Craft Talk: When things are not going well.

Hello my darling friends.

Today we’re gonna talk about when creating is hard.

I’ve been struggling with my Patreon story this month. I’m struggling getting from point z to point 7.87 and feeling fairly uninspired about it. I’m at the point where I stare at it, mutter fuck I hate you bro and close the doc. That is not really productive so I want to share with y’all some of the things I do to get going.

First thing, I remember this. If you’re an OG here you know how much I absolutely adore Daniel Jose Older. I have his essay bookmarked because I need to absorb the message often. I came up with the very shitty advice that to be a real writer one MUST write every day at a special desk, at a special time of day, with the right coffee cup blablabla. I spent a lot of time in my 20s punishing myself for being unable to work two jobs, take care of my home AND dedicate writing time. That was not good.

Shit happens. I think a lot of the YOU MUST WRITE every day thing comes from the idea that more of us have the privilege of doing that. I put it into the same category as the idea that everyone can and should just quit their dayjobs and follow the stars. Some of us cannot for a lot of reasons. That is fine. What actually matters is that we find ways to fit the work into our lives.

Second thing. I allow myself to do other things. For many years I’ve had a habit of having a good number of things I can work on. Blog posts, my other blog, Amazon releases, other stuff. The way my brain works, if I have a thing I need to figure out I can’t fight myself. If I let the thing simmer in my backbrain, most of the time I figure it out while I’m doing other stuff.

Third. I read a lot. I’m literally currently reading three books:

Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias. Second read before I do a review. Y’all know I fucking stan for his work. Honestly, his book Zero Saints (prev link is my review) STILL has literally the best fucking ending.

Naked: The Rhythm and Groove of It. The Depth and Length to It. By  Nastashia Minto.  Also on my second read ahead of a review. Spoiler alert this is a really beautiful book. Just…gut punched and held and seen and it is so good.

AND my first read of On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard by Jennifer Pastiloff. I really love Jen. Like she is very good human people. Seriously, look here where I featured her. The book so far is I love it. More when I finish.

I also will read any and everything that catches my eye via social media. I read some lit mags. I read.

Fourth. Sometimes I do other writing biz stuff. Update my bios (pro tip, save a doc with a short and a long bio so you don’t scramble to make new ones), take care of any things like invoices, updating my submission spreadsheet.

Last, sometimes I just don’t write. I’m very paranoid about disappointing my patrons so I will sorta force it but sometimes I really just don’t.

Now some tips for jumpstarting your brain:

  • If you are working on something long, copy the last say 500 words you did and open a new document. Paste those words and go from there.
  • Write a flash or other stand alone part of the story. Tired of your main characters? Write a scene or something with a minor character or expand on a small event.
  • Let yourself screw up.

Let’s expand on that last bit. A lot of the time what I could call writers block is actually me being afraid to fuck it up. It is a lot of pressure to want to do the thing and just knock it out of the park. That will happen probably at some point but a lot of the time we’re gonna fuck it up.

Art is not a finite resource. You can’t use yours up. It is okay to fuck up. What matters is what you do after said fuck up. For instance, when I was almost to the end of the Daiyuverse Cycle 2 I literally trashed the whole thing. Now, I’m not under like a publishing house deadline so I don’t know how folks deal with that but, I was terrified that the change would screw my patreon forever.

It didn’t.

Also, I’m a write when I can how I can type. Sometimes that means I write on the memo pad on my phone, in microsoft word. Sometimes in a text doc. Or an email draft. I do what feels right and sometimes just gotta calm the shit down and do the thing.

I also have learned that I have to let myself have feelings about the work I’m doing. I will complain on social media, cry to my bestie about the essay I’m writing giving me bubble guts. Sweat, flail, sometimes I get the anxiety shits because of stuff I’m writing and I’ve come to accept that is just part of my process. I can’t do the work and not let it happen in my body the way it does.

OKAY my darling friends.

That is all about the work today. I’ve got work to do. Stay tuned, I’ll have some exciting writing biz news coming up in the next couple of weeks.

Stay Frosty.

 

Don’t Throw That Shit Away

HELLO my favorite Space Babes.

Let’s talk about holding onto your stuff.

I write a lot of shit. I have tons of scraps of stories, bits of poems, lil snatches of research and whatnots. From one of my fave books about writing, the classic On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King,  one of the lasting lessons for me was to stop throwing stuff away. Way back when I was a baby potato, writing in absolute secret I was terrified of anyone finding out and I was so embarrassed by how bad I was at writing, I’d write stories, read them once and tear them up. If I was feeling particularly upset, I’d burn the pieces.

Very dramatic.

Once I started using computers regularly, I did about the same thing. I wrote stuff, decided I was too shitty to live and deleted them. I did this for probably the first decade (from let’s say age 13 through about 24) of me becoming a writer.

After my first reading of On Writing, the first thing I put into practice was not in fact keeping what I wrote. I still had a bad habit of just deleting anything I didn’t believe in immediately. Back then, I was very vested in being published in very specific ways. I was mainly writing a lot of erotica and copy for a few adult sites. I occasionally got a horror publication here and there.

My criteria for what I’d keep or not keep came down to being held hostage by the Literary Canon. Cis, white, hetero unless it was queer for hetero eyes. That was what got me into the industry. I didn’t believe that my secret work (the baby versions of a lot of what I’m doing now) was worth keeping because I was taught otherwise. On occasion, I ventured into literary Black territory and was usually not rewarded in any way by doing so. There was a time when, I had the audacity to be very Black and Queer on the internet and I lost a really lucrative job because after my employer checked my personal stuff (a blog and whatnot) he sent me a very worried email that I couldn’t really write “normal”.

Fast forward to earlier this morning. I was casting about looking for an older story I was thinking about reprinting and I found a treasure trove of things I tucked away in my cloud storage. In the past five or so years I’ve suffered some catastrophic data losses and computers dying and taking years of work with them so, stumbling on things I wrote in 2010/2011 feels so good.

I spent some time reading some of my early noir, I have the first 60 pages of a super natural/werewolf buddy detective thing I wrote way back in 2010ish. I know that much of the going writer culture is to be terribly embarrassed by your old work. Hide that first novel in a drawer, be charmingly embarassed in interviews when asked about your early work.

I reject that entirely. I am not embarrassed that once upon a time I didn’t know how to walk and routinely shit my pants. Now, I can (well I’m not great at it but) walk and I learned how to use the toilet. I’ve evolved. I’m proud of my growth as a human. I am so proud of myself for learning and changing.

From being confined to writing explicit work featuring a LOT of white people to now I have tucked away in a folder erotica that transgresses gender, race, and a few very creepy kings with impunity. It was purchased by a now defunct publisher so I might go ahead and publish it.

Look.

You cannot step back and appreciate your own growth if you hide where you were. I don’t believe in shame about how we become the artists we are. That is why I’m rarely ashamed to show a first draft. I’m rarely upset that I have a snippet of a story that just will never ever work. I’m proud that I’ve found my voice and having this back catalog of stuff that shows me the way I got here is fucking amazing.

Don’t be ashamed.

Keep doing what you’re doing.

Play. When I say play I mean just fuck around. Never written sf? Give it a shot. Try stuff. Let go and play on the swingset and write a crappy ass horror story or a super cheesy love story. As I’ve said in my creative loveletters, make something ugly. Paint something, put together a puzzle, just do something. Get a weird idea and see where it goes.

Don’t throw it away.

Okay below, find a good chunk of the weird buddy werewolf thing I started and may yet finish.

Continue reading “Don’t Throw That Shit Away”

Art Life Musings- Be That Shit my Dude.

Let’s talk about some stuff on my mind today.

Looky here.

So if you’ve been here a minute you already know but for the new folks, hi. I am a self taught human. By traditional mainstream markers, I’m pretty uneducated. I barely graduated high school, was a near drop out, did not go to nor do I intend to go to college. I know, let it sink in.

Very early on, probably by the time I was 16 I saw academia for what it was/is and nah son. It ain’t for me. At one point, I fully intended to go the academic route. I got accepted to some really great schools with programs i was into. I was leery but had decided on one when my financial circumstances (basically my parents were like LOL good luck paying for that) changed and I was entirely unable to do financial aid on my own (it is complicated) and had no other real options.

I only wanted to go that route because I thought I was supposed to and it is what my friends were doing. What moved me at that age, I wasn’t being taught. I had to go outside of what was available to me in my immediate community (remember, I’m old there wasn’t really internet and I barely BBS’d) to learn about actual Black history that wasn’t tainted by anti-blackness, to learn about womanism and feminism, to learn about sexuality and gender, to learn about sex, and most importantly how to write.

Until someone handed me the term autodidact, I just thought I was smartish for where I came from but too dumb to do anything else.

Now with that as background, understand that at this point (WOOWOO almost 41) I realize, that this is just how I function and trying to teach myself how to do something I want to do is gonna make me act weird and feel weird and I’m going to go through this repeatedly because I love teaching myself new shit.

This is on my mind because I’ve been dabbling in memoir. I think I mentioned that a while back I dunno.

The memoir I’m putting my butt in, is more in the vein of my lit Dads than it is, the ciswhitelady healing journey to look at poor people or whatever memoirs that are ubiquitous. Grimy. Not really verifiable in that I ain’t a snitch and I don’t know a lot of legal names and I have a bullshit memory. So I’m trying to weave these stories in a very intimate way.

Intimate and really dirty. Not dirty like crotch tingling dirty but, dirty in the grimy hood/street shit happened.

This is grime in winged liner, queer as fuck etc.

One of the reasons I’m struggling is I’m trying to balance out how hard I code switch, how much I want to tell, and not trying to polish it or soften it for publication. I’ve not read a lot of things like this, of course there were the gay books/memoirs I read in the 90s that were by and large by white cis men.

As I mention in my tweeter thread, I learn a lot by seeing and then shaping what I want to do. Baby see, baby fuck it up and do it their own way.

Hard as this type of learning is, it is the most rewarding for me. I believe in my ability to fuse the grime, femme, queer, etc into something that someone will read and feel me. But I also hate it because it is fucking hard.

I’m also trying *SO FUCKIN HARD* to teach myself to write about art. I’m working on a thing that is about (might be my first braided essay) art, outsider art, being shaped by what I thought that meant, and the included Whiteness and having my heart broken and having to smash my own little niche out of the world and shit.

This has been so hard. I am angry and upset about it because I admire people who can write about art so much. I LOVE reading esoteric and academic shit about art, I don’t understand it but I love it. And I want to get this out so bad, I just can’t find the way.

I’m almost there.

This is also why bloggin has slowed down. I’m really deep in figuring some shit out.

Honestly, if I’m not blogging as much as usual this is probably what is happening to be honest.

What else?

Oh smol side hustle update.

I made a whole sixteen cents on Medium for Feb. For up til now for 2018 across various platforms, I average about 2-5 views. On Medium if I put up something new I get a fairly low read to click ratio. Doesn’t matter the content.

So I’ll likely be putting less behind the paywall because frankly after that initial bit of cash, it is turning out that I don’t have a paying audience there. Or no, actually I don’t have an audience who already pays who is willing to support me in that way. We’ll talk about that cause i have theories.

So yeah.

That’s all.

I will be putting out a new loveletter tomorrow babes. Check out the archive here and sign up, I promise you’ll like it.

A Few Thoughts on Output

This morning I realized that I have now typed about 100K words or so on my little purple computer (I named her Dinky) and I wanted to talk a bit about output.

On average for every 2k words I produce, the world sees maybe half. That includes blog posts, stuff for Patreon (though, Patreon folks get to see a LOT of naked me talking myself through a first draft), stories, essay drafts, stuff. Poems. A lot of things.

A lot of those things are in fact crap.

They are often things I reread and I’m like:

Me: WTF IS THIS SHIT?

Me: ??? Que?

Me: WAT THE FUCK IS YOU EVEN DOING RN?

Me: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯¯\_(ツ)_/¯- I DUNNO. GO WITH IT.

Ahem.

Half of my brain is like, I DO WHAT I WANT FUQ U AND UR PLANS…LOLOLOLOLOL.

That used to be a hang up for me. I really wanted to be a hot take type. Kick down them think pieces and make mega dollars. At least mega dollars in my little world.

Well, nope. That’s just not how it goes here at Shannon HQ and management would appreciate me not freaking out about it ALL the goddamn time.

Y’all real talk, I write some fucking hot ass garbage. And I write a lot more slowly than I used to. And it’s fine.

I’ve learned to accept that yes my process changes and that means I miss out on a lot of shit. But, on the other hand what I produce is exactly what I want to produce so, it is all to the good.

So really what I’m saying like I always say in my loveletters, be cool to your Weird Voice.

Don’t fuck up your process when you don’t have to.

Once upon a time, I thought if I was writing a thing I had to do something with it. At some point I decided that hustling for cash outweighed my need to make art. This led to some decisions I don’t necessarily regret but that I wish I’d given myself more time to do.

I put a huge amount of pressure on myself not only to produce ALL THE WORDS but to have them polished and ready immediately.

Nah son.

I wanted it so bad, I often fucked it up.

So yes, a lot of my published shit isn’t as perfect as it could be but, that’s just writing and it’ll be okay.

Before I go, real quick OMGOMGOMGOGMGOMGOMGOMGOMGAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

My book is shipping today.

Go check it out.

My Body is Ready

Let’s talk about what happens when my ass is in the chair and I’m getting ready to put in work.

I thought I had no ritual but, apparently I do.

I get my beverage. Usually fresh coffee or tea. I have my smokes nearby if I’m at home. I need noise so if I’m at work and music ain’t cutting it, I’m a sucker for the trashiest of trash tv. Reality TV where people are hollering and fighting usually is the thing.

I get office open and go.

If shit is really good, I am rocking and/or somehow wriggling in my chair between sitting up stiff and weird, my feet kick, my tongue pokes out, I pull other weird faces. If I’m really cooking, I mumble, sometimes I read a bit out loud, yell FUCK or NO NO NO NO NO.

authoratwork
[image description: Black femme person wearing a lavender bob style wig, black framed glasses, the tip of their tongue is sticking out]
If I’m being honest, things get weird. Like it’s that scene from that movie Swordfish where NERD!WOLVERINE is at his fancy mega computer, mumbling, dancing around, spinning in his chair. If I’m alone enough, shit gets that real.

I mean, y’all see. Granted I’m looking a lot more put together in this photo than I am at home when I work. But yeah, this is the start of me evolving into your fave indie weirdo writer in composition mode.

Something I find really funny is that the older I get the more I feel writing in my body. Back in the day, while I wrote I fancied myself to be very uh, pretty in doing it. Like I imagined romantic poets to be. All loungy sex and artistic glow.

Y’all nah. When I’m really deep in it, I’m sweating and stinking and grumbling. The other night while I was working on PoetryBookBaby#1, I bit the inside of my fucking cheek so hard it bled and then I was like HOW ABOUT NO FUCK U POMES! Out loud.

It just makes me giggle because the actuality of being a working writer is so not what I thought it was going to be. I thought things would be like, okay BOOM I’M PUBLISHED AND PUBLISHED AGAIN BANG ZIP BOOM MONEY YEAH FUCK YEAH!! PARTIES!! BOOTY!! FAME!!

I’m giggling while I write this, but it is what I thought would happen.

I didn’t think I’d be sitting and swearing at a computer screen at a job that mostly pays my bills, and hoping the phone doesn’t ring and fuck up my flow.

That said, it is not bad.

It’s not always greatness and cash, but you know.

I’m working through some shit and writing and writing and WRITING AND WRITING AND FUCK…I’m feeling kinda prolific but at the same time like there’s not enough energy and time in the day.

I think I’ll feel like I’m not getting the output I want forever. I’m not a machine but I want to be a word machine.

Now that’s this. I have LOTS of stuff to do.

So go read/subscribe to my newsletter. There is a fart joke AND I talk about Impostor Syndrome. come back next week and I’ll talk some more (GEEK SHIT YO) about some recurring themes in my work and how I deal with them in various genres.

 

 

So I am Writing some High Fantasy

I finally restarted working on the high fantasy story I’ve been kicking around and wanting to drown for a while.

When I say high fantasy, I’m using the term in the context of- actually let me slow my roll. I think what I’m doing is an amalgam of swords n sorcery, high fantasy, with a taste of magic, hint of religion and myth. BUT that said, I’ll just say fantasy for now.

We don’t have to be fancy here.

I haven’t touched this story for months. I’ve not been writing a lot of fiction of late. I am very amused by how I’m writing fiction these days. Back in the day, I’d have an idea and BANG BANG BANG 4-5 K done. These days, I’m so interested in exploring particular things in my fiction it just takes me for fucking ever to write it.

I have this ever growing list of things I want to explore in different ways in my fiction. What started out as notes to help me remember (sleep disorders have properly fucked up my memory) has turned into a low key way of doing some plotting and at a glance I’ve been moving those ideas around in terms of what genres I want to play with them in.

Now on to the story at hand.

The working title is Cat Rules Queen. I had an entirely different version done that I hated so I started over. Here is what I’ve realized:

  • Writing literally anything else does not stress me out like writing fantasy does.
  • Trying not to fall down my own nerdhole about the race of beings I’m molding is fucking hard.
  • Trying to keep the language somewhat modern feeling and hearing, without it hitting a tin note is fucking hard.
  • I have a LOT invested in doing this story to my own standards and I’m kind of fucking myself up about it.

That last thing.

Y’all.

I try really hard not to do this because it is a part of the type of human I am but, sometimes I put the worst type of pressure on myself as a creator. I have this vision of what I want this story to be and I keep getting frustrated because I can’t get it quite there because I am not totally sure how to get it where I want it to go. This is sort of beyond my own need to create representation and into WHY the fuck can’t I DO THIS SHIT RIGHT territory.

The latter is really an emotional kick in the heartballs because, I can’t write when I treat myself that way. Thus the story won’t be done and will not be as good as I want it to be.

I put this pressure on myself and it ain’t workin.

So I’ve decided that I will likely publish this story for free at some point and that has relieved me of some of the pressure. Y’all know I’m not ashamed of my writing fuck ups and I feel like this one might qualify. It’s not totally what I want, but I might be headed there if I let myself do what I know how to do.

Other things.

This story has a very particular soundtrack I’ve been listening to a lot of the following while working on it:

  • Opeth
  • Lacuna Coil
  • Coil
  • NIN
  • Children of Bodom
  • Down
  • Five Finger Death Punch
  • Lamb of God
  • Amon Tobin

The music has been very dark and hard while the story isn’t. That is a running thing with me. My music for my writing almost never makes complete sense. I wrote the sweetest little romantic story for my Patreon project as a bonus thing while listening to Slayer. When I listen to the Moonlight Sonata (the whole thing) I imagine writing a super violent, very graphic silent film with that as the soundtrack. Or, I’ve written some nasty nasty hardcore violent kinky smut while listening to it.

My creative process has changed so much in the last few years. After my tries at forcing super seriousness on myself, I’m getting back into play.

I’m hoping that finishing this fantasy story will help. I’m going to put in writing right now that I’m going to let myself play.

Now how about a lil bite?

We come to see where our King Nailah meets her future Queen, the cat woman called Makatza:

The King came out of the privy still buttoning her breeches, her sword clanking on her hip. “So, I looked at him dead in his Gods Damned eye and said no but I’ll sit on her-” Her ribald story came to as abrupt a halt as she did. Standing right there, one ear turning, tail swishing, was the cat woman. She stared up at the King with her enormous pumpkin colored eyes.

“You’d sit on her what your majesty?”  Her whiskers twitched. The King stammered and dropped to one knee, unfortunately her breeches were loose and several men got a good half moon. She was too rapt to feel the breeze across her crack. “I, I oh please a thousand pardons Lady Cat. I hope I haven’t offended you. May I ask, what is your name?”

The cat woman tittered and offered her hand. “I am Makatza. I might forgive you your majesty if, you feed me. If you are really nice I might let you rub my ears.” The King rose and barely got a hold of her pants before she showed everyone whether or not she really had a tattoo in a private place. She kissed the small soft, fuzzy hand. “I shall endeavor to please you. As you allow.”

I’ll get into the feline behavior I studied and how I’m making Makatza another time.

Goodnight.