Rachel S. Heslin
Thoughts, insights, and mindless blather

Identity and blame
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Nick has been blogging about Publish America's new affiliate, Author's Market. (Publish America is a vanity press where, instead of having a legitimate publisher invest in the production and sale of your book, you pay to print your book. Yes, I know that the Author's Market link tells you never to pay to get published, but it's a scam full of hidden charges.)

Reading the excerpts from the site made my skin crawl. I think I'm starting to figure out why.

Our society seems to be devolving into an ever increasing cycle of blame and abdication of responsibility. Author's Market and vanity presses in general tell people that they deserve to be published, that the Big Publishers and Established Authors are involved in a conspiracy that the novice author will never be able to break into.

Forgive my French, but that's a crock of merde. Either you haven't found the right editor/publisher, or your work isn't of sufficient quality for a publisher to want to invest in its distribution.

The concept of "deserving" to be published is just as insidious as the "self-esteem" movement mangled by well meaning parents, the one where you're supposed to praise the child even if their work is crap. See, I strongly believe in loving and praising a child regardless of what he or she produces -- but the mangling occurred when parents told their kids that they'd done a wonderful job when the kids knew full well that they'd done crap.

The problem is that too many people don't differentiate between intrinsic value and utility value, and, far too often, the latter is given precedence over the former.

Intrinsic value is what something carries merely by its existence. Every single person is a unique, special human being, and each of us should be respected as such.

Utility value refers to what something offers or produces. What can you do for me? How do you benefit society?

For whatever combination of reasons that I don't feel like digressing into at the moment, a whole lot of people can't seem to separate who they are from what they do. Therefore, their self-identity becomes so entangled in What They Do that questioning the quality of their work becomes an attack on their very selfhood. That's how you end up with people who have defined themselves as Authors who can't accept that their writing may not be up to par, because that means that they, themselves, are failures. Instead, they put an awful lot of energy into justifying their lack of success instead of putting that energy into refining their writing.

In fact, the AM site capitalizes on this confusion, claiming that most first books are thinly veiled autobiography, reassuring newbies that it's okay to hide behind fictional characters because it's difficult to bare one's soul. It is true that the act of creation can be an intensely personal one, that it is part of yourself that you are putting out in front on the world -- but it shouldn't be confused with your entire being and worth on this planet.

Self-identity is a very complex, powerful thing. The destruction of this Self can be far more devastating than the destruction of the body, which is why people will do some really seemingly stupid, illogical things in the attempt to preserve that identity/illusion.

This isn't as clean a dissertation as I'd have liked, but hey, it's just a blog. I'm allowed to ramble outloud as I figure things out.

Conclusion: the world would be a better place if everyone acknowledged the humanity of everyone else, with the supposition that free acceptance and appreciation of each individual's intrinsic worth will encourage people to be more secure in themselves and thus feel less of a need to make excuses/place blame/put down others.

Bit big to fit on a bumper sticker, but there you go.


The Creature:
I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.
-- Frankenstein
(taken from movie quote; don't know if in the original Shelley)

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