Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Handling Criticism: A Tumblr Conversation

I have spent the last ten minutes at work beneath my desk; it is somewhere dark to collect my thoughts. I have been struggling to read through the edits and feedback scribbled on an annual report I drafted. Usually I handle feedback well and expect it, but every so often a voice rages at the back of my head. I question my ability as a writer. My question for you is this: how do you handle feeling discouraged? 
neil-gaiman answered:
Initially I usually handle it by announcing gloomily that I can no longer write, have never been any good at it, and anything I’ve managed to do so far in the writing business was probably just sheer blind luck anyway.
Then I mope a bit. I drink a lot of tea.  Check with Amanda and find out if she’d still love me if I never wrote anything again (she always says yes). Call my agent to apologise because, obviously, she will have to spend the rest of my life and hers getting me out of any existing writing contracts.
And then, after a few days of that, I get interested in something and start writing and get happy, and am usually vaguely surprised when someone mentions how miserable I was a few weeks before.

This is still true. And worth reblogging because people still ask…

I do not handle criticism of my writing well at all. I can receive ten, even twenty positive comments, then get one negative one, and I cease to understand statistics and go into a downward spiral for a week or two.
We aren’t the only ones. Stephen King once said that he had to stop reading reviews of his books because the negative ones would put him in a three-week funk, and his wife semi-jokingly told him that he either had to stop reading the reviews or she’d divorce him.
Recently I received a criticism of a chapter I wrote for my main WIP and it put me into a tail spin. On the scale of things, the criticism was pretty mild, but it really got under my skin. The person making the criticism said that my characters were just a couple of talking heads. I felt their conversation served to illustrate the dynamic between them, and I was proud of it.
I have been struggling financially and feeling pretty insecure about myself due to losing the ability to work in my previous profession because of my health issues, so I think I’m even more fragile than usual. Going into my fictional Universe is kind of an escape from the mess that is my life, and I saw this person’s criticism as an attack. Not that I didn’t have reason to be miffed, but I definitely overreacted.
TL;DR You’re not alone in this.
Note: Netherworld Writer's Guild is my Tumblr for all things Writing.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Cheese Grates It: Fucked to Start With

This will be a long, rambling mess and probably shouldn't be read by anyone

It has been a while since I've worked on my stories. I may again, I don't know.
I used to have an organized plan, at least as organized as I can get, given that my brain works like a spider on drugs.

I think my thought patterns most closely resemble either the Peyote Spider or the LSD Spider. The web appears normal at first, but on closer examination, it really isn't. 
My brain does not work like yours, oh, Nice Normal People who are so Nice and Normal. And it never will. I was fucked to start with.
Fuckd to Start Wit is the title of a book written by a friend of mine, the late Walt Cessna. He said I was the one who encouraged him to write his book. It is well worth looking for a copy. 
Walt was an amazing photographer and a compelling writer. Problems with addiction tended to sideline him throughout his life. He was a gentle soul. He passed away from complications of AIDS two years ago. The world lost a good person, and, sadly, being the cesspool of horrible that the world is, it didn't know or care.
It will be no great loss when I go. I'm already aware of that.
For years, people tried to change me to make my brain weave normal spiderwebs, to be able to write nice, normal stories for nice, normal people instead of tangled webs of subplots guaranteed to make normal people wail and gnash their teeth and belittle and berate what spews from the hell-hole that is my imagination.
For years, I belittled and berated myself for being unable to be Normal: to work normally, write normally, think normally. 
There Are Drugs. Drugs that can make you less "you," I have been told.
I tried the drugs, and they did not work the way I was told they would. They did not make the depression go away. They made me Manic and Psychotic. Instead of being a functioning weirdo, I was a fucked-up weirdo earning myself a one-way ticket to the Loony Hatch. 
Fuck your fucking drugs.
I know it would be easier for the world if people like me would just play nice, if we would just pass for normal and keep our fucked-up thoughts and emotions to ourselves. Barring that, we could just agree to be permanent patients in a mental health facility or group home, compliantly attending meetings that do absolutely nothing, obeying our masters, completing the tasks they give us, staying out of the way of Normal Society and Nice People.
Fuck "normal society." These days, "normal" is a sociopathic bully who takes to Twitter to rail at his "haters." "Normal" is a monster who pulls the wings off flies. "Normal" is callous and uncaring. I want even less to be "normal" than I ever did before.
With my writing, I tried to remove all the subplots. My writing became boring to me.
When I write something, I am in the mindset of Dr. Frank N. Furter. I DIDN'T MAKE IT FOR YOU. I sometimes share my writing because I'm stupid enough that sometimes I want validation for my shit. That's stupid, and I know it's stupid, but I sometimes fall into that old trap. I'm 53 years old, and I still fall into that trap. I know how stupid and lame and pathetic that is. I know it, and it still happens. This makes me stupid, lame, and pathetic. I know that too.
With my main story, I used to be more "organized" with it, inasmuch as a peyote or LSD brained spider can ever be. I worked on it most days of the week. I had folders and documents for each of the subplots. Then my life went completely to hell, and what little semblance of organization there was went right out the window.
I decided that any writing is better than no writing, and, if I'm able to retire before I end up fucking dead, I might start organizing it then.
I was going to say "dead or in a nursing home," but that second one will not happen. If there is a real threat of it happening, I will off myself. I worked in long-term care for 25 years. I will not end up in one of those places. Like Stephen King said, sometimes dead is better. This is definitely a case where dead is better.
I am in a bad place right now. I earn about minimum wage, which is not enough to survive on. There is no "doing better." My physical and psychological problems insure that. I can do the work I do, but it takes a toll. I'm hungry a lot of the time. I can't eat regularly even though I should because I have diabetes. No, I don't qualify for aid because I won't liquidate my few assets. I want my son to get those when I go tits up. He's going to need them. I do get Medicaid.
A society that treats its working class like a steaming pile of shit is a failed society.
I may be a steaming pile of fail on a personal level, but our society is failing way harder than I am.
The point being, I don't give a flying fuck about anyone's "constructive" criticism to try and make my writing "better." I'm not trying to get this shit published into a book. I'm just trying to express it.
The recent criticism I received wasn't even particularly harsh. Honestly, a fuck I don't give. It was just poorly timed, one of those straws that broke the camel's back kind of thing.
People don't take into account that in a forum like this, people are writing for different reasons. Some are gunning to be TEH FAYMUS AUTHUR!!!!!11!!!!!!!!
I used to believe I wanted to be TEH FAYMUS AUTHUR!!!1!!!!!!!1
I found out that I really don't. What I wanted was affirmation and security. It's better to try and get those from something that I'm not emotionally attached to, because when someone takes pot shots at things I'm emotionally attached to, I tend to go into a tail spin because my life is such a steaming pile of crap in the first place. Because I'm fucked to start with.
Five years ago, I was in yet another really bad place, not so much financially but definitely on an emotional level. I couldn't work on anything featuring original characters. I just didn't have it in me. The only thing I could bring myself to write was Aliens fan fiction in my own weird style. No way I was trying to get that shit published. I was just sharing it with a select group of friends.
To show that you can't trust anybody to hold you up rather than kick you when you're down...
One of these friends told me that people write fan fiction because it's easier to work with "shell" characters than to try and come up with anything original, and that fan fiction tends to be the domain of "broken" people.
Well, she hit at least one nail on the head, but, other than that, she only succeeded in whacking me repeatedly.
I am broken. I was broken early on. I came into this life with a broken brain. When I leave, I will be entirely broken, body and soul.
I think every day about pulling the plug. I am accomplishing nothing. I will never be okay. I don't think anything will ever be good or right.
I think I stay around for a couple of reasons.
One is the fact that my son needs my help. He's broken too. He's high-functioning autistic and has problems with anxiety and depression. He has a degree of agoraphobia. He has never been able to work.
Like me, he "passes for normal." My mother always says there isn't anything "wrong" with him, implying that he needs to just needs to "pull himself up by his bootstraps," "man up," "put on his big boy pants," and all that sort of crap. No, Ma, there isn't anything "wrong" with my boy. He's just a big ole square peg, just like his damn worthless mother. Only he isn't worthless. He's very intelligent and has a desire to do good. He'd be an amazing employee, if there were an employer that was willing to work with his not-normal psyche.
I'm pretty hateful to myself a lot of the time because it is literally impossible for me to be normal.
Writing is an escape hatch for me. I sometimes think about not sharing my fictional works publicly anymore because I really can't stand having people taking pot shots at it when I'm hanging on by a fucking thread and it's my one very frayed life line. On the other hand, I do miss the times when people say nice things about my work. Sometimes that can quite literally mean the difference between a good and bad day.
Which makes me a complete and utter loser. I know.
I'm going to end this bloviated blather with a favorite song. This one's for you, Walt. I hope you're at peace on the other side. I love you.

~The Cheese Hath Grated It~

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Cheese Grates It: 31 Days of De-Objectification: Chris Cornell

There's no doubt that Chris Cornell was a very attractive man.
It's fine to acknowledge that.
It is not fine to behave as if his physical appearance was the only thing about him that mattered.
It is not fine to say lewd and lurid things about any person, but it is particularly distasteful when that person struggled with mental illness and ended up taking their own life.

Making anyone into a sex object is shallow and demeaning, and when the "object" is as talented and personable as Chris was, it's patently ridiculous.
Chris was born July 20, 1964. He committed suicide by hanging himself on May 18, 2017. He was 52 years old.
Chris is probably best known for his work with Soundgarden and Audioslave. He was also involved with numerous other side projects and collaborations.
Chris was a compassionate person. He and his wife Vicky formed a charity to assist homeless and needy children.
Chris had two daughters and a son. His daughter Toni joined One Republic to sing a combined tribute to her dad and his good friend Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. Bennington committed suicide not long after Chris' death.

Chris struggled with addiction and depression. The autopsy revealed that there were multiple prescription medications in his system at the time of his suicide.

Chris is not a "sex object." He was a talented, troubled, multi-faceted human being. He deserves better than to be the object of lurid "locker room talk."

~The Cheese Hath Grated It~

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Cheese Grates It: Aim For the Right Target

Self harm
Suicide ideation

Recently, Gal Gadot expressed this sentiment regarding the death of physicist Stephen Hawking:
"Rest in peace Dr. Hawking. Now you're free of any physical constraints.. Your brilliance and wisdom will be cherished forever."
Ms. Gadot was then taken to task as if she'd said "fucken cripples shud ride the lightnin lol."
There is some lack of awareness in Ms. Gadot's comment, but she was not implying that having handicaps/disabilities/whatever the fuck you want to call it made a person lesser in any way.
I am a person with disabilities, and I was once taken to task for using the term "handicapped" to describe myself.
Could we all please just stop looking for reasons to be offended? It makes us look like "special snowflakes" and makes people less inclined to listen to the serious concerns we have. 
For an able-bodied person like Gal Gadot, the idea of being severely physically constrained is a frightening one. Although Dr. Hawking expressed acceptance of his condition, it is hard for a person without severe physical limitations to imagine that a person with such limitations might not be wishing that they could be able-bodied, that perhaps they are truly okay just as they are. 
Again, Ms. Gadot was not stating that Dr. Hawking wasn't worthwhile exactly as he was. She was expressing a wish for him to be able to move about freely, an attribute which she sees as precious. There was no malice intended in her words, and people need to back the fuck off. In our current call-out culture where a person can be viciously attacked for not expressing their thoughts in a very exacting way, it's no wonder people are afraid to speak at all.
Every person with disabilities views their particular disability (or disabilities) differently as well, and there are some disabilities that are so truly heinous that I feel it would be cruel not to wish that the person could be free of said disability--not because the person isn't worthwhile as they are, but because the disability is SO FUCKING HEINOUS. I don't believe this is a hard concept to grasp, but I will not be surprised if there are those who tell me I have "internalized ableism."
Other than a bit of a limp and a slow gait, my disabilities are invisible. I am prone to activity intolerance due to my endocrine problems. I used to be able to work strenuous physical jobs. I lost a reasonably well-paying job due to these issues, and I now live in poverty. I also have problems with urinary retention and have to use incontinence pads. I generally don't have fecal incontinence, but sometimes that happens too. It's miserable and embarrassing. I am prone to infections in my "plumbing." Most of the time I only eat one or two meals a day because I can't afford food, thanks to the fact that it's hard for me to work. 
Would I give up my physical disabilities if there were a way to repair them?
Fuck yes I would, in a heartbeat. 
This in no way means that I think people with physical disabilities don't deserve to be treated with the same respect and dignity that able-bodied people receive. Society as a whole has a problem with treating disabled people as lesser, and that needs to stop. 
People with disabilities should not be forced to live in poverty. My situation often makes me extremely depressed and, yes, suicidal. I currently have self-inflicted cuts and bruises because I am so frustrated and disgusted at my situation and at myself. When I express frustration or upset over my situation, I get told that I should "just focus on the positives," "chin up," and "try harder." All of which is bullshit and is not resolving the problem of people with disabilities being treated as if they are a burden.
This is not what Gal Gadot was doing.
I am far more offended by those who act like people with disabilities are lesser and a burden who should just sink into squalor and die than I am by someone like Gal Gadot, whose statement may have been a tad uninformed, but who was, in fact, hoping that a person who lived with physical constraints unimaginable to a young, healthy, able-bodied person would be free of those constraints. Her statement was without malice. She does not deserve to be attacked.
Save your ire for those who really deserve it: the people who make laws to take away what little those of us who can't work "normal" jobs are afforded.

~The Cheese Hath Grated It~

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Cheese Grates It: FML

Image Source:

The Cheese Grates It:
content warning:
suicide ideation

I honestly hate writing about myself, which is why I deviated from a recent prompt and made it an alternate reality of a character instead. However, at the moment I feel the need to share a few things about me and why I continue writing even though I long ago took the dream of becoming a renowned author out in the back alley and shot it.
I recently received criticism of my work being merely a conversation between two talking heads. Well, I guess that's what it is. Often when I'm doing my writing, I've finished working a shift delivering food in rush-hour traffic to nickel-and-diming customers who think that fifty cents is an appropriate tip. Hint: fifty cents was a crap tip back in 1986, when I was delivering pizzas. All told, I average about ten dollars an hour.
My financial situation is precarious. I need to set aside $1000 to get the water pump in the car I prefer to make deliveries in fixed. The whole time I'm driving I'm hoping that something doesn't happen to my personal car.
I know the conventional wisdom is "just get another job," but that isn't as simple as it sounds. This is literally about the only work I can do at this point.
My physical situation is far from good. I used to be able to work physically demanding jobs, but my diabetes has deteriorated to the point where I have problematic activity intolerance. When standing for long periods of time, I tend to become weak, dizzy, and confused.
"Aha, clerical work!" many of you will say.
Sadly, not so much. My brain is stupid, and when I work the kinds of hours where clerical work tends to be done, I become depressed to the point of non-functional. I've tried to do this numerous times in my rather long life, and the result has always been the same. Clearly, I was not made for life on this planet.
A year ago, I lost a reasonably well-paying job where I was making approximately $40,000 a year. I was working as a homecare nurse. My diabetes was getting worse and I was very sick with a severe respiratory infection. The company reasoned that I could continue working because the patient I was working with was the one I'd contracted the infection from, therefore, they believed, I couldn't re-infect him.
I was fired from that job because I fell asleep during my shift. This was not a light drowse where one wakes when one's chin contacts their chest. This was a deep, dark, dreamless, sleep-of-the-dead kind of sleep. There is a pretty good likelihood that I had a TIA at that point. I don't remember falling asleep, but I was asleep for about 20 minutes. I woke to see the patient's father sitting on the patient's bed, glaring at me. I didn't hear him come downstairs or into the room. I left and was fired the next day.
I worked briefly for another homecare agency with a patient I'd worked with previously. This patient ended up in the hospital and never came out. The agency never found me another case. At that point, I tried working as a rideshare driver. An idiot stoner kid backed into the rental car I was using. Lyft took so long to resolve the claim that I wasn't able to drive for a month. The rental car agency never reimbursed me for the unused week on the vehicle. I was out $1000.
I tried going back into long-term care, but found myself physically unable to keep up with the demands of the job. I became weak and confused when my blood sugar dropped and I was unable to take a break. Long-term care does not tend to allow for breaks for its employees. 
I then tried working for yet another homecare agency and discovered that I could no longer handle the physically demanding part of the job.
I worked delivering groceries for a while and ended up with a permanent injury to the median nerve in my left arm. This service promised delivery within the hour. Instead, I would often be greeted by an angry customer demanding to know why their order was three hours late. Customer service never contacted them. They let the driver deal with the unhappy customer. I had severe calf cramps because of having to climb stairs multiple times during the shift. The injury to my arm came about because of having to carry heavy loads throughout the shift. There is now permanent numbness in my left hand. At least I no longer endure agonizing pain in my left upper arm, which I did for about a month.
My anxiety levels are through the roof. I browbeat myself into going to work. Most days I wish I'd just die. Conversely, I have night terrors where I wake up with my heart pounding, thinking "please don't let me die like this."
Antidepressants, the darlings of the psych industry, don't work on me. They make me manic and psychotic. Benzodiazepenes, another darling of the psych industry, have a paradoxical effect. They tend to make my heart race and to cause panic attacks. The exceptions are Xanax, which has a heavy sedative effect and then makes me suicidal, and Valium, which makes me stupid. I mean really stupid, like two plus two equals three or something stupid. 
To counter my raging insomnia, I take a low dose of thc plus cbd. It works better than Valium (see thick as a brick stupid) and better than drugs such as Ambien and Lunesta, which cause me to sleepwalk and do things like pee on my car tire at 3 AM. I was given a medical marijuana card for the horrifying pain in my arm and to help with my glaucoma. What I use is actually recreational edibles and tea, which has a lesser potency than medical grade marijuana. It doesn't get me high. It acts as a mild sedative and has none of the crap side effects of pharmaceutical medications. However, there are certain jobs I can't even think of applying for at this point because of my use of a very low dose of thc for a medical problem. They'd be fine with it if I were fucking my head with Ambien, which makes me do weird shit and wake up tired, but a tiny amount of THC makes me a non-functional hop-head, apparently.
This was my response to the person who decried my writing as being merely a conversation between a pair of talking heads:
I take it from your other criticisms that "quite interesting" means "I hate it." That's cool and all.
The words weren't randomly bolded. It was to keep up with the Wordle prompt, to remember that we had used the words.
Honestly, I'm kind of brain damaged and stupid. I work at a menial job earning about minimum wage. I write when I can if for no other reason than to keep some aspect of what I believe myself to truly be alive. With a little help from my friends I am able to do this.
Maybe I'm fated to just be a giant talking head, much like the Face of Boe in Dr. Who.
Sorry my work didn't meet your exacting standards.
I probably won't participate in this particular prompt again. Really, the only reason I do is as an exercise in constraining my word count because I tend to be overly verbose in my so-called writing.

Note: the bolded words were my bad. I forgot that most people on the Weekend Writing Warriors prompt would not also be using the Wordle prompt.
Honestly, the shitty writing would also be my bad. Gem and Tempest aren't to blame. They were only trying to support me.
The truth is, I feel like killing myself most of the time and already would have if it weren't for the fact that my son seems to still need my help. Here are some things I don't need to hear regarding that statement:

"Go to the emergency room."
If I went to the emergency room every time I experienced suicide ideation, I'd have to live there.

"Get counseling."
It doesn't work. I could probably benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, but county mental health doesn't tend to provide that. County mental health gives you counselors who frustrate you to no end because they are used to dealing with people who have severe psychosis. I only have psychosis when I take antidepressants or prescription pain medications. County mental health counselors are no help to people who see the reality around them all too clearly and know there's nothing they can do to extract themselves from the steaming pile of suck that is reality. So, they write stories involving talking heads because it soothes them for a moment to do so.

"Get on medication."
See "that shit makes me manic and psychotic." Except for Prozac, which left me emotionally flatlined, staring at my arm, and thinking to myself "maybe I should cut my arm to see if I can still feel anything." This wasn't the normal, self-loathing drive to self-injure that I've dealt with all my life. This was a case of wondering if I could still feel anything at all.

Sorry, folks. Pat answers don't work on me. I'm special like that.
Actually, I'm not particularly special. There are a lot of people that the pat answers don't work for.

I have a lot of thoughts about how society could improve to make sure everyone has a decent quality of life. One of them involves not treating the working class like shit. Most people in the working class aren't "less intelligent" or even less educated than people in white collar jobs, and, even if they were, why should they be treated like shit?

We need universal health care so people like me can stop playing the shitty balancing game of having to keep my earnings under $800 a month so I don't lose Medicaid. 

We need a universal stipend. The idea that people would stop working if they were receiving a stipend is erroneous. Most people want to work in some capacity.

In any case, I probably won't officially participate in the Weekend Writing Warriors prompt again. It seems to be a place that isn't for people like me: people for whom writing is a survival tool.

And now, I guess I'll get ready to get out there and get nickel-and-dimed to death once again. Perhaps there will be more from the talking heads who are my characters later. Color yourself oh so lucky.

~The Cheese Hath Grated It~