The Literary Drover No. 5158

When I was about ten years old the circus came to town. My family lived outside of town and the town limits at the time were several miles away. My parents allowed me to ride my bicycle to see the circus because they knew I would be responsible coming and going.

The circus was a disappointment. It only had two rings and the unicorn was a horse with a plastic cone taped to its head. The redeeming feature of the circus was the shooting gallery.

Because I grew up with firearms – “weapons”, according to the news media – I knew my way around pellet guns and shotguns, and determined that I could do well at the shooting gallery. Three shots for a one nickel, with the best prize a pocket AM/FM radio.

I spent ten cents before I figured out the shooting gallery was rigged: The sights on the guns were bent and the targets could not be taken down unless they were shot at from a point-blank position with a .357 Magnum. I had a pellet gun and the targets were about fifteen feet from me. It took one shot to realize the sight on the gun was off, and a second shot to realize the targets were fixed the shelves they were own. I asked to swap guns. The second gun had a bent sight as well. I asked for another gun, and got it, but when I hit a target and it failed to drop the manager of the shooting gallery told me my aim was off. When I put a second nickel on the counter he gave me another gun and I could not hit anything for trying. I knew why.

Some people would have let the matter go. I found and told a sheriff’s deputy. At first he did not believe, but after he tried to shoot six targets for ten cents and got the same result he contacted his superior officer and the shooting gallery was shut down. The manager of the shooting gallery figured out the reason was me, and threatened me. The sheriff’s deputy put my bicycle in the trunk of his vehicle and drove me home. Of course, when my parents saw the police car driving up they were understandably upset. The officer explained the matter and praised me for my courage and honesty.

The circus closed the next day and left under the cover of darkness.

When another circus came to town I did not ask to go. My parents did not offer to let me go.

Several years later I saw an episode of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, titled “Opie and the Carnival”, directed by Coby Ruskin, written by Fred Freeman and Lawrence J. Cohen. It first aired April 26, 1965, and remains timeless.

Those who have watched this wonderful series know the premise of the story and they know the outcome.

I appreciated how art reflected life. Every time I see the episode I smile at how it reflected my life.

The reason for mentioning these related events is because of something that came to my attention about a year ago: A web site where professional and aspiring writers could allegedly get paying gigs. A friend, who has aspirations of making a living writing, told me about the site. I looked it over, thanked my friend for letting me know, and went on my way.

He asked if I was going to use the site.

No, I said.

Why not?

It’s rigged. It’s a scam.

About nine months after he told me about the web site he told me that he had closed his account with the site.

First, he said. You were right.  Second, I made less than ten dollars over nine months. Third – how did you know?

I don’t care if I was right or not. I am disappointed that nine months’ worth of effort netted you less than ten dollars. And . . . I knew because ninety-percent of everything on the Internet is a scam.

The Literary Drover No. 3692

It dates me to admit the following, but I remember when I first heard of The Internet. I recall thinking it was going to be such a wonderful and great thing because Writing would finally come into its own, and Writers would finally get the respect they were due.

Several years later I paused and wondered aloud what had happened. It seemed to me – a Writer – that everything I had hoped for, everything I had expected, had failed to come to fruition.

When I first heard the phrase “Social Media” I decided to believe that it was a wonderful and great thing, and once more I chose to believe it would the opportunity for Writing and Writers.

Several years later I paused again and wondered aloud – again: What the HELL happened? Instead of being the saving grace of Writing and Writers Social Media was likely to be the downfall of Writing and Writers.

After I calmed down, after I set aside my disappointment in The Internet and Social Media, after I considered the matter objectively I concluded several things:

The Internet is like Life itself: A massive, often chaotic thing. As such it is up to me, The Individual, to make the most of it instead of being dependent on others to bring about result and success.

Social Media, a subset of The Internet, is also massive. More often than not it is also chaotic. It can be detrimental, negative, useless, a waste of time. Or it can be the saving grace of Writing and Writer. But – again – the result will be determined by me, The Individual.

Because of the sheer scope of Social Media and The Internet it is my responsibility, as The Individual, to make the most of it. To accomplish this task requires discrimination and prejudice on my part. This Social Media platform is a waste of resources; that Social Media presence has potential, but only if The Individual(s) responsible chooses to make it so. When I find something on The Internet or Social Media that seems worthwhile how do I determine it is such? Through standards and principles, for starters:

A web site that belongs to a newspaper, for example, that allows visitors to the site to post comments in response to content, which contain threats, insults, and profanity is not professional or credible, and content published to the site must always be considered questionable at best;

A blog created and maintained by a writing talent that is done with deliberation and care, involving the Craft and Art of Writing is a resource knowing. A blog that perpetuates fraud and deceit, comparatively, should be avoided much in the same way one would avoid a Socially Transmittable Disease (STD).

Awhile back, where this blog was concerned, I decided to use it as a standard for this exercise. In doing so I have learned how to make the most of The Internet and Social Media, and it has allowed me to become not only a better Writer, but a better person.

I challenge you to do the same.