When the Right Words Don’t Come

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I can tell you right now what the biggest hinderance to my productivity (at least when it comes to writing) is.

No, it’s not my attention span, though that’s definitely what I complain about most loudly and most often (mainly because it’s so pervasive, even in other aspects of my life).

And it’s not lack of time either, though Lord knows I could use about three or four extra hours in my day just to get the basic neccessities taken care of.

No – even when I have the time to sit down, and I have the focus to brainstorm ideas and formulate imagery and characters and plot arcs, there’s still something that keeps me from actually commiting words to the page, and part of it involved being overly attached to my premises.

Whether it’s a poem or a short story, I tend to agonize over whatever my idea is; when I have an idea that I deem really good (which is not super often these days), I get tangibly excited, and ruminate (read: perseverate) on this idea for hours, days, weeks, building it up to the point where it becomes sacrosanct, and I’m afraid that if I actually try to write it, I will tarnish it in some way.

Suddenly, this idea that I came up with, that sprang from my mind, from my creative brain, is something that I, as a writer, do not feel equiped to handle; suddenly, I’m not good enough for it.  It is beyond my abilities to do it justice.

But, seeing that I also don’t trust anyone else to do it justice, I instead become fixated on writing it “right.”  On finding and committing only the “right” words to the page.

By this point, however, I’ve placed this idea on such a lofty pedestal that none of the words committed to paper feel right; none of them seem to really capture the depth and feeling and higher meaning of this idea. The paradox of being arrogant enough to consider any idea I generated to be such genius, and yet being self-depricating enough to feel wholly inadequate in my ability to translate that idea into the appropriate words, is exhausting.

And it is a surefire way to make sure that this “brilliant idea” never actually sees the light of day.

As I mentioned in my last post, my goals for this year include patience and perseverance, and above that, not conflating patience with procrastination.

It doesn’t mean waiting for the right words to come – the right words are the words that get it written. It means the quiet fortitude to work through my writer’s block and slog through the drudgery of a first draft. It means affording myself tenderness and compassion as I allow myself to write poetry and prose that feels stiff and stilted. It means not conflating constructive criticism with validation of my fears of not being good enough. It means allowing myself to rest when I’m genuinely running on empty, without feeling guilty, without presuming myself to be a failure.

It means making a repeated, conscious effort to remember that, yes, writing takes time, but the bulk of that time should be spent actually writing, not waiting for some sort of divine inspiration to guide my hand.

This is true for anyone reading this; anyone whose creativity is constantly at war with their self-doubt, and with the romanticized notion that art of any stripe springs forth fully formed.

Forget about the “right” words. The right words are the words that get your story told. They might feel wrong – it doesn’t matter. Put the “wrong” ones down. And then rewrite it. An rewrite it. And you will get closer and closer to the “right” words, every time.


Write, Create, Procrastinate, Version 2.0

I started using this blog proper in December of last year.  I had considered starting a blog about a dozen times since I’d finally severed ties with LiveJournal in April of last year, but I knew if I was going to “move on” from LiveJournal, I couldn’t just switch platforms.  I wanted to write more with an audience in mind; I wanted to write more conscientiously and with a bit more purpose, without wholly abandoning the conversational tone I loved about LJ in its heyday.

But finding a voice, and finding a purpose was harder than refining my writing for consumption.  I’ve had formal schooling in writing for a variety of audiences, so while it had been a while, this was a well-tread path that had simply become overgrown from lack of use.  Writing with a definitive purpose, over a long period of time – well, that was uncharted territory.

I’ve not done a great job of it, admittedly.  Many entries have been only a step or two above “what I did today” LiveJournal posts, and so few of them were actually about art, or writing, or any of the other creative projects that I had intended to use as content fodder.  In addition, I had amassed the bulk of my followers during a NaNoWriMo 2016 Blog Hop under the pretense that I was a “writing blog,” though I don’t think I fully understood at the time what I even meant by that.

This blog is not about writing.  It has post about writing – writing might even be thought of as a recurring theme – but this blog is not about it.  I don’t post tips on being published, or on writing snappy dialogue, or on industry trends, or the pros and cons of small-press versus self-published.  This blog is not about writing.

It’s about me.

I wrote a post, now longer ago than I would like to admit, that addressed the (maybe taboo?) idea that I am ostensibly a writer on WordPress who does not want to be a writer (at least not professionally).  It’s taken me longer to realize that, honestly, I don’t want to be a blogger, either.  I just want to have a blog.

There are people who pour their hearts and souls into creating a “brand” for themselves, and marketing that brand to an audience.  They corner a niche and create content.  They utilize social media to network and gain popularity and (end game) monetize.

That’s awesome – I’m not going to criticize that.  That’s so, so cool, that that’s even an option now, than someone with a computer and enough ambition can make a name for themselves.  I’m not going to begrudge anyone that.

But maybe that’s not what I’m looking for.  Maybe I thought it’s what I should have been looking for.  Maybe I thought that’s all that was out here, outside my cozy little haven of LiveJournal, the quirky little community of people I literally grew up chatting and commiserating and BSing with.  Maybe I thought that once I left that little corner of the internet, there wasn’t anyone else out there looking for what I was looking for – glimpses into other people’s lives.  The mundane details.  The creative pieces they were proud of, sporadic and infrequent as they maybe.  Silly lists full of praise for pop cultural ephemera.  Interesting things they’d learned.  The venting of grievances, leading to a catharsis.

I want to post about my life.  Maybe that’s thoughts on writing – the process, the pain.  Maybe that’s the end product of said process – the stories and poems.

Maybe it’s anecdotes about my son.  Maybe it’s the hard-won lessons of parenting.

Maybe it’s gushing about how awesome Bob’s Burgers was last season .

Maybe it’s a guide to the greatest movies of my childhood, and where you can find them online (psst, YouTube is amazing).

Maybe I just want a space where I can write about me, again.

I started this blog in December of last year as an incentive to write more, then censored myself at every turn by telling myself that the things I wanted to write about – my daily life, my silly little loves (of which – hoo boy – there are many) were not in-line with the “brand” of blog I wanted to “market” this as.  As a result, I stagnated.

So I’m taking myself off the market.  I am brandless.  I am not here to sell myself.

I just want to make a connection.  I just want to talk.

Reaping the Rewards of Rebellion


So NaNoWriMo began today (wait, where did October go?) and like great swaths of the blogosphere, I am once again trying my hand at penning the Great American… Short Story Collection.

Yeah, oops. While I respect those WriMos who personally hold the “novel” part of National Novel Writing Month as sacrosanct, I’ve had fifteen years worth of experience to inform me that, hey, maybe writing a novel just isn’t for me. As someone who both has tastes and talents better suited to shorter fiction, as well as a distaste for the (somewhat elitist) attitude that the novel, as a form, is somehow superior to all other types of writing, I have decided to shirk that particular aspect and focus on just getting to (and hopefully surpassing) 50k of literary short fiction.

If your ambition is to write a novel this month, awesome. If your goal is to challenge yourself to penning an epic work, congrats. But for me, NaNoWriMo is simply the one guaranteed time each year when I am allowed the opportunity to be wholly, self-indulgently creative; it’s the one time each year I find myself actually and reliably producing something. I see no need to miss the opportunity – and the social camaraderie that works so well as a motivator – simply because my 50k is destined to be spread across three or four narrative instead of one.

Plus – and I speak only for myself, but perhaps other rebels will chime in – there are other benefits to rebelling, as well.

1.  It’s harder to write yourself into a corner. (Not impossible, but harder).

Long-form fiction generally has multiple narrative threads, and while an ambitious (and talented) short fiction writer may well be able to incorporate numerous plot threads into their story, there seems to be less of an expectation to do so. Short fiction, in general, adheres to a singular theme or event; even when narrative events occur out of chronological order, they still tend to orbit one central theme. It kind of follows naturally that a single ploth thread is much harder (though not impossible) to tangle, compared to a novel that must carefully interweave numerous plotlines while reaching a joint and satisfying ending (speaking of endings: I find that ambiguity and ambiguous “resolutions” are much more tolerated in short fiction than in novels, over all. Just saying).

2.  You don’t have to make those impossible choices about which plot bunny to chase down the rabbit hole.

I see the complaint on the forums all the time: the minute you sit down to write your NaNoNovel, a hundred other plot bunnies (none of them your wily NaNo Bunny) come hopping out of the forest of your mind, all cute and cuddly and ready to be written. Ugh, did you make the right choice? Should this be the story you should be devoting your time to this month? Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could just write the story that comes to you in the moment? Well, if you opt to rebel, you can. Hell, you can start a new flash fiction story every time you sit at the computer, if you’d like. If you are open to doing something beyond the boundaries of a traditional novel, no plot bunny is every a distraction – they’re just more fodder for your word count.

3.  When you hit a block in one story, there’s always another one you can start and/or add to.

Sometimes, it’s not even really about doubting whether or not you chose the wrong plot, or the temptation of a shiny new story idea pulling your away from your novel. Sometimes, things are going well, you’ve got into a groove in your story, pieces are falling into place, and then you just – stop. You reach a sticky bit of plot, or a character just isn’t sounding right, or your outline didn’t cover a particular turn your story organically (but unexpectedly) took. Maybe you step away, take a break, have a snack resolve to look at it with fresh eyes. Maybe you sit there and rewrite sentence ten times before you ragequit for the night. Maybe, you lucky duck, you can just power through it, and if you can, congratulations. But for some of us, hitting that roadblock and having to step away from writing for any significant amount of time means a loss of momentum, especially if you don’t write regularly throughout the year and November is an attempt to build a habit. If you’re writing multiple stories, there’s always one you could start or add to while the one vexing you is sorting itself out in the back of your mind.

4.  You’re more likely to emerge with a finished product, even if you don’t hit the 50k.

I look at NaNo,even my NaNo failures, as generally positive experiences. I usually have fun, and I often enjoy looking back and rereading what I’ve written in previous years. But I have to admit, it feels so, so much better to have a completed product at the end of the month, and honestly – and again, I speak only for myself – it doesn’t much matter it that product is a novel or a couple of short stories. The reality is, once the adrenaline of November wears off, once my calendar hasn’t been cleared and I don’t have the camaraderie of my NaNo friends to spur me on, there’s good chance that my project is going to languish in whatever state it’s in on December 1st into perpetuity. I’m not proud of that, but that’s reality, and I know from experience that while NaNo is always fun, it’s far more satisfying to have actually finished something – or a few somethings – in November.

5.  You can expand on those half-formed story ideas without having to pad to reach 50k.

Some people get ambitious in November and spend weeks or months planning and plotting epic adventure stories with an A, B, and C plot, a romantic side plot, a massive and eclectic cast of characters, and a fully-fleshed out fantasy world, and to them – I salute you. You are genuinely awesome. But while I have definitely made valiant efforts towards planning over the years – and while I have sometimes even been fairly successful at developing a decent plot and cast of characters – I have a lot of fun ideas that would take a hell of a long time to expand into novels, but would make great little vignettes or free-form poems or flash fiction. Sometimes, I want to use the momentum of November to finally pen those scenes that live in my head, no padding, plotting, or world-building required – just sitting down and writing what’s in my head, just to see how it looks on paper. Just to get it out there.

In the end, I fully believe there is no wrong way to NaNo. If the event moves you to write, then it’s done something wonderful, and I think at this point, we all need something wonderful in our life.

LadiesCon and My Creative Self

This past weekend I went to a new-to-me (and over-all relatively new) con called LadiesCon, held by The Ladies of Comicazi at the Sommerville Armoury.  It’s lamentable the first con I’ve managed to make it to since Arisia this past January, despite my best intentions to get to Boston ComicCon (I almost, almost, almost made it this year!  It fell a week after Friendcation, though, which ate up a sizeable chunk of my budget, so I thought it’d be best to hold off on BCC one more year.  But, I digress).

LadiesCon had the effect that every convention in my con-going life has had on me, and that was the overwhemling desire to be more active in both the fannish and creative communities, and the overlap between the two.

The focus of LadiesCon was on female, LGBTQ, non-binary, and POC creators and indie artists.  As someone who falls at the crossroads of a few of those labels, I was thrilled to be among people who have been able to make a commitment that I am still working towards – a commitment to being their authentic artistic selves.  The variety – stylistically, thematically – of media present was a testement to the diversity within our communities.  There were sprawling space operas comix series, supernatural feminist steampunk novels, Lovecraftian-inspired jewelry, chainmail, knitting, handprinted micro-zines about growing up queer, and standalone visual novels about lesbain mermaid superheros.   Art styles varied dramatically, as did production values, but it was clear that every piece present was a true passion project, and choosing what to purchase (on a super tight budget) was an over-whelming experience that manifested intself in a legitimate anxiety headache.

I set out at the start of this blog – now almost a year ago – with the intention of track goals and chronicling the progress of my ambitions.  This has not turned out exactly as I had hoped.  I’ve been busy this year, and more social than typical (which was a goal in and of itself, and which I can’t actually complain about), but I have accomplished far less than I had intended to at the start of this year.  In the last few weeks, I have gotten better at this, but I have so, so far yet to go.

I need to find what I love to create, and I need to accept the fact that it doesn’t have to be any number of pre-conceived notions I have of art.

It doesn’t have to have a “deeper meaning.” It can be silly and kitschy and exist solely for it’s own aesthetic sake.

It doesn’t have to be thrilling and bombastic.  The best graphic novels I read in the last few years focused of very quiet slice-of-life and coming-of-age moments.

It doesn’t have to be polished.  People were snatching up those handprinted zines because of the the ideas inside of them, not because they hade really glossy covers or nice binding.

It doesn’t have to sound/look/feel like what everyone else is doing.  People will consume what I create if I create something that resonates with them.  There are billions of people in the world.  I don’t have to speak to all of them.  I need only speak of myself, and someone out there is bound to say, “hey, me too.”

This was LadiesCon’s second year, and I already eagerly await their third – hopefully including more panels (and a second day, which I know is really asking a lot, but I can hope??)  The next con I’m attending is the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo on October 22nd, and then nothing, lamentably, until Arisia in January.  

Hopefully I can that one, at the very least, as someone already immersed in the culture of creation.

I May Have a Dollar Tree Problem

There are two things you should know about me right off the bat:

1.  I have elevated the act of on-line procrastination to a high art, and

2.  I have a borderline pathological obsession with the Dollar Tree.

These are essential points to understanding how I have wasted a sizeable chunk of my allotted monthly budget and most of my waking hours over the last two weeks watching Dollar Tree haul videos and making “little stops” at Dollar Tree.

Since our move in the Spring of 2016, I am now a three minute drive away from our local Dollar Tree, and honestly this has been both the best and the worst thing that has happened to my life.  I grew up more or less without money; my parents worked to put us through school (putting three kids through private prep school costs just as much as you’d imagine), so I grew up with a deep respect for good bargains.  I never quite understood friends – and there were quite a few of them – who turned their noses up at flea markets, thrift stores, dollar stores, and their ilk.  Meanwhile, I trawled clearance racks and secondhand stores to cultivate whatever look I was currently into, and was smug but silent at their inevitable compliments.  It made me love my little hobby even more, knowing I could be the envy of my friends while spending nearly nothing.

I’ve got friends breathing envious sighs at one day hoping to furnish their homes at Anthropologie.  I dream of the day where I purchase and upcycle all my decor from Dollar Tree and the local thrift shop.

So, it was inevitable that I eventually stumble upon Dollar Tree haul videos.  I dont even know where I found my first one – I’m a member of a Dollar Tree craft group on Facebook, so there’s a decent chance someone posted it there – but I’ve been watching them obsessively ever since.  They combine a few of my favorite things – the strangely voyeuristic pleasure of essentially looking in someone else’s shopping cart, the thrill of finding good bargains, and the challenge and reward of buying something cheap and tranforming it into something that looks like it cost a premium.  My favorite channel so far is Bargain Bethany (I think she’s cute as hell, has a good sense of humor, and I like a lot of her aesthetic (even the super “girly” ones, which might not be for be, but are things I could gift to friends and family), but I’m trying to find some other worthy channels to subscribe to (I know they’re out there, I’ve just spent too much time watching all of Bethany’s videos to do any real digging).

The problem with the Dollar Tree addiction is, “only a dollar” is “still a dollar,” and even those singular dollars add up.  It’s taking more will power than I’d care to admit not to go there and blow through half my monthly budget on the first day, but I’m doing my best.  As far as vices go, it’s probably less costly than most.  And it leaves you with a lovely tableu for your corner table.

I’m always on the lookout for good DIYs to tweak and incorporate into my home.  Anyone have any videos or websites to recommend?

Writing Without Being a Writer

I sometimes feel like an outsider.

Scratch that; most of the time I feel like an outsider, but in this particular instance, I feel like an outsider even within the community I am ostensibly a part of.

I’m a writer.  But I don’t want to be a writer.  As in, I don’t want to write as a career, or rely on writing for my primary source of income.  I don’t want to quit my day job and devote my time to novels and stories and poetry.

I  like being a hobbyist.  Weird, right?

I used to think I wanted to write full time.  I used to think that was what I wanted to do with my life, before The Thing Inside of Me reared it’s head, but even discounting the Thing, forgetting about the struggles I have with writing now, I just… really love what I do for a living.

How blessed is that?  How incredibly lucky am I?  I stumbled into this job a year after college, and it has become an almost decade-and-a-half long career that I not only enjoy, but in which I am shown respect and given value, and at which am good — I mean, genuinely good.  So many people long for what I have, why would I give it up?

Especially when my work is not at odds with my writing.  I can write on my downtime at work, I can write when I come home (I’m out of work at 2:30), I can write on the weekends.  And I can write for myself, for pleasure, for the joy of writing, because I have no pressure to make a sale, or meet a deadline, or please anyone else, really.

And that’s not to say that I can’t write with purpose.  I can write a targeted article for a publication or a poem for a ‘zine.  I can shop pieces around.  I will never make a living at it or be “big,” but that’s not an aspiration I have any longer.  Open mics and local events are good enough for me.  Small blog zines and pamphlets passed around at cons are fine.  I respect people who make the dedicated push to be a writer as a full-time occupation – it’s demanding, and difficult, and requires a huge amount of devotion, patience, and courage – but I don’t share that ambition.

But that also doesn’t mean I’m not a “real” writer.  I’m not a “professional” writer, sure; that accolade is reserved for people who have made that commitment.  But I’m still a writer, so long as I write.  My work is capable of having just as much merit as anyone else’s.  My work – the actual writing produced – is not necessarily lesser just because it is not borne of a full-time writing career.

I’m young.  I’m also the primary breadwinner in my family at the moment, with a mortgage, a young child, and a job that I love.  Maybe, someday in the future, when those situations shift and change, my attitude towards pursuing writing as a career will likewise change, and I will take the leap.

But that does not mean what I produce before then is worthless.  It doesn’t mean I am lesser.  And it shouldn’t mean that I don’t belong in the community.*

*To be clear, no one in the blogosphere has ever said to me, “you don’t belong.”  This is entirely an internalized sense of misplacement based on the fact that almost everyone I run into online has aspiration to be a professional writer, and I don’t.

Queer Creators and Creative Decisions

This is a mostly personal blog; I write about my life, my opinions, my experiences.  I sometimes use sweeping, expansive language – “you” and “we” – but in the end, I really only speak for myself.

I’m not the sole representative of my identities.  I can’t speak for.  

But I can speak as.

So I say this as a queer creator: stop calling queer creators “homophobic” for not creating or canonizing a queer relationship.

A lot of this comes down to nuance: I fully believe that media is something to be critiqued and analyzed.  And if a queer creator puts forth a particularly unflattering depiction of an LGBT character, then that is perfectly acceptable fodder for discussion and critique (is he well-rounded but unlikable?  Is he a villian whose “depravity” is accentuated by a “deviant” sexuality?  Is he a generally likable but “camp” and stereotypical gay character? How do such portrayals affect mainstream perception of queer lifestyles?  Can an unlikable but realistic queer character be a humanizing and positive thing?  All things worthy of analysis and criticism).

Also, if a queer creator has NEVER had a queer character or relationship represented in their work, that is also worthy of discussion – why might that be?  Internalized homophobia is a real thing, and heteronormativity is pervasive in our culture, which does impact and influence what even queer creators put forth.  Those influences and circumstances are likewise worth talking about, analyzing, and critiquing.

But here, I’m speaking of critiques of social trends, individual decisions, particular portrayals.  To lay a blanket statement over a person, and to affix them a label as hefty as “homophobe” – especially a queer person – based on a creative decision is invalidating an disrespectful to them, both as a queer person and as a creator.

I write a lot of queer characters.  Like, a lot of queer characters.  My first stories written with any dedication were transformative fiction based on the musical/book Les Miserables, and they played with the idea of Grantaire and Enjolras as gay characters.  Since then, most of my poetry is written in a queer voice, and about half of my prose fiction (more in the most recent years) have protagonists who are queer or trans.

But that does not mean I owe my readers solely queer characters into perpetuity.  That does not mean if a character comes to me, as they sometimes do, more or less fully concieved, that I am going to shoehorn in an LGBTQ identity solely in the name of representation.  Sometimes I will write a story, and the main character will be a cishet woman who falls in love with a cishet man.  This does not diminish my identity as a bisexual genderqueer person.  This does not devalue my previous contribution to queer literature (…in so much as any of my doggrel can be construed as “literature”).

Be critical of creative choices, that’s fine.  Be analytical regarding media portrayals of your identities, of how heteronormative culture affects the media we consume (and how the media we then consume feeds back into heteronormative culture).  Question why creators make the choices they make.  Even call the choices offensive, if they strike you that way.

But the choice of an LGBT author to not to include an LGBT character or relationship in a particular work is not by itself an act of homophobia, it is a creative choice.  We are entitled to those.  And you are entitled to be critical of them, of course.

But be careful when leveling accusations of homophobia at other queer creators.  That is not a critique of our work, that is a accusation leveled against our ethos and our identity, and that’s not a weight we carry lightly.

NB:  A queer person can certainly portray a queer identity poorly, especially one they do not share.  I have heard some nasty things from gay men abput lesbians, about bi folk from monosexual queer folk, about trans people from cis queer people, etc.  It’s not that queer folks can’t make choices that are, in some way, divisive or anti-queer.  Just that  the act of writing about not queer people isn’t itself “anti-queer.”