On another blog of mine, a commenter left a reassuring bit of advice to me under my post, "What is it to be an artist?". I'll quote verbatim:
Yeh. You're not a writer. Hard to imagine how you'll become one. But the first lesson you need to learn is to focus on the most basic components of your craft first -- which means sentences and fundamental grammar. Forget about those wise-ass quotations from real writers. You're a million miles from there. Walk before you run.
And my response?
Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.
That's Kurt Vonnegut.
Doubt, Mr. Toast, is natural for any writer or artist. I'm not ashamed of my doubts about my writing; in fact, I embrace them. This seems to be difficult for people like yourself who pretend otherwise.
I know I'm a writer. Freelance writing pays my bills. I write for law firms, non-profit organizations, and companies.
The post was asking the question, "Am I an artist?"
But judging by your posts, Mr. Toast, you seem to delight in flinging venom at other writers. Such as Nigel Beale from Nota Bene Books, who happens to be writing the next article for Escape into Life.
A little more investigation about the anonymous jerk on the Internet will reveal one thing.
You're not alone. He does this to everyone.
Mr. Toast (happens to think he's a literary luminary) and enjoys, yes, downright relishes, telling people they suck at what they love to do.
I'm not going to reference his website here because he doesn't deserve the attention, but on countless posts people are leaving comments on his blog basically to tell him to fuck off.
The occasional jerk is not a new phenomenon. There were jerks before the Internet and there will be jerks after it. But cyberspace, and especially the blogosphere, does lend itself to the flourishing of these trolls.
From Communities in Cyberspace, by Peter Kollack,
Even a casual trip through cyberspace will turn up evidence of hostility, selfishness, and simple nonsense. Yes the wonder of the Internet is not that there is so much noise, but that there is any significant cooperation at all.
Having recently indoctrinated myself into Twitter, I was surprised to find out not how much vileness and stupidity there was but just the opposite. I discovered a spontaneous overflow of conviviality and mutual interest.
Twitter forms a different ecosystem than the blogosphere. Because the posts are so short, it is less a reflection of one's self (although it can be, of course) and more an interaction with the community.
I'm addicted to Twitter. I love the simultaneous conversation with hundreds of people. Amid the noise, you sense a spectacular driving force of mass communication upturning all of our notions about what it is to communicate.
The occasional jerk shows up on Twitter as well, I would imagine. But there's nothing like a blogger who insists on drawing attention to his own blog by making rude comments on other people's blogs.
He is alone in his self-hatred.
In this post, "The Blogosphere is Full of Jerks", Dave Schuler writes:
Finally, there’s the jerk, the individual who contributes nothing positive to the common objective but is always ready with a put-down for those who are trying to accomplish something.
You can’t remonstrate with a jerk: the jerk can always respond with more of the same. The only alternatives are to become a jerk yourself or to shut up and take it in silence.
I've only come across the occasional jerk. Mostly, however, I find people who are generous with their support, thoughtful, and interested in what I'm doing. If they're not interested in what I'm doing, they'll go to another webpage. Which works out. Not everyone shares the same interests.
What I love about Twitter is that you can find people with your same interests and follow their conversations. To me, Twitter is the best tool to find a niche group of like-minded individuals.
But I haven't met any real jerks on Twitter or anywhere else on the Web, with the exception of Mr. Toast. There is a word for that kind of behavior. Misanthropy.
I don't claim to be a brilliant writer. I used to force myself to write. I disciplined myself to sit down for five or six hours a day.
But nothing came of it because I did not have the endurance to write fiction that way. Lately I've kept myself open, and the writing seems to happen on its own. I don't need to set a schedule to write poems every day. When I have a poem inside of me, it simply comes out. The same goes for my novel.
I'm interested in the question of mass amateurism on the Web. Because I think that I may be an amateur poet, amateur blogger, amateur novelist and amateur everything else for that matter.
When we're young, we imagine becoming great. All I wanted to do was become a famous writer.
There are many excellent writers, many excellent artists. The Internet reveals the abundance of them. My own little world is put into perspective. I do have a contribution to make, but so do others. "Wow, look at what they're doing."
I tend to develop tunnel vision about my own abilities. When you're confined to your own work, whatever it happens to be, you forget about everyone else.
The webzine I edit, Escape into Life, is helping me appreciate the greatness in others around me. By writing illustration art reviews I have a chance to step outside of my narrow world and look at what others have built, what others have created.
I can't think of a better antidote to the occasional jerk: Appreciate someone.
PHOTO FROM retrogoddess73'S PHOTOSTREAM
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