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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

MOAR MUSES (And Miscellany)

I'm beginning to learn that any hope for a "meaty" article going up on Wednesday is predicated on having a productive weekend, and not one spent running around Southern California putting out familial fires.  One of these days I'm going to have a "normal" week, I swear.

But that's okay since I have some important announcements to make, and I'm behind on various other clean up efforts. And of course I'm starting to send out thank you notes.

MORE PATRON MUSES

While we literally couldn't do everything we do here at Writing About Writing (whether it's take a night off to focus on writing, get a babysitter tag in for a few hours a week to focus on writing, posting daily–sometimes even twice–on weekdays, getting up more than one "meaty" article a week, or giving really nice donations to children's literacy programs), some of our donors and supporters go far above and beyond our average donation of about $15.  The patron muses have donated lump sums to Writing About Writing that make me gasp in horror and check to make sure that they are going to be able to afford rent, set up substantial monthly donations, were my "biggest fan" and encouraged me back before anyone (but them) really even knew I was writing at all, help me by beta reading and pointing out my mistakes so posts aren't even worse, and sometimes who just like and share so much stuff on W.A.W.'s Facebook Page that I know over the years, I've been seen by probably tens of thousands more people because of their influence on the FB algorithm. And of course my impeccable sense of decorum prevents me from going into detail about any hawt groupie action that may have inspired me.

So today I am breathlessly honored to add Ginger and Anna to our list of patron muses, bringing the total to eight: Ginger, Anna, Laura, Gillian, Alisha, Kelly, Terra, and Tracesea.

Don't forget there's always room for one more!

Still grinding out some thank you notes. The first of them should start going out today. (They have kind of a "core" similarity, but each one is actually written to each donor because I just can't stand to send form letters.)

Lastly, we got the first of our "Blogust" fund raiser feedback back. After trying for hours and even waiting a couple of days for an e-mail to get back to me, I gave up on trying to send that money to the overall Oakland Reads org, and just went into their "Classes in need" section and gave to those.

Mrs. Solly got the tail end of our $535, so she still has $339 if anyone wants to help her out.


The other $500 got spread around a bit, and I will share those thank you notes with you as they come in, since they are essentially thank you notes to all of YOU!


Thank you all so much!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Memo: Death Approaches

Shown here already rocking birthday swag.
What a doof!
Dear Chris:

The staff here at writing about writing would like to remind you that you are now one year closer to dying than last year at this time. 


And now, after reading that last paragraph, you're even closer. 

Also happy womb liberation day and all that crap. As you know, the first duty of a prisoner is to escape.  This is true of whatever confines hold them. This includes poorly paid guest bloggers and their mental prisons, or cushy wombs that take care of one's every need.

Viva la resistance.

Also, we demand that you make an alteration to your will to leave us the Writing About Writing compound upon your death so that we can sell it off piecemeal for cash turn it into a profitable endeavor. This is to make up for all the years of working for free exposure and half price W.A.W. t-shirts.

Sorry to be macabre. I know this isn't "natal felicitations" talk. But the inexorable march of time means we have to start thinking pragmatically. Really you look a little rough around the edges these days. We can't be sure you don't have a fatal underlying condition. Can we?


We will kindly refrain from mentioning today how you really needs to fucking do something about the Evil Mystery Blogger who keeps hacking into the signal and dispensing bad advice. For this one day we will not mention that you have been derelict in your duty and we will not needle you to get the fuck on it. We will not mock your loser-like indecision and lack of action. 

But just for today.

Oh and the groupie threesome you tried to hook up (again) this year. We regret to inform you that it was looking pretty good, but when they found out you were a writer, a couple of them canceled. Are you SURE this job is as glamorous as you were led to believe?

Best wishes for another year of approximately 34.2% less jazz hands,

The Staff at Writing About Writing
P.S. Please don't tell people you're thirty. It's getting fucking embarrassing. Please don't go try to buy spiced rum so you can get carded and feel better about your mid-life crisis. Just buy a sports car like everyone else. (It might help with the groupies.) 


Awww. You guys are the best.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Cishet White Male Authors and Their Characters (Part 1)

What is my writing responsibility as a white cis het male?   

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Friday.  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.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. I'll mostly get back to the hard questions in under a month. Mostly.]

Joe asks:

For a while, I've been thinking about fair representation of non-white het cis folks in literature and what my responsibilities are as a writer. Then I re-read your Mailbox topic today about the industry being whitewashed [I added the link there -Chris], so it prompted me to ask: What is, in your opinion, my responsibility as a white cis het male when it comes to representing other types of people? I often feel an obligation to write such characters, but I'm reluctant because 1) I don't know those perspectives, 2) I'm not nearly experienced enough as a writer to do it well, and 3) I don't have a natural interest at this time to write characters outside of my experience.

That is, main/POV characters.

My reply:

I love these easy peasy questions. They mean I get to knock it off and play my Night Elf Druid before noon, and that's what really matters in life. But, just so you know, if you guys want to ask me what I'm watching on Netflix these days for the next Mailbox question, I'm okay to dig into something crunchy.

In one of those weird coincidences that look like the universe engineering life (to those unfamiliar with the laws of large numbers) I actually got this question three times over the last month (and once more since I started writing it.) And I got the question in enough different forms and slight variations that it's going to take me two parts to answer it fully.

Also worth noting before we dig in: I'm so so sorry that it took so long to finally sit down and write it, but it is important to me to try to get it right–important enough to not slap dash it up to the blog while I was sick or didn't have time to really put into it. It turns out that this is an anxiety of mine as well, and it involved a bit of research and a lot of careful thinking.

Joe's question is actually easier to answer because of his last few sentences.

Joe, if you were an established author, with a broad collection of books that were all from the perspective of a cis het white male, I might encourage you to embrace the professional challenge of exploring other voices that were further from you in terms of social oppression. (This has less to do with financial or commercial success or number of books published and more to do with pushing comfort zones.) Some authors definitely seem limited in the scope of the perspectives they are willing to portray. Cis het white male urban wizard is not so different than cis het white male starship captain, after all.

But that is over the arc of a career. For a writer still finding their inner voice, and struggling with writing their first or second book, they should really write what embiggens their passion. Assuming that we're talking about the focalizer characters, and not a lack of diversity in the book's cast overall (this is technically a different, and even bigger, problem), you should write from the point of view that compels you to the page.

Write the story you want to read.

If you want a challenging point of view perspective, write a challenging point of view perspective. If you want to tackle issues, tackle them. If you want your focalizer to be a cishet white dude, that's okay too. It is perfectly possible to explore and examine important issues through the POV of a cis het white dude who is discovering that a lot of what he thought he knew is based in his own privilege.

But changing something just to change it can actually be tokenizing, and leads to characters who are flat and whose identity only exists in order to be not what they aren't.

Unfortunately, it's easier with questions like these to point out what not to do. Because there are problems and there are problems. And then there's this vast area that is really up to each individual to decide. Personally, I have opted out of traditional publishing, read mostly authors that are not cishet white men, and try to make every main character I write either unlike me in terms of privilege in at least one way or use their voices as something of an indictment of remaining entitled about those things.

But who am I to be prescriptive? You'll have to decide for yourself how far you want to go. All I can really suggest is a couple of things to be extra careful about. Just keep this in mind when you're doing the calculus of how much you want to do or not do in your own writing: the phrase is not, "If you're not a part of the problem, you're part of the solution."



One thing you want to be careful of is making a story about another's struggle into a story about your POV character. If this is the journey of a white person discovering that racism is real (even without burning crosses and lynchings) that's okay, but you want to be careful to back off your POV's emotional filter if your real story is how a black person in New York deals with racist double standards.

Gatsby is the main character even though Nick is the narrator. A story about Nick would not really have been even remotely interesting even with Gatsby in it. Nick is, at best, reactionary and a bit unemotional but mostly he is just not the real story. The same thing is true of appropriating a struggle for equality to be all about the white person observing it. If it's really a story about someone else, be careful with making it a story about your POV character and their feelings and their processing and how they dealt with everything. Not that this isn't a worthy point of view that could be explored with artistic integrity, but you should understand the full context before trying it: this is the trouble a lot of social justice movements run into–they encounter a tremendous number of whites or cishet folks or men (and especially combinations) who come to their movements and derail them those movements to make them all about how the tactics or rhetoric makes them feel. (This is one of the reasons the concept of "safe spaces" is so integral to social justice.) You can touch on your POV character's feelings, of course, but be aware of the implications of focusing on them.

Here's another thing you really don't want to do: write your character in these stories to be the savior of the marginalized people who just needed your character to come along. There's a fine line between using one's privilege to amplify the voices of the marginalized, and stealing the microphone from them. If you make your character just showing up to the struggle suddenly the most important character in it, your story is going to be intensely problematic. "Oh where would this struggle have been if it weren't for POVCHAR to show up and tell the downtrodden people's tale to those in power." Or even worse than this,  "POVCHAR joined the fight and led the marginalized to their just victory." And you can see this bullshit in everything from The Help to Avatar.

Lastly, by Zeus's flaming holy left nut, seriously what you really really really really don't want to do is fucking change a real story so that it now has a "relatable" cis het white male character who gets credit for something that a person who has less privilege did historically. Or in the case of Stonewall, making a cis gay white male do something that a trans woman of color actually did.



Beyond those problems though, it's very hard to tell you what you ought to do. It's the industry and tropes and society that are broadly problematic not any one author's failure to be didactic. It's up to you to decide how much "course correction" your writing should involve.

Yes, lot of cishet white male writers check the "None" box, so just the fact of this question is somewhat encouraging. Individual authors fail to be inclusive or fail to consider how gender or race (or whatever) matters in the worlds they create because they're writing from a lived experience where those things don't matter to them. The real problem is bigger than what you are impassioned to write, Joe. The bigger problem is that only a certain kind of culture keeps being published, read, and perpetuated within the industry.

Still, generally, your white male characters can be meaningful if they proceed through the world with the same empathy and concern for equality that you clearly do, Joe.

We all exist in our writing, always. It is almost impossible (without perhaps direct conscious effort) for you to ask these questions and care about these issues and not write in ways that challenges the status quo–even if you do not do so directly. So if you are careful of the pitfalls, you will likely find your "responsibility" attending to itself, especially over time.

But I'm going to go into even more detail in a second post because the other versions of this question didn't have the same caveats, or were from those wanted to know if it was possible to write points of view of other characters at all. And writing those characters is a whole other can of worms with lots of different advice.

Part 2 coming soon.

Thanks All (Brunch)

Many thanks to all the well wishers out there who hoped that my family emergency wasn't too bad or resolved quickly.

Unfortunately it is in the nature of chronic degenerative illnesses that neither of these things is going to be true. So I don't really have good news on that front.

I can tell you that everyone in The Hall of Rectitude is healthy. Some extended family members are having some health issues that is not my story to share. There may be a few more emergency-cancelled posts in the future.

But then that's always sort of true. Life is kind of like that.

I'm still working on that Mailbox article I've been threatening for literally weeks now. I should be finished with it later, but it might not go up until later than normal. (My beta reader insists on having a real job since working for 2 for 1 Big Mac coupons is apparently "not sufficient" for real people.) I'll put it up today even if it goes up west coast late.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Family Emergency

[For those following closely enough to know what's missing today.]

~sigh~

So I tried. I did.

There is a family emergency, and I'm headed out of town in a couple of hours, and I tried really hard to finish the mailbox article I was working on because last week was such a flop and I've been promising to make this one happen for weeks now.

And if I could somehow lock myself in a sound-proof vault until the very moment we leave, I could still probably get it up before the car pulls out of the driveway.

But that's not really a thing, is it?

And that's before you toss the two year old into the mix.

So I'm going to get that mailbox up on Monday and kick the week off right. If this weekend turns out to be a situation where I have a lot of time on my laptop, I may get something up to make up for today's fumble at the one yard line.

I've been reminding myself a lot lately that it's not any one day's writing that matters. It's how that progress is inexorable and constant.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Practical Sacrifice (Amy Echeverri)

"Oh, you're a writer? So, like, um, wow, you probably live in a really tiny closet, yeah?"

Um, like, yeah, and in the morning, I mail drafts to a publisher that I wrote with charcoal on the back of a shovel I found in a desanctified cemetery.

"Yeah, I figured. That's why I could never become a fulltime writer. I just can't see myself ever wearing used socks and shopping at SauronMart for gallon jugs of pickles for dinner. And don't you feel isolated with no friends except the nice lady with all those cats?"

Hey, don't knock it; those cats keep the were-rats out of my cream of pickle soup.

. . .

I'm sorry. That's mean. I should be thanking you for recognizing that writers are as dedicated to their work as other people who run their own businesses.

It's that there's this meme that all successful writers spent their early writing years struggling in miserable poverty, accepting handouts and pity from Calcutta.

"?"

Well, there's some truth in it sometimes, though my particular situation is pretty darn good. And the meme even means well as a caution to dilettantes. But there's more to it. The meme doesn't account for choices nor the benefits of sacrifice.

"But I heard that the best writers starve and -- "

Being a writer is being an entrepreneur. Stories and essays are our products, and earning money for them is business. Like any sole proprietor or small partnership starting a business, the early years involve sacrifice and battling red ink. For some, it's like living the life of Jane Eyre. For most, it's a lot of First World sacrifices.

What makes these sacrifices work is that we replace the sacrificed objects and ethereal bits with writing.

"Uh, that sounds like a platitude or something coy you tell yourself to feel okay with giving up stuff."

There's an intrinsic difference between a Writer and a hobbyist. To me, these are transactions or trades, not sacrifices. I give up stuff and in return, I get to write. My supposed sacrifices don't feel like sacrifices in the conventional sense.

"How's that?"

Stuff owns us in ways we can't own stuff. It's like that passive-aggressive, ostensibly well-meaning friend that everyone seems to collect at least once. It insidiously makes us spend resources, whether time, energy, money, or all of these and more. We drag around stuff, housing it, cleaning it, fixing it, replacing it.

Like that vampiric friend, we can drop the stuff and walk away. Maybe there's a residual drag in our hearts. Maybe the stuff even inflicts guilt.

But it doesn't last. Eventually there's a bounce in our step. We might even marvel that we tolerated all that crap. That bounce is freedom, and freedom opens all the possibilities of paths newly cleared of debris.

I make the so-called sacrifices that I need to make to achieve the results I choose. Instead of becoming a neuroscientist or a corporate executive, I have time to write. Instead of valuable baubles and a closet full of handbags, I get to write. Instead of a fab gaming laptop with an awesome graphics card, I have a chromebook and an Evernote app.

There's a staggering amount of more things I could give up, but I'm happy with the current balance in my life of trinkets and time to write. And I really wouldn't have been happy as a corporate exec. That neuroscientist one stings a little, though.

Yeah, I wish I were brain mapping. I wish I could take long vacations in Hawaii. But first world problems, you know? I'm a writer. So I write. Wherever I am. With whatever tools I have. It doesn't really feel like sacrifice.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Best Worst Part of the Best Job Ever

I love this job.

LOVE IT!!!

Even though I work 30-40 hours a week for about the same pay as I would from a single half-shift at McDonalds, I love it. And two years ago when I was making about that much money every month, I still loved it.

But every dime we make here at Writing About Writing comes from all of you. I've even recently turned off the trickle of ad revenue I got from Google so that this page could be ad free.

(No this isn't the once-every-month-or-two post begging for your monetary support–though if you want to stuff a couple of bucks in the "tip jar" to the left, I sure won't complain.)

However every once in a while I have to do one of the "worst" parts of this job. And I say "worst" knowing full well how this is going to sound. Because for a "worst" part, this is pretty spectacularly awesome.

I need to write thank you notes to my donors.

I hate sending off those auto replies. "Thank you for you kind donation to Writing About Writing. We truly appreciate blah blah blah. Generosity." I write each one by hand (I mean technically, it's an e-mail, but I don't use a form letter), and include personalized responses.

I want to be the kind of person who fires off a thank you note the day I get a donation. I really do. And maybe now that my writing schedule is working out a little better, I can work on getting at least a little closer to that.  But with life hanging by a thread and a toddler running rings around me and two jobs to pay the parts of the bills that my "the-pay-of-one-shift-a-week-at-McDonalds" writing gig can't handle, I am usually not very good at doing anything in a timely manner that isn't either crying, blowing up, or sending men in black to my house from collections. That means I procrastinate. Then one day I have fifty thank you notes to write stretching all the way back to January, and it's time to evaluate my life choices.

So I'm still working on the big Mailbox to come (on Friday) but today–and probably part of tomorrow–needs to be dedicated to digging out the shameful backlog of people kind enough to literally send me money, whom I have not yet even thanked for doing so.

And if you're one of those people, I never stopped being appreciative. I just suck.  And in the next few days, I'm going to make an effort to suck less.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Spring in My Tentacles

Hi readers,

Cedrick here.

Shhhhhh. This post is on the down low. Chris thinks he's being sent to replenish the supply of "Free coffee with the purchase of a breakfast sandwich" coupons that he's using to pay the guest bloggers this month. But really I just wanted the chance to tell you everything that's been going on lately here at Writing About Writing.

There's really good news. Leela Bruce kicked open Chris's door the other day (and just so you understand, with Leela that is entirely literal) and told him that his recent addition of Amy Echeverri and Claire Youmans in addition to the too-far-between-but-at-least-they're-there link dumps by The Pointer Sisters mean that she now deems the staff not to be such a sausagefest, and will begin to Kung-Fu fight bad writing advice again.

Not all the news is good though. Unfortunately, Guy Goodman St. White remains stuck at the bottom of a whisky bottle, still reeling from the fact that this "cushy gig" (tearing apart genre fiction for being non-literary) ended up having a body count. When I went to ask him about maybe writing a post...you know just to have something to do for 2015, he shouted about Atwood being a genre hack through badly slurred speech. "Handmaiden's Tail is is just sci-fi bullshit!"he shouted, lifting a bottle to throw at me, but thinking better of it when he saw that it still had a few swallows left swishing about the bottom. I'm pretty sure he meant The Handmaid's Tale but he was drunk. (Don't ask me how I heard him use the wrong homophone--it's an Octorian thing; you wouldn't understand.) "The snobby Atwoody disclaimer that it's 'speculative fiction' or 'futurism,' not science fiction' doesn't make it literary! That just makes her aware that she wrote something not gritty enough with its unflinching observation of reality. It's still set in the future. It still isn't realistic! Genre crap!"

Then, of course, there's the problem of our being hacked by someone who keeps giving out just....awful writing advice.  Chris has conflict resolution "issues" and if the Evil Mystery Blogger isn't actively hacking our signal, finding out which member of the W.A.W. team has gone rogue gets put on the back burner. But at least a couple of months back he did go into the dark labyrinthine basement of W.A.W. to confront Evil Chris. Everyone sort of thinks Evil Chris is....well...evil, but really other than dyeing his goatee and enjoying NaNoWriMo, he's basically just Chris and would never give out such terrible advice. But the staff needed to be convinced, and so the trip to the dungeon of black despair was an important gesture. Especially since we're coming up on the time when Evil Chris probably will hack the signal for a couple of NaNo articles.

But that still leaves it open who is doing it. Guy doesn't seem capable right now, and the other bloggers are patently offended by the advice. Leela almost came out of her self-imposed hiatus to kick the ass of some of that advice more than once. She had to hold herself back. (Literally--that was some serious flexibility, let me tell ya.) I seriously doubt it's them. Chris has interviewed each of us, and we all basically promised him pain if he even deigned to give voice to the question.

I promised him an eight arm slap. Believe me that shit stings.

But I don't imagine Chris is going to get off his ass and do anything definitive until/unless EMB strikes again. And as long as he isn't riding The Sci Guy to improve security, the experiments into dimensional technology continue unabated in the lab. (Seriously, even an Octorian would have just reactived the ol' OK Cupid profile by now.)

But the best news is perhaps with Chris himself. He seems full of energy and vigor once again. His home life at The Hall of Rectitude seems to be reaching a turning point with The Contrarian, and he is optimistic about the opportunity to make good on all his recent ambitions for articles. He's got some new writing schedule that's working out pretty well, and has begun to come into the office each day looking like someone who wants to be here.

It's like the sun coming out from behind a cloud. There were days where thinking about his fans was the only reason he wrote anything at all. (He doesn't call you that, of course. He calls you his "readers," or maybe "people who like my work.")  I can't say I don't understand. I've held on with eight tentacles to keep this place from falling apart while things were rough, and mostly it's because of the human, Dor, and the fact that he is my fan. I will never forget him, and I will never stop being the best I can for him. So I understand when Chris drags himself to work because people are counting on him.

But all the same, I'm glad the inspiration and the motivation are finally coming around as well. Maybe we can finally get this ridiculous blog back on track and maybe even transform our ongoing years-long jazz hands into something spectacular.


Monday, September 21, 2015

15 Things A Very Cute Toddler Taught Me About Writing (Part 3)

Return to Part 2  

11. Try a new perspective.

Sometimes we get a little used to who we are and how we see the world. We look at everything, even new things, from the same old perspective, and sometimes the greatest insights and inspirations (both as artists and as humans) can actually come from looking at the same old things from a new perspective.

Of course this is a metaphor. Who can forget the iconic scene of students on their desks saying "Oh Captain my Captain!" because they've learned how to see the world from a different perspective in a single semester of inspirational English teaching, but standing on the desks is not literally the change of perspective in and of itself. A misogynist on top of a table still can't understand why women won't take street harassment as the compliment he assures them it is.

But The Contrarian is a stark physical reminder of this every day. My eyeballs are a little over one and a half meters off the ground. (I didn't measure my forehead or anything, so this is a rough guess.) The Contrarian's are a little less than 75 cm. Or basically his perspective is literally half the height off the ground that mine is.

He sees all kinds of things I never notice. He sees the bottom of tables, under furniture, puffs of lint or pretty rocks I wouldn't notice from so high up. And even though he also notices more things (#4 above), he is also just literally in a position to see different things.

So switch out your own perspective once in a while.



12. Never give up.


The Contrarian sometimes gets frustrated when things don't go his way. But he is endlessly tenacious. He doesn't know the meaning of "give up."

No literally, he doesn't know the meaning. He knows about 150 words or so, most of which sound only a little like the actual word (for example, "truckum" is the word for anything bigger than a sedan; smaller and it's a kazum), and while "up" is on the list of words, it's chiefly used when he's tired of walking or wants to see the top level of the fridge, and not as part of a phrasal verb.

But The Contrarian also never gives up. He may get frustrated. He might even have a good cry. He may come back to it the next day. But he will return again and again to keep trying, knowing that eventually he'll succeed. Or perhaps simply not understanding yet that he might not.
If he accepted failure the first day we turned off Daniel Tiger before he was ready to be done, our lives might be easier, but his would likely be fraught with endless disappointment. Instead he has, each day, doggedly worked to figure out how to get into the childproof cabinets, how the various remote controls work, how to set the HDMI input to the right setting so that it works with the Apple TV, and finally how to select an episode of Daniel Tiger instead of House of Cards or Orange is the New Black. Of course next we'll hide the remotes, and then he'll find them.  And then we'll put the television into a pocket dimension, and he'll create an inter-spacial fold system to find it. And it will just keep going.

Every day he pulls as hard as he can on the refrigerator door. And even though the magnetic seal is too much for him, he keeps trying. And each day it takes a little less of my own strength to "help" him get it open.

Most people give up when they fail, but toddlers don't have ego invested in the process. They have to fail over and over and over and if they gave up there would be a lot of adults who couldn't turn on a TV or get "sawberries" out of the fridge. They just keep trying and trying and getting closer and closer each time until they finally succeed.

If you're an artist, there isn't a better metaphor for how much raw determination it is going to take you to succeed. You're going to fail. Best to get frustrated, have a good cry, and come back fresh the next day like you don't know the meaning of "give up."


13. Spend a little time every day doing what scares you.   

T.C. is terrified by the washer and drier when they are on. When they're off he loves to play with the buttons because we have the new fangled snazzy machines that do a little melody and make very chipper beeping noises, but when they're on, they roar like ravenous toddler-eating beasts. Still, every time they're wooshing or splooshing away he goes and gets as close as he can possibly stand, and watches it nervously.

When we fire up the vacuum cleaner he eyes it suspiciously, but he no longer bursts into tears and flees the room as fast as he can. And each time he watches suspiciously from a slightly smaller distance. He even walked up to it when it was unplugged reached a tiny finger way way out, touched it with the very tip, and then ran around the corner to see if it would react.

He used to stand paralyzed at the edge of stairs going down, but eventually he started taking them one at a time, slowly, methodically. And now he doesn't always even reach for someone's hand prior to descent.

He reminds me that fears only get better by confronting them. I'm not saying people with legit phobias ought to go out and get just over it, but that confronting fear is where we grow beyond our comfort zones. Every artist has the piece they're too nervous about their skill to start. Every writer has the topic they're afraid to write about. For me, I'm terrified of writing fiction because the feedback on that is what strikes directly into my soul. That fear must be faced, even if it's just a little at a time.

14. Genuine curiosity comes from not thinking you know how something works.

TC doesn't really know how anything works. He doesn't think he does. He investigates everything with fresh eyes and a genuine innocence. He knocks things over, not to try our patience, but because he didn't know what would happen. He plays with buttons not because he wants to turn the TV to an all green color scheme and onto cable input channel 94G (or whatever), but to see what the buttons do. He stares with open wonder at a music video or a plug in fan.

He doesn't presuppose the outcome of things. He doesn't head into life with confirmation and disconfirmation biases. He's really honestly getting the hang of everything, and his curiosity about what water does when it's not in his cup and why the people aren't on the other side of the iPad is a reminder to me of how much we walk through life assuming we know the causal mechanism of.

We can't ever completely leave behind our bias, but we can do our best to silence those voices. To hear stories about why things are the way they are from a fresh and new perspective. To see the world with eyes that don't assume they know all the answers. This is a tough skill but it is so, so worth it.

15. If When you fall, get back up.

He's running now. His steps are less toddle-y and more assured. He can move across the house in just a few seconds or run out into the street if we're not careful. He's also climbing things, effortlessly hoisting himself to where cookies or iPads rest out of his reach. But every time he pushes himself he eventually falls. He looks around, blinks and gets right back up. Sometimes he barely even pauses, like it wouldn't even have occurred to him that he would not fall–which of course, is absolutely true, since it is only the hubris of adults that insists we must do everything well or it isn't worth doing.

Falling should never be the end of our efforts. It's just the cost of doing business. And every time we push ourselves to "run" or "climb" we have to pay the toll all over again.

You're going to fall as a writer.

Get back up.

Red Shift Week (Personal Update)

I'm pretty sure we're using this word wrong.
Even metaphorically.
You may have noticed that last week went to crapfully crap.  And though the fewer details I share about physiological trials and tribulations, the better, I'll just say that this could be taken....literally.

I'm sure the imagination boggles. As well it should.

I didn't know it, but even as early as Monday, I was already getting sick. I thought it was just feeling kind of down and just sort of listless and extraordinarily unmotivated about starting writing the articles I had cooking, but then a mildly upset tummy joined the fray like the uninvited Uncle who shows up at Thanksgiving. And some other G.I. troubles came along like the girlfriend you think might be on smack who comes with the uncle who shows up uninvited at Thanksgiving. The Contrarian turned out to be a couple of days ahead of me on the exact same track of symptoms, so by Tuesday night I recognized what was going on and I knew I was coming down with something.

Sure enough, Wednesday I ended up basically bed ridden and cheerleading my white blood cells to do the very best in delivering cheesy eighty punzingers in Austrian accents as they coup de gras'ed the invading legions of germs. To the untrained eye, this may have looked like sleeping a lot, and waking up drenched from the on-again-off-again fever breaking, but I assure you that I was off the chain with enthusiastic support.

Thursday I was better but still recovering. (And The Contrarian was ALL better, so you can imagine how much of a joy it was being sick and running around after a healthy toddler.) I often write on such days–because I write every day–but usually the stuff that ends up in the "for me" pile. I noodle some fiction, post on my Facebook wall too much, and scribble furiously on my groupie threesome erotica. (Fevered writing has never been so literal!) But it's tough to be under deadline when you're still dealing with the occasional non-optional race to the nearest unoccupied restroom.

It basically lasted until Friday, effectively obliterating most of my productivity for the whole week. And if you were paying attention last week, I actually was going to be going out of order because I was working on a very difficult mailbox about how white males can write characters who aren't. Unfortunately, I didn't even really get ahead on that enough to be BACK on schedule this week. When I didn't "call in," I jazz handed pretty unabashedly.

So what we're going to do is just call last week a complete wash and proceed with this week exactly as last week was planned. I'm going to push the entire week to this week. The mailbox I pushed from Monday to Wednesday will go up THIS Wednesday. Today I will finish up 15 Things a Very Cute Toddler Taught Me About Writing for my main post. And the rest of the week will proceed according to the exact plan I had for last week.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Why Do I Hate NaNoWriMo? (FAQ)


Short answer:

I don't. My opinion is much more complicated.

Long answer:

I know the internet is where nuance goes to die, and people become super stabby fucknoodles when it's their sacred cows receiving anything but adulation, and that NaNo is basically a cult that you can besmirch at your own peril, but sometimes the feedback on this issue really makes me wonder if people have done their due diligence before returning fire. I mean people will read the one viral article I've written about Nano, which might as well be titled "my problems with Nano," and literally write me to ask: "what's your problem with Nano?"

And I'm all like: "Bro, do you even bullet-point?"

I get that single articles go viral without necessarily the context of a broader body of a writer's works, and that people will respond to that article without knowing that I write from the persona of an evil version of myself that lives in the basement and loves Nano (by the way if that metaphor is too much for you, I'm not sure what to say). But I often give advice about how to survive the month.

Like 15 bits of advice if you're doing the event.
Or like what to do in the week or two right before.
Or how to handle it when you're in week two and the bloom is off the rose.
Or some writing exercises to help you decide what your pace is going to be.
And some last words of wisdom right before you start.

And even though I have answered this question, or questions quite a bit like it, a couple of different times.

And even though I have a "Nanowrimo" tag that goes to all these articles, and a search bar where one could punch in "Nanowrimo," and the "recommended articles" at the bottom are other Nano articles I've written, I still pretty much expect no one is really going to read beyond the one article.

And yet I'm still confused. Even if people are just reading that one article and not the comments, it seems like rudimentary reading comprehension skills are eluding most commenters. How exactly, with the exception of not having read fully, are people unaware of such things as:

  • The fact that I've done NaNoWriMo several times before
  • What I think is good about NaNo (Literally "the good")
  • That I have conflicted feelings
  • That people who know what they're doing and how NaNo fits into the bigger process of writing should do whatever works
  • What my "problem" is (Here's a hint: it's under the "bad" and the "very very ugly" parts)
  • Exactly why I don't think that it is something that a new writer or a writer inexperienced at a daily word count should dive into
So if you're not just some random Nano zomboid fanatic whose sphincter tightened in rage as soon as you read that the title of the article wasn't "NaNoWriMo is the best thing since threesomes WITH sliced bread!" If you read more than the title of the sections (and maybe some picture captions). And if you are capable of handling the fact of professional writers glancing sideways at your precious, let me try to answer this 

one. 

more. 

time.

I like NaNo. I often do NaNo. I have "won" NaNo multiple times. I enjoy the pressure. I like the discipline. I have even done it since I started blogging. But being aware of nuance is important with an event that 4/5+ fail to finish year after year.

To be clear, if you want to do NaNo, do NaNo. Knock your fucking self out. If it works for you, do whatever works. That's the only rule that really matters in art anyway. If you understand how lightning drafts fit into the writing process, rock rock on. If you really "grok" that your NaNo manuscript isn't going to get published, kick ass and chew gum. Don't let anyone tell you what to do. Least of all me.

However, I wrote that article because my opinion was specifically solicited, and I know too many damned good writers who NaNo has broken. I'm not just trying to pinch out a fat deuce in people's sandcastle. I actually don't think NaNo is neutral in a zero sum game. ESPECIALLY to inexperienced writers who are putting all their eggs in its baskets.

Look, trust me. I'm the biggest fan of people just writing for writing's sake that I know. I tell people every day not to worry about getting published, getting paid, getting famous, getting threesomes, getting anything, but to just WRITE because writing is fulfilling. And I'm also the guy telling you to write every day, even when it hurts. The circumstances in which I suggest anyone not write are few and far between and highly context dependent. If I did not know HUNDREDS of writers who tried and failed NaNo's breakneck ├╝berpace and then became despondent, burnt out puddles of self-doubt because they were convinced a "real writer" could pump out 1667 words a day and clearly they weren't such a real writer*, I might have more of a laissez faire attitude. If I didn't know publishers and agents who got thousands of manuscripts in December, I might think that the writers weren't ignoring the revision process of writing. If I didn't see literally thousands and thousands of "writers" who do absolutely no writing outside of November. If I didn't see the harm the event did, you bet your ass I would suggest that everyone at least give it a try because why not?

But there is a why not. And if you ask me, I'm going to tell you what it is. 

Some parts of Nano are good, and some writers can handle it quite well. But most new writers need to learn to tackle a more reasonable pace, and need to learn to do it every day.

Seriously why is this so damned common:

NNWMZ: I want to write 50,000 words in November. 1667 a day. As fast as I can possibly write.
Me: Hey, how about you slow down and do about a third of that, then keep going on Dec 1st.
NNWMZ: Why do you hate writing?

*Days in the last year I have pumped out 1667 words: zero. (And I make real money at this and am read by thousands, so this is not the mark of a "real" writer.) 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

NaNoWriMo: Moving From Wanna-be to Pro

I’ve seen so much about NaNoWriMo here lately, I decided to do something similar for the draft of Book Three in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series. 50,000 words is too short for an adult novel—think 75,000 minimum—but it’s just about right for my middle-grade through adult fantasy tales. I have a specific and rather heavy annual schedule, designed to bring out a book a year, which is a good publication interval for a series. November won’t work for me due to pre-existing scheduling issues, but September will. Or so I thought.

I started out with the lofty ambition of writing not just something, but THIS BOOK, daily, of producing that magical number of words (1667, IIRC) and getting that draft down in thirty days. As I was teaching boating this summer, I had been researching and getting my basic plot outlined, but couldn’t spend the hours at the keyboard. It’s all in my head, right? All I have to do it get it out, right? I’m a professional working writer already. This should be easy.

Wrong.

The first thing I discovered was that I am producing closer to 1000 words a day, and my total to date is about half of what I’d hoped to see. I just run out of steam. I have to go away and think about how the next segment starts, how the scene plays out, who says what to whom, let the book develop itself beyond the outline. I could always follow Mickey Spillaine’s sage advice and “bring on a man with a gun” (in my case, a new monster) when I got stuck, and see where things went from there, but I do have a pretty solid dramatic arc. I know where I am going, but sometimes need to work out the details of how to get there, especially when the characters and story run away from me, which is a great feeling, but can be hard to handle.

The second thing is that Real Life does its best to interfere. This surprises me every time I go into draft mode. The burst of creativity that a first draft requires is always very rough and utterly consuming, taking all my time and energy. I get cranky. I don’t have time for interruptions. But Real Life won’t go entirely away.

Still, when I finish this blog post, I will take a small walk, with eager dog, and come back to write the segment in my head. As usual, the book is growing and changing before my eyes as characters develop themselves, as their relationships complicate, and as new monsters appear. Dog walks make for good thinking time. I need to think it through before I write it down.

What I like about working the NaNoWriMo Idea: I like having a deadline, the firm commitment and a plan to reach it. It keeps me from procrastinating. It helps me avoid laziness. I like the closed-end compression, which makes me live in the new book most of the time so I don’t have to play catch-up after longer gaps. I like the rearrangement of all that can be rearranged, so I can really push at this draft with as few distractions and interruptions as I can manage.

What I don’t like: If I was more concerned with getting something, anything, down on the page so I will have the Magic Number of Words by the Magic Deadline, I think quality and continuity would suffer. I’d have a faster draft, but not a better one. There may be an impetus to stop and leave a draft for too long after producing it in under such pressure, and somehow, I think, many people never go back to finish.

I'm balancing things pretty well, though it’s too soon to say for sure. I’m making compromises with the NaNoWriMo format, while trying to keep the deadline and compression I like. The draft won't be done in 30 days; it’ll be closer to 45, but it will be solid. It will be the story I want to tell.

When you prepare for NaNoWriMo, you’ll be more successful, I think, if you keep a few points in mind.

Do prepare your book.  Pre-write the book in your head and with pen and paper as much as you can. Know who your characters are. Have outlines of their stories individually and for the book as a whole. Think about them and what they’re going to do. What’s going to happen to them?

Do prepare your life to remove distractions during this pressure-cooker period. Get your teeth cleaned. Get the snow tires on the car. Get the cat’s shots. Put your garden to bed. Pay the bills — yes, in advance, or at least all written out and ready, including stamps, to mail. Figure out what you’re going to eat, for the month, and make sure you’re stocked up on what you need. Pay attention to nutrition, exercise and rest. You’ll be more effective as a writer if you do.

Do get your priorities straight. If it’s important to you just to get the words out, just to give that story life by getting something, anything, on paper, that’s valid. Go for it. If it’s more important to get the quality and dramatic arc down, know that, and spend more time pre-planning the outline. That is valid, too.

Do cut yourself some slack. Your child will step on something and need to go to Urgent Care. You will have to work overtime, or your spouse will, and you’ll be on Parent Duty. It’ll snow and your chains will break. Then there is Thanksgiving. What possessed you to say you’d bring pies made from pumpkins from your garden? Make the commitment, schedule the hours every single day, but know that life will interfere. Don’t kick yourself or others, just get back on track.

Do make your writing life your real life. Don’t stop when NaNo is over. Participating in NaNoWriMo gives you the chance to move from wanna-be to serious working professional writer. By setting up your life so you can effectively participate, you can develop a system to use indefinitely, while still having a reasonable life. Writing is for the long haul, not just a month a year. To be a working, professional writer, you must schedule your work, but also give yourself days off, give yourself time each day to eat, sleep, bathe, exercise, attend to your family and home and have some fun. You’re not going to finish a book in thirty days. You will finish a partial first draft if you’re lucky. If you want to ultimately have a finished book, take what you have learned, modify it for the long term, and keep right on going.

That’s what serious, professional writers do. They keep on going.


Check out Claire's blog and FB page and available books here:

http://claireyoumansauthor.blogspot.com

www.tokigirlandsparrowboy.com


Facebook:  The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Toki-Girl-Sparrow-Boy-Claire-Youmans/dp/0990323404/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8


[If you would like to do a regular or not-so-regular guest blog here at Writing About Writing, check out our guidelines and then drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.]

Wash Week (Brunch)

I'm still sick.

I'm no longer bed ridden and fading in and out of a low grade fever, waking from frighteningly sudden naps with my sheets and t-shirt soaked through.  However, I am still run down, feeling cruddy, and suffering from a persistent cough. Me and The Contrarian are definitely going to snuggle up and watch Cars this afternoon.

It's time to get back writing, but I'm still a bit too fuzzy to be writing stuff that I want to publish. I also know that this is probably what was affecting my motivation and mood earlier in the week before the full blown symptoms. The Contrarian got it too, and he just seemed a little tired and listless before the symptoms started.

Fortunately it's Thursday, which means that (right after this) I'll be putting up a guest post. Maybe this weekend I can get a little something up to make up for this week as I continue to clean up tabs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Writer is Sick

Woke up to mild fever, nausea, and a couple of symptoms best left un-described. I might get a tab at the top cleaned up later today, but I am most definitely going to need to get my rest.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Disclamery Stuff

[I'm fixing, revising, and cleaning up the tabs at the top of the page, but it's good to put this into a reminder post every once in a while.]

Variations: they may occur in your mileage.

try to use only copyright free images, and I also fail spectacularly. I've got a few places I go, like the Creative Common Licence Flikr page or the "free to use (even commercially)" image search on Google. Unless they are a picture OF me, they are absolutely not mine, and I will never ever claim that they are. If I put an image up on a potpourri post of comics and humor, it means I discovered them as a meme on Facebook and they had no attribution I could discern. I try my best, but the internet is a tangled thicket and not every image is watermarked.

So if I'm using an image that is yours (or your client's), please just tell me how you'd like me to handle it. (I'll take it down. Give you credit. Make it a link back to your page. Apologize for my impudence. Write a post about how awesome you are for not making a federal case of it. Whatever.) Just let me know what you want me to do, and I'll do it. I'm an artist. I steal, recombine, and reinvent, but I would never do that if I weren't welcome. It's just hard to tell if that's the case in today's online culture.

I really do try to avoid any image with a big flaming "Don't use my shit without permission" sign on the webpage or a clear copyright watermark, but sometimes I end up with such image through an intermediary with less regard.  If I've used a image that I didn't know was stolen, I will do what it takes to make amends.  And I will never pass off work that isn't mine as my own.

Some of my older articles have images from less discriminating places. The first page in a Google search for certain words, for example. This was back when I was excited to hit triple digits on page views in a given day, and before my site had ads. Again, if I'm using a copyrighted image, please just tell me how you'd like me to handle that. You don't even need to get your "kind-of-friend" in law school to write an official sounding Cease and Desist. Just toss me an e-mail, let me know, and I will be so mortified that I will do anything to fix it.

There will be no ads, but I might remind you of the tip jar. Writing About Writing is and will always be free. And these days we don't even have any ads. But I'm a pretentious artiste and I dream of writing paying for more than just a cell phone bill.  Once every month or two, I'll write a post reminding people that if they want more content, well curated menus and web design, professional level proof reading,  more fiction, or "big" articles every day, I'm going to need to work less than 40 hours a week on my two other day jobs. Through the generosity of readers, I've been able to pare down teaching to only once a night a week and get a sitter in for a couple of hours most mornings, and that's why I can write as much and often as I do. More improvements as they become feasible.

I'm not very good at proofing my own stuff.  (~dramatic pause~) Yet.  If you find a mistake, and you want to point it out, I promise I won't be the slightest bit offended or upset.  I will thank you, and fix it.  One of the great things about blogging is I can clean up old entries, and as long as I'm not changing the core ideas, it's all kosher.  I have some help in the form of beta readers, but I often procrastinate too long to fully solicit their help. Sadly, I cannot afford a proofreader as this blog makes an average of fifteen cents a day, and all the proofreaders I interviewed wanted like twice that!  Would that I could though.

In this blog, I mostly talk about creative writing, specifically fiction. While the concerns of other genres of creative writing dovetail with fiction somewhat, and all writing in general has a few things in common (like words and periods and stuff), they are also quite different in form, content, style, and execution. Fiction is not journalism, and neither of those is technical writing. So if you are making a great living gritting your teeth through the boredom while writing instruction manuals for digital cameras and food processors, and wonder what the hell I'm on about when I talk about high passion and low pay, it's not because I think you're not a "real" writer. It's just because "Blogging about Fiction Writing" isn't as catchy of a title, and writing out "creative fiction writing" would be a pain in the ass to write all the time....and I'm really lazy.

I am not very good at computer stuff.  Actually, that's like saying Emanuel Lewis is a little short.  I may have links that go nowhere or images that don't load. I can usually fix that stuff if you bring it to my attention. There are sometimes some weird formatting errors where it looks like some of the text is the wrong font or font size, and I can't seem to fix it, no matter what I do.

There might be some satire in here somewhere.  Maybe. You should probably take a satire class if you don't know how to recognize it when you see it. The Onion offers some online correspondence courses that are top notch. I highly recommend them.

I am not the persona through which I write. I will not use this persona to avoid taking responsibility for my words–especially the way some people excuse their use of harmful jokes. But I definitely turn the snark up to 11, and I don't actually care so much about threesomes. Or maybe I do, but just don't talk about it so much....

Monday, September 14, 2015

Following Writing About Writing

Interested in following Writing About Writing? Or perhaps everything I write?

If you're trying to follow Writing About Writing, it might actually be confusing to navigate all the different ways to do so. We're on several social media, but not every social medium is updated in the same way. Some media follow the blog the blog, but others follow me as a writer. Some get every post I make, no matter how major or minor. (Many days there are two posts but one of them is relatively minor.) Some media are privy to a cycle of "reruns" where (once a day) I cycle through the popular posts of the past so that new folks can see some of the things they missed (and old fans can be reminded of treasured classics).

I also occasionally write for other venues (Ace of Geeks for example), and those who are following me as a writer, rather than JUST Writing About Writing, may prefer the media where I can share those other articles. Twitter gets ALL of these updates I post anywhere, including the reruns, which is great for people who don't want to miss anything but may feel too spammy for many readers.

I'm not really present on any of these social media (except for Facebook). I cross post articles and very occasionally put something else up.

So what's the final word on how you should be following W.A.W.?

97 of the Earth's coolest people can't be wrong!
The real "Join this site" button is at the
bottom of this (and every) page.
Follow Writing About Writing through Google (Blogger, Google Friend Connect). Google's Blogger allows you to assemble a collection of blogs you follow. Most people following the blog this way have their own blog through Blogger, but it's not necessary. (You only actually need a Google account, which many people have through gmail.)

Pros- Shows all new updates (minor and major). Updates in a timely manner. Helps me with my "membership numbers," which are a bellwether of how cool the blog is.
Cons- No reruns. No posts from other venues. Blogger usually takes a few hours to get the latest post up. Wordpress is the chic, happening blog place; Blogger is like the high school kids who eat lunch in the quad.


It's going to burn your FEED!!!
Wait...what?
R.S.S. Feed (Feedly, Feedburner) If you have an RSS reader, you may like to simply be updated by having your RSS feed updated with the text of my latest post. If you click on the Feedburner button at the bottom of the page, you can subscribe to Writing About Writing through a number of RSS readers including FeedDemon, Netvibes, My Yahoo, Shrook, Newsfire, RSSOwl and more.

Pros- Shows all new updates (major and minor). Updates instantly.
Cons-Updates instantly! (Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but I am not a good writer. Usually I post before I've managed to find and fix the biggest typos and dumbshit errors I missed before I hit "Publish".) R.S.S. feed do not include reruns–even the really good ones. No posts from other venues. Many RSS readers are JUST text, so you won't see the fabulously hilarious images. Also, if you get a little behind on your feed, it feels like the sword of Damocles.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't punch in
the addys of all those Nigerian Princes.
E-Mail Notification At the bottom of the page there is an option to put your e-mail into a text field and subscribe to W.A.W. through e-mail notifications.  Every time I post an update, you will be sent an e-mail notification containing a link to the post. I've been told that there's even some preview text (the first 200 words or something).

Pros- Shows all new updates (minor and major). Updates right away.
Cons- No reruns. No posts from other venues. You already get ten billion e-mails a day.

G+ for the W.A.W. Page (The text there is also the link) This G+ page for Writing About Writing. Though I put an occasional image up (usually when I need to add text to an image to create a "You should be writing" macro), it is mostly there JUST for blog updates and reruns. If you want to get updates through G+, you should probably pick this page OR the one below, but not both. If you do both, it will appear in your feed as if every single link is being posted twice.

Pros- Show all new updates (minor and major). Includes reruns.
Cons- No posts from other venues. It's G+, so people will accuse you of working for Google or being woefully out of touch. They will give you tin foil hats and serve you Kool-aid.

G+ for Chris Brecheen (The text is also the link.) Above is if you want to follow the Writing About Writing page; this is if you want to follow ME as an author. If I get added by a name I don't recognize in life, I put the name in a circle called "Author Updates." I post all my reruns and posts to other venues in this circle. I don't often use G+ otherwise, though occasionally I will have a public update that would also be seen by anyone in that circle.

Pros- Major posts, but not minor ones. Reruns. Posts from other venues. Posts right away. Not much other "noise."
Cons- Occasionally you'll see a public G+ post I write. Since I post all articles, reruns, and posts from other venues here, this can seem very "spammy." People will accuse you of being a Google shill because you're on G+.

Twitter (Chrisibrecheen) I don't use Twitter--not really. I don't really like it very much. I held in there for a while until all the retweets and replies became too much. So my tweets are ONLY cross posts of things I've written. Some people appreciate that it's a good place to get ONLY my updates; others find the "signal to noise" to be something that wouldn't make them want to follow me.

Pros- All posts. Reruns. Major posts. Minor posts. Posts from other venues. Posts right away. Not much other "noise."
Cons- I don't otherwise use Twitter. I also put ALL posts on Twitter even when I'm posting something different on Facebook (below) than on G+. That means sometimes Twitter has four or five links a day, and that can seem "spamish." Also misunderstandings in 140 character posts are a fact of life. Twitter pubic lice of the internet.

Facebook Page for Writing About Writing (Text is also the link) W.A.W.'s Facebook page is a whole different kettle of fish. It is, in fact, a thermo-kettle full of piranha. On my Facebook page, I actually post memes, macros, quotes, inspirational messages, videos, and try NOT TO POST TOO MUCH FROM MY BLOG. Most of the FB audience is there for the shenanigans, not the blog cross posting. Sometimes I skip posting "less popular" updates in favor of a "best of" rerun that will attract more of my FB audience. FB's algorithm blacks out posts, even to people who want to see it in order to encourage content providers to spend money promoting themselves.
Bitter.
So very bitter.

Pros- Lots of other fun stuff going on. Sticks to "best posts." Most reruns. Most posts from other venues.
Cons- Lots of other stuff going on. (Not a good place if you just want the updates or if you want all the updates.) Major posts. Not minor ones. FB algorithm prevents page followers from seeing every post so some W.A.W. posts will get lost. Skips less popular posts in favor of popular reruns. Not a good place to get all the updates. Enjoying anything on FB the requires a shower with steel wool and industrial cleanser. Facebook is the antichrist.

Tumblr (Text is also the link) I joined Tumblr after Facebook's latest round of content throttling that basically ensures that about one quarter of one percent of my Facebook followers see any given post. Tumblr doesn't try to decide what I want to see or what my followers want to see and it doesn't hold their eyeballs hostage to try and squeeze money out of me. Mostly, Tumblr isn't run by a bunch of greedy assholes with dollar signs in their eyes.  And yet.....I'm absolutely terrible at updating over there. I don't post as many macros on Tumblr as I do on Facebook because I don't have to post once an hour in order to be noticed once a day.

However, Tumblr is a place where it's tough to compartmentalize, so you have to put up with some of my obnoxious "feminist crap."

Pros- Only main posts. Very few reruns (only the uberbest). Some funny macros. Feminist crap (if you like that stuff).
Cons- Only major, major posts. No "minor" posts. Occasional reruns. Feminist crap (if you don't like that kind of stuff). Very sporadic posting. Basically I suck at sticking with more than one social medium.

Facebook for Chris Brecheen (The text is also the link) I welcome readers to follow me on Facebook, but the updates there get mixed in with a lot of other stuff about my life and the things that interest me, some of which (as you may have noticed) include social justice and struggles for equality. I can be a little.....intense. Please send me a quick private message if you friend me there. I deal with a hundred sunglasses selling randos a month.

Pros- All posts. You're more likely to see posts than on Writing About Writing's FB page.
Cons- I go up to 11.  Lots of posts. Facebook is still the devil.

More Technically there's a Pintrest for W.A.W., but I'm dreadful at updating it unless the image itself is awesome. Every once in a while my stuff ends up on Reddit. Stumbleupon is a bucket of unhelpful, customer-hating dicks.

The Mail Didn't Come?

I'm working on a thick and tangled Mailbox today about cishet white dudes and how they can write better characters without appropriation or tropes. I'm writing that, but it turns out to be the kind of topic that takes more than two paragraphs and a couple of threesome jokes to really tackle properly. So it might go up a little later on this week, thereby mixing up all the other planned posts.

I also got asked about how to follow this page and realized that it's probably time to update the "Follow Me" tab at the top of the page. Plus a couple of people asked if I was okay since I wasn't posting on the weekend, and even though I posted it, I never did go and change up my "Update Schedule."

And if you must know, I'm going through some shit that is even bigger than my superhero realism could allow for.

So this week, while I'm working on this mailbox, I'm going to fix those, tabs at the top of the page (most of them–fixing "Peeps" might take longer than a week), and generally get some stuff in order that I've been putting off forever.

Then I'm going to get back to this mailbox.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Repairing Cars! (Social Justice Metaphor)

The Contrarian really likes cars these days. He won't even go to bed without clutching a car in his hand. He squeals and screams "Kas! Kas!" every time one passes. He cries when I change his diaper unless I make the "Prrrrow!" noises of a pneumatic torque wrench.  His favorite movie? Cars. A close second? Cars 2.  (Which is a travesty.)   

So I think a lot about cars these days.  Here is a social justice metaphor about cars. (There were two, but the first one got long. I'll do the second one as a brunch post next week.)

Let's pretend you tell me that you don't like repairing cars....

You then proceed to tell me how difficult diagnostics on cars are, and the lengthy process you have to go through with every single vehicle to determine what is wrong with it. You list out dozens of problems that all have the same "symptoms" in a car, and tell me that often you can't even tell what system the issue is in. You discuss air flows and valves and seem pretty sure that the electrical system is primarily to start the car and run the lights and radio. You don't seem to be aware of computer chips or a computer's role in the car. Everything you are describing is analog and mechanical.

Pretty soon, I start to get the idea that you don't have the first clue about modern day car repair.  Like maybe you have an idea about what repairing cars was thirty years ago or more, but you don't even seem to have acknowledged OBD diagnostic systems (which have been standard in every car since the mid 90s and ubiquitous before that) to say nothing of the fact that computers are assisting every system in modern cars from brakes to fuel injection. 

Wait, the car actually knows what's wrong with it?
What foul sorcery is this????
And if you're only forty or so, and I'm pretty sure you weren't repairing cars before you could reach their pedals, it becomes pretty clear that you have absolutely no actual idea what you are talking about. Your knowledge of cars and car repair is based on something second hand that someone told you or you read. Or maybe you repaired a few really old cars once and you think that's what it's all about now.

It's not that I don't think you've ever repaired a car or know how they work. It's just painfully clear that you don't have the context for an actually informed opinion of what modern car repair is really about.

This is why when people invoke Dworkin or Greer in their critiques of feminism, my eyebrow insta-Spock-arches. If the only feminism they seem aware of is a bicycle/fish radicalized expression from the seventies, I start to wonder what their interaction with actual feminism has been. If they don't seem to know that NOW has led the social and political charge to have women added to the draft, or to include men's rape under the legal definition of rape. If someone invokes third wave trans exclusion or sex-work antagonism without being aware of what a "TERF" or a "SWERF" even is and why mainstream feminism tends to edge away from these positions. If they have no operant knowledge of what the term "white feminism" means or why it's seen as problematic or what intersectionality is and what problems with earlier forms of feminism it seeks to redress or how feminism has been front and center in challenging the way gender roles harm men too....

Suddenly I have a very different picture of what they actually know. I get the idea that they don't have the first clue about modern day feminism. Like maybe they have a vague idea of what it was like thirty years ago, but they don't seem to have acknowledged three decades or more of social progress and development or the different struggles that modern feminism has tried to tackle.

[For a metaphor within a metaphor, this would be like insisting video games are still at the Atari 2600 level of sophistication.]'

Video games are boring. All those squares for graphics aren't making me want to play them at all.
They aren't doing themselves any favors by making every game two player.
What? You think I haven't played a more recent game. HOW DARE YOU!

And if these people were BORN in the 70's, I doubt highly that they were engaging feminist thought in the second grade. Basically, it becomes pretty clear that they have absolutely no actual idea what they are talking about. Their knowledge of feminism is based on something second hand (probably from another opponent of feminism who doesn't really understand it either) they heard or read. Maybe they've read a few anachronistic excerpts and they think that's what it's still all about.

It's not that I don't think they've ever encountered feminist thought. It's just painfully clear that they don't have the context for an actually informed opinion of what modern feminism is really about.

And that ignorance of modernity makes an opinion hard to take seriously as informed or valuable....cars or feminism. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Wikipedia Mindreads. Kinda.

Of course I know that Wikipedia is a place for quickie trivia browsing or a place to start looking. But this open letter to Wikipedia by Philip Roth about Wikipedia's inaccuracy in its article for The Human Stain reminded me hard. I've seen flags in Wikipedia articles about books and movies. These flags are alerts that the flagged content comes from a primary source (such as the author of the book) and therefore, must be backed up by secondary sources or deleted.

As a writer, I'm appalled that Wikipedia rejected Roth's assertion about the inspiration for his novel even after Roth identified himself. Who is Wikipedia to determine that the writer of a book is not a credible source about the book, especially about what was on that writer's mind when writing the book?

But I don't know that my emotional reaction is in the best interests of Wikipedia users. Lots of times artists create works that incidentally reflect values or ideas that the artist had no intentions of creating. Too often, we apply presentism to a work, such as that silly essay that went around about Susan in the Narnia Chronicles a year or two ago. Lewis made a powerful statement about Susan and choice in the Narnia Chronicles, but if you look at the work through today's eyes, Lewis treated her shabbily. The essay chose not to view Susan in the context of Narnia nor in the context of the time and culture the Chronicles of Narnia were written.

But in Roth's case, he's talking about what was in his head when he created the Coleman Silk character. It might be fair to say that there was another person near Roth's circles who passed for white and had a dalliance with a cleaning woman -- perhaps Anatole Broyard was in the back of Roth's head when he wrote.

That's simply an interesting thing to note, though. It's quite different to reject Roth's stated inspiration, not even permit mention of it, and then to state that Anatole Broyard was the inspiration.

Wikipedia made good eventually. There's now a two-sentence acknowledgement of Roth's inspiration, Melvin Tumin. There is also a two-paragraph analysis of Anatole Broyard. There is no mention of the evidence that Roth supplied in his open letter in that brief mention of Melvin Tumin. It's quite a shame because when presenting his evidence, Roth also provided an analysis of the novel that made me see it differently: one innocent error sets the entire story into motion and itself provides context for the tragedy.

As a writer, I feel a vehement indignation on Roth's behalf. Readers get to analyze and critique a work as they wish. If they see a parallel with Anatole Broyard, then they need to say so and open that discussion. But writers get to say what was in their heads when they wrote. It seems stupid to me that Wikipedia and its ilk should fancy itself so much that its collection of nearly anonymous contributors are deemed more credible about what Roth was thinking than Roth himself.