I’ve spent a lot of time reading about blogging, following the rules, trying to control my content, trying to paint a particular picture of what and who I am.
Why? I don’t know now.
The rules say 500 words. The rules say you gotta do a picture. The rules say keep it approachable. The rules say certain times of day. The rules say tagging, metadata, SEO. Keep a schedule. Don’t post too much. Don’t post too little. LOTS OF WHITE SPACE PEOPLE CAN’T PAY ATTENTION!
The rules are a nag. They are useless to me.
A few months back, I turned 36. So for a few days, I posted on Facebook & Instagram with the tag #DGAFage36.
Here’s an example from Facebook, Nov 2, 2016:
I get real big anxiety about peeing in cups, peeing outdoors, and peeing in portajohns. I have since I was little. When I was pregnant, my biggest worry on a regular basis was whether I’d be able to, and if I could, whether I’d hit or miss. #DGAFage36
At this moment, on Feb 21, 2017, I am a mess. I went from starting the birth year feeling very empowered and content and hopeful to losing my way, spectacularly.
I need to retrieve my confidence. I am afraid in ways that I wasn’t afraid 10 years ago. And not the normal, getting-to-know-my-own-mortality shit, either. Some days, I’m afraid to go out into the world.
I have a few strong, powerful, good women in my life who have helped me realize that I need to DO SOMETHING. So since I still have 2 weeks until I can get into therapy, I’m starting here. With a public declaration that I am actively working to retether. And that part of this work is not giving a f*ck.
This is accountability. This is practice.
So henceforth, this blog won’t be about anything specific or focused, not that it really ever has been. But I used to try.
Trying is good at work, when there is a thing, person, or cause to keep you moored. When trying as part of a team means something in a defined structure.
But in my life, I’m discovering that trying is inextricable from people pleasing, and it will drive me bananas–trying toward my own slave-driver, neurotic standards, or what I guess about others’ standards, or the internet’s copious, contradictory advice about itself, is a surer way to land at the bottom of whatever abyss I’m approaching.
Today, I want to write about writing about whatever the f*ck I want.
Tomorrow, it might be something else, like how much I’m enjoying Anthony Bourdain’s old CNN show Parts Unknown on Netflix. Or how much it makes me want to stab myself when people compare me to Lena Dunham. Or nothing at all.
Or maybe I will never write about either of those things. I don’t have to, you know. And I #DGAF.
Comment if you want. But no pressure. Not closing w/ a question to drive engagement. Not following dem rules. #DGAFage36
During these last lazy days of summer, spend some of your afternoon spinning around in your desk chair looking at these lovely lady entrepreneurs of the interwebs. Some of these would be fantastic bookmarks for holiday gifts.
Goddess Leslie Hall
Leslie Hall is one of my new feminist heroes. Her YouTube channel is a treasure. And if you want to buy some things she made, you can just visit her website.
A very strange woman I know recently got serious about selling some of this spectacular soap she and her people make. Check it out.
An annoying vegan told me they might be doing gift packs + wrapping for Xmas at very, very reasonable prices.
So, if you like whales, and I totally do, this thing is happening. It’s a newly funded kickstarter an acquaintance of mine ran to make researching whales a) easier, and b) less stressful for whales by COLLECTING THEIR MUCOUS. USING ROBOTS. Huzzah! Girl Power!
Lady Lucy’s Madness
I really love knowing creative people. Mad Lucy makes the most excellent accessories I have ever seen using doll parts, clay, sequins, eyeballs, and all manner of other fantastic things. Visit her Etsy store for more info.
Sojourn of a Hungry Soul
Laurie Cannady’s memoir is beautiful and powerful and astonishing. I’ll be introducing her at her book launch in November, at Lock Haven University where she teaches. Reserve your copy on Amazon or at etruscanpress.org.
The month that fills every writer I know with a sense of hope and possibility. Or, as likely, dread and insecurity. Whatever the feelings, NaNo inspires a certain type of person to get behind a keyboard.
Whatever the end result, writing is good for a person’s soul.
And as much as I am not prone to loving the hype, I think NaNo is pretty great. I have never successfully participated myself, but I talk about it from time to time, and I like to hear about it, read the posts, enjoy the energy from my every-month-of-the-year-WriMo perch at my little table in my little office.
The second quotation isn’t from a technically hating piece, but it’s from a post that does, at its core, seem to be about de-glamorizing the writing life and explaining that writing is not just this magical thing that happens while you hardly notice then suddenly you’re getting piles of cash and accolades like you’re some kind of Stephen King protege.
And that’s truth. The piece is called “25 Things You Should Know about NaNoWriMo.” It could also be called “25 Things You Should Know About Being a Writer, some of these relate to NaNo.”
Get to the point, already!
I hate hacks.
I would tell anybody. And I am. See? You’re anybody. I maybe don’t know you at all. And now you know a little truth about me. Hacks make me full of ire and nasty words I have no shyness or fear about spewing all over hack backs.
But I don’t hate NaNo.
Call me Pollyanna, but my feelings on the matter are this: People who finish NaNo are people who are, at least in some small way, committed to living the writing life. It is not easy to write every day, least of all 1666 words.
And whatever else happens, the douche fools who query agents and editors Dec 1 with their shitty 50,000 words are people who would do it anyway. Maybe they wouldn’t do it Dec 1, but at least now there is the possibility for an editor/agent to blanket ignore any unsolicited submissions that appear on Dec 1-15 (note to self).
But this year, my writer friend and I have committed to writing-related goals in honor of WriMo. She’s finishing her novel (she’s been working on it for years), and I am submitting my essays to literary journals and querying agents to the tune of 5 each week.
It took me a year and a half to write all these essays, and I still consider the manuscript to be in progress, I am, in fact, revising three new essays for it now.
I’m keeping a spreadsheet which I will show to my friend once a week.
My friend is showing me her pages.
So NaNo is about accountability. About setting and reaching writing goals.
So get yourself a partner and write! Or Submit! Or Query! Or Revise! Or Outline! Or plot! Or whatever you need to do to get wherever There is.
Adjunct wages are an improvement over my current wages. Especially during the Spring semester. The second-best (or maybe third or fourth or fifth) money I’ve ever made. But it also means I get to do what I love to do, which is talk, read, and write all day long about reading and writing, which makes small money seem like a big deal.
Here are some important pieces of my reality: my student loans are currently in deferment as I finish up my MFA, and I have the privilege of a domestic partnership with a person who is relatively well-employed, so we can (sort of) afford for me to make $20,000/year. Or less. I am also comfortable with working multiple jobs in order to serve my life as a writer, mother, and reader (in that order).
It is my ardent wish to someday be paid a living wage for talking, reading, and writing all day about reading and writing. To not have to do anything else.
But none of this is why I sat down to write this post.
This week, I had a massive disappointment.
About a month and a half ago, I accepted an offer to teach one section of a literature course scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at Tiny-Private-University a bit east of here. I got to develop my own syllabus, which was fun, and I get to teach The Book That Changed My Life.
About two weeks ago, I was hired as a part-time lecturer (fancy speak for adjunct) at Large-State-University a bit west of here.
While each university is 1.25 max hours from my house, they are three hours from each other.
I went to an interview, and exchanged a half dozen or more emails with Chair and Assistant at Large-State-University, one of which suggested that someone would be in touch with me soon “about [my] availability.”
A week passed during which time Tiny-Private-University (which pays only a bit more than half what the Large-State-University pays per section) offered me a second section of the same course, later in the day MWF, which I also accepted. Large-State-Univeresity only promised me one section (but insinuated that there would likely be 2).
When my burning need to have a plan for classes and a life that was to start a week from Monday overcame my ability to patiently wait for communique from Large-State-University, I reached out to Assistant to find out about the training sessions, and to give her my availability, now Tuesday/Thursday. Which was answered with “But, but, all first-semester teachers have a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule!”
Which was the first I’d heard of it.
“Didn’t anybody tell you? I can’t believe you didn’t know!”
How could I know? I reviewed all the correspondence. It was not in the job posting. It was not in the offer letter. It didn’t come up in the interview. It was not anywhere. Why would I assume it?
Which meant I had to decide: probably less money at Tiny-Private-University, a job I had accepted first, developed a syllabus for, and ordered books for the book store; OR, Large-State-University which is sexier AND pays more, but I had nothing in hand and would be obliged to drive there every day for the week before the semester began for training sessions.
I wanted to choose Large-State-University because money. Adjuncts do this all the time: better offer elsewhere, go there. Since these offers are almost always made at the last minute, this is not a thing adjuncts should have to worry about, or feel bad about doing.
But after some time and reflection and weeping (for a lost plan, a lost semester of getting paid mainly to read and write and talk about reading and writing), and after making a mental pros-cons list, I decided that the university to which I felt ethically obliged, Tiny-Private-University, is probably a better professional choice, too.
Here are the primary reasons: Tiny-Private-University has a smaller faculty + student body, which means more entrenchment in the culture, more support, and smaller classes. Developing a Western Euro Lit syllabus that spans the Renaissance through Early Modern looks way, way better on the CV of a trained creative writer than teaching a staff syllabus at a bigger school, even if more money looks better in my bank account. And hell, what’s one more semester of 7-day work weeks?
What do you think? Did I make the right choice? Should I have assumed that I would be required to teach MWF? Is this a normal procedure? In my experience + knowledge, it isn’t. Though my experience and knowledge of adjuncting is admittedly limited. Is it even reasonable for any university to require people to whom they’re not offering a living wage to teach on a particular schedule?
My number 1 favorite thing about residency is that I get to spend a week not explaining myself or enduring weird faces from people because all the other humans there are precisely my sort of weird/neurotic/thinky.
A close second, however, is that a lot of people there call me April Line.
I have a really cool name for a writer. Perfect, even. It’s as if my parents knew. Hell, maybe they did.
And then there’s the pursuant wordplay: April Line, you so fine; April Line, where’s my wine? Of course, I am in a tribe of people who, like me, enjoy the sounds words make when they scrape across tongues. We enjoy rhyme for its own sake. We slide words together in lines because they are fun, because of the sounds, because because words. The words do not have to be true. I am not fine in an objective sense nor do I make a habit of fetching wine.
My favorite thing since I got home? The thing that gives me more joy even than particularly delicious beer, running, or good food?
My Writing Workshop, the first of which happened last night. I met a new student. I had an hour of that lovely thing where I can talk about being a writer like it’s normal. I can explain to people who get it about the weird writer brain thing. I can help them cultivate their own, give them guidance for how to overcome their inner critic, I can talk about all the articles I read about writing and writers to people who are interested.
I am knowledgeable and there’s huge power in knowledge. It’s energizing. I got home feeling excited and light and right.
It is micro-residency. It is how I’m sure I want to be a writing teacher forever. Because to teach writing is to always have a way into that world, the world where I’m not just a loon who has a big vocabulary.
Come join the tribe. The workshops are fun and affordable.
I’m not glad Rodger is dead. I feel badly for his parents. I think the whole thing is awful and probably, in its rawest most elemental parts, not even Rodger’s fault. I feel awful that I live in a world that would foster an Elliot Rodger and his manifesto. I feel yucky that not enough people (including therapists and police) Rodger reached out to in his time of misogyny said, “Dudebro. Chill. Someday, you’ll have sex and it’ll be great. For now, concentrate on being smart and kind. Let me help you. PS, women are awesome + smart people just like you, not property, merchandize, or beasts to be tamed.”
Honest to god, I didn’t get the #YesAllWomen thing the first time I heard it. I was like, wait, what? Yes All Women What? What single experience could possibly read across cultures for all women? Clearly I was not spending (any) time on Twitter.
I began to pay attention in my own life. I wait tables for money in a brew pub. I love my job. I love people. I typically have a great time at work. But sometimes, way more often than it seems I notice, I act to protect myself. This behavior is ROTE. Most of us don’t even think about it, we just act. To be nice. To be ladylike.
Anecdote: I waited on a table of a big family. A sweet older woman grabbed my arm and read my tattoo. She looked at me quizzically. She said, “You don’t look like a feminist. You look cute.” #YesAllWomen
At the brew pub, I waited on a pair of old guys visiting from a big city. One of them, after most of their second pitcher of beer and about three hours of bossing me around (read, taking up a table through the dinner rush), told my tits that he’d treat me like a queen if I ever visited his city.
Instead of saying what I wanted to say, which is “Stuff it, Perv.” I mustered a phony laugh and a “Sure!” from my reserve of phony laughs and crazy-agreeable lady speak. Jack ass didn’t even tip 20%.
I asked myself why I did that.
I did it because of fear. Because I was scared that if I told the old guy to go fuck himself, he would wait for me and do something mean and shitty or just stalkery and frightening to me after work.
I started to pay attention to my feelings around men I don’t know all the time: when I’m running, if I’m alone somewhere, if I’m picking up my kid at school, if I’m walking across a parking lot.
I realized, unconsciously, I give all strange men, regardless of their race or age, a wide berth. Yesterday, I was at the park running and there was an old guy sunbathing with his newspaper. I was a little frightened of him because I couldn’t reckon out why the heck he would be hanging out at the park with half his clothes off, reclining like it’s his fucking living room. He coulda been the sweetest dude on the planet, but the alternative was too horrifying to attempt to find out. #YesAllWomen.
Which brings up two things. 1) my personal belief that if we are going to end sexism, racism, and all other bigotry, we must accept that we are complicit and begin to see ourselves as part of the problem (that means, stop saying, “but I’m not a racist,” because it’s just not true); then act, moving forward with empathy, with a conscious desire to change our thinking, our emotional responses, and our unconscious and intentional reactions to the subjects of our bigotry. Here’s a humbling appeal from a woman of color to us white women who do not always provide the empathy we demand. And 2) some men, those who would doubtless put themselves in the #NotAll category, do not see this problem for a number of reasons, but the two main ones are lack of empathy + lack of visibility. Here, give this a think.
Anecdote: YESTERDAY, I drove in my car past a very beautiful young woman who was wearing a pair of short black shorts and a sheer tank top with a black bra underneath. My first thought was, “she looks great, I love her outfit.” My second thought was, “But is she trying to get raped?” My third thought was “Ohmigod I can’t believe I just thought that bullshit. Followed by a long self-hating lecture I’ll spare you all from outlining how she can wear whatever she wants and she is powerful and beautiful it is not her job to act to circumvent rape and rape is not a result of women wearing awesome outfits and so on. WE ARE ALL PART OF THE PROBLEM.
And as a counterpoint to lack of empathy? Of awareness? Some men, young men even, are starting to notice and want to help to affect change. Here’s an appeal for more empathy, for all people to be feminists. Let’s all try to be more like that writer’s son. Like that writer for raising a son who can look at himself unflinchingly and honestly.
I’ve been crabby this week. Short with the people I love + generally feeling full of rage. I have these periods occasionally. Ones where, when I learn things about myself and the world around me, I am pissed off. I don’t think this huge social problem is all that’s making me grumpy: I’m at a transitional period in my life + I’m sorting through stuff in my mind that I don’t always understand until I talk it over with my therapist.
And here’s the bullshit thing about my crabbiness: I’m pretty fucking privileged. I get to feel crabby on nice furniture in a house that has plenty of space and always food in the fridge. The ridiculous and horrifying things that have happened to me at men’s hands are pretty minimal compared to what other women have experienced. I know that where I work, there are at least a dozen people who would have my back if some stalkery nonsense happened. I happen to be heterosexual and white, so I live with a nice, tall white dude which is a fine asset. I have a baller education and the freedom to get more, which is also a huge, huge privilege.
I guess the thing that makes me mad is that it matters I’m white and heterosexual. I just don’t understand why it can’t be the same for all humans, regardless. I mean, I can explain why, I can regurgitate the things I have learned (in college, not in my conservative upbringing), I can even sort of understand the fear that makes some of the bad stuff happen.
But here’s the part that I don’t get: We live in a culture where we can use a device that has enough advanced tech in it, it can tell when it’s laying on a table, in a purse, or check your pulse. It can teach you anything you can ask it about. Why the hell can’t we get our shit together to teach our children, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances that differentness is not a cause for oppression. Differentness doesn’t mean that another person’s experience is invalid. All humans have experiences that exist even if we can’t see or understand them. And differentness is a thing to be honored and experienced and edified by. All of us with the same opportunities, working together to make the world awesome? If I could snap my fingers and make one thing happen, I would eliminate hate. We would be so powerful and so. much. happier.
And I’m not the only one trying to make sense of this, weighing in on the Blogosphere. I hope I’m not the only one who’s working hard to abolish her revolting racist, sexist, classist, ageist, internal garbage with which I’ve been acculturated.
And for some vaguely related historical tidbits, read about the sadly departed Maya Angelou’s history as a sex worker and how uncomfortable book people–the people whom I would wish to be least narrow about acceptable behavior, sexuality, ideas from women–are with her stint as a prostitute. Or about how the Christians are trying to stop Harvey Milk’s Forever Stamp legacy. Because, y’know, he was gay and stuff, and as Westboro Baptist is so fond of reminding us, “God Hates Fags.”
Scream in the comments if you want. Tell me which link you liked best. Share your #YesAllWomen story. Or tell me how I can be a better ally if you are part of a group my straight, white brethren are so fond of oppressing.