Tags: writing

stella black & white

talking about it

So that last post of mine got linked on metafandom. Which has never happened to me before, and which was simultaneously terrifying and kind of awesome. And despite some comment kerfuffling that made me raise my eyebrows real high, almost everyone who responded had smart and fabulous things to say.

More importantly, I realized afterward that I had survived being linked on metafandom and dealing with said kerfuffling. (I hate kerfuffles. Really. I do not want them in my journal. I want discussion.) I had gotten through all of that, and it was okay.

That, of course, got me thinking. Actually, what I thought about had been building in my head for awhile, but this all kind of solidified and clarified it for me.

I do read a lot of the posts that get linked on metafandom, and I read the International Blog Against Racism Week posts when ibarw, um, week (redundancy, yes) is running, but I've never commented, much less done any posting about these subjects myself. But I've been doing more and more thinking about, and scarletts_awry and I have been having more and more conversations about, these issues: the purpose of writing and reading in general terms as well as topics like racism and sexism and homophobia, and assumptions, and how these things get reflected or dealt with, or not, in the books we read and the shows we watch.

I've never written much about any of these things, though. In particular, I've never posted about the latter, both because it's scary and because I didn't think I had the knowledge or the smarts to talk about it as well or as thoughtfully as many of the people whose posts I've read. Consequently, I kept my mouth shut.

But now I've hit some kind of breaking point, or something has shifted inside me, because I feel like I no longer want to keep my mouth shut. I feel like I no longer can. Not that I have any Grand Statement to make; don't get me wrong. I just want to talk about these subjects, and now I feel like if I can, I should. Making the choice to not talk about sexism or racism or homophobia is a privilege, but I think it's a privilege that I should stop taking advantage of.

And, of course, I also want to talk about writing and reading, which can also be fraught at times, but is still much less...challenging? Scary?

Maybe the shift has happened because we've been talking about these things for so long. Maybe it's because I'm slowly going through the coming-out process in my personal life, telling people I know that I'm bisexual and in a relationship with scarletts_awry, and that I love her.

I guess what it comes down to is this: writing and reading, and talking about the ways in which people of color and women and GLBTQ people are portrayed in these stories that we write and read and watch, is important to me. I want to acknowledge it, and I want to talk about it.

Because I think it comes back, for me, to what I said in that previous post: It's important to have the conversation. It's important to keep having the conversation.
stella sultry


(Note: Throughout, when I use the word "story," please read it as a general term applying to television and movies as well as to books.)

Words are important.

Stories are important.

Talking about stories is important.

Stories cannot be dismissed with statements like "Oh, it's just fantasy" or "Oh, it's just a TV show" or "Oh, it's just fanfic."

Statements like that imply two things: one, that if the work in question is "just" [whatever], that talking about it at all is unimportant; and that, two, anything that happens within that work is, in and of itself, unimportant. And that, therefore, talking about what happens within that work is unimportant. Which is to say that not only is talking about general issues like characterization and setting and theme unimportant, but so is discussing how the work in question deals with race, or with gender, or with sexual orientation/identity. This, in turn, devalues both story itself and the broader social issues that may arise from that story.

As a writer, I have a responsibility to consider how I'm using my words. I'm not, for a second, suggesting that every story needs to have a moral, or that it needs to be uplifting. What I am saying is that I need to consider what my story is saying, and I mean that in several senses. I need to think about the story I want to tell and if I'm telling it well; I need to think about the characters and about whether I'm writing in a fashion that's true to them; I need to think about what my story is saying the subtextual and metaphoric level as well as what's happening in the surface action of the story; and I need to think about whether I'm making any unconscious assumptions regarding gender or race or sexual identity that I did not intend. I need to look at the story through a broader lens.

On point three up there, regarding subtext and metaphor, I should clarify that I don't consciously write either of those into a story, nor do I go into writing a piece with the idea that I'm going to write about a particular theme. That's a really good way to be didactic and/or to end up writing something where the characters are bent, and perhaps warped, in service of the story, instead of the story existing in service of the characters. However, when I'm working through later drafts of stories, I do see metaphor and subtext begin to emerge, and when I find those things, then, yes, I do want to work to bring them out more strongly. If all that is happening in a story is the surface action, and nothing but the surface action, then I've failed in what I set out to do.

As a reader, I have a right to consider how other people are using their words. I have a right to look at the deeper implications of a story and to consider what's going on there. I have a right to talk about, for example, how depictions of race in some television shows have been problematic, or about how depictions of gender in a book are equally unsettling. I also have a right to talk about TV shows and books who get it right, who strive for better depictions of people of color and women and GLBTQ people. I have a right to talk about the too-prevalent invisibility of GLBTQ people in primetime television.

I also have the right to talk about more general story-related issues, about character and theme and setting, about how a story deals with these things, about how its subtext and its symbols work (or fail to work), and how thematic throughlines strengthen a story when they're in place and when they're consistently developed.

I don't want to say it's every reader's responsibility, because some people just want to engage with a story for the exciting plot developments or for their favorite characters, and that's fine; we all seek out what we need from a story, and hopefully we find what we're looking for. However, for people who are interested in discussion of any of the issues I mentioned above, it is vitally important that we have these conversations, both because conversations about race and gender and sexual identity need to happen, and because conversations about theme, etc., need to.

Depiction of race or gender does not become unimportant because "it's just a story." To say that is to assume that a story has nothing to do with the real world, and that's simply not true. Stories reflect real-world attitudes and beliefs, and one does not have to be actively racist or misogynistic or homophobic in order to end up with some unsettling or problematic depictions of these subjects in one's story. That's why the conversation is important to have; it's important to unpack a story to see what its base assumptions are, and that we talk about these things.

Talking about the other aspects of a story, the characters and setting, the theme -- stories are how we construct our world, and how we define it. Ultimately, they're about how we construct and define ourselves, too. We make and remake the world in our own images, and in those of others, via the stories we tell. Stories are our bridge to the past and to the future, and they're the bedrock upon which we settle, upon which we build our lives, in the present. Without stories, we have no past and no future; we have no identity.

Words are important.

Stories are important.

Talking about stories is important.

It's not "just a story." It never is.
chuck charles

I'm good, I really am

Dudes. I am so far behind on comments, not to mention on my thinkpositive30 submissions. That's not good. Because then scarletts_awry will win, and I'm not going to let that happen, oh hell no.

One (Monday, May 5):

I finished a project I was working on, which gave me a sense of accomplishment. Now I'm just crossing my fingers that it'll be well-received. But that's not the point, at least not for these purposes. The point is that I did something, and did it to the best of my abilities.

Two (Tuesday, May 6):

I wrote again today, and while I wasn't able to write the scene exactly the way it needed to be, I think I figured out how it does need to go, and that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't just kept working at it even as I knew it was turning out wrong.

All of this means I may actually finish this story sometime soon, and that it may actually approach something close to what I had in my head when I first started thinking about it.

Three (Wednesday, May 7):

There was a new episode last night, and, while it wasn't phenomenal like "Admissions" was, it was another good, solid episode in what's been a fabulous season.

And tonight there are new episodes of Grey's Anatomy and 30 Rock, and I just love television, I really do.

Four (Today):

It is just past ten in the morning, and I'm sitting on my living room floor in my pajamas typing this up. An hour or so ago, I was sitting on the couch, drinking a cup of tea and watching last night's recorded episodes of Sex and the City. Why is that? Because I am not at work today. And I will not be at work again until next Tuesday. I am actually taking vacation time.

And gin200168 will be here in a few hours, and once she arrives, we're going to go out and have sushi, then go shopping. Then, I don't know, come back to my place and do something really crazy, like marathoning the Denny episodes of Grey's Anatomy.

I should really go vacuum, and then get to work on answering comments and typing up the pages I wrote the other day so that I can start revising them.
stella smile

breathe in, breathe out

Yesterday (May 3):

I wrote! I wrote I wrote I wrote!

And I didn't write just any old thing; I wrote the opening to this multi-part story that I've been wanting to do for ages, and said opening was one of the parts that, specifically, I was struggling with the most.

I wrote I wrote I wrote!

Today (May 4):

I'm having a much harder time right now feeling good about yesterday's writing victory, because I didn't write at all today, despite my best intentions. I was feeling crappy today to begin with, and this isn't helping.

...But this isn't supposed to be about that.

Good things: I caught up on the two new post-strike episodes of Grey's Anatomy. (Shut up, it's my guilty pleasure. I know it's a complete medical soap opera, but it is LIKE CRACK.). So, not only were the two new episodes way better than pretty much anything that had aired this season, they Collapse )

I got my tax refund. Michael Chabon's novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union just came out in paperback, so I got myself that, too.

And in four days, gin200168 will be here for the weekend, which also means that I get some needed vacation time.
stella & hawkes

I can haz storee nao, plz?

One (for May 1):

I am trying to learn how to be more comfortable in my own skin. It's an ongoing process, and on the bad days I still tend to think that I'm fooling myself by feeling okay about myself or thinking that I've got it together -- but on the good days, or in the good moments, sometimes I think that I'm slowly starting to get it, and that maybe everything will be okay after all. Maybe I can be at ease with myself.

Two (for today):

I discussed the story I've been struggling over with scarletts_awry, and I think that we got me past some of the Issues I've been having with it. I'm going to try to start writing it tomorrow, and I am really, really hoping that a) I actually can get started without freezing up again, and b) I can do it justice.


I am RICH and I want to spend it on YOU tonight.

...Just go read it.
pieces of your past

birthday wishes & more good things

A very happy birthday to gin200168!

You're an all-around fabulous friend and a good writer who's going to go far in life, and I'm very glad that I know you. I can't wait to see you next week.

Other good things today:

I wrote!

I wrote something that's not only not my usual fandom, but is something I've never done before. I'm only mildly wigged out by that.

It's all scarletts_awry's fault, and I'm not even going to do a strikethrough on that, because it's totally true.
she had a mouth like yours

trying, still

Of the good:

I wrote one sentence today that I really, really liked.

(Unfortunately, that one sentence was all I wrote, and it wasn't for any of the stories that I had meant to be working on, and...no. Start over. This is not how the thinking positive is supposed to go.)

I wrote one sentence today that I really, really liked. End of statement. No qualifiers.

I have picked out several potential good prompts for the "Because We're Awesome" Drabble-A-Thon.

This is the start of a brand-new week.
i'll put my faith darling in you

two (okay, three) things

Circumstances meant that I was really (really, really) not in the mood to post anything for thinkpositive30 last night, so because I mean to stick to this and because there's no way I'm letting scarletts_awry win, I offer up two things today:

One (for April 25):

Growing up in the city the way I did, I never saw a sky full of stars until I was nineteen years old. This was the summer after my freshman year of college, when I took the train up to Rhode Island to visit the guy I was dating at the time. He lived way out in the country on a road that had no artificial lights at all, and the house (his grandparents') was entirely surrounded by woods, most of which they owned.

I've long since lost the guy, and I'll always prefer city streets to country meadows, but when it's not a normal part of your life, your first sight of all the stars in the sky, of that field of white against the black, stays with you.

And they're there even now, even though I've gone from one city to another, and even though I still can't see them if I step outside.

Two (for today):

I wrote today! For the first time all week.

I think that's all that needs to be said.

Oh, and this week's episode of 30 Rock used the Uncanny Valley theory as a plot point. Complete with handy-dandy chart, and with a clear, coherent explanation of what the theory entails.

Dude. Uncanny Valley. As a plot point on a primetime sitcom. I fucking love this show.
a girl needs a gun

ficathon pimping & still trying to think positive

medie is running The First Annual "Because We Are Awesome" Drabble-A-Thon, inspired by the "Fuck you, she's awesome!" meme that was going around a week or so back. It's multi-fandom and is all about celebrating the awesome women characters in the media we love, and can be het, gen, and/or girlslash.

She's compiling prompts through tomorrow, and the final list will be posted beginning this Saturday. So, go! Post prompts, write a drabble if you feel inspired -- just celebrate the women in our fandoms!

Right. Positive things now.

Today was the kind of day that makes it hard to find any positive moments, but I've said I'm going to do this, and I will.

I had a little bit of time to sit outside at lunch and read, and the sun was warm and my book (Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia McKillip) was good, and for a little while the words pulled me in enough that I was able to let go of myself and of everything I was worrying about. For that little while, things were good, and I felt the closest to calm I had been all day, or in fact since yesterday.

And tomorrow is Friday, which means I get my Starbucks in the morning. It should also mean that I'll finally have time and brain-space to write again, which I really want to do. I'm excited about the stories I'm working on, when I have time to think about it and when I let go of The Fear, and I want to get back to that place again.