she writes.

CategoryWriting

Beyond ‘Pretending to be a White Male’.

honestly, fuck pretending to be a white male

This blog troubles me sometimes. I want to write and publish so much, but I can’t right now. {I’ll explain later.}

There are things I can write about, but in a lot of ways I’m still negotiating with my fears every time I come up with an idea for a blog post that might mention sex. Or ex-boyfriends, relationships. Or if I write about what it’s like dealing with PTSD at work. Or if I put a swear, like ‘fuck‘ in a post…

As you can probably tell, my relationship with these fears is a little combative. I see the fears, I know they’re there, but I like giving them the finger. They are personified in my life by the people I work with, my parents and extended family.

I’ve been reading Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way and am on week one. The intention for this week is about recovering a sense of safety. I’ve read through the chapter a couple times. It started to come to me before I bought the book, but after reading it through the first time, I’m realizing how important it is that I say whatever it is that I want to say. To write and publish anyway.

‘Pretend you’re a white male’. I heard the joke and chuckled. But in order to move forward, keep writing, publish posts, sing, read out loud, I still play pretend.

I’ve started to imagine myself as a protector, standing guard as my inner child plays, dances, reads, whatever. I have a spear in one hand and leave the other free. And I’m watching. Though most of the time, I have to guard myself against my own imagined fearful thoughts.

self-protection takes on a new meaning.

This image hits home for me because it reminds me of the people who were supposed to play that role in my life. It mainly reminds me of my father, who invited a man into our house who had touched me inappropriately in church when I was a teen. The man had never had reason to visit our house before that happened, and he never visited afterward.

Not being safe, for me, wasn’t just about singing even if cousins or my sister told me to shut up. It wasn’t about writing a letter that would get me in trouble, or telling my father to his face that he was an alcoholic even though I knew he’d probably try to beat me if I did.

Not being safe was about not having people who encourage, defend, protect. Being out alone as if in a field with predators I couldn’t see. It’s a feeling that something was going to happen, there was some danger, but there was nothing I could do — nowhere to hide except to get down. Get as flat to the ground as possible. Do anything but stand out.

I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance. -bell hooks

Other people, the ones who write and publish blogs regularly and have followings, who say what’s on their mind and who have stood up to say they’ve been assaulted (by the types who think they can do anything because they’re famous and the types that don’t), I imagine those people have a whole army behind them. One or two persons are very close to them and help them feel safe. They amaze me, those people and their people.

In reading this chapter of The Artist’s Way, I have decided that I do not want to add my voice to those who told me to ‘shut up’, ignored me or dismissed what I felt. I wanted to fight those fears more, sing more, write more, everything more. It was an easy decision, and I’m grateful for that.

I love myself enough to even pay attention to the frantic voice that would convince me I’m in danger, that would paralyze me with thoughts of what this person might think, or what would happen if that person read this. It needs to be heard too, but it also needs to be put in its place.

how I know when I feel safe

I’ll never feel completely safe.

I don’t expect to completely ‘recover a sense of safety’ (partly because I don’t remember ever having that sense to begin with). It’s a part of myself I’ve learned to accept. I’m even curious about it — maybe there’s a way to work with it, find out if there’s a reason for its existence.

To move forward with doing the things I most want to do I’ve created an idea of what a basic sense of safety feels like, and am imagining my way towards it.

Tough Scenes: Writing Through It After Writing Through It

HHEvkhEsQLaNDRkui4fg_cropt

The main character in a novel I’m working on goes through a lot of the same stuff I went through as a kid and young adult.

I never considered how I would feel, doing this. I had a story I wanted to tell, and abuse, depression, isolation and alcoholism were going to be supporting characters. But it’s obvious now why, after every time I sat down to write, I would feel exhausted, cry easily, want to crawl into my apartment and hide.

It wasn’t clear at first, but I realized that if I was going to continue, I would need to do something to help take care of my brain. If I didn’t, I’d probably continue feeling so bad that writing would become associated with pain, and eventually I’d quit.

A few weeks into working on the book, I came across a blog post by Erin Pavlina on how to create a new story about your life. It seemed (and was) perfect as a tactic to use after I had written a tough chapter or scene. I was having a hard time emotionally telling this story, so of course storytelling would be the answer (a little sarcasm with a smile).

Reading that post by Erin also helped me figure out the stories I already had playing in my mind.

If I was telling myself things like: “That could happen again,” “I’ll never get past it,” or “I’ve been through so much I can’t do it anymore,” of course a tough scene would be hard to write, and not just because it would trigger memories. It would trigger those same thoughts.

Giving myself a moment to breathe and come back to the present has become kind of a short form of storytelling. It started to become clear in my mind that I was writing a story. That ‘I’m writing a story’ then became part of the story I was / am telling myself, and it’s helped me frame those painful experiences.

For a while though, I was very interested in different techniques to change the stories we tell ourselves:

Then there are things that have nothing to do with writing, like practicing dance move the young kids are doing or belting out Adele, that can help change the energy.

If you’re also using painful experiences for your writing, do you feel exhausted after getting it all down? How do you deal?

From Personal Experience: Writing a Character Who Gives Off Bad Vibes

sitwithme_header

I’m writing my first book. It started with an idea I had, one that I wanted to explore. I was curious about what people do when they have to figure shit out on their own. Not how to make more money, or tell someone a secret.

I wanted to write a story about someone who has to figure out what to do when their life’s purpose becomes a big, fat question mark.

hashtag no bad vibes slash good vibes only

The book I’m writing features a character who gets to a really bad place in life.

She’s depressed, but to the outside world she’s a bitch, to some people she gives off “bad vibes”.

I’ve seen this ‘#nobadvibes’ (this one might be nsfw?) or ‘#goodvibesonly’ business on Instagram, and as much as I get that, I wonder if what people consider “bad vibes” are actually something else.

I feel like sometimes what people see is depression, anxiety, fear, etc. showing up as anger, rage, pettiness, meanness… or bad vibes.

Sometimes people who give off bad vibes are just extremely sensitive, and they’re using whatever they can to protect that part of themselves because if they didn’t, they’d end up home at the end of the day in pieces.

Tupac Shakur quote: "I'm very sensitive--that's why I'm so harsh, 'cause I'm so sensitive."

Other times, long term confusion, hurt and disappointment build up and can weigh someone down. This is what happens to the main character in the book I’m working on. In short, she doesn’t know how to deal.

She goes to the self-help gurus, but Oprah and Dr. Phil can only go so far. Beyond that there’s no one around to tell her what to do with all her shit. She goes to anger as a way to protect herself, and as a way to lash out.

From Personal Experience

The reason I went there with this character is because I know what it’s like. The only thing that sets me apart from my character is I’ve grown to become very conscious and self-conscious.

I touched on what goes on in an earlier post about self-care, but when I’m not feeling great, it’s very easy to feel like life is unfair. It sounds juvenile and ridiculous, but I’ve constructed my stories and they are easy for me to believe.

Seeing that “good vibes only” line thrown about on social media sometimes made me feel that self-consciousness even more. Maybe that’s me being hyper-sensitive, but *shrug*.

Writing about someone who has experiences similar to mine has given me a chance to take a step back and really look my own issues from a different perspective.

Sure it’s aired out my own shit, but it’s also made me more compassionate towards myself and other people. Sometimes when I see someone who seems angry, I wonder if they’re dealing with something really difficult.

You can sit with me even if you're in a bad mood.

Iyanla Vanzant Voice: “You Have to Do the Work!”

I’m working on being aware, admitting what my problem(s) is / are, creating and telling myself new stories about my past and experiences, and practicing self-care.

It’s not a perfect process. The hardest thing is remembering to do these things. More often, I’ll start ranting in my head about someone getting too close while I’m waiting for the bus before realizing: oh wait, I’m really angry about {insert issue here}.

What I have noticed is that lately I can more quickly point out what the real issue is. Used to be that I would just start getting pissy and that attitude would last the whole day, or at least an hour.

Sometimes I would be angry all day and end up in bed still angry but confused as to why. Lately I’ve been able preempt these “bad vibes” — I know when they’re more likely to come up and am able to mentally prepare myself.

I’m not at the place yet where I know what to do when I can recognize what’s going on, so I allow myself to be angry or do whatever I feel like. Other times I can get back on track. It continues to take work, but I can see some progress. And that’s encouraging.

Persistent Political Acts

In our house, it was safest to stay quiet. It wasn’t just about being seen and not heard. Sometimes it was safer to not be seen or heard.

Our education in keeping quiet is layered. It developed into ‘the voice’ [in replace of us developing our own].

It evolved with age, and follows us regardless of what we want to say or do out loud. It warns us against anything that might lead to standing out.

from salt. by nayyirah waheed @nayyirah.waheed
from salt. by nayyirah waheed @nayyirah.waheed

The first draft of a fiction book I’m working on is almost complete. I’ve started to dig into the world of new and emerging writers, looking at what’s being published now and what’s considered “good writing”. My ears and eyes are constantly scanning for what POCs are doing and saying. Like [here], the article ‘Diversity and Identity: A Panel Discussion on Race and Writing’ in Write Magazine.

Immediately on reading the first question from the interviewer: “All of you are what I would call politically active in one way or another.”, the voice in my head starts “You’re not politically active. you’re not politically anything…“.

And then when I’m just looking around the field, the voice always seems to have something to say:

“You’re not smart enough, you can’t write like those people write.”

“Only white people have the platform and the audience.”

“You haven’t done enough reading.”

“You’re too closed, you give off bad energy. You’re not part of the community.”

Etc., etc.

from salt. by nayyirah waheed @nayyirah.waheed
from salt. by nayyirah waheed @nayyirah.waheed

We have to be our own parents, life coaches, therapists and cheerleaders. We’re working on a new voice, one that does a cartwheel, lands on its knee and says things like “THEY DID IT, SO YOU CAN TOO!” in capital letters.

Refusing to feel ridiculous at being my own cheerleader is a political act.

Telling the voice “I am going to tell these stories and say this stuff and not listen to you, but thanks anyway for your opinion.” is a political act.

Liking my own posts, tweets and pictures is a political act.

We’re all political activists when we speak up, write and publish. It’s like what Carrianne Leung says in answer to that first question: “I think just the fact that we are here and we are writers, writers of colour and Aboriginal writers, is itself political… [U]ltimately it is all political. The stories themselves…”.

We have to be our own parents, life coaches, therapists and cheerleaders. We’re working on a new voice, one that does a cartwheel, lands on its knee and says things like “THEY DID IT, SO YOU CAN TOO!” in capital letters.

Sing anyway. Write anyway. Publish anyway. I encourage myself to say what I want to say, constantly in conversation with the voice. I do what I do before, after and during these conversations.

If loving ourselves is the most powerful revolution, these conversations we have are daily revolutions. Persistent political acts.

Internet-Things for Writers.

Here’s a random list of online resources that are great for writers and content-creators. Make graphics, pair fonts, and come up with ideas for stories, blog posts and websites – mix all these apps and tools together to write something tasty!

Being creative

| Sarah Selecky’s Writing Prompts

These writing prompts are awesome. Each day you get a random prompt (“Write a scene that involves overcooked spaghetti on the floor.”, for example) that you can use as inspiration to write for ten minutes. One of these writing prompts inspired me to write the story on the 404 Page.

Grammar + Readability

| Hemingway App

Though it’s been around for a while, earlier this year the geniuses behind this app released a desktop version for Mac and PC. At $6.99, the price is a somewhat wrong if you ask me, but if you’re a heavy user it might be worth the money. And of course, the free version is available as long as you have an internet connection.

Graphics

| Canva, Infogr.am + Pixlr

Need to add a little graphic design, create infographics or edit images for a blog post or site? Canva, Infogr.am and Pixlr make it easy and fun to take your ideas and make them reality. Also, this for stock photos.

Fonts

| What Font App + Typ.io

Here are two apps that can help you save time when trying to figure out how to pair fonts. And Google Fonts, obviously.

Writing Your Business

| Copyblogger’s Marketing Library

If you don’t already have an account with Copyblogger you’re going to have to get one for access to their online library of ebooks. Free Ebooks on copywriting, content marketing, research and general ‘how to make money’ topics. And it’s free. Did I mention it’s free? Ok, well. It’s free.

There are thousands of free things online that can help you improve your writing skills and bring visual interest to your posts and websites. Add your favourites in the comment box and let me know what you think!