Accountability time: one of my goals for this year was to post once a month, at least, and I’ve already missed that goal for June. But also, June was. . .unlike any other month so far, and that’s saying something when it comes to 2020. I feel like I’ve learned so much about my home country, the US, and my adopted country, the UK, and I’ve never been angrier.
But that’s a privilege, that I’ve only learned about these injustices that have been going on for so long, and are just now being exacerbated and laid bare by the pandemic. There are so many amazing resources out there, please check out all the work being done by Black activists online and in print. Keep signing petitions and emailing and leaving voicemails and donating to those in need! We have to keep the momentum going. This has to be the beginning of real change, across the world.
I also recommend following Rachel Elizabeth Cargle and her #DoTheWork course. Follow Nicole Cardoza and subscribe to her newsletter which provides daily perspectives and reflections on different aspects of racism and prejudice, for BIPOC and white people alike. I’m also definitely inspired by Nicole’s Allyship check-in posts, and I’ve been trying to do the work of anti-racism offline as much as I can. I also want to recommend the books I’ve been diving into this month, and yes, absolutely should have been supporting and engaging with more before now.
Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist is incredibly eye-opening and mind-blowing—which again, is a privilege that I get to read about racism instead of experience it. It’s making me think all the way back to when I was in school and university, what it was like for my BIPOC classmates, and now, what it was like at my job for my BIPOC colleagues before lockdown. Interactions where I knew I should have said something in the moment, or stood up against microaggressions and racist behavior. (Also just fyi, don’t read or buy Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility because she’s white, and white people need to be LISTENING right now, not profiting off of the oppression of people of color, which we’ve already been doing for centuries kthanks)
Roseanne A. Brown’s A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, which I’ve been absolutely absorbed by from page 1. (And how GORGEOUS is the cover??) The two main characters deal with anxiety and panic attacks, so seeing them embark on an intense journey in her West and North African inspired fantasy world is so engrossing. Her portrayal of anxiety disorders is so sensitive and adds a deeper level of feeling to the story, since these topics aren’t always shown in fantasy settings and stories. I’m still reading this one, but loving every second!
I’ve also bought A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow, but haven’t started it yet, since I am bouncing between so many books at the moment. But this is also an accountability post for myself, that I will read and review and share these books as well as so many others I’ve had on my TBR list for a while, or that have just come out! (Does anyone else get overwhelmed with how much amazing content there is out there for us? Books and short stories and movies and shows and music and aghhh it’s a good problem to have, but I also struggle with deciding where to start!)
One goal I am getting better with is spending less time scrolling Twitter and Instagram, so I can get more reading and writing done. I’ve learned so much from those who I follow on these platforms, and I do still admittedly spend too much time on those apps, but I’ve set strict screen limits for them so I don’t spend ALL DAMN DAY doomscrolling. It’s been helping my concentration and anxiety a lot the last week or so. This means I’ve finally gotten some progress on outlining the ending of my Venice book, which I’ve added a new page for on my blog, so it’s official. (And to also hold myself accountable for!)
I’ve been pondering the whole idea of plotting and storytelling recently. I’ve mentioned before how each of my books has had a wildly different process in terms of drafting, but I’m talking about the actual intellectual side of idea creation. That eureka moment when we get the spark of an idea, when we’re in the shower/doing dishes/brushing our teeth (it’s always something with water, isn’t it?) that moves the plot forward somehow. I love that moment, I live for that moment, but now when it happens my brain has started engaging in my only super power, which is second-guessing everything. So that brain burst suddenly becomes fraught with self-doubt, and me asking myself “Is this a good idea? Or was it just my first idea?” Or “Does this make sense for the story, or only because my brain wanted a quick solution?” Or my favorite, “Is this crap and I’m full of shit?”
Which I know is just your typical impostor syndrome, and everyone suffers from this at some point. I know I am my own worst enemy when it comes to that. But I’ve been ruminating on this separate storytelling conundrum for a while now, in an abstract philosophical sense, and in terms of the novel I’m working on. I’m just hoping that, even if my initial ideas aren’t great, maybe I’ll eventually come up with better ones? At some point? (I can always revise, right?)
So there I am, poised over the sink, toothbrush in hand, trying to come up with alternative ideas on the heels of that first one. I then run through all the possible consequences of these options for the story, until my brain feels like a flow-chart run amok. Sometimes I end up returning to the first idea, trying to rationalize it within the world of my novel and trusting blindly in my intuition. Until the doubt sets in again.
I know my anxiety and depression also have a lot to do with this constant rumination, so maybe this should be shared with a therapist instead of WordPress. . .
This is getting wordy and silly, but essentially, I’d love to know if anyone else comes up against this when they’re writing/drafting/plotting? I know not everyone outlines or plots out their story beforehand, and my projects are usually a hybrid of plantsing. This current project, where I’ve really been noodling the ending and how I’ll stick the landing, was mostly pantsed with a few key scenes/beats brainstormed beforehand. But coming to the ending made me realize how many threads I have to weave together, and I wanted to make sure it was, well, a good sweater after all. (Embroidery? Tapestry? I dunno anymore. . .)
So I decided to outline the ending, scene by scene, and while I’m feeling a lot better since I finished it yesterday, I’m still wrestling with the fear that these ideas aren’t that great. That maybe this character should have gone that way instead, or done that instead. In some respects the characters have dictated what’s happened, it’s not just me playing puppeteer with them, but I know that I still have to have control over the story, and be confident in my/their decisions.
Well, I guess this is all part of being a writer isn’t it? Writing my way through, figuring out what works, what doesn’t, learning from it, trying to grow. I suppose that’s what this is, me thinking out loud as I try to finish my third book, which means a lot to me, and has been a lifeboat through the last few months. I want to do it justice. I know I’ll never fully realize the perfect version I imagined before I began it, because perfection is not actually attainable (I keep telling myself), but I still want to be proud of what I’ve written. I want to be confident in it. I just hope I can be, once I type “THE END”.
This incredibly navel-gazing post has been rambling on long enough now, so I’ll finish by saying, I hope everyone is doing well. My partner and I are still hunkered down in our hobbit hole, very happy to stay home even though the outside world is starting to open up again. I do not trust this government any more than I could throw it, and already know they care more about generating profit than protecting human lives. As hard as it has been to get the words down with everything going on, I’m so lucky I can escape into another world, where I get to have some control over what happens. (I just hope I’ve made the right call!)
I also wanted to share this absolutely stunning piece of art I found by Jen Bartel, who is one of my favorite artists. It’s called Moon Rider, and it genuinely took my breath away when I saw it (on Twitter!). It also hit me right in the feels, because this is exactly how I imagined one of the MC’s in my Venice book, in one of her moments of sartorial glory, so I had to save it. Just look at the detail! Especially in the embroidered stars!
I’d love to hear about everyone’s process when it comes to plotting and deciding what course to take in your stories.
Thanks for reading my rambles!