I’ve said it before: I really don’t want to wax politic here, I really don’t. This blog is about writing. It’s about my love of writing, the things I’ve learned that I want to pass on. It’s a part of my lifelong career. I don’t want to wax politic because a) that’s not what this blog is about, b) I don’t want to bore you/chase you away, and c) I try to avoid said waxing as much as possible these days for health reasons.
So I’m just going to say this about Shakespeare in the Park’s recent interpretation of Julius Caesar: to be honest, when Shakespeare is reworked and set in a more current context, quite often it’s bloody fantastic. We saw a recent version of Hamlet that took place during an extremely paranoid Cold War that worked perfectly. West Side Story (aka Romeo and Juliet, of course) is one of the best musicals ever made. The Globe Theatre’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in present time that we saw last year was absolutely hilarious. So a version of Julius Caesar in which JC is a very clear interpretation of Donald Trump? Totally makes sense to me. [And yes, it is true that the same troupe did a version some time ago using Obama, to little or no controversy.]
The issue here is not using a sitting President (a term I presently use with a bitter taste in my mouth, natch) in a play in which a major plot point is that he snuffs it. I mean, come on — remember Primary Colors (the book and the movie), which was supposed to make Bill Clinton look like a moron? LOLs for days from the right wing, as I recall. I saw the movie myself — it was pretty bad quality, but its ham-fisted attempts at cleverness didn’t give me the vapors.
The issue here, at least for me, is the willingness to be so incurious, so impassive, so willing to blindly idolize a person to the point that logic flies out the window. Or as Darrin Bell’s comic strip Candorville put it so wonderfully yesterday, “I’m starting to think you’ll say anything just to win an argument.” The vocal backlash was boggling. Blessedly short, but boggling.
On the plus side, it’s ridiculous situations like this that empower me even more to keep on writing. I don’t need to fight against pointless agruments like this. These voices may be loud and have a network megaphone, but they’re also a shrinking base. The longer this play goes on, the less comedic it becomes. There’s the unfortunate byproduct of all this, in which certain people will find this claptrap as God’s Truth and hurt someone, and I do sometimes fear that will escalate if this keeps up.
BUT — I refuse to lay down my quill because of it. More to the point, I want to pick it up more often. To keep sanity alive and kicking.
Another thing about perseverance, especially when you want to be a writer, is knowing full well that you’re going to face-plant into that next tree, but you go ahead anyway, scream “Yoiks, and away!” and make the jump.
It took me a long time to figure that out. I’d say most of my 90s output was really just about fostering the writing habit, getting used to it, getting better at it, little by little. Sure, I had delusions of grandeur that I’d be able to sell what I was writing, but there was always a small part of me that knew those delusions were exactly that. My attempts at submission then were during a time when I had no idea if I was any good. If they’d get accepted, then I’d figure I was on the right path and doing something right. If they didn’t, well…at least I knew that I still had some ways to go.
I still metaphorically face-plant into trees on a regular basis, of course. This time it’s less about quality or submission success, and more about dedication and time management. On Wednesday I wasted too much time doing other things that I didn’t give myself enough time for my daily practice words. I only got a few hundred down before I had to log off of that and get some Lidwells work done. I made up for it Thursday by avoiding Twitter* and making a point to get the practice words (and a few other creative things) out of the way early.
(* – Well, given that it was filled with comments, hot takes and livetweeting of the James Comey hearing, I had good reason.)
That’s the thing, really…despite the face-plants, I still have to shake it off and jump again at the next opportunity. Maybe one of these days I’ll clear all those obstacles.
I’d completely forgotten today is Monday. This is what happens when you have a four-day weekend full of fun plans: you completely forget what day it is. Which means I’d completely forgotten to write up an entry for today.
Oh well, that’s okay. I have a few things in mind that I’d like to post about, though we’ll be heading out to San Mateo pretty soon for the last day of BayCon (in which I’m featuring on two panels). I’ll either post something later today or I’ll have something in the next day or so.
My original plan to take the week off from blogging was simple: I had a lot on my plate, my energy was tapped, and I’d run out of things to blog about. I’d earned it, considering I’ve had a solid updating schedule over the last five months. Just a week off to focus on Day Job and personal deadlines, and not feel guilty about it.
It seems I chose to get all philosophical instead.
The week before, I’d been using my daily 750 Words to type up a sort of 90s version of my Walk in Silence riff — just writing about the various things that had gone on in a rollercoaster of a decade for me personally. As with the 80s riff I’d posted over at the WiS blog, this was partly about the music but mostly about me purging things out of my system once and for all. By purging, I mean this: writing it out for the final time, coming to peace with it, learning from it. And then moving forward.
I finished up that riff on Monday and briefly thought: what am I going to write about for my daily 750 Words now? I thought about it some and realized that the overall lesson I had to learn from my life in the 90s was this: stop trying to fit in where you so obviously can’t and don’t want to belong.
It’s a general statement to be sure, but the reasoning behind it makes sense. It started way back in my senior year in high school, actually; there’s a reason I half-joked to one of my friends with the following: “It’s hard to be a nonconformist when there’s no one else to be nonconformist with.”
I said that knowing full well how oxymoronic (and moronic) that sounded. The reason I’d said it was because my closest friends at the time, who were all a year ahead of me, had all left for college. They’d all been on my wavelength, something I hadn’t been able to find with anyone else, to such a degree.
I started riffing on that with my Daily Words. It reminded me of something one of that group had written sometime in 1989 along the same lines. He’d talked about being a nonconformist — not so much in a political sense but as a personal decision — and what it took for that kind of mindset to thrive. Like me, he grew up in a somewhat conservative small town where rebelling against the mainstream didn’t take all that much effort: listening to college radio, liking weird things, wearing odd clothes, and giving up all intentions at trying to fit in with everyone else. No mohawk, piercing or tattoo necessary, unless you wanted to go that far. [To my knowledge, none of us did at the time.]
One of his points kind of resonated with me after all these years: it’s kind of hard to be a nonconformist in a vacuum, because the energy behind that mindset tends to dissipate. Why rebel against the mainstream when the mainstream doesn’t care about you either way? And on the other end of the spectrum: if the only reason you’re rebelling is to be among your own kind — other nonconformists — you’re kind of missing the point.
My mistake in the 90s was that I was trying so hard to achieve the latter. I was looking for a surrogate crowd to take place of my old circle of friends. [Remember, this is well before the Age of Social Media, so the only way we could remain in contact was by phone (too expensive), by weekends off (too iffy due to different schedules), or by letter writing (too much of a pain in the arse and a super slow turnaround).] That itself was a dismal failure, and while I did end up finding a great group of friends a short time later, it wasn’t exactly the same. I always felt a bit out of place. And would continue to feel this way throughout the rest of the 90s.
So. What’s the point of this current riff? What’s with the sudden resurgence in fascination with nonconformity? Well, I would be lying if I didn’t say it might have a little to do with the current presidential administration. In an odd way, too me, he and his cronies are a shocking parallel to the jocks and the popular kids at school. They weren’t always causing harm, but they certainly knew how to fuck with people’s heads, and they could not deal with the square peg. Or they’re the eager followers, willingly ignoring reality and/or other people while desperately trying to claim their role as part of The Gang.
Part of it is also me revisiting my fascination with nonconformity, but on a more stable, creative and positive level. It’s no longer about rebellion just for the sake of it (“What are you rebelling against?” “Whadda ya got?”); nor is it about achieving a reactive response. As I’ve said before, I’m trying to avoid falling into the reactionary trap; I’ve wasted far too much time and energy playing that game.
The nonconformity I started riffing on, and what I’ve been contemplating lately, is really about relearning how to ignore outside influence that I don’t need or want. This is more about shedding all the extraneous bullshit in my life, the distractions and the irritations that derail me from what and who I am, and who I want and need to be. I’ve already figured out who I am at this point; I just need to make a more concerted effort to be that person.
This is why I’m the kind of writer that I am, writing stories in the way that makes sense to me creatively, publishing them in the way that makes sense to me creatively. I’m the kind of writer who will hear certain ‘don’t do this’ writing advice and immediately think, well, why not? And then follow up with an attempt at proving it wrong. I go with what my soul sings to me.
In the end, with this bit of recent insight and clarity, my long-game plan is to regenerate a bit (to borrow a Whovian term) and return to that True Self I’d had in my head for years but hadn’t been able to achieve.
“When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” – Doctor Who (11th Doctor, Matt Smith)
Taking a week off from blogging, folks, starting yesterday. I’ve pulled myself quite thin lately between Day Jobbery and Writing Projects that I forgot I only have so much energy to spare.
I’m going to take some time to reorganize my schedule and activities so I’m not running myself ragged. I may have been able to do this in the past, but age and stress does do a number on a person after awhile.
I’ll be back on the horse on the 22nd. See you then.
Oh hey! I’d completely forgotten to write up a WtBt entry yesterday! Sorry about that, folks. Here you go. Sometimes the weekend gets the best of me.
Or in this case, A. and I binged on the Star Wars movies this weekend, watching the original three and following it up with The Force Awakens (which we still hadn’t gotten around to watching). We also bought Rogue One at the mall this weekend so we’re all good to go with that series for the moment. [Not including the prequels — that’ll be for another time.]
I’ll be honest, I’m not used to taking days off from writing. I get a nagging in the back of my brain that I shouldn’t be wasting time doing frivolous things when I should be working on a project. It usually goes away with a good movie or television series (British TV is really good at that for me). But it’s worth it, especially as I have to remind myself to watch and read new things that could give me insights on my own work.
In other news, I’ve been keeping busy with Meet the Lidwells, and I’m glad to report that the word count has been consistent. I’ve been hitting between 500 and 1000 words a night, which is alright by me. That’s my normal average on first drafts, so I’m happy with that. And as first drafts go, this one’s going fine so far. Room for improvement, but I’ll let myself worry about that on the first once-over later on. To tie in with the music metaphors here, I’m laying down Take 1, where I’ll hit a few bum notes and flub a few of the verses, but at least I’ll know what to fix when it’s time for overdubs and mixing. 🙂
Meanwhile, it’s finally dawned on me that BayCon will be in a few weeks!! It’s probably time for me to prepare myself for that considering.
Here’s my schedule for the con…if you happen to be there, stop by and say hi!
World building techniques and approaches Saturday 11:30 – 13:00, Synergy 4 (San Mateo Marriott)
Specifically focused on pointers for attendees to attempt rather than history of what panelists did with X. Panelists: Margaret McGaffey Fisk (M), Kevin Andrew Murphy, Ms. Jennifer L. Carson, Jon Chaisson, Katharine Kerr
Cover Me Monday 10:00 – 11:30, Convene 1 (San Mateo Marriott)
How to put a good cover on your book. Panelists: Ms. Jennifer L. Carson (M), Mr. Ezra Barany, Jon Chaisson, Daniel Dociu
You Want to Build Your Own Language? Monday 13:00 – 14:30, Inspire 1 (San Mateo Marriott)
An intro course on how to build a language. Panelists: Jon Chaisson, Kai MacTane (M), Juliette Wade
In the meantime, back to the mundy Day Job with the hopes that I can sneak in some Daily Words later on when things quiet down!
Just a fly-by today…nothing much to report other than that all is well. I’ve been hitting an average of 500 to 1000 words a day for Meet the Lidwells (woohoo!), and it’s been running quite smoothly. Funny how that happens when you outline beforehand, no?
Also: started the daily 750 Words back up again. A lot of it is just riffing right now, but that’s just fine. It’s practice words, and that’s what counts.
Other than that, going to have a much-needed relaxing weekend!
This was written and posted on 11 November of last year. Given today’s appalling actions of the Republican party today regarding the healthcare repeal, I felt it necessary to repost.
As it stands, I have absolutely no more fucks to give on that party, obviously.
Thus, I find it imperative that if they’re so bent on the Federal government not being in charge, that they’d rather put lives at risk just to save someone else money, then we must find a way to help ourselves. Especially where healthcare and insurance are concerned.
Never thought I’d sound like one of those telethons of yore, but please — do what you can. If this keeps up, we’re really gonna fucking need it.
* * * *
Obviously you know how I feel about the Fuckwit winning.
But that’s not what I’m going to talk about.
Let’s talk about other writers, other artists, other musicians. The creative people out there who inspire us, entertain us, move our spirits.
I’m looking pretty far ahead at the moment. I dearly hope that I am 100% wrong in feeling this way, but I would not be the least bit surprised if over the next four years, life for creative people starts getting harder. And that life for people who want to be creative — the students and the kids who dream about being writers, artists, knitters, sculptors, musicians and so on — gets harder as well.
You already know how I feel about this; it’s always aggravated and annoyed me that the arts field is always the last on the budget list and the first to get axed when the economy starts tanking. You can get financial help if you’re a football or basketball player, but you’re not worth much if you sit around trying to create something (that is, of course, unless you create something that’ll make tons of cash for everyone). Too many people I know are held back from doing what they do and love best because of the Real Life of having to get a secondary job to supplement their income.
I should know. I’m one of them. Sure, my wife and I are reasonably okay financially, but if I could contribute as much to our combined income using just my writing, I’d drop my Day Job in a heartbeat.
This is precisely why I love this recent vibrant era of DIY creativity. Self-publishing, pop-up galleries, personal online stores, webcomics, boutique startups, Bandcamp. It’s more, a LOT more than saying to hell with the establishment, more than saying ‘wouldn’t it be fun to put on a show in the barn’. It’s saying “I know exactly what I want to do with my life, and I’m going to make that a reality.”
It’s not saying ‘fuck the rules’, it’s completely rewriting them.
I ask all of you now, do me a solid:
Look at your social media timelines. Look at those webcomics you read every day. Look at those bands whose music you download from Bandcamp. Look at that necklace or pair of earrings you bought off Etsy. Look at those artists whose painting you picked up from their tiny booth at the local pop-up gallery down the street. Look at those creative people, and realize that this, their creative work is what they do best. This is what makes them happy. This is what lifts their spirits. Your purchases and downloads and reviews are there to say “I love what you created.”
Do me a favor: in the next four years, if any of them have a Patreon, are running a Kickstarter, or are doing some kind of of fundraising so they can stay in business doing what they do and love the most in their lives, please donate. Even if it’s five dollars a month.
What you’re giving them is more than money. You’re giving them a chance to live the life they’ve always wanted to live. And that is one of the best things you can do for someone.
…new habits are even harder to keep, especially when you’re trying to reorganize your life. It’s terribly easy to slip back into the old ones when you’re trying your damnedest to get rid of them because they don’t work for you anymore.
Still, I can’t expect them to change overnight.
I’ve been doing my best to reorganize my life so I’m not wasting so much time passively surfing the internets. There are a few goals here, of course: I can still get easily caught up in the latest imbroglio on social media, fall down the rabbit hole of You Tube (I wasted a good ten minutes right now looking for other Monty Python gifs and then finding the Spectrum skit, one of my favorites), or staring at the screen trying to think of what the hell I’m going to blog about for tomorrow’s entry.
On the other hand, I have great days when I fall into a groove and I get all sorts of things done. I’ll close down the browsers and only have my mp3 software running (or a single browser playing a radio station or one of the Sirius XM channels).
So what to do about it?
I’ve tried all kinds of things. Closing down the browsers. Knowing the difference between enjoying an unencumbered weekend afternoon and just wasting time. Obsessive cleaning and reorganizing. Facing down the Don’t Wannas by doing the damn thing regardless. Putting my current writing project front and center on my screen (or in this case, on my desk) so I can’t avoid it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, it’s a matter of actively working on changing those habits.
This was in response to Gulf War I, which kicked off during the Christmas break of my sophomore year at Emerson College. Everyone my age had grown up during the Cold War, and even though that seemed to be in the past tense now (the Berlin Wall having come down months earlier), we were all nervous. Was this going to be a big war? Was this going to be our Vietnam? What was going to happen?
What if they reinstated a draft?
In retrospect, it was a small enough war that that wasn’t going to happen, but we really had no idea if that was true at the time.
I remember I was with my dad and my sisters at McDonald’s in Gardner when we got to talking about the Gulf War, and it was at that time that I’d made my decision to follow the principle of ahimsa: no harm. I absolutely refuse to take another person’s life.
Oh, my college friends and I had those conversations when we got back to our dorms. By then Gulf War I was in full swing and would end within a few weeks. Some were for it, some were against it, some didn’t know, some didn’t give a shit.
My reaction to all that was to draw the above strip. Originally I’d posted it up on the door of my dorm room, where it got a huge response from passersby. A few suggested I submit it to our school paper, The Berkeley Beacon, which I did soon after, to more positive response. In fact, the one negative response I got was to some conservative-minded student who took offense to it because they’d somehow thought ‘The Ignorant’ person was meant to be Republican. Hey, you’re the one who assumed that, chief, not me.
I’m quite proud of that strip. It’s not my best artwork, but it’s one of my best works scriptwise.
So yeah. Writing this post at 7pm PT on 6 April, just as the current administration has launched a missile attack on Syria in response to the terrorist attack there earlier this week. I don’t know the details, so I’m not going to hem and haw and pontificate and indignate or whatever. Not right now.
I’ll be brutally honest, I don’t feel too optimistic about this event at the moment. Not because I’m a pacifist, but because a) I don’t trust this current administration to sharpen a fucking pencil and b) I’m really not looking forward to the Orgasmic Patriotism we may get as a response from the hard right. I’m afraid that there will be much dick swinging and flagwaving and no responsibility for the aftershock it causes.
I shall carry on. I still have my work to do on this new project of mine. Nothing’s going to take that away from me.