Writing About Writing

I’ve been gone for so long–I can hardly believe it! Here’s what happened: I burnt out.

Its common in writers and activists, and I consider myself both. I was working on night shift, and desperately trying to be a “productive” writer, and trying to have a social life and a relationship with my family, the latter two being extremely difficult to do when working night shift. I was so tired, so very tired. Need I mention how exhausting it is to care, and to participate in political activism in the current climate of “fuck everything and everybody, me and mine got ours” in the Republican Party? Something had to give.

Then I moved to day shift. I decided I wanted to transcribe my writing journals onto my laptop–most of my novel(s) draft are in those notebooks. I wanted to see what I had. The problem was, it was too much like my data entry job. I felt like I was working the same job night and day. I hated it–I wanted to get shit done, I wanted to be productive (seeing a pattern here?) and, for some odd reason, I felt like I needed to complete that writing project before I moved to another. The result was obvious–I didn’t write.

I missed it. So very much. But. I’m a stubborn lady.

It was a cycle, a very long and unproductive cycle. Not to mention not very pleasant, eh? I don’t know about you, but when I go for a long period of time without writing, I have a bit of an identity crisis. I do believe I won the argument with what Captain Awkward calls my jerkbrain that I am, indeed, allowed to call myself a writer when I haven’t written anything for a while.

 

And with that, I am ending the cycle of not-writing. I miss seeing my novel come to life on the page in front of me, and I very much miss blogging. I’ve been around, of course, but being a lurker/occasional commenter is not the same as Being a Blogger.

 

What I know I need to do is stop with these arbitrary restrictions I place on myself. The whole “I need to do this, and then I’m allowed to write” was so not helpful. So in addition to a dead blog coming back to life, I’m expanding the number of topics I’m going to be covering here. Don’t ask, I don’t know yet. All I know is, I’m sitting in a booth at Buffalo Wild Wings, writing on a friend’s iPad, because my muse demanded I write.

And you know what? It feels good.

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Should the NYT Report the Truth?

via Shakesville

Short answer: Well, NER.

I’m amazed that this question even has to be asked. Yet, in a way, I’m glad they did.

I’ve never thought much of journalism–this goes back to my days at WKU, which has, reportedly, a very good journalism program. I was of the opinion that journalism really shouldn’t be a separate field of study, and I expressed that opinion quite often. What was the point, I reasoned, when one could major in English, with a focus on writing? The journalism program pushed forth a very dry, bland writing style. Their stars were more reminiscent of a rabid tabloid columnist than anything else. The good writers that emerged from that program were good writers despite the program, not because of it.

What makes a good journalist is a combination of being a good writer and a decent person: write well, hunger for truth, ask the difficult questions, and always, when reporting, make known what your purpose is, and ask permission to quote.

Each genre of writing has a different purpose. The purpose of journalism is to inform, to educate, to spread truth and expose lies. Because of this, the public grants journalism an element of trust–the words of a journalist are trusted by the public to be true, to be the whole story.

Journalism, clearly, has betrayed that trust.

Perhaps this is the beginning of an effort to earn that trust again. However, it is a sign of how badly that trust has been betrayed when I wonder if this is an honest effort, or perhaps a marketing outreach to discover which market is larger: the one of truth or of lies.

Writing in a busy world

I hate days like this. Days where I have no time to devote to writing are days wasted in chasing my dream. Other things occupy my time on the days where no posts appear, and sometimes those days turn into weeks. And what for? For the daily grind: to go to work, to run to the bank, the grocery store. For doctor’s appointments. Sure, good things can come of these: managed epilepsy, money to pay the bills and put food on the table, food to eat, but are those the things I’ve worked so hard for? No.

There are things worth sacrificing a day of writing time for: my family, for instance. My nephew is growing quickly, and I’m grateful to be able to get down on the floor and play with him while we’re both able to do so. Sadly, during the week, I see my family very little. They work during the day, and I at night.

I love writing here, and at LouisvilleKY.com. But it is a full-time job–whether the more corporate-minded think it so or not. It is a worthwhile endeavor. I only hope that society will remember that soon, and treasure it thusly. The day we forget the Humanities is the day we forget our humanity.

Take Heart.

In the wake of Rand Paul’s election, and the resulting gloating of conservatives, I discovered Tim Wise’s essay, An Open Letter to the White Right, On the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum. And it is beautiful.

Despite the numbers–that the Tea Party wasn’t as successful as they were predicting, that, as Tim points out, the birthrate points to racial minorities becoming the majority in a generation, and every other indicator that Americans just aren’t interested in Tea Party America, they just won’t shut up.

Reading this piece gives me heart, especially after so many bloggers and pundits repeating the assertion that Democrats are hopelessly spineless, that a progressive agenda will never come to fruition, and so on. We’ve lost before. We’ll lose again. But in the end, justice, equality, and freedom will come out on top. Americans are legendarily bull-headed, progressives as much as conservatives. Might doesn’t make Right. Right makes Might.

We survived Bush. I’ve no doubt we survive the cowardly Rand Paul. As we get another taste of the bitterness that was forced down our throats during the Bush years, we’ll regroup with a stronger resolve to end discrimination against our LGBT brethren, to end the enduring discrimination against women and racial minorities, and to repair the damage done in the Bush years.

I’m reminded as I struggle with personal loss and to make my own living in a world of economic struggle, not to lose sight of the larger picture. And I’m thankful for a fantastic support network of family and friends (liberal and conservative alike) that allows me to do so. Without them, I wouldn’t have the privilege of writing. And it is a privilege–the recent events spurred my absence served as a cold, hard reminder of that. The world is cold and hard–but I will struggle to be a warm, bleeding heart in the midst of it.

Blog Note

I have a guest post up at Jaded16’s, blog, Oi With The Poodles Already. Check it out!

I Write Letters: Feminism in the Paper.

Remember the controversy regarding Jessica Valenti’s column about Sarah Palin’s “feminism”? The controversy that was, essentially, Palin fans crying foul that Valenti pointed out that Palin’s political beliefs were not feminist beliefs. A woman wrote in to The Courier-Journal, claiming that, as so many do, that Valenti was trying to play gatekeeper to the Feminist Funland.

I wrote The Courier-Journal also, and my thoughts were published in the editorial section of Saturday’s paper, available here. My letter is the third one from the top.There are comments, of course. As I write this, they’re safe, but of course I need to say that it’s not a safe space. My letter is available below the cut, just in case.

Read more of this post

A Short Story and a Lesson: perspectives and differently-abled characters.

White flash.

I jerked. Then I could see campus again.

“Shit!” My hand stung. My cigarette lay on the ground. I brushed the ashes off my hand, and retrieved my cigarette.

“What the hell was that?” Brendan was staring at me.  I took a drag, stalling. I hadn’t told him. He didn’t know. You’d think I’d know what to say by now, I thought. I shook the sting out of my hand.

“It was nothing,” I said. I didn’t feel like having that conversation now. I didn’t know him that well. I didn’t tell very many—only close friends and, of course, family. It was supposed to go away when I agreed to take the medicine. Putting the cigarette between my lips, I snuck a glance at him. He was still staring at me. Now Brendan was leaning forward, elbows on his knees. His eyes were narrow, and I could tell he was slightly freaked out. I concentrated on my cigarette. The smoking was blowing in Brendan’s direction; it was a little windy that day.

“Molly.”

“What.” I replied, not looking at him. It was rude. I knew it. But I wasn’t thinking about him at the moment. Whatever he was going to say, he stopped. I stood.

This is an excerpt from a short story that I wrote. The narrator has epilepsy. What she just experienced is called a partial seizure. What I wanted to do with the story was to show readers what epilepsy was like from the epileptic’s perspective. I submitted the story for review to one of my fiction writing classes. The most common feedback that I got from my peers is that I didn’t give enough detail as to what happened when the narrator had the partial. “White flash” did not give the reader enough to know what happened.

The issue is, neither does the epileptic. When I have a partial seizure, my vision goes blank for a moment. My body jerks—the intensity of the jerk varies. When people hear about epilepsy, they imagine someone twitching on the ground. When non-epileptics talk about epilepsy, save for the twitching-on-the-ground moment, it is mostly about those who are dealing with the epileptic. How scared they were, how they watched the twitching, and so on. Is it a coincidence that my reviewers wanted me to take an outsider’s perspective when it came time to show the gory details of epilepsy?

I don’t think so. One suggestion to fix this “issue” was to change from a first-person to an omniscient one for this scene. The thing is, when it comes to epilepsy, it’s not about non-epileptics—the neurologically typical. It’s about the neurologically atypical. I called the story “Typical and Atypical” for a reason. Suggesting that I change the perspective for this scene, and others when the epilepsy shows itself, is a demonstration of the fact that the neurologically typical aren’t interested in our perspective—unless it matches their own. Fiction is supposed to give the reader the experience of living as someone else, to hear their story, and to learn about things they may not have thought about before.

This excerpt also shows the narrator struggling with keeping her epilepsy a secret. She doesn’t want anyone to know, for a variety of reasons: she’s proud, and doesn’t want to appear weak; she knows people will treat her differently when they know, and she wants her privacy. Everyone is entitled to keep their medical history private. However, that right is applied differently to those with conditions like epilepsy. My narrator knows that people will question her about the condition. She knows that people will police her behavior. And most of all, she knows people will question and judge her medical decisions.

Who wants that?

My story tackles a lot of issues. Important issues. But instead of allowing themselves to consider life in a truly different body, my reviewers wanted to erase my character’s experience as an epileptic, and change it to suit their perspective as a bystander (of a wreck on a freeway).