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When I talk about being fat, I’m not fishing for a compliment. I’m not asking you to run in and tell me I’m beautiful, to tell me I’m not fat. I am fat. I weigh around 240 pounds. If you saw me as a stranger, walking down the street, you would identify me as fat. I am fat. It is an accurate description of me. Not all of the connotations of that descriptor are accurate: I’m lazy about some things, but not my whole life; I don’t eat all the time; I do exercise; I’m not a gross slob; I bathe regularly, thank you; I do have some self-esteem; I do eat vegetables; I do take a walk; no, I haven’t given up on my life.
When I talk about being fat and you rush in to assure me I’m not, you’re not really assuring me I’m not fat. You’re assuring me that I’m not all of those bad things you automatically associate with being fat.
Good news! Your reassurance is lovely, but misguided. I know my personality flaws are independent of my appearance. I guarantee that I could look like a size zero model and I’d still be lazy as fuck about some things. It’s just who I am.
When I talk about being fat, I’m talking about my experience as a fat person and the hypocritical nature of the people that know me. I’m talking about the people who say there should be a weight limit on skinny jeans and take pictures of people without their knowledge so they can post them on Twitter for shaming purposes, but who would be first in line to defend me if someone told me I couldn’t wear my skinny jeans or took a picture of me and shamed me online.
Oh yeah, I see you. I don’t say anything to you because Twitter isn’t the place for it. 140 characters isn’t enough room for you to fit in your tired, bullshit excuses about why it’s okay for you to do that to THEM, but you would NEVER do that to ME and it would NEVER be okay for ANYONE to do that to ME. And frankly, I don’t want to bother with your tired, bullshit excuses. They don’t excuse what you do. And I know so long as you have those excuses at the ready (and I know you do), I’m not going to change your mind. You’ll always feel perfectly justified in your little smidge of fatphobia.
But I see you. Oh yeah, baby, I see you.
When I talk about being fat, I’m not being hard on myself. I’m showing you how society is hard on me. I’m illuminating the things that society thinks about me, says about me. I’m illuminating the things you think about other fat people, the things you say about other fat people, the strangers. The things you wouldn’t dare say to me because you like me.
When I say that I’ll never be pretty enough, never be thin enough, I’m not being hard on me. I’m saying what folks are thinking, what you’ve thought about others. When I say I’m too fat to be loved, you tell me that’s not true. You tell me I’m a beautiful person that deserves all the love and that anyone that doesn’t see that is stupid. But you’ve looked at someone less attractive, you’ve looked at someone fat, and you’ve thought, “How did THEY get someone? Somebody actually fucks THAT?” You’ve thought that about other people and other people have thought that about me.
And if we’re going to be 100% honest, if I were to find myself in the company of a person perceived by society to be out of my league, someone conventionally attractive, while you would be happy for me, I have no doubt, a tiny part of you would also be wondering, “Why are THEY with HER?”
Because it’s an extraordinary thing when someone goes against society’s expectations and instead jives with their heart.
When I talk about being fat, you think I’m talking about myself.
But really…I’m talking about you.
Thanks to an empty theater (one of the blessings of living in a cornfield; Thursday matinees are like private showings after about the first week of a new release), my roommate had no worries about disturbing anyone when she looked at me and said, “That’s you.”
And she’s not wrong. I do know seven good uses for a cadaver and probably seven more inappropriate ones. But it was really cool to see that weird aspect of myself verbalized on the screen in a major motion picture. Things like that happen so intermittently for a weirdo like me.
Representation matters. I strongly believe this. I strongly believe that it’s important for people to see themselves or aspects of themselves represented in stories, whether they’re movies, TV shows, or books. So while I left that showing of Ghostbusters feeling pretty empowered by seeing four women I could relate to and who reflected aspects of my existence back at me (please do not debate me on whether or not the movie was good based on your white man “well actually” perspective; I hate-watch Jason Takes Manhattan every time it comes on, so your detailed bullshit analysis is wasted on me), I’ve been thinking about representation in my own work ever since.
I acknowledge that I struggle with it.
I struggle because I’m very mindful about getting it right. I know representation matters, but I don’t want to just throw those characters into a story just so my work appears to be diverse. I want to present an accurate representation. And that’s hard for me. I don’t like to fuck up in this particular arena.
When it comes to fat, white women, I got you covered. That’s something I don’t even think about writing because, well, that’s just writing me. I have no trouble writing white men of any size because that’s the default norm. I believe that I’d have no trouble writing bisexuals of either gender or gay or lesbian characters as I am bisexual and I’ve known and loved enough gay men and lesbian women in my time that I believe that I could accurately represent them. I’ve ventured very tentatively into representing other races and letters of the LGBT+ (both in the same novellas, oddly enough; Art, who’s Puerto Rican, and Riley, who’s transgendered, both appeared in the Ivy Russell novellas). I tried to venture into that territory as carefully and as conscientiously as I could, but I’m still worried that I didn’t do either character justice, that I got something about those representations wrong. They weren’t meant to be plot devices or fill a diversity quota; they were meant to be real, fully developed characters. For that to happen, the representation needs to be accurate.
I admit to cheating a lot when it comes to representation in my short stories. The main character in my short stories rarely gets any physical description so the reader can project whatever they want to on them for a short time. It’s sort of a lazy trick of representation. Here, you do the work and see this character how you want to see them based on the personality traits revealed and the emotions conveyed in the story. While I don’t think being a reader should be a completely passive experience, I do think that there are times that I, the writer, need to put in a little more effort.
Okay, a lot more.
Representation is something that I think I’m always going to struggle with, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Struggle leads to change and growth.
And I’m all about growing into a better writer.
I have a Patreon. I can’t say that I’ve made much use of it because I felt weird and undeserving to have people give me money like that. But with the success of the Storytime Jukebox, I decided that if I have it, then I really should put it to better use.
So, I’m going to spend the month working on a project just for Patreon. I’m taking an old idea for a TV show (I was going to use it to practice script writing, outlined it, and then never went back to it) and turning it into a serial of sorts. Each story, which ideally will be posted once a month, will be one “episode”. I’m going to work on the first few stories this month and see where it gets me. If everything goes well and it looks like it’s going to come together well, then I’ll redo my Patreon around it and get it all going.
If not, no real loss. I’ll still have the Patreon and I’ll have some stories written that I could use for something else. Remember, I never throw anything away. Hoarding dead stories and marginal ideas has proven quite useful to me.
Speaking of stories, I’ve been working on a trilogy of short stories. I came across a call for submissions for a series of connected anthologies. Though the deadline for the first one has passed and I’m not sure if I’m going to submit for the other two, I at least seized upon an idea that I’ve had for a while, and with a little bit of direction from the submission requirements, got something going. Again, it’s one of those things that I don’t know what’s going to come of it, but I’m enjoying it and in the end, at some point, it’ll be useful.
I’ve got a bunch of old stuff on the To Do List of Doom, but this month, I’m going with this new flow.
The lovely Trinae Ross, who has a blog called Writing While Wearing a Straightjacket, tagged me to write a blog post about what has shaped my writing (you can read her post on it here). I will eventually tag someone else to do this, but first, my words on the subject.
I wrote my first word at three, my first story at six. From the time I was little, I was always coming up with stories and plays. I once wrote and produced a radio play using the kids in my mother’s daycare and the neighborhood, recording our voices on a blank tape on a radio. It was a murder mystery. I even attempted a retelling of Sleeping Beauty using nothing but pictures I’d taken on one of my little cameras. This was in the days of film, kids. I had no idea how good it was until my mom finally got that roll developed.
Storytelling has always been a part of my existence, a thing so ingrained in me that it might as well just be another chromosome. Even if I didn’t write them all down, I was still telling them, either to others or to myself.
So, what has shaped my writing?
I gave this question a good long think and I came up with three things.
1.) Fanfiction. I wrote mounds of it for several years, from the ages of about 18 to 21. The nature of fanfiction at the time and where I was posting it allowed for instant feedback on what was working and what wasn’t. It also taught me the very valuable lesson of writing for myself first.
I tell this story a lot because even after all these years later, it still resonates. One of my most popular stories started as a one off. It was just supposed to be that one little thing. But people begged for more and so I gave in and wrote a much longer story. It was a soap opera romantic thing and everyone loved it. Meanwhile, I HATED writing that story. HATED IT. I had never been so happy to finish anything in all of my life and I don’t think I’ve ever received a louder applause for anything I’ve ever written since. But that applause was so empty because I hated the story so much. That was when I recognized the importance of writing for myself first. And if other people read it and enjoy it, then that’s the bonus.
Another great lesson fanfiction taught me was that not all stories need happy endings, but EVERY story must have a SATISFYING ending. The readers will disagree, but the writers will know.
2.) NaNoWriMo. NaNo taught me the discipline to write every day. It taught me that I could complete a novel-length work of fiction. It taught me how to write by the seat of my pants, how to meticulously outline, and how to find a happy place somewhere between the two. It taught me that first drafts are supposed to be garbage and that the real magic happens in the revisions. It taught me everything I needed to know about how I operate as a writer, my habits and my weakness and my strengths. Basically, NaNo taught me about the nitty-gritty heavy-lifting that gets glossed over a lot in favor of inspiration and muses.
3.) Stephen King’s advice. On Writing has been a brilliant guide for me and I’ve waxed poetic about that book before. But I’m going to focus on one particular bit of Uncle Stevie’s advice here: Read a lot and write a lot.
I am notoriously awful at reading for a writer. I know I don’t read enough and I struggle to read more. My only comfort is that when I do read (and I try to be consistent about it even when it’s often interrupted and I’m very slow), I try to get as much out of it as I can. In addition to reading for pleasure and enjoying the story (or trying to, depending on the book), I try to read with a critical eye and learn from other writers, particularly in my areas of weakness. If someone effectively describes something or transmits an emotion or has a clever way of conveying some idea, I take note of that and try to put it to use in my own work. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not. But I’m always looking to learn.
I do write a lot and I think it’s been the writing a lot that has done the most to shape my writing. It’s helped me find my voice and my style. It’s allowed me to build my confidence. With millions of words written over the course of my writing career (remember, I started this in earnest back in 2007), I can actually look back and see my growth. I can see where I failed. I can see where I improved. I can see where I still need more work and development. I couldn’t have done any of that if I hadn’t put the words down somewhere.
I think there are probably other things that have shaped my writing. I think just about everything in my existence could be said to shape my writing, for better or worse. But I think these are three things that had the biggest impacts.
And I think they’ve all been for the better.
I’ve not gotten much in the way of creative work done this month. I’ve got several different ideas for projects. I’m working on several different projects. I’ve written or started writing a couple of blog posts that I never got around to posting. But I haven’t had much energy to really put into it. Most of my brain has been wrapped up in trying to come up with the money to pay some bills.
When it comes to the generosity of the universe, I believe in it, but with an asterisk. As in, I believe in it for everyone else, but not for myself.
As a rule, I don’t think I should ever ask for help. Period. End of. Never. I believe that if I want something, then I should work harder and if I need something and I’m not getting it, well, it’s my fault because I’m not working hard enough. I don’t think these things about other people. They ask for help, they get help, sometimes I’m the helper if I can, and it’s all groovy. But me? No.
And on the rare occasions that I do ask for help, I’m usually turned down. I’m either ignored or given an excuse or worse, told that they’ll help, but then they don’t. It’s hard for people to help someone that never asks for it because they don’t know how to respond to it. It’s foreign territory.
Anyway, with the bills looming, I knew that I was going to have to come up with something to at least cover part of them. I’d had the idea for the Storytime Jukebox, but I knew that if I did it, it would probably be ignored. But it got to the point that I had no other option. So, I said “fuck it” and got it going. I decided that whatever I got from it, I would be grateful for it. Any little bit helps.
I did my best to maintain that attitude towards it. Gratitude. Be grateful for every retweet, every like, every link share, and every penny I got. And I did think I would get a few pennies. I knew some people would be game and give me a couple of dollars for my stories and I would be happy with that. I chose to approach this with gratitude.
Maybe the Universe appreciated this. Maybe I just underestimated the current people occupying my bit of world. Maybe my gratitude brought out the generosity. Whatever it was, the response to my request for help was overwhelming. It was more than I had expected by a long shot. At one point I thought if I raised enough money to just cover the cost of renewing the blog, that would be a huge achievement. In the end, in only a matter of a few weeks, the entire amount I needed was covered.
In addition to getting the money I needed from some pretty spectacular folks, I also learned a valuable lesson that I was long overdue for learning.
The generosity of the universe is a real thing and since I am part of the Universe, that generosity applies to me, too. I’m not exempt from it.
And my gratitude is endless.
I finished the revisions on Open Christmas Eve so, while not spectacular, the script is long enough to not be considered bullshit and I’m good with that. I no longer feel like a fraud, just a hack, and that’s my default, so it’s fine.
I also got the Storytime Jukebox up and running, which was a thing that I wasn’t sure I could or should do, but in the end I felt like I didn’t have a choice. The response I’ve had in the few days it’s been up is more than I actually hoped for and I hope it continues. I so appreciate the help.
It’s times like these, when the malaise and scatterbrainedness hits me, that I’m glad I have an epic To Do List of Doom. I may not know exactly what I want to work on, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have plenty of options.
So at some point during this month I will probably-
-Revise a couple of more stories for the jukebox and/or
-Write the first drafts of some short stories for the next anthology and/or
-Finish the first draft of one of my other test scripts for practice and/or
-Something else I can’t remember even though I just looked at the To Do List of Doom like four minutes ago.
Yeah. The scatterbrained malaise is that bad.
But August won’t be. I will be productive.
I will get at least one thing done.
I wonder what it will be.
My goal has been reached!
My undying thanks to those that contributed to the Storytime Jukebox, whether you put money in it or shared the link or sent me positive vibes. You are all wonderful, your generosity is overwhelming, and my appreciation is eternal. The bills will be paid and the writing lights will stay on! Hallelujah!
I’m going to keep the Storytime Jukebox going. The immediate need for it has passed, but it turns out that it’s a nice little niche to stick the odd story that has no home in and give it a chance to be read if someone is willing to pay a nickle or a dime or a quarter. Another crucifix against the Count Income Interruptus.
Once again, I can’t thank everyone who supported me enough because just saying “thank you” doesn’t seem sufficient. But know that those two little words come directly from my heart.
I’m about half-way to my goal. Thanks to everyone who has helped me out so far!
To celebrate the milestone, I’ve added two novellas to the Storytime Jukebox: The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys from Ghostly and The Monster in the Woods from People Are Terrible. Both contain an author’s note that’s exclusive to the Storytime Jukebox.
So, if you haven’t got either of these short story collections or if you have and you’re dying to know where I got the ideas for these novellas, shine up your nickles and drop them in the machine!
Let’s be honest about the nickels and dimes here: 2016 has not been a prosperous one for me. I’ve experienced a lot of income interruptus with both of my day jobs. Considering that they’re not exactly high-paying to begin with, any kind of money-flow hiccup is felt (and the biggest of all is coming very soon). The repeated hiccups this year have me feeling like I did during that one softball game as a kid when I got drilled in the same spot on my hip three at-bats in a row. That bruise didn’t heal until school started.
Well, to carry the analogy as far as I can before it gets ridiculous, my money bruise has barely even begun to heal and I’m facing another pitcher that wouldn’t mind dinging me.
In an attempt to earn the money I’m needing, I’ve set up this Storytime Jukebox. It works on the same basic principle as a regular jukebox: You pay what you want and I send you a story (or stories) of your choice from the list.
The goal is to raise $150 by the end of August. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but right now to me, it’s an incredible sum. I’m hoping this is the way to do it, or at the very least, help. The money is to keep the lights of my writing career on, so to speak (blog renewal, Microsoft Office renewal, etc.).
This is a new venture for me and I’m sure there’s lots of room for improvement. Any constructive feedback is welcomed.
So, if you’d like to help this broke writer in exchange for some pretty good stories to read, I’d very much appreciate it.
And as always, sharing is caring. The more people know, the better the chances of me reaching my goal.
So, the novel fell apart spectacularly, but I can strip it for parts. And I did finish the 99 novella. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. It may end up being one of those personal writing projects, something I needed to do just for me. And that’s cool. I do not mind those sorts of projects because they free up brain space. June wasn’t a total waste.
This month I’ll revise Open Christmas Eve. And by revise I mean make it longer because it is really short for a script. All part of me feeling less like a fraud about my contest entry that will probably not win anything.
Speaking of contests, the short story I entered into a contest earlier this year did not win, so I’m going to put that loser to the side and do something else with it later. But still, buy my stuff and tell me I’m pretty because my ego hurts.
And speaking of short stories, that’s going to be my main objective this month. I have an idea for a new short story collection, so I’ll be writing and revising with the aim of starting that. I’ve also go another idea for a different short story project that I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull off, but hey, I gotta try. That will be mostly revising short stories that I’ve never been able to find a home for.
July looks to have a whole lot going on.
Who needs summer vacation?
Self-care is important. It’s how one can maintain a happy existence even when life turns into a pressure cooker and your juices are threatening to boil. For some people, self-care comes so naturally that they don’t even have to think about it. They take time out to recharge their batteries, make time to do it. They take care of themselves with no problems. They relax without guilt. They don’t even think about not doing it. It just happens.
I am not one of those people.
Hell, I’m not even exactly sure what self-care really means. I know for some people it’s a reminder to take care of the basics because they get so wrapped up in stress that things like eating and drinking and sleeping and such get neglected. For me, self-care is more of a reminder to just take a break. To leave whatever stress or turmoil or work or whatever where it sits and walk away. Leave it alone, let it rest, and go soothe my soul with some kind of peace.
And I am garbage at that.
I’m one of those people who never works hard enough, is never good enough, and could always have done more. I’m one of those people who never deserves a break, never earns one, and I feel guilty if I even consider taking one.
For me, self-care is a struggle. Not only do I battle the inner narrative that I’m being lazy if I’m not being productive, but I also live in a world in which my attention is demanded. Alone time is hard to come by. I’ve learned to work through interruptions for the most part. Now I’m learning to self-care through them, too.
I’m learning to self-care, period.
As much as I long for a day (or a week, sometimes) of peace, I’ve learned to take it where I can get it. When I’m actively practicing self-care, like I did this past weekend, I accept that out of a day, I might get a broken hour or two of peace. Asking to be left alone for a while is not an option. The request either isn’t respected or if it is honored, it comes with hurt feelings because opting out of being someone’s personal audience for a day is considered a personal affront. So, I’ve found that it’s in my best interest to make the most of the time I can get. Little sips of peace. Not exactly full-on refreshing, but still nourishing.
As for the actual method of self-care, I relax best by doing something I really want to do that isn’t related to work. This past weekend, I did marker art. Sometimes it could be finishing a book. Other times I’ll dedicate my peace pursuits to studying some subject I’m interested in for an hour. It could just be a twenty minute dance party. For me, doing nothing is hard. There’s too much guilt and anxiety that comes with me doing absolutely nothing. If I do a little something amidst the nothing, then that lazy narrative has nothing to say. A gentle mix of productivity and rest.
I have found that, with continued practice, I’m getting better at this whole self-care business. I’m recognizing when I need to take these breaks and then I’m taking them. Before, I’d run myself into the ground and then run myself into the ground a little further before making the very slow climb out of the hole and feeling like a lazy fuck every inch of the way. Now I’m refusing to let myself get to that point.
Slowly but surely, I am getting the hang of this whole self-care business. I can’t say that it’s becoming more natural for me.
But I can say that I’m doing a much better job of including it in my world.