Some people cannot stand to hear me say this but in some ways, using social media as an independent creator is worse than corporate. The sheer scope and scale of the abuse online; the fact that I am not just underpaid as I would be in corporate—as I am not White or male, or a White male, specifically—but consistently demanded to produce free work as an independent creator; the plagiarism and the erasure. There are so many types of abuse that I experience now that I never did in corporate. It is difficult being an independent creator, especially as a Black woman, especially as someone who has to use social media as a "workspace" in order to earn and survive. This is a reality that I am not interested in hiding just so that I can be someone else's "career fantasy." I mentioned this in I Do Not Like The Ways That Most People Use Twitter, in Social Media: "Fans," Supporters, Hypervisibility and Survival and in Abusing/Exploiting Independent Creators Is Not "Fighting Capitalism". I think about this every month as I create, get those creations funded (or try to), get my work paid for when people request custom projects, promote my work among those who are already consuming it for free to procure recurring donations/subscriptions, and sell eBooks and other writing.
This does not mean that corporate is structurally or personally "good." However, one of the reasons that I recently wrote The Painful Side of "Role Models," ''Mentors" and "Goals" is because while independent work has its benefits (i.e. setting my own schedule, saving money on clothes/transportation, not being forced to socialize after work with racist/sexist coworkers), it is not something to misunderstand, superficially analyze or fetish. I earn less now than I did in corporate, I do not have health/dental insurance (I am aware of options—after all, I worked as an analyst in insurance IT for part of my corporate experience—but they are not affordable), and again, I deal with an inordinate amount of abuse, plagiarism and exploitation in my social media "workspace." I cannot just delete social media if it is directly connected to survival as an independent creator. That can only be an option if it is replaced with some other financial support. And after experiencing corporate, non-profit industrial complex and traditional small business ownership, I am not optimistic about other work paths either.
I did not finish everything I that wanted to for September, but I am learning that my own deadlines have to account for the fact that I am not creating or working in "neutral" or "privileged" conditions. I need time to heal and at times slow my pace when faced with abuse. I created this space last December to bring my personal, professional, and creative thoughts, ideas and work together, including new writing outside of my core 3 spaces; those spaces are: Gradient Lair (Black women and art, media, social media, sociopolitics and culture; womanism), Drift Sojourn (food, travel, lifestyle and macro photography) and Cinemacked (entertainment, aesthetics and sociopolitics of good film and television).
In September I created/worked on:
- Brainstorming (which I do throughout the process, not only in the very beginning) in the process of creating the anthologies for Gradient Lair. Also, I have someone really amazing writing a foreword for one of the key anthologies from a key subject that I developed while Gradient Lair blog was live. I will not say more for now, but this is pretty exciting to me. Anyway, each anthology will focus on a topic that I wrote about and developed while the space was active from 2012 to 2015. Sometime in 2016 (hopefully), the anthologies will begin to be available in Publications here, and on an anthology link on Gradient Lair itself. While I want to start rolling out the anthologies in October, I am not sure about this projected date now. But there is no rush for me anymore. Good things, important things, take time. (I also was offered an opportunity to write the foreword for an amazing book that will be published next year, and this opportunity is based on my years of work with Gradient Lair and the mark that I have made with it.)
- New photographs that I shared on my Instagram profile for Drift Sojourn. On Drift Sojourn blog I posted: Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies, 3 New Meals With 3 New Kitchen Tools, Bourbon Hot Chocolate, Bourbon Waffles With Bourbon Syrup, My First 2 Attempts At Cupcakes, and My First Attempt At Homemade Biscuits. I also live tweeted the Apple Event on @driftsojourn. I do not have an iPhone 7 Plus yet (as this will be great for the mobile aspect of my photography) but I hope to get one by the end of the year. I follow @manygradients, which posts various colour gradients that make me think of certain visual concepts; I reply to some of the gradient tweets with one sentence stories that they made me think of. I post them in a TweetDeck Collection: Colour Stories. As I mentioned last month, this exercise helps me with anxiety and I like to do it as a visual artist. In the last few months I have been using Snapchat (user name: thetrudz) a lot to share what I am working on, including my writing, to post my cooking process and experiments with food as a newbie cook, to discuss my work as a professional photographer, and just for personal use. If Twitter is a hellhole then Snapchat is a haven. I enjoy the latter so much more than any other social media network.
- Ideas for my new photography eBook, which will be my fourth one. 2 of my previous three photography eBooks—Photography Projects For Practice and Portfolios and Free or Frugal: Learning and Creating Photography On A Budget—are available for purchase in Publications and on an eBook link on Drift Sojourn itself. This new eBook is not quite done yet, but I will publish this eBook in 2016; hopefully!
- One new post and one new film review on Cinemacked: 3 New To Netflix Selections - September 2016 and Film Review - Cedric The Entertainer: Live from The Ville. I did not live tweet any films in September, but I did live tweet the 68th Emmy Awards. September is a huge month in television, of course, so a lot of what I discussed on Cinemacked in September centered on television. I updated my TV Roster on Cinemacked to reflect the new and continuing shows that I view, appreciate, tweet about, write about and critique. I am a huge fan of Queen Sugar and been watching Atlanta, two new Black shows on cable TV. I am watching and enjoying season 3 of How To Get Away With Murder (a show I wrote an essay on before: HTGAWM - Annalise Keating and Black Womanhood).
- Organizational tools for the 2 surprise publications that I have been working on this year. I will not discuss these publications in too much detail until they are complete in order to minimize abuse and plagiarism before I can even get my foot out the door, ya know? These 2 publications are somewhat different from what I have published in the past.
- I wrote the following essay, published here on the blog: I Rarely Trust People That Say That I "Inspire" Them. In this essay I outline 7 phases of consumption and exploitation that I experience as an independent creator who is a Black woman, from the same type of people who claim to be "inspired" by my work. It was very difficult to write and even worse to actually experience for several years now.
To be honest, most of September felt like a painful blur. I still did my work. I still made art. But a lot of September was a painful blur. Last month, I mentioned this:
"People still continue to hover around the work that I did with Gradient Lair and refuse to stop the plagiarism and erasure. They are desperate for 'wealth' in a social media 'economy' where performing 'wokeness' is 'currency,' and they will acquire this 'wealth' by any means; ethics be damned. Part of this is either erasing my work and my role in how people know certain concepts today; another part is simply lifting the work and pretending it is their own. They will even assert that this abusive behavior is being 'woke' itself."
Things got worse in September because I had an article scheduled to be published (in a mainstream media outlet; I usually avoid them and self-publish because they are so notoriously exploitative, plagiaristic and cruel to me), but I had to cancel it. I explained why on Twitter and it was a terrible experience that caused a lot of pain, continuing the pain from August (and more generally, pain since I started Gradient Lair in 2012, at that). Basically, the publication hired me to write about systemic abuse and erasure that Black women experience and my personal experience with it. However, they wanted me to cosign my own erasure within the same article, even after pretending to care about my work and perspective. They wanted me to "credit" an exploiter versus hold them accountable for exploitation. It was awful; it hurts. I will never make the mistake of discussing any of the work I did with Gradient Lair (or even the upcoming anthologies) with any people like this ever again. I am not sure what October will bring, but I desperately hope it is better.