A Place for Misfits: A Statement about OK Doomer
There's an interesting piece in Wired.
Every year, women and nonbinary tech workers gather at a special conference designed to help celebrate their achievements and develop their careers. This time, a bunch of tech elites showed up and "gate-crashed" the event. They were looking for higher-paying jobs and networking opportunities.
It's typical, isn't it?
It's not just men, either. Affluent, entitled jerks do this all the time. They take spaces that don't belong to them.
It's the story of our lives. Many of us never really get a chance. Nobody gives us a seat at the table. We make our own table. Sometimes, we make a very nice table, and the rich decide they want it.
So they take it.
"Why on earth would you ever want to teach at a technical college?" My mentor laughed. "You'll be throwing your life away."
"You want to write true crime?" My other mentor rolled her eyes. "Nobody's going to take you seriously if you do that."
She went on...
She said she was referring my best friend to editors she knew at big magazines. She was going to help her get an agent.
Then she said goodbye.
"Don't give up."
I'm going to talk about something a little different today, something that's driving my expansion of OK Doomer.
The system is rigged in favor of the elite, and that applies to the publishing industry as well (including journalism). It doesn't matter how good we are. It doesn't matter how smart we are. It doesn't matter what we contribute. It doesn't matter what we ask for. It doesn't even matter what we demand. There's a set of invisible rules about who succeeds and who doesn't. It often comes down to a handful of things, like where you went to school and who you know. Every now and then, someone breaks through all of that. It's hard. Ironically, their success just creates a new template that everyone chases.
The publishing industry resembles Hollywood. They don't want to take chances. They want to play it safe. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about big publishers or blogging platforms.
You can't just "be different."
It doesn't work like that.
You can't be too different. You can only be a little bit different, in a way that allows everyone to remain comfortable. You have to be different in a way that's legible to editors and agents. You have to perform that difference. Everyone has to see the marketing potential. Most of them don't have the slightest clue what ordinary people go through every day, and especially not misfits.
Of course, they think they do.
That's the problem.
The elite can't stand it when someone or something defies their expectations. It doesn't matter if you make them money. If it threatens their sense of how things are supposed to go, they turn on you.
If they can't turn you into a sycophant, they ruin you.
If you're not a member of their club, they'll hand your beautiful book back to you and laugh in your face. They'll ignore your emails. They'll pretend to read your work and come up with excuses for why it's not good enough. If and when you succeed in spite of them and their gatekeeping, they'll accuse you of selling out. The accusation takes different forms.
Here's my point:
There's not many places for misfits. Every time we find one, it gets overrun by arrogant jerks who think they know better than us. They take it over. They turn it into something else. They talk down to us. They belittle us. They treat us like children. Then they kick us out.
Then it falls apart.
We start over.
I've just recently started reading Mediocre, by Ijeoma Oluo. Part of the book talks about an interesting pattern in the corporate world. You know when everyone celebrates women CEOs? Well, it turns out those women CEOs are usually brought in as a last ditch effort to save a failing company. They often work against entrenched bias to make changes. They improve the company. Then they're ousted. After they're gone, the company usually decides to keep the changes they made. Someone else takes credit for them.
I've learned something over the years. This doesn't just happen to women. It happens to weird people. It happens to introverts. It happens to those of us on the spectrum. It happens to black and brown people. It happens to people who don't fit. We contribute. We fix things.
Then we get punished.
You know, the literary elite and the tech elite have enough places. Apparently, their places aren't enough. They have to follow the misfits around and take our places, too. They have to try and force their version of "quality" on everyone they possibly can. It's the same thing with the majority of the conventional media. It's run by a bunch of trust fund kids who want to lecture us all day long about our bad habits and our doomscrolling.
I'm sick of it.
That's why I finally left these platforms and made my own. Now I'm hoping to bring in some other misfits. I'm hiring writers. I'm publishing them. I want to provide the kind of content people want to read, whether they're misfits or not. I want to make a space that nobody can just barge in and take over. I want it to have lots of free and paying subscribers. I'm building it as we go. I'm not sure where it's going to end up, but it feels right.
Let's see what happens.
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