I’m fucking grateful for seasonally appropriate temperatures that makes leaving my house an adventure in ice skating. Least we don’t have global warming breathing down our necks…here.
I’m really grateful for the domestic squabble I had yesterday. Nothing says Valentine’s Day like airing some grievances. I fucking hate Valentine’s Day anyway. I will be extra loving to my spouse on my own schedule, thank you very much. Fuck you, Hallmark.
I’m really fucking grateful that they didn’t fuck up the show Strike, based on Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike mysteries. And I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way at all. (Although I haven’t watched all of it; it can always go downhill quickly.)
I’m fucking grateful for [person redacted]’s southern California Mardi Gras pictures for providing me with a reminder of what sun-kissed flesh looks like. Thanks for reminding me that my life choices made me end up in a location that closely resembles Hoth. Fuck you, dear [person redacted].
I’m fucking grateful that facebook not only reminds me that other people are having fantastic warm lives, but also provides me with a daily refresher of how our country’s ugly racism is simmering closer to the surface and democracy is decaying.
What are you fucking grateful for?
It took some bold four-wheel driving to get out of my snowy driveway this morning. Spouse kicked me out so he could plow out said driveway for the non-4WD vehicles in our stable. So I drove to my local cafe to get some work done.
It was so cold that the small ribbon of open water in the middle of the local river smoked as the cold caused the water to evaporate. This is how I knew it was very near to zero, however I did not know in which direction. (That’s Fahrenheit. Be impressed, people!)
If you had told my nineteen-year-old self that I’d be driving a large truck by an icy river to get some coffee and do some editorial work she would have high-fived me. My more citified later self might have had some society-induced trepidations. My, er, forty-mumble-year-old self was merely amused. And a little pleased.
What would your nineteen-year-old self think of your life now?
I have a friend who hates the word “feminism,” because she sees it as a certain kind of narrow view of white privilege where white women’s viewpoints are prioritized over all other struggles. She uses the “Say Her Name” test. If a person says she supports women’s rights, but does not consider police brutality against black women or the high rate of unsolved violent crimes against trans women her concern, then she is a feminist. (She and I both acknowledge that not all self-proclaimed feminists subscribe to this view.)
I have always called myself a feminist, because I believe in equal rights for all women regardless of race and how they define women for themselves. But I understand what my friend is saying. I remember reading Alice Walker’s essay about womanism, and how it is an inclusive version of feminism. I have seen many other people in many other places say that the word “feminism” does not feel inclusive to them.
My friend’s broader point is that you can’t fight for women’s rights without fighting for all people who are oppressed under our patriarchal system. I found the word “feminism” in college. I went to a majority white private college. I believe my original experience of feminism is white-centered. I learned some really positive things from my early forays into feminism, but I know more now. It is not enough.
So today, I revised the word feminism out of my MS. I make a joke about how nearly failing calculus made me feel like I betrayed feminism. Instead I wrote about how nearly failing calculus made me feel like I betrayed everyone who fought for women’s right to an education before me. Not only does this revision keep me from using a word that people find problematic, it gives me an opportunity to be more specific and informative.
Cliches, shortcuts, and stereotypes are an opportunity to go into more detail, to make your writing stronger and more specific. Tell me, would George Orwell shoot you like an elephant (for the words you use)?
There was a time last year when I had three manuscripts in my bag. I had the poetry manuscript malingering since grad school that I had to massacre into a chapbook. (And, yes, massacre is pronounced like this.) I had bits of my memoir that I have been trying to get into a publishable state for *many fucking mumbles* years. And I had the small beer book.
It is literally small, and as Paul reminds me, “Small Beer” is a phrase that means “doesn’t amount to much.” It comes from a time when people drank beer instead of water in order to avoid fun things like dysentery. Small beer is low in alcohol content, much like what we now call a session beer.
My first book is creative, but not creative writing. It is literate, but not literary. It is a very fetching shade of orange. I was paid to write it; I will get no royalties. But my name is there. My editor rewrote half the book, I no longer live in Eastern Massachusetts, and there might even be typos (too scared to look). I love it anyway.
So it’s time to come out on my not-very-anonymous blog, because I published a fucking book. I am not famous. You have never heard of me. Yet that’s the corner of my phone, and the tips of the fingers that wrote the damn thing. Buy it here.
Ask me about beer.
It’s close enough to that stupid holiday involving heart-eyes and cliched sayings in hot pink that I think I’m ready for another post about hate. (Just kidding, I’m always ready to write posts for haters. But not white supremacists. Not that kind of hate.)
No. I love constellations more than your average human being, but for fuck’s sake people! There are more, er, down-to-earth ways of expressing branching out.
I stopped reading a stationery blog because the author used the word “very unique” in two consecutive posts. Why does that piss me off? Being unique is like being pregnant. You are or you aren’t. Also for fuck’s sake, very few things are truly unique. Especially fountain pens. (And, yes, that is a challenge for you, my fountain pen readers. Find me a unique fountain pen.)
C’mon, you don’t know what the fuck that is either.
I don’t mind when this word is used to refer to a chunk of Etruscan pottery. However, a piece of art creating a year ago or a product being sold is not a fucking artifact. Or artefact for you Commonwealth types.
Meteors are impactful. Everything else has an effect that is good, bad, or somewhere in between. This is an opportunity to be more specific and to save your copyeditor from tearing her hair out. Two birds. One stone. Thank you.
What words do you hate?
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that I just needed to find a frame for my memoir, or to pick one thread and use that to guide the rest of my themes, I’d be able to buy the gorgeous owl fountain pen of my dreams.
“I think you should emphasize theme A,” said my faithful beta reader. And she was right. Of course she was right. But three paragraphs in, a detail about pine trees [not a real example] lead me right into the story about the time I went sky diving [never happened], and I lost the thread of theme A. Again.
There are many variables to blame for my inability to execute a plot. My actual writing training has been in poetry. In poems, you just lay out the three elements you want your reader to understand, and then add a snappy line that ties it all together. Bam, you’re done. [It’s a little more complicated than that, but not much.] Turns out that doesn’t work in prose.
Writing about your own life is tricky. You know what’s important to you, but you have to write about what’s important to the reader. I find this extraordinarily difficult. My only saving grace is that if you write about something well enough, the reader will probably be interested. And you maybe can’t tell by this slip-shod blog, but I can take a sentence apart and put it back together again and again until it fucking shines. This is a poet strength.
Did I mention I have ADD—oh look there’s a chicken! My executive function is not so great. My darlingest second sister likes to say that I have holes in my head because I was born premature. Shut up, darlingest second sister. [Ahem, sorry.] The upside of having ADD is that (almost) everything is interesting and interrelated. The downside is that most of my readers will not have ADD, and might require fewer leaps of place, scene, and topic.
So what works? Psychotropic drugs and therapy. And hiring an editor who pointed out examples of places where I kill my own tension. And then I could recognize it and fix it. I’m only on Chapter 2 of draft number 1,597. But I’m killing darlings, deleting beloved facts and sentences. The plot must go on.
Ten years ago, give or take, I said goodbye to my job as an editorial project manager and went freelance. (When your boss praises you for your editorial insight rather than your organizational and management skills [pause for hysterical laughter], it might be time to become a freelance editor.)
I read somewhere that it takes writers ten years to become masters of their own craft. We always have more to learn, but ten years gives us experience, confidence (sometimes), and knowledge of our trade. I have two trades: writing and editing.
Today ManEd sent me a copy of the proofs of a book I developmental edited. I swear I spent only five minutes scanning through the book, and I found a number of errors. Most of them weren’t my fault. Designers often enter headings, and because they are hired for their design sense rather than their editorial acumen, sometimes errors are inadvertently introduced. I don’t judge; I can’t design my way out of a paper bag.
My creative writing professor in grad school took 20 years to write his own award-winning memoir. I remind myself of that to make me believe that I can do it. Perhaps this year. Unlike my time with poems I have not reached 10 years of dedicated creative nonfiction writing.
So I fritter away my time, complaining about the weather and reading schlock fiction. I critique a poem my friend hasn’t written yet (long story). Let’s all get the fuck off the Internet and write.
(I probably spelled that wrong.)