Growing up.

This weekend I spent some time around people I haven’t seen in years. I’ve known many of them since they were teenagers and it made me think about growing up and how it’s done.

When you’re a kid you look up at adults and you assume that they actually know what they’re doing. You assume that they have everything easy and they can do what they want and that they’re free. Growing up is slowly realising that you were mostly wrong. Adults are mostly making it up as they go along. Adults are weighed down with responsibilities and commitments. Adults do have the freedom to choose to do what they want but they mostly have enough sense not to use it to do all the stuff they wanted to when they were kids.

Spending time with people that I’ve known for so long, seeing the ways in which they’ve changed, and the ways in which they haven’t, set me to thinking about how some people grow up and how some people don’t. I’m probably going to come back to this subject again but I think I’ve come up with a way to define the process of becoming an adult.

Growing up is an ongoing process of learning the correct amount of fucks to give and then putting that knowledge into action.*

The correct amount of fucks is almost never zero. People who give zero fucks can be intoxicating to be around. For a while. They start out entertaining and exhilarating, like a fairground ride, but there’s a reason that fairground rides are short. Exhilaration soon turns to exhaustion. People who give too few fucks are prone to dickish behaviour. They leave things undone. They’re careless with the feelings of others.

People who give too many fucks make themselves miserable. That misery inevitably spreads to everyone around them. They often fall victim to procrastination and indecision because they care too much and everything seems too risky. They’re too raw, too easily hurt, too fragile.

It’s hard to put your finger on the correct amount of fucks. That’s why growing up is a lifelong process. It’s learning to care what your loved ones think of you but not to tie your sense of self worth to it. It’s understanding the difference between a valid criticism and a personal attack. It’s knowing how to cut toxic people out of your life but still being able to reach out to help a friend who is in a bad place or going through a bad time. It’s giving of yourself when people you care about need you but still being able to hold onto what you need for yourself. Most of all it’s about forgiving yourself when you inevitably fuck all of the above up.

I can’t tell you how to do any of this. I’m still working on it myself. But maybe I’ve helped define the problem a tiny bit.

 

*I’m defining ‘fucks’ here as both caring about stuff and being patient with people about that stuff.

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Millennial Angst.

This isn’t a post about Millennials being all angsty. This is a post about GenXers and Baby Boomers getting all angsty about Millennials.

I just saw (with my own two eyes) someone claim that Millennials calling a phone with no battery charge ‘dead’ is down to their “morbid fascination with death”. This was my response.

What the actual fuck? I’m 45, so right in the middle of Generation X, and I say this. So does my mother, who was born during WWII, and my Mother-in-law, who is a Boomer. People have been describing a battery without charge as ‘dead’ for as long as we’ve had batteries.

To all the old people out there going to such an effort to ‘other’ young people I say, “Grow the fuck up. The reason you don’t ‘get’ them is down to the passage of time and your lack of imagination and intellectual laziness. Either make some effort or shut the hell up, lie the fuck back down and prepare for a dirt nap.”

It makes me so angry. The Boomers had entire genres of film and music based on the idea that the older generation didn’t understand them. And they learned precisely nothing from it.

I lived through the spectacle of the very people who listened to Rock and Roll (aka the Devil’s music) getting all panicky about Punk, Glam Rock and the New Romantics.  I listened to the very men who got beaten up for having long hair getting all sniffy about men with make-up and women with buzzcuts.

Time moves on and a lot of people my age and older seem to want to either pretend that it doesn’t or to blame young people. Neither of those is going to work. New stuff keeps happening and some of it is great. Ask some young people to recommend some for you. Maybe listen when they talk? Maybe don’t assume that the world still works the way it did when you were young? Maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn to accept other people’s lived experience as genuine.

Or you could stop pretending to be relevant and get the hell out of the way.

Thank you Chuck Wendig, I think.

I have been mostly reading 500 Ways to Write Harder by Chuck Wendig. Which is why I’m trying to outline a book that is already at least three quarters written.

Chuck’s advice… Actually, can I call him Chuck? Is that dangerously stalktacular? It’s not like I want to gut him and wear his intestines for a hat I just want to learn the secrets of his word babies and make some for myself.  And now I sound like I’m trying to pastiche his writing style which is even creepier.  Fuck’s sake, woman.  Get it together.

Anyway, Chuck’s advice for unsticking a stuck story includes going back to the outline or creating a new one even if you weren’t working from one originally. It’s one of those pieces of advice which sounds incredibly obvious when you hear it but you might never think of yourself because you’re too close to the problem.

Which leads me to my advice to any other writers reading this.  No matter how solitary the act of writing might be it’s better if you don’t do it entirely alone. I don’t mean that you have to actively collaborate I just mean that you will be a better and happier writer if you occasionally come out of your own head and interact with other writers.

Next time you’re procrastinating instead of writing why not take the time to look up some author blogs.  I recommend Terrible Minds by Chuck Wendig, Whatever by John Scalzi  and Morning Computer by Warren Ellis.  Or why not find a writer’s group?  There’s loads of online ones or you could try wearing proper clothes and leaving the house to meet in real life.  Follow some writers on twitter.  Loads of them are on there and while you’re looking you could check out #amwriting to find other writers who are on twitter while they’re supposed to be writing.

I Love Writing.

What I really mean is that in theory I love writing.

I love writing the way I love my husband, my kids, and my brothers. Which means that in general I love it, and love it unconditionally, but my God there are things that irritate the fuck out of me.

Why must the ideas in my head look so fucking ungainly whenever I put them down? Why is editing so hard? Why does sitting at a keyboard for any length of time make my entire back cramp up so much that when my husband tries to massage my shoulders they beat him up?

Why am I even writing this when I’ve got a novel I should be editing? Ooh, I know this one.  It’s because I hate editing sooooooo much. I used to think that writing was the hard bit and once you got it all down the editing was easy. Ha! Editing is like performing surgery on yourself with rusty cutlery and only a cracked mirror to guide you.

Ok, ok it’s not really. I’m sure there are people out there who have actually done that and I wouldn’t want to trivialise their experience but it’s a bloody good metaphor. Editing might be easy if I had a clear idea what I want the finished thing to look like.  Editing other people’s words is a lot easier than editing the ones that I’ve sweated over.  Editing my own words is mainly staring at the screen and knowing that what’s there isn’t right but having no idea how to make it better.

In the end the worst bit about editing is that it involves wrestling the monster of self doubt.  You have to cage the thing to get any writing done at all but the moment you start to edit and rewrite it hulks out and suddenly there are cage bits all over the place and it’s there, standing behind you, reading over your shoulder, and saying things like “That’s a terrible run-on sentence.  What kind of hack are you?”

My Motto

… as previously stated is “Always look on the bright side. If you can’t find the bright side polish the dark side.”

I’ll give you an example. I have a Chronic Pain Disorder (Fibromyalgia with a side order of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). That means that I am in pain pretty much all the time. Painkillers don’t work well on Chronic Pain Disorders. NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory) can help but I can’t take them because they affect my asthma. This sort of diagnosis is one of those times when the medical profession is basically saying “LOL. Sucks to be you.”

You would think that there is no possible bright side to this. And you would be right. It’s debilitating, it’s painful, it’s irritating, it’s depressing, and like all invisible disabilities it carries a massive stigma. There is no bright side but you can polish the dark side:

  1. I am totally not afraid of you. There is nothing you can do to me to cause me more pain than my body does all by itself.
  2. I am secure in the knowledge that I am a total badass. I have a list of things I’ve been through that are more painful than childbirth. Do you? Didn’t think so.
  3. Oh you’re going to kill me? Woop. Go for it. Saves me the trouble. Did I mention depression?
  4. But I will go down fighting. Fighting will hurt but everything fucking hurts and you don’t survive 39 years of depression without a stubborn streak you could lay tarmac on and call a road.

Now I speak to all my brothers and sisters out there in a similar boat. When everything hurts and nothing will change it, when life feels meaningless and worthless and pointlessly dark, when everyone else is bored of how much your life sucks – look life in the eye and say, “Bring it on, Bitch. You and me. Right here. Right now. I may be going down but you’re coming with me.”

2014 Can kiss my arse

In the interests of full disclosure I haven’t had a good year since 2008 but 2014 has been particularly fucking awful and I don’t think it’s just me.

I’m not going to go into the reasons why I’m glad to see the back of 2014.  Some nice things happened in my personal life which, while they didn’t counter the many many horrible things, are the reason I’m still here to write this. I’d like to say thank you to any of my real life and online friends and family who read this.   Without you guys I couldn’t have made it through.

In the wider world we’ve seen wars and rumours of war, business as usual throughout all of recorded history, but they’ve been particularly nasty and confusing.  There’s no such thing as a good war when you’re in it but the level of atrocities this year seem to be particularly bad.  Civilians being bombed and kidnaped and held hostage, beheaded, or forced into marriage.  Entire populations being used as bargaining chips. A civilian passenger jet was shot down and the wreckage became just another political football.

And for those of us outside the war zone there seems to be nothing we can do to help.  It’s like watching from an upstairs window as the family across the street fights each other to the death inside a burning house with their children trapped upstairs.

There’s been a global backlash against this pesky idea of women being actual people with rights and everything.  Well that’s what it feels like.  Some of it is really just a kind of tipping point.  We’ve reached a place where women are feeling more and more comfortable about speaking out which makes the mistreatment, harassment and oppression a whole lot more visable.

Some of this apparent backlash is just the stuff that was always happening suddenly being dragged into the light of day.  This stuff is not new but we’ve all been pretending that it either wasn’t there or was somehow ok.  But when it you pin it to the dissection table and really look at it you see how vile it truly is.

This is where the real backlash comes in.  A lot of people would prefer to go back to not thinking about this.  I understand that, I really do.  No one wants to think about Female Genital Mutilation, or child brides, or the grooming of children in care, or the endemic under-reporting of rape, or the epidemic of violence against trans-women, or the sexualsation of underage girls (particualraly girls of colour), or the million daily micro-agressions that come with being female.  Of course no one wants to think about it.  It’s fucking horrible.

When forced to confront this stuff some of us take a deep breath and we say “Well that shit is horrible we really ought to do something about it.”  But some of us would rather pretend that it wasn’t there.  Some of us just want everyone else to shut up about it.

And then there are those who just don’t believe it.  There are people, and they are mostly male, who say that because this shit isn’t happening where they can see it that it must not be happening at all.  Which is clearly bullshit.  That’s like saying that electricity is magic because you personally have never seen an electron.

And then there are those, virtually all men, who are convinced that everything would be better if they could go back to pretending that women were just objects with no real autonomy or feelings or rights.  These are the really dangerous arsholes.

2014 was also the year it became impossible for white people of conscience to continue to pretend that we live in a post racial society. In the UK we’ve seen the rise of UKIP.  Right wing parties have been on the rise all over Europe.  In America we’ve had a timely reminder that the cops can kill pretty much anyone and get away with it but they mainly seem to kill black people.  We’ve also seen a lot of white people trying to justify this by blaming the victims.  Shame on you.

As the right to same sex marriage moves round the globe we’ve seen a continued pushback from people who use religion as an excuse to object to the happiness of others.  Be honest with yourselves – the real problem you have with same sex marriage is either “Ewww Gross!” or “I had to pretend to be straight and so should you.”

My big message to people as we move into a new, and hopefully better, year is:

If you don’t understand that other people’s experience of life may be different from yours then you need to find a responsible adult to take care of you.  You have failed to absorb a lesson that most of us learn as toddlers or young children.  Also stop fucking killing people.

Opinons

The consensus seems to be that a writer should have opinions.  This is great news.  I’m just chock full of opinions about loads of things. Here’s a list of some of the things that I have opinions about.  If you stick around you might read about them in more details.  I’m aware that might seem like it’s not much of an incentive but remember that I’m a woman on the internet.  At any time I might say something that people don’t like and end up facing a storm of threats and harassment.  I’m sure hilarity will ensue.

  1. Idris Elba would make a fantastic James Bond but it’s probably only been suggested to get people talking about Bond films.
  2. I play computer games.  A lot of women play computer games and we’re probably not going to stop.
  3. I am a Feminist.  That means that I think women are real people too and we should expect to be treated as real people.
  4. I voted for Scottish Independence in the referendum but I’m probably not going to bang on about it here because that shit just hurts too much.
  5. Bisexuality, Pansexuality and Asexuality all exist no matter how much people like to pretend that they don’t.
  6. Transgender people are real people and should expect to be treated as real people and deserve to be addressed with the correct pronouns.  If you can’t manage that then you probably shouldn’t be allowed out without a carer.
  7. White people shouldn’t use the N word.
  8. A lot of angry people on the Internet need to lighten the fuck up about the colour, gender, religion and body-type of fictional characters, cosplayers, and real people that they don’t know.
  9. Everybody everywhere should be a whole lot angrier about the really important stuff that somehow slides past while we’re busy arguing about the gender of Thor or the race of James Bond.  Fucks sake there’s people out there dying of starvation, thirst and preventable disease.