writing without words… not as a deep as it sounds

I’m on the homestretch. The opus of my twenties is nearing completion. Yes, I realize that I am now thirty, but I’ve been working on this project more or less since I was twenty-five. I have about 100 manuscript pages left in my LAST PASS and shit is getting real.

barney - this is totally going in my blog

It’s been hard to focus on anything else. I’ve only polished other drafts, began and abandoned a dozen other books, and submitted existing works for publication (including this shameless plug about a piece coming out in an anthology soon – details to come!).

adam scott celebratory wink

Where does this leave me mentally? I can’t really describe it.

You can't handle this

Really. I can’t. All my words are dried up and my brain is dead. I took a nap about three hours before my bedtime. That’s the state of the union here. The republic still stands, but its knees are shaky.

Cersei more wine

I desperately want to describe what this literary journey has been like, but I just don’t think I have it in me right now. I ate chocolate cake for dinner.

tl dr

So I raided the gif folder on our desktop. After a certain point (in the day; in the twenty-first century), gifs will become the only mode of self-expression. Thus, I promise, promise, promise this will the last time I use a gif to illustrate a point on this blog.

grinch smile

I take that back. I don’t want to make that promise. I fucking love gifs.

Ginsberg - get out while you can

So, yeah. Sorry. Not sorry.

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Anyway.

varys head bonk

This is kinda how the whole five-year-long writing process went. More or less. On a bright and dismal July morning in 2009 the idea struck.

bert

Pirates, I thought, are awesome. But what if they were IN SPACE.

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It might just have been crazy enough to work. (Probably not, but I was hungover.)

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The brainstorming part of the creative process began.

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And continued…

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Seriously. I spent 22 STRAIGHT HOURS making notes that first sweet day. I had a sunburn on half of my body and a crick in the neck like a horrible acupuncture session gone wrong. I went through two pens and a whole mechanical pencil.

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Eventually – about a year later – emboldened by the creative methodology I’d honed in film school, I sat down at the computer and started writing.

Tom Hanks enjoys the internet

And it went really well for a while. I scribbled in notebooks and typed away like a mad man trapped in an endless comments section loop. I gave up on socialization; gave up on showering; basically, gave up on real life.

Bill Nye screaming head through space

After about a year of that, I finished my first draft. Excited by the idea of space pirates, Dr. Roommate wanted to read it. I was terrified.

Worf peek

She said she loved it.

karl pilkington bullshit

She threw the manuscript across the room when I killed off one of the characters, and even started shipping another character with Sandor Clegane.

betty can't believe your shit

But she had notes. And I had not quite been happy with that draft. It’s easy to lose perspective of the objective qualities of one’s own work. That is why notes from others always help; they at least open you up to new opinions. Anyway. Revisions began.

Joffrey hates booksAnd went on.

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And on.

Fozzie fuck

And on.

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Holy hell. It was really painful guys.

barney robin

I’m finally ended up with a draft I was happy enough with. In retrospect that happiness was a lie. At some point earlier in this journey, the masochistic tendencies wore off and I just wanted it to be over. There were problems with the manuscript, but it was easier to ignore them than fix them. Especially when you simply don’t know HOW to fix them.

kevin spacey smile

It is much less emotionally damaging to buy the lie you tell yourself! Hell, it was easy to believe! An agent even expressed interest!

davidmitchellBut she told me that – at 160,000 words – I had a lot of cutting to do. I had to get down to the thick of the plot.

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But then I never heard from the agent again.

life is pointless and nothing matters

So nothing happened for a while. Because that’s sort of the way things go.

cat with butterfly on paw

In the meantime, I wrote a whole other novel. I got married. I moved to England. I moved back. I convinced myself pirates in space was stupid and terrible and a waste of four years of my life.

m gustave runs away

Eventually, in a fit of navel-gazing, I decided to read my elegant tale over again, expecting to find a hideous fragment of a past life: an artifact I could hold up as an example of how much better a writer I’d become since way back when.

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But no. It was actually… pretty good. The distance from it gave me more of an objective perspective.

Mad Men swag team

Perhaps I was a genius after all!

Aasif Mandvi condescending nod

But there were still issues. Something was off with the book but I couldn’t quite say what.

suspicious lucille bluth

In all that time while I thought I was running away, I was learning to trust myself. I learned that art takes work. I learned that this book could be something special but it wouldn’t happen by accident. I needed to tell the story I wanted to read. Eyes open, I was finally able to discover the problem at the root of the book. It was the voice.

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This meant, of course, going right back to the root and blowing it all up.

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I could make this good – I could make this work – but it would mean essentially rewriting the whole thing.

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There were a lot of tough questions I would have to ask myself.

Dean doesn't get it

How convincing are my characters?

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And their conflicts?

girl fights

Do they develop and change over time, as shaped by their experiences? demon!dean

What about subtext?

Wayne Lenin Party On

And emotion?

Captain America right in the feels

Are the shocking moments actually shocking?

Daily Show spit take

The humour actually humourous?

Firefly LMAO

As it stood, everything was… adequate.

Steve McQueen Oscar clap

So as I readied myself for this undertaking, suddenly overwhelmed and panicking, Husband decided he would like to read it. I love him and trust his judgment; he’s a harsh critic and a terrible liar. What’s the worst that could happen?

Troy having a bad time

So he finishes the book and delivers his verdict: it’s not long enough. Simple as. (Which makes me frustrated with the old advice from the agent, she of word counts and plot supremacy.)

carrie - fuck this shit

I had been so worried about plot but Husband just wanted to spend more time with the characters. He wanted more backstory.

Castiel - sorry

So there it was – no more revisions – just more writing.

Sleepy worker bunny

Which is always the fun part.

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No really. It is. I promise.

Ron Swanson throwing out computer

And he was right. He was SO right. At LAST the book works! Finally it is something I truly love. It’s the characters people want to spend time with; it’s their fate the reader sticks around for. I should have learned this lesson from Dr. Roommate, but I just hadn’t yet learned to trust myself back then.

Sally Draper sees the Beatles

So I’ve printed it out and am currently going through this last draft with a thick, red pen.

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At the end of the day, it’s my story, not an agent’s. At the end of it all, I don’t care how long it is; I just care how much I enjoy reading it.    payday

It would be nice if something came of it, but that no longer feels essential. There’s no point in shooting for the moon when you can curl up with a good book.

dog fail

half of all t.rexes were girls

My aunt was twenty years old when I – the first in the family of my generation – was born. She was mid-liberal arts degree and wore it on her sleeve. The blue onesie she bought me for my first Christmas quickly became a family joke.

But I always resented the idea that a baby girl in a blue onesie was a thing to laugh about. I despised the mandate that girls had to look pretty while boys wore something you could “get muddy in.”

As I grew older and asserted myself more strongly, I fought against wearing frilly dresses and sought out clothes my parents Santa had to scour Vancouver comic book stores to find (namely the one-size-fits-all Batman t-shirt I spent ages five to six wearing).

So, with that troubling childhood memory, I would like to share a great Kickstarter launching today: Jack and Jill Kids. This “gender-neutral kids’ clothing company [aims] to inspire the next generation of leaders to think beyond pink and blue.”

Finally! A kids’ clothing company that does away with this pink and blue dichotomy! This makes me want to breed just so I can dress my child in a t-shirt that says “Half of all T.Rexes Were Girls” (I might even try to stick Stinkymuffin in one. No. Of course I won’t. That would be suicidal.)

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Forget a child; I want this t-shirt.

There are so many awesome things I could say from here, but founder, Jenn Neilsen, sums it up perfectly:

We all want to make sure that the kids in our lives have as many opportunities as possible, and helping them to see that their options are not color coded will broaden their horizons, and help them to develop their own sense of self, free from outdated ideas and expectations. These kids will run the world one day, and if they pursue their passions, instead of feeling like they don’t belong, we‘ll be better equipped to deal with the challenges that the future will bring.

We need more girls who know that they can solve tough, real world problems and more boys who are interested in collaboration, not just competition. To get there we need to change the messages we’re sending to kids. Giving them more and better clothing options is just the beginning.

I am so grateful for Jenn sharing this positive endeavour with me and I’m so glad to share it with you all!

UPDATE: Okay, so you CAN get an adult version of the Half of All T.Rexes Were Girls if you pledge the Kickstarter! DO IT.

a proustian spit in the face

In an attempt to block out the chatter of the workplace, I popped in my earbuds and opened Youtube. Something made me play London Calling, the full album.

After cringing at the oil pipeline ad that preceded it*, it was proven yet again that I can’t get through a bout of Spanish Bombs without remembering this one time back in my bookstore days. A guy came in carrying a vague familiarity. He might have either gone to my high school or showed up at a lot of the same parties. He asked for a book of some type I can’t remember. It was likely music-related, as I can’t imagine what else could have provided a more reasonable segueway into a discussion of The Clash.

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We discovered we were both over-the-top fans. His favourite song was Spanish Bombs, mine was Lost in the Supermarket. (This is when I was nineteen years old; my favourite now is probably White Man in Hammersmith Palais. I’m sure you care.)

Regardless, it was little more than the polite small talk one engages in with a customer. It was not ingenuine by any means; I didn’t lie and I wasn’t just trying to sell him something. But it is also not as if this conversation took place in a bar or coffee shop.

My point: the power dynamic was inherently skewed. We were not speaking as equals, even if the casual nature of the conversation may have made it feel like that. He was a customer and I was a customer service representative. I was there to serve him.

So, naturally, when he came back about ten minutes later (presumably after summoning courage) and asked me out, I totally faltered.

Had we met as equals, perhaps I might have given it a chance.

But the fact of the matter is, he asked me out in a situation where there was an explicit power imbalance.

Before I even had chance to process this, I said No – by way of I have a boyfriend. While the whole I have a boyfriend excuse is problematic for so many reasons that I am well aware of and totally agree with, it was simply the knee-jerk reaction that occurred to me at the time.  In the spur of the moment, it seemed the most polite way to rebuff advances. Much more gentle than I’m not interested.

And when I’m standing there in a vest with a nametag and a manufactured smile, how could I possibly be allowed to be bluntly honest?

I’m sure he was entirely oblivious of this power inequality; of course he would be! Pop culture is bloated with examples of this meet cute. I’m sure this is how many perfectly balanced couples met, I’ve just never met any of them.

Anyway.

It wasn’t the only time that happened, nor was it the most memorable. But there it is: the Proustian journey my mind took this morning.

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*Fuck those bastards! At the very least, this is punk rock. Know your target market, assholes.

I was bound to waste a whole post on a cat sooner or later

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Suffocation warning in effect.

As we promised ourselves upon our return from England, Husband and I got a cat. The more appropriate term might be inherited – nay – took in… as if she was the ragamuffin who charmed her way into our hearts in an 88-minute running time.

It’s actually nothing of the sort.

She is the cat my mother adopted in a Chardonnay-fueled panic over suddenly becoming an empty-nester when my sister and I took off to Europe six years ago.

She is fluffy and cute and occasionally bitey.

Mum’s been trying to pawn her off in a PR-friendly way ever since.

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Glamour Shots by Gregg

Her name is Kissa… which, if you speak the Finnish language, you know means cat. I’m sure that’s cute when you’ve been drinking Chardonnay all night. Husband and I have taken to calling her Stinky, Muffin, and Stinkymuffin at regular intervals… by which I mean, totally at random.

Kissa was always rather difficult, even if astonishingly beautiful. She’s essentially a high school cheerleader rendered feline. She’s not bright, but she’s cute.

When my parents got her, my timourous beastie Arthur was her big brother. She didn’t take his untimely death well. Her pendulum of mood swings stuck quite consistently at cranky. (Perhaps I am projecting too much here. One could just as easily say she is cranky because… cats.)

Anyway.

Don't be a hero.
Don’t be a hero.

Things only got worse for poor Stinkymuffin. A couple of years ago, my sister the zookeeper found a litter of feral kittens.* Miniature-tigress Cleo was one of these kittens. My parents adopted her and, with her natural selection-improved physique and no-nonsense attitude, Cleo yanked Kissa’s fluffy privilege right from under her. It was the exact premise of Mean Girls, with Cleo as Lindsay Lohan, Kissa as Rachel McAdams, and my dad as… Tina Fey…. I’ve let this analogy get away from me.

Alas, Stinkymuffin openly mourned her lost status and my mother couldn’t take it anymore.

A thinly veiled take her for a week while we go on holiday later, and Husband and I are now cat owners: baby-talking cat owners who go through a lint brush a week.

Baby Picture (has always liked bags)
Baby Picture (has always liked bags)

The good news is – with the exception of this morning’s puking incident – little Stinkymuffin has been doing quite well with us. Perhaps our stay-home-and-watch-Netflix-all-weekend lifestyle provides her with the attention her vain little ego has always needed. She seems happy. Well, about as happy as a cat can get. I swear she smiles as she sinks her claws into the couch and realizes she’s got me looking at her.

Ugh. Cats.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize I just wasted six hundred words talking about my cat. I am fully aware of what that says about me. But I’m thirty, childfree, and this is the freakin’ internet. If you don’t want to see cat pictures, read a book. Just not a book about cats.

All Hail Stinkymuffin

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*Apparently, there are dickbags out there who think the best way to rid themselves of an unwanted pet is to abandon it at the zoo and peel away to anonymously enjoy a life free from the burden of responsibility. Most of the animals the zoo staff will rescue, but cats are wily escape artists/not technically domesticated. They escaped to the wilderness-ridden property adjacent and are living wonderful, multi-generational lives knowing they are better than all other pets because they can survive on their own, bitches. Anyway, whenever the zoo staff find a litter of kittens, they rescue them. If they are young enough to still adapt to a domestic life they will be bottle-fed and raised and found a good home. If they are too old, they are spayed or neutered and sent back into the throes of this feral cat paradise.

snowy seattle wanderings

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