Privilege in a time of chaos and injustice

I live in a Minneapolis suburb, though I am far enough away that I cannot see the smoke. I cannot hear the protests. My sleep is not disturbed by the sounds of gunfire and sirens. While the murder of George Floyd has angered me, I have been separated from the cacophony of a world aflame.

I have felt helpless and rooted in place, and it has forced some introspection. I know I do not truly understand the emotions or thoughts of the communities affected by this murder. So I have been listening. As I hear the anguish, the powerlessness, the frustration, and as I read what it’s like to fear a similar fate as George Floyd, I have been reminded that I have lived a privilege life compared to many people in my country.

A decision lay before me: to live within the comfort and protection of my privilege or to use it for something positive. I chose the latter.

I took what I heard and wrote this.

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I am not black.

I am not of eastern Asian descent, nor Slavic or Middle Eastern, nor a member of most of the other wonderful ancestries that humans are blessed to have.

I am not Muslim, nor a member of any of the non-Christian religions that bring people comfort across the world.

I am not female, nor any of the other genders we are discovering in our DNA.

I am not gay, and I do not fit into any of the sexual orientations that close-minded people refuse to acknowledge.

I am not missing any of my five senses or four limbs. My brain doesn’t process the world in a way that requires additional interpretation.

I’ve never been impoverished or homeless.

I am a straight white male living in America and there are very few words that we use to modify that description. We live in a country that must label people to remind them they are different than a particular type of person – that they are other. That they do not have my privilege.

I recognize that in the United States, I have more privilege than all of these wonderfully different ways to be human.

Continue reading

Let’s get kids to love stuff

man dangling noodles into his mouthWe got a text from our neighbor this morning. His daughter loves to cook (she gets it from him) and was enthused that we were enjoying the things she made. They both like to share, and my wife often makes something in return. Here’s what the text said:

Her response to you using her frosting: “Yay! That makes me happy! Let’s make big fat noodles next, everyone likes noodles.”

As you might expect, my response was encouraging, and not just because I really do like big fat noodles. I saw that she loved cooking and I never want her to lose that passion. Simple as that.

As a parent, it’s not that hard to recognize the importance of helping your child find something they like, and then foster a love of that within them. It’s not just about developing a relationship with them, but it’s about helping them find things that bring them joy and might guide them their entire lives. This morning, I was reminded of the important role that adults – not just parents – play here. Continue reading

The book is done

…well, the first one.

Fingertip sketch - greenIt’s been four years – almost to the day – since I sat at my keyboard and began bringing Tildy to life.

Four years since my finger drew this simple sketch on my phone to imagine what it would be like to see a girl with wings.

I had few goals, and some quantitative ones were unmet. I more than doubled my target word count and it’s taken twice as long to complete as I wanted. But these are less relevant to me than Continue reading

Only Some Came Back – Writing Exercise

I find it easier to write when I’m speaking from the heart. As the son of a Vietnam veteran, I believe it’s important to acknowledge Veterans’ Day, so I always feel an obligation to say something meaningful.

This year, it started with a simple thought: “some came back”. It came to me while contemplating the difference between today and Memorial Day, but was also inspired by sentiments my father has shared.

As often happens, a simple idea blossomed into something greater, a working piece entitled, “Only Some Came Back”.


Some came back, wondering why they returned so all alone.
Some came back, their bodies hardly whole.
Some came back, prisoners lately freed.
Some came back, with so many healing needs.

Heroes all, whether wounded, captured, tortured, or flesh unscathed.
Heroes all, though they would never, ever think themselves as brave
Or worthy to have lived when so many others fell in foreign lands.
Or worthy to continue in a world that cannot understand.

Backs bent, carrying the weight of comrades lost, of life post-war.
Hearts pierced by steel, by loss, by unfathomable gore.
Minds burdened by nightmares, grief, and shattered innocence.
Souls broken upon the fields of demarked happenstance.

It’s not a day for politics
Or the whims of money’s end.
It’s a day for remembering veterans,
The women and the men.


 

This piece took about 30 minutes to write. While it’s a work-in-progress, I’ll let this one sit for a time. It’s more personal than it might seem, and there are current political things that cut deeper than I care to discuss.

I share it as an example of writing outside my manuscript. Sometimes the work can be a drag, and creating things that bring you joy can help you get past them. And sometimes, it’s cathartic, too.

Mike


Appreciate what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, November 2019

Take Joy In Your Craft #1

I was recently re-familiarizing myself with the music of Velvet Underground, and “Run Run Run” on YouTube led me to “Run Boy Run” by Woodkid. I’d missed the song in 2013, which isn’t surprising since I was no longer in the music business and I don’t hear a lot of French artists on the radio.

From the tolling bell that opened the song, I knew I was going to like it. But after three-and-a-half minutes, I felt like I’d just watched a video of my childhood fantasies.

If there was any other kid, aside from Luke Skywalker, that I’d pretended to be, it was Max from Where The Wild Things Are. And so this video, showing a kid playing fantasy and running with monsters? Heck yeah – I’ve watched it ten times in the last week.

OK, that was mostly an aside, but the video is too fun not to share.

Anyway, my enjoyment led me to a live version of the song, and this brings me to the point of the post. Continue reading

Asking Your Customers Questions

This quick post is approximately 350 words, and I typed it with one hand whilst eating a tasty quesadilla.

Fridays are quesadilla days at the Eagan Thomson Reuters office. I dig ‘em. On Friday, the chef was out of green onions, which was fine. As he was serving up my food a few minutes later, he asked me a question. Would I be interested in sautéed onions or mixed peppers as an alternative ingredient? Some days when he’s out of onions, he’s thinking about other ways to serve his customers. I believe my response was a dignified, “Oooh! Onions!”

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These two crumbs are all that remain. I even ate the to-go box.

He graciously thanked me for my feedback and we both went about our workdays. With that simple question, he found a way to solve a problem, while also improving the service he could provide to customers. For me, I like that he cared enough to ask my opinion, but I also get the satisfaction of influencing the deliciousness of a future meal.

Writers should have a similar mindset. True, much of what we do is for ourselves, and we have the right to be as selfish as we want in our stories. However, we also need to keep a portion of our brains on our readers. Our customers. That is, unless you don’t intend to have anyone read your story, which sounds like zero funs.

Readers have myriad desires when it comes to reading a book. They want to enjoy it. They want new experiences. They want to be surprised, but they also like to figure things out before your protagonist. Perhaps they want their spirits lifted after a long day or feel the melancholy tugs of nostalgia.

You don’t need a person to read an entire chapter or even a passage. It’s terrifying: I know (here and here). But it’s not very scary to ask a friend or family member, “Hey, what do you think if I did ____________ in my story?”

I believe you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by the experience. So will your trusted person.

–Mike


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, December 2018

Writing Update – 3 Years In

Three years.

December 11, 2015 is more of a ceremonial date because I’m not sure how much writing I did at the start. Did I sit down and type, “Tildy sat up so quickly her head swam” – the first sentence of the first chapter – that first day? I don’t think so. I’m pretty certain I didn’t have her name yet. If memory serves, I started with the prologue, which has a boatload of too much historical context in it.

I recall thinking about a new direction for my story over the Summer of 2015. I started parts of it twenty-five years ago and I still liked much of the world I’d created. However, I needed to inject something into it: something to make it appeal to a broader audience and something to reinvigorate myself as a writer.

I wondered what kind of books the real world needed. It occurred to me that we could use more stories with empowered female characters, and they had to appeal to girls and boys. As simply as that, I was running, sprinting, in a new direction.

The writing came suddenly. One day I wasn’t writing; the next day I was.

superman_typing

Three years later, and more than a thousand hours of effort, I’m coming up on 190,000 words, which is about 100,000 more than I intended. I’ve also removed characters, places, and scenes to cut another 30,000 words. And I’m pretty sure I’ll have a bit more culling to do. Continue reading

That Time I Shared My Writing #2

This post is approximately 400 words and is the follow-up to a piece I wrote about two years ago: That Time I Shared My Writing #1.

nervous kermit

Over the last two years, I’ve shared portions of my book with sixteen ‘trusted readers’. They’ve ranged from family and friends, to coworkers and even one of my wife’s students. Their feedback can be grouped into two categories:

  1. Positive and rewarding (yay!)
  2. Radio silence (meh!)

Continue reading

Helping Define Your Company’s Culture

This post is a quick ‘un.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled Sharing your other work at work in which I described my submission to the Thomson Reuters brand marketing team, who was looking for employees to help showcase and define our culture. It’s part of a greater recruiting effort to bring in top talent from around the globe.

Sharing your writing can be nerve-wracking at the best of times, but there’s a certain other level of anxiety that comes with standing up and saying, “Hey coworkers, I think what I’m doing is important enough to help define our brand to the world.”

Continue reading

Shine a flashlight in the dark

This post is approximately 550 words and deals with the topic of sexual assault. This isn’t some lame attempt to drive traffic to my blog by tapping into a popular social movement. That’s why I’m not using the hashtag or any other tactic to increase the visibility of the post. It’s just me, writing about something I care about, which is the entire point of this website.

On Monday, a Facebook friend boldly stated that she had not and would not participate in the “me too” movement. She meant to say that, sometimes, people don’t realize that their words qualify as harassment, and that without specific examples, we can’t correct them. But she also said, “just telling people you’ve been victimized doesn’t raise awareness.”

I disagreed.

And I think she missed the point. This movement isn’t simply about wolf whistles and “c’mere, honey”, though that’s part of it. My response received positive feedback, and so I share it here because I’m proud of what I wrote (lightly edited for this platform).


I write this as a man, and as a person who has never been sexually assaulted.

My opinion is based on women who have confided in me. Like the drunk woman who woke up naked with a man on top of her. Or the woman who lied about being on her period to avoid rape. Or the woman who kept silent for more than 20 years because she knew no one would believe her. Or the woman who blamed the rape on herself because she had a reputation for being easy.

Much like a crowd shining flashlights in the dark, this movement shows people they are not alone. That there are far more people than we ever thought. To show that such a thing might have hurt a person, but they did not let it defeat them.

I particularly disagree with the statement “we all know basically every woman has experienced” this. Regardless of whether “we all know”, the complacency of that argument is part of the problem. We still live in a culture where men and women blame rape on a woman’s attire. Or her job. Or because she is subservient to men. People dismiss “grabbing her by the p****” as locker room talk because his political affiliation says (R), when they’d give a (D) holy hell for saying the same thing.

However, this movement isn’t targeting the small-minded people, not really, because they will never change their minds. Nor is it seeking the blessing of the enlightened. I think there are many people who really aren’t aware of the size of this problem, and for that, I applaud the momentum behind this movement.

I also disagree that writing out the specifics on Facebook is a better approach. We should believe that people have been attacked without having to read the sensational details. There are myriad reasons victims don’t come forward, but recounting the attack shouldn’t be the price for my sympathy or belief.

I would have believed my friends if they had simply said, “Me too.”


It’s only a Facebook comment, and not intended to be high literature. But I believe in writing things that are important, things that connect people, and things that can make the world a better place.

I know you do, too.

–Mike


© Michael Wallevand, October 2017