I’m at a phase in my body where I don’t like the way I look or feel in a lot of things.
I’m not complaining—that’s just where I am. After a lifetime of struggling with my feelings about my body, I have come to accept a few things about it: (1) This body has gotten me through a lot, and it’s not a total failure; (2) It’s okay to want my body to feel or look different on my terms, and (3) My size fluctuates, and that’s okay. sometimes I can prioritize my physical fitness and sometimes I can’t. I’m eking into a phase where I can pay more attention to it, but things don’t change overnight and I’m okay with accepting where I am now even while acknowledging that I’d like to work toward feeling stronger and healthier.
So. Anyway. I am in a plumper phase right now, which means some of my clothes are more snug than they were a year ago. But I have this one dress that I like to wear a lot. No matter my size, it’s flattering. Pair it with tights and some boots, maybe a necklace, and I look smoothed out in a way that I don’t in my NaNoWriMo finisher’s t-shirt and a pair of jeans.
Take off the dress, take off the t-shirt and jeans, and the same squishy, lumpy body still stands in my wall mirror. Nothing changes except the way I feel about the way I look.
But that in turn changes the way I present myself. I just feel more confident in this dress (Yes, I’m wearing it right now because I just got home from work!) than I would with my belly protruding over the waistband of my slacks, my arms testing the elasticity of the sleeves of my company-issued electric-blue polo. Why? I’m still the same person. I still have the same degrees, the same professional experience, the same life.
But how I dress myself up makes a difference.
I sold several hundred books last week. I made several hundred dollars. On my writing! I am over the moon about that! ←See, the exclamation mark means I really mean it! The book also hit the #1-#20 New Releases in a few categories, and almost made it into the Dystopian Bestsellers list. It did make it into the Genetic Engineering Science Fiction Bestsellers list. All of this is amazing!
If I stop there, though, I’m not being entirely transparent with you.
I’m not telling you that also on the Genetic Engineering Science Fiction Bestsellers list is a series of books that feature very shirtless, very sculpted cowboy-cyborgs on the cover. (Click the link if you don’t believe me, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.) Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just…maybe not a genre match?
I’m not telling you that I’m terrified all the people who are ever going to buy the book have already bought it, and that it will fade into obscurity because either the people who buy it don’t like it enough to recommend it to their friends or because books aren’t as much a part of everyone else’s life as they are mine.
I’m not telling you that I’m afraid my job is now entirely going to consist of book promotion and that I’ll never find the time to write the sequel to this book, or the hundred other projects I’m working on, or the thousand other projects that continue to inspire me despite the ever-collapsing pinprick of time available to work on them.
I give you this peek behind my typically positive mask to let you know that, if you worry about the things no one can see, you’re not the only one. I can dress it up all I want—and I will, depending who I’m talking to—and that insulates other people from knowing my worries and me from having to talk about them.
But take off the dress, and there they are.
One thing I can say, though, is that now I have a baseline for comparison. Next book I publish, I’ll have some kind of metric of what to expect and what kinds of goals to set for myself. See there? The positivity won.
In a continuation of my out-of-order impromptu series on creativity, I have a brief rumination that came out of the AI discussion from last week.
Should AI/robots be restricted to doing only things that are dangerous and undesirable for humans to do? I’m thinking repetitive and easily replicable tasks, mining, idk—things that have a high likelihood of killing or maiming a person, or things that would be made much more productive by the use of a robot.
To me, even that looks like lost jobs and livelihoods for the people who do those jobs. The argument, then, is that not having to work those jobs would free people up for more creative endeavors. To which I respond, “But most people don’t get paid a living wage for their creative endeavors.”
In Viola Davis’ book, Finding Me, she said something like 95% of actors don’t work and only 1% make more than $50,000 per year. That’s not a living wage for a family in Los Angeles or New York, where most acting opportunities are. The same goes for writing, art, you name it. And we are living in an age where people want to consume art, but they don’t want to pay for it. Most creators can’t make a living on their creativity alone. They might work on freelancing or commissions; many, even non-writers, turn to writing (like here on Substack) to supplement their income.
Of course, this is where a universal basic income might come into play…if we, as a society, were progressive enough and valued our citizenry enough to guarantee that everyone living under our umbrella wouldn’t have to worry about going hungry or choosing between back-breaking labor and personal and intellectual fulfillment. I don’t see that happening, at least in the U.S., anytime soon.
What do you think? Is there a future for us where creators and our creations are valued?
I’m a little shook about AI at the moment.
I’ve seen different reactions around the internet and IRL about the latest AI writing technology. Some are amazed, others are nonplussed, many are entertained. And it is entertaining, especially when you read my friend Alex Dobrenko`'s experiments with ChatGPT in Both Are True.
But it’s also terrifying. A friend of mine tried out a few prompts, and they looked like the kind of vanilla thing I would have turned in for a high school (or college, let’s be real) writing assignment. No, the prose wasn’t beautiful and artful. But it was coherent enough to get the point (Yes, but whose point?) across, and unless I had personal experience with a person’s writing beforehand, I probably wouldn’t question it if they turned it in as an assignment.
My daughter, in fact, wanted to write an essay about humans’ impact on the environment over break (for fun, so if you were wondering if she’s really mine, you can rest easy), and she stumbled across an AI writing website. She didn’t know what it was, but damned if the computing machine didn’t write the whole thing for her.
“That’s not your writing,” I said.
“But I don’t know any of these things,” she said.
“That’s why you research and learn those things!” was my reply. She did end up researching and writing her own five-paragraph essay, which was pretty impressive for a nine-year-old, if you ask for my perfectly unbiased opinion.
But, not so secretly, I’m worried this kind of thing will become commonplace. Don’t forget, technologically speaking, AI is still in its infancy. It’s still learning, and I have no doubt it will learn to be more poetic, more coherent, and more undetectable.
Writers like me sometimes take jobs writing for companies’ websites. A business will post a request for a blog post about, for example, different kinds of snowboarding equipment, and hire someone to write it (usually for not much money, but some writers cobble together a decent income writing for many different websites). If an AI can generate an 85% usable post instantly, for cheap, complete with search engine optimization, why would a business pay for an expensive, potentially unreliable human to do it? I actually see this as a pretty big threat to the writing gig economy, which is one of the only ways beginning writers are able to make an income.
As far as novels, I have to assume people would rather read one written by a human than a robot, but you never know.
“My kids don’t need to learn to write anymore,” said a friend of mine, but I think it’s much worse than that. Artificial intelligence can already replace some forms of writing. But, for kids growing up with AI, it has the potential to replace deep thought.
And that scares me.