We Need Other Kinds of Heroes

A Harder Heroism

Somewhere in the last half-century, hero became a dirty word in popular culture. People enjoy hearing about the failings of those marked as heroes, whether dirty secrets or opinions that don’t abide by the current standard or memes Maybe even worse, heroes are looked at in some kind of contempt. And the word is further cheapened by being used for anyone famous or sucessful as if wealth is a measure of value or worth. We say that riches aren’t the most important thing, but act like getting rich is a virtue.

What you do with it is the virtue. And I’m not talking about the vanity charities started by actors, politicians, or athletes. Those are PR, something the make them look better or get a tax benefit. Does the famous sponsor stay involved in a real way? Do they put any time in the trenches for that cause? And does this vanity charity actually accomplish anything useful? I have seem many foundations and charities falter when the sponsor moves on to other things. Charity watchdog organizations, like Charity Navigator are both useful and disheartening, as the money and resources that people give in good faith get wasted.

Heroes do the right things, the hard things, without the cameras. Encouraging others to support a cause or charity, makes you a good example and someone to be admired. But a hero does something when it can and does cost them. Playing a helicopter pilot hero in a movie doesn’t make you a hero, flying an injured hiker out of the wilderness and unstable conditions does. Firewomen, policemen, and soldiers routinely risk injury and death to help others. And they will go back the next day to do it over again. It is the risk and cost of their actions than changes that helicopter flight from stuntwork to heroism.

Now heroism isn’t all about the burning building or knocking back an assassin, the more subtle kinds of heroism require a moral fortitude to face down people who don’t want to do the right thing, or who use their position or majority to force their beliefs on others. The hero may lose the battle to make a camp for kids or land a faltering plane safely but they don’t roll over. (The hard thing sometimes is in choosing the right thing. Bullying and abuse is easy to oppose, but free speech and anti-censorship is not as easy to support when a speaker is a mean jackass.)

People have been saying that freedom isn’t free, but costs cuts both ways. If you want freedom from offense by people who have different beliefs, you must grant the same to others for your beliefs. ‘Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander’ Disagreement on political and social issues is rarely evil and it’s petty childishness to demonize your opponents over opinions.  Too many have no empathy or the ability to walk in another’s shoes. Are people that self-centered or getting off on leading the howling mobs? Great leaders and heroes do more than destroy by feeding the riot’s flames, they make the compromises where everyone feels it’s an improvement. Grinding those who disagree with you into paste by riots or social media pile-ons, isn’t peace, it’s abusive.

I think that may be why we are foundering lately, we don’t have enough heroes who compromise and defuse the situations, we get leaders who want it to burn.

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Take the Leap?

antique cast iron school bell outdoors in lemon grove

Cast iron bell in a lemon grove, Creative Commons 2.0

With the multitasking chaos and expense of the holidays, it can be especially frustrating when an opportunity appears, a limited time opportunity.  It would require not just shorting my family’s holiday a bit, but also increasing my debt compared to my income, when money is already very tight.  Oh, it’s the kind of expense that might pay off in a year or so (more than lottery tickets, for sure) but it’s no guarantee. So I want to do it, but I would have to borrow the money without being able to repay it in the forseeable future, and that just makes me nervous and unhappy about it. I know intellectually that this isn’t the end of the world either way, but it’s so precisely balanced between good opportunity and increased debt for all involved that I can’t help but resent the timing. The amount may not seem like much to most people but it is for me and I say no almost by reflex for numbers that big. As much as I want to write, this is far, far more than my income warrants.

I don’t want to be one of those writers who blows money they can’t afford on pie in the sky. Vanity press and small press meltdowns have been very instructional, with how even careful writers cab get in over their heads when there’s marketing and their hard-earned money involved. This could be helpful, but will it be that ten times more helpful than a good writing book?  Or as helpful as ten books’ cumulative help? Writing always comes down to putting pen to paper and the vast majority of great stories were done before writing software, before marketing plans, before online group editing muddied the waters with conflicting advice.  Tick, tick, tick… time is running out.

And it smells like that batch of chocolate chip is just about baked.

Whew, that’s a Big Task!

Now that I’ve had a couple of days to relax after that big sprint that is NaNo, I can look at revisions. The last original NaNo novel, a moderately epic fantasy about empowerment and freedom bogged down, because I could see problems overall, but had no idea what to do and how to start.

Shuffle them words!

Shuffle them words!

This year I decided to work on shorter fiction. Novels end up being like you putting all your eggs in one basket  and feedback (and hopefully) compensation lag way behind. So I worked hard, and finished five collections of mostly flash stories. I might be able to finish another set before the end of the year. I’d hoped for seven, so I could release an omnibus with fifty with the new year. Usually during most NaNo runs, I can write my 2k words plus a few short stories and such as a break.  This year, just NaNo was finished by the skin of my teeth.

I doubt I can sustain the 1500/day that I could do before the arrival of two new roomies. That doesn’t even include non-fiction writing, like blogs and tool/app experiments, and those can’t be cut much. It’s beginning to appear I cannot do any mix of short and long fiction.  Long is so much more labor intensive, and there I need second opinions. But I did make minuscule Kindle sales with the shorts. Which should I put my efforts towards for December? I can’t stop writing for the holidays, or it takes months to regain momentuum. Revising the NaNo w could take all my time for months, but so can the shorts collections treadmill.