The Art of Selling Yourself

I have only recently watched those Dove Beauty Sketch ads, and something within it shocked me to the core. It’s clever that it has a well disguised drop (it’d do badly as a dubstep track) which underpins the nature of the ad. Oh, you clever marketing people.  The ad is basically saying: People think I’m beautiful when I think I look ugly – maybe I’m seeing myself in a bad way. Maybe I just have low self esteem. Ah, but here’s the rub:

““I should be more grateful for my natural beauty, it impacts the choices and friends we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children, it impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.”

OUCH – THAT BURNS. So in other words, we’re still looking from validation from other people, and they’d better be damn right or we’re screwed!

Now, I’ve soaked up all the negative things like most humans do, who are engineered to look for danger, the possibilities of getting screwed over. Where are your sponges? I’ll explain what I mean by these sponges later.

I’ve been *taught* (not through assumptions, actually taught) to downplay my looks from a child. If anyone called me attractive (as some people have in my life – everyone has experienced it), I was told to say “No, I’m ugly as sin” or something maybe less stinging. Nowadays though, I think why? It makes me feel like crap, it makes the person complimenting me feel like crap – nothing can be seen as good coming from this. Nothing. It’s selfish to do that. Then I remember all the times people have called me ugly (I remember being called too ugly to rape). I can think of more of the latter than the former. Why is that? Because that’s where my sponges are. That’s where they’ve grown. I soak up negativity from things to do with my attractiveness and things to do with my intelligence.

Schooling taught me many things: I’m stupid. I have no opinions. I should go with the flow. I shouldn’t go to university. Again – not an assumption. I was told *not* to go to UCAS sessions, I was told *not* to apply to university as they thought I couldn’t cut it. A teacher called me an automaton because I had nothing worthy to say. As someone studying a PhD now, there is a growing temptation to turn around and flip them the bird, but why? I don’t see the gain. However, my sponge is still there. I know so many intelligent people and yes, I do feel incredibly stupid around people.

But my years of learning marketing have taught me something. When you advertise a product, people have to take your word for it. Whether you know diddlysquat about it or not is something you hide under your poker face. But selling yourself is different.

You know yourself (to an extent), and you have the best customer testimonial for it. Imagine if you say, “I’ve lived with myself all my life and I’m worthless. Rubbish. Couldn’t put up with me if I tried.” You’re not going to think “I’m going to prove them wrong. Yeah, that’s right. I’ll go out with them and they’ll see they’re beautiful!”, unless they’re a Disney character or have a lot of time on their hands. I want to soak up all that positive stuff that’s floating around out there and gain a new sponge. Sponges need to get replaced anyway, or you’re just cleaning yourself with your old dirt. Find those old sponges and chuck them out. Realise all that nice stuff about yourself, whether it’s self generated or not.

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On Loneliness

The funny thing is how there’s often a confusion between the terms “lonely” and being “alone”. It can be quite dangerous when one is substituted for another – we are always truly alone in that we can’t share consciousnesses past the layer that we want to (and sometimes not) portray. As Conrad says, “We live as we dream… alone”. So what is to feel loneliness then, as opposed to being alone? (Having typed this now, it seems like an alien word – or more crudely – “all” “one”).

To me, loneliness is a sense of forced separation from yourself. To feel that you need justification, a reasoning, an external actualization of your being – someone who will code the animation back into your frame by their acknowledgement. Obviously the reasons for loneliness differ and in my opinion is definitely not a case of being “alone” in the purest sense. You need someone to place you in the world, and that can be a function of our species being a “social animal”. We call partners “other halves” or “significant other” (urgh!). Are we all-one or al(l)one when we’re in this social agreement? Sounds rather contradicting! Maybe we need to extend this term to altwo?

We all have our personal reasons for feeling lonely at times, and I do sometimes as well (although I have no qualms as such with being alone). I guess the way I would picture it is being out of orbit (as we often tend to see out of the loop, or picture this boundary as a social circle – thank you Google Plus-) and we need the gravity generated by the effect of the boundary to suck us back in. Gravity is vital for our survival, after all. The reason for this post? I dream odd things. I don’t feel lonely, actually. I was just ruminating on how the world changes, how I see lace weaving its way through the little corners of my perspective. I think I’m at that age now where I see life blooming around me – many children are being born in my little corner of existence it seems 🙂 and unions are being forged. I’m very grateful to see this little garden expanding.

As I’m my own epicentre – I don’t feel I change as a result. But that’s from my own perspective alone, of course. I may have changed immensely through the eyes of others.

Over-productivity – Hot or Not?

Rather ironic, given my sporadic blogging, but it’s a thought I came across when I impulsively bought a ticket for WTF13. It was a thoroughly thought provoking conference and although I could only spend the morning there, I spent my time scribbling odd notes in my moleskin (work leaving present, it’s beautiful) instead of live tweeting (funny that, given the ttile – WTF = Writing The Future). There were some great talks – but the one I’m focusing on today is about over-productivity.

For those who have been dubbed the “lazy generation”, there is an overwhelming abundance of material created – text, video, image, app, programs that, in their many forms, have clogged every electric pore. It’s not melodrama when you consider 90% of data created in the world today has been created in the last 2 years ago, creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day, according to IBM analytics. 

A quintillion, for those who ask, is in academic speak – a frigging big number. As it’s one of those numbers where we can’t quite imagine the exact magnitude, Maria Conner on her blog Data on Big Data can help us to put things in perspective:

This vast amount of digital data would fill DVD stack reaching from the Earth to moon and back. To put things in perspective, the entire works of William Shakespeare (in text form) represent about 5 MB of data. So, you could store about 1,000 copies of Shakespeare on a single DVD. The text in all the books in the Library of Congress would fit comfortably on a stack of DVDs the height of a single-story house.

I don’t know about you, but there are so many things to read. So many things to watch. So many ways to occupy our time that “boredom” or “inactivity” is now a virtue. Time is the most precious thing we have, therefore the most marketable. We read reviews, wikipedia etc. before committing to something long-term. We want to know we’re getting our time’s worth. This is why series (amongst other things) do so well – we’ve got our emotional attachment so the hooks are already well and truly in. This is the same for our favourite authors and so on, of course. You don’t want to know how many books are on my list (some old, some new) that I’ve been meaning to catch up on, as well as film and TV series. I’m sure we all have lists somewhere, even if purely mental. And so the cycle continues, consuming and creating (hmm… sounds pretty dodgy).

I write probably more than I read at the moment, which is probably not the best solution. Molly Flatt in the WTF13 likened us to the part of the brain that feels it is under pressure – the amygdala (sp!) that makes us produce vast amounts of material/gush – that we feel that we must constantly create, express etc. It can be easier to sand down to build up, that’s for sure, but there must be a time for letting off steam. It can’t be constantly dialled up to 100.

So be sure to take stock sometimes and let yourself be open to ideas. You’d be surprised what things click when doing errands, or just taking a walk, or chatting with friends/family. I’ve had so many ideas from doing these things.

I’ve just done a big hand in for this year, so I’m proto-chilling (not quite), but with so many open-ended plays, I’ve decided to take a break from them and focus on little projects here and there. It’s not like me, I like to see projects through. However, I think it’s good to air out things – if only for a little while.

Special Fiction Friday!

After going into stand-by yet again, here is some actual fiction writing by me that I’ve written this afternoon. I tend to get the most ideas when stressed about critical writing – and as procrastination methods go, I can think of worse ones. I have logged down some ideas for later, pending and after the upgrade. Having looked through my list, I have a total of 15 play ideas, having completed 8 (or 9, I guess, as I’ve finished writing this one). I invite you to look but not steal. It’s a little one-off about artists and identification.

Here it is:

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In other news, Fiction Friday related, I have a story published here in the Exegesis Journal. It’s called Mobius Strips of Yarn, and published amongst great writers of creative, critical and reviews. Check out the main journal here!