November 2016 Recap

Writing Days: 11

Editing: Yup more edits. Another round to fix some pacing problems.

Books Read:
The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
The Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Guys, the sky must be falling, because I wrote a poem. It started off as a blog post, but just didn’t feel like prose. Now I’ve sent it off somewhere and who knows what will become of it, but it would amuse me a lot if it gets published.

In other news, a short horror/magic realism story of mine will likely be appearing in a charity anthology in January. I’m really glad this one found a home, because it was the toughest story I’ve ever written. It tapped into an accumulation of my personal fears and self-hate. It was the angriest thing I’ve ever written, which feels even more relevant now than it did at the time. More details later.

And now that I’m done with edits, I’m looking forward to doing some more writing. My goal is to finish my current first draft by the end of December. I figure it will take about 36k more words. It’s not quite a NaNoWriMo sprint, but that’s still a lot for me, figuring in the toddler and holidays coming around.

Meanwhile, I’m trying out the Pacemaker Planner to keep track of my writing progress. I LOVE charts. I love not having to track my word counts by hand too. Best of all you can track anything, including multiple projects, so this could be super handy for you writers. And so far I’m ahead of schedule, but it’s only been a week, SO fingers crossed and keyboard at the ready.

It’s honestly been hard to feel into the writing lately, but here’s hoping this writing sprint breaks through all those blocks in my head and my heart.

Forgiveness When Life Gets In the Way of Writing

Maybe you planned to do NaNoWriMo or maybe you didn’t. Either way, maybe you’re not getting as many words in as you wanted or planned. Maybe you’ve been super busy and feeling guilty about it. Maybe you feel like the whole bloody world is falling apart and it’s too hard to write.

You’ve probably also heard the mantras “Real writer’s write” and “butt in chair”.

Well friends, I’m here to tell you that while that may be true for some people, it most certainly isn’t true all the time.

Life is messy. Life gets busy. Feeding yourself and taking care of family members is a much more pressing priority. Taking care of yourself and your mental well being are not only important, but can help you have a longer career as a writer.

Good health, and strong hands, the mental fortitude to deal with the craziness of the business, are nothing to sneeze at. You sometimes need to take care of all that shit going on in your life, before you have the energy to pour into creation.

Sometimes writer’s block isn’t about the words at all: it’s your subconscious telling you it’s tired, or maybe that you’re in need of a little rest and refueling. Sometimes it’s depression. You have to honor that feeling, and figure out why its happening, before deciding whether or not you need to push through it or respect it.

True confession: When I tried writing every day, it wasn’t long before started hating writing and dreading my writing time. It didn’t work for me.

You need to do what works for you. Find a schedule that allows you to come to the page with joy. Find what allows you to write without sucking the ‘why you love this’ out of it.

And sometimes, even when we do figure it out for a while, life can change, and we have to figure things out all over again.

That’s life. It’s messy. It’s wonderful. There are ups and downs, and you will sometimes have to deal with the world you live in before you can inhabit a fictional one. Very possibly, the fictional can help you deal with real life (that’s what motivates me).

But the whole point of this is: sometimes you can’t write. That’s okay. Forgive yourself for being human and not a machine. If you can’t forgive yourself, then maybe it will help if I forgive you?

If you call yourself a writer, you’re a writer. Don’t let anyone tell yourself otherwise. There is usually a long haul before anyone will see your words, but that doesn’t make you less of a writer.

If you didn’t make your writing goals, you still wrote more words than none. If you survived a rough week, family emergency, or are looking for ways to change the world through activism (and not just words), just look at how strong you are.

Don’t worry, the words will come when you are able to again.

Reading: The Fifth Season

This week’s reading! Just in from the library #bookstagram

A photo posted by T. S. Bazelli (@tsbazelli) on

This is the first in a series highlighting diverse books, so expect at least one a month. Also, this was my first attempt at #bookstagram and well, it needs work, but the lighting was nice that day.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

This was a tough book for me to get through. It starts off with the death of a toddler, and terrible things happen to both children and adults all the way through. There’s no holding back from the horrors of this imagined world, and that is part of the point.

Like all the Jemisin’s books I’ve read so far, the world building feels wholly original. It doesn’t fall into any expected stereotypes or nor does it evoke any one past civilization as its inspiration.

Craft wise, the construction of the narrative is something to marvel, with two alternating points of view, that turn out to be taking place at different points of time, that gradually converge. Each point of view adds depth to the other, and add richness to the ending.

But boy, is it heavy, a commentary on slavery and who holds the power in a crumbling world. Sexuality and gender expression are presented without comment. It pulls no punches.

The dedication reads: “For all those who have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question” 

And it’s a fight all the way, but a worthwhile one.

Recalibrating

So, the election happened.

Now everything feels like it’s up in the air. I had my writing career plan mapped out for the next few years, but it feels like I have to start all over from scratch. That sweet haunted house novel I was working on before the election is no longer plausible. Even all the ‘dark’ novels I’ve written so far don’t feel like horror anymore.

My white husband consumed the entire election as if it was reality television, as entertainment, along with the rest of Canada. “There’s no way that people would be stupid enough to vote in Trump”, he kept saying, while watching in half-glee. All the while, I kept telling him, “You have to take it seriously. People’s lives are at stake. Think about what might happen if he won.” But he didn’t listen. On November 9, he woke up in disbelief and wondered. “How could have this have happened?” Even though I’d been telling him the whole time. He just didn’t listen.

We had a long talk about privilege, but because he’s never experienced the world like I have, he still doesn’t really get it (he goes everywhere thinking that everyone will like him, while I go into a strange place wondering which folk are dangerous). It was exhausting, humiliating, and frustrating. Honestly, if it’s this hard to get through to someone I love, to get him to take my concerns seriously, I have no idea how anything in the world could ever change.

But one thing this has all made clear: voting is not enough. We need to put our ideals into action, and silence is complacency.

Even I am at fault. I’ve never talked to my husband about the racism I’ve faced, or the sexism I’ve encountered. It’s tough. It’s uncomfortable. It’s a burden to relive those things you’d rather just forget so you can go on with (what feels like false) dignity.

I used to be so scared of confrontation that I’d keep away from those people speaking up online, and let them fight the fights without getting involved. I worried that I might just end up facing trolls if I spoke up, and who am I anyway, and that I couldn’t possibly handle that. Some days I even took down my photo, wondering if my non-white face might just make me a target just for existing. There were nights I’d stay awake and not sleep because the blowups on book Twitter (racefail, the badgers, keep ya kind, etc) really got to me, even if I wasn’t involved, because they were usually about people like me.

I prided myself in maintaining a bubble of peace that afforded mental well being, and for those of you who still need a bubble, I get it. I really do. When you have to fight all day in your real life, then you need safe spaces. (If you need them, keep them and guard them well.)

But things changed for me.

My bubble is gone, but strangely, my fear went with it. I’m lucky, and my life and livelihood are not on the line (yet). Any terror I’m feeling is for others, and not for myself (yet). So I will not be silent, or shy away from express my political views: that no one should be denied humanity due to their sexual orientation, religion, race, gender, lack of able-bodiedness. etc.

Talking about this might be hard, but there are a lot of people with far less education who are spouting nonsense like they own the world, so I’m going to take some time to address -isms in the context of writing, because I am a writer, and it is something I think about constantly. I will also start posting some of my diverse reads to support those whose voices don’t get listened to enough. And I will keep writing my feminist books full of diverse people, even if they never sell. And I will try to be vocal in my real life, and step in for people if I see they’re being harassed.

To any Americans wondering why Canadians care at all about American politics: Canada is a tiny country and the USA is its biggest export partner. The economies are interconnected (at least right now) so what happens there will directly affect jobs here. Because we are such a tiny market (population 35 million), 90% of the media we consume is American. This includes TV, movies, music, books, games (never mind the internet, or Twitter). Just like our economies, culture overlaps. And what’s happening right now is also a culture war. It is in no one’s best interest to let racism, homophobia, sexism etc. become normal or acceptable in this world.

To any Canadians who are feeling smug right now and think that it could never happen here: you shouldn’t be. Hate groups have always been here, are moving in, and hateful messages are already  popping up. Canada also has a long history of failing indigenous groups. If you’re white, I hope you realize that that racism is not something rare. It happens regularly, even to me, even though I live in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Don’t be complacent. If this could happen in the USA, if Rob Ford could happen, if Brexit could happen, it could damn well happen in Canada too. We need to make sure that it doesn’t.

(And I’m not writing this for cookies. I usually prefer just to act rather than talk about doing things and I am not really comfortable getting this personal, but I thought you might want an explanation for why I’m changing the focus here just a bit, and I needed to sort out my thoughts out too.)