood was not exactly in a blessed state, and in truth has not been since the seditious six of the Supremacist Court saw fit to enforce their twisted concept of religious edict and incoherent nonsense in place of actual common law that the Constitution derives from.

“Bless the Mood” turned out to be an original song. By Matthew McConaughey. The actor recently sang it at the dedication of UT’s new Moody Center, replacing the Erwin Center where my graduation ceremony was held in 1983. Back when women still had privacy rights and bodily autonomy.

All I can think—other than good effing grief—is we need to stop idolizing actors. We should stop believing that becoming famous via films makes you an arbiter of taste, politics, religion, or anything other than acting. Yes, actors can be activists. But idolizing them simply for being an icon of popular culture known as the silver screen is, well, effing stupid. Ditto for sports figures. Unless they’ve done something humanitarian-worthy, their ability run with or hit a ball does not make them a deity or even a decent person.

Last week a different male movie star died, because he is old enough to have reached that milestone, and folks on Twitter fell all over themselves to idolize this actor simply because they loved a movie that he was in. It was palpably clear they knew absolutely nothing about this man as a human being, including his politics or personal reputation, because these supposedly progressive individuals were treating him as if he’d been the second coming to films and to their individual lives. Sheesh.

It’s bad enough we have generations worshipping a family of women whose original claim to fame was their lawyer father defended a famous sports figure, O.J. Simpson, on trial for the brutal murder of his wife. But you know he played football so well…

Maybe it’s like those folks who say they just want to be entertained when they read a book. They don’t want to learn anything of value, have their conscience pricked, or ever have to engage in an actual relevant thought.

If only there weren’t writers who felt that way too.

Another magazine perused this week, the July/August issue of Writer’s Digest, had a clear and concise headline, “Are You in the Wrong Writing Group?” I’m no longer in a writing group, and there’s a few reasons for that, including a participant who thought to tell me I should have my female protagonist spout bible verses at a gun-wielding maniac, hence I eagerly read this article by Aigner Loren Wilson. And felt immediately validated.

The article offered five signs you’re in the wrong writing group, three of which particularly resonated.

Number 1: Unknowledgeable Critiquers, as in “critiquers who have a solid disposition against learning…and give unhelpful critiques based on opinion and bias instead of helpful techniques, advice, and feedback coming from a knowledgeable place.” As my protagonist Rowan Layne would say, ya think?

Number 2: Stagnant and Exclusionary Critiques, wherein participants fail to recognize that, “Not every story is written the same.” You might be in the wrong writing group, the article said, if members offer “repetitive critiques without considering what you may be trying to do with your story.”

In my estimation, such critiquers are too busy unilaterally deciding what someone’s story should be to take the time to actually ask the writer about their intentions—and respect them.

Number 3: Misaligned Writing Purposes, the most common involving “genres and career focuses.” As the article observes, “Most writers find that they can’t get detailed critiques or advice in their specific genre. For example, speculative fiction authors tend to have their stories misunderstood by authors who aren’t familiar with the genre or conventions.”

I would add two things here. First, about those aforementioned different “career focuses.” Perhaps it’s not the best idea to get technical writing advice from someone who has no background, education, or career experience in actual writing. This doesn’t mean they don’t have a book in them waiting to be written, but if they aren’t taking the time to learn the craft of writing, they might be wasting your time.

Second, it’s all-too easy to misunderstand stories while participating in writing groups if one is too busy trying to force misogynist patriarchal religious dogma into a novel series featuring a mature, intelligent, outspoken female protagonist with a background in democratic law, not fabled theocracy.

Oh, and Rowan Layne is a proud honorary aunt, but doesn’t have kids of her own, nor does she eat steak anymore. There’s a reason for that. It involves choice, as opposed to being force-fed by overbearing, clueless male dictates. At writing groups or anywhere else.

And this author of speculative fiction involving aliens of the extraterrestrial kind who deal with present-day sociopolitical issues, including bigotry and violence wrought by ignorant humans, is about eye-rolled out.


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