You are not very special.

What? Posting in a timely manner? Can’t be Hornet!

On a boring note, before I do real blogging- I tried to add an “About” page so that people can know what this blog is. But it’s not showing up for me. I don’t know if this is ’cause I have the fancy admin view or if I screwed up somehow. Can you guys tell me if you see it?

 

Now, let’s look at that title again. You are not very special. Please don’t run away yet. I promise I’m not out to hurt your feelings. I actually put a lot of time and effort into saving people’s feelings, so if you run away I’ll be really sad. Just hear me out.

You’re not very special. Let’s dissect that. There are seven billion people on this planet, and if you died tonight, the vast, vast majority of them wouldn’t know, care, or be influenced in any way by this. (But I would be. So please don’t die. It would make me very sad.) There are so many people out there with the same dreams and goals as you. A lot of them are better at it than you. It’s unlikely that you’re going to influence the world in any measurable way.

Are you running away yet? Have I driven anyone to curl up in their closets and cry? I really hope not. I really, really hope not. ’cause the next part’s better, I promise.

See, here’s the thing. What I have to learn how to do, and what I hope you learn to do, is to understand that just because you’re not special doesn’t mean you can’t live a meaningful, wonderful life filled with intelligent people who love and care about you.

As a writer, this is something I’ve struggled with a lot. While I was growing up what I always said was that I loved writing, but I would never try to be an author when I grew up, because so many people also wanted to be a writer, and there was no way I could ever be better than them, so I wouldn’t even try.

The part I disregarded was that writing meant, and still means, the world to me. Why did I disregard that? Why is it that I somehow came to the conclusion, when I was ten years old, that not being the most super-special-amazing at something somehow negated the pleasure I got from it in the first place?

I still think being an author is kind of a silly dream, I’m still anxiously aware of all of the competition in the field, and I still find writing to be one of the few things in the world I can I say I truly love.

I’m trying to change what I desire. Not to hope to be special to the rest of the world, all six billion nine hundred ninety-nine million nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine (crap, all those words look really weird to me now), but to be special to me. To be the best writer I can be, even if that’s not the best writer in the world. To change the course of my own life, and people whose lives I touch, for the better, even if I can’t change the world.

I talk to so many writers, often young teenagers, and I seem to see two categories. One I feel patronizingly sorry for: they’re the people who’re still in the writing honeymoon. “Oh, man, Joe Schmoe is this really awesome character- he’s just so clever, and witty, and he has this tall dark and handsome thing going on…” People drooling over their characters and stories like they’re just the cat’s pajamas. They’re the first person to ever make snarky sexy, they’re full of ideas, and they’re going to be the next J. K. Rowling. And then the other group: “i worked on my novel today. god it was terrible. but it’s not like it matters because i’m no going to get published or anything. lolnope. it sucks waaaaay too much for that.” These people are wallowing. As a frequent wallower, I can say it. They’re using the lack of specialness as an excuse.

Guess what? Some of them might grow out of it (I’m pretty sure all writers get into these moods… right guys? I’m not the only one?) and get published. But no one is going to have a successful career with those attitudes. Either one.

Here’s the thing: you are not very special. Get over it. Accept it and move on. Because you’re always going to be playing second fiddle to someone, that’s how the world works. So make sure you’re doing something you love, because that’s how you stay happy.

Here’s Grateful Dead song that I listen to when I’m overwhelmed by my not-specialness or beating myself up for feeling too special.

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On feeling stuff.

So here’s a wacky twist called I haven’t updated my blog recently. Those of you who followed my old blog will not find this very surprising.  I always feel like I should offer up an apology about this, but then I remember that if you’re so invested in my blog that you are personally offended when I don’t post for a couple weeks, I should probably stop posting forever so that you can move on with you life.

Anyways, my posting schedule, if anyone is interested, goes something like this:

Step 1: Write a blog post, and swear to write one next week.

Step 2: Play LOTRO as a reward for great posting.

Step 3: Come up with a great post idea within the next few days.

Step 4: Think to yourself, “Now that I’ve got a post idea, writing the thing will be a snap- I can take a couple days off.”

Step 5: Play LOTRO smugly.

Step 6: Forget great post idea.

Step 7: Forget about blog.

Step 8: Play LOTRO in shame.

Step 9: Write a post in a fit of self-loathing, but remember that luckily it’s been long enough that everyone’s forgotten about your blog, so there’s no one to disappoint.

I think it was a mistake to decide to have MMORPGs play a bit part in my new novel, because now I can play video games and it’s not procrastination, it’s research. I’m on the Landroval server. You guys should become my friends.

But anyways, I have real things to talk about. You know how a few paragraphs ago I joked about shame and self-loathing? Not actually a joke. Actually, they’re emotions that people (me included) feel quite a lot, and they’re hurtful and sucky and generally involved in a vicious cycle involving more self-loathing and shame. This isn’t a touchy-feely post about this, though. I don’t want to hear all your personal stories in the comments (mostly because then I feel self-loathing and shame for not being able to solve all of your problems. I love you!). But rather, I’m really interested in what role art plays in this whole cycle.

I think pretty much everyone knows that art is often used as a way of dealing with feelings, be they good or bad (as much as those labels can be applied to feelings- my DBT teacher is frowned at me in my head). Positive or negative, let’s say. I’m going to use music as my go-to example here because I think it’s the relateble to most people, but I don’t want to disregard any other art style. They’re awesome too!

So you’re sad. You’ve have the worst day ever and all these terrible thoughts are running through your head so you go running to your iPod and put on your playlist of sad songs. And you feel less alone through this, and you feel like someone understands, and as the narrator of the song goes through this emotional journey so do you, and it finished in the three minutes.

Or. You’re sad. This day is awful and every bad thing you could do to yourself is running through your head and you put on your iPod to listen to your playlist of depressing music and every time you hear that lyric about everything you be worthless all you can think is “Yeah, that’s so right, absolutely, I’m never going to see things differently.”

Do you see the point I’m trying to make here? Just because art is dealing with emotions doesn’t make it good. The impact it has can be extremely harmful. I know from my own experiences how much I’ve fed my own depression by only gravitating towards depressing media, and keeping myself in that sphere. And others have had this experience too. When you’re having emotions, you usually want them to validated- be told that yes, you have a right to feel this way, you aren’t crazy or delusional or making this up, this artist who you look up to (I hope you look up to them if you’re giving them your money) has felt the same way. Sometimes this is what you need. If I’m feeling really sad, I don’t want to go listen to some song about how the world is awesome and sad people have to just stop moping. That’s really patronizing, not really that convincing in making me feel better, and doesn’t take into account the full complexities of life. But my point still stands. Because those songs saying that everything is unfair and pain and darkness? Also not taking into account the amazing vastness of this world we live in, which can be unfair and also super beautiful. And full of emotions like shame an self-loathing that will feel themselves and pull you back into them if you don’t watch out.

So this is already complicated enough as the consumer of the art. But this isn’t the only picture I have to consider, because my goal is to be the creator of the art. A novel might not be able to have as immediate an impact as music (thank god I can’t actually sing or play an instrument, or else I would never be able to get out of bed for fear of making other people have feelings), but it still plays into the same story. Only, the artist sees things differently.

If I’m feeling like all of my emotions are a boil of hate and bad (which, let’s be honest, I feel like frequently- I am a teenager) I don’t want to write about how the world is full of kittens. Here’s the thing about creating art: one of the most fulfilling things I can do is to make it. When I look back at a page I’ve written, no matter how much I hate the actual writing on it, I feel this immense sense of pride- not the petty I’m-so-cool pride of someone who loves everything about themselves, but just this deep satisfaction that I’ve made something where there was nothing before. That I have taken all these painful and ugly feelings and shaped them- it makes me feel like I’m in control. Like I mold my emotions, they don’t mold me.

So when I feel terrible, I want to turn to art. To take the bad things and make them into something outside of me- a piece of art is an external work, not an internal thought-battle. This is awesome. This is why I recommend art to anyone who’s ever been upset ever.

But then, because I know the first part of the equation, I am so freaked out. Because what if, by what I write, I’m pulling people back into their own bad feelings? What if I’m encouraging people to be full of self-loathing and shame? What if I’m the song that you listen to when you don’t want to feel better, you just want to feel angry?

This is something I can’t handle. This act of creating is extremely important to me. And yeah, I want to be able to publish. But who am I to say that my own self-validation is more important than the well-being of everyone who reads what I’ve written?

And yes, I fully recognize how weird it is that I’m posting about this fear on a public blog. But I’m not actually talking about my own negative feelings, just about the art implications, okay? (Don’t scroll down. There’s an angsty-poem post right beneath this.)

Maybe I’ll just go play some LOTRO. I’ve found that extreme anxiety is actually a really good state of mind to be in when killing orcs.

Anyways, to make up for the self-doubt, here‘s my favorite empowerment anthem. For geeks.

A poem.

Today has not been a very good day. It happens. I’ll get over it.

But you know what makes me sad? I was like, okay, I’ll deal with these bad feelings by writing something and translating hard-to-handle emotions into art, that’s what life is for, right? But then I couldn’t really bring myself to do it in a journal because our culture always needs PUBLIC APPROVAL. And so I’m writing a poem for my blog now. Since this is a personal blog, I won’t beat myself up too much for being an attention-seeker, but still. A little bit weird, honestly.

 

don’t tell me that i’m going to be beautiful

When I Grow Up, that i

am something that could be saved, a treasure

cast me into amber and let me sleep for a thousand years and over my grave

the roses twine their thorns and i recognize forgiveness

but not this memory. don’t tell me what i deserve

because When I Grow Up tell me that i deserved it more

than i did before. tell me that i’m something special, i dare you

because i will follow this twisting pathway inside and wonder

am i following the threads of death or remembrance and which can i survive

and which can i consider, when the tally marks begin to weigh me down? beauty

has always been something i covet, and sometime i ache for, sublime

in the way our cravings define ourselves, in the way that i

have never grown sick of those words even as they poison me

i saw you were hurting and i walked away

turned my face to the sunset and do not forgive me

i bleed like a wound, leech me, befoul me, let me drain

and become empty again, dear god do not let me fester

but i miss you, and i wanted you to live

that’s something that is too hard to remember.

am i alone? now with your ghost.

i wish that we could be together, when i am

All Grown Up and ugly.

 

You can tell it’s quality poetry because it’s all in lower-case.

Here, have some impossibly beautiful music by the Wailin Jennys.

Wanting to be rescued.

Fair warning: I’m sick right now, and currently powered only by my hot water bottle and flat ginger ale. So this post is not very well thought-out, pretty rambly, and also all pretentious and touchy-feely. So let’s not take this as a shining example of my writing, yeah?

 

So here’s something that’s been weighing on my mind for a couple of years now.

Those of you who’ve known me for a while might know that I went through some pretty nasty stuff about two years ago. And I’m doing better, that’s the thing that I’m trying to take away from all of it. I’ve taking a lot of steps away from that portrayal of the “beautifully broken girl” that is so frighteningly alluring to people like myself, and you know what I want to be when I grow up? A knight. Because fuck it all, but one thing that I learn after a year or so of dealing with painful unhappy things is you just get sick of it. You get sick of wandering around your house crying and being afraid to look into mirrors and you can only listen to that one song about how cool suicide is so many times before you just have to roll your eyes.

One thing to remember before I really get started- I’m not telling you guys this stuff to freak any of you out. So if you’re worried for me or anything, here is my reassuring you, I’m actually doing fine these days. Stable, more or less in control, not participating in any triggering behaviors for coming up on a year now, so don’t think that this is actually my secret cry for help blog post. Give me a bit more credit than that. Don’t worry about me, I’m okay. I’m just trying to explain where I’ve come from, so that this post will make a bit more sense.

Anyways! Used to be all pathetic, currently am not, and I’d like to think that I’ve at least made it to squire on the path to being awesome and badass and all that. It’s an idea that’s actually being reassuringly in vogue right now, this idea that it’s more important to be strong than be skinny, and I’m enjoying being validated about this. Because that’s my new mantra these days, and has been for the past year or so. I’ve finished with waiting around looking all smudged-mascara sad and helpless, and that’s not the life that I want for myself, and I’m proud to be able to say that that’s not really the life I seem to have in store.

But then I was listening to music today and stumbled up this song by Ani DiFranco, which if you’re not in the mood to listen to (or just can’t find your headphones, I’ve been there) it’s called “Not a Pretty Girl” and you can read the lyrics here.

So as an ex-damsel I obviously identify with this song quite a bit. But it also makes me sad. And you know why? Because when I made this decision (which is putting it a bit strongly, it was a process, don’t trust epiphanies, I’m on a tangent, anyways, I figured this out) it means giving something up. I’m not saying I want to go back to being the person I was two years ago. God, no. I mean, she has my (often grudging and hypothetical) respect, but there is no way in hell I’m going back to that. I’ve moved on, I’ve picked up my sword and shield, I’m off to go be a writer, thank you very much, not an angst-ridden sixteen-year-old. I’m not sad (generally, at least) at the ending of that era in my life. No. But I am giving something up, and that’s “pretty”.

I don’t consider myself a vain person. And considering the length of my go-to list of insults for myself, I don’t consider myself that pretty either, apparently. If anything, I’ve come to like my appearance more after I gave up Pretty Damsel Self (one of these days I’m just going to indulge and do a post full of pretty fashion pictures). But over the past lifetime I’ve learned to recognize a couple of things. And it’s hard, incredibly hard, to admit to yourself that no one’s coming, that you have to climb down from that tree and put away those razors and rescue yourself because no one thinks you’re beautiful because you’re screwed up (or if they do, they a make a really shitting Prince Charming. Just pointing this out.). But what’s also really hard to recognize is that there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to be rescued. Really, there isn’t. It doesn’t make you weak, or stupid, or naive. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be beautiful, and wanting someone to love you enough to save you from yourself.

The world doesn’t work that way, but there’s nothing wrong with wishing it would. Which is hard for me to accept. Because when it comes to these kinds of subjects I have to see things in black-and-white, it’s the only way I can understand them. It’s wrong to think that being really depressed somehow makes you cool. That’s pretty obviously in the black zone. But wanting to be rescued? That’s a nice gray. You can’t rely on other people to save you, one of these days you have to learn how to support your own weight. But there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting, or needing, to lean on another person because you can’t quite trust yourself yet.

The thing is, it’s not a way to live your life. So most of the time I’m very glad I went down the road I did, because you know what? It feels awesome to know that I can do some rescuing on my own. Seriously, that’s one of the best feelings in the world. But I’ve also given something up, too. I’m not pretty. I’m not pretty in the way that would draw other people in to me, and I don’t want to be, either, and that’s sad, in a way. I’ve given something up. I think it does have to do with trust. I learned to trust myself, but in order to do so I had to stop trusting that The Universe Will Fix Everything For You Because You’re Just That Cool. Which one’s a better policy? That’s obvious. But which one will help you sleep at night? That’s the gray area, and I’m not so good at working those out.

So yes. I am not a pretty girl. I’m a strong girl, I’m interesting, and technically I’m actually a woman now, so that’s neat. I don’t think that if I start being melodramatically screwed up it’ll make my life better. But I also get sad because we all grow up with these stories. The fairytales. Do you know what I’ve always found insanely interesting? Fairytales are universal. In civilizations all over the world, places that have had literally no communication with each other, who didn’t even know the others existed, the same stories were surfacing. Fairytales are stories for children that we use to teach lessons. Don’t go into the woods, don’t trust the witch. Be beautiful above all else. They’re explorations of our deepest fears. Mother wants to hurt you. The dark. What if we aren’t strong enough to avoid temptation? They’re promises that in the end, everything will turn out happily ever after. These stories are the culmination of real human nature, pared down and in its purest form, for children who still feel everything acutely. And we want to be rescued. And that’s okay.

But for the love of god, don’t go around being like “Oh, Hornet said that wanting to be rescued is okay, I guess I’m not going to try and break this bad habit or change my life for the better, Prince Charming’s a-coming!” Hornet did not say that. Hornet said that you ought to go change your life and make things better and kick some butt, but also to allow yourself a sense of loss for the part of you that yearns openly for a simple rescuer.

Aaaand I was going to finish this post with a recommendation for this collection of feminist fairytales that I own, with stories from all over the world with heroines who can actually take initiative, but I can’t find it and I’m sick and don’t want to go searching. So instead, here’s another song on the same topic, but with a nice nuance to it, and also some references to knights! Enjoy.

Safety

So from where I’m sitting (which is facing the wall, because I’m at my desk) I can count about seven protective charms without having to turn my head very much. I use the phrase protective charms very loosely. I don’t mean that I have bunches of herbs and hair from my true love hanging from my ceiling. But we all have them, those little objects that we put significance into and then return when we need protection. Whether it’s an actual charm or just a favorite stuffed animal or fuzzy sweater. I put a lot of stock into these kinds of rituals. I’m not superstitious, I don’t actually think that the amethyst  in my necklace has mystical anxiety-relieving properties. But I think it’s important to have these things to hold on to, these very real motions that we go through when we need to feel better. When I’m anxious, I wear this necklace. I rub the stone in the same spot, and I know exactly how it fits into my hand, and it comforts me. It’s not magic or witchcraft or anything like that, it’s just associations. And I like to be aware of how these associations are made and turn them into a protective charm.

I think about it like I’m making all these boundaries in my head, and these objects or actions and my guards. When I light a stick of incense, I like to think of it as the smoke warding away my negativity. The scarf around my bedpost is marking the border between relaxing bedtime and stressful real-world time. My studded cuff locks self-assurance into my body. None of this is inherent in the objects. It’s there because I place it there. I don’t put the value into these rituals because they work. They work because I put value into them. And I find it really comforting that I have the power to create these games that actually make things better for me. It makes me feel safe, like I’m in control.

And here is the thing: writing? Strips it all away. It takes away the rituals. It takes away the value. It takes away the safety. And that is fucking scary.

It’s also necessary. I do know that all of these games I play hem me in. In making boundaries, I’m creating all these inconsistencies within myself. Because the truth is parts of me are negative and stressed and self-conscious and worse. There are parts of me that are scary and dangerous and ugly. And while I’m proud of the fact that I can make a sanctuary away from all of this, writing isn’t something I can do in a safe little vacuum.

So this is my excuse for not writing for the past week. Because it shouldn’t be so bad, wanting to feel safe. So I’ll go light some incense, and huddle in my little world of half-magic and rituals, and when I feel strong enough I’ll tear down those barriers and make something. I promise.

A new quest.

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or does it happen bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you become Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

the skin horse

 

 

This blog is a recording of myself and my journey to become Real. I’ve kept myself very carefully my whole life. I’ve broken, I’ve been sharp. And now, I’m going to try to achieve the things that I want. I’m going to become Real.

 

So hello, dear reader. I’m sure you, being someone with a nose for the sort of sentimental BS I’m good at spouting, are rolling your eyes right now and clicking that backspace button. So I’ll just say what I’m actually doing here.

I am a writer. And I am going to get published. This blog is me talking about the day-to-day trials, worries, and triumphs of an aspiring author. I aim to entertain you, let you learn from my mistakes, and allow people to follow along as I struggle my way through the mismash of the publishing word (which I know nothing about). I’m armed with 2012 Guide to Literary Agents, 2013 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, and The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. I’ve got seventeen years of dreaming, thinking, and writing things down. I have Google and its helpful search engine, a pair of wonderfully supportive parents, and a healthy appetite for the Lord of the Rings. And now I’ve got this blog. Nothing to lose, right?