If A Tree Falls In A Forest…

If you’re a writer but you’re not writing now (or updating your writing blog, for that matter) are you still a writer?

I’m pretty sure that the answer is yes.

I’m no longer as fatalistic about this break as I was a few weeks ago. I’m definitely still a writer. Even though I’m not writing fiction or updating my writing blog, I’m still reading and journaling and updating my queer blog. And I haven’t given up writing for good.

I’m just recharging the battery, renewing the well, whatever the proper term is for recovering from rejection fatigue. I still love writing and creating stories.

But if I do it, I’m going to have to market it, because that’s just how I am. And I really don’t care for more rejection right now. So here I am: a writer who isn’t writing, just waiting for the energy to come back. It will be back, sooner or later. It always comes back.

Crisis of Faith

I’ve come to realize that I just want to write things that I enjoy writing, and editing things that I have enjoyed writing, without having to worry at all about marketing my writing.  You know what’s fun?  Tossing a lump of words down on a potter’s wheel and shaping it until it looks like a cup made out of words and other people visualize the cup when they see it.  You know what’s not fun?  Trying to explain to other people why they should like it so much they want to give you money for it.

I may end up failing as a writer after all.

Thoughts About Blogging

You all know that I’ve been contemplating a Patreon for a good long while.  I have a short story project that I intend to be Patreon-based.  But I’m also considering moving to that for blogging, too.

While I’ve been on hiatus, I’ve also been thinking about my blog format.  I’ve been using the same format for years: some kind of thoughtful post on Monday, some kind of progress update on Friday.  But that format just isn’t working for me anymore.  I’ve had a lot of my thoughts about the process of writing.  When I do have thoughts, they occur to me at the time and I don’t like scheduling them out into the future.  So maybe I’ll just keep Friday progress posts (or move that day since Friday nights have been packed lately) and do other posts and things occur to me.  Or maybe I’ll just blog through Patreon.  Or maybe I’ll blog through both.  The possibilities are endless!

I love structure.  I love lists.  But this has stopped working for me, so I think it’s time to make a change.

Hiatus

I’ll be going on a brief writing hiatus as I adjust to a new day job.  I will be back!

On top of the lost blog posts really bumming me out (turns out I accidentally deleted, instead of scheduled to post, not one but TWO blog posts,) job changes are very stressful and I don’t want to pressure myself to keep up a blog and write every night.  I’d like to give myself permission to relax after work.  So that’s what I’m doing!

I’m giving myself a return target date of mid to late April.

Technical Difficulties, Part 2

I seem to have accidentally deleted, instead of published, my scheduled post for yesterday on gritty details of the progress I use to make maps.  Normally I write up blog posts in Scrivener before I redraft them into WordPress and post them, but in this instance it was a post I wrote on my phone while I was very excited about the topic, and while I’m sure I could dig it out of my backups, I just don’t have the time or energy right now.

I’m very bummed.  Please bear with me, I’ll try to redraft it and have it up for next week.

Making Maps

I’ve been thinking a lot about making maps lately, probably since I’m creating a map for a “new” secondary-world fantasy project. I really enjoy making maps, possibly to an unhealthy degree. I love everything from researching Earth geography to give myself ideas, to the process of penciling lines and features, to shading the final version in the colors that will later remind me what topography is where.

I have some idea of what a map is going to look like before I start drawing, but I also discover things about the setting as I’m going along. Every line I draw on paper comes with several whys: why is this border there, where was it before, who decided that this was the border. I think about the human geography while looking over the borders and topography. I think about where the borders might shift as the setting changes.

This is all super fun and exciting for me. But apparently it isn’t for everyone, because I know some people who don’t make maps. That these people exist blows my mind. I know that words are our art as writers, but how can you visualize more effectively than having a visual?

It’s a rhetorical question. I don’t want to know the answer. I love making maps so much that if an alternative exists, I don’t even want to know about it.

Writing While White

This is not an article on how to”write the other” (a phrase that’s a short trip down a depression slope for me as a queer woman). This is about the importance, as a white writer, of trying to do as little harm as possible while writing people of other colors and cultures.

It’s more or less a direct response to V. Roth’s recent whitesplain about how she didn’t intend Carve the Mark to be racist. Intent doesn’t matter: I don’t have to intend to harm to do harm. And a lack of intent doesn’t excuse the harm that is done.

So. Writing while white.

To write while white means we are going to screw things up. Privilege blinders are a very real thing, and we’ve already hurt people enough with our history of colonialism, enslavement, past and present racism, and so on. Fantasy settings aren’t exempt from ways we can do further harm. We take our biases in with us, we take them out of the story with us, and harmful rep is just as harmful in speculative fiction as anywhere else. Fiction is not a license to reinforce harmful stereotypes.

Fiction writers still need to educate ourselves about harmful tropes so that we can avoid them. We need to listen when people tell us what we’re doing wrong and, if they’re feeling charitable, how it’s harmful. We need to educate ourselves to avoid mistakes others have repeatedly made.

As hard as we try, we’re going to screw up. We are going to do unintentional harm. But that’s not an excuse to not try. If anything, it means we need to try HARDER.

I’m not going to make a list of tropes to avoid simply because I’m not an authority on this topic. You’re better off getting those lists from black people, brown people, First Nations people, and other people who have a wealth of lived experience that I don’t. The way to do this is to read their writing on the topic, learn from them, and accept that when someone says “this is harmful,” it is, so try to avoid it.

And none of this is an excuse to avoid writing diverse characters. I have a whole continent in the Tattoo Magic Universe. Parts of it are near the equator, parts are near one of the poles, so it’s just not going to be racially homogenous. Therefore, I need to teach myself, try to do the least possible amount of harm, listen to criticism, apologize when I screw up, and do better. If all white writers listened more and tried harder, the world would be a better place.

(PS: My goal in writing characters of color isn’t to give people of color representation–they do a fantastic job of this without my help.)

More Fun With Rejections

I’ve become very intimately familiar with one moment in the query/rejection cycle. It’s the moment where I see that I have a response to my query and try not to get excited when I open it, or crushed when I see that it’s a rejection.

I can describe it pretty faithfully at this point. There is an initial surge of adrenaline, followed by the faint disappointment and relief that this time it seems to hurt less, like I’ve actually gotten inured to this over the course of however many scores of these I’ve gone through. But then about a second later, my skin starts to tingle. And I have dread at that point, not because anything is wrong yet, but because I know it will be. About five seconds later, depression will punch me in the stomach so hard that I’ll probably be nauseated for the rest of the night.

And then it’s time to deal with it. It’s actually a lot like dealing with period pain: yes, it really hurts quite a lot, and I have to just acknowledge that and keep breathing and walk through it.

I never talk about this as it’s happening. No one ever just says, “Wow, that really sucks, want a hug?” There is always some sort of positive-sounding platitude to try to console me with. See examples. But I’m not ready for positive thinking yet. It actively makes me angry. So I’ve learned to do this on my own.

Tomorrow, I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep going. But today, I just need a few moment to feel how badly this sucks.

Queer Stories Versus Queer Characters

When I’m describing what I write, I prefer to say that I write speculative fiction with LGBTQ+ characters.  There is at least one queer character in everything I write (including my short fiction–check your perceived defaults, people), but the story does not focus on the character’s queerness.  I do not write queer romance, coming out stories, internal discovery stories, or transition stories, though my stories may involve those things.

I write horror stories, or fantasy stories, or science fiction stories, where the characters just happen to be queer.  And as with any writing, who the characters are informs the fiction.  But the stories are not about the fact that they are queer.  We’re just people navigating life like anyone else.  And so are my characters.

This distinction is very important to me.