Sunday, May 31, 2015

Disrupting “Disruption”, Silence vs. Violence, Query Letter Hell

There is a an irksome trend in advertising and corporate-speak that I propose banning immediately: The use of the buzzword “disrupt”.  For example, “ABC Kitchen Inc. is Disrupting the Spatula Industry in America!”, or “Acme Razor  Disrupts Shaving for Men Nationwide”, or “Shelly’s Shoes Will Disrupt Your Morning Jog Forever”. It’s pretentious and eye-rolling. If you’re a corporation, you’re not “disrupting” anything. You’re participating in exactly the same capitalist system that everyone else is. Your goal is the same—to make money. There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t co-opt language from radical movements and slap it onto your ad copy because you think it will make your company seem dangerous and edgy, instead of the same old conformist drone factory it actually is. You can't subvert the paradigm when you are the paradigm. It’s against corporate interests to create any kind of meaningful change, so just stop with the use of that word. It’s lazy, meaningless, guru-consultant speak, and it makes me cringe. Apparently, there’s still enough of a vestigial counter-culture rebel in me to be seriously annoyed by this. You can take the girl out of The Evergreen State College, but you can’t take The Evergreen State College out of the girl. ****Breaking post addendum: After I wrote this rather anemic little rant, I came across this substantial and well-written article in the New Yorker by Jill Lepore. She does a great job with the topic, and unlike me, she's not a year behind on spotting this trend:

I took a class in communication at work recently, and I discovered, to my total non-surprise, that my communication style under stress is “silence”. According to Crucial Conversations®, when people get stressed, they tend to choose either “silence” or “violence”. Silence people shut down and withdraw, while violence people get verbally forceful and double-down on pushing their viewpoint onto others. Several of the people in the violence camp seemed strangely proud of it, as though they figured out a long time ago that this is a winning strategy, and tough luck for us wimpy silence folks who just fold like a deck of cards at the first hint of conflict. Which is why I go through life feeling like no one ever listens to me. But it’s all going to be different now that I’ve taken the class. Look out, world, because this intrepid typist is gonna be swaggerin’ around speaking her truth like crazy now!

I’ve mentioned before that I have a friend who’s going to help me with a query letter for my novel, but as a challenge, I tried my hand at a draft of my own this weekend. The next scary step that I haven’t quite gathered the nerve for yet is to submit it to “Query Letter Hell”, an online forum where actual agents critique your letter to death. They’re clear up front that they’re not going to pull any punches or couch things nicely. In other words, you should be prepared to have your letter torn to critical confetti, and to be reduced to a gelatinous mass of tears. I plan to submit mine by the end of the week, so if my next post is “GAH! I Suck!” written 2,500 times, don’t be surprised.

To start your week off on an educational note, here’s a fun animated video of Brene Brown speaking about blame. It’s a sequel her video on empathy, which you can also find on You Tube.

  --Kristen McHenry

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