It is one of the most common questions I am asked by people looking for writing advice. I understand the frustration. Before finishing Young, Sick, and Invisible, I had attempted and failed to write several different novels. I have a folder of dozens of half-written or half-outlined ideas that I still hope to revisit.
Writing YSI was a constant state of anxiety about whether it was something I could finish. Between ADHD making focus and starting difficult, and troll brain thoughts telling me I was unable to ever finish a project that wasn’t set by a teacher or a boss.
Even after I managed to finish YSI, I was convinced that it was a fluke. That telling my own story is easy in comparison to making up a story completely. I had started writing Hunting Blackbirds by this time, and still in the back of my mind were the thoughts telling me I couldn’t do it. When i wrote the final line of the first draft, it was overwhelming. I did it. I wrote a novel. Regardless of anything that happened next, I had completed a novel and no one would be able to take that away from me.
Finishing a book is hard, especially when you are dealing with mental illness and disability on top of it. Most of the advice out there for writers is mostly directed at either neurotypical people, or don’t include advice on breaking through mental barriers. I’ve been thinking for a while about all the things that helped me, with both books. What tools did I use to help with motivation, to help cope with troll brain thoughts, to help keep the writing going past the point of writer’s block and scene block? Here’s what I finally came up with, and I hope that other struggling writers out there find it useful.
Continue reading “How the Hell Did You Finish Writing a Book?”
Last April I was working hard on finishing a book I’ve been working on since about the same time the year before. Although I was already motivated by the desire to finish my manuscript, a deadline presented itself in the form of a very enticing writing contest. In order to reach my goal, several important things got put on the backburner, including time spent with my partners.
People who end up in relationships with writers soon learn what it means to be a novel widow. Sometimes when a deadline is looming, or inspiration is driving you, we writers can get a little hyper-focused on what we are doing to the exclusion of everything else.
To that effect, I wanted to offer some advice on how to survive a relationship with a writer.
Continue reading “How to Survive Dating a Writer”
In my last storytelling post, I wrote about how a lot of my paintings come with stories of their own. I usually just let it stay in my head, but I thought I might have some fun and actually tell you, dearest readers, some of the stories.
Medusa is considered a monster, she is assumed to be so ugly that just looking at her face turns you to stone. But before she was ugly, she was beautiful. She had long lustrous hair, which is why it was changed in order to punish her. Her gorgeous locks turned instead into hissing snakes. But in her metamorphosis she went from being a victim to being a being of fear. Sometimes it is in change that you find yourself. For Medusa, metamorphosis is the meaning of her life, her own change and the change she brings on others. She commemorates this with a tattoo of a flying butterfly on her shoulder.
Continue reading “What’s the Story”
A friend of mine asked me recently whether I love writing and painting equally. It’s a questions I’ve thought a lot about. I spend a lot of time on both, and they take up a fair bit of my life. Ultimately however, I know the answer. I am a writer, more than that, I am a storyteller. Painting can and is a lot of fun. It is a great way to visually represent some of the things that happen in my head, and in the last few years I’ve let myself delve into it more fully than ever before.
But even my painting relates to my storytelling. Many of my paintings are of characters that I conceptualize and then decide to paint, or scenes from paintings I am trying to work out. Even when it doesn’t relate directly to something I write, my paintings are often about telling a story or at least suggesting a story on their own.
My writing is my most effective way of storytelling since it lets me take the time to fully work out the stories and put into it everything that I’ve wanted, but ultimately, it is the storytelling that drives me.
In another place, another time, I might have been a bard – telling stories, playing music. My social justice class is bard. I think that stories can teach, they can heal, they can move you, they can inflame you and entice you.
When I think about storytelling, however, this one anecdote comes to mind.
Continue reading “Location, Location, Location”
In a dark, dark, forest stands a dark, dark, cottage. In this dark, dark, cottage is a dark, dark, hallway that leads to a dark, dark, room. In a dark, dark, corner of this dark, dark, room stands a dark, dark trunk.
As you might imagine, given where this trunk could be found, it was a magic trunk. On the surface, it looked ordinary. The kind of place where one might keep spare blankets. To all appearances it seemed like just an empty trunk, and yet, if one knew how to look and the right words to say, you would find a staircase.
And this dark, dark staircase, led to a world of magic: Czarnoksięstwo
Continue reading “Baba Yaga’s Magical School for Abandoned Girls”
Because apparently I am a masochist, in addition to doing NaNoWriMo for my cookbook that I am trying to write, I am also devoting a significant amount of energy to a story I am trying to write. For months now, I’ve been thinking that if I am going to keep talking about the importance of including disability representation in fiction like fantasy, I should do my best to put up or shut up. In truth some of the ideas I had suggested as possibilities for fun ways to include disability in an incredibly versatile genre like fantasy had inspired me. I wanted to write stories that incorporated some of these ideas.
I started with some of the short stories I had posted earlier this year.
Then this silly idea started niggling at me. I had become enamored of this concept of Baba Yaga I had and it led to this idea of “what if she ran a magical school for abandoned girls?”
Continue reading “Thinking about Writing: Internalized Ableism”
I’ve been coming up with my own recipes for a few years now. I love to play in the kitchen: from combining strange flavours, to trying to make things as much from scratch as possible, to canning my own food and making my own spices, and more.
The last few years of living in difficult financial circumstances has also meant that I have learned several tricks for as many parts of whatever ingredient I use. Thrift led to the creation of my tomato powder, which has added an entire new dimension to some of my sauces and rubs. Thrift led me to figure out how I could make three separate meals with one roast, and the prep for all three involved just one slow cooker.
All of my recipes have to work within the limits dictated by my crohn’s. Not just ingredients, but also textures and smells. The wrong combination of any of these can lead to an unpleasant day or even series of days. It can mean that my symptoms get worse.
I want to share all the things I’ve learned with other people like me. Other people with crohn’s and gut issues, other people who need to know how to make great tasting food on a limited budget, and other people who want to learn how to do some really interesting things in the kitchen.
My stretch goals also include goals that could bring me to a community center or classroom near you! You could get the chance to have me cook you dinner.
If you are able and willing to donate to help make this the best cookbook ever, please do.
If you can’t donate but want to help, help me spread the word by sharing my Indiegogo with your friends on Facebook, on twitter, on Instagram, anywhere where people might see it and want to donate to help make it happen.
As I work on expanding the diversity of my characters, one idea keeps popping out. How do I write good disabled characters? How do I create something that isn’t a stereotype or falls into a lot of the traps that most media do when depicting characters with disabilities. Even as someone with a disability myself, I struggle with not falling into the same tropes as other people.
With that in mind, I decided to try and put together a guideline of sorts on how to write disabled characters.
Don’t Make Their Super Power Negate their Disability
This is one that I see happen pretty often. A character reveals that they have a disability but it’s ok because their super-power is an enhanced version of the part of them that is “impaired”. For example, bling characters who have their super power be an enhanced version of super-sight. They can use vibrations caused by sounds, or have a connection to the earth, in some way that lets them see what others can’t. In this way their disability becomes an “asset” rather than a burden the way mainstream society expects all disability to be.
The only time the disability is otherwise mentioned is for comedic effect: when they are asked for specifics that their ‘enhanced sight’ wouldn’t let them see. This might be words on a page, pictures on a poster, etc.
The problem with this is that it creates the perception that the only way that disabled characters can be useful is if their disability is completely negated. It plays into the idea that disabled people are on their own useless and burdens.
Continue reading “How to write a disabled character.”