Fighting Your Muse.

Inspiration

I’m writing this blog post on Sunday. And my brain is all over the place. It’s hard to find peace and joy when the world seems chaotic and filled with pain.  And writing a holiday novella seems almost impossible.

Though, that is not the topic of this post.

I wanted to talk about fighting your muse. Something I don’t recommend, and something I frequently do as a pantser.

My muse likes to dump ideas on me constantly at inconvenient times and places.

In the middle of writing a story?

My bastard of a muse: “here’s a brilliant and completely unrelated idea.”

Falling asleep?

My muse: “Have you considered….”

In the shower?”

My Muse: “I am a genius.”

So when do you fight the muse?

It can be dangerous to ignore good ideas. I mean, they’re good. You want to write them.

Some ideas I have to let go because I don’t think they’re mine to write. Others I jot down in my idea notebook (I start a new one every year.) And some, I start immediately because my brain won’t quit.

The key is to know when to battle your muse into submission–like when you have a deadline and don’t have time for a new idea.

And when to go with the flow.

How about you?

Does your muse flood you with ideas at the worst moments?

 

 

 

An Open Letter To Myself

….well, a letter to twenty-year-old me.

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Dear Self,

First, you’re going to be okay. Divorce is scary, but it’s not the end of the world.

Second, you’re autistic. I know you think you have some terminal illness because you get so tired after being around people. It’s okay. You’re autistic. And you’re going to be so relieved when you find out.

Third, you will fall in love again.

Fourth, the divorce was about him…not you. He’s been divorced three more times since you.

Fifth, you’re brilliant. And you can write. You just have to believe enough in yourself to try.

Now, stop crying into the ice cream.

He’s not worth it.

You’re going to be fine.

Love,

Me

 

Own Your Shit. Dump The Rest.

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The gif has nothing to do with this post aside from the fact that I’m writing it on a Thursday morning when not even coffee is enough to get my brain in gear.

So, buckle up.

The other day I was playing a video game. It’s a multiplayer game. Now, I turn off the open chat because I’ve no interest in listening to the misogynistic nonsense that is prevalent in the gaming world.

While standing around waiting for an in-game event to start, another gamer began harassing my character.

This is how it started.

My character is literally just standing still playing a lute. (It’s a game emote you can do to kill time.) My character is female. Another gamer comes over and begins trying to engage me.

He swings his weapon at my character.

I keep playing my lute.

He gets tired of being annoyed, so he runs over toward a group of enemies nearby and uses one of his powers to drag the enemy over to my character which forces me to engage with the creature to avoid being killed.

I kill the enemy then go back to playing the lute.

This happened four times.

And I’m starting to get pissed off. Why does this always happen? I just want to play my lute and wait for the in-game event. Being pissed off causes me to also be stressed out, which is terrible for my blood pressure issues.

And that’s when it hits me.

You know, this jackass is just doing this to get a reaction.

So, I leave.

Own your shit. I can only control myself. No matter how annoyed another person makes me, I can’t force them to change. So? Controlling my shit means leaving an area to find somewhere else to play. It’s a massive game, I easily found another event without the annoying asshole.

And that’s the dump the rest part.

That dickhead? Not my responsibility. I shook off my annoyance and continued to enjoy the game.

Why should I let a perfect stranger ruin my enjoyment?

I owned my shit. And dumped the rest.

Can you relate?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Poisonous Influence of Perfection.

Me to my brain:
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Perfection is a toxic poison that strangles out my creativity.

And really, it’s less about perfection in the end product of my writing–and more about attempting to be expectations I’ve set up for myself of what I think others can do–or think I should do.

It’s a theme that has followed me throughout my adult life working first in restaurants, then as a teacher, and later in insurance.

A theme I didn’t truly understand before learning I’m autistic.

I’ve always needed to demonstrate my abilities at work. Striving to be the best. Not to overshadow others, but more to appear capable. I’ve had a fear of seeming unable to manage: work or life.

And as a result, I work myself to the point of exhaustion.

It’s a trend that followed me into writing.

Setting schedules and deadlines I can’t possibly manage.

Overachieving.

It’s not a bad thing, necessarily.

It is when you’re ignoring your health.

Autistics, at least from my personal experience as one, tend to battle inner ableism. This little voice that tells me I’ve not only got to be at the same level as non-autistic authors but better. It’s poison.

It really is.

The same inner voice that tells me I don’t need help or accommodation when I do.

It eats away at your accomplishments and makes missed goals or deadlines seem like monumentally massive failures.

This year, I managed to almost double my word count.

Brilliant, right? Except not, I didn’t take the breaks between projects that I usually do. I’ve ended up not enjoying writing as usual.

And the last two novels I’ve worked on have been a painful slog until the bitter end.

Next year, one of my biggest focuses will be to enjoy myself with writing.

Deadlines are important and so are word counts, but I can’t write myself into a serious health issue again.

 

 

How to write autistics and not rely on tired stereotypes.

Despite mainstream media and their mostly dismal attempts at creating autistics. It’s rare to see examples of autistic characters who feel ‘real.’ We’re not all rain man or white, young, male savants.

We’re real people who are just as diverse as every other subset of humanity.

Many autistics like myself will tell you if you’ve met one autistic–you’ve met one autistic.

When creating neuroAtypical characters, I try to be cognizant of creating individuals, and not carbon copies of either myself or some stereotype I think non-autistics will easily recognise. I will admit many of my own experiences find their way into my stories. How could they not?

In fact, one of my favourite parts of writing my most recent release, The Lion Tamer, was including Alex and Alice. Autistic twins. They’re on different parts of the autism spectrum with their own special interests and struggles.

Neither of them is some off the charts genius.

They’re just autistic.

No massively high IQ required to be legitimate human beings who deserve to be celebrated.

So, here are a few tips on creating autistic characters, or what are some of the pieces/parts to doing so. (And please keep in mind, this is from my personal perspective.)

  1. Talk to #actuallyautistic people, not just autism parents before you start.
  2. Avoid AutismSpeaks.
  3. Stimming. Your autistic character should have a stim. We stim.
  4. Special Interests. I could write an entire post about this.  We have them. Obsess over them. Use them to calm ourselves from super stressful moments.
  5. Emotions are something many autistics struggle with. We can feel quite intensely, but we don’t often understand what we’re feeling. I’ve spent days trying to decipher an emotion before.
  6. Sensation. Many autistics suffer from hypersensitivity. I, for example, struggle with touching certain fabrics. Light affects me. Certain sounds can trigger me into a meltdown.

Just a few thoughts.

Not sure if any of it is helpful.

I might turn this into a series of posts about being autistic/writing autistic characters.

Do you include neuroAtpyical characters in your stories? Do you have characters who have anxiety, or PTSD, or are autistic? Or some other mental disability or illness?

 

 

Saint Jane.

Or, How Jane Austen Inspired My Gay Romance

One thing Saint Jane did brilliantly in all her novels was absurd humour and painfully human characters. She exposed the frailty of human ego. She made you cringe at painfully awkward proposals while you rooted for her heroines to find their true love.

When I wrote After the Scrum, my first Gay Romance, I used her approach to characters and humour. The story is filled with irreverent humour. I used my observations of human nature as an autistic to form many of the slightly zany villagers of Looe. It certainly made for lively characters.

I hope my beloved Saint Jane would approve.

The other way Austen’s novels have shaped my writing is in showing the path of love is rarely smooth sailing. You only have to look at the tribulations of Anne Elliot in Persuasion (my favourite of her novels). The Wanderer and The Caretaker, in particular, show how matters of the heart can be equal parts pleasure and pain.

When I first considered this post, I’d wanted to write about why readers should dip their toes in the Gay Romance genre—and my novels of said genre.  As you can see, I got a bit distracted. A lot distracted.

The thing is if you love absurd humour, witty banter, and love stories, you’ll enjoy my novels.

If you love great romances, you’ll enjoy the Gay Romance genre.

The love is the same—it’s just two men snogging.

And it’s good snogging as well.

 

A Bridge for Sale in Brooklyn

A week has passed since the RT Convention. My thoughts have settled. Well, at the very least, I no longer want to hide from people forever. Large conferences aren’t the natural habitat of an autistic like myself.

I managed it, somehow, at the very least.

Workshops were a large aspect of the convention, many geared toward writers. It’s taken a week for my thoughts to clear. I’ve come to the conclusion that my opinion on advice on writing remains unchanged.

Whenever ask for my advice on the subject of writing, I usually say: “Take all advice on writing with a healthy grain of salt.

I might have to expand it ever so slightly.

Take all advice in general with a grain of salt.

Why?

I went to multiple workshops every day of the convention, barring maybe one day when I’d just reached my limit of sensory input. Just on the subject of series vs. serials vs. standalone, everyone had their opinions on what every author should do.

Author A believed writing a series to be a waste of time because no one read them anymore. Author B insisted that readers hate standalone novels and only want to read long series.  Author C suggested a serial worked much better than a series.

Then there was of course suggestions on how to write in general.

Write what you know.

Write what you don’t know.

Write what you love.

Write what you fear.

For fuck’s sake, just fucking write. I often wonder if the adage of ‘those who can’t, teach’ isn’t a tiny bit true with writing. I’m always wary though of people who try to sell me their tried and true method as the ‘God’s honest truth.’ All the sage experienced author wisdom can occasionally amount to nothing more than pissing in the wind, particular if you never actually put words on paper.

If you’ve got a story in you, all the writer tips from others won’t get your words out of you. They can’t put your pen on your manuscript and bleed for you. You have to do the work.

Is all advice on writing shit?

Of course not.

Should you listen to everyone?

Of course not.

There are brilliant resources out there if you want to be a better writer. I even learned a bunch from some of the RT workshops. The key, I believe, is to be selective on what you allow to influence you.

I’m a sceptic in the body of an optimist. Whenever someone has the best ever shiny new way to do something, I’m always immediately hopeful yet equally distrustful.  The trouble is, if you wait six months, someone’s going to have a new shiny to sell to you. It’s never ending.

So what to do?

Trust your gut instincts. Write what and how works best for you (not for someone else). Be open to advice, but not so open you begin to morph into someone else. Readers can sense inauthenticity (and they don’t like it.)

 

Neil Gaiman says it better than I do:

“The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” — Neil Gaiman