On Trying to Write While Sitting in the Midst of the Battle of Hogwarts

An author friend of mine recently wrote on Facebook (and gave me kind permission to post): “Almost impossible to work these days. It feels like I'm sitting in the entrance hall of Hogwarts trying to write...while the final battle with Voldemort and the Death Eaters is raging around me.” She's not alone. Recently YouTube celebrity (and prolific vlogger) Hank Green tweeted: “This election has been consuming. It's been a source of constant anxiety and is reinforcing unhealthy behaviors for me.” (He followed up with one that said: “But that's mostly because, it matters so goddamn much.”) To which, prolific, bestselling, science fiction author John Scalzi replied: “The damn election is partly why I am behind on this book I'm writing. I hate I'm distracted, but it's my country.” Okay, so if you’re finding the election distracting—and my apologies to my non-US readers for another U.S.-centric newsletter, but the principles do apply generally—you’re in good company. And I’m with you, by the way: … [Read more...]

Why You Don’t Want to be Donald Trump

One thing I teach, in my writing and business classes, is how to effectively promote yourself. I have a handout (see below) summarizing the three “Promotional Personalities”: Arrogant Idiot Properly Proud Shy And Self-Effacing I came up with these because so many students were reluctant to promote their work because they were afraid of being (or being perceived as) arrogant, obnoxious, and/or pushy. And so they would err on the side of caution and become too shy and self-effacing. I wanted to show them the productive "middle way." The first time I ever taught all this in class, I asked who would be a good example of an Arrogant Idiot. Several students immediately shouted out, “Donald Trump!” And so, ever since then, I've used the adjective “Trumpish” to describe the Arrogant Idiot. And, in fifteen+ years of teaching, no one has ever pushed back. Of course, arrogant idiocy* isn't the worst thing about Trump—his racism, misogyny, and fundamental dishonesty and lack of integrity are. So … [Read more...]

Why You Shouldn’t Mock Beauty Pageant Contestants

[Note: I'm pretty sure none of my readers would mock a contestant, so please don't think I'm speaking to you personally, so much as the entire Internet. - Hillary] It seems to be evolving into a seasonal pastime to mock beauty pageant contestants who garble their speeches, but here's why you shouldn't do it: 1) It's not nice. (Didn't your parents teach you any better?) 2) It's not sporting. They can't answer back, after all. And leaving genetic advantages and presumed plastic surgeries aside, they've probably worked hard and strategically to succeed. Also, the whole, "Give me a quick, meaningful answer to a profound question, only be sure not to alienate any of our millions of viewers" situation is a trap. (How well would you do, especially on national television and while wearing a girdle and high heels?) Besides, many contestants come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. (This study--admittedly from 1998; couldn't find anything more recent--found that 21.5% come from families with … [Read more...]