6 Ways to Transition Out of Writer’s Block

A Writer's Path

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by Kathryn

Writer’s Block
The condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing it.

Also known as: every writer’s worst nightmare.

And let’s be real, it happens to everyone. Even the best writers in the world get stuck sometimes.

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Key/Interesting Points from Horwitz’s Blueprint your Bestseller

I feel like I’ve read a litany of books ‘on writing’ which sometimes (not always) contain brief sections on editing and revision, which is a little ironic or misguided because as I’m sure most of you have realized too, as much of the ‘hard part’ of writing a novel is finishing a novel, the next ‘part’ of editing, revision and rewriting is just as if not more grueling and difficult. (there is a reason there is a myriad of editing services out there)

Blueprint Your Bestseller is the first non-fiction piece I’ve read exclusively for editing and I confess I experienced a big of dumb realization that there is likely a whole sub-category of ‘on writing’ books that I have yet to experience – suffice to say if you’re like me and haven’t dived into books specifically on editing give it some consideration…

Anyhow.

Not going to ramble on for a whole post, some of the really useful and interesting points Horwitz made in regards to writing were:

  • Have a single theme/thesis/premise

Horwitz called this the theme but I think this could be misleading to some writers. One key point which I agree with  is that even a novel length work needs a key premise or point. The point doesn’t haven to cover every detail of the story (obviously that is the point of the whole book) but just a relatively clear point to it all, which ties everything together and provides a sense of purpose to the tale.

  • Subplots

While a novel might have one theme, Horwitz argued that the story would have multiple subplots. (although again he doesn’t use the term subplot his exact phrase escapes me right this second). The interesting thing about Horwitz’s approach is that each subplot doesn’t have to be complicated or dense, in fact his method of organizing content is about simplifying plot ‘movements’ to make sense of what changes and what stays the same across moments or scenes in the story.

What I found particularly interesting about that point is that writers are often told to keep moving their story forward, and this can create a sense of pressure to keep having things happen in their story. However when one acknowledges the multiple subplots of their tale one can better craft what changes and what doesn’t, for example a romantic subplot of an action story might not change in every scene so it can be useful to pinpoint which moments the romance happens.

  • Scenes

Finally Horwitz recommends collecting around 99 (on average) scenes per novel – in terms of editing his method basically describes cross-matching your scenes to subplots and determining where movement happens or doesn’t.

As a conclusion Horwitz also offers some interesting advice on scene transitions and types of story resolutions.

Blueprinting your Bestseller is very much about the overarching structure of the story, e.g. making sure that you have the right scenes in the right order. The thesis is relatively short but useful and highly recommended for writers!

 

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My Thoughts on The Last Jedi

For those living under a rock these holidays, The Last Jedi – the latest chapter in the Star Wars movie mythos came out before Christmas and has been somewhat divisive to say the least. Just search Youtube for the topic and you’ll find dozens if not hundreds of rants, reviews and analysis of the movie and its unusually strong fan backlash.

I’m not going to try and capture all of that here, but for my review will delve into some of the more writerly aspects of why I think fans didn’t like the movie while offering my own humble opinion along the way.

Obviously a major spoiler warning for The Last Jedi, and prior Star Wars films!

Before getting into the nitpicky stuff, I think one of the odd problems with The Last Jedi (or TLJ for short) is that it is definitely not a terrible film. Critics liked it, the special effects (bar one Yoda scene) were top notch, the action was well crafted , the actors themselves did a good job and in general the film hit all the typical story points and arcs a film should. Why is the film being good a problem you might ask? Well this puts fans in an uncomfortable position, as I will get into soon, the writers make some questionable decisions, and its actually more frustrating to accept an almost brilliant film than it is to say switch your brain off for a complete dumpster fire of a film.

It’s important to remember that Star Wars as a franchise is in a very controversial place. Since the Prequels of the 00’s the future of the franchise has been in question and the last 3 Star Wars films are the first few under Disney’s umbrella and to say fans are desperate for good films is probably a massive understatement. Also fans of the current movies are extra vigilant as what comes out now will be setting the future of the franchise up for the foreseeable future, fans will be hyper-vigilant with this in mind.

Alright so what bothered fans so much about TLJ

For starters we might have to delve back into the first movie of the Trilogy The Force Awakens (TFA). TFA was an interesting movie for the above mentioned reasons re: the franchise and in my opinion the writers and directors took the most logical option with the incredible amount of pressure on the film and basically rewrote the very first film A New Hope with a fresh coat of paint. I enjoyed TFA but I believe this laid the groundwork for the fan tensions with TLJ. By basically rewriting an old Star Wars story the series setup a tension between saying something new and sticking to what was essentially being promised e.g. the old Star Wars storylines. I think most people generally understood that TLJ wouldn’t just be a rehash of The Empire Strikes back but it does bring that tension to the foreground when the movie previous was such as it was.

In short TLJ was somewhat doomed because being too similar to the old movies would make it seem repetitive, and any deviation would seem too un-Star Warsy.

Secondly on the subject of TFA, what was setup for the next film was played out quite differently to how I believed most fans expected. In the conclusion of TFA we basically see Rey and Kylo both go their respective ways for further advancement – and the First Order has been struck a major blow in the form of the Deathstar being destroyed. When TLJ opens we basically find the Rebels on the verge of destruction and The First Order have taken over the galaxy but really very little time has passed since the prior film, Kylo is still injured, and we pick up from exactly where Rey left off from the first film.

None of this was exactly a problem in itself, it just sat awkwardly for me personally, and I suspect many fans. In TFA I didn’t have a sense that The First Order were on the verge of taking over the galaxy, nor did I get the sense that the rebels were about to be wiped out. Again its not exactly a problem that this was the premise for TLJ it just felt jarring that the over-arching storyline was basically back to square one re: Empire and Rebels, it also created a tension (again for major fans), who were unlikely to feel satisfied with a major victory being ‘the rebels survived at all.’

Anyway

So we’ve covered the jump from TFA to TLJ, lets actually get into the film!

TLJ opens with a sequence where the rebels (Ok I think they’re the resistance now but who cares) are attempting to flee their current base, and the First Order leap out of hyper-space to attack.

Po-D confronts a massive enemy ship in a lone X-wing, makes Yo’ Momma jokes and proceeds to basically solo the empire ships ‘turrets’ before calling in some bombers to take out a Dreadnought, almost all against the orders of General Organa.

For many fans this was a bad start to a bad film and in my opinion is the beginning of a  core problem with the writing of the story, in that the movie basically wants to have its cake and eat it too. In the opening scene we’re meant to be setting up the rebel fleet as being highly vulnerable and on the run, yet here Po is basically taking down the enemy on his own in a dramatic fire-fight that feels like it should be towards the end of a film not the beginning.

Again with the cake and eating stuff, Po is setup to have a character arc of being too foolhardy but learning to be a better leader, but the film pulls all its punches and just creates a kind of awkward stand-off. The film reminded me a lot of BattleStar Gallactica in which much of the plot revolves around tough choices of the last survivors of mankind – however in TLJ the choices were kind of toned down. Not that I want to rewrite the movie but if Po and his commanders presented more diametrically opposed stances, such as Po wanting the rebels to go out guns blazing rather than running, then his mutiny would have been much more intense and significant, rather than just trying to buy time for Finn and his stupid plot to play out (which it didn’t anyway). It also felt like the consequences of said mutiny were pathetic: “We like him” say Leia and Holdo patronizingly, and ignoring the fact that he literally took the ship by force during a massive crisis.

This sort of half-measure plot points continues throughout the film. A major thematic point was supposed to be that Good vs Evil is too simplistic, but then the major climax is good triumphing over evil. Luke confronts The First Order in epic fashion, but then turns out not to be there, but still dies from the effort, Finn is preventing from sacrificing himself because “that’s not how we’ll win” yet multiple other characters do sacrifice themselves just like that. Ghost Yoda tells Luke to let the last Jedi texts burn, yet in the end we see them in Finns cabin (honestly this part still makes no sense to me), the whole film has a weird sense of non-commitment which undermines any single powerful thread and instead tries to cover everything.

Personally I think this is ultimately that bothered fans, the sense that throughout the film you were never on the edge of your seat because you knew that the film would tell a joke, pull-punches or have a tension resolved by another characters arc via co-incidence rather than tell one powerful story-line.

And while this doesn’t fit anywhere in my review I do have to say I can relate to the fanboy rage of one particular scene. A moment where somehow Leia force drags herself from the depths of space after being violently blown out of her ship’s bridge. Fan’s are divided on this, no-where is it portrayed that Leia has that sort of Forcey oomph! She is mentioned in the original trilogy as a potential savoir should Luke fail, and she does have considerable ‘sight’ however no-one where is it setup that she could be powerful enough to survive such a scenario. Not only an example of the movie pulling punches but also doing so in a jarring, weird looking way. I mean Yoda looked terrible in this film but that scene made me feel like I was suddenly watching a space-ballet not a movie.

Anyway I’ve pontificated long enough – would to glad to hear your thoughts on the film (but would be equally glad to move into something new LOL!)

 

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2017: Reflection and Review of my year

Alright 2017, where to start?

First of all this is really the first time I’ve written something like this. Obviously I have reflected before, but one thing I’ve learnt over the year is that putting things into words is a considerably different experience than just wandering around pontificating about it.

Although it must be said even just thinking about this post and what I would write has been a bit of an insightful roller coaster ride (well I mean I am talking about introspection here so not that much of a thrill-ride, but whatever). Point is I think reflecting on one’s progress and time can be a useful thing.

P.S. I am really talking about my writing mostly here, so if you’ve jumped on board looking for an overshare, sorry 🙂

This Blog

I’ve blogged before, but Lonely Power Poles is definitely my most consistent and earnest effort. On the one hand it’s freaky to think 12 months have passed since I decided to start posting, on the other its before like an online limb for me something that feels like it was always there! My goal for the blog was to increase the number of unique visitors each month, a goal which began as supremely easy (its not hard to improve on zero) and started to become quite a challenge six months in.

Usually this projects like this I’ll maintain decent productivity for a time before some external force, an illness, a busy time, or such-like distracts me and I typically find it hard to get back on the horse. This happened again this year so my goals were met up to August, when I basically went on hiatus for the rest of 2017.

I’m not feeling too bad with it though. I’ve made some really cool connections with other writers on WordPress, and I still enjoy Lonely Power Poles. I know that all the advice sites say post 2x per week and keep consistent which I will strive for but even though my recent output has been low I’m still happy with this little ole blog of mine.

On Distraction

In writing these words I’ve come across a weird realization. At my most productive I’m also at my most distractable. Without overanalysing it I suspect it has something to do with being in a ‘do something’ mode whereas when I’m straight procrastinating I just bond with the couch.

I must confess that 2017 has been a distracting year for me. For those that know me or have caught a whiff of this I am a bit of a Social Justice Warrior (SJW) I don’t scour the webs looking for injustice, but I do get into topics of prejudice, politics, ethics and so forth online probably more than is healthy or useful. For a long time my tendencies have been pretty dormant as I’ve focused on writing in general and just keeping my head down at work, but somehow the political and social climate of the world has pushed me to start talking about these issues. I think part of it is that social media has pushed certain social processes into overdrive, for example just a few dedicated and vocal folk on any subject can really push the sense of how people are feeling on said topic so voices for compassion and ethical politics are more important than ever.

Also I watched Handmaids Tale and am freaked the F out about that ever happening. don’t let it happen people.

Anyway.

Writing Goals

It’s kind of weird. On the one hand I feel harder on myself than ever, yet 2017 has been one of my most productive years. I’m probably put out around 45-50,000 words of novel(s) and without patting myself on the back too much I think they are good words too. On of the risks of writing is that you can always imagine yourself doing more, even if you do well its hard not be critical.

Something that I’m frustrated with is being able to balance long term projects like novels with short stories. I love writing short fiction but its been devilish to find the time and head-space, we’ll see how 2018 goes.

 

Learnings

If anything 2017 has been a good year for my own understanding of fiction and writing. The really weird thing about fiction is that once you grasp a concept its not rocket science, yet if you’re stilling grasping or trying to work something out it might as well be. By which I mean if you don’t get a writing concept like tension there is very little middle ground, you either grasp the concept or its foreign, obviously writers can vary in how good they are at any given thing, but my point is that writing isn’t a textbook skills its very much a raft of aspects that one has to ‘click’ with.

Other bits and bobs.

It’s been a good year in other ways too, the creation of #redditwriters on Twitter has been fun and insightful. By having a core group on the medium its changed the experience from a nebulous showing at the storm kind of exercise to a kind of shouting at the storm nebulous but there’s kind of a group closer by as well experience.

My lovely wife has also joined Twitter which is great in terms of being able to share notes and frustrations and give each other heads up about stuff. I’m not sure she is 100% comfortable as being outed as married to me so I won’t go on too long!

Reading and reviewing has been a mixed bag, the last few years I’ve intentionally set my reading goals low (in the past I’ve managed 150+ books per year ridiculous really) which kind of puts reading on the back-burner especially balancing time-wise. In fact I barely read any books that actually came out this year! One awesome success story is that I received a hard-copy of Sam Kean’s Caesars Last Breath for review, I often get review requests via Kindle, however there is just something satisfying about getting a ‘real’ book to hold.

Looking ahead

One of my terrible habits is to set impossible and implausible goals for myself “I know I’ll write a novel over Easter weekend” so I’m going to try and strike the sweet spot between achievable but still sufficiently productive.

I’m currently sitting at about 5,000 words of a project that I’m feeling good about and have a writing friend giving regular critique which is excellent motivation. I also have a 40,000 word story which I love but is awkwardly sized to shop around, so I might (MIGHT) look into getting good cover art and making this available on Amazon, just as a scary-ass project for the future.

As mentioned earlier I need to find time for short stories, not too sure where that time is coming from though.

As a final thought 2017 is also the only year (so far) where I’ve actually sat down and made writing a habit. Historically I’ve had huge bursts of production at times but for the most part procrastinated. Writing routines don’t always feel good, realistically though getting small amounts of work done over long periods is infinitely better than the bursts of inspiration tactic, especially when there are plenty of other things going on in life.

Sorry the REAL final thought is a massive thank you to those who have read my blog over the year, and especially my friends and family who have been present and encouraging. I appreciate everyone who has stopped by for a convo and I’ve enjoyed connecting with your blogs and seeing your work.

I hope your writing and other goals are going well and all the best for the holiday season and the new year!

 

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People Pleasing versus Writing SOMETHING

I was watching a review of Justice League the other day (haven’t even seen the movie…) and something MovieBob said struck me as very interesting (I thoroughly recommend MovieBob’s work as someone who really likes to overanalyze film)

In his review he basically compares Justice League to Batman vs Superman, a film which prompted, so far, 3 hours of material from Bob about why its so bad. And yet favourably says about Batman vs Superman that at least as a train wrecks it is interesting, whereas Justice League is fluffy and safe doesn’t really do anything.

This got me thinking about the nature of writing and art in general and what we’re trying to achieve. As writers we are often trying to people please, to produce work that won’t offend or at the very least we feel there are so many boxes to tick in terms of “good” writing we can lose track.

Now I’m not saying its time to throw off the oppressive shackles of reasonable feedback, or to deviate of the path of always improving, but I think it is useful to reflect on your work and what you’re trying to say with it and put that first. I’ve probably said this before, but for me crafting and improving a work of writing is about how to best emphasize and communicate the message of the piece, and sure that crafting may be to make the work more accessible or easy to read for a wide audience but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the message. If that message is something that isn’t bestseller material so be it – I’m pretty sure that most people prefer to be challenged by something that makes them think twice then consume another piece of cotton candy sanctified piece of writing.

One of the really weird perfectionist issues of writing is human beings have a hard time dealing with being less than 100%. The reason its odd is that I don’t actually know anyone who is a cliche ‘perfectionist’ its an odd quirk of (I think) Western culture where its considered a waste of time to do anything if you’re not going to put your best into it, by which I’m trying to say none of the writers I know are desperate perfectionists in the sense of locking themselves in rooms and being terrible pedants for details, but rather psychologically struggling to deals with this ‘less than 100%’ issue (well I certainly do).

Again obviously this isn’t a permission to do an average job, but what I’m building up to is to point out that our writing isn’t going to be 100% awesome for its readers either. If we’re all honest with ourselves I think we write hoping for best-seller type acclaim and even if we accept that’s a slim possibility I suspect there is still a sense that what fans we will have are fanatical.

Realistically there is going to be a range of responses to our work and that’s OK – however going back to my original point is that the more we try and please everyone the more boring and sanitized a work might become. In my opinion if I have three readers (probably an overestimate) it would be far more interesting to see a range of responses than a bland equality of ‘good I suppose.’

So anyway – what are your thoughts? Do you try to people-please in your writing?

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According to Google this quote is attributed to at least 10+ different people!

Serving the Story

So here is my first blog where I polled Twitter for what to write about. Serving the Story narrowing overtook World-Building, so I’ll start here and do World-Building next (it kinda works thematically anyway)

I was asked the question “what do you mean by serve the story?” which is a great starting point. (I’m going to use StS for a shorthand at times). StS is a piece of advice often thrown around when people talk about how every piece of a work must “StS” it’s also something I use very very often (without much justification) when talking about how to make decisions about your prose, plot, or other aspects of a story.

So what the check do I mean?

A good way to look at it is having all the material in your work, whether it be short of long-form having a purpose towards the greater whole. Ok that probably sounded like some sort of communist or collectivist manifesto! More specifically its about the words, sentences, scenes in your story working together to make a good story. It we were talking movies it would be about the movie not having any scenes that made you wonder what the point of it was.

One of the reasons that this is useful to talk about especially in novel-length works there is a tendency to meander. This isn’t immediately wrong in itself, after all maybe the story calls for meandering. BUT, it can be a tricky balance between aimless wandering and useful story serving stuff. What I personally find quite confusing is that pretty much any good writing advice source will tell you that filler is a massive no-no, yet so many professional, brilliant published works seem to have a reasonable amount of filler.

Or do they?

The tricky thing with story serving is that material can StS is many different ways, sometimes subtly, sometimes only gently pushing the narrative along. I have seen people interpret the advice ‘to only include relevant information’ to mean that novels must travel at breakneck speed with closely packed plot points Anyone who has read most published novels know this isn’t the case.

To explain I’m going to explain how different elements of a story can serve it, AND some different levels of servitude which I think might help.

It’s probably a timely moment to remind people of a disclaimer, these are just my thoughts on the topic, they are based on a lot of reading both of fiction and fiction writing advice books, interacting with other writers, agents and editors and just generally stewing on these topics within my own head. I’m not spouting gospel, although be assured that I’m not just spewing nonsense!

Let’s start with levels.

Often a story is layered and complex, built from story beats (individual moments or movements of the story) scenes sequences and plots.

When people think that only including relevant material to their plot means fast-paced writing they are only looking at the overarching main plot points and thinking they have to rush those through, when in truth its okay to focus on the smaller units of scenes and beats.

For example most scenes start with some sort of ‘setting-the-scene’ sequence. Again this is far more obvious on movies where any particular scene usually has a few moments of setup, say before the hero smashes through a wall to fight the villain. These parts might not seem like they serve the ‘plot’ but they most definitely serve the individual scenes, which in turn does serve the overall story.

I’m not sure how well I’ve explained that so here goes an attempt clarification, a story is like a house of cards, a cool looking complex setup that relies on individual card placement, structural shapes, as well as a great overall design. You can’t build a house of cards by simply thinking about the final product, you need to place each card precisely, and you need to build them up in the right order to get the final construction.

Your story is no different, to get the overall effect you need to focus on individual moments and scenes and put them together to create the overall story. Sometimes material in a book which seems like filler, is stuff that builds an individual moment or that particular scene, it might not seem ultra relevant to the overall plot, except that overall plot needs that scene in place to ‘work.’

In short there won’t always be a direct line between the immediate material you’re penning and the ‘big’ story.

So let’s talk about a couple of different story elements.

The other way I think people get overwhelmed is trying to link everything to the overt or practical plot of the story which can get confusing at times. My thesis is that there are different ways that elements of story contribute, and this is important to grasp because I believe this is how a novel length work gets fleshed out, without just being filled with ‘filler.’

Character:

We all talk about character development like we know what we’re talking about (well I do and don’t respectively). In my opinion getting characters right is one of the most challenging parts of fiction. Randomly generating traits and motives and whatnot is easy, but working out how to develop said character in a story is devilishly hard. My understanding of how to work character development in to serve a story is to show what about them is related to the story at hand, and how it currently or will challenge them. Lord of the Rings (the book mind you) is often criticized for spending such lengthy pages with Frodo not leaving the Shire, yet this setup creates the suspense of how important the Shire is to Frodo which deepens the tension and sadness of the story’s conclusion. Often novels seem to drag slowly for initial chapters, however a lot of the focus in often on ensuring the reading knows the character(s) and knows thing about them relevant to that story.

For example heroes are often shown doubting themselves, morally challenged MC’s are shown to do wrong and so forth.

Character development serves the story by deepening what the plot means to it’s victims…

Setting:

I’m going to race through a few of these other points because I’m starting to drone on. Setting very much serves the story by grounding the tale. One of my biggest flaws in novel writing at the moment is that I tend to rush the story starting, before there is a strong sense of where everything is happening or more importantly a sense that the story is taking place somewhere ‘real.’

As a final word serving your story is a lot more straightforward if you have a good idea of what the story is. This isn’t to poo-poo pansters or gardeners but just a caution that at some point it really helps if you have a firm idea at least of what sort of tale you’re telling, then you can always reflect on how any individual part works towards that whole.

It’s my first writing blog for a while, and my first polled topic! Hopefully it’s not too rambling and disastrous. Next time I’m having a go at: World-Building!

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I could not find an approps pictures so here’s a “Raven Cycle” pun

Writing: Subjective, Objective or Something Else?

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You don’t have to look far in writing discussions to come across some form of disagreement. Whether about writing ‘rules’ some specific feedback or comparing different plot points. It’s also not unusual to see these discussions eventually peter out to a hand wave of ‘well writing is subjective.’

Granted this may well be a suitable way to politely finish a disagreement, but it does beg the question, if writing is so subjective why then are there all these rules and guidelines? How is one to make sense of the subject?

For me I think fiction sits in a strange place not exactly between the two subjects but in an interactional position, whereby the objective fact of the work interacts with the subjective experience of readers.

I better explain this in less airy fairy gobbledygook!

Because objective is described as something based on ‘fact’ and putting aside the subjective feeling or experience, most art is often assumed to be a subjective thing. However in my opinion there is something hyper-objective about fiction. A book after all is what it is, no matter who reads it, the words are the same. Sure the experience of the reader is vastly different, but the actual work and the words therein are objective.

Ergo some discussions about writing advice could be conceivably considered to be objective.

Now as to the subjective part, this is where my philosophy on this gets a little weirder. Obviously when readers pick up a book there is a subjective response, and the collective subjective response determines largely whether a book is considered ‘good’ or not. So I’m not going to get into all the different ways taste, culture and individual responses shape this, other than to say that the quality of a work of fiction is determined by the interaction between the objective work, and the subjective experience of the audience.

Ignore either aspect at your peril!

To really dig in deep, part of this theory is to explain how books can be judged differently over time. Old classics often have a style that doesn’t fit with today’s readers, whereas some older books become more popular in later generations! The book doesn’t change but the audience does.

 

So team, what do you think of my theory, complete garbage, half garbage, objectively garbage but subjectively something else?

 

Off Topic: Sociopolitical Rants

So I’ve had a bit of a writing hiatus over the last 1.5 months with various flu symptoms and other obligations and one of the things I’ve been doing in my convalescence is spending altogether far too much time online reading and ‘talking’ (arguing) about political issues.

You see it’s problematic because while I care a lot about a lot of things seeing other people’s opinions on issues eventually results in me becoming a seething mass of angst, and unfortunately for you poor soul – I’m now going to use this medium to expunge said angst.

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Harvey Weinstein

Weinstein is the latest of powerful people being discovered to be powerfully perverted. To be fair it seems most people are pretty anti sexual harassment however there are some stances which irk me a lot e.g.

“Have you seen how these women dress?” or “I dress modestly and don’t flirt and I’ve never been harassed”

First of all as an analogy, this is like telling school-age Thom that if he doesn’t want to bullied he should try not looking skinny and nerdy, and perhaps just not leaving the house, maybe just don’t go school at all.

Second of all I hate this argument because it buys into this idea that men are basically uncontrollable animals who see a good looking woman and have to ‘resist’ doing something sexual to them.

Now to be fair I have to say if any individual (like the quoter above) does decide to dress modestly and not flirt to avoid harassment, that is entirely their choice and I’m not denying that it may work – it’s not victim blame to say that dressing sexy is going to garner attention which statistically increases your chance of getting attention from pervos. However this argument seems to draw a line between what ought to be, and what appears to be actually happening. Neither women or men should have to consider appearance in case of harassment, we’re all human beings for goodness sake!

Abrupt topic ‘change’

When it comes to climate change I will very quickly preface why I believe that the climate is changing due to human produced emissions:

  • It’s a lot of scientists to be wrong
  • I don’t believe that the human race can produce so much greenhouse gas into the air with some sort of effect
  • I’m actually getting old enough now to see the effects for myself such as changes in local climate disappearing lakes etc

So here are some denial argument that also make my blood raise in temperature (to boiling point)

It’s all about lefties getting political power

The problem this this argument is climate change stinks politically. It’s a divisive global issue with few gains for individual voters, even your typical leftie is usually more concerned with healthcare etc. I have yet to see any politician sail into power using climate change as a platform. Yet the issue has persisted in the public arena for decades, so if this rebuttal is correct either politicians are awfully slow OR the issue has nothing to do with seizing political power.

These scientists have been wrong before.

Wow, ok I get it. Yes scientists can get these wrong, and its the very nature of scientific process to question theory and always be skeptical. However its one thing to be skeptical, its another thing to essentially insert your own belief that ‘there isn’t a problem’ and continue with potentially destructive behaviour especially at the expense of others.

This kind of denial isn’t like deciding to smoke because you don’t agree with the warnings and ‘its your body’ this is like dumping your rubbish on the street and claiming you ‘disagree’ with the evidence you’re making a mess. Even if for the sake of argument the rubbish isn’t as bad as other people make it out to be, is it really ethical to keep dumping?

‘Racism

Finally (don’t worry the rant is almost over) Race seems to be the issue ‘du jour’ online and I have seen some truly weird opinions about the place.

“It’s not racist if its statistical”

To be fair this is a confusing issue for many people, how to not be ‘racist’ but still acknowledge that disparities exist between different ethnicity some of which are not good (i.e. imprisonment) I think the issue is that ultimately racism is about fundamentally treating people differently due to their race.

For example: treating the behaviour of individuals or smaller groups as representative of that ethnicity. Basically if you see a black dude stealing a car and think ‘geeze these black dudes’ rather than if you saw a white dude and thought ‘geeze that car thief’

I think racists love social justice warriors because they try to use their passion to trip them up on thorny issues, but seem to forget that just because because they manage to flummox an advocate for egalitarianism doesn’t mean they aren’t racist.

“There is no racist legislation therefore there is no systematic racism”

It’s a common stance in rational reasoning that whoever makes the most outlandish claim is obligated to provide the equally compelling evidence. And to be fair evidence of systematic racism (in any country) should be robust, but the idea that as long as legislation is even there won’t be systematic racism blows my mind! If only.

“Racism and anti-racist are just two sides of the same coin”

What, just what. Granted some people engage in deplorable behaviour in the name of progressive ideals, and also granted there are individuals and groups of all kinds who really are just promoting themselves not general equality. But to equate decades and more of lynching, land grabbing, systematic prejudice as being the same as that person who dissed Trump for being White seems purposefully obtuse.

Anywho the rant is getting a little long – back to on task type blogging very soon I promise I just needed a ranty purge. I will resume yelling at clouds again and writing about writing forthwith.

 

Not to open any cans of worms – what are your guys thoughts on these issues, or what issues burn a hole in your head?

 

Writing and Depression

Depression and writing is a topic I’ve been sort-of simultaneously hesitant and motivated to discuss. My friends and family are affected by depression, and its something I come into contact with through work more often than not. And I think the topic is something most if not all people have some familiarity with one way or another.

It’s also a common thread and discussion point online, people asking about the relationships between writing and depression (and anxiety) how to write on despite the black dog, questioning whether anti-depressants will curb creativity and so on. The hesitation I mentioned above stems from wanting to discuss, but also being a little uncertain about whether I can address anything on such a complex and nuanced topic.

Well, here we go. Please note that nothing here is intended as professional advice, it is intended to be legitimate and helpful, however a blog post simply cannot take the place of individualized 1:1 professional help. (accountability statement done)

The Tortured Artist Stereotype

Writing and depression, and other issues have long been associated. Many professional writers past and present have had struggles, often to the point of substance abuse and addiction. Yet how exactly these issues fit together is a cause for some controversy. For every Stephen King (long history of alcoholism) there’s a Kathy Riechs (generally successful academic and professional and no substance abuse as far as we know).

Personally I think there is a double-edge to writing for anyone struggling with depression. Generally speaking simply writing as a pastime, hobby and/or form of expression is something that is very good for a person – especially for those of us without any other outlet, or perhaps who experience invalidation from those around us and need a blank page.

BUT, and it’s a big but. There is a risk with the idea of the tortured artist stereotype. Self-acceptance is a very good thing. We’re all only human with all our faults and foibles and there is little point to beating ourselves up constantly for them. However there is also the potential of going too far and becoming self-excusing. What’s the difference? Think of acceptance as being the acknowledgement of past mistakes – say like forgiving oneself for having a relapse after past drinking problems – whereas self-excusing is justifying or making an excuse for continuing to commit mistakes (oh I’ve had a hard day I’ll just have another drink).

The point I’m trying to make is that writing can be a great form of expression and has been shown to help with depression, however there is a risk of clinging to the idea of being a tortured writer – and perception, especially self perception is significant for emotional health.

Which brings me to the next point:

Wellness needs to be a goal

One of the common threads for those with depression, writers or not, is that people have put aside their own wellness as a priority. Whether its through a belief that one simply cannot be well, not believing one is worth the effort, or simply everything else has been put first, often one of the main “treatments” (scare-quotes used because treatments sounds scary but really isn’t) is simply to convince a person to put their own wellness on top again. As a side note its almost funny if it wasn’t a serious topic, how many people that suffer depression who have other people as a huge priority, people who will honestly throw themselves out of bed first thing in the morning to help a friend out, yet won’t eat because they just don’t see the point of caring for themselves. (To which I always say you can’t take care of others if you don’t care for yourself).

Back to the topic at hand however, writing can overwhelm a person’s priorities. I think particularly when people are looking to do more than ‘just write.’ I confess I’m often alarmed when I hear about people struggling with depression and anxiety who are keen to get traditionally published, not because I’m being judgmental but in my opinion writing for publication is incredibly stressful, and often lonely – not exactly the best recommendation for those with depression and anxiety!

So you can see how there is another double-edge here: writing is good for the soul, but aiming to succeed professionally requires a lot of solitary and stressful work. I think that anyone embarking on a journey towards traditional or self-publishing needs to put their own wellness as a top priority, as even the most resilient brain can be pummeled to mush by the pressures of publishing.

What about creativity?

To be perfectly honest I don’t know the answer to whether medication like anti-depressants, or seeking treatment for depression will curb creativity. Personally I think there is no real trade-off here. Yes sometimes being in a tough space creates a strong motivation to create, however I find it hard to believe that depression could be an asset beyond that initial angst, successful writing after all requires perseverance and a thick skin. It also maybe true that seeking wellness may take time away from writing, but again I would argue that it’s worth it.

 

In summary I think that writing has some dangerous allure for those of us struggling with depression – it’s a typically solitary task that the compelling idea of a ‘tortured artist’ could help drag a person into more isolation – equally however writing has been shown to be good for a mind in need of an expressive outlet.

Finally I think if a person’s goal is to achieve some outside success with writing, the rigors are very real and one needs to keep well first and foremost to endure the challenge.

 

That’s my (tricky and controversial) post for today – I hope that it reads with the sensitivity I wanted to present. I was somewhat prompted by a recent famous (that I have never heard of until then) kickboxer who declared on Twitter that depression doesn’t exist – and felt the topic was timely.

 

As always it would be great to hear you thoughts, experiences, and insights. Take care of yourselves people 🙂 🙂 🙂

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