A little late posting these, but really proud!
The Current Affairs piece.
he Protean piece.
Thanks for reading!
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.
Trigger warning for violence and war.
I, too frequently, find myself nearly making an apologia for horror. I read it, I write it. That seems to need explanation. A new thing in my life that my friends need explained: In the wake of a death in the family, an injury, and the loss of a friend, I have been going to church for about three weeks. I go as often as I can. This is unlike me.
It’s the night of the darkest day of the year.
Writing and publishing have this strange contrast, where a lot of writing skill comes from being able to– and being driven to– express yourself. But maintaining relationships relies on containment. Being able to bear long waits. Taking criticism, yes, but criticism is nothing in comparison to taking silence. And to be clear, I have no reason to believe any silence is bad! It’s simply something all writers have to be pretty good at.
I’m in a little bit of a fragile state lately. I don’t mind saying so because it’s pretty obvious, and the fact that I know it puts people more at ease than if I didn’t. I don’t pass as neurotypical at the best of times. Right now is the time of year one misses family and friends, and I’ve had a very recent death in the family. On top of that, I’ve had a new physical injury, worsening of insomnia, and the loss of a friend, all within about two months of one another. I’m neither able to sit or stand for long without agony, and I’m in pretty active grief. I’m dealing with this by writing. Constantly. I probably need to get off Twitter. I’m making more connections because I am trying to claw my way back onto dry land after being sucked out by an undertow.
But is what I am producing good?
It’s a myth that writers are all tortured artists. I think a lot of mentally ill people write, but seriously mentally ill people are, as all minorities are, very under-represented in publishing. It makes sense. These past couple of months have presented a challenge. I’m more productive. I’m both having difficulty and having difficulty hiding that I am having difficulty, even when it would be polite. Publishing, like tech or acting, is one of those fields where everyone is, at all times “great!” Meanwhile, I feel like I’m clutching an obvious and gaping wound and begging, “pardon my mess.”
I don’t have some broader writing point, no #writetip. This is simply what’s up in my life. I’ll never lose writing, but I hope publishing is a thing I get to do.
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.
Read more here:
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.
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.
My next novel is about bad men. No shock, they all are.
I have a new article out from Protean Magazine about a new mental health policy that prominent Democratic candidates have included in their platforms, and why lives depend on us opposing it.
Mind the content warning and take a look.
I enjoyed this article breaking down the recent Sarah Dessen YA dust-up. It’s correct: criticism isn’t hate, and using a large platform to stifle criticism is wrong. I was nodding along until this part:
Conflating constructive criticism with hatred is not only wrong, but extremely dangerous and damaging. Criticism is how we encourage growth and positive change, while shame and hatred serve to stifle both.
I don’t want to put words in the author’s mouth, but this comes very close to something I have heard before: that criticism written for a wider audience is good for an author’s growth. And I want to break that down here, for a moment. I’m going to focus only on arts criticism and not the criticism of an artist’s behavior (which have increasingly become conflated in the wider discussion; I will not be conflating them here myself).
I got serious about writing three years ago, and in some ways, I’ve done well for myself. I’ve gotten checks for a couple pieces with more zeroes on them than typical. I have connections and people who believe in my writing. I had, at one point, a platform: a Twitter account with about 4.5k followers, which is not fucking bad for someone with no book out.
What everyone will tell you and what nothing can prepare you for is that progress isn’t a straight line. Continue reading