Tag Archives: writing

Exhausted By the Weight of Joy

25 Jun

They say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” which is dumb AF. Do what you love and if you’re lucky you’ll work all the time, because your work and your play will blend seamlessly into a bizarre, exhilarating tornado until you collapse, exhausted by the weight of joy.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, except this. Vulnerability is terrifying, and I avoid it. But there are four times I can’t hide, when I can’t help but reveal my deepest insecurities: when I’m writing a story; when I’m very drunk; when I’m laying in Chris’ arms; when I’m standing on a stage.

Tags I Used On My Livejournal…

15 Dec

…which I wrote in regularly from late 2003 to 2011, and periodically from 2012-2014:

b/c i’m a drama queen
a joke without a punchline
a lament for gandalf
actory things
actually important
and another thing
and now you’re even older
assuage my vanity
blog like it’s the end of the world
broken link is broken
bullshit in the comments
buy my love
calvin rejects your reality
chris
clean all the things!
congratulations on embarrassing yourself
costume the world
cystgate 2010
delusions of grandeur
dragon*con
drunk post should not drive
existential crises
familial things
footnotes have vitamin b
funnier in hindsight
garf
get to the fucking monkey
god gold and/or glory
home invasion for fun and profit
home is there the cats fart
i already have a penguin
i can has cheezburger?
i don’t know you
i dreamed a dream
i fucking love books
i used to do technical shit
i wish i was a bear
ice cream with your woe cake?
inappripriate fannish behavior
injokes i no longer understand
ironic use of valley girl speech
it’s all about me
it’s alright
judging your grammar
just a pinch
living in a cellular phone world
luigi my dear friend
m
marching band
memes
miss scarlett has returned to tara
mixes
money money money
mostly in the comments
my allergies let me show you them
my friends are better than your friends
my latest reason for outrage
mysteriously blank post is mysterious
nano
obligatory holiday postings
one does not simply walk into macon
oops
people dying everywhere
planes trains and automobiles
posts of a scholarly nature
quizzes
quotes
recommendations
ren fest
reviews
roflcopter fuel
rpgs
samwise leaves for valinor
scarby
scarily accurate quizzes
sick yea unto death
snowpocalypse 2011
sometimes i injure myself
song lyric posts are for losers
stop whinging!
taking fiction too seriously
the day i got legolas
the way a sunburn should be
this is for science
to-do lists i might have finished
turn of the year
we no longer date for a reason
wedding
what has 2 thumbs & doesn’t give a crap?
working hard for the money
writer’s block
writing
wtf was i babbling about?
yay i’m a llama again!
you stopped talking to me
young lust

Achieving Stuff II: The Search for Perspective

5 Dec

I have a ton of things on my to-do list today, and none of them are “write a blog post.” Then again, none of them are “organize pictures in downloads folder,” either, and I’m definitely doing that, so what’s a to-do list in the grand scheme of things, really?

I’ve been thinking about accomplishments.

A friend of mine graduated this summer, and I gave her a sketchbook with a little note that said something like “Your productivity does not define your worth.” I don’t remember the exact wording, but that was the sentiment, and it’s one that I’ve often expressed to her and to other friends. Of course that’s easier said than believed, and what’s sauce for the goose you like is not necessarily sauce for yourself when you don’t like yourself (that got away from me a bit), but I stand by it. Even for myself. Mostly. Sometimes.

Ok, though, maybe I don’t? Not really. I’ve spent most of my life believing I am lazy and  the worst. I’m 90% sure I have some kind of attention disorder, and who knows? Maybe in 2019 I’ll finally talk to someone about getting that checked out. Have I suspected this for several years? Sure. Have I been putting off seeking diagnosis because I’m secretly terrified that they will say “no, you’re just a lazy bitch and your inability to focus is a moral failing”? Yes, obviously, but that’s not the point. The point is: to combat this feeling of “you accomplish nothing, you are worthless” I’ve started keeping lists of what I’ve done every day, because otherwise I am likely to forget it. Come on: if a woman cleans the bathroom but doesn’t write “cleaned bathroom” down on the back of a crumbled envelope, did it even happen? So in the spirit of “I forget things,” what have I accomplished in 2018?

Well, I co-created four really great Dragon Age costumes. This blog started as a costume blog, and one might think I would have discussed that process here, but I was busy freaking the fuck out all the time and never got around to it. Anyway, my friend E and I put these together over several months this spring and summer. She made the armor, and I made the clothes, which means I custom dyed (it’s a mix! of two! different! dyes! and it took me! four! weeks! to arrive at this particular! shade! of video game blue!) and patterned all this fabric shit.  These costumes were hard as fuck. They took hundreds of hours. We cried a lot and wound up hurting and exhausted and deliriously happy. I’m enormously proud of both of us, as well as these pictures by YouAreRaven.

 

I finished a short-novel-length piece of Dragon Age fanfiction. It’s just under 75k words, mostly original characters, and yes it’s fanfiction but you know what? I finished it. I started and finished a goddamned long-form piece of fiction for the first time in my life. Like, I finally learned how to do that. Do you understand how big an accomplishment this is for me? Do I understand that? I’ve been scribbling away at stories for 20something years and can count the number of Beginning-Middle-End Finished Pieces on two hands. What’s more, I posted it. Like, for strangers to read. And it’s pretty goddamned good, if you like that sort of thing.

At some point I finished the rough (very rough) draft of a female-driven fantasy novel I’ve been working on since late 2013. There’s still a long way to go on this one, but the skeleton and the muscles are there and we’re moving steadily towards the tendons and skin and…nerves? what other pieces of a body fit into this metaphor? I’m working on what could be called the second draft now. It’s slow going, but it gets better with every change, whether big or little. I’m learning how to organize and work through this process. It’s sitting right around 100k words. It has a title. It has a beginning and an end and most of a middle. And it’s pretty goddamned good.

Around Memorial Day weekend I started a female-driven urban fantasy novel that I’m about 61k words into. It’s pretty goddamned good so far. It’s looking like a trilogy. And I wrote some more short stories and creative nonfiction, some original and some fanfiction (Mass Effect and Rogue One and more Dragon Age, because this is who I am), some for public consumption and some for practice. I started referring to little throwaway snippets as “practice” rather than “a waste of time, God biscuit what is wrong with you” and I stopped thinking of writing as a chore and started treating it as a thing that gives me joy, because that’s what it is. I have started seeing a future in it–a for real future, an honest to God path forward. I have started doing research for What Comes Next. I have started making tentative plans.

I did an entire season playing music on stage in a duo at the Georgia ren faire, and then I did an entire season playing music on a stage solo at the Carolina ren faire. Not every set was perfect. I was nervous as hell. I forgot words, I forgot chords, I chickened out of some of the harder stuff, I cried after some sets, but I smiled and I sang and I kept going and I persevered. I never missed a set. I practiced all the time. I challenged myself and learned new things. I am infinitely better at the guitar than I was this time last year. I got roped into performing in a last-minute show at the fringe festival a week after the Georgia faire closed, and despite a laundry list of obstacles, I pulled it off. I performed several other places. I’m looking for more. I entered some contests. I’m entering some more.

I dealt with constant pain in my back, knees, and elbows, and intermittent pain in my left ovary for almost the entire year. I forgave myself for that pain, I let myself get treatment, and I forgave myself for getting treatment. I forgave myself for a lot things that shouldn’t need forgiveness. I started wearing knee braces and using my inhaler when I need them, not just when I need need them. I kept up with my hair color. I flossed. I spent a lot of time strengthening my marriage and friendships. I promoted my friends. I promited myself a little. I voted. I protested. The world is a garbage fire, but I’m doing stuff.

This time last year I had no idea where I was going, except that it would have to be better than where I was. This year I have almost stopped telling myself that I am a worthless procrastinater who never finishes anything.

So that’s what I’ve accomplished in 2018. In 2019 I’m going to really work on that “getting my hair trimmed regularly” thing.

Because WordPress won’t let iframes work unless you pay them, this year’s Intention Playlist can be found here.

Diego Luna Owes Me New Panties: The List of Five, the Female Gaze, and the Politics of Desire

2 Nov

I recently read for the second time at Atlanta’s Bleux Stockings Society, which is a live lit series featuring female and nonbinary voices. This month’s theme was “attraction.” 

There is a concept in some monogamous relationships called the List of Five. The idea is that each of you have a list of five people, typically celebrities, that you are allowed to sleep with, guilt-free, should the opportunity arise. I don’t know where this idea originated or where I heard of it, but I this it’s a cute exercise and I’ve had one for ages. Since this a show about attraction, here it is.

Diego Luna

20181102_131705

I discovered Diego Luna in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. I’m not proud of that, necessarily, but I’m not ashamed either. Discovering Diego Luna in the Cuban-revolution-era sequel to Dirty Dancing is like meeting your significant other online prior to about 2005. Nowadays your grandma is on Tinder and Diego Luna was in Star Wars, but once upon a time we didn’t talk about where we met our partner, or where we first discovered Mexico’s most beautiful export.

I have a lot to say about this man but only 7 minutes, so let me just sum up: there is nowhere on earth I would not be willing to have sex with him. On a beach, in a hotel, under the sea, in an actual coffin, on the moon, in a stadium bathroom, I really don’t care, I would fuck him anywhere in the universe, Diego, do you hear me? Call me.

Diego Luna is the only person who has been on this list since its inception.

Tom Hardy

20181102_131719

Speaking of Inception, did you know that Tom Hardy is in Marie Antoinette? He totally is, and he looks just as good in 18th century French attire as he does in a suit or whatever he’s wearing in that movie where he’s a convict.

Tom Hardy recently bumped Joseph Gordon-Levit off this list, so if JGL wants to join, and they want to engage in a little Arthur/Eames roleplay, which I like to believe they do anyway, I’m totally into it.

Chris Evans

20181102_131737

Not only is he doing his level best to live up to Captain America’s mantle in his public life by calling out institutional -isms and vocally supporting good causes, his shoulder-hip ratio is the perfect demonstration of the inverted Dorito shape. I once saw him call President Trump a liar on Twitter, and it caused me to spontaneously ovulate.

Sebastian Stan

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I have watched a couple of truly embarrassing movies because this man is in them. In one of them he’s a witch! And another guy punches him, and Sebastian Stan looks up from the punch sort of smirking like [here I demonstrated my best attempt at a sexy smirk] and it’s just OH MY GOD.

Daveed Diggs

20181102_131727.jpg

Other than his ability to spit rhymes, I have little evidence to support my theory that he is great at dirty talk, but I believe in the scientific method and I would be willing to test my theory over and over and over again until the scientific community is as satisfied as I am.

Speaking of science, here’s a scientific fact: when Daveed Diggs smiles, the sun goes dim, realizing it has been tragically outclassed, yet the amount of light in the solar system remains the same.

The List of Five is ever-evolving. If you’d like to see some of the people taken off the list over the years, see me after the show.20181102_131646

[image reads:

  • Ryan Reynolds – plantation racially insensitive AT BEST + Deadpool sucked
  • Ryan Gosling – grew gross mustache for that movie I didn’t see
  • Kaidan Alenko from the Mass Effect video games – turns out he is not real :( 
  • Kara Thrace from Battlestar Galactica, Eomer from The Lord of the Rings, Tor from The Hero and the Crown – same problem
  • Steven Tyler – leftover crush from childhood. PROBLEMATIC AF
  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson – still would, but ONLY in Quicksilver costume from Age of Ultron
  • Seal – I would be overwhelmed with feelings and cry the whole time
  • Keiffer Sutherland – it is no longer 1987; he no longer looks like he did in The Lost Boys
  • Jason Momoa – eyebrows are more expressive than mine and I cannot abide that
  • Former President Barack Obama – disrespectful to Michelle to even consider this
  • Taylor Hanson – still would]

In the interest of equality, my husband Chris also has a List of Five:

20181102_131651

[List reads:

  • Shakira
  • Shakira
  • Jennifer Anniston
  • Queen Elizabe II (“Power is sexy”)
  • Shakira]

I know this is a silly exercise. The idea that I’m ever going to have sex with Diego Luna is so far-fetched as to be ridiculous—and I probably wouldn’t even if I had the opportunity, list or no list, because I don’t like to share and I shouldn’t expect Chris to be OK with something I wouldn’t be if the situation was reversed. But fantasy is important, I think, especially for women, because so much of society is geared to the idea that women are to be objects of desire rather than subjects who desire. I can’t count the number of straight cis men who have told me, with great authority and confidence, that women should be objectified because women are just more attractive than men, as if the experience of straight cis men is not only more important than mine, but actively invalidates it. One time a routinely inappropriate coworker cornered me by the drink station just so he could tell me, “You have to admit, there’s nothing sexier than a woman when she comes.” Probably he was just trying to express to me how very concerned he was with female pleasure, as if that would magically make me stop being interested in my boyfriend of the time and be interested in him instead, but it sat wrong with me then and it sits wrong with me today. For one thing, hello, that’s wildly inappropriate work conversation. More to the point, though, my orgasm may be sexy for someone who’s attracted to me, but my partner’s enjoyment of my orgasm exists as a distant second to my enjoyment of my orgasm. Positing my pleasure as a creepy turn-on puts the onus on me to feel pleasure no matter how I feel or what my partner is doing, and to do so in the same performative way I am expected to do everything else in my life: for the consumption of men.

Are women beautiful? Yes, of course. So are men, so are enbies, so are agenders. Turns out the human body is a masterpiece of skin and muscle and fat and nerves and thoughts and feelings all bundled up into one incomprehensibly incredible package. And it turns out that sexual women are perfectly capable of feeling deep, overwhelming, stomach-churning, lip-biting, nipple-tightening, panty-soaking desire, despite modern US society declaring that we are “not visually stimulated” or “more invested in emotions” or whatever the fuck. Positioning cis men as the attracted and cis women as the attractive, with no room for deviation, not only invalidates trans and NB people altogether, it also places women as objects in our own lives, as passive vessels to be acted upon. And it creates a system in which, while women have lifetimes of beauty work to engage in and emotional baggage to carry around, cis men require so little effort to be seen as presentable, put-together, and attractive. Imagine that Chris and I put the same amount of effort into doing the same beauty routine. After washing our faces, brushing our teeth, dressing in khakis and a button-down shirt, and applying deodorant and a touch of scent, he is dressed in business fucking casual, whereas my low-maintenance ass is barely comfortable going to the mall. And DON’T get me started on prepping for a performance day. Now, is he attractive to me no matter how much effort he’s put in? Hell yes. Does he consider me attractive no matter how much effort I’ve put in? Yes. Does the rest of society consider us equally put-together given we spent the same amount of time on ourselves? No. Is that fucked up? Yes.

I’m not going to posit that wistfully fantasizing about the way Diego Luna bites his lip when he laughs is going to fix the gender gap, or stop sexism, or change the world. The Female Gaze is not an answer to institutional kyriarchy. I accept that. But I am going to posit this: reclaiming the right to feel attracted rather than just attractive, the right and ability to desire, is important. And it’s fun. And maybe it’s time more straight cis women started expecting straight cis men to put in a little more goddamned effort.

Still Mad

29 Jul

In 6th grade, I placed into the gifted program.

The gifted class necessitated a couple of us leaving the regular Social Studies class halfway through*, which was its own special brand of hell for me: I placed in midway through the year, and was never convinced that everyone else knew I was supposed to be going with those kids now. I lived in abject terror that I was going to get up one day and people were going to ask me what the hell I thought I was doing. I missed a couple of classes because I was paralyzed with this fear.  When I finally managed to get there it was fine, mostly. I liked the regular teacher of the gifted class. She was tough but fair, she loved history as much as I did, she kept a handle on the other kids. Unfortunately she got sick, and we had a long-term substitute for a while. I don’t remember much about her–middle school was a goddamned chaotic time, all bullies and raging anxiety and terrible decisions, and my memories are not clear–except for two things.

The first is that she did nothing to stop the other kids from harassing me. Kids are mean. Kids who have been told they are smart are brutal. I was probably a pretty weird kid–I have no real frame of reference because everything seemed normal to me, but I was the third tallest person in the whole school, I carried my D&D Player’s Handbook around and tried to get people to read it so we could learn to play, I had a bad perm, I talked to myself**, I read all the time, I daydreamed constantly, I still sometimes chewed on pencil erasers when I got nervous. I was probably pretty weird. At the very least I was pretty visible. Because I had not yet learned that my size and strength give me power, they made me a target. This had been a problem for many years, and some teachers handled it better than others. The normal teacher in the gifted class handled it well. The long-term substitute teacher in the gifted class did not handle it at all. There were only like 8 or 9 students in the class. I don’t know if she didn’t realize or just didn’t care.

The second is that she made me read my story out loud.

For some reason we were assigned to write short stories, potentially as part of a unit on epic storytelling. I being, 10 or 11, crafted a wish-fulfilment first person fantasy tale wherein I had a talking dragon, a magic sword (with a name!), a handsome boyfriend, and an important quest. Was it good? Hell no. I was 10 or 11 and had attention problems. Stylistically it was a pastiche of the books I valued most at the time: Pern***, The Hero and the Crown, and the Sweet Valley/Girl Talk/Babysitters Club genre of Cool Older Girl Does Stuff books. It switched from 1st to 3rd person by the end, which I realized but was too lazy to fix. It opened with the main character yelling “MOM! WHERE IS MY MAGIC SWORD?^” I’m sure I tried to rip off Gone with the Wind at some point. It was a hot mess. But it was ambitious, and it was an assignment I completed on time, which put it well ahead of most things I did, and it made me happy.

I was nervous, because I wasn’t sure it was an OK story to write, but I was ready to turn it in anyway. Well, the long-term substitute did not want us to turn the stories in. She made us read our stories out loud, standing in front of the class. I don’t remember what this was supposed to teach us. I remember standing in front of peers who hated me trying to read a story with character names I couldn’t pronounce, I remember stammering and stumbling and paraphrasing so much the sub told me to sit down, I remember people staring at me with naked hatred on their faces, or openly laughing. I remember that two other kids had made me the bumbling antagonist in their stories. I thought one of them was my friend, but in her story I was not only a monster, I was half a monster and the other half was one of my biggest tormentors, a guy nobody liked. I remember the long-term substitute didn’t say a goddamed word about any of this. I remember she made me get up and read my story out loud again after everyone had read theirs. And I remember people laughed.

I didn’t even turn it in. I think I threw it away, but I was pretty dramatic; I might have flushed it down the toilet.

Everyone gets nervous when someone reads something they’re written, right? Right. It’s not a secret. I’m old enough and have practiced enough that by now it only makes me want to die a little bit. Maybe I could lapse into a coma until they’re finished and have come up with something good to say about it? That sounds perfect. Of course, I have to actually show someone what I’ve written first, and that doesn’t happen often^^. I don’t trace all my Writerly Insecurities back to this moment–don’t be ridiculous, they began much earlier–but I can tell you that It Did Not Help, and Yes, I Am Still Mad.

I remembered this today when reading a Facebook thread about school-age humiliations, and realized halfway through typing an abridged version that I was shaking with rage. Healthy? Probably not, but healthier than crying in the corner, I think. I just wanted to be the hero for once, rather than the butt of the joke. Yes I’m still mad. I’m mad as hell.

I’ve been reading a lot of old stories today, and writing a lot of fiction in the last several weeks^^^, and finding most of it good. I even revisited a WIP I’ve been struggling with for years, found it good, and found a lot of new energy for it. I get paid to write nowadays. It’s my job. I have a lot of hobbies and pastimes that let me be the hero AND the butt of the joke, because it’s not a bad thing to be both. I wish I could go back and tell that poor little kid who was me in 6th grade that it’s going to be ok.

Mostly though, I’d have a few words for that long-term substitute.

 

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What I Owe

6 Jan

Sixth grade was a rough year for lots of people, and I’m not an exception. Nobody realized it at the time, but looking back I recognize the signs of my anxiety disorder–overwhelming dread, obsessive counting, forgetfulness, crippling inability to focus or make decisions, the total destruction of my fingertips. I still deal with this, but as an adult I understand what’s going on, and as a child I was just panicky and stressed all the time. It doesn’t help that I wasn’t just not popular–I was unpopular, in that I was the subject of active, organized, widespread teasing and bullying. That wasn’t new, but I was getting older, and I was starting to care more. That’s not to say there weren’t bright spots, because there were. I distinctly remember three: band, the couple of friends I had at school, and Robin McKinley.

Robin McKinley came into my life because my 10-year-old morality was sketchy at best: I picked up The Hero and the Crown from the shelf that my social studies teacher reserved for her homeroom students’ library books. I don’t know if I intended to give it back, but I do know that I never did, and the guy who had checked it out had to pay for it. I’m not sorry. He was a jerk. Anyway, I read that book over and over and over, until I could recite passages (I still can). I would finish it only to start again immediately, and I carried it with me everywhere like a talisman against evil. Or crushing lonliness. My memories of 6th grade can only be categorized in two ways: Being Miserable, or Reading The Hero and the Crown. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this book saved my life. Over the last two decades I have returned to it, and her other books, more times than I can count, in times of joy as well as sorrow, and each time I’ve read one of her books I’ve found all the perspective, validation, inspiration, entertainment, hope, comfort, and motherfucking great storytelling I could want.

Her partner of 23 years, Peter Dickinson, recently passed away. She was silent on social media for several months before reporting his second stroke; the next time we heard from her was today, when she posted the eulogy she delivered at his memorial service. It is heartfelt and well-crafted.

I’ve never met Robin McKinley, but she has been with me through some of the most difficult periods of my life, beginning in sixth grade and extending into my early 30s (so far). Her books shaped the woman and writer I am in too many ways to name. I owe her an unpayable debt, and I adore her. She is going through the unimaginable and I have nothing to offer her except empty words from a person she has never met.

She didn’t write her books for me, but they were a gift to me anyway. I’m going to go buy some more of Peter’s books, and I’m going to plant a tree for him, and for her, and I’m going to keep crying. And then I’m going to work on my novel, ok, because sometimes all you can do is take the gift someone gave you and try to give a gift to someone else.

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