Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Bit About Singularity, Harry Potter, and Things In My Life

Hello blog! I have missed you!
My apologies to this blog. Real life has been absolutely and ridiculously busy. Here are some of the highlights:
1. I am in school! I just finished my first round of exams. I did not fail. This is a good start, for me. But school is pretty much ass-kicking, in that it is both very awesome and it is also sapping me of any desire to you know, do anything besides study and eat and sleep and veg in front of the computer to watch all the television I don’t get on this side of the Atlantic. Sorry for that.
2. I am now OFFICIALLY OUT OF FIRST DRAFT HELL! So there was that one week, as there always is, where I was hating myself and OMG WORST WRITER EVER WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?! And now I’m all *gleeface* because now I can like, actually make something. And it’s good. Really. I mean more than it just has STOPPED SUCKING, it’s actually fairly decent and good. Which I owe to the fact that
3. I have been reading a lot! A lot a lot a lot. I signed up for the Goodreads challenge at the beginning of the year. I was planning on reading 35 books, which I felt was a fairly decent number for someone whose book eating had dwindled after the whole School Thing We Don’t Talk About. Actually, it began dwindling when I started school, and reading for academic reasons, and then picked back up again, and then I got so that I felt so guilty for not writing that I didn’t read and we all know how that worked out. So, since I started university this year, I had to promise myself I was going to read more, so that the book didn’t starve. And oh my gosh I mean *really*. Actually, most of my reading has been audio books, since I’m able to squeeze in time to listen to reading everywhere, and I’ve gone all old-lady and can’t read a physical book while in a moving vehicle anymore, which is a huge change from the days when I could walk down the street with a book on my face and navigate through peripheral vision. (See? The lazy eye is good for something!) Which reminds me:
Harry Potter.
Have you seen the movie? Are you sad? I’m sad. The storyteller in me is sad because, well, you know how the New World Order is essentially that we can all go on our merry little weirdo way and always find someone like us, and that’s awesome? I love that, I really do. Like I love how I wrote one day on my twitter that I couldn’t decide between the Death Star cookie Jar or the TARDIS cookie jar. And one of my followers is like, “OMG DUDE GET THE TARDIS!” and one of my other followers is like, “I have no idea what that is.” But.
Harry Potter is public consciousness. It’s something you have an opinion on whether you actually know what you’re talking about or not. We have new words, thanks to Harry Potter, we have a new concept of magic, of fairytale and epic and YA fiction, and everyone knows what and who these people are, even if they don’t know where or how they know it. You know what I mean? And we really don’t have a whole lot of that. It kind of feels like when Michael Jackson died. I remember feeling really weird about it because saying you didn’t know Michael Jackson is like saying you didn’t know music. Because everyone had at least one song they knew that was a Michael Jackson song, or a Jackson Five song, even though they may not know that’s what it was. People will be making Harry Potter jokes and barely understanding that they started out as Harry Potter jokes. People will spoof those books and those stories and those ideas so often, that the copies will gain notoriety separate from the original. For years, if not forever, we will hold that up and say, “This is how you tell a story.” I think about Robert McKay’s “Story”, and how the whole thing is based around Casablanca, and I think about similar books about how to write that are really about Star Wars, or whatever. This is that, for us, for our generation. And I’m getting a little annoyed at the number of times someone says, “The Next Harry Potter.” Because I’ve got news for you, guys. The Next Harry Potter? Is not due for the next twenty five years. At least.
But that’s okay. I try to focus on that, on the next twenty five years, which is huge and terrifying, because whatever this next thing is, it will belong to my grandkids or something. Which is also a bit depressing, in its own way. Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not writing this to tell you that I hope, or that I think, I could bring about that Next, whatever it is. I don’t even aspire to that, not really. I don’t think anyone ever does. I get really annoyed when people sneer at JK Rowling for hiding away. I don’t think there are a whole lot of people sitting behind a computer screen who ever aspire to that kind of fame. And I honestly don’t think anyone really thinks about it. I mean, the people who sign up for reality shows and sing on talent shows have an inkling of wanting to be famous, and known. But as the love of my life has said, it’s no longer a matter of The Big Thing, but a whole bunch of Things That Are Important To Someone. We are parsed and separated, and I’m not sure that it is, as the cynics would say, a result of our technologically inclined world, and I am not even sure, as I write this, if it is necessarily a bad thing. Like I said, I revel in my own singularity, in each individual thing that I love, that other people love, and still others know nothing about. I love that I can build a world around myself, and still belong to a bigger world, almost but not quite as much as I love that I can build a world for other people to hopefully wander around in, one day. But I also love those moments when we realize we are all on the same planet, no matter how different we are. It reminds me of the day I was in a bus station in Toronto. The bus station was quite old, so instead of the invisible motion detectors on the doors, it had those little pads, like you get in some stores. What would happen is someone would set one off and a seagull or a pigeon would fly in. Then the seagull or pigeon would land, and the door would open, and the bird would get startled and fly away, missing the fact that its freedom was essentially, right in front of it’s face. Then it would fly off again, and someone else would come in and repeat the process. One day I was watching this little musical doors presentation, and a little girl came by, holding her mother’s hand. She could not have been more than three, and she ecstatically pointed to the door and yelled “Bird! Bird!” Her mother smiled indulgently, and pulled her along. Not five minutes later, an older child, belonging to a French couple, passed by where I was sitting, pointed at the doors and shrieked “Oiseaux! Oiseaux!”* as loudly as she could. Her parents held tightly to her arms, smiling, so that the little girl did not run out of the doors in her excitement. Ten minutes after that, there came an Asian family in my line of site, with another child somewhere between three and six, who pointed at the door the bird had just flown
out of, and yelled one word in a language I did not understand. And his parents laughed, and smiled, and gently but firmly guided him away from the birds. I think about that sometimes, when I need reminding that I belong to a wider world than I sometimes recognize. I’m not saying Harry Potter makes us all happy. I’m just saying, there’s not a whole lot in the world that can cut through to everyone, all at once. For that, I will thank Ms. Rowling, and I will sit patiently and wait, and not pout and not call random objects that look like YA fantasy books “The Next Harry Potter.” Because trust me, when the Next Whatever hits? We’re all going to know it, whether we like it or not.
Thanks, Jo.

*In case you’re not Canadian, it means bird.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Where I Learn Everyone Is Smarter Than Me

Script Frenzy again. At this point, I’m fairly certain I run on stubbornness alone. And yet, weirdly, I’m not actually failing. A while back, I decided I would write a few Dr. Who scripts, because I’ve never written a spec script before, but also because I can watch all five seasons and call it research. I haven’t attempted to write or even read a script since this time last year, and I was very happy to switch back to novels when I did, but the psychological switch was instant. I don’t want to get too sappy, but opening Final Draft was like coming home again, like landing in Heathrow airport, like hearing in stereo. So good, in fact, I’ve considered dragging the project on after April, writing the whole series just because I can. The best part, though, is that I’m not twiddling my thumbs wasting time here, but the process is actually improving Vampires.

When I began writing novels again, one of the hardest things I had to do was simply filling up all that white space. It was, quite simply, daunting. So there are spots, right now, where my prose gets a bit. Well. I may need to have Rule Eight tattooed on my body at some point if this habit continues. (Actually, I may get Rule 8 tattooed on my body at some point, purely because it would absolutely be the nerdiest reference ever, far surpassing my amazing friend Claire, who has “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.” on her wrist. Because my friend Claire is amazing.) I would like to think, at this stage of the writing, I have cured myself, since the thing is going on for freaking ever, but it doesn’t seem that I have. I catch myself doing the same in my screenplay. Screenwriting is very helpful with the idea of omitting needless words, because at this point, I don’t need them, but the hands keep typing them and the head keeps hitting the desk as they do.

Further, my prose has been a bit, um, purple, for my taste. Since the beginning of my novel, in fact. And recently, I figured out why  that was. I was trying to invent a secondary weapon with which to slay a vampire. Something you should know about. My primary weapon? Is a little ridiculous. No, it is, in fact, a whole lot of ridiculous. It’s this ridiculous thing cobbled sloppily together by inexperienced hands. No one would ever believe it could kill anything larger than a mouse. I am foolishly attached to this thing, and I am excited by the prospect of making it work in a believable way, because I am a total dork, and that’s the sort of thing that gets me all excited. But it is such a scrappy thing. All the typical standbys like an ornamental silver letter opener et al would be completely out of place. My prose, I found suddenly, was a bit like an ornamental letter opener. Pretty, and it could work, conceivably, for a vampire novel. But it wouldn’t work for mine. The love of my life, who seems to always have the answer to just about every question, talked me through it. I explained to him, these are sort of punk rock vampire hunters. They don’t know what they’re doing, but they do it.  They speak in coarse voices, they’re not particularly romantic, and except for Gerard, whose story is told through memory, and Death, who is, of course a being of very little personality, there’s not a whole lot of personal reflected. So I shifted gears a bit. He says, “Just write what happens.” And he’s brilliant, because I did that, and it’s working. Punk rock prose. Oh yeah.

The other problem I am having is with dialogue. One of the things that always happens in regards to my dialogue is that either I really like it, and everyone else hates it, or I really hate it, and everyone else loves it. I was worried, when I started Script Frenzy, because Eleventh Doctor is quite new, and I didn’t know if I could get his voice right, and I didn’t want him to turn into, say, Ten, because there’s so much more material. Yet Eleven’s voice comes out at me so clearly, it’s as if the TARDIS has landed squarely in my living room and he’s popped out to say, “Hey! I’m going to talk, and you’re going to write down everything I say, okay? Okay!” I could not understand what this phenomenon was until a friend pointed out my love of audio books. This friend also happens to be brilliant, and I am very grateful to him, but he shall remain nameless or I will give him a big fat head. The point is, I’ve always been an auditory learner, and though I can’t act at all, I’ve always been a decent mimic. I know Matt Smith’s voice and Eleven’s speech patterns, so it makes it easier to write him, because I can hear it in my head. Which led to the brilliant plan of casting the vampire novel. Just in my head, of course, so I could properly mimic the speech types I want. So I can hear them. And it’s working!

So, all of that is just me saying that script frenzy is not a waste of time, so there!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


This is not a post about building things, except it sort of is, a little bit.
My father is a contractor/construction worker, and has been for most of his life. Growing up, he told me hilarious stories about the time he worked as a pizza delivery man, and the tricks he and his friends used to play on the university students. "University students," he would tell me, "are some of the stupidest people you have ever met in your life. They have no common sense. Everything they know comes from books. They don't exist in the real world." Gratitude, Common Sense and The Real World were the million-dollar concepts to my father. Whenever we were lectured for anything, leaving a mark on the wall, not doing our homework, fighting at the dinner table, my father's lecture was the same:
"You kids are so Ungrateful. You don't have any Common Sense. You need to wake up and realize that in The Real World, you can't act this way." Theoretically, I could have come home carrying a human head, and the lecture would have likely gone something like this:

"You are so Ungrateful! Do you think your mother and I ever chopped someone’s head off? Common Sense says you cannot just chop someone’s head off. You should know better! In The Real World, people don't do that! Smarten up!"

This explains the somewhat tumultuous relationship my father and I have, and have had since I developed what we refer to as Independent Thought. My poor mother had to play referee, but every once in a while, my Dad would say something so off the wall that even my mom had to go, "Huh?" So one day, somewhere in my angry adolescence, my father was lecturing me on the dangers of my not having a backup plan. This lecture was another oldie, and at some point, my father made the mistake of asking me if I knew how many people tried to write books, every year. Because I was ticked off at this point, and because I was a bit of a snarky kid, I responded with, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. Do you?" His next words were, "Well, I could write a book too, you know." At which point, my mother stared incredulously at my father and said, "You know you're full of it, right?"

My dad, realizing his misstep, floundered for about half a second, and then amended himself. "I'm not saying it would get published..." So of course, the snark in me responded with, "Yeah, and I could build a house, but I'm not saying it wouldn't fall down."

It's strange, the things we value in this world, and why. I value people like construction workers, because I know they're necessary, but I don't understand why a person would rather do that than do this. In fact, most of the time, I assume they only do what they're doing because they don't have any other options. Like maybe they're just not good at anything else, or maybe the money's better and they need it. It sounds harsh, but then, sometimes feel the same about this venture, and in fact, most ventures of mine. In writing classes, they warn you that if you can do anything else, you should do it, because this is a long and painful road to nothing for most of us. For me, it was this, or struggle on disability for the rest of my life (which I may do anyway). I know that I have a decent job right now, and it's a job I like, but it's not what I would choose for myself, so I don't understand people who would. It was easy to be the one to say, "I'm going to be one of that 3%, because I don't have other options." Now I have another job, I have other options, I'm not miserable, and I know this is still an integral part of my sense of self, and my goals. It's a comfort of sort, to know that, but it makes other people's decisions and choices all the more confusing to me.
I've always been a DIY of a different sort than my father. My father needs to know that he is where people expect him to be. Everything that I've ever wanted, I've wanted for myself and by myself, and those have been some pretty concrete goals. I chose my profession at four, and decided I would stay single for most of, if not all of my life, at sixteen. And because of that, and because of the disability, I'm not afraid to move slowly. I get impatient, sometimes. But I take comfort in the fact that I am not like other people. I want to do things, not just at my own pace, but in my own way, and that takes time.

I think when you're a parent, with a child with a disability, you harbour a deep-seated fear that failure is inevitable. I was lucky, because I have two parents who cope with that fear in very different ways: My father, by denying the possibility of failure, and pushing me well beyond my capacity, pushing me towards goals he feels I can actually accomplish, and my mother, by denying the rest of the world's importance and embracing the failure. On their own, neither of those are particularly good ways to parent a child with a disability, and there are a lot of ways and a lot of times the whole thing worked out really badly for everyone. Put them together, though, and I grew up in an environment that if I wanted something, it was up to me to tell my mother I would have it, and if I couldn't do something, it was up to me to tell my father to back off. Sometimes this led to disaster and shouting, but it also led to me knowing exactly what I wanted, and exactly why, and understanding that if I was going to have something, I would have to get it myself. Because the people who believed I could have it also believed I didn't need help, and the people who didn't weren't going to waste resources trying to help me do the impossible.

So here we are. Me, attempting to self publish. Earning my online degree. Being at least functionally single for the foreseeable future, but daring to dream and plan for children. In part because it's the path life has led me to, but for the most part, purely because that's how I work. On my own. I suppose people are right then, to accuse me of being a bit self-interested. I am interested in myself, not at the expense of others, but because others don’t really factor into my life much. Possibly not the most lucrative way to live, and most times I seem antisocial and hard-headed. (I'm not. Well, antisocial.) But I think certain things are hardwired into you.

Recently, I had the flu. And I remember thinking, “So this is why people have partners. It’s so they can have someone to walk the dogs, and cook food and do the dishes while they can’t stand up.” It was the first time it occurred to me that being single might be in some ways harder than being coupled. Another day, I was talking to a friend about my severe lack of a social life, where I talked about having very few friends, and she offered many solutions, how I could go out and meet new people, and what do to once I had. And after making excuse after excuse as to why I couldn’t, I realized that it wasn’t that I lacked friends. It was that I had lived too full a life, I had friends on three continents, scattered all over the country, and that didn’t even include the myriad of amazing people I had met through other people, online. I wanted more time and more space in common with those people. I am not lonely for friendship or for romance. It’s just that the world is made for people who come in pairs and sets.

Good things and bad things to everything, I suppose. There are times I take on too much, sometimes, because like my father, I forget what I'm up against. I get stagnant and sometimes I'm easily overwhelmed, because I think, like my mother, that I should just revel in the fact that I have any ambition left, and sometimes that's enough to be grateful for. But one day I'm going to have all the things I want to have, a family, a career, and a life that I earned, and the job I always dreamed of having. And when I do, I know it'll be in part because I have good people in my life, and lots of support, and a little luck. And part of it will be because I learned how to stand up to the people who loved me before I had to stand up to the people who don’t. But mostly, it'll be up to me. Because there is the world, and there is me, and when we work together, it’s awesome, but when we don’t, somebody has to look out for me.

I sort of like it that way.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Still Here. Alive and Kicking. And Screaming (a lot of screaming)

*Sigh* I so wanted to be out of First Draft Hell by now. See, it’s been almost a year since I started this blog, and I thought I knew how long this particular first draft was going to be, and woo, I was wrong. This thing just keeps going and going. The fact that I know it’s crap and will have to be torn down and rewritten is highly disheartening, but the real problem is that I have to finish it before I can do that. Bleh. Curse curse curse! (I’m practicing not swearing. See?) I feel pretty bummed that it’s been a year and I don’t even have a good enough first draft yet. But, unlike when I began rewriting Hannah, it’s not because the words won’t come out, or I’m way overconfident about my ability to finish, or nervous about my ability to tell the story. I have been writing more regularly than I have in years, and it feels as amazing as it always does. But I’ve also got a lot more going on in my life than I think even I realized. Since it’s the anniversary of this blog, and I started this blog so that I could share my adventures in actually getting off my ass and getting a life, I thought I’d share. Lots of things cooking, and very exciting!

Firstly, of course, I’m still working on my Vampires. I had an idea that I assumed would take a certain number of words. And I did something I have never done before, I mean ever. I underestimated myself. No seriously, I grossly overestimate myself, generally speaking. Societal pressure meets disability culture, I am a victim of too many low expectations (blah blah blah). So usually I make some ridiculous proclamation like say, “I am going to win a Pulitzer by age 35” (not an actual proclamation). Or, oh, “I’m going to write a book in six months.” (Yes. I did say that.) This time, I made a fairly reasonable proclamation, “When I write this first draft, it’s probably going to be about 120,000 words.” And. Well, I’m not quite at 120,000 words yet. Because about a week ago I got completely freaked out, because I was nearing 100,000 words and holy god I had so far to go! Which led me to two conclusions, the first and most obvious being wow my first drafts suck, and the second being that I would of course, need to do some massive restructuring to the pacing of the story that I absolutely could not do within this draft. Which meant that I would have to finish the horrible ugly and very long draft, and then proceed to not use it. Which led me to my only logical recourse, which was basically to not look at the file for about a week.

I was not hiding under the bed. In the first place, my bed is occupied by several boxes of stuff, the primary purpose of which is to keep the dogs from taking things from around the house and hiding them under there to be destroyed later. Also, I was very, very busy with lots of other things, so technically still writing, so. Myeh. Okay, I was hiding under the bed, a bit. I’m sorry. But I actually do have a lot more work than I thought I would, because in addition to this blog, and the book, I’m working on a couple other personal projects. Namely, of course, is the actual day job, which has been, in the last few months, much more demanding than I’m used to, but is about to slow down considerably, which is nice, because more importantly, I am finally and in earnest pursuing post-secondary education.

So remember a few months ago when I had mentioned the young woman who, after reporting instances of child abuse in the special education class she was TA-ing, was fired pending an investigation of whether her autism would interfere with her teaching abilities? And how I said that when I had a moment, I would rant about it? And then I didn’t? There’s a reason for that. It’s something that goes beyond laziness, and something that I am, eventually going to have to share, but I can’t now. The fact is, the whole thing is just, well, triggering, for me. I sat down to tell my own story about my own college experience and the discrimination therein, and burst into tears all three times I tried. It’s embarrassing, not because it’s not horrible, but because it is common, and because of how naive and unprepared for it I was, and how traumatic I can still find it, six years later. The short version is that I too, after working for years towards the education and eventual career path I most desired, after years of being told that, in spite everything, I was smart, and that would make all the difference, I learned that wasn’t strictly true. And then I also had to put aside my dreams of college education, and for years, it was so upsetting to me that I could not entertain the idea of going back, nor did I particularly want to do something just for the ‘experience’ of college.

But about a year ago, I had a health scare. Not a major one, but a little one that made me think a lot about my body, and my life, and my role in it, and I began to think about my life in terms of the next three years, instead of ten years or twenty from now, and I saw that what I wanted and what I had were miles from each other, and the first step to everything seemed to be getting off public assistance and supporting myself. Since I tried college, and the hands-on approach didn’t do it for me, I looked into distance education for the first time, which is where I found Athabasca. So now I’m a full-time English/History student. I don’t know for sure, really, what it will do for me, if it’ll get me off the system. But it will make me a better writer, and come hell or high water or whatever else, that is what I will be doing. So I have hope. It’s also not nearly as traumatic.

In addition, I also seem to be embroiled in someone else’s project. My friend Paul has dreams of dominating the world via video games, or some such thing, and has asked me to assist him in the writing. I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m not a gamer by any stretch (bad hand-eye coordination keeps you away from that sort of thing, y’know). But as he keeps asking for input and I keep writing, and we keep talking about it, it looks like one of those things I may actually wind up doing, which is pretty cool. Always like taking on new things.

I feel bad, because I’m not very good at this whole blogging thing yet, I’m still at the stage where I have a hard time downshifting from talking about the stuff I want to talk about to telling the story. Not because I don’t want to tell the story, or because I don’t want to talk, but because once I start telling the story, I feel guilty if I am not eating and sleeping and breathing it as well. I’m improving from this kind of neurosis, but there could definitely be further improvement. So, I promise this year to… I promise to write more entries than I did last year. Let’s just leave it at that.

Also, I may share some of my actual writing that is not just me talking about myself. Ulp.


Couple other small changes to the blog that I will hopefully actually stick to:

-I am also taking part in Inkygirl’s 500 word-a-day challenge. Which I have been doing swimmingly at except for two weeks, the first of which I had the flu and the second… yeah. Hiding under the bed. You should check it out if you’re a writer, want to be a writer, or just missing Nanowrimo at the moment. You can even do 250 words a day. Seriously, that’s like 15 minutes of writing a day or something equally ridiculous. A monkey with a typewriter could do that. On its own, even, without its fifty friends or Shakespeare.

-I am also doing Script Frenzy, in spite of, nay, because of having failed every single year I do it. I may actually have time to blog in the process of that. If not, I’ll probably regularly on the boards, and I need a lot of hand-holding. You should join in.

-I am taking part in the Goodreads reading challenge for 2011. My magic number is 35. You should also do it, if you are a reader, or add me to your friends list if you’re already doing it. Seriously. I don’t have enough friends who read. My friend, she owns the bookstore in town, and she laments every day, “Why did I open a bookstore in a town that doesn’t read?”

- After reading a series of disgusting articles in which we examine the fact that although more women read more books than men, and this planet is about 50% women, yet the books being published that were written by women are around 33%, and the books being reviewed that are by women are somewhere around roughly 20%, I got a little peeved. And after reading the explanation from publishing journals and popular book reviewers that, “Women just aren’t writing the kind of things we review,” I got a little ragey. But rather than go on a full-on rant, I have decided to be a bit more productive than usual about this whole thing. In conjunction with my reading a lot this year, I have decided to review the books I’m reading, but only if they were written by women. Which means some of the books I’m reading will probably be older books that have been reviewed ages ago, in which case, sorry. Books are expensive. If it weren’t for ebooks and audiobooks, I would be even less well-read than I am now, and I’m not anywhere near as well read as I would like to be. Have I mentioned I love Audible? They’re not even paying me to say that, but I do. I should also warn you I do not yet have any sort of college degree, so my reviewing will consist of a lot of squee, omg you have got to read this!!!!, and a lot of despair. (Why am I not as good as this?!) And possibly some headdesking. (Omg how does this stuff even get published erlack?). For more constructive criticism, you may have to wait til something pisses me off. Sorry.

I think that’s pretty much it. If I could squeeze anything else in there, I probably would, but I don’t think I can. I don’t think I’m travelling this year, even. *sadface* Meanwhile, I would like to thank this blog for being an awesome place to dump things that bug me and things I like, and how tortured I am. And, if I have any regular readers at all, seriously, thank you for spending an entire year not thinking I’m horrible, and maybe occasionally thinking I’m pretty awesome. I shall do my level best to not let you down over the next twelve months!

Also, is it completely ridiculous that I find this awesome?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Babies and Books

One of the most common analogies people make about the writing life is how writing a book is like having a baby. And some people claim this is true, and some people claim that it doesn’t even come close. I have been both of those people at one time or another, but the one thing I do know is that there is one, for certain way that writing a book is like having a baby: People are forever telling me how when you have a baby it’s the most painful and terrifying thing you have ever experienced in your life. And you instantly forget it. Writing a book is also painful and terrifying and long and arduous. But what you forget is not necessarily that it was painful and terrifying and long and arduous. The thing you forget is exactly how much you suck.

I am a big reader, and a big writer. I have been my whole life. One of those things always leads into, and then bleeds into, the other. But I have this problem. If you’ve never written a completed project, you may not be familiar with this problem, but if you’re on your second, third, or fifteenth big project, I’m hoping somebody out there has a similar problem and can help me. Because what happens is I write something and work at it and carve at it and shine it up until I am happy with 93% of what is written there. 93% is as high as I ever get. There is a margin of error for self-loathing, which is, I believe, the cornerstone of any artistic pursuit, and my assumption is if I am happy with 93%, at least 97% is good. It’s a somewhat optimistic assumption, but there you go. I allow myself the reasonable assumption that, when I’m done, I know 3% of it is crap. I can’t usually see it, but I know it must be there. Anyway, I’ve worked at something and made it tolerable to pretty damn good, and the thing is, this usually takes a long while, lots of hours, several long-winded conversations with people who aren’t actually there, several more long-winded conversations with the people who have to put up with me, gallons of coffee and tea, several pounds of imported chocolates and a lot of handholding.* And it becomes something I actually mostly like, and would probably love, if I wasn’t the one writing it, and that 4% of my brain wasn’t sitting there going, “omg this is probably so obvious, it’s probably not exciting enough or interesting or clever enough…” and on and on and on. But the thing is, at the start? It really effing sucks. It sucks a lot. Like this one time, my mother turned to me and says, “My God, I had such gorgeous kids. Seriously, I’m glad, because I don’t know what I would do if I ever had ugly kids.” She was joking (I think). But this feels like that. I don’t want my first drafts to exist because eeeewwww no way could I have made that!

In the middle of my first draft, I’m still reading a lot of related stuff. There’s tone and style and certain genre nuances and keeping track of what’s been done and what hasn’t been done before. So I’ve been reading stuff like The Historian and Sunshine and most recently The Passage. All of which are pretty awesome vampire books, and all of which are a lot better written than the fairly awesome idea I have in my head that is not writing itself properly dammit! And intellectually, I know those books started out crap. Because they all do, they always do, and I can write well, eventually. Urg. Eventually. But rationality gets pushed out the window, and I go all despair despair despair! Because my writing is crap, and this is what it has to look like when it gets published, and I don’t think I can get there from here.

Well, okay, that’s probably not true. Probably I can get there from here, and most likely I will, and of course, I will continue to try. But the moments of I SUCK SO HORRIBLY WHY DOESN’T IT COME OUT LIKE IT’S SUPPOSED TO WHY IS EVERYONE BETTER THAN ME???!!!!! are a needless distraction. The solution is obviously not to stop reading, because that would be a bit like drawing water from a well that’s dried up. So I sit and stew and sulk and read authors who are better than I am, who, when I’m not writing have the power to inspire me to greater heights, but who, when I am writing, remind me just how far I have to go.

It’s funny, because I had a pretty good year, last year. Even having to give up Hannah, it was a pretty good year. I made new friends, travelled farther than I have ever gone, managed to keep a blog for a length of time, that people actually read. I think, most importantly, is I realized that I am a writer like other writers. Writing, I think, is very singular, and we’re all sort of just… here. So I have this thing in my head where I know real writers procrastinate, but I’m pretty sure they procrastinate less than me. I know real writers have other non-writing lives, but I’m pretty sure theirs is busier than mine, so they have more of an excuse, and I know every person's first draft sucks a lot, but I'm pretty sure mine are probably a whole lot worse. And this year, that sort of changed, because I went looking for those real writers, and found out that we are the same. Which means, I am one of those. It’s something, as I’ve said before, that I’ve been well aware of for a long time, that it’s the storyteller in me, more than anything else, that separates me from other people. But years of being told it’s the other stuff, have left me feeling even more singular than I ought to. So this year, I have learned somehow, to lose all that stuff, and accept that I am mired into all of this, the torture, procrastination, addictive personality, and all the rest, and so is everyone else. Just the other day, I was moaning to my beloved that first drafts are so completely stupid and I feel like I’m nothing but a little kid playing in mud, is how productive I am, grumble grumble. And he responded with, “Right. Because every other writer in the universe does it differently.”

They don’t, is the thing, and I work hard to remember that, but it is hard, and it is part of the work involved, and I forget that, every single time. After I've done something I really love and am really proud of, I have to start over and write crap and play in the mud and count words every day because it’s the only kind of satisfaction to be found, that this part is almost over. And then I pick up a book and realize “holycrow, the whole universe is better than me! Despair despair despair!”

I know I’m not alone in this. I know it’s just part of the life. It reminds me of that part in The Hockey Sweater, when Roch Carrier says people on TV were these golden untouchable Gods, but hockey players were the real heroes, because they were only better at something each of the boys had done. That’s how I feel, about other authors. That’s why I hate all the lit snobbery that goes on, and the way some writers deserve to be published and some don’t, and just because millions of people read your stuff it doesn’t mean you’re any good, and you shouldn’t write about people like this and nobody wants to read about people like that and people who self-publish are just little kids who think if they slap their name on the cover of a book they’re real writers, and people who have contacts in the publishing industry have it easy and grumble grumble grumble. We’re all on the same team, here. Some of us do it well, some of us stumble along. Some of us are really good on purpose, some of us by accident. Some of us have a lot of people pulling for us, some of us just have a couple people, some are on their own for now. Some writers are not as good as other writers. But the thing is, we’re doing it. And the other thing I sometimes forget is that some people don’t even have that.

When I told my counselor about how I most often feel like I’m fooling myself, like I’m sitting around, playing in mud, she took a different approach. She smiled and said, “It’s really not a bad life, is it?” And really, it isn’t. To be able to sit around and play in the mud, to be able to hate one part of yourself with just enough vigor to know you’re better than that, and not enough to stop entirely, ever, is something handfuls of people have, and that’s it. We’re it. I’m it. Scary thought, when I’m in the middle of hating what I’ve written or reading authors a million times better than I. Also sometimes scary when I’m reading authors who are only a hundred times better than I, because sometimes even that seems unreachable, and that’s just not fair. But it's pretty awesome the rest of the time.

It’s hard to remember that too, but I’m working on it.

*Must stop here and thank the hand-holders, who I don’t think always realize how often and how close I come to dropping the whole thing, whatever the thing is at the time. They put up with my endless whining with unbelievably good humor and patience, and have pretty much learned to put up with the 4% of me that will not stop the despair and loathing, no matter how hard we all try, and manage to shake the rest of me back into gear when I need it.

** It occurs to me that if you are not Canadian, you may not even know what The Hockey Sweater is, but it’s kind of a big deal.