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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, October 23, 2017

Official Schedule Change

Just a quickie to announce an official schedule change starting now.

Time was, a post that went up on the weekend, or even too late on west coast hours, would get noticeably less traffic than its bank hours counterparts. However these days weekend posts are not appreciably less page viewed. Particularly "slow burn" topics that get a lot of search engine traffic months and even years later.

I've also consistently been asked to do job two (nannying) on Mondays–often for the entire day. And somewhere to the east of here there is even a tabletop Star Wars game that will fire back up when my players are done with our hiatus. All on Monday.

With that in mind, I'm going to make official what I've been doing impromptu for weeks now. I'm going to start taking Monday off and writing a post on the weekend instead. Our current Patreon level still means six updates a week (at least two of which will be "meaty") but my week will start on Tuesday.

Here is the new schedule. I'm not going to repost the whole thing for such a small change.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

2017's Greatest Hits by Month

[Everything in the brackets will disappear in a week or two...

Today I'm just doing a little bit of menu clean up which means creating a stub for the 2017 year for The Best of W.A.W. ]

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October
November
December

Friday, October 20, 2017

Fortune Cookie Wisdom XIV

Social issues are political. Political issues are social. The personal is political and the political is personal. Only those safe from nearly all political consequence box "politics" away as some special category of thought. A writer can either be political or blithely oblivious...which–Guess what?–is also a political position in aggressive favor of the status quo. 

An autocorrect error takes two seconds to fix. Being the kind of elitist, pompous, probably ableist and classist, and maybe even racist snot who thinks an autocorrect error is a great thing to make fun of someone over takes a lot longer.

Sometimes what you need isn't to tell yourself you're going to write and not check Facebook all day long. Sometimes you need to tell yourself you're going to write and not check facebook for just twenty solid minutes.
A lot of people think they want to be world renowned writers, but many of these folks don't realize just how much even the smallest amounts of fame translate into audiences who feel they're entitled to time, attention, energy, and entertainment that is exactly what they want it to be.


If you like an artist or entertainer who is mostly doing their schtick for free (like a blogger or a fanfic writer), it would really be a great idea to toss a pittance their way so they can keep doing it. A dollar a month might not seem like much to you, but they'll add up for the artist, and day jobs cut into creative time like you wouldn't believe.
For everyone who announces they are no longer your reader because you wrote something they don't "like," someone else will show up because they liked what you wrote. Just be true to yourself and your art.
Traditional vs. non-traditional is, at this point in history, largely a personal choice in terms of money and number of readers. One can traditionally publish poorly edited crap or clean up a self published book so that it is error free and hire a professional artist to do the cover. The compelling factors in such a decision should be the "validation" of being noticed by Gatekeeper Senpai and the publishing world vs. creative control, instant-er gratification, and needing to learn how to wear a few other hats oneself (like how to promote a book online or how to format text for a Kindle). 
Fanfic: writers who know they will never get paid, who face little or no renown and often even stigma, creating art that they are passionate about just for the love of doing so. I'm sorry, what's not to love?
All artists are flawed. But most artists are breathtakingly honest about those flaws. The artist who denies their flaws, claiming they are particularly virtuous in that regard are the ones whose falls from grace are often breathtaking plummets.
When your days are 14+ hours long and you're double booked on pet sitting. Don't be afraid to do some jazz hands and hit it hard on the weekend.



Not enough fortune cookie wisdom?  Come get more!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Quarterfinal 3)

That feeling of secret shame when you
realize that you're rooting for the bad guys
chiefly because this dude looks like
Danny Rand.
What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years? 

Today was long, hard, double booked, 12 hours at my other two jobs, and involved getting my ass just fucking KICKED by A.D.D., so I'm not going to do much more than tell you that quarterfinal three of our poll is up, and it's up to you to decide which three titles will be joining Harry Potter (obviously) in going on to the semifinals.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. The top four titles will go on to the semifinals.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author."

For mobile users you click on "web page view" and then scroll ALLLLLLLLLL the way to the bottom.

These quarterfinals will only be up for few days each (less than a week) so vote quickly that we can move on without losing momentum.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Quarterfinal 2 Results)

The pet sitting double book started today, so it might mess with our update schedule through this weekend. (I'll still get you six posts for this week. I just might need to put that last one or two up over the weekend.)

In any case, here are the results of our most recent quarterfinal poll. The top four names will go on to the semifinals. And the new poll will be up tomorrow. (With a post to follow if I'm on fire but not until Friday if I'm less....on...fire.)

Thank you for the incredible turn out. I hope enthusiasm stays stoked.

Text results below.




Malazan Book of the Fallen series- S. Eriksen 433 35.06%
Small Gods- T. Pratchett 256 20.73%
Song of Ice and Fire- G.R.R. Martin 123 9.96%
Neverwhere- N. Gaiman 116 9.39%
His Dark Materials- P. Pullman 105 8.5%
Mistborne- B. Sanderson 82 6.64%
Farseer Trilogy- R. Hobb 68 5.51%
The First Law trilogy- J. Abercrombie 52 4.21%

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Writing Prompt: Short and Timed

The place I'm currently cat sitting has some pretty gnarly parking laws around it. I can try to find a place a few blocks away or move my car every hour. Today I've been doing the latter and I might keep on for the duration of the trip.

Why? Because I get to have short, timed, focused writing. I come in. I set my keys back down. Maybe have a drink or use the restroom and it's about 45 minutes until I need to move my car again to avoid any hint of impropriety before a zealous meter reader who marked my car the second I walked away cruises back through like a t-rex sniffing the air.

A timed writing exercise is nothing new–you've probably done a thousand of them before, but what often gets overlooked is how useful they can still be to a seasoned writer. It's too easy to look across an "entire day" and push writing back and back and back until it's in this tiny corner. Or to sit down to an "hours long session" and spend the first half of the time futzing on Facebook or playing Gardenscape because those hours stretching out gave you a sense that there was much more time. We tend to question ourselves less under deadline and push ourselves harder. Plus it's easier to put off distractions for "a few minutes" than it is to be good about them all day.

Then suddenly, with your back against the wall, a few minutes worth of work actually gets done. Certainly vet writers have their days where it all just falls into place, but they also have their fits and starts too. Sometimes it's just a lot easier to think about sitting down to write for a half an hour than an afternoon.

That's where timed speed drills come in.

PROMPT:

Use your current work in progress provided it is a first draft. If your WIP is not a first draft, pick something else or start something new. It's important that you not be working on something where you mull over a word choice for several minutes, but rather a piece where you're trying to get it out onto the page. Set a timer for NO longer than 45 minutes. The "sweet spot" will be somewhere where you will feel the pressure and your mind won't wander, but also before you can become overwhelmed and then bored by writing at a heavy pace. Most season writers will be able to do 45 minutes easily–resist the urge to do more. Newer writers may have to do less, but less than ten minutes is probably too short.

Set your timer and begin to write. You don't have to scribble furiously. This isn't necessarily a free write (where the "pencil must keep moving") but you do have to keep writing. No checking other tabs or doing anything else for that 45 minutes. When you're done you can do whatever you want: Facebook, check your phone, research, "research," but for now just keep making words.

Bonus points:

  • Depending on how fast you write, you can make this prompt extra intense by giving yourself an ambitious word count but don't make it so high that you're flinging words like a free write. The trick here is to get yourself writing at a clip you usually only do under pressure, not necessarily to just fling spaghetti at the wall.
  • Take a break and do another timed exercise in a few minutes. See if you can have a truly spectacular session in timed chunks with definite breaks instead of one overwhelming glob.
  • Play around with how long you can write before you start wasting time. Find out what your own sweet spot is.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Last Call for Votes)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years?  

My hope is to futz with the usual update schedule this week and ratchet up the intensity of posts as the week progresses (and as time becomes more accessible), I'm double booked on pet sitting* and my nanny hours are higher than normal this week, but there should be time after tomorrow night to do some heavier posts that'll land at the end of the week.

*I know. I know. I said I wouldn't. I have already turned down some jobs that would double book me. This happened to be an emergency for a friend.


There are only a couple of days left for our second semifinal for best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years. On Wednesday the results will go up (and later that day, the next semifinal round). I don't want this poll to go on for months more, so the quarterfinal rounds are going to be quick.

Don't forget you get three (3) votes, but that there is no ranking, so using as few votes as possible is better.

The poll itself is in the lower left at the bottom of the side menus.

I'm told if you're on mobile you have to click "webpage view" then scroll alllllllllll the way to the bottom, you can find the poll.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Renown Margin

[Note: Everything in brackets will disappear in a few weeks.

I'm trying to come up with little posts I can write while the smoke is still blowing down here from the north bay. As bad as the air quality is, I am still very fortunate. I can ameliorate the worst of the coughing and sore throat by staying inside (which isn't my favorite, but dry hacking is worse than being cooped up), but my eyes are also burning and I can't read or write for very long without getting a headache.

Today I thought I'd put together the menu for my latest "segment" here at writing about writing.]


I am not famous.

But I do have a following that is growing, a public persona that some people recognize, I run into strangers who know who I am, and have attracted enough attention that not every interaction is free of awkwardness and sometimes discomfort. Millions of people have read my work, and at the edges of my pedestrian perception of the world the edges have begun to crinkle toward something

This blog was always meant to be educational on the surface and the meta level, both in being writing about writing as well as a real-time disclosure of what I find that works (listicles like woah), what I find doesn't (posting college essays), and what deals are strangely Faustian (hello Facebook). You see the excruciating glacial progress. No overnight success stories here. If I start to carve out something, you will see how it took me years of writing every day to get there. You will watch me improve from old articles to new. You will see my career as it happens.

And now the first glimmers of something like fame are included in that career. So here are the articles about that.

Intro
Groupie Threesome Jokes and other Problematica (Mailbox)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Strange Obstacle

I started this just a few minutes ago as a "note" to a mailbox I was going to try to write (letting folks know why it wasn't going to be two mailbox responses today), but things have deteriorated in the last few minutes and this is going to have to be today's post...

It looks like I'm also going put up something light and fluffy tomorrow instead of the planned conclusion to 25 Things to Let Go Of If You Want to Write Creatively for Money. That post is mostly done but probably needs another four to five hours of solid writing and two or three more of revision before I'm ready to post it.

I'm experiencing sort of a unique writing obstacle here today. I live in the Bay Area about an hour from the fires that have made national news (not sure about international news). Basically fires usually skirt the edge of cities, but the city of Santa Rosa is a 200k population center on the border of the wilderness. There have been some fatalities and a lot of homes have been completely destroyed. In some cases, whole communities are unrecognizable but for the burnt out cars, chimneys, and major appliances dotting the rubble. An hour is no big deal to drive for a lot of the bay area's social events, and I know many people up that way. Most evacuated at some point. Some have lost everything.

As worried as I am for chosen family and upset about the fates of my friends, that is not the obstacle. The obstacle is actually the smoke filled air. It's really bad. (I mean REALLY bad.) When the winds shifted south, we got tons of smoke haze, and the air quality has gone to shit. I'm inside with the windows shut and already nursing a bit of a headache but the forecast is that it's only going to get worse. It's making it hard to focus on writing, so I think today I'm going to sit with what I've written on Triexta so far, and rest my burning eyes as often as I can.

What I'll try to do is make up for it this weekend when I'm pet sitting in Alameda. They get a bit more of the bay breeze, and the air quality might be better there. (It's not today, but they might be set-up to recover faster than anywhere else I can drive to in less than an hour.)

Writing is like flossing. (And really, we're only talking about writing with some sort of ambition of "making it" rather than just personal hobbyist fulfilment.) But yes...like flossing. It's your daily habit that matters-not the one day you miss because of extenuating circumstances. But just remember when the excuses start to include things you probably could work around rather than just things you can't, you might be on a downward spiral.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Quarterfinal 2)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years?   

I randomize the titles that go up against each other, but today fate has decided that the choices are from a whole lot of heavy hitters and personal faves. It's going to be a rough round as these goliaths slug it out.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. The top four titles will go on to the semifinals.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." 

For mobile users you click on "web page view" and then scroll ALLLLLLLLLL the way to the bottom.

These quarterfinals will only be up for few days each (less than a week) so vote quickly that we can move on without losing momentum.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Quarterfinal 1 Results)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years? 

The results are in for our first quarterfinal round. (Just a quickie today as there is both much more to write and much to do that is not writing in order to try to catch back up to the Red Queen Race of life.) Thank you so much to so many for participating.

The top four will be going on to the semifinals. The next quarterfinal round will be up tomorrow.
Text results below.



The Kingkiller Chronicle Patrick Rothfuss 56 21.46% 21.46%
Percy Jackson and the Olympians - Rick Riordan 52 19.92% 19.92%
The Graveyard Book- N. Gaiman 49 18.77% 18.77%
Stormlight Archives- B. Sanderson 40 15.33% 15.33%
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell-S. Clarke 22 8.43% 8.43%
Who Fears Death N. Okorafor 17 6.51% 6.51%
Kushiel's Legacy- J. Carey 13 4.98% 4.98%
The Magicians- L. Grossman 12 4.6% 4.6%

Monday, October 9, 2017

Happy Indigenous People's Day

Reminder: we can't get the staff here at Writing About Writing to come into work on bank holidays (even if we offer them double coupons), so these are always days off here at the blog.

Which is damned good timing because I needed it.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Intro: The Renown Margin


Today I'm going to start a new "segment" here on Writing About Writing. (A new menu for The Reliquary, a new series of posts, a new tag. The whole nine.) I'm writing this post by way of an introduction. You'll see the menu stub go up in the next couple of days, and likely the first article on this topic soon since it's on my mind.

It's a segment about what it means to have a public persona that has begun to be recognizable in more than a casual way to some people. About what it means when your work is enjoyed by folks you've never met. About meeting people through your writing. About encountering strangers who are excited to meet you, and the good and bad parts of being recognized by one's work.

I am not "famous."

And this is not a "Do you know who I am?" moment.

I might be paying the rent with writing, but I'm still cat sitting in order to keep my Prius gassed up, so I don't want anyone to think I've hit the bigtime or have delusions of grandeur.

However, I am writing this blog for, among other reasons, to create a transparent career arc of my experiences both blogging and writing in general. This blog is a daily check in on triumphs as well as trials and tribulations. It is a testament–in real time–to how much work and writing will demand, but also to the possibility that it can offer. The most common question working writers get is some variation on "How can I get to where you are?" and for me all I have to do is point at this blog. The patient reader can see my work develop, my style refine, my prose improve, and my many, many, MANY failures along the way.

I have a Facebook page with close to 2/3 of a million followers as of this writing. This blog has nearly four million page views. I regularly send out thoughts through my public Facebook profile that are shared by hundreds or even thousands. And some of those numbers affect the kind of attention I get back.

A new thread has entered my writing life. One that, in the interest of transparency, I will try to tell you about. For better and for worse, an audience has gathered, and that has begun to affect me, my work, and my personal life. At first it was a comment here, an introduction there. A PM about a post. A friend request because "you wrote that thing." A gushing fan* excited to meet "behind the scenes" me. And not so good things happened as well. My work began to be savaged. My personal emotional safety wasn't always regarded as a human with needs rather than a writer with a platform. People I didn't know started striking up intense and immediately intimate conversations with me. That is to say nothing of hate mail and even death threats. Some friends and family want nothing to do with the attention they get by proxy. People have projected a lot of things onto me including what I can only assume are some powerful demons. And in some ways many have made it clear that they think work and even my existence exists only for them. And I have reacted to them, withdrawing further into a private and public life dichotomy. Ignoring comments. Not getting back to messages.

*And believe me it feels really, really weird to call anyone fans.

Each of these things, rather than being an anomaly, has begun to happen more and more. I've been recognized now a half a dozen times by total strangers. People have solicited my autograph. Complete strangers have told me that they are going to marry me. Folks have started talking to me about something I wrote without saying hi first. And some people have gotten quite upset that I've not lived up to their unrealistic expectations of me. All of this is totally surreal, but I have no reason to expect, unless I stop writing altogether, that these trending lines are going to reverse rather than continue.

I once heard fame for a writer described in an interesting way: "It depends on what room you're in." That is to say that unless you're a Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, a lot of people probably don't know exactly what you look like or don't particularly care. Some people know exactly who I am and what I do and couldn't give a shit. If you're in a room of your readers, a lot of people might be very excited to meet you. If you're in a random room, you probably are just one more stranger. It's not like being an actor where you can't go to the store in peace. But it has begun to be......a thing.

I think a lot of people think they would enjoy being famous. Not enough to really work at it, but they imagine it as being a boon to their life. That most everything would be exactly what they are now except better, cooler parties, more interesting friends, maybe the occasional restaurant owner who says "your money's no good here," everyone will like them, and maybe it'll be easier to get a date on a Friday night (Bwahahaha!). The problem is they forget the other stuff. Even when that's not all bad, those fun bits are tempered with people who think I can do things for them (either substantive like actual promotion of them or their causes or something more ephemeral like I'm able to elevate their station or that somehow gravitas will rub off on them...or something), that I owe them something, that my work exists purely for their sole entertainment and no one else's, that they are entitled to my social time and energy, that I am not fully human, that my privacy doesn't need respecting.

And the death threats....

As with most things, I can't promise a lot of advice, but I'll share what I can, and maybe give you a few pointers about what not to do the next time you're geeking out over meeting someone who's got you a little starstruck. Maybe a few more about what I learn from muddling about how to compartmentalize your life if you start to find your work gaining an audience. So I hope you enjoy some insights and maybe a nugget of wisdom or two about what it means to be starting to see something that kind of resembles fame crinkling the edges out there on the horizon.

Sort of.

Ish.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Don't Forget to Vote (Best Modern Fantasy Semifinal 1)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years? 

I'm recovering from my trip today (and almost a whole day spent in transit yesterday), so today is just a quick post reminding folks to vote because there's only a couple of days left.

Fair warning that tomorrow will probably be jazz hands. Just because it usually takes me more than the day of to get a solid post up and I'm honestly trying to be good and relax today instead of descend into my writer workaholism. Next week I'm home and back on schedule and you'll see some mailboxes, solid posts, the end of that listicle, and more.

There are only a couple of days left for our semifinal for best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years. On Saturday the results will go up (and either later that day or Sunday the next semifinal round). I don't want this poll to go on for months more, so the quarterfinal rounds are going to be quick.

Don't forget you get three (3) votes, but that there is no ranking, so using as few votes as possible is better.

The poll itself is in the lower left at the bottom of the side menus.

I'm told if you're on mobile you have to click "webpage view" then scroll alllllllllll the way to the bottom, you can find the poll.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Truth About this Last Month (Personal Update)

My secret ingredient?
Having some fucking time!
If you've enjoyed the higher quality and greater frequency of "solid" posts over the last month, I have a confession to make....

There's a reason I've been able to write a little harder and faster these last few weeks than during much of the last two or three years: I haven't been outrageously busy.

There have been a couple of pet sitting gigs, and right this second I'm wrapping up a week in Texas with my mom, but for the large part, whether it was teaching, double booking pet sitting gigs, or just needing to be on as a nanny, I was facing down thirty hours of work (before I wrote a word) in the last couple of years.

And this month you finally got to see what I could do when things weren't so chaotic and busy.

Yes, posts have gotten shifted around, and I haven't done every article I wanted or planned on (for example, I'm probably going to have to push the conclusion of my current three part article from this Friday to next), but it's been a lot better. The vacation season is over, so not as many pet sitting gigs, and the nanny hours have dropped since the kid is in preschool. Which is all probably good because of that "exhaustion" diagnosis. But mostly it's afforded me the time to slam out some solid writing on a more regular basis.

If you have enjoyed this pace, and particularly if you want to see even more (including a better pace on fiction offerings), you can absolutely help that happen:


Throw a dollar a month (or maybe a little more) at my Patreon.

My financial realities mean I'm not really making enough to live on long-term. I can just barely keep things going right now by patchworking three jobs together and doing a shoestring budget, but I'm putting off a lot of questions (both shorter term like how to deal with a car that will eventually need more than just maintenance, all the way to retirement that I'm not saving for at all right now). Expenses are coming, and when they hit, the first casualty of having to do something reliable for cash is going to be the robust updating schedule that I hope you've enjoyed.

Plus you get awesome rewards–rewards that start with being a part of backchannel discussions (and occasionally polls) as well as a voice I listen to when I want input including upcoming projects and get more awesome from there. And of course there is the warm and fuzzy feeling that you are helping support a better world by supporting a writer and artist whose writing (even fiction) will always be free.

NOTE: If you'd like to support me as a writer, I welcome that support as I have skyrocketing rent and insurance like everyone else and might like to live in my own tiny studio some day instead of sharing a two bedroom with three people, but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don't "fund" my social justice writing in a vacuum. (My political snark I don't mind getting paid for, though those thoughts often dovetail.) I don't do the social equality part of my writing for money. I have my reasons for not being able to be a full-fledged "social justice advocate/activist/writer/warrior," and I refuse to be making a paycheck off of these struggles that are not mine. I'll do these Social Justice Bard posts and call out privilege on my Facebook no matter what. I promise. If the gestalt of my writing appeals, great, but if you only want to see more social justice posts, please donate to the causes themselves (BLM, SPLC, Planned Parenthood, Equality Now to name just a few....) or writers–particularly women of color–who are writing about their own struggles and without whose hard work I would never be able to articulate such ideas. Thank you.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Don't Let Them Change the Story: The Narrative of the Mentally Ill "Lone Wolf"

Within moments of waking up, I knew he was a white man. 

I knew this for three reasons: 1-The police and media were waiting for the facts before speculating and didn't suspect terrorism. 2-They didn't say his race. 3. The phrase "lone wolf" kept popping up.

My suspicion is we're going to hear a lot about mental illness in the next few days. A lot. And my prediction is that it's going to be used to sidestep conversations about guns, about misogyny, about toxic masculinity, about all kinds of things. Just another one of thousands of one-off events by yet another "lone wolf." The price of doing business here in the U.S.A.


When an atrocity is committed (and "atrocity" is the right word, not "tragedy"), our culture ramps into "othering" mode. As we grab for the answer of what was no doubt a complex web of factors, if we find something strange and different like a religion or an ethnicity that doesn't belong, then we blame that. 
When the offender is white though, these ways of slipping them quietly into other groups that explain their penchant for committing terrible actions breaks down. 

In a strange sort of "excuse" we rarely give to any other group, suddenly any white person who commits unspeakable violence is "crazy." A lone wolf. No need to dig any further. They were just mentally ill. 

"Mental illness," or whatever euphemism for mental illness is being used ("deeply troubled," "crazy," "insane") does not erase the glaring problem that such diagnoses are far from universal, and even when they happen to be true, they are still irrelevant and focusing on them both harms others and pulls the scrutiny from where it belongs.

It is actually a good and wonderful thing to lament the deplorable state of mental health treatment in this country and culture. The lack of easy access to affordable care is revolting, and the stigma that mental illness is not actually illness and people can just will themselves to be well is huge. Most people are still trying to tell folks with mental illness to eat right and exercise and just try NOT having that chronic disease. And those are the ones not simply recoiling in fear.

However, when people tell the story of mental health ONLY after someone has committed an atrocity, or care about the mental health failings of our culture ONLY after someone has committed an atrocity they're actually making things a lot worse, not better. They are only being harmful, not empathetic.

First of all, they are usually using "mental health" as a code word for "people who do terrible things." The suggestion is that no one who does something like this COULD be sane. And even though this "excuse" is rarely extended to folks who aren't white, let me be absolutely clear about this, and I'll even use bold to make the point:

That is, by every psychological bellwether, completely inaccurate.

People who commit atrocities are then diagnosed and found to have no mental illnesses ALL THE TIME. And the vast majority of people with mental illness are the victims of violence not perpetrators. By a huge margin. Most are more likely to hurt themselves than anyone around them. Doing something terrible isn't an automatic sign of mental illness. 

I know it hurts to think that humans are capable of violence without something being fundamentally wrong with their mental processes, and that we desperately want the capacity to do violence to multiple people indiscriminately to indicate that something MUST be deeply and profoundly faulty in the wiring itself, but that simply isn't true. (Or maybe it is true but what we should be looking at is a culture which "paints the target" with bigotry and excuses the entitled and angry behavior leading up to such an atrocity, not the functionality of specific brains.) We can all be monsters under the right circumstances. Some of us are. And I'm sorry if that's scary, but many who take a gun and do a terrible thing with it are completely sound of mind.

The things that make us monsters are not always bits working incorrectly. Sometimes it's the culture that tells us the "other" isn't worth living. Sometimes it's an expression of the hate we are taught every day. Sometimes it is the enculturation of an indoctrinating force. And for an overwhelming number of men (who are 98% of mass shooters), it is an inability express any emotion other than to metabolize it into suppressed anger. [Edit: Oh look.]

Sometimes the things that make us monsters are the bits working exactly as intended.

When people DO this–when they say that "of course he had mental illness because no one who didn't could have done such a thing"–it's not only sloppy and uncritical thinking, devoid of logic and the slightest psychological accuracy (the actual number is around 60% and race–that is to say being WHITE–is a more statistically predictable factor), but it also perpetuates the stigma that the mentally ill are dangerous merely by virtue of their mental illness. They equate the two in a way that is not only inaccurate, but also causes a lot of splash damage to those who suffer from mental illness.

Am I saying no one who is mentally ill has ever been violent or done something violent? Or am I saying that no mental health diagnosis should ever preclude anyone from owning a firearm? That's ridiculous. Of course some mentally ill people are violent. Some vegetarians are violent. Some mathematicians are violent. But we know better than to blame vegetarianism or mathematics when the latter to cases are true. And even mentally ill folks who do show a proclivity to be violently antisocial–in the rare cases when there is a link between the violence and their diagnosis–it is almost never on a mass scale or bereft of other context.

None of these things is the determining factor in someone's mass shooting. Even if this weren't a post hoc ergo proctor hoc fallacy right out of a Freshman textbook, the correlation is so low as to make the comparison actually disingenuous and not simply fallacious. By significant margins, mentally ill people are more likely to harm themselves or BE harmed by others than when compared to the general population. And certainly compared to groups like young white men. When we go digging for it, like it's the cause, and nothing more need be said, that's the problem. That's called (with bitter irony) a sharpshooter fallacy.


And maybe they'll even find this guy had a host of DSM diagnoses. It still doesn't mean that was the only X factor that matters.

As we untangle this latest mass shooting and the second "worst in history" in less than a year and a half, the red herring of mental illness will be ubiquitous. We might as well turn up proof of athlete's foot or tooth decay for as much as such thinking is lazy and sloppy.

Because here's the other problem: folks are using "crazy" to circumvent a lot of relevant social analysis that could and should go into the calculus of such an event. Everything from the absurdly simplistic and unregulated access to instantly-lethal, multi-lethal, ranged weaponry to the effect of toxic masculinity, to a sense of white, male entitlement.....all swept under the rug because the person was "obviously just crazy." We dismiss dozens (hundreds?) of conversations about the culture these minds were marinating in to simply write it all off as being about mental illness. "Oh well, what can we do. Just another disturbed mind. Hope it doesn't happen again...or again...or again..."



Mental illness affects a certain percentage of people all across the Earth–why do these atrocities so often happen in the U.S.? And why are they so often done BY white males? These are the things we should be digging into–not saying "Aha!" when we find any moment in a shooter's past where someone said they were troubled.


Mental illness is not homologous to "evil." And people really should either bang that drum all the time or think hard before they give it a whack after a highly visible event.

I don't know what they're going to find about this guy. But I do know what they're going to look for. Because the stories we tell that aren't complicated and nuanced and intricate webs of motive and means make things worse for a group that is already erased, marginalized, and stigmatized.