Inner Critic Investigation, Day 3

Gearing up for a marathon investigation session. Much coffee will be drunk and many fists shaken at uncooperative interrogatees. (It’s a lot of work when you have to be good and bad cop at the same time.)

Archive and background:
Day 1. What’s your story?
Day 2. What are you trying to protect me from?

Day 3. What do you treasure?

Validation. Validation. VALIDATION.

Any external system of coordinates to let us know we did good, more importantly, let us know that we did RIGHT.

Grades, bonuses, awards, positive feedback, anything that gives value to your work outside of what you think, because you could be wrong. You probably are, because no-one taught you how to write, you just picked up a pen and figured stuff out on your own, came up with answers without an answer key at the back of the book, with no teacher to tell you you’re on the right track.

You know, that’s why I’m not letting you read most writing advice, or take courses. Those people sound so confident about what they do, they obviously know what they’re talking about. They must be right.

What happens if these confident, RIGHT people tell you you’ve been writing wrong this entire time???

Well, there’s that. I’ll just add that for a few years the blanket ban on writing advice and/or courses also extended to most new books. In my teenage years, I was an utter bookworm, then during the more busy and stressful years I’d mostly recycle old stories, and when I started writing seriously, I could barely read anything except Terry Pratchett. I’m still in the process of reclaiming reading for pleasure. Note to self: it would be interesting to explore my relationship with reading during one of the beats.

Inner Critic Investigation: Day 2

Catching up on Inner Critic Investigation, as I had to take some time for myself yesterday (and I’m trying not to get an earful from said critic for that, now).

Brief project summary: ask a question of your inner critic, write down everything they have to say, but only for six minutes. For question prompts, see Lucy Bellwood’s Patreon and Insta.

Day 1. What’s your story?

Day 2. What are you trying to protect me from?

That’s an easy one, honey: failure. You know you can’t handle failure and rejection.

You still remember that C you undeservedly got on a uni paper, even though you’ve no idea anymore what course that even was. You remember the mean things that guy in your year said about your PowerPoint on baby seals.

Oh, and how about that job interview, where you breezed through stages 1 and 2, only to absolutely crash and burn on the 3rd one? Sure, you got the job in the end and aced it, but if you’re honest with yourself, which memory is more vivid: the two successful years on the job, or the interview fail?

And while we’re on the subject, need I remind you that you’ve never landed a job from a cold application? You’ve always come recommended by someone, you can’t market yourself on your own. You even had an in for your current gig, because your best friend worked on the guy’s project first.

Okay, so some of this is reaching, but I won’t deny that I royally suck at handling rejection. But hey, critic lady, I’m way ahead of you. My main objective for next year is the 100 Rejection Letters project. In addition to having a novel to send out to publishers, I’ll be pestering soooo many people for guest-blogging, I’ll rack up those rejections in no time.

Inner Critic Investigation: Day 1

Inspired by Lucy Bellwood (though let’s face it, I’m frequently inspired by her), I launched headfirst into a week of Inner Critic Investigation. If you want to join in, check out this Patreon post or her instagram.

For those who don’t have time to click the links, the project goes like this: you’re given a question as a prompt, you post it yo your inner critic, then you set a timer to six minutes and write everything they have to say.

There’s no obligation on making this a public exercise, but I decided to try, mainly because of it being Lucy who inspired it. She’s the creator of 100 Demon Dialogues, an exploration of internal critics that is heartfelt, frequently humorous, and radically honest.

So, here is my inner critic’s answer from today. Published unabridged, with mild reshuffling of paragraphs for better sense-making.

Day 1. What’s Your Story?

My story is that of fear of being a disappointment to our family, knowing that mom and grandpa will never be proud of us if we don’t make a lot of money.

I want to be successful because that’s the only way for me to feel valid. I’ve never been taught any other measure of worth. So I beat you up for not being accomplished yet, not doing things fast enough, for not being as good as professional writers, or worse, for being better than writers who got published, because how come they could do it, and you couldn’t?

I’m scared that our writing career will amount to nothing, and therefore, we will have lived a life without “making a career.”

I’m the you who wanted to make a difference in the world, or at least in someone’s world, through your art, and knows that you still haven’t made any.

I’m the dream you who, when faced to choose between music and writing, had pursued music instead, and made a successful career out of it.

My brief impression of this first brush with my inner critic? Holy flying guacamole, THE PRESSURE. I want to give the poor thing a cup of tea with about 50% rum in it, wrap her in a blanket and let her sleep for a week.

(Full disclosure, I also maybe want to drown her in a pond because the bit about music, that was a low blow like whoa.)

Kinda scared of what day 2 will bring. But we’ll see.

#52Beats. Beat Four: Hooked into Machine. Reflections on Work, Life, and Rhythm (part 1)

By Way of Introduction

On the Sunday night, I struggled with the idea of going to sleep and letting the week end without a blog post. “Only four weeks in, and you’re already lagging behind,” booed my inner critic. My response to it was that these posts are supposed to be a time for reflection, not something I hastily hobble together for the sake of regularity. And last week, truthfully, I didn’t manage to take a beat.

I did a lot of editing of my novel, finally getting into the swing of it and not petrified by the fear of ‘ruining’ my allegedly perfect manuscript. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t perfect before editing, and it sure as hell isn’t going to be that, after. But it is going to be one I like more, now that I bring two more years of writing and storytelling experience to the table.)

I also did an unprecedented thing of taking an entire weekend (!) away from both art and paid work. As a result, I was able to finally organize my clothes for the first time since the house move (now I get to actually choose an outfit instead of wearing the first three things I pick off the floor!); put together an impassioned residency application for the Home Office, complete with a hefty document package; and spend a lot of time with my husband in-between those projects.

When I finally sat down to write this belated beat on Monday night, the post quickly ballooned to a sizeable length. My original intention to talk about rhythms on the scale from hourly to yearly has spawned several necessary stories from my personal history. Thus came the decision to split the post into two logical halves. Address my past practices in the first one, and current ones in the second.

Here goes.

Hooked Into Machine: Reflections on Work, Life, and Rhythm – Part 1

I have a real soft spot for Tony Stark (as pictured in the MCU). In addition to the knee-bucking combination of charm and vulnerability that Robert Downey Jr. brings to the role, Tony’s is a story of continuous conflict between humanity and machinery. We see the “genius billionaire playboy philanthropist” move from being metaphorically stuck in the machine that is the military-industrial complex, to literal dependence on machinery for his survival. We see his definition of the self evolve from “I am Iron Man; the suit and I are one” to “You can take away my tricks and toys, but one thing you can’t take away: I am Iron Man.”

One last thing I’ll do before this becomes an essay devoted entirely to Tony, is leave this video here. I think it’s an amazing exploration of Tony’s character and the transhumanism implications of his story arc.

An important question that my therapist had taught me to ask is: why? So I asked myself why do I have such a soft spot for Tony? The answer is probably manifold, but one aspect of it is: for most of my life, I’ve had a habit of treating my entire being as a machine.

When hearing about someone who “is like a machine,” you probably imagine a high-powered triathloning CEO, not a freelance size 24 who came fourth-last in the one 5k she ran. However, I define one’s machine-ness not by societal standards, but by two things:  fitness for purpose and consistent output. With the benefit of hindsight, I should also point out that most machines have a limited useful life.

Fitness for purpose

While I have never been fit in the conventional sense, I’ve always been extremely fit for each of my purposes at any given time. Continue reading

2017 Readathon: The Wrap Up

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

To be perfectly honest, I got a night’s sleep in the middle of the ‘thon, so it was all smooth sailing.

2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read!

Here are the books and my brief reviews thereof:

Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Penny Blackfeather by Francesca Dare

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye (vol. 1) by Gerard Way and Jon Rivera


3. Which books would you recommend to other Read-a-thoners?

If you like weird comics about underground civilizations and Lovecraftian cults: Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye
If you like novels about hackers, and value intricate plots over deep dives into character: Zer0es
If you like fantasy comics with female leads and sassy parrots: Penny Blackfeather

Feels bad that Dexter is the only one left out of this list, but I honestly liked the TV show better. Sorry, Dex, please don’t stab me.

4. What’s a really rad thing we could do during the next Read-a-thon that would make you smile?

Run the cheerleading mini-challenge during the entire readathon. I know that there were no official cheerleaders this year due to the massive number of readers, but I really enjoyed being a volunteer one!

5. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Would you be interested in volunteering to help organize and prep?

Yes, and yes. Already signed up in the volunteer form. =]