worn down

Recently I reviewed some old blog posts from 2004-2005 (no longer online, but I have a personal archive), and I realized that I don’t really like to dwell on the negative, or blog about it.

This is pretty common, I know– there are no end of thinkpieces about people putting their best foot forward on social media, and not blogging or instagramming or FBing the difficult parts of their lives. A lot of those posts seem to assume this tendency is about “likes,” or online popularity, or embarrassment, or something like that.

I dunno. Maybe sometimes it is. For me, as I re-read those entries from 2004-2005, I find myself surprised at how forcefully cheerful I am– I chatter about sewing, baking bread, church, how much I love my husband and child, and holiday shopping. I recount visits with family, cute things my kid did, and social activities.

What’s interesting to me, reading those entries, is all the things I don’t say. At that time in my life, there was a fair amount of negative, unhappy things happening and a lot of heartache. I was pretty miserable, depressed, and lonely. I was still grieving my mom, yet incredibly angry at her. My husband and I were trying for a second child without any luck, and I was grappling with the reality of secondary infertility. I was furious, too, with my husband– we were in a rough spot in our marriage, and I felt disrespected, isolated, and lonely.

Almost none of this bleeds through in the entries.┬áThere are occasional throwaway lines about my disappointment over yet another failed pregnancy test, but the unhappiness of that era is most noticeable, to me, in the absence of mention: there are entries detailing endless fond anecdotes of my child, or my siblings, or my dad, or shopping trips, hobbies, and activities– but little to nothing about my husband or mom.

Mom used to say, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

There are long gaps of weeks or months with no entries at all, and then a flurry of chipper entries recounting breathless delights. It actually reminds me of a film I’ve long enjoyed, Just Married. There’s a quote near the end from Tom’s (Ashton Kutcher) dad:

Some days your mother and me loved each other. Other days we had to work at it. You never see the hard days in a photo album… but those are the ones that get you from one happy snapshot to the next. I’m sorry your honeymoon stunk but that’s what you got dealt. Now you gotta work through it. Sarah doesn’t need a guy with a fat wallet to make her happy. I saw how you love this girl. How you two lit each other up. She doesn’t need any more security than that.

I think for me, writing– journaling, blogging, online posting, whatever– has always been a form of memory. Snapshots of life preserved for the future– both for myself, my children, and future generations. I suppose, growing up Mormon, it was inevitable that I would view journaling (and all related forms of autobiographical writing) as archival rather than personal, and have always written with the sense of recording memories. And like the character quoted above says, we don’t preserve unhappy memories– just the good ones. We preserve the ones that help us get through the unhappy times, in hopes the good times will return again.

It’s a self-preservation strategy, I think. A neurological tool by which we as a species, no doubt, deal with the realities of day-to-day hardships. Relationships, friendships, work–life is hard. If you don’t preserve the happy moments and consciously focus on them, prioritize them, it can be easy to get dragged down into a negative mindset where everything is hard and miserable and nothing is worthwhile. Where the only thought in your head is, “Why? Why do I bother? What’s the fucking point?”

Life isn’t happiness and roses. But sometimes, really rarely, it is. And I guess it’s nice to pretend that it can be more often than not.

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I swear, it feels like every time I break my personal rule (don’t start a series still in-progress) it’s 11th grade and The Wheel of Time series all over again. I just want closure! I just want the end! 

I know books take a long time to write and it’s hard to force creativity and life is busy and there are all these other commitments eating up their time but I just

want

story 

closure.

I just want to know who wins the Game of Thrones. 

I just want to know if book!Jon Snow survived the stabbening. (I mean, probably yes, obvs, but some written confirmation would be great). 

And while I’m on the topic, Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson are breaking my heart, too. I mean, c’mon, Rothfuss! It was 4 years between Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear, and it’s been six years since with a single novella that isn’t even from Kvothe’s POV, an announcement of a video game and TV show, and NOTHING on the pub date for The Slow Regard of Silent Things? 

Whyyyyyyy?

And Sanderson. Gods. Sanderson. So prolific. So inspiring. It’s reassuring, honestly. I mean, you look at the sheer amount of books and series he’s got published (completed and in progress), and the publication dates– every year, another book or three– and it’s like, oh, it’s safe to start one of his series. This won’t be a decades-long exercise of agonizing, suspended satisfaction.

NOPE. 
I made the idiot mistake of starting The Stormlight Archive, which (like WoT, GoT and TKC) is set in a politically and socially complex world with a large cast of characters. It’s great. It’s meaty and in depth and breathtaking. 

And the first book was published in 2010, the second in 2014, and the third is slated to be published this year (a promise I’ve heard before–I’ll believe it when I see it). 

So in the best case, it’s a 3-4 year wait between books (but they’re getting written and published, so yay!), or, if it’s anything like what happened with Jordan and has been happening with Martin and Rothfuss, it’s pushing back publishing dates, delays, announcing aaallllllllll these other spin off projects, and just … endless waiting. 

And I feel awful for being impatient, I really do. I get that these are humans with lives, not entertainment machines to dance for my pleasure. Rothfuss and Martin have both historically reacted really poorly to expressions of fan impatience, which I do kind of understand– I can’t imagine the pressure of fame and contract. And, I mean, they’ve got all these other projects going on. Plus, I understand at least one of these guys (I think Rothfuss) is actually the stay at home dad to an infant/ toddler, and I know what a distraction that can be. 

But still. At the end of the day … the spin off projects only exist because of the fan base from the original (unfinished) book series. 

I understand success must be a unique frustration and pressure in and of itself, especially for a writer (who, generally speaking, is not like the actor or comedian in seeking the limelight; the writer hides their face behind the page, and sometimes their name behind pseudonyms), but I also think it’s valid for fans who just want story closure to express frustration at the incredibly visible decision (because of the interview circuit and blogging and vlogging and tweeting about it) of authors to dedicate the vast majority of their time and resources to all these other projects.

I mean, it kinda feels like their books aren’t getting completed or published because they’re not getting worked on very often, and their anger at their fans when asked about publication dates is borne (in part) of defensiveness. 

I’m not saying they aren’t getting worked on at all– Rothfuss has posted video of him writing to refute such accusations, and Martin has released sections on his blog. I’ve never thought they just gave up. 

I’m saying it’s more like …  I have a goal of writing 1,500 words a day, 5 days a week. The days John is working. In a good month, that’s 30,000 words. Except I usually write more in the range of 2,500 words on an uninterrupted 5 hr writing day (John works 8 hrs, but Kiddo gets out of school n dinner won’t cook itself), so that’s more like 50k/ words per month. 

Obviously, I’d prefer daily output to bump that up to around 70,000/ month, or almost a complete draft. And if I had the resources (like, say, a best selling series), I would probably make arrangements to sequester myself for one or two months of the year to do exactly that.

But I don’t have those resources. And I do have a lot of demands on my time. Housework, meal prep, subbing, budgeting, research, and high-priority household projects with deadlines (taxes, applications, disputes, etc). And there are only so many hours in a day, and my family wants to spend time with me too, so my average writing output is around 3k a month.

That’s a huge difference. I’m still working on my book, but there’s no world where you can argue I will realistically have a manuscript to submit to a literary agent by 2018 when I’m working at a snails pace of 3k words per month. And that’s the situation I think Martin, Rothfuss, and (to an extent) Sanderson find themselves in. Too many balls in the air, not enough hands to juggle.

The worst part is, I actually have reading guidelines I try to stick to. I started this stupid fluff series in 8th grade that just ended after book 3, no continuation or resolution, and I promised to myself then that I would never read an unfinished series again unless:

  1. Each book can be read as a standalone (eg, Vorkosagan Saga)
  2. It was nearly complete (1 or 2 books away from resolution).
  3. The author has demonstrated publishing consistancy and it’s a really good book.

Even with this, I often bite off more than I want to. The Green Rider series by Kristen Britain? Yeah, when I began reading that, I wasn’t married and it was supposed to be a trilogy. The sixth book was published in 2016, and honestly? Good writing, not a lot of closure. Felt like it was still laying plot lines for another book.

But I was okay with that because I had Harry Potter, and J.K. Rowling met the requirements of Rule 3, and (for the first few installments), Rule 1.

A lot of times when I pick up a book to read, I’m not even looking to “get into” a series. That’s how I got hooked on both the Stormlight Archive and Kingkiller Chronicles. At the time I read the first book in both of those, they were the only one published, and I didn’t realize they were the first books of planned series. 

I only started reading Maas’s Throne of Glass series after quick research reassured me that a) 5 out of 6 books were completed; b) she published on a steady schedule; and c) book 6 was slated to release in 2017. 

GoT, though, that’s all on me. 

In my defense, I started reading it in 2010, with 4 books published and the 5th slated for a 2011 release, after hearing it was originally planned to be a trilogy but ended up with two extra books because the author wrote himself into a Gordian knot. So I thought the series was all but wrapped up, and it wouldn’t be this big emotional cliffhanger of falling in love with a story that won’t commit. 

Should’ve known better. Hate to say it, but male authors, dude. They’re like bad boyfriends. They have the sweetest words, but just keep disappointing you.

Alma mater

Shit has apparently been hitting the fan at Evergreen. It came up in my FB feed the day of, and I’ve been kinda watching the news/ keeping an eye on developments/ cheering for the protesters. 

At first, I was kinda lost about why this was news. I don’t mean why there was a protest; I mean why off-campus news outlets were giving a fuck. Evergreen has been doing Day of Absence/ Day of Presence for years— I’m not sure when it started, but I started in 2012 and it was a tradition. 

Basically, on Day of Absence/ Day of Presence, minority students retreat from the campus and don’t participate. For DoA/DoP, “minority” has generally included, as I understand it, both POC and LGBTQA persons. The purpose is to highlight their value and impact in our communities, and the effect (loss) to the community felt by their absence. It’s also to honor the memory of lives taken too early by persecution and discrimination, as well as (I always felt) a quiet reminder that we cannot take the danger threatening the lives of our POC/ LGBTQA classmates and professor’s lightly, and must fight to protect their rights and safety.

I lived off campus and was a night/ weekend student, so I wasn’t exactly in thick of campus culture. I learned about this, literally, after the first DoA/ DoP while I was a student. I had no forewarning. Just one day there were these signs and banners about Day of Absence/ Day of Presence, and some of my classmates weren’t in class. 

When I asked what the Absence/ Presence thing was and it was explained, I thought it was pretty fuckin’ cool. Like the 1975 Women’s Strike in Iceland, when 90 percent of the women refused to go to work, cook, clean, or mind the children; and the men felt the impact of that intentional absence.

Now, the thing is DoA/DoP has always had it’s share of controversy and detractors. Apparently one of the debates that came up when I was there was about staff and faculty participation– some of the POC/LGBT staff and faculty wanted to participate– staff by not coming to their shift, and faculty by either cancelling classes, holding classes off-campus, or going off-syllabus for the days classroom discussion. Really cool and totally in the spirit, right? Except nope. 

Apparently a bunch of whiny (white) assholes (students and staff) got butthurt at the idea of their needs not being served for one fuckin day and decided to complain on behalf of aaallllllllll the white ppl on campus about how unfair it was to pay for services and tuition and classes (on campus thankyouverymuchsir) etc etc and then not receive them for even one day. It was the height of injustice, the very height. To even imagine. Gasp. Horror. Oh, and also, apparently some (white) students felt it was unfair their minority classmates “got” to skip, and thought they should be penalized, and some (white) professors (like Weinstein, I’m guessing) agreed and would penalize students for missing class or failing to turn in work without a valid excuse.

Hearing about all this after the fact was one of those times I was like damn, I wish I was more of a regular/ involved campus student, bc that’s some bullshit.

Anyway, so when I first heard about Weinstein, I assumed his complaints were more of that vein: “Wah wah, minorities aren’t catering to me for a day, oppression, wah wah!” and my only real confusion was why the usual campus tension had blown up. And yeah, I read the linked Weinstein emails, but it still wasn’t initially clear to me. 

I had this one image/ experience of DoA/DoP in my head, and nothing I was reading clarified what was different this year to precipitate all this, until this article in The Olympian: In wake of race protests at Evergreen, one lawmaker proposes to make it private.

So, basically, (I’m guessing bc all that white butthurt protest about any effective action by minorities to absent themselves from campus neutured the impact of the day) the organizer said (more or less), “Fine. You won’t let us leave campus on our terms for one day? Then how about this: you leave for the day. Go do your thing and let us have the campus to ourselves for a day without any racism or persecution fucking up our learning/ teaching/ working experiences. 

One day for Evergreen POC/ LGBTQA workers, students, and teachers to spend an entire day without having to deal with the bullshit. The cafeteria staff employee who pretends they don’t notice the exaggerated, fake accent that one white student uses “as a joke” when he orders while his friends laugh? He gets a day off from that bullshit. The black teacher who’s constantly being challenged by white male students half her age who are convinced they know the material better than her, even though she’s got a PhD and a career of experience? She gets a day off from their mansplaining, racist bullshit. The LGBTQA student with a white classmate or professor who insists on misgendering them, or joking about their identity? One day off from it.

One day to move through a small slice of the world with freedom and peace. One day where, instead of having doors closed to them, they close the doors.

Beautiful. Beautiful and heartbreaking and challenging and not nearly fucking enough.

Unless, apparently, you are Weinstein and/ or Manweller (the GOP fucker who wants Evergreen to go private as punishment for practicing free speech on the public dollar– btw, anyone else seeing the hypocrisy exposed here? Aren’t conservatives the ones beating the drum on the ills of the public dollar and the value of privitization? Isn’t DeVos trying to privitize public education nationwide? But Manweller goes straight to privitizing as a proposed punishment? Huh.).

Look, I actually agree with Manweller’s statement that when a public university (or, really, any publicly funded institution) sends the message either directly or indirectly that someone is unwelcome based on  skin color, a line has been crossed. It’s just that the asshole obviously doesn’t realize that is the fucking point of Day of Absence/ Day of Presence! Because the message has been and continues to be sent, overwhelmingly and disproptionately, that POC and LGBTQA students are unwelcome, and that crosses a fucking line! 

Recognizing that discrimination, inequality, and disparate impact exist and acknowledging it does not translate to white people being persecuted, wtf.

Also, what the FUCK is up with with white mainstream conservative christians co-opting historical persecution against religious and/or racial minorities to justify their narrative? That’s so fucked up. 

The Nazi’s were white christians who persecuted Jews, POC, Romany, LGBT, and the disabled, y’all, but Manweller actually fucking compares the POC, LGBTQA, and white ally protestors to Nazi Brownshirts. Like wtf, dude. Maybe don’t.