New Article in The Bias

I released a new article in The Institute for Christian Socialism’s magazine The Bias called Moral Injury, Marxist Organizing, and Christian Grace. Moral injury is a fairly recent framework to describe the trauma particular to doing or being complicit to acts we know to be wrong.  I argue we, as Marxists (including the secular ones), will have to address that trauma in our organizing.

Whatever minimum wage job you work will be short-staffed, and the cost of short staffing is often life-altering injury. If you don’t work a minimum wage job, you buy coffee from someone who does. Capitalism is  ceaseless downward economic pressure, a boot on our necks. There are very few jobs aimed at minimizing harm within capitalism that don’t also serve to keep that harmful system from falling apart. We are forced by our personal limitations to betray and be betrayed and are sheared away from one another. To be a Marxist is to be aware of the inherent contradictions in capitalism, of the gap between workers and other workers, workers and management, workers and capital. That gap is an open wound; an injury.

Epilogue

Writing–or publishing, at least–is like silicon valley, in that everyone is always doing great. It’s a cultural norm within the business of cheery silence. Everything’s great! we chirp while our eyes water. Leave the vulnerability on the page.

I’m not good at this. Certainly to my detriment.

My husband recently, in the nicest way possible, referred to me as Inside Out Boy. I went over the top of the swing and now all my meat’s on the outside, and it’s sore. I have no poker face. The first real hurdle to a friendship is that lack of a poker face. The second is them realizing I under-react to pain. I once got stung by a scorpion at work (no indoor meeting space), said “ow!” and completed the interview. Doesn’t it hurt? Yes, very much, I say, smiling. They do the math, having seen that I am frequently in pain, and they draw a horrible conclusion. They wonder if they can handle being around me, knowing that whatever pain I express, it’s probably worse. Some can’t.

I wrote this last November.

I know the story of how I would never be a writer. That story ended at nineteen. Maybe this is a mistake. Maybe the sixty years after that is an epilogue where I mourn or fail to mourn me, a writer, long dead. I know that story. I still tell myself that story.

Let’s tell a different one.

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NaNoWriMo Day #18 – Writing requires a self to provide the words

The story, unfortunately, is not going well at the moment. But Advent is nearly over. Tomorrow is the solstice, and the sun always comes back. Of course I’m not the sun, I’m a depressive, but we writers do love our metaphors.

Write the damn book, Pigboy

Storytime, baby writers: Once, on a “date,” I told a man I wanted to be a writer.  I hadn’t written a word in years. I mentioned it offhand, trying on the identity. At the time that felt like enough.

This man, who lived in a tool shed, was as much a writer as I was. Upon realizing we were kindred spirits, he immediately launched into a full account of his unwritten epic fantasy, Pigboy. It was about a pigboy named Pigboy, who was like a shepherd, but for pigs. There was a wandering princess. She said, “You can’t lead my army. You’re just a pigboy.” They made love. Did he lead that army? You bet your ass Pigboy did.

He took an hour and a half to tell me this story. At the end he asked, “What do you think?” I said what I’d probably say now: it was derivative, but so’s everything. It’d come down to execution on the page. I then–delicately!–asked him if he noticed I was miserably bored the entire time he was talking. He had!

In my defense, he was really hot.

If you think it’s awfully cruel I’m telling you this story before he ever got a chance, remember: 1) I am way better at telling it than he was, 2) he was hot, but not 90-minutes-wall-to-wall-Pigboy-recap hot 3) he hadn’t written a word of it. A decade later, he still hasn’t. You can’t copyright half-assed, unexecuted ideas. I wrote it, here, now. It’s mine.

Learn from my pettiness: there is only one thing that makes you a writer, and that’s writing. Don’t tell me about the book. Write the book, write the pitch, sell the book. The book will have ideas and themes. The only time anyone will ask you about themes in your own book will be on NPR after it’s published. If you have to talk about your book–and you never, ever have to before it’s 100% done (so don’t)–forefront plot. Be concise.

The book is all there is. Write the book.

Social Capital in Publishing, Pt 1

Fiction publishing is a relationship industry. Whether you are published, where, and how your book gets publicity is largely driven by who you know and how much they’re willing to do for you, and it’s only getting more unequal. As a marginalized person, I think about this a lot. Socioeconomic status is an intersection of a number of factors–  disability status, race, gender, education, etc.– but I want to talk today about specifically social capital. I’ll talk about what it is, how it fits into publishing, why it is vital to build it, and why the Internet’s not really a good place to do it. In Part 2, I’ll talk about potential strategies for marginalized creators to build it in the service of their careers.

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Writing is Bullshit: Protagonists

Coming up with story concepts isn’t difficult for me. It’s not hard to sit down and rattle off 15 concepts really quick, just a sentence. A concept will usually suggest a genre to me. Genres have conventions and obligatory scenes, so the bones of the story are there in less than ten seconds, easily.

Here’s where it gets hard: I’ve read so many stories I know exactly how that story is supposed to go. So does everyone else. So why write it?

For me, the answer is anger. Something about how I’m supposed to write that story not only doesn’t match my lived experience, it is such unbelievable bullshit that I’m willing to hammer out a 90,000-word subtweet.

Right now, I’m mad at the protagonist. Protagonists are bullshit.

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