In Defense of Trigger Warnings

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about trigger warnings. Places such as the LA Times and New Republic are speaking out against them. Many think trigger warnings are some silly signs of weakness, some mark of humanity becoming more and more fragile as time goes on.

These people are just wrong. trigger

Let’s think about the word trigger. Trigger. A device which sets off a weapon. A chain reaction. A tiny little explosion that propels a piece of metal to collide with…flesh? Other metal? Fur? They’re dangerous. Triggers are dangerous.

Humanity is becoming more violent as time goes on. Many people are experiencing rape, abuse, PTSD, death each year. And more and more people are speaking out against their experiences. Human fragility isn’t increasing, the need for humans to treat one another with care is.

In my personal experience, I have seen an increase of people willing to share their experiences with trauma. They are some of the bravest, nicest, most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of calling friends. Trigger warnings are a way of showing these people who have seen and lived traumatic things some respect.

Why would you want to cause someone unnecessary harm?

A trigger warning is a way of telling people, “Hey, this has some nasty stuff in it. You don’t have to read/watch/listen/see/feel/witness these things if you feel you can’t handle it.” This very act gives people who have experienced some awful things the power to control their life. The power to say no, I would not like to relive that memory/feeling/trauma again.

Why is this a sign of weakness?

This topic came up on Facebook in a group I am a part of. It began with this post.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 4.28.15 PM I understand this writer’s frustration. Being asked to change a piece of writing by people who do not know you or your work can feel offensive. However, I do not think these people were being unreasonable. Even in the quote, they did not tell the author to change the language of the piece. They only asked to provide a warning. A sign to let people know there is a dead end ahead, maybe you should turn around.

Because that is what triggers do. They stop you dead in your tracks. They can cause severe emotional, psychological, and physical trauma. Really. Triggers are serious business. They can cause panic attacks, hyperventilation, nausea, flashbacks, and a slew of other awful things. Everyone reacts differently to different triggers, but one thing is common among all of them. Pain.

I understand that we cannot have trigger warnings for every single possible trigger out there. There are some obvious possible triggers that we can deduct: rape, war, violence, and abuse. Maybe one person’s trigger is the sound of a fly buzzing. I understand we can’t know that. But why in the world wouldn’t we expose the obvious ones and lessen possible harm to other human beings?

Another important note. PEOPLE OVERUSE/DO NOT UNDERSTAND/INCORRECTLY USE  THE TERM TRIGGER WARNING. Not everyone knows what they are talking about. Sometimes I search trigger warnings on Twitter and see people using the hashtag “trigger warning” in the same way they would use the hashtag “spoiler alert”. Some people get it wrong. It is those people that are not helping others see trigger warnings as a valuable and important integration into the artistic field.

rated-r-logo-black-stock3004My friend Haley Muench brings up a number of valid arguments in her blog post about trigger warnings being beneficial and necessary. One of the most important points to highlight is the fact that other forms of art have trigger warnings. She uses the example of movie rating. Yes, this is a way for the audience to know if their child should be watching this film/T.V. show or not, but it also offers information as to disturbing or triggering events. This little square at the beginning of a movie, which you barely notice, is all people  with traumatic pasts are asking for.

A way to know what they’re getting into. And an opportunity to get out.

Interview Musings

A Generation Speaks

Two weeks ago I bought my first suit.

I really hate it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s well made and I’ve been told that it looks good on me.

But I never in my entire life imagined that I would be the kind of person who needed a suit.

This is my last semester at Ball State, I’ll be graduating in a little over two months time. My professor, Cathy Day, decided to include a practice interview in our Literary Citizenship class. I’ve been on several interviews before but most of them were informal for students jobs that didn’t really hold the level of pressure that my future interviews did. Afterwards, Cathy asked us to blog about our experiences.

There is an insane amount of information out there about how to ace a job interview. And one of my biggest pet peeves is when an article or blog post promises…

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Interviews: The good, the bad, the ugly

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I had to.

I haven’t been through many interviews in my lifetime. The few interviews that I have been through, I always felt let down and sad about myself afterwards. I thought I had left a terrible impression, that the employer hated me. Even after a few days passed and the job would call me to say I got it, I still thought the interview went terribly.

I suppose it’s some deeply rooted self-esteem nightmare hidden in the folds of my brain. I’ll dig it out of there eventually.

My practice interview with the Ball State Career Center went quite a different way. I felt prepared for the questions and confident in myself.

THE GOOD

For my literary citizenship class, I was required to participate in a practice interview with Eric Deckers. I was terrified. I scrambled around Muncie for an interview suit. I practiced in the basement at work while I was counting the endless pile of lanyards (retail inventory, love it). I piled my hair into multiple different types of buns, seeing if I could ever tame my massive, frizz into something professional. This, was the end result.

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The end result. Tada!

I sat in the Ball State Career Center, feet tapping, just wanting this thing to be over. The suspense was the worst part. Finally, it was time for me to go in. I put on the most professional face I could muster, and gave it my all.

And it wasn’t so bad.

THE BAD

There were two questions I was completely unprepared for.

1. Tell me about a time when you didn’t get along with a supervisor.

This was a trap. Definitely a trap. You do not EVER want to bad mouth a supervisor. I danced around my experience working at Buffalo Wild Wings. I spoke about a supervisor playing favorites, and how I never quite understood the social ropes. He said this was fine, but I must be very careful next time. Do not fall for this trap.

2. What kind of salary are you looking for?

This one threw me for a loop. I had no idea what a social media marketer should be making. Eric gave me some wonderful advice. You don’t ever want to throw out a number first, the company interviewing you will either think you are highballing it or low balling it. Try to turn the question back to them, asking things like, “What did you have in mind?” If they answer, you’re off the hook! If not, just say something like, “Well, this is something we can negotiate at a later time.”

THE UGLY

There is something about interviews that make me really itchy. I feel plastic in my fancy clothes, light make up, my wrist tattoo covered with bandaids and sleeves. The person I’m showing them is not really me. The me I know can’t shine through the stress, the sweat, the suit. How much of yourself should you show in an interview?

Eric says, despite your nerves, show most of it. During an interview, the person isn’t only looking to see if you are qualified, they are also trying to see if you are a good fit for the company. You must show them your personality. If they don’t want to hire you due to who you are, you probably wouldn’t have been happier working there anyway. Take things as they are.

However, you do have to hide your crazy. At least until they say, “We like you.”

Leave your own interview tips below, or go here!

Multi-Reading: Tips for reading multiple books at once

The titles from right to left: THE CANTERBURY TALES, GERALD OF WALES, THE WOMAN IN WHITE, THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING, THE FOREST FOR THE TREES, and THE CELTS

The titles from right to left: THE CANTERBURY TALES, GERALD OF WALES, THE WOMAN IN WHITE, THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING, THE FOREST FOR THE TREES, and THE CELTS

I have always struggled with reading more that one book at a time. I can do it, but I find my mind stretching to remember all the events, ideas, and themes of each novel/article/whatever. There are people, however, that read multiple books  at the same time for pleasure, like Leigh Kramer who writes a blog about reading an astounding EIGHT books at once! A round of applause for you, Leigh.

Keren Threlfall argues that reading multiple books at once, “…keeps material fresh and new” and three to five books at the same time is about perfect. I admire that so much, but I haven’t figured out how do it!

While in college, you need to read many things at once. It is a necessity. No matter your major, different classes force you to constantly be reading different novels, articles, textbooks, websites, who knows what else.

And it matters because I want everything I read to make an impact. I want all of the novels I read for school or fun or just for knowledge to matter. To sink in. For that to happen, I need time to read them.It doesn’t help that I am a slow reader by nature.

I have a few tips on how to read more than one book at a time that I have discovered through much trial and error.

1. Make them as different as you can.

The more different the genres are, the easier it will be to separate them in your mind. Fantasy vs. Nonfiction. Young Adult Fiction vs. Biographies. Male Main Characters vs. Female Main Characters. Novel vs. Play. Pairing books in this way will not only help you keep them straight, but provide a nice break between genres. If you’re getting tired of one genre, you have another one to go to for a reprieve. Sometimes, books for classes aren’t that varied. Do the best you can. Divide British authors and American authors, get creative!

2. Schedule certain days to read certain books.

Collegiate life requires a planner. At least, it does for me.I know there have been times I am in 3 different literature/English classes that all require a tremendous amount of reading. It can be daunting. Dedicate a few days out of the week for specific reading materials.

A sneak peak at my unorganized organization method.

A sneak peak at my unorganized organization method.

Maybe Monday and Wednesday you read that one novel. Tuesdays and Thursdays you read that one play. And the weekends you can dedicate to that book you really want to read for fun or that other novel you’re supposed to be reading. Or maybe that journal article. Sometimes, there is no room to schedule out reading like this, and you just have to wing it. You must make time for it though. If you don’t, you’ll drown.

This method was helpful for me because, first of all, this keeps you organized. Unless you are one of those people who can be disorganized and happy. That’s fantastic, and I’m jealous. Second of all, this helps you block out time to read. Really a life saver.

There are a lot of scheduling softwares and tools out there for you, but my favorite? A good old paper planner and pencil. Works every time.

3. Mix excitement and boredom.

This tip requires a lot of self-discipline. Pairing up a book that you are excited to read with a book that is super boring is a great way to balance things out. BUT. You have to stick to your schedule. Read the exciting book, and prolong the anticipation/love affair by getting a little on the side from a boring one. But you must actually read the boring one.

These three things have helped me master the art of reading an astonishing TWO books at the same time. Look, it’s an accomplishment. Just be happy for me.

If you have any more tips, please comment. I would love to get up to three books at the same time by the end of the year.

Acts of Literary Citizenship: A Twitter Adventure

For the past week, Haley Muench and I were put in charge (yikes) of the @LitCitizen twitter account.

Running social media for myself is one thing. Running a Twitter account for a broad concept which has a strong community is quite another. We needed a plan. We needed to figure out what the community wanted to know about, what they wanted to know from us.

Have you ever tried to figure out what people you haven’t even met want from you? It’s some pretty difficult stuff.

Then, we thought of Acts of Literary Citizenship. These are actions that people can take to show their dedication and passion for the literary world. After all, what good is a passion for something if it isn’t shared?

As our professor, Cathy Day‘s, class has evolved,  a list of about 40 Literary Citizenship Acts were already compiled. We added about 10 more due to our twitter experiment, and I think they are pretty brilliant.

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Just think.

If people would do one of these acts once a month, the entire literary world would benefit. Being a writer myself, I understand how vital having a supportive community can be. So many writers give up on dreams (and possibly extremely wonderful books) because they feel like they don’t have a shot. All it takes is one person to say, “Hey, this doesn’t suck.”

Literary citizens and these acts of literary citizenship could change the life of an author (and therefore the life of a book).

Thanks to the wonderful additions to our list from our witty followers, we are now up to 50 Acts of Literary Citizenship. As a class, we hope to have 100 by the end of the semester. Which means, we may need your help. If you have an action that would help spread the word about authors, books, artists, or freaks, let us know in the comments below.

We’d love to hear from you.

Help Artists be Artists, but Keep Your Secrets

Artists need other artists. We just do. Otherwise, who else will encourage us to drop everything we’re doing and chase a caravan of gypsies? Or buy a cat for the sole reason that when it walks across the keyboard, maybe it will come up with something brilliant?

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This is the one I chose. A little useless, but he’ll get the hang of it.

Literary citizenship is about helping artists be artists. We need support. Without it, too many promising people give up on their dreams. In order to support those people, we have to speak out! Talk about the anchor sculpture made of chewed gum and the book that made you cry.

As a senior in college, I have accepted my fate as a confused and lost soul in the world of politics and rules and professionalism (but I’m very capable). I am in the reminiscence stage, remembering what I’ve learned and where I have come from. One of the greatest memories I have is of creative writing workshops in class. Other writers, just like myself (meaning new and still gooey), would tell me all kinds of skills to improve and techniques to try. The realization that outside of the University no one cares dawned on me pretty quickly.

What will I do without my classroom full of wonderful minds to help me sculpt and pick and sift through my work?! How will I survive?! BUT WAIT, there’s Social Media. And of course books such as Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.

Literary citizenship is about being connected. TALK to people on the Internet and try to help them with whatever it is they need help with. Share techniques and ideas and motivation. SHARE ALL THE THINGS.

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Except maybe your secrets. Keep your secrets. Keep the tricks that make your craft soar. Keep it secret. Keep it safe.

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