So. Here I am. Got Pandora on what started out as my default writing music station, but I have to start over; things kinda got ballocksed a little when I added Emilie Autumn. (Emilie rocks, mind you.)
I’d sort of bumped into WordPress here and there across the Web, but today I decided to dive on in. I’ve screwed around with other blog attempts here and there, but I think this’ll be it. I’ll unpack the baggage bit by bit as I figure out how to get things arranged. (Did you like the consciously pretentious metaphor there? Knew you would!)
The thing about me is, I stall. I’ve learned to at least TRY not to hate myself for it too much. My head is like a dryer–things sort of tumble around, while you go get a pop, and fidget on the godawfully uncomfortable plastic bench too narrow for your butt. Sometimes there’s a weird smell of something that didn’t really want to be dried; you self-consciously get the bathroom key from the attendant, and the next thing you know, you have a fluff-dried and clean-folded PhD. Woo!
Well,at least I did.
All my life, everybody told me I should be a writer. So one day in freshman year of high school, I tried it. I wrote a short science fiction story about this science fiction writer with a little alien familiar, called Crit. That’s all I remember about the story. I was really proud of it, and I read it to my two best friends. One of them said that she really liked it, but the alpha girl of our pack made a lot of fun of me and pointed out that I’d basically retold a fairy tale. I don’t remember which one. Anyway, I was completely humiliated and cried. So much for that.
In junior year, I tried it again. I got a black’n’white composition book, because even back then I knew I was prone to pages getting shredded out. I covered it with some sort of decoration, and I started writing. I wrote two or three stories, and I think a couple of poems. I pestered my favorite English teacher to read it. She was a complete love, but her response burrowed deep inside with sharp little teeth. Not a total loss, because it’s made me a more humane composition teacher, but still.
A couple of years later, I joined up with a couple of apazines. For you youth (and probably most people not familiar with science fiction fandom), these were blogs on paper, with comments by mail. It wasn’t as horrific as it sounds–we’d work on them during breaks from churning the butter, making our own shoes, and cutting silhouettes. Anyway, my zines were a lot easier for me to write, because all I had to do was . . . well . . . if you were me . . . hold forth at some loquacious length on something, often beating some hapless soul to death if they couldn’t argue as well as I could.
The big problem with apahacking is the stalling thing. The individual zines had to be sent to a single person with serious mental challenges, who would then copy the un-precopied (most), collate them, and then send them out again. So there were deadlines, and, well . . . I’ve gotten oodles better at pushing deadlines and actually whacking things out in the nick of the time without noticeable quality loss, but I’ve had about 20 more years of practice now.
Meanwhile, of course, I was keeping journals, and dragging my way through papers in school. Not too many as an Art major, but then I switched to English in grad school, and really got my nose rubbed in how bad my academic-style writing was. It couldn’t have been all that bad, because my show paper is what really got me from UW Madison into Harvard. But once there, the beatings continued, and I was screamingly well aware of how differently I saw life from my fellows in the academy. (For one thing, my paper tone isn’t very far from the one here.) I secretly despaired about the looming dissertation. Yow.
Somewhere around 1998, I started a fiction story about some of the people in my head. It didn’t get past Chapter 4 or 5, and (as all the rest of my stuff, frankly) sucked. And then I got divorced, and started having all manner of adventures.
In 2004, I found my way back to Harvard and dove into the dissertation, without much hope. I was saved by Professor James Engell, whose utter wonderfulness should in no way be tainted by his association with these pages. Jim is the most patient and insightful reader in the academy, and I have those sort of fantasies where I get to donate him a major organ. I mean, the man handed me my brain; what else can I possibly do?
That said, I wouldn’t have made it if I didn’t have nearly crippling joint pain, particularly in my knees. (Nobody yet knew what the deal was, but basically for 25 years my body had been having this big argument about how much vitamin D it wanted and doing mulish things with its calcium. So my bones were dissolving just a teeny bit. I had something called hyperparathyroidism. It’s pretty much all betta now. Vitamin D. Beats the oxycontin: Cheap; and missing a dose doesn’t make you jones.) Anyway, walking 3/4 of a mile to the Yard would bench me on my couch for a few days. Bad. So somehow, I got hooked up with the little Harvard shuttle bus. Every morning, it would be waiting for me at 10 a.m., and if I missed it, Bonnie at the shuttle office would call me. She’s really nice, so I tried to be good.
The bus would drop me off at Widener Library, and pick me up six hours later. Which meant I schlepped up to the English library, opened up the laptop, and looked for a way to stall.
I’d heard that the way to start writing is just to start writing. Meaning, just start blah blah blah. So I just started talking, again, to the people who lived in my head. I wrote imaginary e-mails and IMs between varying people in this cast of characters. Then I could ease happily into the diss. (PLUG: Phinished.org was also crucially helpful in getting done; check ’em out if you’re writing a thesis.)
In late spring of 2005, something in my head hit flashpoint, and, according to my file dates, over one weekend all those people in all those e-mails turned into a coherent fictional universe, and I started to write. And ya know what? It was really good.
I finished the dissertation, and then had more adventures. But throughout, I kept writing. And it kept being good.
The big, central adventure was finally admitting that you don’t have the interesting life that I’ve had without some fallout. I crashed and burned. But I was writing.
Nowadays, I’m still on disability. It was a big crash and burn, but then I sort of had it coming, all things considered. And I’m getting much, much better. The great thing about a burn is that it clears the way for a clean re-build. One of the insights I was forced to make was admitting that I’m not a 9 to 5 sort of person. I am, heaven help me, a creative. Which in many ways sucks. But I tried to be a good little soldier for years, and it just didn’t work.
So now I’m . . . writing. Last year, I got inadvertently roped into writing a non-profit grant for which I did about 50% of the narrative, and it ranked first in the city. Trying that on for size. Finishing the novel, which is scary and hard, but at least it’s good.
And now here I am, figuring that stalling from writing by writing worked really well last time. We’ll see how it goes.