By way of introduction, some of you may not know that I am emma peel. I blogged about why I created this alias a couple of days ago. A few have PMed me thinking that I am someone imitating her. That is not the case. This alias came about because despite weeks of trying everything, including using five different browsers and several computers at home and elsewhere, I could not sign in to OS. I have not been able to sign in for the past six days even though I keep trying. I cannot retrieve my posts, anything in my mailbox (which is the most frustrating part), or my profile information. Although like many here I could have chosen a completely different identity and kept it secret, that is not my style.
OS has changed greatly in some ways since I arrived in December of 2008, and in other respects it is exactly the same. I will be commenting on some of the changes.
1. The first thing that has changed is that there are many more bloggers here now. Please do not project that statement to mean that this is a bad thing, or that it is about you personally. It is a simple fact. With more people have come some new, unofficial rules. To paraphrase the song, some of them confuse me, some of them amuse me, some of them abuse me.
2. One of the strangest unofficial rules, at least to my mind, on a site that purports to be “for writers, photographers, artists of any stripe,” (you can look it up) is that no one is allowed to mention their professional background if they are a writer by profession. You can be a carpenter, a teacher, a cop, a social worker, a CEO, a painter or a photographer, but you cannot ever say that you are a writer and mention your professional accomplishments. That is considered crass “self promotion” and subject to a wide variety of personal insults and blogs mocking you. You can be a carpenter and write posts about the decks you build and even show photographs of them, and that is OK. You can share your paintings and your jewellery, your gourmet cuisine and even your pets, but you must never admit that you’ve ever earned a dime from writing. That is being condescending and a deliberate, shameful personal putdown of every other blogger at OS. Who do you think you are anyway? You’re nothing but a hack who happened to get lucky, and anyway, you’re boring. Only people who write in their spare time are interesting or talented. Needless to say, I am still trying to wrap my head around this rule on a site that allegedly welcomes “writers…of any stripe.”
Example: in a thread where I was being pilloried because I posted about an awful class I had – I teach writing and yes, I know that I’m not supposed to mention that either – someone commented that I was a terrible teacher and that all of my students hated me. That would be at least 4,000 students in 10 years by my count. I’m not sure how the commenter knew that, but I have learned not to question those here who know everything, seemingly by osmosis. I responded by saying that I had, in fact, received more than one teaching award from students at different schools. I was then told that I “boasted” and “bragged” constantly about what a great teacher I was. You see where this is going. Do not make the same mistakes as me. I could be a great teacher and say so often, I could even send PMs to other bloggers correcting their spelling and grammar as some here do, but because I am also a writer by profession, any mention of it even peripherally is verboten. Are you with me so far? I know it’s confusing.
You must also never, ever mention or even allude to the fact that you may have earned your living doing something that involved celebrities, politicians, or other well-known people. That is namedropping, and it is forbidden for all but THOSE WHO MAKE THE RULES.
3. Of course, there are exceptions to the last rule. Some writers at OS are permitted to post frequently about their professional writing activities whether they be books or magazine stories they’ve written, book tours, their speaking engagements and school tours, their celebrity media interviews -- whatever the gamut their writing career entails. These are mostly bloggers who write only about themselves and their careers, rarely comment on others’ blogs, and yet receive much adulation here. I cannot tell you how to become the exception; that is a secret known only to THOSE who make the next rule.
4. Who is allowed to blog at OS and who is not. It’s natural to assume that the very name Open Salon means this publishing platform is all-inclusive. That is not the case. Oh, anyone can join and gain a small following if they put in the effort, but unless you agree to be part of a mutual admiration society, you will not be accepted en masse. That many people here have demanding jobs and lives outside of OS is of no account. To gain favour among THOSE WHO MAKE THE RULES, some of whom are retired and have plenty of free time, you must play the game their way, no matter how petty. That means you’d better make the time when you’re newish to frequently compliment each member of the society every time they post, deserved or not. It is the rate and praise that counts, not the content. If you ever forget that, you will be reminded a few times, then eventually shunned. And if you ever leave for any reason and decide to come back without sucking up, you will be told in no uncertain terms that you are not welcome. THEY have decreed it so.
5. Next is the rule around multiple identities, or alters as some call them. Although it is against the published TOS, many bloggers have multiple ids. Some are open about it, many more are not. I’ve now joined this club because of the technical difficulties I mentioned at the top of this post, but I would not have done it otherwise. The proliferation of multiple ids, often used irresponsibly – which were much less common when I joined -- have led to a breakdown of trust at OS. Once gone, that fragile but necessary social glue is almost impossible to re-create. These bloggers create ids to lavish praise on themselves on their posts to get into the feed; others use them to pit friends or enemies against one another. It’s the oldest ploy in the information game: if you want to find out who you can trust, put out some misinformation and wait to see who brings it back. You might be surprised. People with multiple alters who are not bona fide members of the mutual admiration society are often “called out” for using them. Yet many members of THOSE WHO MAKE THE RULES also use multiple ids and well, that appears to be just fine and dandy.
6. The final rule decreed by THOSE WHO MAKE THE RULES is that no one who has made a living from writing, no matter how paltry or brief, is ever allowed under any circumstances to share any of their hard-won experience, knowledge, tips, tricks of the trade, or advice. I’m sure any reader who’s made it this far can guess what happens to those professionals who breach this most sacred tenet. Every negative trait known to humanity – arrogance, condescension, meanness, spite, envy, accusations of “lording it over” people who are subsequently terrified to write (if only that were true), being held responsible for anyone who isn’t writing and the quality of their writing if they are -- oh the immense negative power of such individuals is as awe inspiring as the outrage of THOSE WHO MAKE THE RULES. Even the most innocent of suggestions is interpreted as demeaning, holier-than-thou criticism and results in a virtual lynching.
Should that person dare to protest such a fantastic over-reaction to what is essentially a good deed, they are labeled once and forever as “bitter,” “failures,” and lacking a “sense of humour” -- because you know being dogpiled on and called a cunt and all the other mud-slinging monikers I’ve already mentioned -- is just so damned funny. Only people who have never been tested in the marketplace and never learned anything and never want to learn anything about writing could possibly be good writers. It’s that easy. Ignorance is bliss. Anybody can be a writer. It takes less time than learning how to hammer in a nail and call yourself a carpenter. Most things in life are hard and require some degree of training and application of effort, but writing is the one exception. And don’t you forget it.