Thursday, October 22, 2009

Groucho Marx Had It Right

I'm going to take a leap of faith here and assume you have a Facebook account. I tend to run roughly a half-decade behind the rest of the world in using the latest technological advancements, and I have a Facebook page, so I'm going to go ahead and assume you do, too.

So you know those little blocky ads that run down the right side of the Facebook page? I'm sure you've seen them, they promise a coupon a day to eat out cheap in [Insert name of the closest city to wherever your IP address is located here], or show some hot chick toting a machine gun in an attempt to get you to play Mafia Wars, or promise to teach you how to self-publish your book (Fifty marketing tips!)

As near as I can determine, they seem to run in a kind of rotation, depending upon some AI determination of what your interests are. Somehow the collective computer intelligence of the web determined that I'm a writer, so I get those self-publishing ones a lot. Or maybe they're completely random, I don't really know, although I doubt it - what would be the point of touting self-publishing to someone who doesn't even read books, much less write them?

Anyway, my favorite little blocky ad that shows up on the right side of my Facebook page every now and then is the one that advises me, "Authors Get Honored Now. Find out if you're eligible to be included in the prestigious Cambridge Who's Who Registry of Distinguished Individuals."

What an invitation! I can be "distinguished," perhaps even if I haven't actually done anything! Of course, if "Cambridge," whatever that means (Cambridge, England? Cambridge, Massachusetts? Some guy named Cambridge? Who knows?), is really willing to consider li'l ole me distinguished, isn't that sort of watering down the term to the point where it's damned near meaningless?

I've achieved a small amount of success placing short stories in print and online media, and I continue to write novels, feeling strongly that I will have success with them at some point, maybe even selling a few copies. But even I, as much as I like myself, find it hard to believe any of that makes me "distinguished."

Groucho Marx once famously said, "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member." That's more or less how I feel about angling to get myself placed in Cambridge's Who's Who Registry of Distinguished Individuals. What's the point, really? If you asked anyone who knows me to give you fifty separate words with which to describe me, I'm confident "Distinguished" wouldn't appear anywhere on anyone's list.

Disingenuous, maybe. Disappointing, perhaps, depending on who you asked. Distractable, certainly. Distinguished, not so much.

So, to the individual or individuals tasked with the unenviable job of determining just who the hell is worthy of inclusion in the the Who's Who Registry of Distingished Individuals (Author Division), I humbly offer this small tidbit of advice. Maybe you should stop paying for that little blocky ad in Facebook, and instead start, you know, actually reading people's work.

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