I planned for my next entry to be the next installment in the Claudius villain series, but some things need explaining to the well-meaning respondents, more than just a quick reply to a comment. No, I don’t intend for this to become a main topic here. This journal will still be largely about writing.
With that in mind, if this is not something you want to read more about, here’s a strategic cut. We’ll return to regular programming soon.
It’s not my birthday.
At first, when you begin to age, things are pretty superficial. My hair is mighty gray. I dye it. I have crow’s feet and shadows under my eyes. I have permanent laugh lines around my mouth. Well, at least I’ve been a happy person.
And then, the muscle aches begin. Plantar fasciitis. That bad knee you shot in college running. Lower back pain. At first you visit the doctor and try to see about it, but as you hit your late 30s, the doctor begins to tell you sage things like, “live with it” and “here are some stretches”.
My acid reflux disease was NOT a normal part of my aging process. I had a medical side effect. It could be said that the allergic reaction I was countermanding was due to aging. As I have become older, I have become allergic to penicillin, probably due to overuse, and dust mites.
You might remember last year when I undertook with Bryon an attempt to reform my health. Our plan was to eat right and work out on the Wii. As of today, Bryon has lost some 30 pounds. He looks great. He has some aches and pains, but overall, his health has markedly improved. A few months ago I talked to my doctor about how I wasn’t losing weight in spite of my changed eating habits and increased working out. She said as long as you’re doing the healthy things, well, that’s the best you can hope for.
And I was okay with that for a while. But I’ve always thought that if I dug a little deeper, I could do better. So, I did. And I didn’t. I actually gained weight steadily over the weekend, after 4 days of little food, healthy eating, and an attempt that was worthy of my Weight Watchers times.
I…am going to be fat in my old age. Unless I want to kick my food down to control freak levels, I am going to be overweight. Obese, actually. This year (my Wii-aversary is in 5 days) I gained six pounds. I shudder to think what I would have gained if I hadn’t been working out.
Of course I have trouble with that.
I’ve started and deleted the beginning of this series of posts for a long time. Often I do my best thinking once I’ve dropped Bryon off on my commute across town, and I’ll have the occasional thought about something that I wish someone had told me when I started pursuing writing seriously. So, I’m framing a series of entries that address some of those thoughts about things I would tell myself if the me-of-now could talk to, say, the me of a variety of earlier times.
These entries aren’t meant to be advice or steps or anything like that. It’s just stuff that I wish I’d known. I doubt I’d even believe some of these things, but I could look back and say, “Oh yeah. I knew that” if someone had told me this.
The first thing I’d talk to myself about is this: ripeness.
And here’s the post that I was planning on for today. Today you get two.
I don’t know why it’s happening, but it is. A week ago, I was roaring with writing confidence. I came out of the Donald Maass workshop with a ton of work to do on my novel. This isn’t a big deal. Work doesn’t intimidate me. I’ve spent seven years on a doctorate, two years on getting a costume just right, and at work I continually work to improve the classes and staff I’m in charge of. My life is one big ouevre of hard work.
I’m actually a hard work kind of girl. I like working hard. Bring on the work ethic! I really thought that having structure and a plan, rather than just this vague idea that I had to fix the morass of my novel, would make my life easier.
I have done a lot of work with structure and back story. I have done some of the Maass exercises. I’m doing the writing RIGHT NOW. I’m doing it. I’m not shirking at all.
And yet, I am terrified this week. What if I can’t do all this? What if I can’t turn this thing into the great work I want it to be? What if my time for writing this has past? Should I move on to something else? I don’t want to. I don’t think that’s the case at all. But what if?
The logical answers are pretty clear. You revise until you get it right, or you decide you can’t. You’ll know. The emotional answers are not so clear. I love this story cycle, I love these characters, and I want to share them in the best way I possibly can. I’m not putting this out there until it’s right, and other readers agree with me.
With that kind of mind set, I have to ask myself why I’m so afraid. The only thing I can think of is writer insanity. I can do this. But I hear writers have these periods of time where they doubt themselves and think what they’re doing is crap or worthless, or, as in my case, they don’t have the chops to do it.
So, if you’re out there this week, doubting yourself for any reason, I’m with you. I’m thinking this is a normal part of both the writing process and the beginning of a large task. I’m intimidated. I’m insecure. Insecure? I guess that means I’m a typical writer.
At least I hope so. I’m hoping some of you will weigh in with your anecdotes to make me feel better, or
at least to make sure I don’t need therapy.
Next week will be better.
Concerning this post from Jim Hines this morning.
Here’s the quote that caused so much controversy.
“My daughter is mocking Voltron. This is how child abuse happens.”
All right. So. Long time readers know that I was an abused child. AND long time readers know that I’ve been triggered and talked about it on this blog (still not buying Amazon!).
I get why some people would see this as problematic. If you are a person who walks in off the internet street, you don’t know Jim from anyone else, and you see this comment, you would probably think that he could be a jerk, especially if you have no context to place this in, and your own subjective experience focuses you on the second part of the statement, rather than the first.
Of course, I have been reading Jim’s blog a long time. I’ve met Jim in real life. I was his liaison at a convention, making sure he had shrubbery. I would know that this is a sensitive man overall, who thinks all the time about issues just like this, which is why he wrote his apologetic entry. I would understand he was making a stab at humor, which is going to work for some, and not for others. I have the benefit of context to temper my reaction to this statement.
And that brings us around to caution on the Internet. I assume Jim made this post because he was trying to be witty. Many people found it so, especially those of us with context. We know Jim’s a pretty funny guy, and that, coupled with our context of him as a sensitive guy, means we probably would not assume he meant this in a belligerent way. Still, we can’t excuse the reaction that the internet stranger might bring to bear on this statement.
What can bloggers do? Do we wander around very cautiously, avoiding every potential pitfall that we can, measuring everything that we say? I’m not sure, given that we are human, that this is even possible. Do we take responsibility for what we say, regardless of how people read it out of context? Of course we do. We can contextualize ourselves when a reader needs an apology, and when a reader is just being a troll.
I know this from my own Amazon incident. Most of the writer community was focused on the free speech issues of the book, and the issue that represented, and I couldn’t do that, being all triggery and basically not giving a damn at the time. Sure, Jim’s statement could have hit someone just wrong. Abuse is a weird thing. What if someone’s abuser did beat them for having a difference of opinion about tv? Heck, yes, that would make Jim’s statement a trigger.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: bloggers have a responsibility to own what they say. They can agree or disagree with readers. They can apologize when they see that they are giving offense. Or, they can pull an Elizabeth Moon, and decide that giving offense and perhaps pride is more important than apology. They choose how they represent themselves. If one makes a mistake, and one truly feels it, and one apologizes, that’s about the best they can do. Otherwise, well, not everyone is going to like you or the things you say. If you worry otherwise, perhaps blogging is not for you.
Readers are not off the hook as well. Rather than just asking ourselves, “who is this asshole?” we should try to dig up some context, or ask some rational questions. If context bears us out and we are reading the blog of someone we don’t feel aligned with or are offended by, we have choices. We can engage in dialogue for change, which is in my experience seldom successful on the Internet due to its inherent limitations (no metalanguage often results in flaming). We can write that person off. But again, it’s crazy to expect that you’re going to agree with everyone you come across on the Internet.
Which isn’t to say that Jim was right here. But he’s done the best he can with the realization that he may well have offended some, and rather than call those people out as overreacting to his obvious humor, he’s sending a message of apology just in case he missed something in context. Which is another reason why I intend to continue to interact with Jim. He just proved to me that he is yet again a person worth knowing.
As my mother-in-law says, “It doesn’t matter who apologizes first. It matters that someone does.” Even if you feel you may be in the right, and someone is overreacting, an apology costs you nothing and purchases a lot of good will.
Miranda Suri’s post about the same reminds me that I too need to weigh in on some books I’ve read. With Spring break and travel, I’ve done a surprising amount of reading lately.
Fresh for ’01…You Suckas: A Boondocks Collection by Aaron McGruder.
What’s it about: Black family and friends live in white suburb and try to reconcile urban culture with suburban culture. Political commentary and satire.
Boondocks, at alternate moments, makes me feel savvy, sarcastic, heartbroken, and delighted. This is all overlaid with McGruder’s humor, which has its roots in the work of Berke Breathed and Gary Trudeau. Not only do I appreciate the racial interplay and privilege commentary, but I also identify heavily as Huey, the radical on a mission to change the world and true geek. The social commentary is biting, the thoughtfulness that goes into the cartoon is provocative, and I regret that we no longer get the strip. I just don’t find the television show quite as good with the reduced cast.
Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgess.
What it’s about: Told from the light and lively perspective of Kat, three sisters learn about their mother’s magical legacy while dealing with the demands of their stepmother. Humorous. Young adult or perhaps even middle grade.
I read the British version, which sports the title A Most Improper Magick. This is one of the freshest books I’ve read in a long time. It is a great mix of adventure, romance, and humor. The sisters in the book represent a real family. They squabble, they love, and they complement each other. This would be a wonderful book to share with the children in your life.
The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson.
What it’s about: Calamity goes through menopause, which is apparently a mystical time as well as a time of physical change. She takes in a toddler who has mysterious origins.
I’m still trying to coin a phrase for what Hopkinson does as a writer. I’m circling around mystic feminism. The protagonist in this novel is problematic, but in a good way. Calamity is going through some changes and the world around her throws her all sorts of challenges along the way. There’s just the right blend of the real and the mystical. If you have a taste for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you could easily develop a taste for Nalo Hopkinson.
The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay.
What this book is about: Innocent young girl on an odyssey of self-discovery in a New York bookshop.
I loved this book. I can’t begin to describe how Hay pulls off a book about an ingenue that seems both innocent and off color, but she does. Rosemary, the main character, has recently lost her mother. A family friend buys her a ticket to New York, where she begins working at a book store full of eccentric Bohemians. A story of discovery, failed love and illusion takes place against the backdrop of discovering a lost Melville novel. The character is transformed by the end of the book, and so am I.
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal.
What this book is about: A Jane Austen-like romance of manners coupled with magic and commentary on the creation of art.
This is a quiet family story with magic. Reviewers hail it as what Jane Austen would do if she wrote fantasy, and they’re right. Kowal has very skillfully captured much of Austen’s finesse in the book. This review captures most of what I would say on the subject. The other piece of the book that fascinates me is that this is obviously a book written by someone who makes things (Robinette Kowal is a puppeteer). As a master costumer, I recognize and appreciate the philosophy that runs through the aesthetic of the book. Along with all the other elements, it really makes the book appeal to me.
The Skewed Throne by Joshua Palmatier.
What this book is about: Rogue-based fantasy with strong female protagonist that examines both government and moral character.
I found the first part of this book very hard to put down. There’s a great lead character, lots of relationship tension, and good character growth. I loved the book right up until about the point when Varis leaves the slums. The rest of the book is solid fantasy stuff, but that edgy engagement I found with the first part of the book is lacking. However, I recommend the book if you are a reader of epic fantasy as one you should read.