Confused Cats Against Feminism Goes Viral: Giant list of media mentions, and a possible explanation

Gonna close out the month with a deviation from my regular word-salad to spread the good word ūüôā

we hunted the mammoth

biteyouConfused Cats Against Feminism has gone viral, as the Internet kids say.

In less than a week, my humble Tumblr blog has picked up more than 12,000 followers on Tumblr and has generated nearly 20,000 ‚Äúnotes.‚ÄĚ It‚Äôs been featured in two dozen well-known publications so far, ranging from Jezebel to Cosmopolitan to Le Monde (yes, the Le Monde), and on who knows how many lesser-known sites. It was discussed on The Reid Report on MSNBC. And my assorted inboxes are swelling with literally hundreds of submissions.

So why ‚ÄĒ other than KITTIES ‚ÄĒ has the blog struck such a chord?

View original post 801 more words

Fantastic Privileges

Fantasy has a privilege problem.

It’s a problem that has been cited time and time again, and it is no one specific privilege. It is multiple privileges – white, male, cis, heterosexual, able-bodied, mentally normative, colonial – working together that¬†culminate in the result of¬†mainstream fantasy media.

As somebody who has a fair few “problematic faves”, no small number of those belonging to the fantasy genre, I have recently started trying to think of examples where fantasy is used as an opportunity to subvert these kinds of ideological norms – taking the post-Tolkien sediment of the genre and planting there some fluorescent pink seaweed. Ultimately, though, it’s a lot easier to find reinforcements of this privileged ideology than challenges to it.

Thus, because fantasy is the genre (or was) of symbolism, metaphor and allegory, I’m gonna use a couple of examples of fantasy character who can give us some insights into how privilege works.

Let’s start with one of my favourite fantasy characters: Rubeus Hagrid from¬†Harry Potter.

  • It’s just a scratch

Hagrid was originally a character who I thought of a an example of a “good ally”, somebody who was privileged (symbolised by his incredible physical strength) but was aware of it and did their utmost to minimise its harmful effects on the less privileged people around them. I had to cancel those plans though, because Hagrid¬†is a good example of privilege, but not in a good way.

He is¬†constantly belittling and dismissing the lived experiences of people who do not have his experience of privilege. We can see this in practically every part of the saga where he’s involved with some kind of magical creature, in which he invariably completely overlooks or downplays the very real threat that said creatures – Aragog, Fluffy, Norbert, even his brother Grawp – pose to not just the Golden Trio but every one of his students. He is incapable of seeing things from their perspective; his physical power is invisible to him, and as such he cannot account for it when trying to relate to the experiences of those who are smaller than he is.

However, that doesn’t make him a bad guy or anything – it makes him perhaps an even more pertinent example of privilege than if he were, because most of the time privilege manifests itself in exactly this way:¬†unintentionally. The reason people remember Hagrid with fondness as a “gentle giant” is because that’s his¬†intention. Hagrid would never knowing harm anybody or put them in harm’s way. But because he has a different understand of what “harm” is, due to his “strength privilege” I guess, he constantly¬†does put others in dangerous situations, and then dismisses their concerns as though it’s no big deal,¬†because it’s not a big deal to him. Not because he’s trying to make them feel bad.

Nevertheless, intentions only get you so many merit points, and the worst part about Hagrid’s privilege is not only that it never goes away, but that he has all of these other people there who can see it – most notably Dumbledore and McGonagall – who never really call him out on it, either. Privilege does not exist in a vacuum, and when his peers (and employer) validate his attitudes by not drawing attention to them, we can see how his privilege is fostered by the complicity of others.

So what about the most unlikely hero in the fantasy canon, Frodo Baggins? How does he fare?

  • Frodo Bourgeoisie and the Ring of Privilege

The example of Frodo is a fairly good one in terms of looking for a “good ally” allegory: Frodo has the Ring given to him and must deal with its damaging consequences,¬†whether he wants the Ring or not. Lots of people who have their privilege pointed out to them will respond with something along the lines of: “I do not want that power. I have never wanted it!” Having privilege is not something you can really choose; you get it from society’s attitudes towards your very existence,¬†whether you want it or not. You actually do not have a say in the matter, and yes, that is shitty.

But it doesn’t make it any less your responsibility, just as if you contract a contagious disease, it’s still your responsibility to let others know that you have it and take every precaution possible to prevent others from catching it, including getting medical attention to treat it if at all possible. The only difference here is that treating an illness¬†is a matter of¬†your life and death, as well as that of others, whereas with privilege it’s not your welfare on the line if you’re the one who has it.

Which is a similar situation to Frodo and the Ring’s relationship: Frodo would get “unnatural long life” and the power to turn invisible, yes, but the freedom of Middle Earth depends on him¬†giving up that privilege. It is not just the Shire or the Fellowship at stake, it is the entire world. This is a little grandiose for an instance of individual privilege as an allegory, but privilege is never truly individual.

The part where the Ring drives him mad is where the allegory starts to fall apart, but you can see it as becoming a wilfully ignorant asshole who had their privilege called out and did nothing to change. Kind of. The fact that Sauron has power over the Ring also throws a spanner into the metaphorical works, but it’s kind of like the difference between a man and the patriarchy: one is a person who benefits from a system of privilege (again, whether or not they want to), and the other is that system of privilege itself. And just like throwing the One Ring into Mt Doom destroys Sauron, only by recognising and then giving up privilege entirely can ideological systems like patriarchy ever be truly erased.

But the thing with Frodo is that the Ring is far from his only privilege.

Frodo – and Bilbo – are as close to bourgeois as hobbits can get; they’re rich, they’re educated, their mannerisms are more ‘refined’ (or Frodo’s are anyway) than those of other people in their community; and the fact that Frodo and Sam are BFFs does not change the fact that Sam is Frodo’s fucking¬†servant.

Yes, ostensibly he is merely Frodo’s gardener. But in both the books and the film, it is Sam who is constantly doting on and looking out for Frodo while he angsts about with the Ring; to be fair, the ring does have a rather debilitating effect on people, but particularly in the films there is no getting away from the fact that Frodo is pretty lazy. Sam cooks, Sam carries shit, Sam provides the emotional labour – he’s there for Frodo to fall back on. Who does Sam fall back on? And while Frodo is obviously grateful that Sam chases after him at the Falls of Rauros, this master-servant dynamic is always implicitly taken for granted with the two of them, because it is never mentioned and it also never changes. There is never a point at which their roles change; Sam always does the work, and in return, Frodo is grateful – though sometimes that’s to be taken for granted rather than actually expressed as well.

Which is actually another good example of privilege: if you have one kind of privilege, you generally have others as well. Frodo manages to confront his “Ring-bearer privilege” if you like, but never even realises his “employer-of-Sam-Gamgee” privilege. It is, sadly, entirely possible to be aware of certain privileges and remain ignorant of others at the same time, and Frodo gives us a pretty stellar¬†example of that.

And since I have a teensy bit of imagination now – I didn’t really get a chance to talk about the racism in¬†Beautiful Creatures since I was so busy talking about how Ethan is written poorly given his intended gender expression.

Let’s rectify that, shall we?

  • Sweet Home Alabama

Beautiful Creatures is actually set in South Carolina, but whatever.

You may have heard of “fantastic racism“. Fantasy being the genre of allegory and metaphor and other substitutions, we’re all quite capable of drawing parallels between the age-old Elf-Dwarf conflict and real-world tensions between Black and White people, or looking at the Human-Orc turf war and seeing … well, exactly the same thing.

Bit disappointing.

This works when you’re dealing with an entirely fictional world that has no real-world connections within the story itself. But it starts to break down when you’re dealing with a “portal fantasy”, wherein there is “another world” connected in some way to our own, or the world that stands in for our own. This is what happens in¬†Harry Potter, and it’s also what happens in¬†Beautiful Creatures, only instead of another world it’s just a hidden society.

And because this book is set in South Carolina …

Well, Ethan and Lena are out together on Halloween, and Ethan has the¬†audacity to ask Lena why she hasn’t dressed up. She goes on to tell him about how Halloween represents a time of great oppression for the Caster community: “‘The Salem Witch Trials are just the ones¬†your textbooks mention.’ She said ‘your’ like it was a dirty word, and today of all days, maybe it was.” (249)

It’s an interesting idea, insofar as taking real-world history and events and re-inscribing them with fictional significance, such as making it Hydra’s fault that every bad thing ever happened at all instead of the actual people responsible in real fucking life … where was I …

Yes, racism: there’s this character called Marian in the book (combined with the character of Amma in the film, which was honestly a good move), and she’s described as having … coffee? Mocha? Caramel? Well, a skin pigmentation that can apparently only be accurately described as an edible substance, which signifies that she’s a mixture of cultures and thus possesses exotic multicultural beauty excuse my vomiting etc. When Ethan and Lena go to her for help uncovering the mystery of the enchanted locket that serves as the catalyst for what little plot this book contains, she – a friend of Ethan’s dead mother and historian – starts waxing lyrical about the story of Ethan and Lena’s ancestors who were, respectively, a Confederate soldier and the daughter of a plantation-owner. Marian goes full fangirl on this shit, and does not¬†once mention that Lena’s Caster ancestor had a slave named Ivy …

Who was the ancestor of Amma, Ethan’s current housemaid.

This is not mentioned¬†once, by the¬†sole other PoC character in the entire fucking book, who will later on quote Martin Luther King Jr. –¬†in defence of Lena, a conventionally attractive white girl whose uncle owns half the fucking town and both of whom have magic powers. Can’t you feel how¬†oppressed Lena is? All of these small-minded, also-white Southern hicks try to pick on her because she’s¬†different to the other girls and wears skirts that cover her ankles and reads¬†books? Don’t you think MLK would be so proud if he could have lived to see his words on justice for Black Americans being appropriated in the defence of a fictional white girl with no means by which to defend herself from being called names at school other than her¬†supernatural fucking powers and the fact that her uncle¬†owns the fucking town she’s being discriminated against in, AND ALSO HAS SUPERNATURAL FUCKING POWERS, WHICH HE THREATENS TO UNLEASH UPON THE ENTIRE TOWN IF THEY WON’T LEAVE HIS PRECIOUS OPPRESSED NIECE ALONE???

If you can’t tell, I’m not exactly a fan of the idea of “reverse racism”.

Or, in this case, reverse fantastic racism, and it makes the actual racism in the book so much worse.

Because the only injustice talked about in terms of race is how the Casters are scorned and demonised by the humans of Gatlin County; the only grand proclamations of how bigotry is wrong comes with reference to how it affects Casters, while totally-not-a-slave-Amma washes the dishes at Ethan’s place and only goes back to her house – which is in a fucking swamp – around midnight.

This is an example of “but what about me?” privilege. If you’re familiar with the “not all men” derailment of any feminist debate ever, the same kind of logic applies to the deployment of fantastic racism in¬†Beautiful Creatures. It is slightly different: a privileged party (Casters) ignores blatant injustice against non-privileged people and communities (Amma and Marian seem to be the sole representatives of the non-white community of Gatlin County) and yet demands that their own struggles be validated, even though they’re absolutely trivial compared to that of non-privileged people and communities (Marian using MLK to defend Lena while erasing Ivy’s presence from her retelling of Ethan and Lena’s ancestors’ Confederate¬†romance). It’s the narrative doing this rather than the actual characters, and rather than a derailment it’s an act of simple ignorance.

Ignorance of the suffering of others is a privilege.

Which brings us back around to the Hagrid example.¬†Beautiful Creatures is trying to make a statement (I’m being very¬†generous in saying that) through its allegorical racial tensions but doesn’t realise it’s being extremely racist¬†for real in the process, much like how Hagrid tries to make his Care of Magical Creatures classes really fun for his students by bringing in the most dangerous fucking animals he can find without realising that they’re, well, dangerous. But where the Hagrid example is limited to the realms of allegory,¬†Beautiful Creatures crosses the line completely and becomes all too literal.

BC¬†also deviates from the Hagrid example by not just ignoring the injustices heaped upon less-privileged folks, but by getting upset over its own “struggles”, to the point of appropriating political rhetoric that was intended to bring attention (and justice) to a less-privileged group for use in self-defence against petty, trivial, immaterial discomforts that are blown up to astronomical proportions by the privileged party, such as Lena being threatened with expulsion by the school board, a process that for some reason necessitates having the¬†entire town sit in on the proceedings as though she’s on trial – a witch trial if you¬†FUCK THIS FUCKING FUCKBOOK ALL THE FUCKWAY TO FUCKING FUCKHELL, GODFUCKIT.

  • ahem

I don’t think this problem is specific to fantasy, by any means. But it certainly is a¬†glaring issue within fantasy, one that is seemingly inescapable, and one that needs to go away.

I also need to go away and do some more studying because otherwise it’ll all snowball and I’ll hate myself and I’d rather like to avoid that actually after three years of panicked last-minute submissions and then six months of too-late submissions that I couldn’t bring myself to care about anymore for fear of an emotional breakdown.

Fun times.

I also have a bunch of books waiting for me to read them, one of which is my own, so I’d better get on that. Over halfway through! So that’s something.

Writing While Writing: “livestream” highlights

So I’m going to try and read through my manuscript tonight so that I just get it off my plate. I’m not going to make notes, and since it’s only about as long as¬†Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets it should only take me a couple of hours. However, I will be “livestreaming” my¬†hilarious reactions to my manuscript when something comes up.

And when I say “livestreaming”, I mean writing a blog post that will be published after the fact with no sense of spontaneity whatsoever. It’s not quite Writing While Writing, but it’s close enough.

Let’s rock.

~~~

  • So I’m reading a hard-copy, and instead of turning the page I almost tried to scroll down with my mouse wheel. Good start.
  • Useful note-taking is essential. Case in point: “Amphibious line-break! Put in asterisk”.
  • Sorry, that was “ambiguous” line-break. Not as interesting.
  • Oh lampshading. My favourite writerly habit. Apparently.
  • Tallulah steps into her bedroom and puts down her backpack, worded as “divesting herself of her baggage”, haha sure you did honey nothing bad will happen in the next 120 pages
  • Fed up with flat dialogue? Have your main character make incoherent animal noises, spell them out phonetically and put them in quotation marks instead
  • It’s always fun discovering all the instances of sexual innuendo that have made their way into your prose that you legitimately did not intend to put in there oh god it’s happening¬†again
  • “Nineteen steps. Nineteen feet. If each step was a foot, and it was probably more than that.” Lesson: when trying to measure vague distances, have a POV¬†character do it for you and just make them as incompetent as you are so you can explain it away as “exploring the character”
  • Crowd-sourcing time: is it “soy sauce” or “soya sauce”? WordPress says “soy sauce” but over two decades¬†of calling it “soya sauce” says “soya sauce”
  • Wow, dad character, you are¬†not helping in making this conversation less tense
  • You go Tallulah, standing up for your new friend after spending the last two chapters being really selfish and patronising towards her. Character development this good obviously doesn’t need an explanation, otherwise I would have¬†written one into the story
  • Whenever you encounter symptoms of huge plot-holes in your manuscript, especially if those plot-holes have been there from the very beginning, your best bet is to completely ignore them. I mean have you seen some of the shit that gets accepted for publishing? If anything you should leave them in, so that the editors will pick up on that instead of those side-characters you’re really attached to but know serve absolutely no purpose in telling the story. Gotta think three moves ahead
  • Also if you ever have the opportunity to make something happen in your book, don’t
  • Just hint at it so that your readers know that you could have done something; it’s important to remind them of your absolute power, and part of that is refusing to use it at any point in the storytelling process
  • Also make sure to keep your characters thoughts and feelings really indecipherable; that way when you have to reread the entire thing from start to finish you will have the experience of reading something for the first time and wondering what the fuck is going on
  • Yeah you’re not creepy at all designated creepy character well played very subtle
  • Now, this is very important: if you are a man¬†writing a Strong Female Character, make sure that you have them be really aggressive and violent whenever faced with people who are not to their liking, especially if those people are men. Violence is never unwarranted if it’s a woman doing it to a man, and feminists will admire you for understanding this basic tenet of their ideology.¬†Give yourself a cookie for totally subverting gender stereotypes¬†and breaking the patriarchy, and make sure you use this as an example of how “not all men are like that” in the future
  • Actual comment on a paragraph: “WAOW”
  • Cheap jokes at the expense of the religious community are totes hilarious when told by your designated edgy non-conformist character this is very important
  • Banter doesn’t count as filler so use lots of it
  • If you foreshadow something that will happen later on in your story, you¬†could follow through – or, alternatively, you could not only not follow through, but lampshade the fact that you’re not following through so that your readers know how self-aware and clever you are
  • Who’s a clever writer
  • I am
  • If you’re writing within the YA paranormal genre make sure you completely copy and paste a scene from¬†Twilight into your book so that people take you seriously
  • Make sure that your Strong Female Characters are only capable of expressing their wit, anger, self-deprecation and interests through sexual innuendo in order for them to be as realistic as possible
  • All of your female characters should be Strong by the way otherwise you’re a misogyny
  • You must have lots of symbolism for the key themes of your book otherwise your readers won’t know how¬†they’re supposed to think or feel when things happen
  • When your protagonists do creepy things, just remember that they’re the protagonists and everything that they do is automatically morally right
  • Actual comment: “OH MY GOD SHUT UP”
  • Make sure to have your Strong Female Character wear strange clothes in order to show off how unique and quirky and alternative they are, unlike all the other girls
  • When you’re speed-reading your own story because you don’t care what’s happening, that’s a sign that you need to try harder to enjoy it, not a sign that¬†it’s shit
  • When you feel a physical sensation of displeasure upon re-reading something you wrote because you were speed-reading it because you don’t care what’s happening, that’s a sign that you just aren’t committed enough to finding every single thing in ¬†your story that you might theoretically be able to find a use for later regardless of context, not a sign that it’s shit
  • Actual comment: “DIE”
  • Remember that plot you used to have? No? Good. Now when you rewrite your entire novel from scratch you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything
  • Characters discussing food doesn’t count as filler so use lots of it
  • Remind yourself of this fact by leaving yourself enthusiastic comments such as: “HOW FUCKING INTRIGUING”
  • Oh designated comic relief character. You are actually kind of funny
  • “She wondered if that was normal, and how she should feel about it based on whether or not it was, which she didn’t know.” Actual comment: “>.<“
  • (Seriously though I like that sentence)
  • Randomly end a paragraph with a comma instead of a full stop, dash or ellipsis in order to fully simulate and demonstrate awareness of authentic speech patterns because you’re such a clever writer yes you are
  • If you forget the events of two chapters ago in your own story while writing, just turn it into part of the story by making your characters have trouble remembering those exact same events
  • Actual comment: “DON’T CARE”
  • Actual comment: “WHERE ARE YOU KEEPING THE STORY”
  • Actual comment: “SHUT UP”
  • Actual comment: “FUUUUUUCK SO BORING”
  • When you find your scathing comments on your story more interesting than the actual story, that’s a sign that you lack discipline and are unable to objectively look at your own work, not a sign that it’s shit
  • Somebody might have been angry, but they also might not be. I’m so pleased we spent a page and a half discussing this, and I’m sure it will be come central to the plot at some point in the future
  • That was a joke. It is vital to maintain a sense of humour while rereading your piece of shit manuscript in order to see how you should try to fix it
  • For example, I have thus far¬†concluded that¬†soaking¬†my manuscript in gasoline and then setting it on fire would lend some much-needed cohesion to the narrative
  • Be sure to have your characters who fall into the Youth demographic not only text each other, but that said texts are written in txt-speek for maximum authenticity
  • It’s better to have too many commas than not enough
  • But let’s be honest you can never have too many commas
  • If you’re really worried you can throw in some semicolons to spice things up
  • Actual comment: “Does anything in this chapter matter???”

~~~

And on that enlightening note, I conclude this session of “livestream” highlights. I didn’t get through the whole book; I’ve gotten to just over a third of the way through, but to memory I’ve also gotten through the majority of the filler chapters so that’s something.

What’s depressing is that, even though nothing was happening, I wasn’t at all frustrated while reading some of those filler chapters. This is either a sign that something works about them, or that I’ve become desensitized to meandering bullshit after reading nothing but YA novels for the past nine months. I remember reading¬†Rebel Belle and getting excited that there was, wait for it, an¬†actual story where stuff happened. I was ready to write a glowing review for this book until I remembered that having a story where things happen should be the bare minimum, not some Olympian achievement of human ingenuity.

I mean I did enjoy¬†Rebel Belle; it’s set in the Deep South but manages to avoid being¬†quite as hideously racist as¬†Beautiful Creatures. I may write a review about it one day.

For now though – got my first Honours seminar in the afternoon, so I’d better get some sleep. Or resting-in-bed at least. I may even end up reading more of my manuscript if I can’t sleep. It’s a win-win situation.

And I know that was very snarky and self-deprecating, but honestly this is going well. It feels good, like the right thing to do, just reading it without making notes, so I guess I’ll just keep doing it until it doesn’t feel right anymore.

(I feel very brazen attaching the “humour” tag to this post by the way) (what if somebody finds out I’m not funny) (then it’d just be lying and you’re not supposed to lie)

Filler update thing

I’ve been working on a blog post for two days, not including the week or so I spent on it back in April/May. It regards the issue of authenticity in writing characters – I talked about the moral and ethical side of things in this post, and from there I started thinking about the technical side of things, as well as the conceptual side, issues of subjectivity and objectivity, and the relationship between what’s authentic and what’s real.

However, it is currently 4:01 a.m. and, after two days, this post is still not ready to go. It’s definitely too long, but I have a lot to say. A lot of it, I realised, was pretty offensive, so part of why this is taking so long is because it’s taking me a long time to work through the process of checking my privilege, as it were. The rest of it is my general lack of planning, or rather my inability to¬†stick to a plan. I just follow whatever train of thought pulls in to the station, and while that certainly takes me places, it’s harder to find my way back.

Also I haven’t even finished reading chapter 2 of¬†Tallulah, which I have like five days left to do before uni starts, and I discover once and for all whether I’m cut out for Honours – at least Honours in arts. I’m not sure if I want to be. I kind of feel like if it wasn’t for the tight time-frame I might have decided to go back to psych and get into counseling, but it’s way too late for that now. I just think that if I need something to fall back on if writing doesn’t work out – and let’s be real, up ’til now I still have never been paid to write, unless you count my ever-growing student loan – then I want to be able to do something that I find meaningful, and helping people with problems that there’s still a considerable cultural stigma around even recognising as problems to begin with¬†seems like a pretty good¬†way to go.

So now on top of worrying that I’ll end up sabotaging myself at Honours because it’s not what I really want and leaving myself with no option but to try and deal with my lingering depression and social anxiety to find a job, not getting any work done on¬†Tallulah and just generally having no fucking clue what to do with my life, I have this stupid goddamn authenticity post to draft.

But what else would I do? This is what I want to do. I want to write about this stuff; and I want to write my stories, and I want to make movies, and music, and teach myself to draw, and get fit, and help people. If I want to do all of that, then I have to actually do it. So, may as well do it now.

And now to go to sleep, or at least bed, before I sound like any more of a broken record than I do already.

And then you write

I’ve found out a few things about my novel since I started re-reading it about an hour ago. I’m a solid 5 pages in.

  1. Tallulah, the titular main character, is completely different in my head to how she is on the page, and it’s making it really hard to pay attention to what’s actually been written when I keep trying to twist everything around to fit my image of what it should be
  2. I may need to get shock treatment to make myself stop using commas
  3. Writing this book and telling this story is perhaps the most idiotic idea I’ve ever had and I have no clue why I thought I should attempt it

And when you feel really inadequate, when you feel like you don’t have the perspective, skill, nuance, life experience, empathy, whatever it is that you’ve decided is necessary to tell your story the way it deserves to be told and that you do not possess, there is only one piece of advice I can give to you.

Write it.

Your story sucks? Tough. You’re writing it.

You suck and are incapable of writing your story as well as it¬†deserves to¬†be written? You’re so ashamed of being the person who even dared to think they could write it when they were so obviously not talented, experienced or just generally satisfactory enough that you want to crawl into a hole and dehydrate into a fossil?

That certainly is soul-crushingly disappointing.

Still gotta write it though.

Sorry.

You don’t have to like it. You can hate it. You can print out a physical copy just so that you can throw it at the wall.

But you still have to write it.

Because this is your plan. This is your time and effort and your honesty, your attempt to fucking make something of yourself. And if it sucks, if you suck, that is too fucking bad and you’re just going to have to live with it and¬†write it. You are going to have to get used to being stuck with that. You are not allowed to not write it. However shitty it is, however embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated you feel for even having¬†dared to attempt to write it,¬†you are still going to write it.

This is not a discussion.

This is not a debate.

This is taking the 80k-word waste of the last two years of your life that is disgusting and makes you realise how disgusting you are as a human being and putting in the work that it isn’t worthy of, making the effort that you’re not worthy of making for it.

Because it’s all bullshit. Everything you thought about your story, everything you thought about yourself going into this thing – it’s all bullshit. You had no fucking clue. How could you? You hadn’t written it yet. You don’t learn without trying, and sometimes we don’t like what we learn.

You want those two years back? I do. I ain’t getting them back though, so come the fuck here you 148-page pile of shit, you are getting the¬†fuck read out of you so that I can force you into a pleasing shape in order to sell you for money, because at the end of the day, what the fuck else am I going to do? I have no other plans. I have no other long-term prospects. I mean honestly if Honours doesn’t work out I’ll probably try and go back to psychology, or maybe counselling, just because I want to feel like I’m doing something with my life that helps people who need help. I have no guarantee of even making myself happy by selling books.

But that’s the plan I’ve got.

That’s the plan we’ve all got, whether it’s a good plan or not.

And this is the reality of our relationship with our stories: we’re too close and there’s not enough space. Ever. We’re flatmates; we’re lovers; we’re siblings; we are too fucking intimate and there is so little privacy and it burns you out and makes you hate yourself for who you’ve become because of how much you wanted this thing to work, how you couldn’t make it work the way you wanted it to. Even though a million other things are going on and they are all important and all need you to deal with them, and you know that you simply don’t have the capacity to do that, and it makes you inadequate as a human being. And because you know that you should, and do, still love this thing, although you don’t act like you care at all because it’s the only way you can seem to get any kind of distance at all. That is the situation. It sucks. It sucks hard. It sucks that something you love can become something you can’t stand even the thought of, can turn into something that repels and deflates and defeats you. But it can, and it does.

It’s you. It’s me. It’s us. It’s a bundle of ourselves that we scrape out and project away, sculpting it into narrative conventions and character traits and sub-plots and three-act structures and still, still no matter how hard we try or how strongly we try to believe it never stops being us.¬†And so long as you want to tell stories – and you do, you know you do, no matter how much sometimes you know it would be more convenient if you didn’t – there is no way out of this rabbit-hole but through the other side.

So take all your hate, all your frustration, all your fear and shame and embarrassment and self-loathing, crippling anxiety and lack of life skills and turn on your computer.

Open your notebook.

Pick up your pen, your finger-paint, your nail-polish, your tattoo needle, your needles and yarn, your alphabet soup, your crayons and the wall, your chalk and the pavement, your spray-can and public property, your knife and tree-trunk, your chisel and stone, your heel in the wet sand, your breath on the glass, your ambition and trepidation, your body and your mind and your soul that trembles with the need to understand every fucking thing there is to understand, inside and out, better than anybody ever has before or ever will again, and to prove it to every infinity of the universe.

And then you write.

Fuck the plan

Disclaimer: if¬†you have a plan for your writing projects/habit/hobby and it is¬†working, then please continue to do it! Having a plan that actually works is like stroking a unicorn; you can’t believe it’s happening and most other people won’t believe you either. Hang on to that one.

But my plans are getting me away from …

Well, okay. Let’s clarify.

Last time I posted here, I brainstormed a revision plan for my novel-in-progress-for-the-last-two-years, Tallulah. The plan seemed sound to me, but I never got started with it. After talking to a friend about this and getting some very good advice,¬†I have a new plan. It is better than the old plan, and it is better than the old plan because I don’t have to think about it.

This plan is as follows:

  • Read my manuscript
  • Read it again
  • Read it again
  • Read it again
  • Read it again and again and again
  • Read it again and again and again¬†again until I see¬†what needs to change, what works, what order things should go in, and what the story wants from me
  • Do that

Why is this my new plan?

Because a long time ago, right after I’d just finished my first readthrough of¬†Tallulah, I learnt something vitally important: the best way to find out what needs to be changed, fixed or otherwise altered – and what is fine exactly the way it is – in your story is to¬†read it.

Fucking mind-blowing, right?

Without even thinking about it, I seem to herd myself to making all the most indirect decisions possible. I think it’s probably because I can very easily get snagged on all the little surface details. The best way to find your story, in my experience, is not to look for the forest in the trees. Just walk through them, and once you’re out of the trees, you’ll know you were just in a forest. Let actual interaction and experience fill in the blanks for you. Or, in less laborious terms:¬†learn.

My plan is, basically, to learn. I’ve already read through this manuscript before, and I made notes, and I never touched those notes again. I think it’s probably time for round 2. And I now remember what a struggle it was to talk myself into reading my manuscript the first time, and how the notes that I made were half-physical and half-digital and that’s part of why I never read over them again, so no doing that this time. Consolidated or nothing. I’ll get a notepad or something. And as for the mind-numbing repetition of reading not just the same story over and over again, but¬†my own story over and over again … I guess I’ll just have to deal.

Hope this works.