Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Burnout Mode

I firmly don't believe in writer's block. I think that it's usually a matter of needing more planning, or to work on a different project. I can't comprehend a world where someone is actually stuck and unable to write: there's always backtracking to see how you wrote yourself into a corner, or outlining, or editing something else, or doing silly flash fiction to give your brain a break from the next Great American Novel.

But sometimes I hit a wall, and will stare at a scene I have planned out and have an overwhelming sense that if I write it, it will all be crap. Sometimes I stare at a list of projects I could work on and can't even articulate cogent reasons why I should work on one over the other. Sometimes every single thing I put on screen is absolute crap and I want to delete the entire project.

I don't think this is writer's block. It's nothing to do with the writing itself, or the story fighting me, or the characters misbehaving. It's a sign that I am completely burned out, and need to have a glass of water and a nap. It's a sign that the only creative output I'm capable of at the moment is knitting to a pattern.

Writer's block is an annoying aspect of magical thinking: it gives writers problems that no one else has. Self-care is a universal issue that does not care what you do.

Spoiler: this post is super-short because I have a headache and knitting i-cord is about what I'm up to mentally.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


It amazes me when I encounter people who say they have no one to talk with about writing.

This is a case of privilege: I grew up with parents who write (even if they are journalists and collectively despair of my structure), I had a group of friends in high school who started a writing group, most of the friends I made online became friends in the context of writing or some form of creative output (did you know: for two years I helped run and moderate an art critique and virtual-money pricing thread). I joined the Victoria Writers' Society soon after I got here, and I I've been to Meetups about writing and PEAVI meetings and a conference about writing and book launches and poetry readings. When I wanted to find people who were also into writing, I was in a town that had lots of other people with similar interests, and I had a framework such that I had no problems seeking them out.

So when I encounter people who have no one to talk writing with, I am faintly befuddled and tend to either adopt them or refer them to the Internet, depending on my mood and their familiarity with technology.

Writing is not a solitary pursuit. I am not convinced it has ever widely been a solitary pursuit. The Bronte sisters had each other to talk to, Jane Austen had family to read her works to, Kerouac had the entire Beat movement.

Having people to talk to about writing helps refine ideas and thoughts about it. Brainstorming tends to be more productive if someone else is there to ask questions or point out when something is really obviously quite illogical. Having people to talk to about writing means having people who'll remind you that yes, this is something you like spending your free time doing, why haven't you written a word in a week? Having people to talk to about writing means that, when you've finished a piece for a contest with a deadline, you can have two people whose opinions about writing you trust read it in an afternoon.

For me, the internet is how I've found these people. Well, the internet, and people I still know from high school and university. But I'm still in touch with them over the internet, and that's where we talk about writing. I've found people on Tumblr and on an anime site I joined when I was 14, and through friends of these people. Others have found communities on Absolutewrite or Deviantart or Meetups or Critiquecircle or Fictionpress or Wattpad or any of a dozen others. If you're looking for a community, it can be worth checking out anything you can find to locate the people you'll click with.

I've found it really worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Anonymity, Again

There's a disadvantage to having grown up with the internet: every stupid thing one said when one was thirteen is up here forever.

And, despite whatever steps one took to be less traceable: never using your real name, never posting your city, etc. there's always, always a temptation to have a linked identity. So if you use a username on Livejournal it might be tempting to use it on Deviantart and then, well, it's practically a brand, so you might use it on Etsy, too. And then you do commissions or pay someone to do a commission for you and you use your paypal, which, a lot of the time, is going to have your name attached to it, because your money needs to at some point pass through something with your name attached.

So you yourself would have attached your real name in a long roundabout way to the things you posted on Livejournal lo, these many years ago.

And that's not even bringing up Facebook. This afternoon, a friend told me she'd been being harassed by someone she met in a chat room. The harassment was happening on Facebook, but he'd blocked her after she told him she didn't appreciate the threats, so she didn't have access to his page anymore, which she kind of wanted to gather information to go to the police.

Google to the rescue! I have this guy's name and the country he lives in. I was able to, in very short order, provide a decent picture (decent as in it fits most of the guidelines for ID photos), all of the biographical information he has online (including names and pictures of his parents and sibling), and links to his Facebook profile, Formspring, and Twitter accounts. The usernames on the Formspring and Twitter were not similar to his name, but he'd input his full name into the information anyway, so this was all in the first page of Google results.

Things he did on the internet, in cyberspace (which some people, including friends of mine, sometimes consider as less real than things which happen face to face), are going to result in criminal charges for this young man.

I can almost guarantee he didn't expect this: if you block someone on Facebook, they're supposed to be gone forever! But they're not. Things which happen online are quite, quite real, and a number of us have some or all of our professional lives on the internet.

Anonymity or even approximations thereof can be detrimental to building a brand if one is trying to be a professional online. Anonymity can seem like a great bastion if one is trolling on the internet, and even the format itself can be seen as a buffer.

But anonymity is a very, very hard to attain and maintain. That's why the creator of Cryptocat is being persecuted so very hard. Anonymity is vital for political agitation and protest under an oppressive regime, but there's a natural tendency to want to slip up and have people you are speaking to acknowledge you as a person. When it's trolls who are enabling me to hunt down all their information to neatly package for the cops, this is great. When it's protesters who end up beaten and jailed for trying to change the world for the better, it is quite a bit less than great.

But the fact of the matter is that, unless one is taking extraordinary measures, you are not anonymous.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Putting my money where my mouth is

A couple weeks ago, I posted about pseudonyms.

I've been having conversations about them since then, particularly about using them for different genres. Genre boundaries have diminshed a great deal in the last few years - particularly the 'rule' saying a writer should stick to one genre. And with online book stores, if a reader only wants books in a particular genre, that's what tags and categories are for.

Tags are of particular concern in a lot of the fanfiction I read - writers are expected to tag for major character death or spoilers for canon, and for level of explicitness, and for whether it contains romance, and the genders of the people involved if it does. Writers are also expected to tag for graphic depictions of violence, underage characters in sexual situations, and rape or non-consent: these are things built in to the platform of Archive Of Our Own, which is where I post my work. There is a little checklist when you start a new story that lets you just tick the box for anything that might apply.

The social aspect of the community also encourages tagging for drug use, mental health issues, suicide, abuse, dysfunctional families - you get the idea. Things which might be upsetting to read to the point that someone would choose to actively avoid them get tagged*. There is such strong community impetus towards tagging that an author who chose not to include a specific tag (because it would have spoiled the entire plot) has actually been vilified because of not tagging.

But this is fanfiction, so things you'd want to look for, like specific pairings or stories about specific characters, are also tagged for ease of searching. A lot of tagging is about finding the particular reading experience you are looking for.

There is some of this available in original fiction, though obviously not to the same extent. Categories, though, offer very concrete ways to separate what one writes into genres without using pseudonyms.

So that's what I'm going to do. I have no particular shame attached to writing erotica - I write smart fiction, no matter the genre, and I want people to find me and want to buy my stories based on that. That's why all of my fiction under 3000 words will end up on here at some point, and everything over 3000 words will go up on my Smashwords (with the exception of Intervention, out on Feedbooks for a couple years already, and future novels that might end up out on other channels).

*This is also known as trigger warnings. For example, someone who has been raped might not be able to read about rape without having unpleasant flashbacks or intense anxiety that would ruin their entire day. Avoiding stories with rape in them is a lot easier if they say what they are on the tin.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Blog fiction hiatus

You may have noticed the lack of fiction updates the past couple of weeks. Their lack is partly because doing any more of them will involve either more trawling through my ancient archives or writing new flash fiction. Writing new flash fiction is currently on hold because I'm nearing the end of a project I've been working on since roughly the spring of 2010, and am really excited to finish.

It's also because I'm moving. In two weeks time I'll be on a bus headed from Seattle to Minneapolis as the middle and longest leg of my trip from Victoria to Madison. I'm moving for a multitude of reasons, and aside from my own abhorrence of moving and lack of car, it's been a fairly straightforward process: I'm still going to be doing webwork for the same bike store I work in now. The only thing that will change is no customers and I can work in my pajamas. I am going from living with my mom, where I've been staying since the end of my lease, to living with my best friend who is already doing things like unpacking the boxes I've mailed and crocheting me my very own blanket. My EMR license is viable for reciprocity, so I don't need to take classes again, just do NREMT exams and local jurisprudence, all of which I can set up there.

Regular Wednesday blog posts will continue for the duration, as I have them scheduled pretty well in advance, so the only difference should be the lack of fiction posts.