God is a terrible matchmaker

God is a terrible matchmaker.

He was, I mean, once upon a time when he started playing with dolls. He looked down on my team’s handiwork and said, “There’s something missing.” He told Michael and Lilith to go wander around and see if they could figure out what.

Dolls.

God saw Michael and Lilith walking around, said, “That’s it,” and there he went playing in the mud. Meanwhile, he told Michael and Lilith to name the animals and plants and oh by the way, do this thing right here so I can see how it all fits together.

They did that thing. Right there.

They didn’t stop doing that thing.

“Okay, I got it. You can stop now.” Read more

No.

This popped up in my feed today:

No.

“No,” I said, immediately and out loud.

I remember by whom, when, where, and why I was earnestly exhorted to “be soft. Be soft. Be soft.”

His name was Joe, a much-older friend/teacher. It was a Monday in November and it was dark and raining and I was 18. I was sitting in his car in the parking lot of Merrill Hall at BYU, after he had brought me home from class. I was upset that I couldn’t seem to get what I wanted (a date).

“Be soft,” he said. But I’d had soft beaten out of me long before then and I was pretty sure I’d never be able to become soft, so I silently rejected his advice as an impossibility. I didn’t know it then (nor did he), but I was angry. There’s just no dealing with anger when you don’t know that’s what it is. And why do people find women’s anger so frightening?

I understood what he was trying to tell me: Attractive women aren’t hard. They certainly aren’t cynical, sarcastic, and wary. They are not angry. If you want a date–a husband, you can’t be those things. Men don’t find those things attractive.

Be soft, he said then.

I don’t know how, I said.

Be soft, Vonnegut says today.

No, I say.

No.

Veni, vidi, vici.

stfu_lg1I had several ideas for this post’s title:

“I’m not one of you.”
“Repeating myself”
“Tired of the sound of my own voice”
“Being silent”
“Serial starter”

Anyway, all of them are pertinent to my point, but they all mean different things. I’ll take them one by one.

“I’m not one of you.”

In the cult of self-publishing, the loudest voices are the ones who write fast and put out an oeuvre faster than I can switch channels on the TV. They are the ones who say such things as:

“If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer.”
“If you want to make any money at this, you have to write X number of words per day.”
“Writing is a business.”
“You must outline to write a decent book.”

and my personal favorite,

“Writers are lazy,” which post I would link to, but it has since been pulled. (Here’s the rebuttal.)

It’s all bullshit. Rather, the fact that all writers must follow these instructions as gospel is bullshit. The fact is, writers write for a whole host of reasons, only one of which is to make their works commodities. I provide a commodity service. I’m not in the business of writing novels to make them commodities too.

Commodities are soulless, interchangeable widgets, and I don’t believe that books are commodities at all. I also don’t believe that writing fast makes a book soulless. I simply can’t write that fast and put the time and thought into them that I do.

So, to you incessant voices in self-publishing and those of you who were trained as midlist authors to keep putting product out there, I’m not one of you.

Which leads me to my second point:

“Repeating myself”

I am not on the vanguard of self-publishing. Dan Poynter is. Aaron Shepard is. Morris Rosenthal is. April Hamilton is. They are mostly nonfiction writers and they speak to writers of niche nonfiction. For instance, Dan started out publishing parachuting and skydiving treatises.

I am, however, on the vanguard of self-publishing fiction, along with Ann Somerville and others in niche genres. I took a lot of heat for it, too. The loudest voices in self-publishing now were once rabid anti-self-publishers and some of them attacked me personally both publicly and in email for it. Hey. Assholes. I blazed your trail. You’re welcome.

(Oh, is that arrogant? Yeah, I know. I’m a woman. I’m not supposed to be arrogant. Suck it.)

I’ve said all I want to say, I’m noticing repetitious themes in my writing that annoy me, and I’ve become

“tired of the sound of my own voice.”

You may have noticed that, other than posting Dunham chapters, I haven’t blogged a lot.

“Being silent”

I seek silence like water seeks the ocean. You wouldn’t know it to meet me at a cocktail party, conference, or convention, but I’m an introvert. (Please see “Caring for your introvert” and “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.”)

“Serial starter”

I like to start projects. I rarely finish them. The ones I finish, I really, really care about. And then I abandon them. Because I’m bored with that.

“Veni, vidi, vici.”

You know where I’m going with this by now. For decades, I have wanted to be a published author. Like, since I was 15, which is exactly three decades. It may have been earlier, when I was around 10 and wanted to submit something to one of the Reader’s Digest quip sidebars. I knew how to follow instructions. My submission wasn’t published. But by the time I was 15, I had found out a) how to submit to Harlequin, b) what to submit to Harlequin, c) how many words I had to write to submit to Harlequin (Presents line, in case you were wondering), and d) about how much a Harlequin advance was and how much in royalties I could expect and when (answer: zero, which was okay with me at the time).

Along the way I have had disappointments and obstacles and tangential projects and replacement projects, all while going to school, earning a living being, basically, an administrative handyman because I had an unbelievable skillset and a degree. You know, living life as a marginally normal person. There was always something odd about me. Everybody knew it but me, until I finally got a clue by working in a very dysfunctional place.

So along comes 2007 and, after 7 or 10 or however many years when I had given up writing totally, out pops this doorstopper. And so I published it. And so I had MOAR STORIES TO TELL!!! So I did that. And here we are, five years later and I’m about to publish book 4 in a planned 5-book series, and I realized this morning…I’m done. I did it. I did what I wanted to do, which was to get my stories out on paper and to the public.

I have no more stories. I will write book 5, but it’ll be a while, and I will likely go dark for that time, but I owe those fans who have been slowly accumulating and who love the world I built.

The difference this time, in seeing the light at the end of this obsession’s tunnel, is that for the first time in my life I have no overarching “This is what I want to do.” I’ve done it. I quit writing once and had nothing to fill that creative void so I made a cross-stitch design company and permanently killed my love for my favorite hobby. But always, getting a book published was my overarching life goal–because I thought it would take my entire life to do so. Writing was my life’s work and I never thought I’d run out of stories to tell.

But I have, and now it’s time to move on.

So…where do I go from here?

I dunno, but I’m gonna read a lot of books while I try to figure it out.

Of artists and assholes

"Sit down, let me tell you a story. Once upon a time I ate your hamster this morning."Orson Scott Card doesn’t make a hill of beans’ worth of difference to me. I never read him until I was an adult (and haven’t read Ender’s Game), I was underwhelmed with the Alvin Maker series, and aside from his strong views on homosexuality, he has some other truly whacko ideas that also thoroughly and completely offend my libertarian sensibilities.

I weighed in on the controversy over his short story “Hamlet’s Father” because I can’t stand it when people rant about books they haven’t read. That is intellectually dishonest, and the people I saw doing this promote themselves as intellectually honest. Sorry, nope. Get off your fucking high horse and read the fucking book, then come back and talk to me.

A couple of days ago, I was cleaning out my feed reader and old web articles I’d saved and came across this: Broken, by Lefsetz, a music industry critic, in which he opines about the necessity of great art to come out of broken people. So this was already on my mind when I had an email conversation with a friend who is grieving her relationship with Card’s work because he personally is an asshole.

So this is what I said:

You wanna know why lit programs take the author out of the work? Because they don’t want to know what assholes the authors are.

I don’t know why anybody thinks an asshole can’t write empathetic characters. All you have to do is observe people and understand human nature. And in the end, the authors will reveal themselves to you in one of their characters, or leave bits of themselves in all of them (cf this article’s reference to Peter—the villain, I take it?).

Charles DickensDickens was an ass. Scrooge? Maybe parts of him.

Hitler was a talented artist.

Artists, great ones, are depressive, narcissistic, selfish, mentally ill, and sometimes evil. There are some who know how to act in public and some who don’t. It just kinda goes along with the artist thing.

It’s just that now people have access to these artists’ assholery and they don’t like the type of personality it takes to make great art. Not only that, but they don’t want them to self-medicate to mediate the bad personality traits but keep the great art. They want them to be emotionally stable. They want them to be normal.

Oh, hello, Van Gogh. Mozart. Polanski. (Shall we talk about Polanski?)

But art that touches people doesn’t come out of normal.

Card fans are grieving. Deeply, by the tenor of what I’m reading around the web. While I understand it, I’m kind of unsympathetic because people want great art, but they don’t want people to have the characteristics of what it takes to make great art.

Creepy collective consciousness is creepy

It appears I’m not the only writer with her knickers in a twist over The Book That Shall Not Be Named, and not only that, but it appears the writerly collective conscious had gotten its knockers knickers in a twist somewhere between Sunday night and Monday morning. Usually when the twist in my knickers gets too tight, I simply avoid the source. In this case, I can’t. It’s everywhere, including my snail mail box after my 70-year-old aunt in Salt Lake took the time to cut an article on it from Deseret News and drop it in the mail to me. I can’t get away from it.

Between this and the incessant banging on the marketing drum, I’ve pretty much had all I can take of the business side of being a writer. (Note: Being a publisher is an entirely different thing.)

Monday morning I went whining to a couple of people, one of whom was utterly unsympathetic and the other who sent me to Cliff Burns’s latest blog post. Lo, there not only did I behold my own frustrations laid out in more articulate language than I’ve been using lately, but on the same day I was having my existential crisis.

Building character through self-flagellation | Cliff Burns – “Books not selling, readers indifferent, preferring to spend their hard-earned shekels on dry-humping teen vampires and spank me-fuck me fan fiction. Not a brilliant stylist, so I can’t even hope for the consolations of posterity.”

Then a friend, who thinks something must in the water:

The rise of the published first draft | VacuousMinx – “I fully agree that TBTSNBN has an alchemical appeal for readers, one that transcends its many flaws. But while its appeal cannot be copied, any more than you can catch lightning in a jar, the (lack of) process can and will be. […] So we will get more barely-altered fanfic and more un-self-critical writers who are proud that they can write 100,000 words in a month and send the resulting manuscript off to a publisher.”

sent me to yet another writer writing at the same time:

Striving for a WIP that’s actually “in progress” | KZ Snow – “Does it even pay to write well? Maybe I should follow the lead of some of my peers and strive for quantity, compose a few tearjerkers or sex romps or chuckle fests every couple of months. There’d be nothing wrong with that. Readers seem to enjoy the output of speed writers as much as or more than that of poky writers.”

I’d already decided to do the Dunham serial a couple of weeks ago, so I did feel as if I were actually taking action and could prove to be a boon. We shall see, but at least I was trying something different, doing something with the words I’d written that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day for another year. I’d also already decided to rebrand the Dunham series with new covers and new classifications and unveil them all next year with the release of Dunham.

So between the time I announced the serial and the time I got to Cliff’s post, I had spent hours revamping my websites, which I find oddly relaxing. And because I do like this thankless, background, zero-revenue activity so much, I slowly came to the realization that writing novels and the act of publishing them is a hobby. Given that I hold my hobbies sacrosanct, this wasn’t a step down, but a step up. In that respect I also decided to get out of the business of publishing other people. I needed to let go of the pressure of selling, the pressure of sales (or lack thereof, as measured against those of the snake-oil salesmen of our business), and the pressure of bookkeeping. I needed to rejuvenate my love for creating and disseminating my own work. The constant marketing of myself and publishing other people is not part of the hobby and not part of the love.

So now it’s Friday. Nothing about the situation has changed except that I feel as if I have taken some action AND changed my outlook. My frustration level is way down and I can once again stop to see what I have: a wonderful family, a good job that pays the bills, a nice house with a gorgeous porch* upon which I sit with my Tax Deductions and discuss the nature of God—and a hobby I’m mad about and am excited about sharing over the next year.

That’s far more than a lot of people have.

*I am irrationally and exuberantly proud of my porch.

UPDATE: I was roundly castigated for not actually showing you my porch. Here it is:[singlepic id=647 w=320 h=240 float=][singlepic id=648 w=320 h=240 float=]