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.
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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.

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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

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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.

 

NOPE

Ranting. It’s a thing that happening.  Right now, in fact.

Whoever invented paperwork — scratch that, whoever decided that online applications were the way to go — deserves to be shot. I’ve spent the last four days making phone calls, tracking down documents/ receipts, and filling out online applications as a function of being an adult, and it’s still not done. Not because I didn’t dedicate hours this week to doing it (I did.), but because no one seems to be able to give me clear answers, and there’s some ridiculously convoluted system in place for getting things done. So, here I am, four days in, and I still have at least two phone calls to make, a doctor’s note to obtain, records to track down, and a shit-ton of files to submit to complete an application that I was told would only take five minutes to fill out.

I quit. I’m done. No more adulting. Not until Monday, at least, because if I have to wait out one more automated system or photocopy one more document, I’m going to hurt something.

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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.

 

Welcome to Mod Land

So, my family is into body mod. Fatherbot sports several tats, Will is planning on getting some work done once he’s older and more sure about what he wants, and I have a small collection of mods commemorating personal achievements. Liz just went and got her first piercing (although it was definitely against my advice. She’s a tad young at 13, and not real great at things that require long-term responsibility), and was shocked at some of what she’s heard from people since she got it. I basically told her “Welcome to land of body mod”.

Here are some attitudes that I’ve encountered with mine:

Positive: Have to say, this one is my favourite. Being told that my mods are pretty or cute, that they suit me, or people generally thinking mods and the people who do them are cool is pretty much guaranteed to make my day. Growing up in our family, this attitude is the only one my sister has ever encountered — although, granted, she’s mostly been around adults with mods, or peers that either a) think body mod is cool, and might have some of their own, or b) are unmodded, and thus it hasn’t really come up in conversation — until now, with Liz having a barbell so fresh it’s still bruised.

When it comes to the negative ‘tudes, there’s a whole gamut of ugly. Here are a few of the more common ones I’ve run across:

“That’s kinda slutty” or “She’s clearly looking for attention.” For some reason, certain mods (belly piercings, lower back tats/ “tramp stamps”) are considered sexual, or sexually provocative –which feeds into the assumption that the person who has one of these “sexy” mods is hyper-sexual, extremely sexually active/ doesn’t discriminate in her choice of bed partners, or is trying to attract attention of a sexual nature. None of these are necessarily accurate. The reason why Person A mods is going to be unique to them — and the person who gets a tattoo that’s only visible when they’re in a bathing suit (or their birthday suit) probably didn’t have the same feelings about their mod as the person who got a tat that’s super visible. Also? Trust me when I say that sexualizing yourself isn’t a good reason to get inked or pierced — which is why most people don’t do it for that reason. There’s a lot of time, effort, and inconvenience (oh, and pain, that too) that goes into getting tattooed or pierced, and in taking care of it until it’s healed. Investing in body mod is something most people I know who’ve done it decided to do for themselves, not anyone else.

“I don’t understand why tattoos are becoming so popular” and “You’re going to regret that when you’re older”. There seems to be this misconception that tattoos are a trend, and simultaneously a youthful indiscretion. Underlying this attitude is the belief that inking your skin is always a mistake, that it is something each person who does will — sooner or later — come to regret. I have a lot of thoughts on this one, including:
a) modifying your body is not something brand-new. Indigenous cultures around the globe have been engaging in culturally- or even spiritually-significant forms of it for as long as humans have had culture;
b) deciding to permanently alter your appearance is not something most people decide to do lightly. Because there’s that “permanent” bit in there when it comes to tattoos, since laser removal is expensive, and imperfect;
c) there is an age-of-consent for body mod for a reason, specifically to prevent people too young to make these kinds of decisions from making them on their own;
d) there is also the assumption that, just because someone is young, they are stupid, or incapable of knowing what they want for themselves and their lives, or aren’t capable of making long-term decisions about their own body, which is a crock of shit; and
e) most of the people I know that have lived with their mods for a number of years have not, in fact, ended up regretting the majority of them. You get the odd few — a sleeve that wasn’t well-thought out, placement that was a mistake — but overall? Most people are proud to show off their jewellery and ink, because there is meaning behind it for them, and it acts as their own personal highlight reel of important moments in their life.

“It’s unprofessional.” Um. Sure. If you’re wearing a sleeveless top and happen to have a gyrating stripper tattooed on your bicep. The notion that inked skin is somehow unprofessional makes me grind my teeth a little. Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, makeup, watches, high heels, hair dye, and nail polish are fine, but ink isn’t? Studs or rings that are punched through anything but earlobes are unacceptable? That seems kind of arbitrary. I can understand an employer not wanting their employees to display curse words, sexually explicit images, or drug references on their skin or clothing, but telling someone with a flower or inspirational quote inked on their wrist that they’ve screwed themselves over professionally seems harsh. I mean, okay, sure. Some fields might take exception to that. But it seems kind of ridiculous that employers and workplaces should evaluate potential hires by their appearance, by something that that someone has chosen to do with their own body that in no way affects whether or not they are competent at or qualified for the job in question.

This last one kind of directly related to all of the above — the argument that ink, piercings, and other forms of body mod are “unnatural”. First of all, lemme say this: there is no such thing as “unnatural”. Nature is free; if it is possible, nature has done it already. The “natural/unnatural” argument only ever comes in to play when someone is scrabbling desperately for an excuse as to why someone else shouldn’t do something. The bigger counterargument for this, though, is “So what?” Every single day, we all do a veritable shit ton of things to our bodies that are “unnatural”. The only difference is that those body-altering things are socially sanctioned. Things that I listed above like makeup, hair dye, shaving practises, and nail polish are all great examples. “But those are temporary!” people will argue. Which, okay, fine. How about some permanent examples, then?

High heels can cause permanent shortening of the calf muscles, and structural damage to the skeleton. Cosmetic surgery like breast enlargement or reduction, and reconstructive surgery post-accident are permanent, too. Having teeth pulled because they are broken or infected isn’t a short-term thing either. You also don’t find animals swapping out defective organs from the living with relative healthy organs from the dead.

We do lots of things that would make animals or aliens drop their jaws. Throughout the course of our lives, we take medications, have routine dental care, undergo surgery for medical and/or cosmetic reasons, squeeze our bodies into different shapes with corsets, athletic supports and Spanx,  and make conscious decisions about whether or not to reproduce. So, really, at the end of the day, your argument of “that’s unnatural” really boils down to “I think that’s disgusting” which is nothing but an opinion that you really ought to keep to yourself, or express to other like-minded individuals rather than crapping all over someone’s else body, day, and choices.
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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.

 

Sex Is Not The Enemy

Chastity pledges, purity rings, abstinence-only education — those are things more common in the US, sure, but a watered-down version does exist here in Canada. And I see a number of very big problems with these things, and the attitudes they spring from, especially since I’m in close contact with the people most affected by them — youth.

Problem 1: It’s Impractical

The first problem with chastity pledges is that they are massively impractical. It’s easy to promise you’ll never do something when you have no concept of what it is you’re giving up. Also? Sex is a biological drive, and in evolutionary terms, we’ve been having sex in our teen years since forever. In the Victorian era, marriageable age was 12 for girls and 14 for boys. Societal standards have only changed in the last hundred years or so, which means that we’ve only recently become prudes. When you consider how hard it is to stay a virgin until you’re married at 15 versus getting married at 25 or 30, well. The problem there is that one societal standard shifted (age at which it is considered normal to marry), but the corresponding expectation (staying virginal until marriage) didn’t.

Problem 2: The Prohibition Principle

By making sex “forbidden”, you’re actually increasing it’s appeal, and thereby the temptation to say “screw it” and break your promise. And those kinds of decisions?  Tend to be made in the heat of the moment and result in unsafe sex.

Problem 3: It’s a Lose-Lose System

By setting up sex as something sacred within marriage and forbidden outside of it, those who break their promise get saddled with huge amounts of guilt and shame, which they then feel compelled to deal with on their own rather than risk further stigma by talking to someone who can guide them. This becomes a rather nasty catch-22 when the sex in question results in STIs or unwanted pregnancy. Of course, even on the opposite side of things — when the young person really does wait until marriage before engaging in sex — you still have to deal with internalized shame around sex, the head-spinney rules about what kind of sex is “acceptable” and what isn’t, and the fact that you’re no longer “pure” even if you played by the rules. No matter what happens, people end up feeling like shit for a biological imperative.

Problem 4: It’s Archaic and Patriarchal

See, most of the time, expectations and social condemnation about adolescent sex is directed at women and girls. The peeps who own a Y-chromosome basically get off with a slap on the wrist, if that, while young women who are discovered having premarital sex suffer a disproportionate array of consequences. These can include, but are not limited to: slut-shaming and bullying; social ostracism; being disowned; sexually transmitted infections, both relatively harmless if caught and treated (ex: syphilis, chlamydia) and those that are much, much more serious (hepatitis, HIV); unwanted pregnancy, which can result in further distress from the inability to access safe abortion, forced adoption of the baby, or raising the child alone.

See, women are the ones who are most likely to contract an infection from unprotected sex with a partner. It’s much harder for a woman to pass along an STI to her partners than it is for a man to pass along STIs to his. Women are also the ones who end up with unwanted pregnancies from unprotected (and even protected) sex. But women don’t have sex by themselves. It is impossible for a woman to get an infection or knocked up without help from a (usually male) partner — but we stick her with the burden of responsibility, and all of the judgement when one of those things happen to her. Society tells her that she is a slut, that she’s dirty, that she deserved it because she should have known better. Why don’t men get just as much blame, just as many fingers pointed at them? Why isn’t male sexuality policed as thoroughly as female sexuality is?

Oh, right. Because it’s not fair to tell people what they can and can’t do with their own bodies. Especially when we’re talking about something that is normal, natural, and healthy.

Sex is not the enemy. It is not evil, come to tempt you. It is not good and precious only when had between spouses. Sex is messy, fun, awkward, even beautiful, but it’s definitely not something anyone should be made to feel ashamed of having. Without sex, none of us would be here.

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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.

 

Don’t Be A Trash Puppet

Seriously. It’s not attractive.

What is a trash puppet? Glad you asked. They are the folks trying to defend their problematic pieces of literature, music, and other media by arguing that it’s not problematic. Or by romanticizing the troublesome aspects.

Now, I’m not trying to shit on people who like things others might label “problematic”. It’s okay to like problematic things. (Fuck knows I do.) But when your faves perpetuate rape, misogyny, racism, or other forms of prejudice (not to mention addiction or crime), then it becomes irresponsible not to acknowledge that it does those things. Because there’s nothing wrong with liking dark themes, as long as you aren’t condoning the parts that are hurtful. If you’re willing to listen to criticism of your favourites, willing to concede that [x] is really not okay, then you’re avoiding trash puppet territory.

And, I repeat: there is nothing wrong with liking problematic things. They’re everywhere. Everyone has at least one problematic thing they love. The world we live in is far from perfect, as are its inhabitants, and there is no “outside” of culture. Cultural values and norms are going to find their way in to our music and books and TV shows, which means real-world problems and attitudes and prejudices are going to hitch a ride, whether deliberately or as stowaways. That only gets dangerous when we insist that these passengers aren’t — when we insist they didn’t come aboard with blades sharpened by prejudice and guns loaded with hatred. When we stop being careful about where those passengers go and what they do to others.

So, if we’re going to consume, love, and even produce trashy, problematic things, we need to be aware of what we’re doing so we don’t hurt other people. No one’s perfect, and hurt might happen even if we’re careful, because what will set others off is unpredictable, but. We owe it to each other to try.

TL;DR: “It’s not real” isn’t an excuse. Don’t pretend Not-Okay things are Okay just because you like them. Make trash-love, not war.

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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.