greygirlbeast: (Pagan1)
[personal profile] greygirlbeast
My head is in about fifteen different places just now, so...if this entry lacks focus, if it wanders and meanders and perplexes, you've been warned.

Last night, Poppy ([livejournal.com profile] docbrite) wrote (and I do hope he will not mind me quoting this):

Rhetorical question: Is it possible for a reasonably intelligent person to go through four years of American high school and come out the other side ignorant of what "cheerleaders" symbolize to ugly girls, or girls who aren't ugly but are so weird that they get treated as if they're ugly, or "girls" who aren't really girls at all, but knowing that would have made the mouthbreathers in their school even more determined to kill them? What I mean is, once you've gone through high school as one of the losers, do terms like "cheerleader" and "jock" and "popular" ever lose their loadedness? Do they ever lose their ability to jump out from behind a quarter-century's worth of real life and bite you in the ass with teeth you assumed they'd lost years ago?

I have a bad habit of answering rhetorical questions. Anyway, I can only speak for myself. The putrid hell of high school is twenty-seven years behind me now, and I'm still haunted by this bullshit. I still have nightmares about the "jocks" and "pretty girls." Makes no sense whatsoever, and I know that. Especially given that I've had the opportunity to see that a great many of the "popular kids" who tormented me went on to have much less fulfilling lives than I've had. Doesn't seem to matter. I can gloat all I want about who got the last laugh, but that doesn't change the fact that the wounds hardly seem to have scabbed over. Sorry, Poppy. I know you weren't looking for a reply. This just seemed awfully close to something that's been going round and round in my head lately, that I've been meaning to write about here.

I've always loathed competition, of any sort. And yet, until a few years ago, I'd gotten pretty good at the Me against You, Me vs. Them game. At jumping through hoops to try and achieve some desired goal. Applications. Tests. And so forth. But, the last decade or so, my ability to compete for anything has simply evaporated. I find it entirely too distasteful, and I hate the way it makes me feel, and the way it causes me to behave. And a lot of it goes back to high school, where the compete-to-succeed mentality was pounded into me. These days, I go out of my way to avoid competitive situations. Which is a fairly difficult thing to do when you're a freelance fiction writer. In the end, there are only so many slots available in a given year for the publication of short stories and novels. The resources are finite. And, indeed, as the economy has floundered and new technologies promise new forms of entertainment and distraction, the resources have become increasingly limited. It will always be me against everyone else who's trying to get published and win readers. And I hate it.

I've reached the point where I don't even want to see myself nominated for awards anymore. I just want to be left alone, to write my stories in peace. They are the only stories I know how to write. And I'm tired of being told how much better my work might sell if I could write like [fill in the blank]. I write like me, and, near as I can tell, that's how it's supposed to work. Only, I am on the outside. Probably on the outermost rim of the outside. Just like high school. And people seem a lot less interested in seeing the world from an outsider's point of view than they do viewing it from the safe, familiar territory of their own perspectives. Yes, there are exceptions, and yes I do have a decent number of readers, but I also know that if I were capable of this competition trick, capable of viewing this as a contest wherein I follow the rules and listen to the self-appointed coaches and referees, I'd have a shot at the chintzy gold sparkle of that goddamn loving cup of True Popularity and Success.

I no longer compete, not if I can possibly help it. This is what I have to offer, and I have to hope I can find enough people who want it that I can keep the bills paid. Because I don't compete. I don't fill out applications. I don't joust. I don't capture the flag. I'm not looking to be queen of the mountain. I do not lock horns. I sit at this keyboard, and, on good days, I write my stories, which are my stories. They are not designed for mass consumption, if only because they are not designed with any audience in mind, except, possibly me. I am the author of my own limitations, just as I am the author of my own triumphs.

---

The last two days are a blur. I feel like the writing of "As Red as Red" has become a losing battle (with myself). My deadline is tomorrow, and the story is probably three or four thousand words from an ending.

And here it is spring, and it feels not the least bit like spring. It's cold, and there are only a few buds on the trees. We did our Ostara ritual outside this year, in the woods, and I'd desperately hoped it would help shake me free of the morass that this awful winter has landed me in. No luck. It was cold, and the fire hardly seemed to help. I have learned that working skyclad in late March in Rhode Island is an entirely different thing from working skyclad in late March in Georgia. Can you say "perky nipples"? Never mind having to worry about deer ticks. I fear my magick is growing a little darker every year, only...I don't actually fear the drift. Maybe what scares me is that it doesn't scare me.

I have to go look for an ending to "As Red as Red," though I fear I'm still a bit puzzled by the middle. Herr Platypus is not happy with me this morning.

Date: 2009-03-22 04:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mevennen.livejournal.com
Every time I've tried to write something 'commercial' it turns out not to be commercial enough. No one knew where to 'place' the Chen books because they didn't fit in a pre-defined category, but they are certainly popular. So, go figure...

My competitiveness has decreased dramatically since I started out, which I think is healthy, frankly. You just have to do what you do...whether it's writing or magic.

Date: 2009-03-22 06:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

You just have to do what you do...whether it's writing or magic.

Sadly, I find it's one thing to know this (andd I do recognize it as a fact), and another thing to accept that I know this, and act upon that knowledge.

Date: 2009-03-22 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kalamah.livejournal.com
Spot on entry. Tack så mycket.

Date: 2009-03-22 06:08 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-03-22 05:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mech-angel.livejournal.com
And I'm tired of being told how much better my work might sell if I could write like [fill in the blank]. I write like me, and, near as I can tell, that's how it's supposed to work.

People...really suck. I hear that little voice about my artwork from myself, and create enough competition inside my head, to make things difficult. That other people might think it their right to say something like that and make comparisons is very fucked up.

I'm not sure how it is in writing, but the competition has become too much of a central thing in a lot of areas of art that I've seen, too. Even from years ago, when I was in college, it was highlighted enough to be an impetus for catty oneuppance, jealous hoarding of material, networking and technique secrets and popularity contests. And I'm finding out now it's not just the illustration field.

...I had a point. It got lost.

Date: 2009-03-22 05:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] netdancer.livejournal.com
I once sold a pint of my blood plasma to buy one of your books.

I would do so again.

Just saying.

Date: 2009-03-22 06:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

I once sold a pint of my blood plasma to buy one of your books.

You know...that's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

Date: 2009-03-22 06:44 pm (UTC)
ext_4772: (Scorpio)
From: [identity profile] chris-walsh.livejournal.com
And I'm tired of being told how much better my work might sell if I could write like [fill in the blank]. I write like me, and, near as I can tell, that's how it's supposed to work.

Not the same thing, but I got reminded of it: how often (never? sometimes?) have you intentionally imitated a writer as a writing experiment? I know it happens unintentionally early on when one's starting out (it's painfully obvious I was trying to be Douglas Adams (and failing miserably) back when I was in junior high), but have you done it intentionally? I know Harlan says one of his skills is the ability to imitate others, for instance.

Date: 2009-03-22 07:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com
I know it happens unintentionally early on when one's starting out (it's painfully obvious I was trying to be Douglas Adams (and failing miserably) back when I was in junior high), but have you done it intentionally? I know Harlan says one of his skills is the ability to imitate others, for instance.

One of my secret superpowers is the ability to mimic almost any writer. That's easy (for me). But I don't actually see the relevance here, as it's a parlour trick, not actually writing. So, my ability to mimic other writers' voices/styles does not contradict my statement, "I write like me." I'm not trying to be argumentative or combative, just trying to see where you questions were leading.

Date: 2009-03-22 07:16 pm (UTC)
ext_4772: (NCC-1701 Regula)
From: [identity profile] chris-walsh.livejournal.com
"Parlour trick" is the right term, yep (as it can be amusing). And you're not argumentative or combative here. (It was a digression. I'm good at digression.)

I'll modify the thought: did you ever have moments where you thought "I'm trying to write like [fill in the blank]. Okay, I'll stop"? Because you do have the discipline to stop that when you catch it, I'm guessing.

And trust me, I'm glad you write like you.

Date: 2009-03-22 07:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

I'll modify the thought: did you ever have moments where you thought "I'm trying to write like [fill in the blank]. Okay, I'll stop"?

Sure. It's something that's usually conscious, that I can switch on and off at will.

Date: 2009-03-22 06:46 pm (UTC)
ext_4772: (Whale fluke)
From: [identity profile] chris-walsh.livejournal.com
And here it is spring, and it feels not the least bit like spring.

I'm tempted to box up some blossoms and send them to you, but that would probably go badly and just be sad (or at least wilted). Here's hoping for warmth, soon.

Date: 2009-03-22 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

I'm tempted to box up some blossoms and send them to you, but that would probably go badly and just be sad (or at least wilted). Here's hoping for warmth, soon.

Well, it's a kind thought, regardless.

Date: 2009-03-22 07:44 pm (UTC)
ext_4772: (Good Omens)
From: [identity profile] chris-walsh.livejournal.com
Back to the high school thing: I managed mostly to avoid the clique drama of my high school, mainly because I got focused on my high school newspaper work. Meanwhile, I generally got along with people, and people generally got along with me, which is good because I'd have to talk to a fair cross-section of people for my article work. Big exceptions to the "generally getting along" thing were some jackasses who I'm pretty sure thought I was gay (I've never been the most obvious heterosexual, even though I think I'm pretty straightforward about my sexuality), but I never got really poorly treated because of that. (In fact I was sheltered enough, even in high school, that somehow I honestly didn't know what a blowjob was. So "dick-sucking" comments went RIGHT OVER my head. Must've been frustrating to the teasers.)

More of that clique drama happened for me in junior high, which was part of why junior high was annoying. But for most of my later schooling years, I mean high school and college, I was good at avoiding the clique thing.

No huge point to this comment, but I wanted to get some thoughts out.

Ode to Katan Amano--Sanctuary

Date: 2009-03-22 08:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] odditie.livejournal.com
I read your vignette Ode to Katan Amano, and loved it. Just thought you might want to know about this person (http://www.enchanteddoll.com/) who makes creepily Sanctuary-esque dolls (without blue skin, but...).

Re: Ode to Katan Amano--Sanctuary

Date: 2009-03-22 09:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

I read your vignette Ode to Katan Amano, and loved it. Just thought you might want to know about this person who makes creepily Sanctuary-esque dolls (without blue skin, but...).

Thank you. No. I'd not heard of Marina Bychkova.

Date: 2009-03-23 01:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] geffrei.livejournal.com
I am the author of my own limitations, just as I am the author of my own triumphs.

I'm not a slogan kind of guy, but this is brilliant. I can hear myself repeating this to myself in the future.

Like you, I've gotten to the point in my life where if I can't do what it is I set out to do in the way I wanted to do it, I choose not to play if I can. That might make others view me as anti-social, all it makes ME is happy.

Thanks for writing this today.......

Date: 2009-03-23 01:37 am (UTC)
sovay: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sovay
I write like me, and, near as I can tell, that's how it's supposed to work. Only, I am on the outside.

I wouldn't want you to write for gold cups on the inside. No one else writes like you. I am profoundly grateful for it.

Date: 2009-03-23 02:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] docbrite.livejournal.com
That's OK -- always happy to provide you with a tangent to go off on. If you want to know what prompted my rhetorical question in the first place, give me a call or drop me an e-mail. It will probably make you laugh your ass off.

Date: 2009-03-23 08:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] iteari.livejournal.com
I've tried to write like other certain writers. That only ever ended up with a lot of frustration, and poorly-written stuff.

I sort of see that someone trying to write like someone else, and not their own way, is like someone imitating someone. It may be good but it's not the same thing.

As for high school, middle school, or even elementary (being the smelly, fat kid in the fifth grade was NEVER fun for me)I don't think it ever heals completely. http://coilhouse.net/2008/11/26/digging-up-dirt-on-thanksgiving-eve/#comments

Date: 2009-03-23 04:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stsisyphus.livejournal.com
I fear my magick is growing a little darker every year...

I'm hardly an initiate in these matters, but I'm curious about this. In what manner is it turning "darker"? From what I've been able to glean, I believed that your spirituality was somewhat separate from a notion of a larger "moral force" - making the idea of "light" or "dark" magick somewhat irrelevant. Do you find it becoming somehow more malevolent in intent? Sorry, I just don't have the jargon to frame the question correctly.

Date: 2009-03-23 04:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

Do you find it becoming somehow more malevolent in intent?

That's part of it, yeah. Maybe I'll write about this in detail someday...

Date: 2009-03-23 08:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glass-violet.livejournal.com
And I'm tired of being told how much better my work might sell if I could write like [fill in the blank]. I write like me, and, near as I can tell, that's how it's supposed to work.

I buy your books (every one that has made it as far as Tasmania, AUS) because you write like you. I wouldn't bother, otherwise. You write like no-one else and that's fucking fantastic.

Date: 2009-03-23 11:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinkbell.livejournal.com
Lovely statement of purpose/being.

I have a sense of competition that has never given me much, and that I had to detach from; I think it came from the ability to test high in elementary school. So: you are in the top percentile in math and spelling in the country, but you can't talk to other humans. How nice. I was three grades ahead in math and quit at 16, partly in order to have a new identity and self-meaning. Now, I'm actually back to getting grades and even using math, in the sciences, but I've had to see school as an agreement between you and the teacher and how the structure is actually one in which you can get closer to seeing the invisible. Otherwise, systems of competition really are boring.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

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