Tag: writing life

The Destructive Hubris of Humans

the fly up close

Does this picture make you uncomfortable? Itchy? Grossed out? Are you trippin’ on the fact that me and this fly are equally hirsute? Okay, fuck you, I’m hairier than a goddamn fly. It’s body is also a much prettier hue than mine. Fucker. This fly was dying. I find flies intensely irritating but I also have mad respect for how much more important they are to the planet than humans. That’s a true fact. Humans do nothing for the planet’s ecosystem while flies are a vital part of breaking down organic matter into nutritious soil-improving humus that helps plant life flourish. Ants and flies are vitally important, humans aren’t important at all.

All humans contribute to earth is their destructive hubris.

There was a time when at least dead humans fed maggots and ants and could be counted on as fertilizer for plants  but then we, in our hubris, decided that we were too good to rot like other animals. We began to devise ways to avoid returning to the soil naturally and learned to turn our corpses into toxic land mines.

I DO kill flies sometimes when they get in my house and won’t stay out of my face or off of my food. But when I do so, I understand that I’m killing a better creature than myself. It’s not sometimes I celebrate. This dying dude and I shared some poetry together and I let him hang out on my arm as he pleased. I had beer, it was a moment. I later found him on my floor feet skyward.

I’ve gone mentally microscopic. My thoughts have become macro views of an almost invisible universe.

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the novels I have in my queue. My urge to work on fiction is strong but not strong enough right now. It’s all percolating. I’ve had the freeing thought that I don’t have to ever work on the stories I’ve semi-mapped out already if a newer more urgent one starts screaming through my mental discomfort.

I had awful nightmares last night. So much going on in them. It’s hard to quantify what made them so disturbing. What made them stressful. If I have one directive with my writing it’s to put the tension and strange terrain of my nightmares into stories, out of my head and into other people’s heads. You probably think I mean to write horror. I do not. I don’t like the horror genre. Incidentally, this might sting some of my writer friends, I have always disliked Lovecraft. I don’t care for monsters and mystical creatures as villains or gore for titillation. Humans are the villains of my nightmares. Humans and chaos and slowing time and the vile sludge of human filth.

Broken-down over-flowing stench-filled public bathrooms have long been a recurring horror in my nightmares.

Rape, torture, dismemberment are other horrors of my nightmares and of my mind. I’ve heard a lot of people on Twitter saying lately that they’re tired of rape being depicted in books, that there’s no need for that. I get not wanting to read rape scenes. I get that women are tired of the rape of women being common.* A lot of people are calling rape in fiction a “device”. I disagree wholeheartedly with this assessment. It’s true that some authors may use rape as a story device. But in a lot of stories, especially by women, this is a depiction of reality. Rape is an inexorably common occurrence, particularly against women, and to stop telling stories that have rape in them is to expunge an enormously life-shaping experience too many people have.

I think rape has been featured in stories so much and continues to be featured because it’s so common in reality. Dwelling on the scenes might be sensationalism at times but I’ve read at least a thousand books in my life and in most books rape is glossed over. So much so that when it’s treated to a dose of reality in books like “The Color Purple” it’s shocking and gutting. I believe this is a more important story for women to tell than the age old story of women being mothers, wanting to be mothers, worshiping motherhood. Good god, we never stop reading stories about women as mothers. The impact of having kids in every possible circumstance. Women as wives. Women as Femme Fatales.

But books that deal intelligently and honestly with women as the sexual objects of men and as the punching bags of bitter disappointed angry men – WRITTEN BY WOMEN – are still too thin on the ground.

I don’t actually want to read books that are just about women’s experiences of being raped. I want to see stories about women’s lives from a more complete view. I want to know about the violence women experience and how it shapes their lives and most importantly I want to know how they come through it, I want to know how women have become empowered after being crushed.

Life is full of violence. I don’t have any stories to tell that aren’t full of violence too. I don’t have any gentle stories to tell. There are no gentle corners in my head. There are no verdant green spaces full of fairies and flowers and flooded with only love and good and beauty. The brighter the beauty of a thing the darker its corners are in my experience.

Most of my stories don’t have rape in them specifically. One of them does and it’s important. It’s so important to me that I write it but it’s the one story that I’ve written so much for and remains hopelessly tangled and inarticulate. It’s the hardest story to tell of all the stories in my queue.

Until violence against women and abuse of women becomes a rare thing, stories that involve violence and abuse against women remain important. For every woman who remains silent about her experiences out of shame or fear, women writers need to open the way. We need to be telling their stories for them. We need to be exploring how to come away from those violent experiences stronger than we were before we went through them. We need to explore how to stop it from happening to others. We need to explore why it happens. We need to explore the dark tunnels that lead to light.

Not talking about bad things has never fixed a thing. Burying stories because they’re unpleasant gives the unpleasantness all the room it needs to flourish. Silence is never the way forward. Silence is never the way to healing.

I’m not interested in reading stories that use rape or violence as a “device”. But I dare you to find any great story that isn’t propelled forward by either an overt or an implied threat of violence. It’s pretty much the underpinning to all conflict. If not literal violence, then aggression that ruins people. There are no good stories devoid of either aggression or violence. Without one or the other (the one is just one end of a continuum that leads to the other) there can be no conflict. Without conflict there is no tension and no tension means no story to follow.

Sometimes you have to stop listening to the voices of strangers on social media, even of other writers, and trust yourself to write what you need to write and know that someone out there desperately needs you to write it. I write for myself and for that someone who hasn’t yet found their own voice and needs to borrow mine for courage.

Part of this journey of self care is to shut out all the approbation of others, the shoutings and the directives others are pasting all over their own walls and sharing publicly, to paint my own directives, to shout my own truths. To ignore the wider world so that I can listen to the macro world, the almost invisible world around me. I’m shutting out news and activism and babble and rabble – so that I can get to a deeper kind of spiritual activism.




POV: I Want Your Opinion for this MS



Choosing the point of view for my novels is the single most frustrating aspect of writing them. With Cricket and Grey I solved the dilemma by using both. Not a style preferred by all readers but it felt right for that book. It served the story in a way I needed it to. However, I’m working on my Bad Romance manuscript and just like with every novel I have in progress, this is the point that really makes me feel stabby. This particular novel needs to be in one single POV. So I’ve written a short first chapter in 1st and a short first chapter in 3rd.  Here’s what I want to do: show you the first few paragraphs of each version and hear what your preference is. You have to bear in mind that this is merely a first draft which means VERY ROUGH WRITING. So the only thing I want to know is – which version draws you in the most. If neither draws you in at all, don’t comment at all. Ready?

First few paragraphs in 1st person:

The moment our eyes met across the stuffy crowded bar and he grabbed his crotch, licked his lips, and winked at me, I regretted letting my friends drag me to Rick’s place on the night of my homecoming party. I was starting to regret going out at all. The group of friends I’d missed so much while working in Los Angeles seemed different to me now. Maybe because I was thirty two years old and I was getting tired of the bar-hopping lifestyle my friends seemed to be holding onto tightly. By eleven o’clock Kim was barfing into the bathroom trashcan at a bar with the unfortunate name of “Salt Lick”. They all promised me they’d hand Rick’s balls to him if he bothered me, but by the time we reached Frontier, Kim and Suze were licking just about everything that got close enough to their faces for their tongues to reach. Far from protecting me from having to deal with Rick, Suze dragged him to our table as soon as she saw his little performance.

“Look who I found!” she said to him, pointing at me like an exhibit “The little royal highness herself has returned from the south” she tossed back the rest of her drink and burped.

“I knew you’d come crawling back eventually” he said, grinning smugly.

“I’d use those rad psychic skills of yours to save your balls from my knee” I suggested.

“You’re just as hatchet-tongued as ever” he said.

“My works here is dones” Suze said, hiccuping once before wandering off to locate better sport.

“Play your cards right and Suze will lick you without you having to ask for it”

“She’d lick a pile of shit in her condition” he said, looking at Suze’s retreating back.

“That’s what I just said”

He looked down at me with annoyance, opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, and walked off in the casual way he always did.

I could see Kim trying to swallow another person whole in an epic face-sucking session, and Suze was suggestively licking beer foam off of some girl’s glass while the girl looked on in amazed horror. I was much too sober and suddenly feeling more lonely than I had felt living alone in Los Angeles for the last six years.

I squeezed myself between two people at the bar to order myself a drink.

“Want a lift? You can see better from my lap” offered the man to my left. I sized him up and down slowly, to be sure he noticed.

“I get it, clown, I’m short” I said. The bartender, a thin Asian guy, threw a bar towel over his shoulder and leaned in to take my order.

“I’ll try the Garland Special” I shouted into his ear.

“Feeling desperate, are you?” he asked.

“I beg your pardon!”

“You have to be in a desperate mood to appreciate this one. If you’re not feeling desperation of any kind, may I suggest the Coit Tower Fog instead?”

“Desperate and much too dry. I’ll stick with the Garland Special”

It took him a while to get to my order but when he did I watched with fascination as he made my drink with an economy of energy that still managed to communicate a flourish. What he set in front of me did look like despair itself. The liquor was a muddled brownish color near the bottom with floating bits reminding me of flotsam in the bay. A slightly charred dark brown onion stabbed through with a knotted wooden pick drowned itself under the layer of ice. I fished it out and, without thinking about it, popped it in my mouth. It was a revelation. It tasted of balsamic vinegar with the smallest wisp of rosemary and though it had seemed solid enough in my drink it gave itself to me like a prostitute to her last John. Then I laughed out loud at my own thoughts brought on by a goddamn cocktail onion. The bartender looked over his shoulder in my direction and smiled when I raised my drink to him in salute.

First few paragraphs in 3rd person:

The night was clear and hot. The smell of piss on grimy asphalt wafted from the entrances of every alleyway mixing exotically with the heavy perfume of the drunken crowds stumbling down Comumbus and Broadway. This wasn’t the homecoming Geneva had imagined for herself. She watched Suze and Kim chattering with their heads close together just ahead of her. Her best friends through high school were looking old and slatternly in their tiny dresses and five inch knock-off Louboutins. She felt betrayed by time and memory. The friends she left behind were fun and spirited but now they just looked like unprofessional call girls. They’d criticized her look too.

“Chinos, Eva? Really?” Suze said, looking Geneva up and down.

“They’re not chinos, they’re-”

“Are you gay?” Kim broke in.

“You’ve known me for seventeen years and you don’t know I only date men?”

“If you’re not gay, why wear men’s shoes? You didn’t used to wear men’s shoes” Suze looked like a person who knew they’d asked the clincher of a question and practically licked the cream from her paws while Geneva just stared at her with a distinct chill in her expression.

The whole conversation was ridiculous and yet it bothered Geneva. Her friends didn’t used to be so stupid. The fact that she was wearing Dickies and men’s wing tip shoes didn’t make her look the least bit manly. Even her boyishly narrow hips couldn’t do that. She was wearing her signature style, men’s pants and shoes, a fitted scoop necked tee, antique Victorian garnet chandelier earrings, her dense curls pulled into a messy top knot, and her small wrists were weighted with several gold bracelets. Her dark upward slanting eyes were set off with black liner making them appear bigger than they were. In spite of her lashes being straight and not very long, it was her eyes that most people remembered most about her face. More than they remembered her full lips on which she always wore a shade of crimson lipstick that particularly set off her creamy brown skin.

Geneva didn’t regret moving back to San Francisco. The air here had that inimitable blend of city grime and sea fog that was part of her childhood and after six years of living under the heavy hot smog of Los Angeles, it felt wonderful to breath the fresher city air of home. Even on rare steamy summer nights such as this one, the air was so much cleaner. What she was regretting was letting Suze and Kim take her out. They were determined to end the evening drunk in strangers’ beds. Now they were dragging her to Frontier, the bar her ex-boyfriend owned. No amount of objection deterred her two friends. She thought about abandoning them and heading home to the tiny studio apartment she just moved into. Surely unpacking boxes was better than this.

Instead she followed behind them reluctantly telling herself that the sooner she faced Rick, the better. Just as they reached the bar, Kim lunged to the nearest trash can and barfed loudly. When she was finished, she wiped her mouth on the back of her hand,and said “Let’s DO this, bitches!” They entered the crowded bar and looked for a table.

Which version draws you in more? I think doing this exercise convinces me that 1st is the strongest.

Depressed and Happy at the Same Time

upstairs at la rosa

Dream scraps: long journey, walking side of road, collecting wild herbs and flowers, broken people, stopping in a city and really weird creepy shit happens that I can’t quite remember. Probably for the best.

Yesterday was an amazing day. Truly a great day. I wrote both my blog post and spent two hours finishing chapter 3 of Jane Doe. Then headed out to the garden in the early evening when there was a nice breeze and trimmed plants and yanked some out and generally started cleaning up for new plantings. It felt fantastic. That’s my world being in balance.

The kid is pretty surly lately though. I’m definitely not winning any parenting awards. I’ve let him go completely feral up there hanging out with is online friends all day. Sometimes he comes out at night to walk with his dad. Whatever. Soon enough he’ll be starting high school and working his ass off learning for 8 hours a day. I think he can have these last few weeks to do whatever the fuck he wants.

Oh, and his shadow mustache has appeared.

2 days and we begin the next sober period. For real this time. Seriously. Because I need to lose weight for my November vacation. I won’t feel as good if I go like I am now. Also – having put weight back on – SO DEPRESSING. But I’m the one who did it so I don’t get to be pissed off.

Depressed a little bit about lack of actual writing career. The good thing about life  before Twitter is that I didn’t know any agented published authors. Now I know tons of writers with agents and book deals. Le Sigh. The good thing is that all these authors I know are such amazing people and I feel like I get to spend my time with a writing tribe as I work on my book and it’s something my life was missing and that I really needed.

I’ve decided that self publishing is not for me. I got impatient and so we published Cricket and Grey and it looks fantastic and the editing is great so I’m proud of what we produced but I can’t sell stuff for shit. Self promotion is my Achilles heel. This is something I have to keep working on whether self publishing or not but at least when you have an agent and a publisher behind your book it’s easier to promote.

So Jane Doe is going the traditional route. Might take years to sell once I’m done writing it but that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m keeping it short today because I’m going to put in some time on the novel and I still have a Stitch post to write.



Sunday Thoughts: Nightmare, Sponsorship, Writing


Nightmare scraps: was in a boat, boat sank, had to swim to shore, leg bitten by a shark. This wound followed me through the rest of the nightmare and a second one after waking and going  back to sleep. First didn’t get it sutured up. Finally begged someone to do it for me. They started, it was painful. Later, turned out there was some thin rope stuck in my gashes in a botched attempt at suturing and I needed to get it OUT but no one would do it.

There was a party. I was waiting for someone who never showed up. But a guy friend and I stuck together, he was kind of hyper and I had to keep bringing him back to earth. I remembered being friends with him since grade school. We’d always been friends and it was comfortable to be with him. We go looking for people and end up walking through the bathroom and find a young girl in a half full tub who looks dead. She’s not quite dead. Two men are there with her, naked. I ask if they had sex with the young girl and they admit that they had. I inform them I’m calling the police. The one that wasn’t passed out drunk makes weak objection but I call the police.

There was a mail box with something besides mail in it. Scenic Drive house again but the mailbox is on the porch instead of on the street.

Here it is, Sunday afternoon. I slept in so late that I’ve pretty much just started my day. I’m still drinking coffee.

For the last few days I’ve been watching Top Chef because I don’t have the food channel and I really want to watch food shows. Let me tell you, this one is awful. I have to finish this one season to see it through and see who wins (I looked up the spoiler so I know but I need to SEE it happen) but after that I won’t ever watch it again. For several reasons but one the biggest is that this show has the most obnoxious product placement bullshit that influence most, if not ALL, of the challenges facing the chefs. It’s more like a cooking game show with mean spirited people who win stuff all along the way and then have to mention the products they’re using/driving/experiencing frequently. Whenever the contestants go somewhere by car they get into the car in question and say what kind it is, what model, and something nice about it. So cheesy and stupid and pimpy.

It is NOT about great cooking. This show is more about selling cars than it is about cooking. It’s more about selling tin foil than it is about cooking. Corporate brands are mentioned at a rate of two to three times in each segment of a single episode. It’s total bullshit.

This weekend is also BlogHer14. Many people I know are there having a blast. Part of me wishes I was there to see friends but as I look at all their pictures of the event I am reminded of the pimpy aspect of it that I hated the two times I went. Parties are sponsored by McDonald’s and other dubious products and corporate companies. People love getting the swag which is mostly just cheap stuff printed with company names. Most people who are posting pictures are actually pimping the sponsors by including product hashtags and handles in all their posts.

I hated that. That gross product whoring. It felt inauthentic and all these people I know love it – eat it up – grabbing all the free stuff they can regardless of it’s actual worth and they become walking advertizements for companies that have paid them nothing, done nothing worthy, but give you 2 cent thumb drives with their company logo printed on it.

But that’s business! Says everyone. You have to have sponsors. It’s the only way to make it in this world! Plus – who doesn’t want to eat questionable meat foods from companies that have trashed the earth and stuffed human beings with the most unhealthy garbage imaginable?! WHO DOESN’T THINK IT’S FUN TO PARTY WITH CORPORATE AMERICA? Corporations are people, after all, and apparently they are party animals.

So I’m thinking about authenticity and how little of it there is left in my country, in the world. I want to sell my books but what will it take to make a living writing novels? Can I ever make it without getting in bed with PRODUCT?

It all depresses the shit out of me.

I like to think that there’s still room to create things without corporate or product sponsorship. I want to believe that it’s still the WRITING and the quality of the writing that matters most in the book world and the blog world and the art and entertainment world. All I can do is reject inauthenticity where ever I find it. Like not watch Top Chef. Not read blogs with sponsored posts. Not give time and energy or my money to companies and products that are toxic to the earth and to the humans who consume their stuff.

Those are my Sunday thoughts so far.

I think I need to get back to using my blog as a daily journal. It’s how I started it.

I cut my thumb last night trying to access an avocado.

It’s hot again today.

I think my novel writing is suffering because I’m not keeping a journal every day. You have to get the inane stuff out. It’s not like I have a real following here any more. Not even sure anyone is still reading it at all. It’s mine. I can do whatever the fuck I want with it. This is my pocket universe. I make the rules here.

There is a tiny breeze.

Often times when you get the inane stuff out you find other more interesting stuff that comes out with it. I think that’s the magic of keeping a daily journal.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of note taking out in the world to amuse myself. It’s calming and amusing to me and what I’ve been doing since I was a teen. Making observations about the people and places around me. I sit in the middle of it (we are always in the middle of our own experience) and write what comes to mind. Stream of consciousness stuff. Some of it comes directly from the outside stimuli but some is just catching the wild thoughts in your head with a net and writing them down. It’s like meditation for me. I’ve been posting them to Instagram and Twitter and Facebook if you ever want to catch them.

Getting back to the habits and discipline that helps me get the good writing going.

In case anyone is wondering I did NOT end up going sober again but we’ve decided we’ll do it starting August first for three months – just up until my vacation to Colorado to see some writing friends who’ve been making my every day more amusing and the writing adventure less lonely. So, things are shifting as they need to. We need to save money and lose weight – I don’t know why July has felt like such an impossible time to not drink but it has.

I hate this summer weather but in spite of wishing we would have more cool days and maybe even some rain – I am still loving where we live. Every day I seem to look up and out at some point and realize how happy it makes me to live not only in California, but specifically here in Santa Rosa. It’s such a good feeling to love where we live.

I feel like posting some pictures over on Stitch so I’m done here for now. Hope whoever is reading has an awesome Sunday!


Always The Heavy


I’m a little bit of a mess at the moment. Tired of the barefoot nightmares. Tired of hip/neck/foot/back pain. Tired of writer’s block. Tired of summer.

(Though the tomatoes are just coming in and that’s definitely a bright happy thing. Pickling and canning start soon. That also makes me happy.)

Maybe my writer’s block is because I’m not in direct communication with Jesus or the cosmic universe or MY FEELINGS.

I was telling my friend Sharon about my difficulty settling on a project because nothing I write is working or is worth a shit right now. Or for the last 6 months. She asked some good questions. I didn’t have good answers.

One thing that I did realize for the thousandth time is that I don’t like being everyone’s heavy*. I don’t like being your emotionally heavy and dark friend. I don’t like being a heavy and emotionally dark writer. I don’t like to read really dark stories myself. I want to live my life in a Mary Stewart novel. My fantasy life is always a suspense novel with a little romance thrown in. I don’t want to be the the heavy in every room, the heavy in every crowd, the heavy in every family. I’m always the heavy. Always.

The only man I ever loved besides Philip called me “heavy”. It was such a stinging blow because it was the truth I hated most about myself. The next person he went out with was a world adventurer and full of light.

At work meetings I’m always the one being practical and boring and can be counted on to bring everyone in the room thumping back into the center of reality and deadlines and what isn’t working. No one likes that person.

So perhaps I’m having a core crisis here. What I AM is not what I want to be.

I wrote a dystopian novel because it was such a lighter topic than the one about the raped girl who grows up and heals and then is attacked again and broken into more pieces. I wrote about a grim future for my country because it was light compared to what I really (apparently) need to be writing. But every time I tell people about the rape story I feel like I’m drawing curtains across their sunshine and plunging them into a hateful awful place.

The first time I tried to write that rape story I ruined it trying to protect my main character from the darkness and cloaked her in a cheesy romantic comedy that wasn’t even really funny, just cheesy. Because I felt so bad and also because I didn’t want to be writing this dark shit.



I want to be a light bearer.

Sharon assures me that I also bring humor into the dark with my victims friends. That I always offer a little salve of hope and my individuality and weird way I see the world is interesting and cool. That while I’m busy crushing your heart I am also making you laugh.

I don’t want to give my family anything new to put under a microscope.

I also struggle because I don’t know HOW to tell this story right.

All these writers I know are writing science fiction, Young Adult fiction, romance, and steampunk – stories with adventure and fun and cool landscapes – real entertainment.

Nothing about the rape story I’m writing is entertaining – in the same way that watching the movie “Ordinary People” wasn’t entertaining.

So Sharon says maybe I’m not writing well because I’m not writing what I know I need to be writing. That I’m just afraid to be the writer I AM and am busy trying to be the writer I WISH I WAS.

She might be right.

When I wrote the first draft I was cracking open like a dry nut inside and all this awful suppressed fear and pain came out like slow hot lava. I wasn’t just trying to protect Jane from her story, I was trying to protect myself from her story too.

I ‘m always going to be the heavy in the room.

I should get over it and get on with the writing.

*Not physically heavy, I don’t mean FAT.

Writer’s Block is Like a Broken Elevator


I’m six months into writer’s block and I am just about ready to give up writing and become a Walmart Greeter.*

Other careers I’m considering: big game keeper, personal assistant for fake celebrities, personal chef to vegetarian professional wrestlers, cross walk guard, lettuce taster, fat alcoholic bar maid, JC Penny family photographer, professional gum scraper, make-up artist to porn stars, feline style consultant, interpretive dance choreographer.

In the last six months I’ve worked on book 2 of Cricket and Grey (such a slog with only a few moments of light where I remembered how excited I am about the story), a new project called “Suicide for Beginners”, and then, finally have returned to the long ignored “Jane Doe” for which I have just finished fixing the plot and developing the characters more. Yesterday I started the massive rewrite and it took one page to give me that same feeling that all the other projects are giving me – THE DESIRE TO SCREAM ON THE TOP OF MY LUNGS THAT I AM SO OVER NOT BEING ABLE TO WRITE EVEN ONE GOOD FUCKING SENTENCE.

What the hell happened? The desire to write is always with me. I want to dive in and I want to get sucked into the story I’m writing. I love my projects and writing them should at the very least keep my interest because if I can’t even get into writing them there’s no way anyone will ever want to read them. With Cricket and Grey the rough draft was tough and torrid and stupid but I was so excited about the story and I had my grip on the proper voice and then on the second draft I was still super excited and got even more into it as I took out all the melodrama and began to make a finer work of it. The whole process was engrossing and felt like exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I felt like I was living my purpose and loving it. I felt right in my own skin.

I’m not saying it was all smooth going. There were the agonizing weeks of trying to decide on POV and rewriting the first chapter 12 times in different perspectives and tones. But I felt excited about it even as I agonized over the details. It’s all I wanted to do every day. I also had to work almost full time and parent and deal with my small town nemesis and growing crowd of pitchfork waving townies. But I’d sit down every day to write and what got me through the tougher parts were the good parts. Rereading through the previous days writing and seeing potential in it and good bits.

I have no good bits any more. I can’t even tell which project would be best to work on. I went back to the Jane story because it’s continued to nag at me for all the years I’ve set it aside. But I’m so depressed looking at what I thought was the good parts only to realize they aren’t good at all. Then I try completely rewriting and it doesn’t get any better.

It’s not the stories that suck, it’s my writing.

I didn’t realize this was writer’s block. I mean, I wrote 12 chapters into book 2 of Cricket and Grey before reworking the plot and starting over. I thought writer’s block was when you sit down and can’t even put words on the page. I realize now how stupid that is. Of course it’s when nothing you write is good. For months and months, wearing you down until you find yourself fantasizing about living out the rest of your life as an unpaid cheese promoter.

I need to get back into the middle of a project and be so engrossed I forget to feed my kid.** I’ve written so much and been so unsatisfied I feel like I haven’t written for months.

Then there’s the whole “Why I gotta wanna write such depressing dark stuff?”

Writer’s block is like a broken elevator that takes you up and down a building in an endless exercise of vertical pointlessness.

*In a chillingly astute observation a fellow writer suggested that my conversational skills might make this job a fulfilling and exciting one for me.
**More than usual, I mean.

Fighting My Invisibility


79 days of sobriety.  11 days left.  27lbs lost.  86lbs left to lose.  3lbs more to lose to reach my goal of losing 30lbs in 90 days.  Those are the numbers.

I’ve continued to be blue over my non-existent writing “career”.  I have tried crushing the feelings and ignoring them and laughing at them.  I’m not feeling sorry for myself anymore, exactly.  Just blue.  But that doesn’t mean this is where I get off.  I never get off.  I might not be meant to get paid to write.  I might need to be murdered and then discovered posthumously.  Something that happens to an unfortunate number of authors.

I’m 86% sure I’m going to be murdered some day.

I’ve been working at my circular saw skills this week and I have to say that being able to design and then make raised beds for my yard feels as empowering as being able to throw a strong punch.  Before the rains came I spent a whole day cutting wood and screwing it together and I felt strong.  I felt capable and useful the way I do when I am able to put food in jars that last for a few years on the shelf.  The way I do when words I share uplift someone from the gutter into the light.  The way I do when I chase my son’s fears away.  So I was thinking about all the different things we draw power from.  I was thinking about how important it is to spend life doing things that make us feel stronger and fearless and capable.  If what we’re doing makes us feel small and prematurely old – we have to change our own course.

Trying to get paid writing gigs – selling my book or applying for freelance writing jobs makes me feel stupid and useless and worthless because I have only really been able to sell my book to friends and friends of friends and I have never been chosen for the freelance jobs I’ve applied to.  It gets discouraging.  That part of what I do is hard.  It’s hard being rejected over and over and over.  However, no amount of rejection will make me give up.  Just like no amount of kicks to the gut from the universe will keep me floored forever.  I’ve come close to the edge of the cliff many many times.  It’s the darkness I have to live with being me, it’s the constant risk people like me face, and it’s very real.  But I keep getting up off the floor because I’m a tenacious bastard.

I am feeling invisible.

But if I’m invisible I’m the most tenacious invisible person you’ll ever meet.  You can beat me up, you can shut me down, you can ignore me til you die but I will still jump my fat-ass in front of you and scream to be heard.  If you kill me I will live in your nightmares.  I will always get back up off the floor because I’m like a pitbull with Michael Vick in my jaws.

If I’m not going to succeed at making a career of writing, if I’m going to remain invisible during my lifetime, I still require myself to leave something worthy behind me for others to find amongst the dust of my bones.  Someone’s going to need it.  I still require myself to get up off the floor and keep at it.

My hair is dirty.  It’s 2pm and I’m still in my pyjamas.  I need to shower.  I need to get dressed before my kid comes home from school and sees his mom sitting at her messy desk with the dirty half empty cup of cold coffee and this ludicrously sorrowful face staring into the middle distance like a drooling idiot.

My hands smell of bitter orange.

In Which I Almost Become a Bigger Person

chrysanthemum and mustard

Today I’m blue.

Life is good.  I’m losing weight.  I’m building garden beds.  My son has grown almost an inch in the last couple of weeks and was accepted into a great arts program at the high school he’s headed to in the fall.  Philip is still happy where he works and they still seem happy with him.  We get to live in this awesome house and we’re paying our bills.  So why blue?

I’m blue because I’ve been working so hard at my writing for so many years and applied for so many positions and made proposals and networked and even finished and published a novel.  Yet my writing “career” continues to become nothing.

That’s right – I’m feeling sorry for myself because I continue to not be picked for anyone’s writing team.  You know what people don’t like?  (Aside from my books and proposals)  They don’t like people who feel sorry for themselves.  So I’m not going to say all the ugly things I’m feeling.  I’m not going to tell you what new things have failed to happen and all the indications and proofs that I should give up.  I’m going to fill up the following space with Nothing:


Now I’m going to get up off the dirty floor, dust myself off, dry my ridiculous tears, and get ready for a new round of nothing.

Shoulds Do Not Become Us

seam ripper

All this year the writing for book 2 of Cricket and Grey has been crawling at a disgruntled pace with only a few moments of illumination and sprints of inspiration.  Otherwise I have become a dimwit plodding along with mud caked on my shoes so thick I’m not sure where the ground ends and my feet begin.  I do not generally let shoulds have any say in my life or my goals but somehow I have let them loose with regards to my writing.  I decided that writing the second book in my series should be easier than writing the first  because I have already mapped so many characters and landscapes out that I should be able to write this one in one year instead of two.

My sense of urgency is understandable but misplaced.  I keep telling myself that I should be able to write a book a year if I want a real career as a novelist.  I keep telling myself that since I’m not writing Pulitzer material there’s no excuse to take years to write a single book.  I’ve become infected with the shoulds and the thing about them is that they lie, they are corrosive and unproductive, and they are so often pulled out of our asses as a way to self flagellate without admitting that’s what we’re doing.  Unless you’re into S&M there’s no good that can come of hurling the shoulds at our own heads.

The truth is that I can’t write a book carelessly.  I may not be writing Pulitzer material but I hold myself to a high standard of quality with my writing.  No one will ever be able to say that I didn’t do enough research for my books or that I was so in love with my own voice that I wasn’t willing to change prose to suit the story and the reader.  There will always be people who don’t like a writer’s books, that’s a fact, but no one will be able to say that my books were slapped together sloppily.  It will always take me just as long as it takes me to write a book well.  Comparing myself to the pace at which other authors write is useless.  Comparing this book to the last is useless.  It will take as long as it takes.

I have given in to the shoulds so much that I didn’t even notice it myself.  My sister is the one who pointed it out.  I was a little shocked to discover how much I’d invested in them without noticing they’d slipped by me in the first place.  Sometimes it’s good to have family point you in your own bullshit direction.

I have shown the shoulds the door because they don’t become me.

They don’t become you either so if, like me, you’ve let them through a side gate and they are camped out in your self esteem or are stabbing you in the eyes til you’re blind with the million ways you don’t measure up or can’t see your next step – you have got to kick them to the curb.  Find yourself saying you should be at some point in your life right now because other people are?  Kick that thought out right now.  Find yourself making pencil marks on the wall of shame you’ve built around other people’s achievements against which you measure yourself?  Knock that fucking wall down because you aren’t other people and their wall isn’t yours.

Unless you enjoy torture.  In which case – carry on.

Establishing writing discipline is important for me but I can’t hold myself to unrealistic expectations about the quality of my daily writes.  The quality comes with rewrites.  The quality comes with showing up to work every day and putting in the hours.  The quality comes between reams of complete shit.

In other news – I have lost another pound for a total of 21 pounds lost.  But I just saw a picture of myself taken yesterday of me holding up my friend Chelsea’s quilt and it’s insane how enormous I look even after getting myself 20lbs down.  It’s depressing and demoralizing that that’s what I look like right now.  This minute.  The self loathing is difficult to deny, to push aside.  I hear in my head all those voices saying to use those feelings for motivation.  I get it but I can’t quite turn it that way.  My soul is retching with such glimpses at what I look like to other people.  As much as I feel huge and awful – I seem to be gentler on myself than I often realize because I don’t see myself as being THAT huge.  Yet I am.  It’s classic to see yourself as being uglier or bigger or generally worse than anyone else sees you.  I think I see myself realistically until I see those kinds of pictures.  Then I realize I have been much too kind to myself.  I’m a regular sized person in a fat body not letting myself see just how disgusting I’ve become.  Reality is less kind than I am to myself.

At least I know that on some level I am caring for myself and protecting myself in ways that I didn’t realize.  For all my usual urges to and tendency to self-harm I seem to have drawn the line in limited ways.

One thing I can promise is that my desire to lose weight is not about shoulds telling me what my body needs to look like.  This isn’t about anyone else’s judgement of me.  This is about what is and isn’t healthy for ME.  The last time I looked at an image of myself and my full body without being horrified was so long ago and so many pounds ago it’s not even worth counting backwards.

So.  One more pound down.  A billion to go.  No one is allowed to take pictures of me until I say so.  I can’t let myself get caught unawares again.  It’s too shocking and makes me suspect that there’s no way in hell I’ll ever meet my goals.  That this place I’m in is a purgatory I’ve done something terrible to deserve.  My bones hurt, my muscles hurt, and my self esteem is only okay when I forget I’ve got a corporeal form that takes up a considerable amount of space.

If I forget I have a body I feel pretty good about myself.  About where I am in my life.  About my marriage and my child.  About my writing achievements and the million little things I do that satiate my curiosity and keep me engaged in the world and the people around me.  I live a good life.  A really good life.  All I need is to have a healthy body again.  I need to have patience with the process of getting it back just as I need to have patience with the process of writing my second book.  I set the goals.  I make the rules.  I decide what I need and what I want.

One last thing for today: I think part of my problem with writing is lack of alcohol.  Not that I need alcohol to write well.  I don’t.  But I do know that when I’ve had a certain amount of alcohol I strip away all the nonsense around me and access something that is usually protected.  It backfires too, but I know that it helps me get to the words.  Since I don’t plan to go back to drinking like I used to this isn’t something that will be solved by drinking again.  I just have to get used to finding ways without alcohol to open the doors to where the words live.  I have to find ways to do that sober.  I’m just bringing this up because I realized that this is something that used to come a lot more easily to me.

The air today is so soft and warm it feels like early summer.  Time to open all the windows and let the fresh air inside!

Sex with Brie and Other Things: Bad Sex in Fiction

nails r us

Until yesterday I didn’t know there was an award for bad sex in fiction but there is and it’s been going on since 1993 and it makes my day to hear it!  I just read excerpts from the 8 nominees (including one from Woody Guthrie who wrote a novel in 1947 that was just published) and all 8 of the entries exemplify why I think there’s too much explicit sex in novels.  Sex is very hard to write well.  It’s not to my taste in the first place but I concede that a really well written sex scene that isn’t just trying to get you off but is authentic to the characters and adds to the story has a rightful place in fiction.  But most sex in fiction IS cheesy or out of place in otherwise non-raunchy writing.

Major pet peeves in fictional sex scenes:

  • Food and sex.  I have friends who like to play with food in the bedroom (so they claim).  I don’t understand it and I don’t care if you love to lick comestibles off of skin but I don’t want to read about it.  I just read an excerpt that included the following elements: a wet nurse, brie on nipple, anus that tastes of chocolate and tobacco.  No thanks.  Not hungry now.
  • Sex as life-altering ecstasy.  Yeah, I know, it feels great to have sex.  I’m not arguing that sex is one of life’s great perks.  But sex is a primal and dirty activity and even the most amazing orgasm isn’t life-altering or transformative.  (This is the point where there’s always someone who suggests that if you don’t think an orgasm can be life-changing then you obviously haven’t had “good” sex)
  • The contest humans have to define “good” sex.  Good sex is any sex that you thoroughly enjoyed and want to repeat.  The most basic sex can be the “best” sex if you forget about the laundry while you’re in the middle of it.  So stop suggesting that other people haven’t experienced “good” sex just because they don’t share your tastes.
  • Sex scenes that are written in a different style than the rest of the book.  Like if Jane Austen used the word “cock” or “cum” in Pride and Prejudice.  Or if Henry Miller used gentle euphemisms for sex scenes suitable for Miss Marple’s ears.  If you write sex scenes in your novels don’t make it hard and dirty if the rest of the book is more lyrical.  And don’t make the writing suddenly soft and poetic if the rest of your book is more earthy and edgy.  Your sex scene should feel authentic and follow your writing style seamlessly.

Go read those 8 excerpts for a great start to your day!