"College is just a scam fer spoiled kids who ain't workin',"
the jerk says to me inside of Wal-Mart.
I'm inside of the hair salon, which I normally wouldn't go to, when some chubby man in a oil-stained flannel shirt steps in and starts running his mouth. I'm not sure what served as the catalyst for the conversation, but he's bragging about his son to the beautician next to me.
And like a fool, I tune in as he says, "See, I didn't let my kid get a free ride to no fancy college. He was a good student and all that, but I didn't believe in college. College is just a scam fer spoiled kids who ain't workin'."
Keep quiet Chris, I tell myself over and over. But if you know me, you also know about my mouth and the way it zooms like a marathon runner. I'm talking Sean Lovelace speed.
To the local, I reply, "That's certainly not true."
He cocks his head at me and smiles with his nicotine squares. "I bet yer parents paid for yer school, didn't they?"
I nod. "Sure they helped, but it was mostly your tax money."
"See, ain't that some shit. This kid's been a pretty boy all his life, and he has college handed to him by our hard work."
"It's called loans," I tell him.
"So what?" he asks. "Now yer in debt with a degree? Tell me, what did school get you?"
I know what he's aiming at. I've been out of school about five months and still work at my day-job from high school. But how fast is a degree supposed to kick in? Is there an expectation of college kids immediately landing $100,000/year jobs upon graduation? I answer, "A lot of intrinsic value."
He chuckles and nudges the beautician next to him. "N'tren-see-ick value, oh shit. What in the sam hell does that even mean, boy?"
Boy. "It means I have a fair knowledge in almost everything. It means, I discovered myself." At this point, I'm ready to take him to the parking lot. Sure he's got the weight advantage, but I have a wrench in my trunk. College graduates know all the ways to win a fight.
"Yeah," he mutters, "you had a bunch of drunken parties which you think taught you something."
"I actually didn't drink that much in college," I say.
"That much. I know how it is in college. You guys all drink and party and fuck around day and night. You skip classes cuz of hangovers. Smoke a little weed, did you? Is that where you learned yer N'tren-sick self?"
"No, sir. I did not. I worked my ass off in college."
He continues to give his opinion, although the laughter from the beauticians is one of nervousness. There's no way to win this conversation. College graduates know what it's like to be in this situation; to have unnecessary ridicule for their time in hamster cages.
What he doesn't understand is what truly goes into school. Those who wake up every morning, hungover and ready for the next party, they don't make it too long. You can unwind in college, but you can't live Animal House. You can find students who have, but most likely, they dropped out or failed out.
See, college is about discipline. It's about knowing when to be serious and when to relax. It's knowing your limits. What this guy doesn't understand, is the amount of work it takes sometimes just to pass Math 125 with a C-. He doesn't know the satisfaction of honors or the Dean's List.
He, and those like him, don't know what it's like to panic all night before the big exam in the morning, or how to write a 20-page term paper. He's never written a piece of fiction only to have a professor spit on it. He doesn't know what it's like to produce your very best work five days a week.
See, it's about finding love and losing it. It's about gaining everything you want in life, and losing it all just before finals. It's about trying to live a new life, while struggling to maintain the old.
It's about being broke and still trying to keep enrolled. It's about community.
College takes simple kids and turns them into understanding adults, one's who can think beyond the price of fuel, and consider the worldwide effects of a bad economy. It's about worldviews. It's about thinking glocally. It's about understanding the cultural differences between you and your peers who come from countries with nothing you can relate to your own.
This guy has never called his parents at 1am in tears, worrying about a love one's health and his grades all at once. He's never sweated over the big presentation, or the big date with someone smarter and more beautiful than himself. He doesn't know piss about networking. Goddamn him for looking for a hand to help him up, while we all search for a way to help ourselves.
What I can never explain to this man, is what goes into earning a college degree. How do I convey notions of every single thought I've had or event I've suffered through. Has he ever been yelled at or criticized by dozens of people he admired all at once? Has he ever followed two opinions at once? Has he ever read a news article beyond it's headline, and then researched the sources behind the news? Does he know the difference between Fox and CNN?
I bet he doesn't know the first thing about economics, law, or ethics. Doesn't know what a shitty camera a PD 150 is. Does he know what dues ex machina means?
See: The Easy Way Out.
If only this guy knew what it was like to bleed out the ink on his diploma after four years of the hardest fucking work in his life, only to find out there are few jobs within his field outside of college. We, the college graduates of one of the worst economic turns in history, stay silent and let him speak, because we learned that wise-man don't speak when they just want to be heard, but speak when they have something to say.
He might raise his middle finger every day, say, at cops as they drive by or people driving the speed limit on the highway. But he doesn't know the value of a good "fuck you." He doesn't know how to use it sparingly like we do. We wait until there's so much to say that we can express ourselves in no other way. So, perhaps, if he reads this, he will know the power instilled in my middle finger when I give him the Californian Howdy as he stumbles half-drunk to his $7/hr 9-5 job, bragging about how his kid makes $15/hr from years of hard work. We tell him to fuck off, because he thinks the worth of a human being is the same as the worth of a product he can buy in Wal-Mart. We salute him until he learns how to spell the word "intrinsic" and say it without using any more than three syllables.
What you know today will be irrelevant tomorrow.
Remember when you reached high school and realized everything you learned in elementary school and junior high was wrong? Perhaps, you recall going to college and learning everything you thought you knew the last x-years of your life was wrong.
Well, here are some quick looks at things that may challenge everything.
5. What Dolphins & Aliens Have in Common
Yep. It was a video about dolphins. See how this might work for aliens.
4. Forget Polygraphs
Italy changes the justice system by reading minds.
And Intel announced the probability of a "mind chip" that will let you control your gadgets . . . or let them control you. Here's something to look at. (Sorry it's Fox News.)
3. Gravity's Challengers
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/13/science/13gravity.html?pagewanted=all - Check this Guy Out Too
2. Invisibility - Not Just for Harry Potter
The worst of this is, it's not being designed to hide people. No, scientists have created a "time warp," in which the time of a light wave is manipulated to hide events. Scary shit, no?
1. Planet Earth (Take Two.
Check this out.
Now check this out.
How creative are you? We're learning how to speak with E.T., reading minds, challenging gravity, making events invisible, and discovering new earth-like planets. Where will this lead us.
Yo, Check Yourself
Articles across the web and opinions and tips at writers conferences teach you how to be a BRAND as an artist, which at the very least, is counter-intuitive.
The conflict derives from the very idea of being an artists - or more specific to my case, a writer. Artists don't dream of the day when they can go to a warehouse of artists with a zootsuit uniform. It's quite the opposite, you would think.
(This guy has good advice, but I think tips like this confuse people.)
Being an artist is all about the freedom, flexible, and creativity. Being something different.
So why would an artist become a brand?
Now, there are reasons to consider oneself as a brand in a lighthearted sense.
1. There are certain ways to treat your work like a product. You have to promote even if you're modest, and you sometimes make decisions to prolong your significance as an artist. People buy Stephen King novels because it says Stephen King on it.
2. You can break away from, say, being C.M. Humphries to relax at home as Chris.
3. It stops people from blogging about their cats during the release or revealing of their work(s), unless of course, your work(s) focus(es) on felines.
But something about the notion of branding has gotten out of hand. You are, after all, a person. Not a store. You a professional doing business under a name you want people to remember, and not a business in and of itself.
Besides, what are we, professional wrestlers? Do we need a stage name to consider a product and a real name to consider our own? My pseudonym is hardly that at all. It's a shortened version of Christopher Michael Humphries, which is a real garble.
Against all the advice that is out there, I argue that you should recognize which part of your work falls under your brand, but realize you are never a brand altogether. You are still an artist, which is all about being a real human being.
Watch out for the egomania within.
Will a Netflix-Styled Library Kill Literature?
We've already seen the giant shift from print publications to the digital world. How the eBook killed the paperback. We've also seen how Amazon's implication of eBooks and other various other ways have cut royalties to writers.
But now there's this.
Due to, in my opinion, the strength of iBooks and nook books, Amazon has seen a significant drop in the owners and users of Kindles. Like Apple and Barnes and Noble, they are reaching out to maintain their dominance on the publishing world.
Take note on how they reshaped self-publishing.
But their new technique does not benefit writers in the same way Amazon publishing has.
Amazon plans on releasing a tablet - like everyone else - that may feature a Netflix-styled library for consumers.
At first, I was thought this was a great idea to promote more reading and exposure for writers. However, I thought about it another way: Is this great for readers and terrible for writers?
I sure think it is.
It's no lie that writers need to make a little dough to keep in the game. And most successful writers rely upon payments to make writer their day-job.
But ever since the digital shift, a surplus of writers have entered the field, which is a "good thing", but it has also weakened the gates. It's a double-edge battle-ax. On one hand, some writers were stigmatized or didn't have the "selling" product, but capitalized on the digital shift and established a name for themselves. On the other hand, many writers with little to no creativity are being published, which is nothing new when we think of Paris Hilton and Tyra Banks releasing their books - and at the same time never hearing of The New York Times Bestseller List, The Washington Post, multitudes of authors,Pulitzer, or Random House, Inc.
All that aside, the incorporation of books into a digital library with a subscription fee could be detrimental to writing. First off, it writes off (no pun intended) books as a work of art.
Writing: It's an art. It's a craft. And there's no argument in between.
Maybe writers have done this to themselves. Think film for a moment. A lot of money goes into a movie, which requires it to make the dollars back. So they become formulaic and crowd-pleasers. And in much the same manner, the capitalistic mindset of America has a allowed for publishers to acquire novels based on the same principles. They're expensive to produce, so they have to be money-makers.
But how far do we take it?
We make the universe of ideas into a small, crowded pond. Sure, no problem. But then we "iTunes" novels? Make one-hit wonders?
What I mean to say is, will books be written by authors the same way the music industry is pushing artists with a few hit songs, to make a few bucks, and then move on to the next? Sounds like vanity publishing will be in full form here soon.
Perhaps this is good for readers, but bad for writers. But both need each other. No one wants watered-down literature. And writers who truly value what they do won't climb on-board this product that will rip the art straight out of storytelling.
Not to mention subscriptions are cheap. Netflix used to be just $8.99 when I subscribed. Movies have the theater, DVDs, TV replays, Netflix, etc. For writing, it's just the tangible form of the story. Movie options are a whole 'nother ballgame.
This won't work with readers or writers or publishers. It's scary even.
3.) Writers will get screwed on the royalties.
2.) Print might become irrelevant.
1.) We will more see one-hit wonders in literature. Writing will be devalued.
And Amazon's defense is that Kindle only makesup 10% of the market, which is 90% bullshit.
The One Tip to Finishing a Novel
Back when I started working on His Daughter as a NANO WRIMO project, a few people were frustrated with me. Here's why: I ran through a site called 750 words, which I used to keep regular updates on my facebook, including words per day, moods, consistent thoughts, and so on. The frustration derived from the speed at which I wrote.
First, it is important to note that the entire concept of NANO WRIMO is to finally write that novel. The time limit is a month, and it's abitrary, but the point is to finally write.
Many writers struggle with completing their novels. So here's the trick to finally getting it done: write it. I would suggest to keep going, even when one of the chapters seems to be terrible. While some writers, such as Dean Koontz, have claimed their perfect every line as they go, many simply flesh them all out and go back later to revise them - to "perfect them."
But here's the truth, even when draft I and II are finished, no novel is still perfect. Check this out. One point in this article is that even the most famous novels, such as War and Peace, have flaws. For instance, the end of the novel is a bit of rant.
There's always more you could have done. There's always something that could have been corrected. However, you have a limited amount of time on earth (until science advances to a point it shouldn't and we can live biblical-length lives) and we need to have our voice heard, and we need to have our writings read.
To anyone out there working on the same novel for countless years: Just write. I'm not trying to sound like a jerk here. The truth is, it's not your novel until you've written it. And you don't have to wait until November to face a one-month challenge. Pull out the good ol' calendar. Set a schedule and stick to it, like a work-out plan, only you need to actually dedicate time to it every day.
Some people give themselves days off. I suggest just one. And set your word limit. Don't fudge it either. If you fall a bit short, you fall a bit short. The more you rant on and on or write, the more you can edit our later.
That's it. Consider this my first attempt of how to finally finish a novel. Now enjoy this video or leave my page to start or finish that novel. Good luck. Hope to see your book on shelves (more than likely e-stores) soon!
You and that annoying question
It never fails. When I feel like reading during one of my work breaks, someone sits on the bench next to me and continues to stare.
There's a certain pattern such people tend to follow. They watch you and try to figure out what you are reading - Or if you really are reading. Oh my god, is he - is he - reading a real book?! With words?
Next there is the scoot. This is the event in which someone scoots further along their own seat to close in on you. From the corner of your eye, you see them coming, and you wonder whether you should just get up and leave.
Then there is the question: "Hey, whatcha reading?"
"__________Book Here _________"
"Is it any good?"
I wouldn't know. How about you let me finish it?
Today is one of those days. I am sitting, reading Choke by Chuck Palahniuk (a bad read if your're depressed at work), and someone does the stare, the scoot, the question. Only this time, there's a variable in the aforementioned question.
They ask, "Why do you like to read?"
There's the whole theory about reading as a writer. The central concept behind reading as a writer, for anyone who doesn't know yet, is that you reconstruct the novel in your mind or on paper as you go. It's learning how to write by learning who to be a better, alert reader. Ever searched for foreshadowing in a movie, and when you found it, went, "Ha. There it is?" It's basically the same thing, though a little more intensive.
However, I don't read in such an intellectual fashion, so to speak. I read because I enjoy it. I like that feeling of zoning out of the real world and off to somewhere more interesting for a moment. The best part of my day is the sad realization that I have to pause reading and go back to work. It's being lost between worlds for a moment.
If you're reading to see how a book is constructed, that's okay. But it's better to just read, read,read, rather than analyze. Such a skill comes naturally over time.
Thanks for reading.
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.