Friday, February 22, 2013

What We Can Learn About Criticism from What Not To Wear

I don’t know why I watch this show. I feel it’s the same reason that I read about writing advice or sexism. I like to be pissed off. And nothing inspires the same way anger can. It certainly gives me a lot of fodder for ranting.

The television show What Not To Wear, which I was surprise to see was still on the air, takes a woman who has either committed herself or been victimized by her “friends” in order to come to New York, receive 5,000 dollars, and buy a whole new wardrobe. The catch? She must subjugate herself to high school styled ridicule.

The main, interesting facet of this dynamic is the pure declaration of “expert” and “amateur.” Unlike writing criticism, in which it’s hard to tell the levels of knowledge and stupidity each side has, the show is really there for the audience to side with the hosts and laugh at the ridiculous impressions of the victims.

Here’s several problems I have with the shows tactics:

-The hosts dish it out but can’t take it.
-The hosts are uninterested in the victim’s aesthetic (though they say they’re not.)
-The hosts can only argue with criticisms of their “fixes.”
-The hosts constantly mock their contestants.
-The hosts don’t bother to be persuasive, they rather bully.
-The contestants, by the end, are Hollywood homogenized.

Am I biased against them? Yes. Am I siding with the contestants, despite their complete ability to be jerks as well? Yes.

But I’m not here to talk about how best to be objective; I’m here to talk about criticism.

You’ll meet jerks like this all the time in the art world, especially because that’s the sort of attitude that will sell.

You have Stacie and Clinton whose entire job is to be interesting. What we see are two people vocally expressing their moods, opinions, and feelings, but in the most inconsiderate way possible. First on my list is how indignant they are when someone makes a jab at them. It reminds me of a scene where I watch an adult insult a child and then be surprised when the child insults them back.

After spending ten minutes ridiculing a person (again with more priority to be funny than convincing), the woman turns back around and makes an insult against them. Clip to twenty minutes of the hosts aghast at how rude she could possibly be.

Now, there’s two arguments in favor of hosts’ attitude. Number one, the contestant agreed to come in and be critiqued, and two, the hosts are supposed to be experts who know what they’re talking about. From a writer’s point of view, it’s important to take those two arguments into consideration because that is exactly the problem that comes up in group critique.

Just because an author wants feedback doesn’t give license for the critic to be, for lack of a better word, a butt. And I say a butt because it’s the best description I can think of that applies. However, what constitutes as a butt is someone who is either too lazy to try and be persuasive, too focused on being clever to be clear, or simply just disrespectful of the creator. The best situation for feedback is when the author takes his work to someone he respects and who respects him, but that’s not always an option. The most reachable form of feedback is a group critic, and that is a setting in which everyone must talk, and there isn’t a screen process for those inside it. Thus, the critic feels that his job is not to be helpful.

Many group critiques fall victim to this “putting on a show” mentality. They perceive that since the author wants feedback, he needs to just accept what is given and isn’t allowed to recognize the jerk behind whose giving it. The critic also, and this is an important part, spends her energy trying to be funny and witty, rather than saying something convincing. We’ve all met this person. Hey, we might even be this person at times. Though they are usually only one in a crowd, they also tend to be the most vocal, so we’ve all had to deal with them.

Here’s my argument against this “host” perception: Why are we giving feedback? In the case of the show, Stacie and Clinton are trying to change the client’s life by helping her learn how to dress in ways that make her feel good about herself. In the case of the writer’s group, it is allegedly to help the author make the best work possible. In either of these cases, being persuasive is an important part, but being persuasive is hard. Turning to bullying is a cop out, and trying to legitimize lack of thought by claiming that “it’s not my job to make them feel good” doesn’t benefit the goal of helping. Sure, we could say that if the author really wanted the best book possible, he would take the feedback at face value. But then, on that note, we could say that if the critic really wanted to help, she would phrase it in a way that would convince the writer. And if she didn’t want to help then why would she bother giving feedback?

It is easy to be blunt. “You have too many characters.” It is easy to bully. “That doesn’t matter.” It is much more complicated to try and be diplomatic, but much more effective. Bullying wins an argument, but it doesn’t convince anyone. They just sit there thinking that the critic is a jerk and then goes back to their old ways as soon as the butt leaves the room.

No one will win everyone over, and it takes two to tango. In order for an artist to be convinced, he has to be willing to be convinced. He needs to not throw a huge hissy fit and try to take the critic’s words with their value, even when the critic “shouldn’t be bothered” with explaining herself.

But in the case of Stacie and Clinton, we get to be front row witnesses to all different types of reactions, and I have to say, with these hosts, there are no right ones.

A good interaction should allow for the artist to explain himself. This brings me to the concept of the expert and the amateur. Problems arise when we start perceiving each other as one or the other. In reality, the best situation is when the author respects himself as an expert and chooses to believe the same of the critic. We often perceive the dynamic (especially in the context of peer groups) as the critic knowing what he’s talking about and the artist being an irrational mess, in which the author’s disagreement is usually attributed to ego.

But the fact of the matter is that critics can be wrong. If you actually watch the show, What Not To Wear, you’ll have the experience of looking at their “fashion forward” outfits and going, “Gah!” Not are objective viewers able to disagree with both sides, the experts’ opinions can be flawed when they don’t take into consideration what the style the individual wants.

Most writing teachers fall into this trap, and I think that can be attributed to that many beginning writers have no idea what they want. I can’t count the number of times where someone’s told me, “It’s a metaphor if you want it to be,” or where they couldn’t decide if their vampire script was supposed to be satirical or serious. Honestly, this is the first step to improving as a writer, which is simply to decide where you’re going.

Everyone has an image they want, even if they’re not aware of it. Disregarding that image will remove definitions of “good” and “bad.” Or worse, will “fix” an element that now feels alien with the rest of the decisions.

Stacie and Clinton spew phrases that claim they’re thinking about that person’s “style,” but in reality, and as made obvious by the end result, they’re only concern is about “better.” Of course, there’s some reason behind this in that many of the women on the show’s “aesthetic” is either overdoing it or doing nothing. However, no matter how much they claim they’re just trying to make the victim less eclectic, it still astounds me how every women ends up looking pretty much the same in the end. Every interesting thing about her is gone, the aspects that made personality turned to something pretty and unnoticeable, and beautiful but bland. A perfected mediocrity, if I’ve ever seen it.

And that is a huge point when being criticized. Much of criticism will focus on the obvious, the uniqueness, the big picture peculiarities. It doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate, but it does mean that changing them will often remove what was interesting about it. Like the sparkling vampires of Twilight, the greatest criticism will be about what obviously makes it different.

I think what bothers me most about the show is the condescending tone the hosts show for these people. So many of us have to experience that attitude, and realizing that no matter how you respond (with the exception of a short and sweet “Yes, ma’am!”) they will be unhappy. The idea that it’s okay to talk to people this way—because they should recognize the expertise and realize it’s for their own good—is idealistic, a representation of power that many crave. We want to be able to say what we want without self-censorship and still be respected, our expertise is that strong.

Of course, we as authors can’t prevent anyone from being a butt, and, in reality, dealing with butts is a talent that ever writer needs to learn. But, becoming a talented creator requires becoming a talented critic to some level, and to be a talented critic, a person must have knowledge, be objective, and able to try and persuade the storyteller. Not only is it hard and important to not demoralize other people, but the author must not demoralize himself by being too harsh.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What We Can Learn From Some Bad TV about Writing

Sincerity is a hard thing to fake. It is different than being earnest or being honest or even being heartfelt. Earnest writing implies a certain level of importance. You can’t be earnest while asking for a piece of pizza. “Honesty” indicates purity. “I’m just being honest,” implies, “I’m not being mean, so you can’t be mad.” Heartfelt gives the impression of passion in the subject matter.

Sincerity, however, can exist in many contexts, and an important factor in being interesting.

The marathons of The New Adventures of Old Christine that have been going on the past few months give me some background noise during long periods of creativity. It’s not a show I seek out, or a show that I can even squint at at times; it is a series that I can go to when nothing better is on. But, since it is tolerable and always seems to be showing, I continuously watch it and I continuously think, what is wrong here?

When looking at inexperienced writing, painful dialogue, or “watered down” comedies, one huge problem stands out. They all sound like they’re lying through their teeth.

I once edited a short novel for a friend, and my biggest criticism was that his leading lady seemed like she was going to stab her boyfriend in the back with the largest and sharpest phallic symbol she could find. Whether it be her telling him that she loved him or she liked the necklace he gave her, everything had a suspicious tone.

Which, of course, it was all a lie. A story is, after all, made up.

Bad writing sounds like it is what it is. It reads like, “I am suppose to say I love you now, so I will,” or, “I am supposed to say something horrible now, so here.”

The New Adventures of Old Christine is based around the current trend of having horrible people in loving relationships. Christine is supposed to be a slut and an alcoholic. They make joke after joke about her past and the way she spends her money, trying to pull on humor from her flaws. But, here’s the problem: we never actually see her act on any of these alleged vices. She doesn’t drink unless it’s going to lead to a punchline, and when it comes to all of her boyfriends, she doesn’t sleep with them any sooner than any other “well-adjusted” protagonist.

The lines are stilted. They are a little too on-the-nose. Unsubtle, the characters practically explain the punch line as they say it.

There’s something appealing about it, though, because I still watch it. It lasted a whole four seasons, which means it had an audience for at least three years. But it’s painful, and I’m cringing the entire time, often praying there will be something else that I can watch instead.

Though it won’t compensate for being dull, a book that is believable has attained the majority of its goals. Sincerity, however, is also not something that can be achieved by a few little tweaks, which is probably why it’s not one of the more obvious or common criticisms.

A couple of things to remember when trying to make a book look less of a yarn and more of a legend:

The goal – The narrator or character wants to achieve something. The reason he says it is usually different than why the writer said it. The writer may want to do something like illustrate how much of a jackass Tim is, but rarely does Tim want to be perceived as one. When he tells that woman she’s fat, he needs to have a better reason for doing it then he wants to look like a jerk. He may want to get vengeance, “Congratulations on the promotion. It is such an inspiration that you can overcome your appearance and still be successful,” or out of annoyance, “I understand that your ass makes it harder to get out of the way than normal, but move.” He may be trying to get her out of the room, “I don’t want to alarm you, but you might want to fix that roll of fat under your bra.” He may think that he’s honestly doing her a favor, as though the reason why she hasn’t lost weight is that no one told her. Any of these are better than a straightforward, “You’re fat,” because it’s hard to see why he would say that, though it’s easy to see why an author would.

Show don’t tell – A by far overused saying, it holds a good amount of truth. Shows like The New Adventures and Cougar Town like to claim how horrible their people are, but they’re called mean more often than they do anything mean. Telling has its place. It saves times, is clear, gets to the point, and knows that the audience is going to get it. But it’s often an issue of proving it, so when an author is afraid that his character’s traits are coming off as insincere, he needs to add some weight behind the talk.

Deal with the Ramifications – It is typical in many shows to have a “red shirt.” Labeled after the nameless characters in Star Trek who would only come on missions in order to die and illustrate the danger of the situation, it is a commonly mocked and remembered aspect of the show. Authors want things to happen. They want to give their characters superpowers, loves, flaws, qualities, items, and even circumstances that will benefit either their protagonist or their story line. As with Old Christine, they may attribute alcoholism to her which gives them leverage (Want her to do something out of character? Promise her a bottle of wine) and opens up the field for jokes. It reads like, “I’m an alcoholic just because it’s funny.” Had there, however, been any sort of story, i.e. conflict that involved her drinking, it would have given it more motivation outside of its humor. The difference between say Karen Walker from Will and Grace and Old Christine is that the other characters recognize Karen’s issue and treat her accordingly. There are many episodes in which the conflict is about her friends considering her irresponsible, where she makes of a fool of herself while drunk, and where her drinking led to some sort of plot points. Giving the characters what you want them to have needs to have some sort of motivation outside, “I wanted them to have it.” Make it a story point by giving it some conflict.

Lastly, it is important to just be honest. The hardest scenes to write are those about love and sex. It is so intimate and revealing, that inexperienced authors tend to make them the most stilted. You can say many things about Twilight, but it is honest. The story tells exactly what Stephanie Meyer wants and believes, and her readers can relate to that because we’re not all that different. Women want powerful men who only have eyes for them. When it comes to any sort of subject matter, however, being anywhere from Seinfeld’s “about nothing” or Misery’s obsessive, foot-chopping fan, if the author can really tap into what he feels rather than what he should feel, the story will be far more sincere and that much more immersive. Sincerity comes from the author relating to his characters and truly expressing things he cares about. The best way to not sound like you’re merely pretending is for it to be based around a little part of reality.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Five of the Dumbest Things I’ve Heard about Writing (More than Once)

The world is full of advice and opinions, and most times it is more contextual than it is “bad or good.” One thing I’ve learned about suggestions is they often need to be dissected before they can be utilized properly.

That all being said, there are few things that can be considered unequivocally wrong. That does not mean, however, that there aren’t many I find stupid.

1. “When I read terrible writing, it makes me not want to write anymore.”

I can understand this, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

See, the only real reason why an author (or any artist) would be discouraged after witnessing work horrifically made would be the similarity with his own. Having spent my time in creative writing classes and on the internet, I’ve read a lot of “bad” stuff, and I have to say, when I think I can do better, I’m thrilled that it’s bad.

When you start to outgrow the “basic mistakes” phase, and more to the point, become aware of your own improvement, any acknowledgement of that improvement is great. From a purely egotistical point of view, reading bad work should only build up your confidence, unless, that is, you can’t tell the difference between yours and Aurora Dawn 969’s.

Logistically, for those of you who aren’t hypercompetitive and don’t just thrive by constant praise, nothing improves writing like reading really, really awful stuff.

Sure the advice is usually to stick your nose in a Chekov for a few hours, and there is some benefit to that, but there are issues with quality of writing that makes learning from hacks easier than learning from masters. For one thing, the main difference between a master and a hack is the master is able to hide his hackery. When looking into a great book, we’ll see superficial points—isn’t Aragorn cool?!—but the reader will be too engrossed in the story by beautiful words and subplots/points to see that that’s really what the author is saying. Essentially a fantastic scene is extremely complex with the mistakes and motivations well hidden and compensated for, where a terrible scene is usually pretty simplistic and obvious.

It’s like trying to learn from a handsome, rich, and charismatic man how to pick up women versus one of those socially inept line-slingers you see in movies. Though both can teach you something, the line-slinger will show active cause and effects, whereas it’s pretty damn hard to tell if the first guy’s success was because of what he said or because he’s hot.

The real reason, however, that I find this statement frustratingly dumb is not because it doesn’t make sense, but because it is usually prefaced by the speaker’s indication that other people shouldn’t be writing. Considering that it’s their fears someone out in the world is thinking the same thing about their writing, it seems to me that we should all just do each other the favor of being concerned with how much work we’re doing and not how much people who are “less talented” than us are.

Lastly, I have spent far too much time in this career having people degrade the concept of “practicing” to really take this statement at face value.

2. “I don’t know why I thought I deserved to do this.”

There’s two ways to look at the world of writing. One, it is a business. This viewpoint helps people better understand pitching, make active decisions, and see scams. Two, it’s a form of self-expression. This viewpoint will direct authors to better understand their work, make active decisions, and see themselves. Really, the greatest success comes from being able to balance these two concepts and knowing when to sacrifice one for the other.

In either of these cases, however, what you “deserve” is irrelevant. If it’s a business, then it’s about what people will buy. They don’t want to purchase your product then that’s your problem.

If it’s a form of self-expression, then you have the right to say what you want, even if it is just what you ate for breakfast. No one wants to read it then that’s their problem. Everyone deserves a right to say what they want to say, whether or not anyone wants to listen, whether it be a discriminated group describing their pain, or a bored housewife describing hers.

We like to think of authoring as coveted work, meant for innate geniuses and talents, where the unworthy plebeians are not allowed to tread. That is true, to some extent, at least when it comes to getting published and read. But just because someone doesn’t want to print or look at your manuscript doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to make it.

Of course, the people I heard saying this were in a fit of despair after receiving some sort of bad review or rejection letter, and so yes, they were being overly dramatic. And they have that right. But it disheartens me to see them to not only take it so hard, but to express a feeling that we all secretly have; we have to deserve the right to try.

In reality, trying to achieve our dreams is an innate part of life, and, if you think about it, the basis for what all American civil rights are oriented around. We have the right to choose our futures, and the opportunity to try is a right, not a privilege.

3. “You’re not writing for the right reasons.”

Mostly this pops up in the middle of a conversation where an author expresses her motivation or goal in writing and someone explains the cause of her problem is due to having that motivation at all.

Try. Go up to a semi-artistic and remotely vocal person and tell him that you want to write a “great book,” and stand back to get an earful.

He will say something along the lines of, “It’s the wrong approach. You want to express yourself, to say something that speaks to you. You want to write for the right reasons.”

You'll find though that every reason is the wrong reason, according to the right person. Not only do the opinions change from each individual, but there are, unfortunately, many who care about the “right and wrong” of artist’s motivations only so far as to discourage others. Writing is a highly competitive field in which we try to find reasons why we are meant to do it over our fellow creators, and one of those things is motivation.

It’d be like one guy saying that he should get the girl because he doesn’t just want to sleep with her. Which, is legitimate, when true. An author who only wants to write to make a whole bunch of money is headed down the wrong path, except—and here’s the thing—an author who only wants to make a whole bunch of money will quit pretty damn quick.

No one writes for one reason and one reason alone. If we write for the fun of it, when the fun runs out, we stop. If we write for the money, when the money doesn't come in, we stop. But, if we write for the fun of it, and we write to finish a book, then we are more likely to go on after that fun runs out. But then we stop. If we write for the fun of it and we write to finish a book and we write to accurately express a vision, we edit. But then we stop. We don’t get published, we don’t go through the pain of submission and query and, yes, even actually being in print, unless we want all those things as well as some sort of money or respect or fans or all of the above.

The only “right” reason to write is the reason that gets things written. Any wrong reasons by themselves will not end productively. And, quite frankly, telling people that it’s unacceptable to write for certain reasons will simply lead to self-delusion. It is important to understand what your goals are and be honest about them because there are a hell of a lot of decisions to be made over the course of your career, and those decisions cannot be made by someone whose pretending not to care about the things that she actually does.

4. “You shouldn’t start writing until you’re 30.”

This is actually the number one piece of writing advice I’d ever gotten. Their spoken logic was that anyone under thirty has no life experience.

The issue is insulting for several reasons, and wrong for several more. One is the attitude in which children (and apparently young adults) have nothing to say, that they don’t understand the world, and that their opinions don’t matter. People have been saying that about each other for centuries, though it could be anywhere from culturally to racially to sexually oriented. Everyone has things to say. And, as I expressed above, they have the right to say them. Most importantly, we can learn a lot from even the most inane childlike drivel, not just literary lessons.

The reason it is wrong is that even if we were pretend for the sake of argument that no one wants to hear about the experiences of anyone 29 and under then let’s take into consideration the concept of practicing. I constantly say practicing is a process  underrated by choice speakers, and this is an example. If someone can’t write anything interesting until he’s thirty, it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be gaining experience until then.

Writing is the only art form our educational system forces each and every student to work on constantly, and I think some interpret that lack of stagnancy as a correlation of talent and age. A student who stops drawing at ten will draw like a ten-year-old at 30. I believe this is the same for writing, just in this day and age most people stop writing at 18 or 22. How good that person is at 18 or 22 varies, of course, but my point is that, unlike drawing which is much more obvious when we are bad at it, and is something that more people haven’t been forced to take classes in, many people believe that writing improves with age. Perception can, and it can benefit a story, but it’s not the whole of it.

Lastly, I have to say that age is the number one excuse I hear from people. Whether it be “I’m too old,” or “I’m not ready yet,” it’s all about being the wrong age. Why? Because age is an indicator of time. “This is why I can’t do it now.” Well, the fact of the matter is we’re not all going to live forever, and, unfortunately, we don’t know we’re even going to live long. There is never a right time to do something, and we’d best be ready for the opportunities when they show up. You’re too young until you’re too old. You’ll never be ready if you don’t get the experience. If you don’t do it now, there’s a good chance you never will. The advice to “wait” just seems like a nicer way of saying, “don’t.”

5. “It’s about whatever you want it to be about!”

This is the outlier. Unlike the others on this list which have to do with demoralization, “It’s about whatever you want it to be!” has to do with a criticism of creation.

What bothers me is when someone makes something, tells me it’s metaphorical, and then says the metaphor is whatever I want it to be.

If I wanted to read a story that was about anything I wanted it to be, I’d write one.

I come to you because, strangely enough, I want to hear your opinions. I want you to do the leg work of perspective and thought. Show me a Whole New World, if you will, but don't expect credit for me touring it myself.

Advice and opinions are subjective, able to be used and discarded in more ways than the simple on/off switch that can be attributed to them. When it comes to some things however, no matter how much truth they may or may not contain, I find that motivation is important. These five things are stupid because they come from the wrong place. Competition and judgment is a part of the writing world we have to contend with; I just wish people would be less obvious about it.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Creativity Can, and Does, Come From Choice

I’ve spoken before about America’s demand for innate geniuses, and I think it is problematic. We worship the ugly duckling ideology; no one wants to be a normal old duckling because there’s no way that he could grow up into a swan. We like the concept of being born differently, and that if we weren’t then we aren’t every going to be a ridiculous success. We can be an okay success, I guess, but it’s not like you will ever be a master.

With this arises a problem. We don’t like the idea of faking anything, especially genius. If we have to fake genius, then we are clearly not genius, and so how can we ever be successful? But the important fact is most genius is faked, or rather, learned to be exposed over time.

Your subconscious, your instinct, your gut, your talent, your innate personality, whatever you want to call it, is all about “normal.” It’s how we function and get through life. Your brain gathers “normalcy,” files it away, and then utilizes it for autopiloting so as to focus its energy on the abnormalities. Our brains say, “Cop,” and we ignore anything specific about him. Unless, of course, his hair is bright orange or he’s wearing a skirt.

What that means for the artist is that whenever your subconscious, or “inspiration” makes a decision, it will try to make the most normal decision it can, not the most original. It will say, “I am making a book now,” and try to fit your book into the most booklike style it can, e.g., cliché.

This is why you might feel inclined to start your book with your character’s daily events even though you don’t particularly care about them, or stick her in suburbia despite you growing up in the wilderness. These choices aren’t wrong, they’re completely legitimate, but when you start to combined subconscious decision after subconscious decision without any input from your conscious self, you will start to come up with a story that… well, anyone could have come up with.

Take the Tool, Color survey, for example. A psychological questionnaire was passed around the internet a while back in which they asked the reader to solve six mathematical equations then name a tool and a color.

Did you do it? There is a very good chance that you said “hammer.” As for the color, I think the survey thought we’d say red, but I’ve gotten a hell of a lot of blues.

My point is that when asked to draw on something from our subconscious, it will immediately flesh out the most “normal” answer. It makes sense, because the subconscious’s job is to do thinks quickly, so it slaps labels on everything and then can find it easy when asked. But though this method of organization makes thinking quicker easier, allowing for us to communicate by, oh say remembering what the “normal” definition of a word is, it also makes for pretty homogenized images. And since normalcy doesn’t actually exist, it doesn’t always entirely make sense. Why a hammer? I don’t know. We use it a lot?

Now you might not have answered hammer, and you might not have answered it for two separate reasons. 1) You’ve heard this before and knew the trick or 2) You labeled the word “tool” differently than “the rest of us.”

We would all, for whatever reason, like to be of the second category. We understand genius as different and innate differences as innate genius. And considering most of us don’t count learned genius as genius, it matters. Of course, there are benefits to be had of the second category, to be the one who thought of saw or drill or weedwacker, but there are also negatives. The person who thinks “differently” has to contend with being relatable. He does not have to try to be creative, according to certain definitions, because he already has a different perspective. However, he has to deal with things like basic communication problems. Maybe not to an extreme, but think of it this way:

We describe the character as picking up a tool and jamming into someone’s side. Kind of funny when most of the audience is thinking of that tool as a hammer instead of a screwdriver. Being that his subconscious says “screwdriver” when it thinks tool, the author will not be aware that other people are imaging a hammer. He won’t know to fix it without outside input. (Hence why outside feedback is always good.) This problem varies, just as much as having a different perception does, but the more we perceive reality differently, the less we can understand each other, with extreme examples like autism.

Secondly, before we get too far into wanting to be like that second guy, the important thing to remember the first guy. Because, sure, you can train yourself a little to label abnormal things as normal, but it is much easier to just know the trick.

This brings me to my point. If an author recognizes “normal” she can then proceed to make it abnormal. Instead of having her teenage girl sneak out of the second story of a suburban household, she can now be caught sneaking out of an apartment complex, or maybe even a yurt.

The fact of the matter is that though we want our perception of normal to be different than others, if it’s not, is readily fixable. It is much easier to sit back and make the effort to look like we think differently than people like it to be. And if you have a problem “faking genius” then you’re probably going to have a problem in a career that revolves around telling stories that aren’t true.