bITS 'N CHUNKS
Okay, so when you decide to venture out into writing and you get into business for yourself and you read any kind of self-help guides, one of the big glaring neon type things any decent person will tell you is
DON'T WORK FOR FREE
*followed by a list of people rationalizing why you should work for free so you can get exposhah.
Now, exposure is good. For me, since writing is not my primary job at the moment, there are definitely times when I don't mind getting published for free. Makes my resume look good and chances are I'll come away with some new friends and/or connections. I'm not mad at small 'zines and publishers for not paying a token amount most of the time because. Not getting paid does not mean I half-ass it either, but the thing is
No one told me when or how to not work for free. I think it's supposed to be innate but it's…not.
It hasn't happened to me yet, fortunately, but it really sucks when the beast exposhah takes advantage of young authors who don’t know when to price themselves (all the time) versus when it's okay to drop a little somethin' somethin'. I can't do "making friends and influencing people" all the time, but there are people out there who will treat you like you're brand new every time.
I kind of got it together eventually, but at first I never really did due diligence on figuring out when I should be paid and what an industry standard was, for example. I thought I would get my novel published for a sum and get royalties. Then when I scoffed at novel writing, I thought I'd get a few short stories going and lead people into my real work whenever I was ready for The Novel or a short story collection. That's kind of how it works in Fanficland! Then I thought I'll just publish myself. I was…naïve.
I finally figured it out in the artist alley of a convention one October. When you go to the big conventions with the big artists, you see them charging a hefty penny for sketches. That sounds wild, but we really do pay that much for a Hawkgirl portrait. Meanwhile, you go to the small conventions with the small (sometimes schmedium) artists and see prints for $15, $20. Something ludicrously low. The same work, same skill level, same art, but at a 200% markdown. I was chopping it up with an artist, commiserating about fanboys who will come and try to haggle a $10 necklace to ash. And here I am with an intricate print created by hand at a low, low price just to keep them at bay.
"Yeah," the artist mutters. "They hate that."
They being the big names. The ones charging accurately, maybe overcharging, but a fair sight better. It clicked. Oh, to need to charge MORE but you can't for fear of driving away business. How do you get to the point to what you deserve?
Strictly business. Inwardly, I was resisting bringing business into something I love. I couldn't separate the practicality of earning a living doing what I enjoy versus demanding people pay me for something I'm shaky about. Then, why am I here? Why am I dragging the market down by hiding against the shadows and hissing, "hey, whatever you want, I can do that for free."
I knew I should probably get like $10 at some point, but how? It wasn't really until I looked into serious publishing and saw the rates that I was just like wow! Those publishers that were paying were big deals and had high standards and even higher rejection rates. I got a little intimidated. I got a lot intimidated. Then there was the period I just wasn't writing anything in particular…
So by the time my Rolling Stone piece came about, it was the perfect mix of an Internet meme hitting peak fever, someone I deeply respect passing an opportunity to me, and I hope to goodness actual skill. You might call that luck plus preparation or whatever they say in those self-help manuals. But the truth is, I had very minimal control over that. Was that years of "exposure" finally turning into something or just a fluke? Once I was done being excited, I realized I had to…focus.
I was doing silly isht for exposure that only works for some people, not necessarily me. I admit I'm a little confrontational on social media (I still am) so I'm either losing friends or gaining them, but will they continue to support my work or are they just here for some quick tea? Hmm.
What I decided was, free work was okay but I gotta limit it to a few people that I enjoy working with and have worked with in the past and really promote myself. But that whole exposure thing has to come from me, me myself. I post stuff for free on this very blog all the time and you guys see it. Thank you! But before this site I had to wonder who was really seeing it. Friends, family, sure, but a lot of internet strangers? People who would actually seek me out even though my stuff was scattered all over? I needed something way more cohesive than what I was doing. You know, like an actual resume. Ahh, so that's why everyone has a personal site with a theme and shit.
Those samples have led me to some pretty good work but I realized I had to stop doing the If You Build It… game to myself and not only build it, but pass out fliers and shove people into The Construct. I had to be less scared. I had to gain that thing called confidence and self-actualization. I had to treat it like a business. I treat myself like a business. I resisted it for so long but I finally came home to it, and to be honest I'm a lot happier for it.
I used to be a lot more active in the Skeptics blogosphere before I finally dropped them due to rampant white privilege, sexism & misogyny, low key racism just general fauxgressive passive aggressive behavior, but my early years there were pretty formative and educational. One of the names lobbed around was James Randi, who I knew as a friend of Penn & Teller and a magician himself, but at the time did not realize he was a skeptic. What a weird combo.
I ended up reading Flim-Flam! as part of my learning and though it's dated now, it's still a great and highly recommended read. Yes it debunks pretty much everything the Aether Book Club stands for but you should be exposed to as much critical and skeptic literature as possible. Criticism to me defines choice: this person disagrees with the path I'm taking and gives a good argument as to why, but I'm still going to go this way because I want to. Always take that in mind with you. As opposed to just having things delivered to you, which is where I break with religion. Of course.
The good thing about Flim-Flam! Is that it's written for a general audience so I never found it terribly condescending. It is certainly a lot more light-hearted than Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. It exposes charlatans that take advantage of people (cough cough, cold reading), busts open pop culture myths of the time and debunks them with reasoning and hard cold facts, and explains some of the science of gullibility. Like Ghostland, it posits some answers to the question of why do people fall for things without stooping to "because people are stupid".
Also like Ghostland, it's a great look into how to research things properly. It will show you how to avoid schemes and abusive practices, which is so important when you think you want to get into mystical practices because there are so, so many people out there willing to take advantage of people not armed with knowledge. And some of it is so confusing and lofty (cough cough, Hermeticism) you could be falling into well laid traps and not even realize it.
I say dated but honestly some of these trends still live or have come back. Seriously, Ancient Aliens? Peoples of Africa or India couldn't have used technology before Europeans introduced it? Randi was debunking that thirty years ago but people just refuse to let go. Seeing how cyclical trends are demonstrates just how readily people will fall for anything without a bit of reason and research.
And now we get to the good stuff.
Hermeticism is very, very, very big. If you feel like you want to get into it or learn about its teachings, there are so many texts -- collectively referred to as Hermetica -- to go through, so many teachings, so many branches, just so much damn material!
Where do you start?
With the short version.
Most of the texts available on Hermeticism all do the same thing, and that is distill the original teachings of Hermes Trismegistus. Like so many figures in the esoteric path, Hermes Trismegistus likely isn't a real single person if he's a person at all; Hermeticism itself usually refers to him as a prophet and the messenger/son of a combination of old pagan gods. To that end, Hermeticism states that all religions are basically united and granted to mankind by a single god. So for example, pagan religions with multiple gods are a reflection of aspects of a single god.
You've probably heard this theory kicked around before, especially when discussing tension between Abrahamic religions ("they all worship the same god!"). This concept is actually very ancient and pre-dates the dates given for the general start of any Hermetic offshoots.
Hermeticism is fascinating but since it's intentionally very broad and encompasses quite a few spin offs it can be difficult to know where the hell to start with it. There's two texts to recommend: the Corpus Hermeticism which forms the base of Hermeticism, and the Kybalion which distills the principles of Hermetic thought.
I go to The Kybalion first because it's easily digestible, set up to be read more like Proverbs than Corpus Hermeticism, which is a much older text and greatly influenced by spiritual thought and the writings of Plato. What really separates them is brevity -- Corpus Hermeticism is exhaustive and The Kybalion is literally the Cliff Notes version.
The Kybalion feels very mystical as well. It is credited to "three initiates" who have never been satisfactorily identified so there is an air of mystery. The principles are fascinating and read as very contemporary, especially the gender shifting, almost nonbinary nature of the Principle of Gender. Most influential to me was the section Cause & Effect and Causation, which are as good a case against any evidence of Meritocracy as I've ever seen.
Ideally you would read both books side by side but I would reach for the Kybalion first to even figure out if you want to go any deeper into the gaping crater that is Hermetic thought.
Since we deal in a lot of nostalgia here, I must say that I have loved AMVs since childhood.
Growing up, it was a real treat to even get to see a really well-made AMV or anime music video. You knew a lot of time and effort had gone into making them high quality and often I had to wait for my risky download to finish to watch a 3 minute clip.
Some of them even got broadcast on TV, which was so cool. Due to a lot of legal reasons, much like fanfiction, AMVs were and still are quite underground. Curiously, they don't get spread quite as much as fanfiction which makes me wonder if they're losing popularity? Or maybe it's just not worth it to anger the copyright gods for a really cool set of clips.
My old Youtube playlist of liked videos feels like a time capsule. There's so many AMVs from like ten years ago and most of them pre-date YouTube. Especially the AMV Hell compilations.
And like my love of songfics, I love AMVs so much because they thematically link an anime (or western cartoon if you're so inclined) to a song to capture a moment in the show, a feeling, to make something funny, or give fight scenes a really boss soundtrack.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...