a disclaimer on The Brand

At this point, I’m far too old to say the internet is new to me, and anyway my opening premise here is more that I’m sort of new to the internet as a commodity to be consumed. I say this because I want to make it clear that I understand how easy it is to read someone in error when they haven’t given you much context to work with. So I’m not being defensive (although reactionary by definition) when I say that I’ve noticed The Internet forming the wrong idea about who I am. This is what the internet does, I know.

Getting-to-know-you posts and “about me” blurbs are sort of my worst internet nightmare. Part of this is because of good old-fashioned shyness and part of it is performance anxiety.  As an unpublished author laboring under the oft-repeated mandate to “build my online presence,” and “establish my brand,” and all of that vaguely distasteful corporate speak we have to be familiar with in these times, I know that everything I say with this name is supposed to tell the reader something about me designed to interest them in buying my stories. So I get hung up on the expectation that anything I put into a space dedicated to the purpose of selling myself has to be not just interesting but clever. That’s why I usually choose to say nothing at all. Enigma is better than disappointment, right?

This has largely remained academic, since no one has really been paying attention to me or my online spaces anyway. No one who doesn’t already know me in “real life.” (And I always feel vaguely guilty for calling their attention to my online presence for some reason. Like I’m asking them to buy my Tupperware.) But somehow, through no legitimate effort on my part deserving of any praise, people have managed to start finding me online. Strangers. People whose reasons for reading what I have to say are a complete mystery to me, since it’s not like they’re mining for something to talk about the next time we find ourselves awkwardly standing across from each other at a party with nothing to say. It occurs to me belatedly that I’m a mystery to these strangers as well.

I say this admittedly in response to coming across some vigorous discussions about that piece I wrote that is now floating around the ether, and more strangely, about me the author in connection to it.

Seeing myself talked about by third parties who don’t know me, with their own reasons for invoking me in the conversation that have nothing to do with the actual Alyssa sitting behind this screen is, I have to say, an entirely new and disorienting experience. Something to get used to, since I do rather hope it’s a thing that will happen often when I’m published, but still kind of an out-of-body moment. Because I know they’re talking about me and my work, but it’s also not me. It’s a version of me that is taken out of context and reduced to salient talking points for the discussion in progress – the way we casually invoke long-dead historical figures as though they’re facts rather than people. Different from overhearing friends or family talk about me to each other, because they at least have some component of an observed reality based upon my whole on which to formulate their Alyssa. Or that’s just my perception of the difference. Since perception is reality, that’s all I have to go on.

And maybe this is a thing that’s actually no big deal for anyone else, or maybe it’s one of those things we’re supposed to pretend we don’t notice and I’m making one of those awkward autistic social blunders by talking about myself like this. But that sort of dovetails into the point that actually prompted me to begin this dialogue, which is that I don’t know how to be any version of myself other than the one I am.

If you want to know more about that Alyssa, the real one, you’re free to ask whatever it is you’re wondering. I might just answer. But whether I ever successfully portray a public version of myself that comes close to representing the private me, know that what you do see is never not real. I’m not pretending to be anything, and while some aspects of the online brand are of course meant to appeal, they’re displayed rather than crafted. I am not an affectation.

Now that that’s off my chest, I may just have a rant in me about the importance of story and character, and the reasons why humans have always made a practice of not just telling stories but mining them for meaning. How the purpose of story is to capture, examine, and reflect the human experience; how characters are built with the specific intent to be identified with; how empathy for fictional characters is not a quality to be avoided or ashamed of, no matter how deep the feelings go, because it means we’re doing what the story wanted us to do; how it’s okay to just be entertained but it’s also okay to look deeper, and the two things do not exclude one another. Because these are topics that are deeply important to the actual Alyssa.

Maybe another time.

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How I added all of 56 words to my manuscript on Saturday

Jiro is a bit of a 120lb distraction when I’m trying to write, but he thinks he’s being helpful.

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As Morale Officer around here he takes his duties “seriously”

Yashi, on the other hand, issues a flat denial:

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“No, you will not be using this machine any time soon. I don’t care how far you are off your word count. Now fetch me another blanket.”

Eventually, I manage to do a perfectly serviceable job of providing my own source of distraction by deciding I need to organize my photo folders when I can’t find something where it should be. I find this photo out of place and waste another few minutes introducing it to the internet.

And then I reveal that I may in fact be a vampire.

Yep. I was productive with my quiet Saturday.

Solidarity, and a hug from the Universe

As I’ve discussed before in other diatribes, I suffer from a pretty robust case of writer doubt and I don’t really have any answers about where it came from.  I mean, when I was a child, you could not have talked me out of the idea that I was the Next Big Thing.  It’s sort of stunning how massive my ego was when I was, say, eleven.  Especially when I consider that by the second semester of my freshman year at ASU, I was swearing I’d given up writing fiction because I had no talent for it.

But I’m not here to engage in another one of those moment of self-pity over my uncertainties.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  This is one of those moments when the universe noticed that I was lost inside the struggle to recognize the relevance of my work, and gave me not just a pat on the back but a full hug.

And really, I’ve been complimented on my writing before.  For some reason, it never seems to stick.  Probably some element of me being unable to fully accept a reality that doesn’t originate within myself, and so as long as I maintain these doubts, they’ll keep springing up from the garden of my imagination no matter how many times I whack them down.  This, though.  What I’ve experienced this week.  This has been something entirely new for me.  I shared a deeply personal piece of writing with strangers, expecting to meet with the usual wall of apathy my work seems to provoke, but instead I have met with an almost overwhelming surge of love, recognition, and solidarity.  Messages offering profound thanks that I had expressed feelings they’d been struggling to name in themselves.  Telling me how I had moved them.

This.  This is all I’ve ever wanted as a writer.  People felt what I was saying.  That it took feelings inspired by someone else’s character to produce this response isn’t even relevant.  The relevant thing here is that I’ve never had this before, and I can’t find the words to express how grateful I am for the sense of connectedness I’ve been experiencing this week with the people who shared my writing with me.

What I’m trying to say is thank you.

I needed that.

Change is sometimes good

For some years now I’ve done my best to be a loyal Dreamwidth blogger. From their earliest days, they made a sincere effort to be a more user-friendly alternative to Livejournal — they never once tried to sell my contact information to shady Russian businessmen. They’ve always been buggy, but in the beginning I told myself to just bear with them while they worked out all the wrinkles. Alas, that never came to fruition, and I often find myself thinking things like, “Gosh, it would be nice to be able to use some embedded code in this post,” or, “I’d really like to make a photo post today. Too bad.”

Plus, these days it seems like most of the blogs I’m following are on WordPress anyway…

This is my way of saying I think it’s time to import my blog and say farewell to DW. I really wanted them to succeed. Still do. Just would have been nice if they’d ever launched an update that allowed me to use all of the functions that were supposedly available all along.