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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Catch You On the Flipside (Personal Update)

Hi folks,

We're about to go "dark" here at Writing About Writing for a couple of days.

Hang on. Hang on. While I know some of you just felt the icy grip of panic, let me assure you all that you'll still get all the great posts that you're used to (and maybe even a bit more of the good stuff and less fluff)––just slightly out of the order you're used to. 

See, I'm about to lose WiFi.

You see, right I'm now heading home on a train after a wonderful and rejuvenating vacation. I'm currently on a short jump from Ann Arbor to Chicago and this train has WiFi. But after that, it'll be a couple of days on the cross country train that does not. I'll have signal when I'm going through towns or the train stops at the bigger stations, so I can try to keep up with my Facebook Page, but no WiFi with which to upload posts from my laptop.

That's why I posted through the last weekend, and I will post through the next one as well. You'll get the same number of posts, my days "off" will just be this weird cluster across the next couple of days.

The catch is, I'll be writing. The whole time. That's really all I do on trains besides sleep and read, and I'll be clacking away for most of the (almost) three days. So when I come back out the other end, I should have some really good articles to post.

I enjoyed my vacation and loved the train part (I'm really looking forward to the extended writing opportunities on the way back), but I have to say that I could have used a little more train. Both my hosts were great about giving me some time to write, but it usually takes another writer to really GET that my usual diet is six to eight HOURS, and that's too long to be rude to someone who is excited to go do something with you.

Seriously. I have a fever and the only prescription is more train.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Results: Best Young Adult Book or Series not by a Cishet White Guy (2000-Present)

It's been a long time since I've seen anyone kick the crap out of any poll so thoroughly, but there was no contest on this one. Tricksters Duology was all out of bubblegum, it seems.

It's pretty easy to guess where we're going next. Fire up your nomination lobes for young adult stuff from the late 70s, 80s, and 90s and I'll get that going tomorrow. Thank you to everyone who participated in making this poll awesome.



Text results below.

Tricksters Duology - T. Pierce 112 35.78%
Hunger Games - S. Collins 47 15.02%
Graceling - K. Cashore 42 13.42%
Binti - N. Okorafor 29 9.27%
Finishing School Series - G. Carriger 26 8.31%
The Hate U Give - A. Thomas 22 7.03%
Akata Witch - N. Okorafor 18 5.75%
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - B. A. Sáenz 17 5.43%

Friday, September 14, 2018

Are Snippets While Depressed Writing?


Does light writing while depressed "count"?


[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer a couple each week.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous. Our questions might look a little "thematic" in the next few weeks since they come from disassembled Twenty Questions posts.]

Jere asks:

I have a srs question.  

Let's say someone has many years-long depression that kills most of their will to ever create any kind of art, let alone clean their house or properly take care of themselves besides absolute basic daily needs.

If the best they can do for actual writing is to make pages of notes in building characters or settings, and small snippets of situational scenes for practice, and they keep doing this for years... does this still count as "write every day"?

My reply:

First of all, I'm very sorry about your depression. I struggle with some down energy that kicks my ass for a couple of days but it just doesn't compare to some folks' struggles, and I avoid the D word. I know that mental illness can affect creativity, daily routine, and even just enjoyment of once-enjoyable things, so I don't want to step in here like I have answers a professional therapist would. I have some advice for writing with depression, and there's more to come after my attendance of Worldcon 76, but take it with a grain of salt as well as whatever level of help you might be able to afford and as much gentle self-care you can get. The best we can do is the best we can do.

"Write every day" shouldn't be prescriptive in the sense that anyone is able to be an arbiter of any particular writing adjacent activity's validity as really real writing, and if it is, you have my permission to snap kick the prescriber in their shin*. In that regard, I am unable to bestow the status of what "counts" and "doesn't count." (And neither will the deluge of comments in various social media [most from those who didn't read the article] telling you that absolutely it counts.)

No one––absolutely no one––has the power to take that judgement call away from YOU, whether they say no OR they say yes. They mean well, and maybe they're assuring themselves as much as anyone, but it's still 100% up to you whether it counts.

(*But not really because I have no authority to grant such permission.)

If this is what you enjoy and what you love and it brings you pleasure or fulfillment, then everyone else can take a flying leap into a vat of fecal matter. It surely counts if you count it. If this is the most you can do because of depression, then it's moot how useful or not it might be, and it might make your mood/outlook worse to be unkind to yourself that you can't do more.

If your goals are to be a famous, well-paid novelist someday then the water might get the slightest bit muddy. Writing these snippets is certainly better than doing nothing at all, but your skill for the parts you are avoiding (like any other unused skill) will atrophy over time, and you'll likely have to step up your holistic game before you start to write anything that you might want to submit. In your particular case, Jere, you are likely to find that you're tremendously good at small snippets, world building, and really neat characters that you've really thought through, but may have trouble tying those together with a cohesive narrative or coming up with a compelling character arc that spans a whole work. And of course that is assuming your depression picks up, moves to barbados, and lets you work for a year.

Imagine yourself as a basketball player who has been shooting some hoops from the freethrow line and the three-point line, and gets into the occasional pick-up game. You might be quite good at sinking shots and decent at the game, but it's not the same as the practice you'd need to go pro. You're going to have to learn to move in on the basket, pass, lay up, and move up and down the court for over an hour. You will be in a much better place than anyone who had done nothing, though.

Then again you'd possibly be really good at micro-fiction or poignant vignettes. Or simply at writing works with strong characters and intense moments but a weak overall plot arc.  (You certainly wouldn't be the first published author with such clear strengths and weaknesses. Shakespeare was generally terrible at plot. If the intensity of each moment weren't so fucking awesome you'd probably notice that except for MacBeth, most of his works drag a little.) Perhaps it might work with your mental illness to consider the kind of writing you work well doing, and not trying to force yourself to be a novelist (or write a novel that focuses on something other than a grand plot arc).

Thursday, September 13, 2018

August's Best 2018

Day three here in Ann Arbor on my Writer Retreat/Train Vacation, and my host and I sort of realized simultaneously that we were going to need to schedule a bit more time for me to be writing. Fortunately, I do still have one bit of end-of-month/new-month business to knock out, so there's one more day of jazz hands to fall back on.

So without further ado, here are best three non-poll articles that will go on to untold fame in The Best of W.A.W.

Also the Best of the Year by Month has now been updated


Hospitalized Part of the reason August was a little rough. Kidney stones suck y'all. Don't stay thirsty, my friends. Hydrate the shit out of yourself.

Won't Someone Think of the Straight White Males? (Mailbox) Every single time I post one of the polls from a year of diverse polls, the comment section reminds me of exactly why it's still necessary. This time, spectacularly so.

10 Addendums to Write Every Day (The Article Some of You Have Been Waiting Your Whole Lives For) What if I told you that you don't actually have to write every single day?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Your Fallacy is Showing

Counter protesting is ALSO protected speech.

Being angry at someone's genocidal BEHAVIOR is not the same thing as wanting whole demographics dead or forcibly deported based exclusively on the circumstances of their birth.

Right to free speech is not the same entitlement to venue.

We don't casually debate cannibalism or pedophilia in university settings, so there IS a water's edge of acceptable ideas and not everything has to be chin-strokingly considered.

The "uncomfortable topics" status quo defenders feel the "need to discuss"....endlessly....all the time...in any space.....ever.....predominantly involve the intellectual merits of granting other people their humanity, rather than–for example–their privilege or their own cultures' toxic entitlement.

Protecting oneself and peaceful protesters against an armed group of provocateurs that has demonstrated its willingness to commit aggravated assault and murder (and speaks casually of far worse) is not the same as encouraging people to preemptively harm "someone who disagrees."

Antifa means anti-fascist.

Being a pacifist is not the same as being silent in the face of systematic violence and the armed agents of the state who carry it out, but squeamish about seeing a punch thrown or property damaged––that's called being authoritarian.

Calling everyone you disagree with "Nazis" or "fascists" probably IS counter productive, but there are actual swastika-sporting, zeig-heiling, blood-and-soil-shouting, neo and literal NAZIS marching in the streets. Really. Plus these days they're joined by other white supremacists, ethno-stateists, bleeding edgelords who are so far into their privilege they think their words have no consequences, and a conservative party who doesn't give a shit if the leader of the Republican party eggs them on as long as there's the promise of a payoff (in the form of a better economy). So sometimes the rank and file progressives might use metonymy when we're not doing interviews for NPR or on the Oxford debate team. I sure hope to see all these pedant warriors the next time a 3% progressive tax increase on the richest 1% is called socialism because that shit gets said by national level politicians ON NPR all the goddamned time.

In this moment in history, only one "side" has a body count in the name of its ideology, and it's not the OPPONENTS of white supremacy.

Black bloc is a tactic to protect peaceful activists from being run off by genocidal bigots who have demonstrated their perfect willingness to be violent or threaten violence.

Someone in your personal space screaming at you that they want to murder you and yours while you get hit with eggs and bottles and the cops laugh from the sidelines is probably not as easy to pacifist one's way through as armchair criticism would have one believe.

Attempting to take over state power to deport people from their homes, incarcerate them into a modern version of slavery, and possibly murder them indiscriminately in a massive act of eugenics is not "equally bad" as discussing punching someone who speaks openly of their desire to do these things.

Law enforcement does not protect either group with identical diligence. Nor does the criminal justice system. Suggesting that all the enemies of bigotry have to do is NOTHING has not worked in modern times or in history. Ever.

I'm really just ten kinds of fucking tired of people thinking I endorse all manner of wildly uncontained extrajudicial violence because I hate fallacies of equivocation and see some nuance when literally armed Nazis march into town and get punched.