Day 12: Who Owns a Story?

So after two long, but very nice, days, I was thinking of writing a quick, non-emotional story for the next day of this challenge.  I figured it was a throwaway day–it’s a Saturday night, and maybe no one will be up for reading a blog post.  However, something has been weighing on my mind since I began this project.  It’s a bigger issue–one that I’m sure a trained writer has worked through either in a school program or just through experience.  Or who knows?  Maybe no one has a true answer to this and I’m just realizing the biggest dilemma of all for myself for the first time.  My question is: who “owns” a story?  Let me elaborate:

At the beginning of this project, I brainstormed a list of stories that come to mind when I think about interesting, enlightening, or stressful times in my life that are worth working into the narrative of this representation of 30 years.  At the bottom of the list, past the area of actual possibilities, I created a second list–the “these will never go online” lists.  They are the stories that I deemed inappropriate for an innocent, yet public, forum such as this blog.  I’ve been realizing as I go that I’m unclear about whether these stories at the bottom of the page should ever be told.  What purpose would I be serving by sharing them?  You all have them–stories about past relationships, about being wronged, about mistakes, about fights, or about personal or family hardships that significantly shifted your life.  They are ones that may or may not put you in a good light.  But what’s more important–is that many of these do not put others in a good light, and that’s the issue here.  And other than the possibility of actually getting in trouble for hurting someone’s character, who are you to decide if a story should be told without the other person to defend their side of things?

I’m  being vague because this applies to so many stories I’ve come across on my list.  This blog (as much as I respect it) is not worthy of these stories that most strongly affect me. But that sparks the question–if they mean so much to me, where and when do I tell them?  How does a writer decide when and where a personally significant or deeply influential story is meant to be told?  I think this can be asked of theatre as well.  Do you put your life on the stage if it risks marring the message of something that altered you and your loved ones’ lives?  Or does it serve you more to keep them for yourself?

I find myself skimming the surface with these 30 days of tales.  And at times, I worry they make it look like my “hardships” or journey are anecdotes about travel woes or brushes with frustrating jobs.  But the real ones, the ones that truly make me who I am, involve so many other characters that they cannot be told in this manner.  So what do you do?

Thoughts?  I am open, and thankful, for any advice.

Have a safe a happy night, everyone!

Versatile Blogger Awards!

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I will take a quick break from my writing challenge this morning to talk about a lovely surprise I received in my mailbox today.  I was nominated by the blogger, Vintage Sapience for the Versatile Blogger Award–thank you so much for reading and recommending me!  Vintage Sapience is a beautiful collection of poems, quotes and inspirational posts following the author’s exploration of life and writing.  I highly recommend checking it out for a morning boost.

I have seen the Versatile Blogger Award making its rounds on WordPress, and think it’s such a beautiful idea.  Wordpress has served as a consistently supportive and positive community of new and seasoned writers, and this award is a lovely way to spread the word about other bloggers you follow and enjoy.  Here are the rules (bored from Vintage Sapien’s instructions):

Rules:
  1. Show the award on your blog.
  2. Thank the person who nominated you.
  3. Share seven (7) different facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate fifteen (15) blogs of your choice.
  5. Link your nominees.

7 Facts about me:

  1. I am an actor and writer with a side job as an admin assistant in a North Jersey school.  One of my additional side gigs is writing wedding venue descriptions, which means I’m overly and obsessively aware of rooms with wainscoting or “rustic charm.”
  2. I once hiked the Camino De Santiago in Spain (a good chunk of my writing subject matter) and plan to go back in the next several years…or possibly very soon.
  3. I have two kitties, Viola and Tiber, and dream of owning an African Gray Parrot.
  4. I have an unhealthy love of pickles/pickle juice, especially at strange hours of the day.
  5. I love to cook but am terrible at following recipes–which is why I am a horrific baker.
  6. I consider myself a practicing Buddhist even though I was raised Catholic and seem to have a thing for Catholic pilgrimages.
  7. My husband is awesome and I highly recommend reading his plays:)

Nominees!!

Project Thankful Heart

Kara Emily’s Hearth

Life Lessons

Domestic B(i)atch

Life in the The8tre

Yes/No Films

Darrel Kirby’s Blog

I Can Eat All The Pies

Kathleen Jones

The Seeds 4 Life

Karin Writes Dangerously

The Tony Burgess Blog

Ben’s Bitter Blog

Drink Coffee and Blog

The Happy Quitter

 

To Reach Others, You Must Reach Out

Almost a year after reaching my 100 follower goal, I just got the notification that I hit 200!  Neato, team!  I love to think that a community has gathered over the past five years to share in my mental wanderings through the ups and downs of pursuing this wacky career.

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Blogging has taught me something way more valuable over the years though.  I meet many actors and writers alike, including myself, who say that they want to pursue this career to affect people–to challenge their thinking, to touch them emotionally, to support them through a life change.  When I was 13, I was in a show at The Growing Stage, an incredible theatre for young audiences in North Jersey.  The show was about an orphan searching for a place to feel at home without a family.  It was one of the most beautifully written shows I’ve ever been a part of.  After one of the performances, an older woman approached me, probably in her 80s, and said that she grew up as an orphan in a similar time and part of the country and really appreciated the show and how it made her feel less alone.  This has never left me, and I use it as an example of why I stay in theatre each time I get disheartened.

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xoJane Article on Background Acting

Hello all!!  It’s been a bumpy month for writing.  I feel like my head has been spinning around for weeks.  Nonetheless, back in March I wrote this crazy little piece and it just popped up on xoJane!  Also, if you’re new to this site and would like to read more about my background work experience, I wrote this blog post a million years ago when I was in the heart of it all.

There will be more writing in July, hell or high water.  Have a lovely 4th, everyone!!

I Worked as Movie Extra for Years, And It Got Me Nowhere in My Acting Career

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The 7 Types of Online Commenters

Startup Stock Photos

Startup Stock Photos

I reached a nice milestone in my writing career this week–I learned to stop looking at the comments when my articles are published on mainstream websites.  This wasn’t an issue in the beginning.  I only wrote on my personal blog, which I shared with my Facebook circle–a group I feel is full of tactful, educated people.  However, when my writing made the leap to a wider audience, I hit a rough adjustment period.  Up until then, I spent my days wrapped in a safety blanket of ignorance, only occasionally receiving criticism–and if I did, it was a constructive and usually very helpful.

Jump ahead to the summer when my writing took off a bit, and the floodgates opened to not only a wider supportive crowd, but also a whole different one as well–the rest of the online commenter community.  Or, the angry mob, if you will. For a while, I had a hard time looking away from the train wreck of comments that would follow one of my articles–people who thought I was attacking them, people who thought I was lazy, or my personal favorite–people who didn’t read the article (admit they didn’t read it), but rip into the idea anyway, usually talking about an issue in their own lives.

Luckily, I have a very supportive husband and group of friends that taught me to “just say no” to reading, or giving any weight, to nonconstructive online criticism.  But as someone who writes about feelings and human interaction a whole bunch, I still can’t look away.  I’ve been watching Jon Ronson’s TED Talks , and am starting to read his book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed:A Journey Through the World of Public Humiliation.  He has a lot of good points.  In his talk last summer, he paints the picture of a time when Twitter was used to display our insecurities in order to connect with similar people. Nowadays, unfortunately, Twitter seems to be out to “get” people, ready to jump on a poorly-worded joke or a less-popular idea.  It can be about getting attention for upholding your personal ideologies, even at the writer’s expense.  What’s most fascinating, is that many of these people, usually egged-on by groupthink, genuinely think they’re fighting for some good cause.

Amidst all this seriousness though, all I can do at the moment is laugh in the face of negativity.  It isn’t right, and not funny for the people who are being attacked.  But instead of wasting my anger on them, I will celebrate their comments in the only way I know how–sarcasm.

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The Native Navigator Launch Date: March 23rd!

Yahoo!!  Remember that time last fall when I decided to start a new website?  I sure do–because ever since then I have learned many a lesson about the trials and tribulations of launching a website. Turns out there’s much more to it than buying a URL and having a super lofty idea about traveling.

Nevertheless, I have decided to take the plunge and give myself a deadline.  After almost a year of futzing, researching, learning how to use a camera, and getting over my fear of interviewing people (well, I’m still working on that one), I have at least the beginnings of The Native Navigator.  So let’s break it down (in what somehow became an interview with myself):

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Why Do We Blog?

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Last night, my husband and I stood waiting and chatting in Penn Station after a reading of one of his new plays.  He got a lot of fantastic feedback- compliments as well as excellent constructive criticism.  Eventually, the conversation turned toward my very odd experience on Monday with a trolling blog commenter.  What could have been a constructive note, was expressed as a nasty, personal (and may I say, poorly written) attack on my motives for blogging.

There is no doubt that I have given this woman way too much of my energy and time.  But since this was my first –and I am sure not my last– experience with this type of negativity, I have been analyzing my reaction to the whole experience.

Anyway, I told Ben that I have never particularly received constructive criticism about my blog–the way you would with a play.  I have received tons of wonderful constructive compliments over the years (which is one of the major driving forces of my writing, please don’t get me wrong) but as far as “you can do this better”– not all that much.  Ben had a great point though. He said, “But is there an exact way to blog?  What type of advice would you even get?”

And that’s when I realized why the troller got so deeply under my skin.  She was insulting a particularly vague form of writing.  There are many reasons why people write, I think we learned about this in middle school:

  1. To teach or inform
  2. To call people to action
  3. To inspire or create a community/connection
  4. And others I didn’t catch because I was watching a bird fly by the classroom window

My point is that quite often, blogging in particular is about telling your story in order to invite a community to share your experience.  If not, you would just write it all in a  journal.  Now, things get tricky when the writer hopes or expects a certain reaction, OR, in this recent case, the reader misinterprets the writer’s intentions.  This, I believe at least, is why we often get the, “Who cares?” or, “Why is this even published?” trolling comments on so many places online.  The confused reader believes each article is written for them personally, and forgets that they may not be the community included in the target audience.

As a writer, do I hope to reach people outside my assumed audience?  Of course!  But I never expect it.  I am certain I have friends and family members that are probably not super into emotional posts about hiking and acting.  That doesn’t insult me.  But they wouldn’t go out of their way to tell me my work is not up their alley, because they realize that there are plenty of things online not written for them.

But I still haven’t answered the question: why do we blog?  Or rather, why do I blog?  When I began in 2010, I wanted to simply talk about living in NYC as a broke actor.  Nothing more.  I was amazed that anyone read it.  It was an exercise in building my confidence.  As the years went on, people began to tell me they related with some of my stories, and that meant more to me than the world.  And so my writing evolved into something more than an occasional hobby.  It became a way to connect with other artists.

The tricky part is that when you branch off of your personal blog and share your ideas with a larger audience, your purpose slightly changes depending on each site.  Having my posts suddenly featured around the internet was mind-boggling.  I didn’t realize I could reach an audience that large so quickly, even if, in the scheme of the internet, it isn’t super impressive. To me, it was very exciting.  So I’ve been hopping on every idea that comes to mind, and it’s been wonderful for my creativity all around.

The issue is that you remove your blogging context.  An article about why I blog makes more sense on Maybe There Will Be Cupcakes amidst my other writing throughout this site.  This is not really a standalone article.  Whether you’re a personal friend of mine or are brand new to the site, you are surrounded by context about my life and general vibe. On someone else’s site, that disappears.  I can understand how that can be confusing to a reader that assumes all articles are geared toward them.

I believe my point is this- as bloggers, I don’t feel we need to change our purpose for writing while branching out into the internet.  If our article is accepted, it meant that the editors felt it had a place within their brand.  However, we need to remember that negative comments may be due to a reader’s inability to connect the person to the message.  Without context (or knowing the writer personally) a reader may project their own tone of voice on your writing, and then madness ensues. This is not to excuse it, but just to provide a possible explanation.

As a reader, we all need to remind ourselves that a human being, with a different personality than our own, has written this article.  It is outside of their zone, and therefore, we cannot assume who they are as people.  We can only read the story or the message.  Yes, it is a public forum, and the writer is opening a door to opinions by submitting the article, but this does not mean we are welcome to project our personal issues onto the writer.  The writer doesn’t know you, and if you scream at them, they probably won’t be all that excited to remedy that.

So as both parties, before commenting (or responding to a comment), I encourage everyone to think, “What is the purpose of this writing?”  Is it really to tell me how I have to live my life?  Does this harm anyone?  If so, or if you have something constructive to add to the topic itself, then by all means comment, that’s the point of putting these articles online opposed to in a magazine.  But if it doesn’t, spend your energy considering the other person’s point of view, or read something you enjoy somewhere else on the internet.

We’ll never be able to stop trolls who troll for the sake of trolling, but we can step back when our emotions take hold, and try to see the bigger picture.

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Blogher Publication and a Post about Tigers!

What Peeple Totally Got Wrong About the Internet

Blogher is the best!  They have featured my recent post that railed against the upcoming app Peeple.  I’m very happy to play a part in getting the word out there, especially to an audience for a website I deeply respect.  Feel free to check out the article above.

 

And then the part about the tigers…

Creative Commons Photo via Paula Borowska

Creative Commons Photo via Paula Borowska

Last night I had a super funky dream.  My husband and I were driving through the woods on a piano (apparently a motorized piano) with all of our belongings strapped to it.  Here’s the kicker- the woods were filled with escaped zoo animals.  Like, large angry ones, especially Tigers.  I kept yelling, “Hey look, another tiger!” as I tried to get the piano-car to speed up.  Seriously, brain?

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The Financial Diet- Survival Job Publication

Hello all!  Though I took a mini blogging hiatus last week, I’m excited to announce that I had an original article published by The Financial Diet, a marvelous website that simplifies navigating a healthy financial lifestyle.  They also published my article several weeks ago, about backwards budgeting.

More posts are on the horizon this week.  Happy Monday everyone!

 

10 Things All Creatives Must Know About Having A “Survival” Job

financial diet