So I burned myself on the toaster, banged my head on a cupboard, tripped twice…but at least Miss B didn’t try to kill me on our morning run.
Monday proceeds apace. Three projects to achieve wordcount on, after a weekend of chores and activities. I need a weekend to recover from my weekend, for God’s sake. That might be why I’m late off the mark, here. There’s also planting herb starts to be done today, and setting up to record a reading from one of my books for my Patreon folks–at least, the ones that signed up for them. I have to brush up my diction. (*snork* Because I am a twelve-year-old on the inside.)
I’m almost at the point in two of the three projects where I start building handholds–little bits further down the line that tell me where the story is likely to want to go. That takes up a day of concentrated thinking and internal feeling around, rather like crawling in a dark room with a plug and looking for a socket. One runs blindly into furniture and can’t really see the shape, though one can sense it. But finally, when you find the socket, a light comes on, and all of a sudden you can see the decor.
Tomorrow is release day–Roadside Magic will be going live! So get your preorder on, if you want. I’m hoping people like it. I also have a few posts planned talking about the world of Gallow and Ragged, and where it came from, since people have been asking many questions.
Of course, I am going to be a ball of nerves for release day, as I always am. At least it’s not today. I don’t think my poor corpse could handle it.
Learning that high emotion can short out electrical equipment was an expensive lesson. Fortunately, chunks of bloodstone ameliorate the effect. This particular stone is courtesy of Dina James, my beloved Left Hoof of Darkness. It has its work cut out for it.
At least the light bulbs aren’t exploding anymore. That was always a bitch to clean up.
It’s Tuesday, and the kids are back at school. I should catch up on laundry I didn’t do over the long weekend, I should load the dishwasher, I know as soon as breakfast settles I’m sure for a run in the rain. So much to do, an empty house to do it in…
…but all I want to do is write this funny little book about a woman who buys a cursed ring for a Halloween party and ends up with a smartmouth, extremely hot genie. Oh, and another one about an amulet maker. I can see today is going to be a Pomodoro timer type of day.
So. I read The Kreutzer Sonata Variations after I read War & Peace, and I have to say, Tolstoy is kind of ruined for me. It seems like his hypocrisy and misogyny just got more and and more virulent as he aged, which should not surprise me, but somehow I expected…more from him.
I know, I know, product of his time, and all that. The same man who wrote the heartbreaking scene where Rostopchin gives the poor boy to the crowd can contain the same man who wrote the ugliness of the protagonist of the Kreutzer Sonata, human beings are complex as fuck. It’s going to take a while for me to be able to read more Tolstoy without being furious, though.
I’ve shifted to Taken at the Flood–not Agatha Christie, but an examination of the Roman conquest of Greece. I am amused that one of the reviews calls it “biased” and says “read Polybius and Livy instead.” As if those two weren’t a weensy bit biased themselves. (This is like not realizing that Shakespeare was writing for a Tudor audience and had to badmouth the Plantagenets.) I had mad thoughts of attempting the Brothers Karamazov, but I think I need to rinse the Tolstoy off before I can manage more Russian lit. Generally Dostoevsky is more my type, but still.
So. Wordcount with a genie, then running, then setting my timer and alternating between more writing and the work of keeping the household from sinking into a mire of filth. All in all, I’m swamped. Which is, after all, just the way I like it.
This morning, the Princess brought me coffee in bed. “I was just up,” she said when I thanked her, “and I thought, how can I do something nice for Mum?”
She sat at the breakfast table with me, just because she wanted to talk. Right now she’s into Steven Universe. “You’d like it,” she says, and tells me about an episode where Pearl wants to show Steven that physical strength isn’t everything, that there’s a different strength in the people who do daily scut work to keep households and nations active. I agree that it sounds nice, and as I finish my porridge, we talk about being a reasonably awesome human being.
How, do you ask, can someone be reasonably awesome? Here follows a short list.
* Admit your fucking privilege. I’ve benefited from many forms of privilege in my life, and suffered a few forms of discrimination as well. Discrimination against me in one area (I’m female on the internet) does not give me leeway to be an asshole over my privilege in another (my skin tone means I’m less likely to be shot wearing a hoodie on my morning run). It doesn’t hurt to admit that, especially when listening to other peoples’ experiences.
* Admit your fuckups. Want to know one thing I never, ever heard from parental figures while I was growing up?
“I’m sorry. I was wrong.”
Many are the assholes who think admitting they were mistaken or just plain wrong somehow robs them of something. I say those five words daily, and have ever since I became a mother. It can range from “you know, I was wrong when I put you in time-out for that, I should have been more patient,” to “Remember when I explained Celsius and Fahrenheit to you? I had the conversion wrong, sorry,” or “You guys tasked me with putting together email for the site and I did it wrong. I’m fixing it now.” Getting in the habit of acknowledging your mistakes makes you a better human being. You fix it (or do your best to) and move on.
* Consider shutting up sometimes. In the immortal words of Elon James, when you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, you could just say nothing. I think Mark Twain observed it’s better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt, sometimes. If a rancid bit of asshattery is about to escape your mouth, or you know you’re already irritated and frustrated, take the opportunity to just keep your lips buttoned for a few minutes and think about keeping it zipped until you have something reasonable to say.
* But not when someone is an asshat in your presence. From the jock father who was letting his sons roughhouse in the baking aisle (right next to glass containers of every kind of oil known to cooking) who said “Don’t yell at my kids!” when I told said spawn to cut it out (“Parent them and I won’t have to,” I snapped in return) to the woman calling another woman in a hijab nasty names in the produce aisle (“Just shut up, she’s not making YOU wear a scarf,” I said, hefting an apple and visibly considering bouncing it off her fool skull), I try not to let people get away unscathed from asshattery. Of course, this is a rule best applied with a little forethought. But if you see something, say something. Even something as simple as “I’m sorry that person is being an asshole,” can change the entire situation. Especially if you have a bit of privilege, you can often perform a bit of interpersonal judo to even things out. And yes, in volatile situations you might get yelled at. Most people will do just about anything to avoid being perceived as the asshole in any particular situation, and calling them on it is a powerful tool evoking powerful responses.
* Stay done. Remember the SquirrelTerror plagiarism incident? Something I said then has stuck with me since: when I say I’m done, it doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven or forgotten, or have accepted anything at all. It simply means I am not wasting any more energy on that asshole. If someone isn’t arguing in good faith, if someone is an inveterate racist and they don’t want to be anything else, if someone is toxic and doesn’t give a fuck for other people, fine, they can do all that somewhere else. I don’t have to lend myself to it, and I do not have to keep throwing good effort after bad. Staying done means just that: don’t respond afterward. Refusing to deal with someone is a powerful tool, too.
* Share the limelight. Success for other people means more success for me, too, and nowhere is that more true (and more ignored) than in publishing. I do not lose anything by drawing attention to something awesome someone else is doing. Rather, I benefit from more awesome in the world. Find ways to spread the word about cool stuff instead of banging your own gong all the time. It’s far more satisfying.
* Take a notebook with you. Remember that scene in Hot Fuzz where Simon Pegg is simply making notes in his little journal? Nothing calms a situation down–or makes people behave–like you writing down everything they say. You don’t even have to be expecting trouble; I take a notebook to every meeting, and at the beginning write down the date and time. Just in case. Also, when you hear a particularly good bit of dialogue you want to write down for a story, nothing beats having pen and paper to hand.
* Don’t just be quiet. Think. Listening is an active state. Pay attention, whether it’s a dog whining to tell you it’s time for a bathroom break to the LGBT activist on Twitter detailing insidious behavior you’ve never thought about before. Sometimes, it’s not enough just to shut the fuck up, you have to exercise the meat between your ears as well.
* Be kind. Even the most reasonable person has certain days where their Wheaties have been pissed in. Even the nicest kid has a hormone rush or a meltdown every now and again. Even the most socially conscious blogger has a rough morning. I’m not saying to excuse intolerant fuckwaddery here. I am saying, you can be a kind person and still not allow fuckwaddery in your presence.
* Listen to reason. Friends are good. Invest in your friends, once they have earned your trust. And when a friend you trust says, “You are being an asshole,” listen. (Do you know how many times the Selkie has saved me from being an asshole? A WHOLE LOT.) There is nothing so precious as the person who loves you and will call you on your bullshit. Don’t ever minimize, overlook, or ignore that.
* Admit your own fuckwaddery. You know, this is really another way of saying “admit your fuckups,” but what the hell, I think it bears repeating. I’ve been too harsh on people. I’ve been dismissive. I’ve been critical, unpleasant, high-handed, and sometimes even just plain selfish. Admitting it is the first step to apologizing and making amends where one can. Where one cannot, admission is the first step to regret, and all the above leads to the whole point: doing better next time.
One of the highest bits of praise in my particular lexicon is “X is a reasonable human being.” It can mean they’re kind, or truthful, or that they admit when they’ve made a mistake, or they’re willing to listen to reason. Often, it means the person has shown they are all of the above, and more. So when I say, “be reasonably awesome,” you now understand what that means.
I know this isn’t an exhaustive list. (And really, this is like the Pirate Code.) So, my darling chickadees, it’s your turn. Fill up the comments with more Guidelines For Being Reasonably Awesome. Given what day it is, I think it’s a fine idea.
So when you sit down to write a particular story, and it makes you physically ill, and you keep trying, how long do you go before you decide the sheer misery isn’t worth it?
I’m not asking for a friend.
It appears my particular answer is “about a month, all told.” About a month of dreading working each day, sitting down, struggling to type a few more words, and my stomach suddenly feeling as if a blowtorch had been turned on inside it. I am unsure whether I have grown more stubborn or less, because I’m not used to stopping a book because it physically pains me. I’m used to just powering through, as I do in so many parts of my life, disregarding any damage because I’ve promised, or it’s necessary, or I’m just too goddamn intractable to know when to quit. I appear to have finally reached my limit with this particular book.
To be fair, this book has been years in gestating, and has had a tortuous path at best. I’m just…finally…done, I think. No matter how much I want to finish it, it’s not worth the cost. I can’t afford to lose this sort of working time on something that makes me stagger into the loo and retch from sheer pain.
A factor in me deciding to stop hurting myself was an editor I trust saying to me, “What would you write if you didn’t have to write anything? That will be our next thing, because you work best when I let you just run.” Which led me to start working on the thing I really was looking forward to, and wouldn’t you know, I had forgotten what it felt like to be excited to sit down and work. I’d forgotten when it felt like to not have my stomach lit on fire and crawling out through my mouth while I typed.
I have found (shockingly, I know) that I rather prefer not feeling that way. I suppose I’ll have to chalk this up to “lesson learned.” It’s been an extremely expensive lesson all the way around.
In a month or so I will make a final decision about that poor book. It may be that I just need some time away. I’m hoping that’s the case. In the meantime, I’m going to work on things that don’t make me physically ill.
Well, I’m feeling better. Partly because the damn holidays are over, partly because the high-level anxiety and huge black hole of depression have both retreated, partly because I’m back at work, and partly because the Selkie visited recently for a cuppa and a long chat. It’s nice to be able to trust someone. (By the by, her book Trueheart is on sale today! If it sounds like your thing, go show some love!)
I have been rather en garde lately. Even my formidable agent has commented upon it. “You’ve been burned,” she says. “And sometimes you don’t even want to turn the stove on, because of it.” Pretty apt. I take some things to heart I probably shouldn’t; a risk of being human. After so long in publishing I have very little patience for some things, and it shows. The risk of being seen as “prickly” or “unapproachable” or “mean” is less and less off-putting, mostly because I’m forty this year and I do not have time to fuck around with that bullshit.
Anyway. Feeling better, that was the subject, right? I was provoked to deep laughter twice this morning, which is a good sign. I like to laugh, especially instead of screaming. Yesterday there was an incident involving shoes in the Little Prince’s gym class. I spoke to the teacher this morning, and wonder of wonders, the kid we suspected know EXACTLY WHERE TO FIND some missing item, though he DENIED STRENUOUSLY any part in moving it from one place to another. I laughed so loud I think I scared the teacher. The second was an ongoing Facebook joke about “Say what again!” ; it’s rivaled only by the ongoing one about “Apologize to my mule.”
I laugh daily, though it may not seem like it. Often, it’s the best response to an absurd situation, of which there are many in my life. (Especially when I am wearing no shoes and a tree-climbing rodent is involved.) Then there’s the fact that I live with two amazing pint-sized (except one is taller than me now, my God, where does the time go?) comedians. Then there’s the dogs. I can amuse myself mightily just by narrating their days.
Still, I haven’t found much career-wise to laugh about for the past few months. Which could just be a function of my sense of humor contracting. One doesn’t last long in publishing if one can’t giggle at heartless, bumbling absurdity.
My mission for today is to find the funny things. I may even have to engage in film therapy–for example, Blazing Saddles, or Life of Brian. Either will do, I suspect. Above all, I need to put on my goggles and loose my whitened knuckles a bit. Soon I’ll be finding everything in my office (not to mention the rest of the house) hilarious again.