Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Splash Damage: A Play in Three Acts

NOT Writing About Writing now presents a medieval-themed allegory play called Splash Damage

Act One  

Scene 1

Somewhere in Cyberspace. Modern Day. Pierce and Norm are chatting.


I'm trying to come up with a joke about our current administration. Particularly the leader of the Republican party.

Well, he's put kids in cages. Memos leaked that the treatment of asylum-seekers was intentionally cruel to act as a deterrent. He has congratulated dictators, held back military aid in exchange for personal political gain, he is so insecure that he attacks his political allies who don't fellate him, sixteen-year-olds, and dead people on Twitter. He has abandoned our allies. He is behaving so exactly like Moscow would like him to that it's there's actually a pretty good case for him being a Russian asset––including doing absolutely nothing about the fact that they interfered in our elections. He obstructs congress, can't go a week without a constitutional crisis––to say nothing of just plain scandals like voicing support for dictators and ignoring journalists killed because of trade deals––, has clearly surrounded himself with criminals, and is an international embarrassment. He basically blew off the emoluments clause and any transparency around it, puts up staff in his hotel at cost like he's running a grift, is a walking ethics breach, and can't seem to cross the room without accruing some corruption charges, which isn't surprising since his understanding of the government that he runs clocks in at a bit under what an 8th-grade civics class would cover. He attacks any institution that besmirches him, no matter how integral they might be to a functional democracy. Not to mention that he hasn't fired a white supremacist on his senior staff, calls Nazis very fine people, is openly racist, misogynist (including a self-admitted sexual assaulter), and homophobic. And he's running a trade war with tariffs that Americans pay for, based on nothing but his demonstrably wrong ideas about what tariffs even are, what they do, or who pays for them, all essentially to assuage his ego about zero sum "deal making," which he is notoriously terrible at if he is not already the boss. He extrajudicially murders high-ranking foreign statespeople without a clear or present danger. He has now spent more of the taxpayer's money than the auto bailout just to keep farmers from losing everything, even though basically every mainstream economist says he's tanking the economy. If his lips are moving, he's lying. He has gutted decades worth of regulations set up to help people who don't have a billion dollars or a corporation with which to defend themselves, and he is a reprehensible character of breathless moral turpitude. He engages in outlandish nepotism, not so much draining the swamp as bringing in a giant hose and pumping the bilge directly into it. He has emboldened a new era of hate crimes, naked bigotry, and cruelty as the ends itself, all with Republican culpability. And that's before even cracking open his personal history of fraud, tax evasion, and credible rape accusations. If I believed in evil, this administration would be it.


I'm going to make fun of how he looks and suggest he has a learning disability.


Act II

Scene 1
Discord Chat Engine. Modern Day. Prudence and Pierce are chatting.


That joke was clever, Pierce, but perhaps consider that it reinforces taboo and negative stereotypes to others who share said characteristic but are not themselves terrible people like the person you are trying to laugh at–at least not BECAUSE of this characteristic. Plenty of people with bad hair do not employ white supremacists. Plenty of people with small hands are not holding up foreign aid contingent on their personal political benefit. Plenty of people who have learning disabilities do not place children in cages to try to deter those seeking asylum. Perhaps we should retire such humor in favor of better, more precise, humor that really gets at the terribleness instead of skipping past the terribleness to focus on looks or smarts. Surely accurate jokes can be equally titillating.

No, Prudence, I'm sorry. We have a moral obligation to make fun of him. And since he himself is sensitive to his looks, it must be in that way. There can be no other guiding star. Because my intentions are to harm only him, my impact will not matter. That is how life works when one is particularly odious, and truly deserves mockery. Their pain subsumes all other concerns.


Scene 1
A living room. Modern day. Mark is in the middle of the floor.

For all that he is and all that he is not, it is the characteristics he shares with me––the unalterable circumstances of my birth––that they find most disagreeable. Not the pain he inflicts or his dubious choices or his bigotry or his moral turpitude, but instead his appearance and his ability to process information. THAT is where their spurs land. That is what they find worthy of mockery. I can only conclude that who I am is worse than all these things combined, for it is the traits I share and not his willful behaviors that have become the insult.

I shall internalize this. I shall never forget the lesson I have learned this day about how much people who look and think like me are valued. And I am now in pain.


Monday, January 20, 2020

This Schedule Already Rocks my Socks!

[This got a little long for the FB post it started out as. I'm going to do some navel-gazing about my wonderful, kick-ass new schedule that I can already tell is better than sliced bread and possibly not getting charged the extra buck for guacamole at Chipotle.]

Going in two hours later each day (or an additional hour and 15 minutes on top of the late November adjustment) is going to make a big difference. For reasons I think have about 90% to do with perception, that end of the day has a very "small change, big results"/"fiddle with the knob and get a whole new dynamic" type ebb and flow about it.

I'll be able to really knock out an entire day writing before I have to get to work. If I sleep in, wake up, eat, do my morning routine (which I'll be the first to admit includes too fucking much Facebook), and then sit down to work a little late, I won't immediately have that sense of "WTF just happened? There's no time! I have to crank out some kind of puff piece if I'm going to get out of here by 1:15." Even when I **DO** have to go into work, most days I'll be done in just a couple of hours (instead of five or six) and able to come back and keep going if I wish (instead of exhausted). Plus there's plenty of time for adulting if I need an appointment or something, and not having to figure out what writing to sacrifice every time you want to have a teeth cleaning, get a skin tag looked at, or go take care of your passport is exactly the kind of thing creativity needs to flourish. Our high-octane, late-capitalism world of side hustles, constant productivity, and zero-sum time management is a near-impossible environment for creative thought, no matter how fecund the starting soil.

I also have a feeling that I WON'T do as much Facebook. At least in my experience I won't. I waste time––like really waste it––when "me time" feels like a starvation economy.  When I actually have time and I'm not worried about how much I've got to get furiously get done before I "hop in the shower at 12:30 to be on the road 1:15....", that's when I start having ideas left and right (but mostly left ones *rimshot*) and sitting down in the middle of the afternoon on a lark to just crank out two hours of fiction or something.

I also have a hard cap of 18 hours. The past few months it’s been 30 with most week’s creeping up to 35+ Twelve or more hours a week makes a huge difference. It’s like having an extra entire day.

But sitting here today, I can already tell that the biggest difference will be the three-day weekend every week. I got two days to relax and become myself again (yes, I was just coming back from a vacation, but with high-powered introverts like me, there has to be decompression after travel, no matter how relaxing the time was). Each day I wrote, (for I write every day), but without blog deadlines and productivity demands (and as I mentioned above, ironically wrote more). But then, instead of hopping right back into the grinder with a sense that I had only JUUUUUUUST gotten my various psychic needles out of the red, I get an entire extra day to focus on writing.

I know today is a bank holiday, so I'm joining many in having this three-day weekend, but getting one every week is going to help my creativity, help my quality vs. quantity, and help my output.

I took a pretty big financial chance with this schedule. An expensive month is going to see me dipping into my savings. (And so I take a crass moment to remind everyone that even a small patronage over on Patreon will help me out immensely.) However, that is actually what my 3-year-old Kickstarter is FOR––shoring up a budget shortfall and keeping me writing. I probably have too many money anxieties to sit and watch a savings account shrink month after month after month while staying zen and it was a mistake to think I could, but once in a while, I can talk myself down and put on my oxygen mask.

This will be the most writing-est schedule I've ever had. Technically, it won't be the most writing-est TIME I ever had. For 18 months in my early thirties, my then-spouse supported my quitting my day job. The only thing I had to do was about two hours of housespousery a day. And while I learned a lot and wrote a lot, I did not yet have the tools to make the most of that opportunity––both in terms of my prose skill, but mostly my discipline to stay focused on writing for hours a day.

However, I have never had a conjunction of so much time AND so much ability. If I can keep from worrying overmuch about my finances, it's going to be an explosion of creativity.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Domino Squirrels

Me: Wait, why do I have a window open to some comment about the immorality of physical violence in the formation of nation-states? Why am I reading this while I should be writing?

My brain: Because you were listening to your "Because you wanted Moana but also some other stuff."

Me: You're going to have to walk me through this one.

My brain: You were listening to Moana on a loop, but you got a little tired of it. Not so tired that you wanted to listen to other things, but tired enough that you wanted to intersperse other things into your Moana experience. But manually changing the song back and forth meant meant closing your writing tab every couple of minutes. So you turned on your soundtrack genius, and just started skipping songs you weren't into since that just takes a click. "Soundtrack" genius picks gave you Braveheart. Not the regular soundtrack, but the one with all the voice-overs called Additional Music From Braveheart which you bought because you're a big nerd who loves that soundtrack. You started reciting, along with the song, the last line to yourself in your best Mel Gibson-being-Scottish accent. ("They fought like warrior poets.") You wondered what really happened at Bannockburn since "historians from England will say Robert the Bruce's voice over was 'a liar'," Googled it, read up on the Wikipedia––WAY different––and like a COUPLE other things, and then found, on only the second or third page of results, an interactive map, and somewhere between "can't look away," "distracted by other people's emotions," and this idea that as a writer you have to occasionally "experience the malevolent aspects of the human condition," you scrolled down to the comments, which––being internet comments––did not stay on the subject of Bannockburn, but became a shoehorn for some white dude's freshman political philosophy ramblings.....

....all while you should have been writing.

Me: I miss our ADD meds.

My brain: I miss them too, brah. I miss them too.