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

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Best CREEPY Dystopia (Our Poll is Live! Come vote!)

What is the best creepy dystopian book (or series)? Our latest poll is live! Come vote! 

In honor of Halloween (since we did horror just last year) I give you the creepy dystopias. Not the uplifting ones with the plucky resistance carrying anachronistic weapons into modern day battlefields, but the ones with the slow burn reveal that something deeply disturbing is going on and the longer you read, the more dystopian things get. From your nominations the eight titles with the most "seconds" have been assembled. 

I know I don't normally post on the weekends, but I'm actually taking a break because of the election coming up here in the U.S. (50% stress and brain weasels/50% anticipation of having to protest and march to make sure all the votes get counted), so I have deliberately saved up on the kinds of posts that I can do when I'm not in a writing sort of mood (admin and business type posts like this one), so I'll be catching up on all of that as a bit of jazz hands and hairography. 

Remember that this poll is about BOOKS. If you thought Neverwhere was an amazing BBC miniseries but found Gaiman's writing to be a bit of a slog, then don't vote for it.

A sad note about our polling program: I think a couple of months ago, some polling company bought up all the little free poll apps and changed their monetization model or something. Used to be there were all sorts of ways to put a poll up, and as long as you didn't post dozens of polls a month, it was free. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed like they all switched to another model overnight. They still let you put up a "free" poll, but you are limited by THE NUMBER OF RESPONSES. And if you go over it, you have to buy their premium version. Well the number is limited to something like a hundred a day. On a good day and a rowdy poll, WAW will quadruple that or more. And I'm not going to pay $20/month for something I use once every two months. I may not be their target freemium demographic (few polls/lots of responses rather than several polls/few responses), but they've forced my hand. I'm switching to Google Forums. Which sadly means that the results of the poll will not be visible to everyone until I post the results. It's also much less "pretty," has a lot of crappy formatting, and you have to use the scroll wheel to get down to get all the results.

If anyone knows a way around this, I'm totally listening.

Everyone will get three (1) vote (another downside of the new program). Use it wisely.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." If you are on mobile, you can switch to "web page view" and scroll all the way down. Sadly the new program allows no way to use a direct link. Yet another issue with it. 

Here are the titles on the poll:

  • Brave New World, A Huxley 
  • Parable of the Sower, O Butler 
  • Neverwhere, N Gaiman 
  • The Chrysalids, J Wyndham 
  • The Silo Saga, H Howey 
  • Uglies Trilogy, S Westerfield 
  • The Long Walk, R Bachman 
  • Never Let Me Go, K Ishiguro (I gave this its second "second" to nudge it onto the poll)

Friday, October 30, 2020

Top of September Facebook Compilation

A collection of the best memes and statuses from Facebook over the period of Sept 1st-Sept 15. Also, as a small reminder to everyone, at least until after the election, and probably until after Covid eases up on the throttle (and allows me to go do some of the activities that ameliorate my ADHD), I will be doing a LOT of my writing on my public Facebook profile. You're welcome to follow me there, or you can just wait here for the "greatest hits" compilation posts like this one, but until some of the current events working to shatter my attention span are a lingering memory, much of my writing comes in bite sized chunks and I just am not able to match my previous posting schedule. 

I shall return.

Hi folks, quick note from the Chris:

I've gotten a bit behind on these compilation posts, so I'm going to catch up over the next couple of days. This will serve a double purpose as I am basically all but useless on the writing front. (I can sit down and do busy work like compiling some FB posts, but my creativity is all wrapped up in the election a few days away.) I'm currently researching a new polling program. (I'll probably go with Google at this point––most of the "free" programs limit responses, and I'm not going to pay $20/month for access to something I use once every couple of months.) I'll be putting the poll up tomorrow in honor of spoopy Halloween.

Also, just as a reminder, I always take the week around an election off from blogging (I'm just a mess and my mind is DEFINITELY not on writing about writing), and this election in particular might require civil unrest to ensure the votes get counted. I'll be back as soon as I can, and hopefully that's the 5th or 6th, but there's every chance it might be the next week or longer depending on how this all goes down.

Well well well....

Get the ol’ AQI high enough (around 300+ish) and suddenly everyone braving the outdoors magically comprehends that the mask goes over your nose and that they won’t suffocate from having it on.

Imagine that.

Sweet Pea, the U.S. political attention span is not SO short that I don't remember the 33 Benghazi hearings to produce a 600 page report because "a politician's choice led to the death of four Americans, and I want some answers."

So if you're blowing off an audio recording of Trump literally saying he knew how bad it was before two hundred THOUSAND Americans died (up to 80% of whom every epidemiologist on Earth says didn't have to die if we'd worn masks, stayed home, flattened the curve, and invested in tests and contact tracing––all which could have been encouraged [rather than discouraged] without causing panic), you've told me everything I need to know about your (lack of) priorities, your (lack of) integrity, and your (lack of) character.

You don't need to say another word, Pumpkin. In a very Maya Angelou sense, you just told me who you are.

To any moderates still rationalizing their votes as purely economically motivated:

Please understand that when you boil down your complicated "economic anxiety" or stock-market-performance rationalizations for supporting someone you admit is doing legislative harm according to a guiding principle of bigotry, you have not exculpated yourself from that bigotry. You have not washed your hands. You have not set yourself apart from the party and the party's leader to whom you are giving power. You are not better than. 

No, all you have basically said is this:

"I can be paid off to look the other way while 'certain' people are hurt and killed, and that price is lower than you might think."

My respect for Trump voters is so low at this point that my respect for people who STILL HAVE RESPECT for Trump voters takes a pretty decent hit.

You WILL be governed.

And like it or not (I don't), you WILL be governed by one of two candidates and their administration. The idea that you have a third option is fanciful. 

And the decision as to which will govern you will be ENTIRELY made by people who show up and take part in the choice between those two. Entirely. 

If you don't show up, if you don't take part in that decision...it will still be made. 

For you.

By those who did.

If this "loser" thing damages Trump in some sort of real way, we should of course be grateful that anything could, but also never forget that literally no amount of racism, misogyny, transantagonism, or xenophobia could do what calling vets losers did.

Just a selfie that lots of folks liked. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Best CREEPY Dystopia (LAST CHANCE to Nominate or Second)

What is the best "something is very wrong here" Dystopia book (or series)?

Last chance to nominate or second a nomination that is there!

[Please remember that I am doing an easy week here on the blog that will be followed by some time off. (Hopefully a few days, but it might be longer.) This is all because of an incredibly contentious election here in the U.S., the high probability of civil unrest and possibly even street violence, and the certainty of a stressful few days. I'm resting up for the former and will take some time off after the later. If we're lucky it won't be ongoing civil unrest, and I'll be back to listicles about craft by the 5th or 6th.]

I'm taking tomorrow off instead of Thursday because that's the night my clients at my other job want me to do a sleep over to Nanny Up at baby o'clock in the morning, so you have until THURSDAY, and then I'm putting this poll together.

So for any of you who have ever said "How can this poll not have SOANDSO?!?", now is your very last chance. Get it on the poll and get it some seconds. Or forever hold your cliché.

Remember, I don't do that endless quarterfinals shit anymore.  At most, I will do ONE round of semifinals. So the 8-20 with the most seconds get on the poll. And if those "seconds" are technically thirds, fourths, or fifths, then that's what I'm doing. So get over there and second anything you want to see on the page.

Please pop over to the original page (very important) to leave a nomination or a second. (I need them all in one place. Plus that is where you can check out the rules if you're confused about why I want some dystopias but not others.

Remember, go to the original page or it won't count. Not a comment here. Not a comment on the Facebook post. Not Tumblr. THE ORIGINAL PAGE.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Screenplay or Novel? (Mailbox)

Should it be a screenplay or a novel?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox." 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. Even if the name of the game is easy, peasy, so quick it's sleazy.] 

K asks:

How do you know when what you’re writing should be a screenplay or a novel?

My reply:

Before I get into this question, full disclosure: I spent about 40 hours last week, over on NWAW, writing a post about voting, and then my nanny gig kicked in, so I deliberately looked through the hopper for the easiest question I could find, so I could set up this week to be just a little easier so I can recover from that. If anyone dropped a question when I put out the call (after my old computer died), I'm still going to hit those hard....and I'm still in need of MORE.

K, I'm going to assume that the first answer––the only answer that should matter––is a dead-heat tie between the two choices, but juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust in case that's not so, let me point at it as we drive by on our way to a couple of paragraphs about the conventions of different genres. 

You should write whatever you WANT to be writing. If you want to be writing a novel, don't let anyone tell you, "hey this should be drama/screenwriting, my good K." And if you want to write a screenplay, fuck the haters who say "K, sweetie, pumpkin, lambikins, oh love....I do believe what you have here should be a novel." The libraries of the world are filled with brilliant examples of one genre or another that maybe should have been something else but weren't. And frankly, the creativity required when a writer goes their own way is often the pièce de résistance that makes a work memorable.

If anyone tells you otherwise, yeet their haterade-sipping asses straight into the sun, K.

Okay, but let's assume you're right on the razor's edge of the fence. You absolutely don't have a personal preference. And as far as you can tell, your soul pulls in equal directions towards fiction or drama. 

I'm going to tell you the party line and I'm going to base it in no small part on playwriting and the conventions of the "drama genre" which tend to push into screenwriting even though screenwriters have more "tricks" they can use in film, and then I'm going to give you a little bit of homespun wisdom that I've learned from watching no small number of writers tackle (or attempt to tackle and fail spectacularly) this exact genre crossing over the years. 

I also want to make a disclaimer before I get into this. Screenwriting is its whole own thing. I know how to approach the writing end, which is why I'm talking a lot about playwriting and drama. I don't know much about cinematography, editing, or visuals. Many of the elements (like plot, conflict, resolution, structure, dialogue) overlap, but not all, and there is a limit to what I can say knowledgeably about screenwriting.

The party line has to do with the conventions of genre. For obvious reasons, plays (or film) will be extremely heavy on dialogue, and most of the plot revelations come out through people talking to each other, and in many ways the story "tells itself." Scenes are often longer (short scenes tend to be logistical nightmares), and almost all of your action takes place in only a handful of locations––simple locations usually in the case of theater. Movies can obviously be shot in exotic settings, but that tends to blow their budget. Some of the best plays, in their entirety, literally have ONE set. People just come and go over time. (All My Sons is two hours and change in the Keller's backyard.) And even in movies where the characters are "on the move," there are often simple outside establishing shots that lead to a scene inside a room or a tent or whatever. I mean of course you can't really do a car chase in a play..... You have a little more leeway for short action sequences than in a screenplay as you can do cuts and shots and such. Drama (on stage or screen) is a visual medium and leaves far less to the audience's imagination, but generally this is not in the hands of the writer who sticks with dialogue and some very sparse stage direction. Drama tends to be about moments and is very RIGHT NOW to the audience. You also really want to keep that shit economical. Audiences who will stay tuned in on anything but Hamlet, Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, or Titanic for more than two or three hours are rare. 

Fiction tends to be a less constrained genre. You have a lot of exposition in text, plot developments that come into the story through non-dialogue, short scenes, shifting locations. Dialogue, when it happens, tends to bracket the really IMPORTANT exchanges. All the action, as well as the settings themselves, must be described and not taken for granted. There is a narrator of some kind (even if it's omniscient and third-person) who is TELLING the story. You can go into characters' heads much more casually (you don't need everyone else to freeze and a spotlight to come up for a major soliloquy or have some weird voice over if you're on film). Fiction can be more distant and less immediate than drama. And you have much greater latitude for long works. It is massively unlikely you will ever see a Tad Williams quadrilogy as a stage production.

Here's the thing though, K. None of THOSE things can't be worked around by a clever writer. Really. You are probably already thinking of things like voice-overs or a book that was super heavy on the pedestrian dialogue. Or you're essentially imagining the "special effects." And lots of film spend gobs on sets or locals. All true. So here's a bit of homegrown advice, something I've learned from half a lifetime of watching people try to cross genres either for serious or just to try their hand at it. 

And this applies whether you're talking about screenwriting OR playwriting.

Are you willing to give up control to a director?

That's it. That's the ball game. Do you want to micromanage your writing or are you willing to give up creative control once your part is over?

If every single bit of dialogue has a stage direction (the stuff in italics) slipped in about how it's said, you should probably be writing fiction. If you have incredibly ornate descriptions of action, you should be writing fiction. Describe the setting in exquisite detail? Fiction. These are decisions a director will make, and they're not going to be thrilled to be pinioned by a writer. They create settings, block scenes, decide how lines should be delivered, and how to achieve effects. If you can't let go of all but the most significant stage directions ("pursued by a bear" or "Ari shoots Kate with a sniper rifle"), you probably want to stick with fiction. A director may even override your written stage direction, and you have no control over it. It's even possible (more likely with screenwriting than playwriting) that they'll edit out something you think is important––vital even––including whole scenes.

Conversely, if you are uninterested in taking on those descriptions of action, you might be better off playwriting. If you don't really care what the setting looks like, who is where in a moment, or who might get up and move to grab a glass of water. If you find yourself less concerned with the way lines are delivered and trust that someone will figure out how to deliver them powerfully, are okay being overridden, and if generally, you don't mind being the first step in a creative collaboration where you pass on your work to someone who might make any number of changes that you can't overrule, you are probably more suited to writing drama.

A really good literary argument that should maybe be its own post someday could be made for the fact that the director is a play's "narrator," who does all the work ahead of time so that the story tells itself, and in fiction there already IS a narrator who is telling the story. So if you are willing to give up your narrator, go with drama. If you are not, fiction. 

But I'm going to loop around to the beginning for this one because if you're not on the fence, you should do what you goddamn want to. It's your art.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Best CREEPY Dystopia (book or series)? Nominations and Seconds Needed.

What is the best Creepy Dystopia (book or series)? 

(Not "fight the power, RAWR!" Katniss/Tris but actually the more spooky ones [in honor of Halloween] where you very slowly realize something is terribly, horribly wrong.)

I don't normally post on Thursdays, but I ditched our usual update schedule, and spent the last three days working on an article over at NOT Writing About Writing on why leftists should abandon purity politics and go ahead and vote for Biden. So I figure I kind of owe you one over here.

Have you ever found yourself wondering why your favorite book is not on one of my polls? ("How can you have this category and not have X?? It's brilliant!") Weeeelllllllllll, it's probably because you didn't nominate it. Or you didn't get your pal to throw you a second. All of my polls are based 100% on reader nominations and votes. Only once in a while do I even invoke executive privilege and throw a book on there myself. Usually it's all you folks.

We've got a lot of great suggestions already, but for a really robust poll, we could use a few more. Please click over to the original page (very important) and drop your nomination. You can also find the rules there and any answers to questions about genre or what to do if you are having trouble leaving a comment in Blogger for whatever reason––plus how to bring attention to a great book that you think should be recognized and more people should read it, but maybe isn't what you would call "the best."

Remember, go to the original page or it might not count. Not a comment here. Not FB. Not G+. Not Tumblr. A comment on the original page.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Best Creepy Dystopia Novel (or series) NOMINATIONS NEEDED

What is the best CREEPY Dystopia book (or series)?

We need your nominations!

So I went to start up the nominations for a best horror poll in honor of Halloween (thinking it had been years) and I discovered that I had only just done that poll this last year. Well, we can't have best horror polls showing up annually just because they're timely, so I decided to do a slight variation on a theme.

Dystopian stories seem to come generally in two flavors. 

1- The world is deeply fucked up. Let me show you how fucked up it is and maybe Tris Prior or Katniss Everdeen will do some thrilling heroics to attempt to make it a little less fucked up. 

2- Everything seems fine........at first. But it isn't....oh hell is it ever not. And the longer you read, the more fucked up you realize things are.

This poll will be concerning itself with the second type. Not that the first type isn't fun, and we've even done a couple of polls over the years about them, but in the spirit of creepy and at least SLIGHTLY Halloweenish, we're turning to the second type for our poll. Unfortunately we won't have enough time to have the results of that poll on the 31st, but we will probably have a good list (and suggestions for some of your TBR lists). 

The Rules

  1. I have a special rule for this poll because of how niche the genre is (even though we're talking about hundreds of years). 
  2. Don't forget that you can nominate a book for the UNDERSUNG HERO nomination. Basically it is for books you think are great, tragically overlooked, but maybe not necessarily the BESTY bestest best. I will be listing these books along with the poll results. However, if you nominate a book for our poll it will not be considered for the undersung hero list and if you shout out something for an undersung hero, it will not be counted as a nomination for the poll. Someone else CAN nominate it. Think about this you want to give a book few seem to know about (but you know won't win) a shout out. 
  3. As always, I leave the niggling over the definition of genres to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. I'm not going to "police" the nominations. (I never do.) If you nominate Hunger Games, I'll Spock eyebrow and hope it get its ass kicked. But getting people to give you a second (nevermind win the poll) will require the book to stand on its own merits.
  4. You get to mention two (2) books (or series). That's it. Two. You can do ONE nomination for the poll and ONE UNDERSUNG HERO.  Or you can do TWO nominations. Or you can do TWO undersung heroes. But two is the total. If you nominate three or more I will NOT take any nominations beyond the second that you suggest. I'm sorry that I'm a stickler on this, but I compile these polls myself and it's a pain when people drop every single GD book they can think of that 1) they've read, 2) they like even a little, and 3) they can remember the name of. It is up to you how to divy your TWO choices. TWO.
  5. Did I mention two?
  6. You may (and absolutely should) second AS MANY nominations of others as you wish. THEY WILL NOT GET ONTO THE POLL WITHOUT SECONDS. You can agree with or cheer on the undersung heroes, but they won't "transform" into nominations unless someone else nominates that same book as "best" (and then they get a second). Also stop back in and see if anyone has put up something you want to see go onto the poll. 
  7. Put your nominations HERE. I will take nominations only as comments and only on this post. (No comments on FB posts will be considered nominations.) If you can't comment for some reason because of Blogger, send me an email (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) stating exactly that and what your nomination is, and I will personally put your comment up. I am not likely to see a comment on social media even if it says you were unable to leave a comment here. 
  8. You are nominating WRITTEN genre fiction, not their movie portrayals. If you thought The Handmaid's Tale was an awesome series on Amazon, but you found Atwood's writing difficult and prosaic (you heathen), then don't nominate the book.
  9. [The third, fourth, fifth, etc "second" rule.] This is probably well known by vets of this blog by now, but there will be no more endless elimination rounds to get a final poll of ten-ish titles. I will take somewhere between 8-20 best performing titles and at MOST run a single semifinal round. By "performing" I mean the seconds. So second the titles you want even if they already have one. (Yes, I guess that would make them "thirds," "fourths," etc...) The competition on this poll might be fierce. You may have to get your friends involved. Buy them a pizza. Make it real. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Quick Reminder

What this holiday celebrates is appalling and the whitewashing of history can get bent (particularly the administration's divisive message that anyone who wanted to bring some nuance to the table could fuck off), but I have my reasons for taking bank holidays off (fewer people are reading blogs), so I will see you all tomorrow.  

Take care. Try not to "discover" anything that already belongs to other people. 

Friday, October 9, 2020

Facing Down Failure (Mailbox)

How do you get past failure and get to the good stuff in writing?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox." 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 need MOAR QUESTIONS!!]   

Catherine asks

How does one get past all the failure involved to get to the good stuff? I love writing, but I also am terrified of failing because of my perfectionism. You have said in the past that writing is at least 50% failure. How does one "fail" productively? Preferably in a way that doesn't make one terrified of writing?

My reply:

I must have been having a really really good day, week, month, and year if I only said 50% failure. I mean I think I had a more realistic outlook at my 35th birthday, and that involved a threesome and some pharmaceutical-grade MDMA, so...I don't know what the hell was happening when I said 50%. May the good times roll again! 

There sure is a lot of question in this question, Catherine! Sorry that the answer gets a little long.

Honestly, most days I'm failing upwards. That is to say, I'm not hitting some goals, but I'm making forward progress on an overall objective. So I still get there, just not quite the way I envisioned. (Usually not as fast.) Did you know I was supposed to have a novel done three years ago? Yes. And a bunch of people HANDED ME MONEY to write said novel, so it's an extra embarrassing failure to be like three YEARS late and waiting for a vaccine so I can get out from under nannying so much and really get cranking on that first draft that isn't even half done. 

That. First. Draft.

Are you appalled? Right? There's some failure for you. And believe me, that's been a really tough one to handle as the years drift on.

Failure is the background radiation of most artists' existences. I can't think of a single artist I've ever personally known who's kept to a schedule for more than a little while or reached all their deadlines (external or self-imposed) or finished anything longer than a few-hour project––other than maybe freelance work––exactly when they thought they would. Certainly not any who I've read about (except maybe Stephen King on cocaine, and maybe we shouldn't get into that as a legit exception). In rare moments of success, we kind of leap forward, or we hit bellwethers that we ourselves have no control over (like reaching a million followers), and people tend to see those sorts of things as "success." But the truth is most artists (all?) are in a perpetual state of failure on some level even if it's their own unrealistic expectations. They've just learned a couple of things ABOUT failure...

See, whether ply their art as a day job or succeed in some other way that is genuinely meaningful to them, all artists who "succeed" have one thing in common: they never stop getting back up, dusting themselves off, and continuing forth. Failure is a crucible. A lesson. A teaching moment. But it wouldn't even occur to them that failure means it's time to pack it in. 

I don't like peeing in people's Cheerios, and I'm making ZERO assumptions about you, Catherine, but sometimes I see folks who I know are not trying because they know if they fail, that'll be it. They won't get back up. One failure will be the end of them and at some level they know that. They just want to pleasantly imagine their lives after success. 

But you have to get back up if you want to be an artist. You HAVE to get back up. 

Failing "productively" just kind of happens as you go. As often as I fail to meet a deadline (and it's a LOT), the thing I want to write eventually gets written. It just might be the next week or even the week after if I really hit maximum fail. The articles pile up, and people encountering the body of works I've written discover dozens, maybe hundreds of things they find compelling. Soon people are contributing to my Patreon. And my fiction lumbers along steadily. I have a friend in traditional publishing who is constantly failing at reaching her submission quota, her writing quota, her revision quota, and sometimes even her agent's deadlines. But the book gets written (late, but always eventually). Here and there, things are accepted. Slowly her career lumbers forward, and one day she has a (very modest) book deal. Then she's making juuuuuuust enough money to turn down a promotion and go down to part time so she can write more. She succeeds piecemeal despite failing constantly.

Not too many people actually ever get that "Are you sitting down?" phone call that is the stuff of narratives we love.

Did you know that I wanted to be a working writer by the time I was twenty? It's true. When that passed by, I adjusted it to twenty-five. Then thirty. Then thirty-five. Then forty. These were MAJOR goals I set for myself in life. Failures all. But I never stopped writing, and today I could technically eke out a living (even without a nanny side gig if I lived in a more affordable part of the country). That may look like a fantastic triumph and success to someone looking at my life from the outside, but for me, I blew an awful lot of personal goals along the way.

For artists, often it is our successes that don't feel real. They feel incidental. They feel like the moments that were either inevitable, and somehow trivial and unworthy of undue attention, or were undeserved splashes of fortune. We work on. The successes I SAVOR happen in the most unexpected hours: finishing a second post despite a double nanny shift or getting a political rant done with enough time left over on Sunday to play Spiderman on the PS4 until my eyes bleed. No one sees those triumphs. No one cares. They are quiet victories. But they are where my fist pumps happen.

That's my "good stuff," Catherine. That and simply writing every day without which I am kind of a cranky goblin emotionbomb. And maybe every once in a while that feeling of, "Holy shit, I'm doing it." You will probably have to determine for yourself what your own "good stuff" is and be realistic about how to get there. 

How do you fail in a way that doesn't make you terrified of writing? If I wanted to go for the "That-Can't-Possibly-Be-As-Deep-As-It-Sounds" answer, I would say something cryptic like "Let me know if you figure it out, because I'm always terrified." And people would say. "Shit. That's deep. He's SO FUCKING DEEEEEEEP!" And maybe I'd even score some chic intellectual girlfriend who smokes through a cigarette holder and can't even handle how deep I am. She would have an unidentifiable European accent and would––

But then I remember all the threesome jokes, and even if my chic cigarette holder Euro-girlfriend might be into threesomes, she probably wouldn't think the jokes themselves were DEEP!, and my dreams are dashed. So here's a slightly less deep, but possibly more useful, answer. 

Writing is kind of terrifying. You are going to take your thoughts, and through the alchemy of linguistics and some weird-ass shapes that we've all somehow agreed mean certain things, PUT THOSE THOUGHTS into another brain across time and space. There is nothing about the thought of what happens if you do that wrong that isn't just a little bit terrifying. But if you keep getting up and you let your failures guide you and shape you but never define you and never ever EVER stop you, then you don't have to be afraid. 

In fact, that's the way. You're about to go mud-wrestle life. If you treat it like "Oh shit. I'm going to get dirty," you're never going to make it. The minute you realize that the entire point is to get dirty and you absolutely ARE going to fuck it up, then you can relax and enjoy the ride a little. Failure shouldn't be something you spend a lifetime trying not to get on you.

There's a phrase you've probably heard bandied about in life or maybe in politics, but it's especially true in art: "Perfect is the enemy of good." I think art can get close to perfect. I think it can be so close to perfect that it takes another "maestro" to be able to perceive the imperfections. And even then, in many ways, I think the way we are imperfect as our skill grows is what makes us the most interesting artists. In many arts already, computers are capable of technically flawless performances, yet most trained artists do not find their work compelling in a human way. 

But no art gets close to perfect without a lot of failure first. With any art, of course, there are years of drills and practice, but even beyond that, each artist crafts a single artistic moment over and over to approach perfection. With performance art (music, theater), it's rehearsals. With visual artists, it is painstaking attention to detail. And with writers, it is revision. 

And so, so, SO many writers do not trust that revision. They are terrified of not being brilliant on the first go. They are terrified of mistakes. They are terrified of failure. They are terrified of the process. ("It's THE PROCESS," he said, clearing his throat before "the process" for emphasis.) They sit immobile in front of a blank page or screen because they are so afraid that they won't get it right. (Because of course they won't.) They know they'll have to revise, but they still don't TRUST that they will absolutely have to revise almost EVERYTHING. They keep thinking that if they nail it in one, maybe THEIR book won't be so messy. (There are some writers who actually can do this, but they are almost universally very, VERY skilled at their craft because of decades of experience.) 

If they truly understood how many times they were going to revise that first sentence, they wouldn't be so worried. If they understood that their end product wasn't going to look like their initial product, they would relax. They wouldn't be so terrified if they understood that failure wasn't the enemy of their craft, it was THE WAY THROUGH TO THE (NEAR) PERFECTION, they would just write the crappy sentence/story/book, and then revise it like polishing a stone until it's smooth and shiny. 

So figure out what your "good stuff" is, work towards it, and realize that failure isn't something to be feared or even avoided, but it's more like the crucible that will burn away the bullshit in you and your work––a fundamental part of every artist and their art. You don't get "past" it, you go straight THROUGH.

And that's how you do it, Catherine. Good luck!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Bottom of August Compilation

A collection of the best memes and statuses from Facebook over the period of Aug 16-Aug 31. Also, as a small reminder to everyone, at least until after the election, and probably until after Covid eases up on the throttle (and allows me to go do some of the activities that ameliorate my ADHD), I will be doing a LOT of my writing on my public Facebook profile. You're welcome to follow me there, or you can just wait here for the "greatest hits" compilation posts like this one, but until some of the things that have me in "panic mode" and shatter my attention span are a lingering memory, much of my writing comes in bite sized chunks and I just am not able to match my previous posting schedule.

I gotta tell ya, it takes a special level of political nihilism to see the USPS under attack (explicitly to suppress voting as stated by the leader of the GOP), Ukraine solicited to be part of a conspiracy to subvert a democratic election, Russian psyops (and with at least a few people, collusion?), Cambridge Analytica, disenfranchisement laws, voter ID laws, gerrymandering, and everything that the right wing (always, fucking ALWAYS, the right wing) is dedicating tens of thousands of hours and hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars towards, all while lying through their teeth the whole way about "fraud," to take the votes away from people... 

...and to conclude that voting can't make a difference. 

If votes didn't matter, they wouldn't be trying so, so, SO hard to steal yours.

Your friends on the west coast aren't just whining about fop sweat and swamp ass. 

This is the worst heat wave in 70 years (and we're already dealing with multiple fires that are only going to get worse and kill the air quality). Rolling blackouts are happening and more are promised as PG&E shuts down places where their equipment hasn't been upgraded, so they're at higher risk of fires. It's extra bad sauce over lightly seared double plus ungood with shaved yikes on top, all placed on a bed of baby "OOF!."

Plus places (like mine) that don't have A/C––because being next to the water means it isn't needed, 99% of the time––don't have the infrastructure to deal with sustained heat that is bad by 9am, lasts until midnight and goes on for days. Also, all the places one might go to beat the heat, like a pool or the movies, are like level eleven exposure threats for Covid-19. So we kind of just have to sit still and hope not too many people die––quite literally.

I can't tell you what will happen if lefties show up en masse, dominate the political discourse, crowd the DNC meeting so that the platform of the party MUST include more socialist items, force politicians to be accountable to the left, vote down ticket, and give a crap. 

When the democrats didn't sabotage the USPS
in order to rig an election that wasn't going their way, 
the claims that both sides are the
same became pretty facile. 
I can't tell you because it's never really happened before (at least not in my lifetime). Someone managed to convince a whole lot of us that we needed to carry our uncompromising activism ideology into mainstream U.S. politics. I sort of wonder if those who stood to gain from our apathy may have had a hand in it, but it makes people mad if you suggest they have ever in any way been influenced by anything other than their own preternatural perspicacity.

But AOC and "the squad" are an example of it in a few isolated districts, so I have some reasonably high hopes that it would be pretty fucking awesome.

What I CAN tell you is what happens if we DON'T show up, have miserable turn out in our demographics, disengage except for the flashy elections, demand unrealistic things that the country doesn't have the political will for (or we won't play), call the labor class folks who aren't seeing it our way "bootlickers," and when we do vote, we do so as IF we magically don't live in a capitalist country with a two-party system.

I can tell you that because I've had considerable experience with it. In election after election. Even though there are way way more of us than them.

The answer is nothing. Nothing will happen.

And more often than you might think, the answer is that even though there are WAY more of us than them, we will by inaction cede our power to the Republicans who will govern in a way that causes us demonstrably measurably greater harm.

So far I've asked three people [it’s now seven] to read both parties' platforms and tell me exactly which issues their "basically the same" is based on. 

One refused (you know why). [Now three.] Two are now voting Biden/Harris. [Now four.] Of those two, one didn't realize the GOP platform was so horrendous, and the other didn't realize the Democrat platform was so progressive. 

People just get into their narratives, and they don't even care if they're even actually right. Primary season righteousness is a hell of a drug.

When I think about all the people who would be absolutely DELIGHTED to see me not vote (or expend my vote for someone who cannot win)––the so-called alt right, Nazis, white nationalists, white supremacists, QAnon, the current administration, Russians, xenophobes, racists, homophobes, sexists, transphobes, maskholes, Betsy DeVos, Mitch McConnell, fascists, election stealers, evangelical Christians, Trump who equates opposition with hatred and wants me to stop opposing him being the king of America, folks who want to sacrifice the vulnerable to reopen the economy, those dillholes and their tiki torches shouting anti-Semetic slogans, voter suppressors, and just this unfathomably massive WALL of cishet white men telling me that bigotry is over, they really don't have any advantages, and to just shut up about it or they'll MAKE me......

When I think of all of them cheering me on, goading me to "fight the power" by abstaining......

...I get a little contrarian. 

My deadline to register to vote is Monday, October 19. Do you know yours?

If you're polyam and you ever get lost in the forest, start telling a story about BEING polyamorous. 

Almost instantly, someone will show up and say, "Oh, *I* could never do that!" Then just ask them how to get back to civilization. 

Don't worry. They'll show up. They always do.

The reason the DNC is okay losing the far left is because we demand they touch the third rails or we won't show up. The compromise, the money, and even the votes that WILL show up are in the center. Leftists will never drop enough dank memes that the power brokers have a crisis of conscience and abandon their entrenched power to left-wing populism, and the revolution that people love to talk up gets a lot of vulnerable people killed. 

What we actually have to do is the harder work. Less romantic. Less swell-of-music-and-it's-over-in-one-night. More long game of harm reduction while we DO THE WORK. What we need is a long, sustained ground campaign to win hearts and minds to our ideas. We need a thousand baby steps we don't find sufficient or maybe even acceptable.  But right now, we don't have those hearts and minds. Because we are acting like the ideas sell themselves. (They don't––at least not when most of the culture is somewhere to the right of center.)

Leftists are out here making absolutely damned sure people know we're NOT liberals (Oh nosiree!) We're calling the labor class bootlickers if they don't agree with us. When what we NEED to do is convince them why we're right. We need to SHOW them a better way. We're never ever ever EVER going to win until we HAVE all those liberals (that includes a violent revolution, bee tee dubs). All we'll be able to do is an endless cycle of harm reduction vs. purity politics and we'll be right back here in 2024 (if there's an election at all) just like we are right now despite 2016. 

But there is no yardstick, no bellwether, no indicator or barometer by which our goals and objectives would not be UNFATHOMABLY easier under a Democratic administration and infinitely, impossibly harder in the NEXT four years of Trump's America.

Democrats Are Not Just As Bad 

My own article from NOT Writing About Writing made the cut for one of my best posts. Seriously. It was like over sixty shares. My jaw hit the floor when I saw that.

If you can wake up, look at the news of a Black suspect shot seven times in the back while trying to break up a fight, and start scrambling to find reasons that he somehow deserved to be extrajudicially murdered by the state, but think that armed rioters shoving their way past state troopers in Idaho into a legislative session not being all killed is not just a DAZZLING display of white privilege, then you don't WANT to see it, and your motivated cognitive dissonance isn't something the world owes you to try and diplomatically massage away.

Just so everyone who told us it would never get to this point (well, that it would never get to a dozen points back, I believe is what they assured us we were being hysterical to suggest, actually)... 

Just so those moderates (and no small number of liberals) know…

The next step is that these people, who––I absolutely PROMISE you––so very very badly want to go **HUNT** some liberals (particularly BIPOC ones), organize, find a uniform of sorts, and ask Trump for the "official" nod of approval. (He has tacitly approved of them for years.) The official word will be that they're still subject to the law, but the cops will have their backs and a chummy relationship with them, and when these vigilanties gun down protestors with tacit approval from police and the state, we will witness same rush to exonerate and blame the victims.

And do you think the guy who has asked people to beat the crap out of protesters in the past and assured people soldiers would commit war crimes if HE ordered them to and sent police to do illegal things even while the brandy-sipping, monocle-wearing self-appointed constitutional scholars assured us, "He can't do that," is going to even PAUSE when handed the fealty of what is basically a "radical liberal" HUNTING party that suppresses protesters he doesn’t like, intimidates, voters he doesn't like, and puts the fear of protesting into those who would assemble that he doesn’t like...... Do you think THAT guy is going to consider this bad idea? 

And then we have Brownshirts.

My hair is getting so out of control!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Computer Death Strikes Again

So I try not to apologize these days for taking days off, especially since Covid. But this time I really do want to apologize. This week hasn't had any disasters, but I've repeatedly been dealing with the fallout from LAST week.

This week was already a special case since Monday, I had to write an overdue newsletter for my patrons (overdue because of all the broken computers and bullshit), and Tuesday I took as an admin day (that I needed because I was so far behind from a month of disasters and just trying to tread water). But there should have been a post today, and I basically just opened my computer to discover that what I thought was ready to go was on the dead computer. Not even the dead Mac (which might mean it got clouded) but the backup bandaid I was using for a couple of days that ALSO died. 

There's a tiny sliver of a chance I might make it up tomorrow, but in all likelihood, it'll actually be Friday. I have the text of it in a file so it'll be easier to format than starting COMPLETELY from scratch, but I still have to do a lot more than just fix some commas. Also all the images have to be reacquired and that's an hours-long process. 

At least my new computer is here now. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

Cannibalized for the Patrons

Hi folks,

Most of you know this, but once a month, I take a day off from blogging to write a newsletter to my Patrons

(Eight months a year it's the $3 Newsletter and 4 months a year it's the Inside Scoop, where I get a little more up close and personal, for my higher tier patrons.) 

These updates are closest thing I have to "exclusive content" and are just my tiny way of saying thank you to the folks who keep the lights on around here. And actually I'm already five days behind on September's newsletter, so I definitely need to duck out of today's post and go do some work behind the scenes. (I also need an admin day to catch up on emails and such so that's going to eat Tuesday, but those of you who've sent me email and PMs will finally get some answers.)

I'll officially hit the ground running on the regular stuff Wednesday with a LONG overdue compilation of FB gems. A mailbox on Friday. Oh and please send me more questions. I've only got about five right now and a couple of them are short answers. (They might combine to make a post, but they wouldn't be their own.) Depending on my other job and how it's going there might be something on Thursday and/or Saturday, but in the time of Covid, fires, and fascism, I'm unwilling to "commit."

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Best of July/August 2020

Just a quick reminder to my old timers and a point of order for anyone just tuning in that because of Covid-19, I'm being tapped about three times the hours I want or need as a nanny (since I'm the only one whose pod is just me). These are special kids and this is a special job, so I can't/won't/don't just say "smell you later" to my clients.

It cuts into the writing time pretty hard, though.

My current productivity means that I'm reliably only cranking out a couple of posts a week and twice a month, one of them is a compilation of things I've written on Facebook (also a temporary development during Covid). So for now, I'm only doing these "Best of" posts every two months instead of monthly. So this one is from July and August. 

Libraries vs. "Pay Authors" (....Wait. WHAT???)

There seems to be a misconception that you can do one or the other.

A Week Away From WAW

As the election approaches, I do more and more writing in other places, but for this particular week, I made it official. 

Writing about NOT Writing (Personal and Meta)

Sometimes it's the posts about how I'm really fucking things up that do the best.

Honorable Mention

Both of these posts are not what I would normally put as one of my "Greatest Hits" but both officially did better than the three above. One is an appeals post. (It's not going well. If you can help, that'd be great.) The other is one of those Facebook compilation posts that I think kicked particular ass because it's preview image was hilarious and it got a lot of reaction from folks who never even opened the link.

An Inescapable Fact (Personal, Meta)

Facebook Gems Top of June 2020