Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore

authors clothes

Now you see my focus on fashion and music wasn’t so far-fetched in my memoir Left of the Dial.

A book has indeed been written about authors and clothes. I’m now not the only one linking our sartorial bent to our creative success.

That is Joan Didion on the cover. She is the author of The Year of Magical Thinking, a best-selling memoir.

The ultimate truth about fashion and aptly individual style has been corroborated on the Visual Therapy website.

Co-founder Joe Lupo wrote there:

“We stand by the idea that style isn’t just about the clothes–it’s about the people in them. Using style and clothing to express the most authentic superstar version of yourself will give you the confidence you need to reach for your dreams and goals.”

Co-founder Jesse Garza reinforced:

“We always say that when image (the outer) and identity (the inner) are aligned, the result is clarity that will bring you places and help you reach your goals in all spheres of life.”

From firsthand experience I’ve seen that when you’re at odds with your clothing, it could be because you’re at odds with yourself.

Hiding behind your clothes is a way to hide you from yourself.

Finding the items that fit and flatter is like coming home to yourself.

Research non-traditional careers if you’re loathe to wear a suit and pumps to work.

I’m revising and editing my second non-fiction book.

I will return here in the coming weekend if I’m able.

Why I Detest Stereotypes

I abhor stereotyping people. As a writer, I wanted to publish a schizophrenia memoir where the illness was in a way almost secondary. I wanted to craft original characters that had real lives.

Long-term research indicates that about 15 percent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia have a refractory form of this illness: unremitting symptoms. And 10 to 15 percent commit suicide according to the long-term studies.

This causes doctors and family members to extrapolate from the minority of patients and loved ones that NO ONE with schizophrenia can have a normal life or a better life.

I understand how a person can feel when their loved one has a refractory illness. I make the case for better research and better treatment for schizophrenia for individuals who have a severe form. I make the case for seeing who the person is as a human being not a mental patient.

My contention is that stereotypes are lies. Viewing everyone the same way because you interacted with one person who behaved that way is stereotyping.

And often it’s the mothers and fathers who stereotype their loved ones by saying: “My son’s a schizophrenic.”

Stop that. Right now.

Jill Bolte Taylor in her brilliant memoir My Stroke of Insight wrote that she needed everyone to believe she would recover when she had a stroke that paralyzed her.

Believe that your son or daughter can recover. Believe that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia can recover.

Know that you don’t have, I don’t have, no one has the right to judge another person. We don’t have the right to write the end of their story before it begins. Neither do we have the right to think: “You were supposed to become a brain surgeon and now that you work at Rite Aid I’m disappointed in you.”

I abhor stereotypes of any kind. I’m writing a novel with an African American character so I’m set to read books written by and about African Americans.

My point I’m getting at is that no one’s a cardboard character. To quote Jodi Picoult from a radio interview: “People are more than the sum total of their disability.”

It’s a choice: we can focus on illness or we can focus on the beauty inside as well as outside of a person. And I think sometimes only seeing the symptoms and focusing on the hell blinds others to that beauty.

What I’m saying is two-fold: we can’t view recovery as the total absence of illness. Yet we can’t view the illness as the person’s identity in life.

I’m a writer: I’m interested in the contradictions inherent in everyone’s personality.

I’m a person in recovery: I’m interested in destroying stereotypes by writing about real people not about pathology.

And yes, I salute cashiers who work in Rite Aid just like I salute people who have other careers.

I’ll quote the title of an earlier blog entry that quoted the X song title:

“See who we are.”

See possibility in our pain. Break bread with us. Get to know us as people first.

There’s a word for this.

It’s called dignity.

Untold Stories

If memory serves it was Zora Neale Hurston who is quoted that there’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you. If you listen closely to what my Uncle Joe is saying in the video you’ll see he makes this point too in his own words.

We have to honor our veterans. The statistic is that 22 veterans commit suicide each day.

You might think we had no business starting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (I do not think we should have started these wars.) Yet that is beside the point when Americans join our armed services to serve our country. We have to honor our veterans and regard them with the highest esteem.

You can watch the Joe Bruni documentary here on CNN.

Our veterans deserve better. They deserve better than to be cooked to death in prison like Jerome Murdough who had a mental illness and was homeless and was sent to jail.

The time is now to get real: our veterans deserve better.

Humanity Inside Vanity

I don’t consider myself to be a superstar or celebrity. I’m an ordinary person.

What’s different is that I dared fight for my rights. I challenged the status quo. I rebelled the role of mental patient way back in 1990 when I dared to think I could have a better life than the one I was presented with. I didn’t want to collect SSI and live in a dangerous apartment complex on the edge of town for the rest of my life.

I was a creative, quirky young girl who listened to the Jesus and Mary Chain drowning her ears in Psychocandy until and after the day I needed real mind candy.

In the Zadie Smith link I offered last week, Zadie alluded to how an author sees each book in the rear-view mirror of her life when she was a different person writing it.

At 50, I’m drawn to the humanity inside the vanity.

Now I’m more interested in the beauty inside of us all. I wake at 3 a.m. and scan a fashion magazine. The Dolce & Gabbana dress reads per la mamma piu bella nel mondo. I know it is Italian for the most most beautiful mother in the world. At 50 I think it counts more that you can translate Italian into English than whether your face is wrinkle-free or you wear sunscreen every day.

I’m interested now in the stories of how women (and guys) put themselves together; like an author composes characters and their lives.

I also think: the goal is to get to 50 and be at a point where your illness doesn’t continue to dominate your life.

Now I differ from pop psychologists who urge everyone to “get happy” all the time every day. I’m the number-one fan of acting true to yourself. A person can be rude or crude and that could be who they are. So be it. That’s who they are.

Crafting characters in a novel is a gift. And like I wrote in here before truly seeing and observing and accepting and understanding how people are inside is a gift that we must hone.

The greatest gift we can give another person is to honor who they are.

The greatest gift we can give ourselves is to honor our nature.

Seeing the humanity inside the vanity: I’m all for this.

Zadie Smith on Writing and Writers

Thursday I was unable to write a blog entry so I’m going to post one today. I’ll focus on the writing life again and back track in the coming week to other topics.

Zadie Smith is famous for writing the first novel White Teeth. While I did not read that novel I read 50 pages of her novel The Autograph Man. The book bored me and I didn’t find it to be exceptional so I quit reading it. Also: the main character had no redeeming features that would’ve allowed me to like him even though he was repulsive in his behavior.

Though this has been my experience I can say that Zadie Smith redeems herself by talking about the craft of writing on the Internet and by giving readers her 10 rules of writing. She defines writers as Macro Planners or Micro Managers.

I’m in the macro planner camp. Yet more than this I can see the scenes of novels in my head like I’m a director filming a movie. I can visualize the action of a novel in my head clear as real events.

It also helps to cut out photos from magazines that can give you a visual cue as to how a character looks or what a room looks like or of other images in a book.

I have also gone to bed at night and in my sleep I’ve dreamed of the plots of novels. Ideas for plots of novels have come to me in my sleep. Like any macro manager I don’t write a book from beginning to middle to end: I write the scenes that resonate with me at that particular moment.

I also find that dialogue pops into my head at random moments during the day or night, on weekdays or on the weekend.

To be fair I most likely have to read White Teeth or NW to see if I can adjust my view of Zadie Smith’s writing.

Read Zadie Smith’s views on two types of writers.  Her style of crafting a novel might be different. Each style is rightfully useful on its own. One style is not any better than another.

Last of the Independents

In the 1980s disc jockeys played the music of bands signed to indie record labels instead of major record labels.

I liken this to self-publishing a book circa 2015 today. Major publishers aren’t willing to take a chance on a great work of literature so they routinely turn down books they think won’t make millions of dollars for the house. James Patterson and other writers of so-called formula fiction do get book contracts with Random House and other publishers.

I say: take a chance on the last of the independents. Be not afraid to read a self-published book that is well-written not cobbled together with poor grammar and dangling sentences or run-on streams of paragraphs.

My other two books are self-help books I hope to publish within five years. I have a fourth non-fiction book I’d like to bring out too.

Today: mainstream publishers aren’t willing to take a chance on first-time authors. I urge readers of books to take this chance on first-time authors.

I’m most taken by Kim Gordon’s traditionally published memoir, Girl in a Band, because she limned the downtown New York City music scene that paralleled my own stint as a disc jockey on the FM radio.

It comes down to making beautiful music on your own. Self-publishing a book is like producing an album with an indie record label.

Most people would rather read a book Nicole Richie or Kim Kardashian wrote.

I say: give your hard-earned money to ordinary writers not celebrities who make millions just by rolling out of bed.

The whole indie do-it-yourself ethic is alive and well and thriving.

Why not join in?

No Comment

As a writer, I was told I don’t have to read the comments posted in response to the Internet news articles I’m quoted in. If you want to be a writer or are a writer, I can tell you this: don’t read the comments section below an Internet article you’ve written or were quoted in.

Eva Chen, the editor-in-chief of Lucky magazine, talked about these “tip-tap” judgments other people make online because it’s easy to attack a person because you’re anonymous.

Any writer has to develop a thick skin to withstand this barrage of vitriol. I recommend you do not read the comments section of any Internet news article.

Recovery is often a via dolorosa taken as we move towards having hope and health. It doesn’t help that this journey is often distressing and painful because other people stigmatize us. We don’t need the added burden of having others inflict their tip-tap hate onto us.

No elevator to success exists. And if you speak out, you’ll be attacked because you’re successful. You’ll be attacked because you challenge the status quo.

In the comments section, I was accused of being a liberal when I’m not. Simply by speaking my mind, a guy or was it a gal insinuated that I was anti-conservative. Yet by doing that this person is besmirching themselves, because I wasn’t attacking conservatives. Small minds are always on guard against anyone or anything that disrupts their ego.

Attacking “liberals” has become a knee-jerk reaction for people who live in fear of other people. It’s almost humorous to read these comments nowadays.

One guy–and it was a guy–stated he didn’t want to date women with mental illnesses long before he became a psychiatric worker. This is interesting to me: that another person has a stereotype of what a woman diagnosed with schizophrenia would act like. We don’t need those kinds of “providers” acting like we need their help because we’re defective.

The point of the Yahoo Health dating article was to dispel the ignorance about dating a partner with a mental condition. Yet even though I spoke clearly and passionately, most of the people who commented below the news article offered the usual ho-hum stigmatizing attacks.

That’s OK. I’ll speak out again. In my memoir I wrote in one scene that “I want to see justice served for the last forsaken lot of misunderstood crazy people.” That’s an actual comment I made in 1998 when my first psychiatrist died. Seventeen years later I refuse to be silenced.

I’m doing my part to fight the stigma because I have nothing to lose. I wish more people diagnosed with mental illnesses would lift their cloak of secrecy and speak out. Like Tim Cook of Apple admitting he’s gay. The other woman interviewed in the Yahoo article used a fake name.

It’s scary that by speaking out against stigma I incurred the wrath of people who stigmatize us. As if society is their dominion and how dare I or anyone else with a mental illness try to infiltrate their fortress of hate.

I wish more people who have a mental health diagnosis would’ve posted comments in response to my quotes. I can only hope that someone diagnosed with a mental illness who read the Yahoo article was cheered on and feels better now about their prospects in the dating world.

Tip-tap indeed.