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  • Writers, Writing, and Fetishizing the Process

    I am still–and continually–reading Page Fright, which means I have become more obsessed with the process of writing than usual. It also makes me think of how both writers and non-writers fetishize the process, giving birth to the idea that ‘real writers’ write longhand, or only use typewriters; that ‘real writers’ must have certain conditions met–perfect silence, a particular type of paper, a certain brand of pen or colour of ink. It can lead many budding or potential writers to believe that unless they also adhere to these ideas, they cannot possibly write and will never be ‘real’ writers.

    Yet this fetishizing of the process comes with a grain of truth.

    I’m leery of the idea that a ‘real’ writer must do anything but write, but I also recognize that I have my own process that I find difficult to deviate from. When I write by hand, I could use a ballpoint pen if that’s all that’s available, but I vastly prefer my Sharpie pens because I like felt tip pens and Sharpie has everything I want in a felt tip. I can write in a typical word processor–OpenOffice, say–but I’m only truly comfortable with a Scrivener project where everything is set just so.

    I have my preferred formatting (Times New Roman, 12pt, 1.5x line spacing when drafting; Andalus, 12pt, 1.5x line spacing, printed with a 2″ right margin for editing and rewriting) and my preferred setting (on the bus or train; in a coffee or tea shop, or in a diner; at the front desk at the motel where I work; and always within speaking, texting, or tweeting distance of fellow writers). My Moleskine notebook–where all manner of notes both writerly and practical are written–must be black, and so must the Sharpie pen I write in it with. I edit in green Sharpie pen, and my critique partners get their critiques written in purple and orange Sharpie pen, respectively.

    I have these rituals which surround my writing, but they have all developed as the result of squeezing the most writing time possible out of a very busy schedule. I write longhand at work because it is more practical and edit longhand because it gives me a fresh look at my work; I write and rewrite in Scrivener because the labels and folders help me keep track of where I am in my writing or revisions. I save and compile redundant copies all over the place because I don’t ever want to lose the work I’ve done. Everything I’ve incorporated into my writing process is there for a purpose.

    And that is the most important consideration for any part of the writing process. Writers write; how we accomplish that must be there to help us continue writing, not tie us to conditions we won’t always have the luxury of meeting. So whether you write longhand or exclusively with a computer, and whether you use fountain, felt tip, or ballpoint pens, find a process that works for you and keep on writing.

     

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  • One Of Those Full Moons

    Every once in a while, I just feel this need to stay up all the night whatever the consequence for the next day. It’s like a reset or an emotional cleanse where I can work out all the less lucid energy that seems to build up in the mean time. Mostly, this ‘reset’ happens on a full moon, or at least within a day of it.

    This is one of those full moons.

    It starts with a restlessness, and a sense of being dog-tired while at the same time feeling no desire whatsoever to actually go to bed and sleep. There’s a feeling that there are things to do, and they must be done now.

    Things like critiques for my critique group, A Bitch Of Writers, or writing that short story or sermon. Things like reading this book, or that one, or doing a bit of laundry if only there weren’t someone trying to sleep upstairs. Things like setting up the bookshelf, though I’d want to rearrange the whole living room first and there’s so much that needs tidying… I’m sure you get the picture.

    And so I’m here with a pot of oatmeal before me, Earl Grey tea at my elbow, and The Cars playing on YouTube because that’s apparently ‘Just What I Needed’. With any luck, I’ll be able to make this productive insomnia.

    Does this ever happen to you? Do you ever fight it and try to sleep, or just go with it?



  • Trans, ADHD, And Accessing Employment Services

    Well. That was an interesting day. The kind of day that really drives home why I was so reluctant to apply for any kind of assistance before now. Unfortunately, I need some kind of gainful employment, or the next best thing, and doing it on my own hasn’t been working. So.

    Off I go to the Alberta Employment and Immigration office. I don’t know exactly what I need, except that I need help. I’d gotten a form to fill out when I was there Friday, but other than that and a handful of mostly contradictory ID, I’m unprepared. I think I know what I want to say, but most of what I say comes out of my mouth too fast and in the wrong order. I’m easily confused, and I’m not sure I know what’s going on. But I concentrate, and read things over twice, three times if I need to. Remember, breathe.

    One of the things I’m applying for is Income Support. Since it’s a provincial service, I happily fill everything out as Eric, confident that this is, in fact, my legal name. There’s a certificate to prove it and everything! Then the worker tells me that they need to know it I qualify for Employment Insurance before we can go ahead with the IS application. I just have to go across the hall to Service Canada and ask. Easy, right?

    Well, this is where being trans intersects with being ADHD to great effect. Remember how I was filling everything out as Eric? Well, that all well and good for provincial stuff, but as far as the federal level is concerned, my old identity is still in effect. I don’t even want to know how this will affect my applications across the hall; it’s bad enough typing in the name still attached to my Social Insurance Number. Worst part? I’m still too agitated and confused to properly explain to the lady helping me (read: practically filling out the form for me) what my problem is, and most of my corroborating ID is back across the hall. At this point, I can only hope that the information I provided is someone’s version of correct and that I won’t be locked up for fraud.  I’m probably overreacting, but I can’t help it.

    Back across the hall in Alberta, I have a slightly easier time explaining myself. She gives not only gives me information for employment services I can use, but also legal guidance so I can get some advice on this whole identity thing. By now I have all my forms and whatnot together to take to the third floor where the actual application process happens. Ok. After a quick detour to the coffee shop on the corner for a desperately needed Earl Grey, I’m upstairs, ready to fill everything in and get this process started.

    Well, not quite. I’m still missing my banking information.

    A trip home to grab a blank cheque and print up some bank statements, and a second Earl Grey later, I’m back up on the third floor. I have succeeded in replacing ‘agitated’ with ‘stoned,’ but at least I have all my information together. I go through the line, hand in my forms, and wait to be called up. With all this running around trying to get some kind of employment support, sitting in the waiting room of Alberta Works is when I get a call for a job interview.

    Of course.

    I still don’t know what’s going on, but I think it’s getting better, yeah?



  • April 2011 Read-A-Thon Progress Blog

    6 AM

    *Stumbles blearily out of bed*

    …And a good morning to you too! I’m up, I’m packed, I’m ready to go. On today’s menu is everything from graphic novels to scripture, with stops at fantasy novels and historical essays along the way. Mixed metaphors aside, I’m off like a herd of turtles.

    7:15 AM

    What an adventure! Both in the book and out of it. It’s been a while since I’ve read while walking… good times. En route I read Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan on my phone. Excellent thing about having Kindle on my phone: I can hold it in one hand and turn the pages with my nose.

    8 AM

    Right. Now that I have some tea in me, time for a proper update, yes?

    I made it to Krissa and Blair’s place easy enough. I must have been quite a sight on the bus in my pyjamas and housecoat, lugging books and soup. All the while I was, sometimes literally, nose-deep in Leviathan. I am loving this book! Seriously. Deryn is my favourite, but I really like Alek, too. And the lady boffin, Dr. Barlow. So much fun!

    Now the question is, do I continue with Leviathan or move on to research? Or our latest book club book, The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen? Time will tell.

    9 AM

    So, I kept on with Leviathan after all. Too bloody good to put down! Short update this time, as I’m anxious to get back to it.

    10 AM

    At 68%, I decided to drag myself away from Leviathan for a spot of editing. Editing is reading, so it counts! And it’ll ease me into me real purpose for today, which is research. I brought a lot of books with me, and I don’t want that to be for naught!

    So now I’m fixing the head-hopping POV in the early parts. I hadn’t thought this was a problem for me, but apparently it was.

    11 AM

    All kinds of excitement! We got food, Danni’s here, and all is awesome! I was a little distracted from my reading/editing by a phone call to confirm a meeting time… we both had different ideas of what day I was to show up, so it’s a good thing we got that sorted. Anyway, back to it!

    Noon

    Ok, I lied about jumping into research after editing. I picked up The Surgeon instead, and holy crap! Love the prologue. First chapter? Awesome. Now go away so I can get back to reading it! ;)

    1 PM

    People (Danni) were distracting me from reading The Surgeon, so I switched to research. How does that work? Either way, I’m now reading The Emperor Constantine by Michael Grant. The fact that the author’s first name is the same as my MC’s has nothing to do with the book selection, of course >.>

    Also, Blair apparently has the Force. At least insofar as getting someone to pass him the chip bowl while he’s covered in dogs.

    2 PM

    I’m running into a slight snag with my research. Reading about Constantine in preparation for my Medieval reading works better when the book I chose doesn’t assume I have a background in Roman and Christian history that I don’t have.

    …I think that last sentence was coherent, but I’m really not sure right now. Perhaps book choice is not my only problem with doing research right now. I’m contemplating lightening things up with a graphic novel. Would John Constantine: Hellblazer be too silly a choice?

    3 PM

    I’m remembering now that the first story in this volume wasn’t perhaps my favourite. Still, John Constantine is hurting my brain less than the Emperor Constantine. I’ve been more easily distracted from my reading lately; hopefully this next hour will be more productive, if that’s a word that can be applied to reading comics.

    4 PM

    Late lunch/early supper break. We had the chicken carcass soup I brought to share with folks here, along with the bread I made earlier. Very yummy, if I do say so myself. And now, cookies!

    As far as the reading goes, I did get a more of Constantine read, before getting pulled away for cooking-type duties. Still love this guy. Getting a craving to read his storyline in Sandman, but I left those ones at home (alas!)

    5:15 PM

    Yeah, my hourly update’s a little late, but I wanted to get that chapter of Constantine finished. That bloke’s right messed, but I love it. Definitely not to be confused with the Emperor, though.

    Feeling sleepy. For some reason this inspire me to edit my own stuff again. Apparently for me, editing and fatigue go well together; this won’t be the first time I edit tired. May get some more tea in a bit.

    6 PM

    Bloody hell, is it update time again already? Just as I was getting into the swing of things, too. Chapter 2 is now starting mid-way through what was originally Chapter 2, before I cut the beginning and turned it into Chapter 1. See, this is why I’m using Scrivener and not numbering my chapters until the end!

    In other news, Danni is making the rest of us look bad by having already read an entire book since she got here, and she’s not even officially participating, besides.

    7 PM

    Still editing. Only have a few kinks to work out of the early bit; I’m impressed! Well, only a few that I know of so far. Who knows what will happen in later passes.

    Contemplating switching to Agatha H and the Airship City by Phil & Kaja Foglio, even if only to justify having talked like a Jägermonster most of today. My condition will probably worsen from this, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

    8 PM

    No Jägermonsters in this chapter. I’m disappointed.

    In other news, I’m apparently doing one of these Read-A-Thon challenges, making a sentence out of book titles. And so I give you The Devil’s Hatband Sparkles Hotter Than Hell. Enjoy!

    9 PM

    What coherency and/or sanity I may have had has gone out the window. It’s entirely possible I was singing Yellow Submarine to myself with a Jägermonster accent. And now I’m giggling over the three tenses of ‘having’ in a row there.

    That my brain cannot grasp the subtleties of prose in a steampunk adventure novel worries me. I’m going back to comics for a while…

    10 PM

    John Constantine’s got my head back on track. Reading The Surgeon again. Back later.

    11 PM

    As I just said on Twitter, editing is reading, damn it!

    Ahem. Anyway. So I was reading The Surgeon, and it made me want to write. So I did some editing, and found that my character’s Spock phase started earlier that I remembered. You know, that one where they all express emotions by raising their eyebrows? Yeah, that one.

    Midnight

    I missed watching the date tic over on my watch. Disappointing. In about an hour it’ll start telling me it’s ‘Samedi’ until about ten to three, when it will admit that it’s Sunday.

    In other news, The Surgeon is still being awesome. I like that. Still wanting to intersperse said reading with editing, but doubting the wisdom of that. Either way, good times!

    1 AM

    After a certain amount of arguing to no one in particular that editing is reading, and getting distracted by Twitter, I got back to reading my comics. Getting back to reading them again. Yay, Constantine! :D

    2 AM

    Still alive, and still reading! Yes, more Constantine. Rereading this, I’m noticing shards of the story that have burrowed through my brain and into my own book in new and dazzling forms. Brilliant is what it is.

    It’s just Blair and I left now. Everything’s quiet, peaceful. Just reading.

    3 AM

    You can always tell when Todd Klein’s the letterer. Beautiful work. The fact that I set out to do a whole lot of research during this thing but instead spent a good deal of time reading comics amuses me more than anything, really. Nothing wrong with that of course; I read quality comics.

    Watched my watch tic over to Sunday. It occurs to me that I am way too aware of the precise moments when the day and date change on my watch. It looks like I’m the last man standing here. Even the dogs are sleeping.

    4 AM

    Hullo! Other people are awake again. Got a bit more Constantine in, of course, and some more editing (which is totally reading!) but had to stop when I ran up against some potential POV issues that I don’t think I can wrangle just now. Returning to The Surgeon, because writing and writing-related activities always make me want to read something awesome.

    5 AM

    There was going to be something terribly interesting that I was planning to write for this post, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.

    Quite frankly, I’m surprised it took me this long to get to this point.

    Long story short, yes, I’m still awake. Reading… has been happening to some extent.

    6 AM

    Oh! Now I remember what I was going to say at 5 AM! I find it interesting that part way through I  switched from ‘graphic novels’ to ‘comics’. Still not 100% on the difference, but that doesn’t keep me from reading them!

    Ending things today with a bit from Ezekiel. And really, outside of Twitter, that’s the only thing I’ve read for this past hour. This has been a wonderful and surreal time, folks! After this, I’m off to sing hymns.

    Seriously. I’m in the choir.



  • 24-Hour Read-A-Thon Pre-Blog

    So, starting at 6am tomorrow (my 6am–your time zone may vary,) this blog is going to start getting weird. All right, weirder than usual. Let’s face it, I’m always weird. Tomorrow, I’ll be participating in the April 2011 Dewey’s Read-A-Thon, where I will stay up for 24 hours and read. That’s it. Read. And then blog about it.

    When I first heard about the Read-A-Thon, I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it. Did I really have time to spend the entirety of a Saturday reading, when I could be writing or working on other things? Then I went to the library and picked up a big stack of books for research. I looked at the books, at how much reading that would be and thought, What the hell. Bring on the Read-A-Thon!

    So the plan it this: at 6am I will get up and begin with what will no doubt be a delightful and cheery good morning post. I will then update that same blog post for hourly reports, unless I pass out at some point, so you will get to learn all about the Crusades and early Christian history, and whatever else I read to give my brain a bit of a break.

    I will also be spending a significant part of the day at my friend Krissa’s place, reading with her and the rest of our triumvirate of four. This will give me a chance to exercise my skills of reading while walking, since I refuse to leave the house before 6am. And yes, I will be doing this in my pyjamas. There will be soup. And munchies. And lots and lots of Earl Grey tea.

    So join me tomorrow in my reading adventure, as I no doubt dissolve into an incoherency rivalling that of Charlie Sheen. Tomorrow, reading becomes a spectator’s sport.



  • Self-Medicating with Earl Grey Tea

    Let me just start by saying that I am not a doctor, and that really, I can only speak from my own experience here. Please don’t take my word as gospel, but if you do, I’m not responsible for the consequences, m’kay? That said, I have heard on several occasions and from multiple sources that I cannot for the life of me remember let alone cite that the stimulant caffeine can help focus the AD/HD mind.

    Hmm? Oh yes, this does make for two AD/HD post in a row, thanks for noticing. But on to the story, and eventually the point of it all.

    So today I was hanging out with my writing triumvirate consisting of four people (we’re like a Douglas Adams trilogy like that, only not really.) We had some good times, attacked Twitter together, and even managed to do some actual writing, but there was a certain lack of sleep on several fronts, and candy. I was already trying to pay attention to a million things all at once when we decided to take a trip to Staples. Let’s review: lack of sleep, sugar, over-stimulation, an office supply store, and AD/HD.

    I. Touched. Everything.

    I barely had time to register one object before my attention was captured by another one. I picked things up and read the product description from the one that was still on the shelf. I had to reassure my friend that I did hear what she’d said, I was paying attention after a fashion, and that if things work out that way, yes, I would love to.

    I was driving myself nuts.

    When we returned, I promptly, after much running around in and out of the kitchen, made myself a cup of Tea, Earl Grey, Hot. The effects of my regular meds had clearly worn off or been overridden; the sweet, steeped drug was my last hope of, well, functioning.

    And yes, it had to be the tea. I don’t know why this should be, but I’ve discovered time and time again that coffee will turn me into an over-stimulated two year old. Not at the hyper stage (I was already there,) but at the over-tired and miserable stage. A nice, strong, black tea on the other hand will focus me. It will also make me feel more than a little stoned, but hey, self-medicating isn’t an exact science.

    The point of it all is, it worked. I dialled it down to regular-person hyper as opposed to AD/HD-hyper, and I could focus long enough to read a tweet, at the very least. Yes, I did indulge in a mild outburst over my dislike of forms (trust me, that was mild; it still had an edge of humour to it,) but over all I was fit for human company, even if I still couldn’t be trusted in polite company.

    The down side to all of this is, of course, that having caffeine so late at night means I probably won’t be sleeping very well. Which is why when I got home, I made myself a fresh pot of, you guessed it, Earl Grey tea.