Commentary on “Writing Advice”

Most of the writing advice I see coming from the so-called experts or prolific writers makes me so mad I could breathe fire. It’s things like, “a writer writes”, “you have to write every day”, “there’s no such thing as writer’s block”, “it’s all about butt-in-chair dedication”, “don’t ever look back on the earlier stages of what you’ve written, just keep moving forward” etc. And what all of these pieces of advice have in common is that they are trying to tell other people what their creative process should look like.

Newsflash: it doesn’t work that way.

I’ve talked to a lot of writers about their processes. And what I have found is that no two of them are alike, because no two people are exactly alike. One writer I know is able to produce two thousand words per day, every day, which is tremendously productive and also highly intimidating. Another writer I know writes long-hand, in a notebook, and types her stories out afterward. Another writer I know is able to write in coffee shops, secluded corners, libraries, you name it. One writer lets the story run away with them, while another has to plot everything out carefully, in another document. The method and process that produces a particular writer’s best work will vary by the person, which makes trying to give generalized advice to aspiring authors useless. More than that, it can be incredibly discouraging.

Because you know what else a lot of this advice doesn’t take into account? That not everyone is perfectly healthy in mind and body. One writer I know has bouts of crippling anxiety over words—and not just in fiction, but in emails and informal communication. Another writer lives in chronic pain, and sometimes that pain is so bad that they cannot write, or go to work, or even get out of bed. And then there’s me. If I have a PTSD event, it can take a couple of days for my brain to settle and go back to functioning as close to normal as it’s capable of, and I don’t have the focus or emotional resources to write during that time.

And that isn’t my fault, or something I should be shamed for. Writing is individual, like every other art. Sure, you can go to school for it—but that doesn’t automatically make you good. Just like practising and self-teaching doesn’t automatically make you bad or inferior to someone who got the formal education. Every writer will have a unique method or combination of them for getting their best stories out—because it’s not really about how fast you write or how many words you get out in a day. It’s about the quality of the story you’re telling.
~
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

Fiction: What it’s Worth

Mermaid scales were easy. It was the matter of a moment to brush a few from my tail and tip them into your cupped palm. The herbs I left you to gather. The land is your home, and you’ve known magic since before you drew breath. I knew you’d find what you needed.

The other things, though. The ones I promised to get for you, those I left to retrieve with the promise to be back in time. The full moon was just two days’ away, and the spell needed the right amount of moonlight to work. I flicked water at you and told you to have a little faith in me.

I did not tell you I feared that I would fail. Didn’t tell you that I had to make promises to the squid in exchange for his ink, or that I was afraid of the ghosts in the shipwreck I searched to find you the finger bone of a drowned sailor. I did not tell you that I fought with my sister, because she did not believe any human was worth the palmful of sand from the ocean floor I gathered for you. I didn’t tell you of the hours it took to find the grumpy old crab a new shell before he would let me have his old one.

I did not tell you any of these things, because the moment you shed your dress on the beach after completing the potion to lie beside me in the wet sand as the magic took hold and fashioned you a tail was worth it. Being able to kiss you under the waves and have your breathlessness be from my lips and not the need for air was worth it. Being able to show you the world I grew up in, with all its dark, dangerous beauty and bright colours and happy memories was worth it. I would have paid that and more to be able to look down at you, sleeping peacefully in my arms and know that I can sleep, too, and that we will both still be here when we wake.

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

 

PSA:

If your cookware says “non-stick” on it, that isn’t a challenge.

If you treat it as a challenge, you are being an asshole to your cookware, who never did anything to deserve being ruined, and also to the person who washes your dishes, who just might do something to you. You will have it coming if they do.

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

 

Confession #83:

I don’t like chess. I learned how to play as a child, and played a lot for a couple of years, but other people ruined it for me. Chess—for whatever reason—was seen as THE measuring stick for intelligence, and I was a baby genius, so the assumption was that I’d be an amazing chess player. Truth is, I was and am a decent player, but it’s not hard to be better than me. I’m a reactionary player. In my family, Fatherbot and Will are the chess whizzes, the ones with the heads for strategy, and I’ll always play a game with them if they ask, because I know I can count on them to not be dicks about it. I’ve never had an issue with losing a game to someone—my problem was when my opponent rubbed my face in my loss, mocking me, deriding my intelligence, and screaming across the playground and/or classroom to get the other kids (and sometimes the teacher) to join them in shitting on me. My other problem was in winning against anyone who wasn’t in my family or my babysitter—because if I won, I was a stuck-up bitch who thought she was better than everyone else. You can see how that would be shitty for an eight-year-old.

Chess is, first and last, a GAME. It’s supposed to be fun. But when losing came with a serving of three days’ bullying, and winning brought on mass cold-shouldering, it quickly lost its appeal.
~
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

Hello, September

This is the first August I can remember where I haven’t spent the last half of the month gearing up for a new school year.

No restocking pens, paperclips, highlighters and sticky notes. No scrambling to buy textbooks. No having to reorganize my desk, taking it from Creative Mode to Academic Mode. No recalibrating my sleep schedule. No class conflicts and grad requirements to work with and around. No bad-professor-dodging. No cancelling my birthday because of exams. No pre-emptive stress over reading lists and assignment deadlines.

It feels strange. Good, in a way. Light. But hollow, too. Because this was my life’s primary structure and mode of organization for years and years. It was never easy, but there was something reassuring in having a definite measuring stick for success, in being able to know exactly what was required of me. It didn’t make it any easier to do what was required, didn’t lessen the toll on my mind or body, but at least I didn’t have the stress/fear of the unknown to deal with, too.

I’m trying to find a new way to structure my life. I know that, for a lot of people, that’s work. I’ve gotten news that I’m being published (OMG!!!) so my writing career is taking off, but I know that won’t pay the bills right now (and might not ever). I have some other opportunities that I’m looking into, and have gotten stuck playing the waiting game on, but there are things to consider on the work front that scare me.

Things like: How will I be able to hold a job when my health, physical and mental, is still unstable? How will I find a job that I can do with my limitations, and how do I hold onto it? What if I can’t work full-time? How will I support myself? What if I can’t ever work full-time?

And, because our culture is so, so bad about tying your identity to your work, your ability to be productive, I have to battle self-doubt on top of all those other things. Even knowing logically that I have worth as a person whether I can work or not doesn’t stop the emotional part of me from whispering that no one will want to be with, love, or be friends with a useless, disabled lesbian. It doesn’t stop the nagging questions of “How dependent will I have to be on others? How dependent am I allowed to be before I’m a burden? Who would be willing to shoulder that burden? How could I possibly be okay with being a burden on my loved ones?” from creeping up on me.

That kind of thought process is toxic, and I know it. It is also, unfortunately, incredibly difficult to root out. Knowing that it’s utter bullshit, that it’s capitalism telling me I have to be a successful, economically-productive individual to have worth; that it’s the decades of abuse undercutting my sense of self; that it’s my anxiety and mental illness trying to tear me down doesn’t make it go away or hurt any less.

All I can do in those moments is remind myself that:
1) I have people who love me so, so much, and in a variety of ways;
2) I have been working towards better health and stability for about 2 years now, and my efforts have started to pay off;
3) I am trying to pursue work, but have to wait and see if things fall into place—and it’s not my fault if they don’t;
4) My limits are not my fault;
5) Human beings are inherently social creatures, and we all need to be taken care of sometimes, no matter our age or level of ability;
6) I am trying, and that counts;
7) My limits are still not my fault.
~
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

Anatomy of a Bullshit Sandwich

Top bun: rational-seeming argument

Lettuce: claiming familial/friendship/romantic ties

Cheese: crocodile tears

Meat: HEINOUS FUCKING BULLSHIT

Bottom bun: supposed sincerity

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

 

The wonderfully snarky individual previously referred to as “Card-Geek” will be referred to from here on out as “Alex”, and backdated content will be changed accordingly.

Because I love my people, and if I’m going to blog about them, I need to be respectful of their wishes. For my own peace of mind, if nothing else.

*blows kisses*

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

 

Another Official Edit