I’m sorry I just don’t think we should be cool with hurting people

I have become discombobulated due to internet.

Since this is my platform and it is tiny I feel I can discuss the issue here, although I am worried about stirring up even more conflict, of which I am very afraid. Yesterday I saw an article posted to Tumblr. It was this one:

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/nebraska-democratic-party-official-im-glad-scalise-got-shot-i-wish-he-was-fking-dead/article/2626923

If you don’t feel like clicking the link, don’t bother. All you need to know is that a Democratic Party official said he was glad that Steve Scalise got shot and he wished Scalise had died. The post on tumblr had four or five comments, all to the effect of, “I agree with this man! I wish I could buy him a beer and we could hang out.”

That bothered me. Not in a knee-jerk, fuck you kind of way, because I think Steve Scalise is a monster and I certainly don’t wish him any good. I was uncomfortable in a more insidious way. A way that crawls under the surface and hides there, because you feel unhappy but at the same time you don’t want to fight with people who are supposed to be on the same team with you. I have encountered this feeling before, and I recognized it.

So here was the comment I posted:

Okay yes, we all agree that Scalise is slime, but you can’t just SAY things like this, and you CAN’T have them recorded, and you CAN’T DO IT IF YOU ARE A PARTY OFFICIAL.

Statements like this are seen as tacit approval of violence, and last time I checked, the Democratic Party is fighting for better health care and MORE gun control so that FEWER PEOPLE WILL GET SHOT.

I know a lot of people are getting off the “They go low, we go high,” bandwagon because it’s allowed the GOP to sabotage and undermine us. But when BOTH parties are parties of sabotage, deceit, and straight up murder, then we really will be living in the Purge and I’m still hoping to avoid that.

(But like seriously fuck Scalise forever.)

I got one response, which honestly is one more than I expected to get. But it made me pretty unhappy. “I don’t think you’re trying to be a concern troll, but you are,” it said. Basically, the gist of the response was that the commenters replying to say they supported this man who wants Scalise dead should not have been scolded for saying so, and that one incident will not turn the Democratic party violent and I should calm the fuck down.

Was I hysterical? I mean, I don’t think so but I did use the caps lock key a couple of times, so maybe.

But here are my honest and true feelings:

I don’t like violence and I utterly abhor the celebration of violence. And there is a difference between saying, “Eat the Rich” and “I personally am happy that that particular person, that one right there, was shot with a gun, and I’m going to say so publicly so that he and all of his friends and family will hear me say it.”

That’s not a good look, you guys.

And for me, it’s not just the look of the thing. That’s secondary.

Remember this scene from Inglourious Basterds? It’s a movie theatre full of Nazis dying.

I saw this in a full movie theatre and everybody cheered when it happened, and it made me feel pretty upset.

“I don’t like how happy everybody is about all those people getting killed,” I said to my friend.

“But they’re Nazis,” she said.

And I said, “I know, but they’re people. Do we have to be so happy about it?”

The thing I’m trying to get at here, and maybe I’m doing a bad job, is that I am very concerned about what my reaction to violence says about me, what anyone’s reaction to violence says about them. If you’re okay with it happening to someone you don’t like, you’re okay with it happening at all.

You’re okay with it.

“Not all the time!” is what I get back, when I try to explain this idea to people. “Those people are the bad people! They deserve bad things, and the world is better off without them! It’s all about context!”

I understand context. I understand that some people make the world a worse place.

But do you know how easy it is to change a person’s context? Do you ever think about how easy it would be to change yours?

I’m no angel. There are people in the world I hate, and would like to see gone. There are people that I might even like to see suffering, and I’m not proud to say that. So far, I haven’t had the satisfaction so I don’t know how I would react if that situation ever came up. I hope I would be compassionate, or at least quiet about it. I hope I wouldn’t be gleeful.

If I am a concern troll, then very well, I am a concern troll. I can’t say I’m happy about it. It isn’t my place to tell people how they ought to feel about anything.

I think it is worthwhile to be more thoughtful about how we react to situations like this. As individuals and as leaders, and as a society (I don’t know if you heard, but most societies are made up of individuals, and sometimes also leaders). I think it is worthwhile to say so. I think society benefits from people caring about others, and trying to show empathy even when it’s hard, and encouraging others to be their best selves. I don’t think society benefits when we shoot each other and wish each other harm.

This all seems so obvious that people get angry at me when I say it, as if I’m telling them they’re too dumb to know it already. But if we all know it and we all agree, why do we have to keep arguing about it all the time?

 

There’s a Lot of Steps Between Here and… Wherever

Thoughts I’ve had about this blog since the last post I made, three days ago:

  • I don’t know what to write next, I have no ideas
  • No, I have lots of ideas, but none of them feel right
  • I should be dong this on Tumblr anyway, that’s a better platform
  • Yeah but nobody will read this no matter where it is so who cares?
  • Shit shit shit Seanan McGuire just did a post about what wanted to write about, and it’s great, and she did it on Tumblr! Shit fuck damn shit hell.
  • I’ll never be as famous as Seanan McGuire.
  • Seanan McGuire isn’t even that famous.
  • I should just quit now.

Now comes the part of the essay where I refute the negativity of my previous statements, so that is what I shall do (even though, not gonna lie, I feel much more confident about the truth of what I’ve already said than the truth of what I’m going to say next).

It all comes back to what I said last time, doesn’t it? This blog has to be for me. Not to make myself feel like I’m a better writer, not to build up my own ego, not to fish for compliments from friends who kindly offer moral support by clicking links I put up, whether they’re interested or not.

It’s about output. It’s about putting words together, over and over, until it doesn’t feel like work anymore–or it still will, but it won’t be such a big scary sacrifice. I hear people who make their living as novelists talk about how they write for six, eight, twelve hours a day sometimes, and like, I know it’s like….tantric. I know they probably spend some of that time checking twitter, or doing research, or brainstorming or going through their old notes to make the story match up. Writing isn’t 100% words to paper the entire time. But I do all of that too, and on a good day, when I work hard, I do two hours.

And that’s fine too. But I’d like to do more.

It’s just like anything else. The more you do it, the better you get. You build skill and stamina, and hopefully your work gets better, but even if it doesn’t, you get better at doing it.

There’s only one thing that’s absolutely for certain sure: Nothing will happen if you don’t do anything. So here’s to not worrying about being good, not worrying about being famous, not worrying about being strong. Just being.

I’m proud to be here. This isn’t where I started.

Gotta Write

So I started this website months and months ago and I haven’t posted to it much. I have the same excuses anyone else would have: I’m busy, I’m tired, I have to give energy to the new book I’m writing. This is all valid, but these are things to work around or overcome and it’s up to me to do that (or not).

There is one other typical excuse that I use as much as anyone else: Nobody reads blogs anyway. Nobody cares who I am or what I have to say, why should I pour my time and energy into writing something for no one?

That last excuse, I’ve realized, is dangerous. Maybe even toxic. Because when you start thinking that way as a writer, you never write anything. And if you never write anything, how can you call yourself a writer? Nobody ever writes for no one. A writer writes for herself, and every word makes her a writer whether anyone reads it or not.

I’m making a resolution to post an entry here at least once a week from here on out. Not very many people will read them–maybe nobody will. But that’s okay. I have realized that as a writer, I am in a place where I need to write because I need to write, because a writer who isn’t writing is no writer at all.

If you are reading, thank you. Welcome. Are you writing too? Let’s write together.

 

Why Art Will Not Get Better in the Next Four Years

These are dark days, everybody. Like, literally dark–there’s a thunderstorm going on outside, it feels like the middle of the night at eleven am, and I live in Los Angeles, so before I sat down to write I checked to make sure I had a three-day supply of emergency rations and that my flare gun is still operational.

What I’m saying is, things are bad.

Not everyone is as pessimistic as I am, though. Recent national events that have left many people in a panic, or in outright despair, have caused others to look for whatever rays of light might be shining through the clouds of greed, racism, oppression, and general meanness, to help the rest of us face the next four years with anything other than the certainty of death and societal collapse. Here’s the big thing I keep hearing:

“Under political oppression, art will fight back and flourish.”

We’re going to get some great songs out of this, you guys!

NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT HOW THAT’S THE DUMBEST BULLSHIT I EVER DID HEAR.

Just a few short months ago, a lovely book agent read a novel I showed her, which I myself had written. She liked it, and agreed to help me sell it to publishers and hopefully receive some money in return. I was thrilled. I’m still thrilled. It’s a thrilling situation to be in.

The novel I wrote took me several years to write, partly because it was my first book and I didn’t know what I was doing when I started. But mostly it took a long time because I also work full time. Believe it or not, people won’t just give you money if you tell them you want to write a book–you have to do it first, and then they have to like it. So you have to spend forty hours a week doing something that will give you enough money to pay your rent, and you have to sleep at night to have strength to go to your job, and if you’re lucky you have friends and loved ones who will occasionally want your attention. The book you’re working on will get an hour here, an afternoon there. You’ll have a good week when you write every single night as soon as you get home, and then you get sick and you won’t write for two or three weeks, and when you sit down again you won’t remember what’s happening in the story and it’ll take another day or two to sort that out. It isn’t just hard, it’s hard in the weirdest, most intangible way.

Writing a book is a ridiculous way to spend your time.

But eventually, you succeed. And an agent likes your book, and a publisher likes your book, and they give you some money. And it might even be enough money to buy a little more time with, so when you want to write another book, about, oh I don’t know, corruption in our political system, it doesn’t take as long, and you get the money sooner, and there’s a little more of it, and you can write the next book even faster, and earn even more money!

Except you can’t.

Because you still have a job that takes forty hours of your week, every week. And if you’re there less than thirty-five hours per week, you no longer qualify for the company-provided health insurance that’s taking a pretty big chunk out of your check anyway. You only get four sick days and ten vacation days per year, and even if you manage to line those up with weekends, that’s only three weeks total, which is not enough to write a whole book. Hell, I can’t even do NanoWrimo.

You could quit your job, but what if you get sick? Or in a car accident? Even if you don’t, that book advance for your first little book was nice but it won’t support you for a whole year.

You’re staying at work, bucko.

You don’t have time to write.

You don’t have time to paint.

You don’t have time for band practice.

You don’t have time for auditions.

Somebody does, but it isn’t you.

And the person who does have the time, the beautiful luxurious time and money and security and safety to make their art, even on a deadline?

I wonder if that person will make something that speaks out against the evils of our government, and risk ending up in the same place that you are. Do you think they will, or do you think they’ll be too afraid?

 

 

 

Progress Report

So I carved out this little space a week ago, and haven’t updated since which makes me feel a wee bit guilty but I couldn’t think of anything to write for my second post that would really be of interest to anyone.

Then I remembered that a blog is for telling everyone out there on the internet exactly what’s going on with you, whether they care or not. And not many people know that this is here yet, which is why I need to keep hammering away at it, to build it into a monolith of text that no one can ignore. People will be forced to read it, whether they know me or not, whether or not they even believe I’m a real person or a corporate-developed conglomerate posing as human for the sake of selling books. This blog will be read in schools, it will be projected onto the sides of buildings. The text will be inescapable. People will read the books this blog is selling and weep, possibly because they would rather be doing anything else.

Josan Gonzalez
Illustration by Josan Gonzalez

Listen, I’m sorry. I didn’t make this dystopian future.*

But we have a long way to go before we get to that, so here’s what’s happening with me and my book today, October 5, 2016:

Revisions!

I don’t know if you know this, but writing a book is hard. Most people don’t get it right on the first try. So revising is an important part of the process, to go back, look at the parts that aren’t working, and see if you can fix it and make it so they do–or at least, so not as many people will notice that they don’t.

A lot of writers hate it. I know some writers who refuse to even do it, but all we can do for them is pray that someday they’ll come to the light.

A lot of writers actually like it. I once heard a writer I admire very much (I think it was Robin Hobb) say that revision and rewriting is where she really gets to take her story and make it sing. Because when you’re revising, you already know what the story is and now it’s time to just make it good.

I can see both points of view. I spent the last four years (nearly five, actually) working on my own book, and the main reason it took so long was that when I started I had no idea what I was doing. So instead of doing things the most sensible way, which is usually to write a whole story all the way to the end and then go back and fix it, I did things in a very herky-jerky, stop-and-start kind of a way. I would push the story forward and get stuck, and give up, and not work on it for months and months, so when I came back I wouldn’t remember what the story even was. That meant I would begin at the beginning, polishing as I went, changing small or medium-sized story events, and often taking a whole different direction two thirds of the way through what I had and losing whole swathes of story at a time. Until I got stuck again, and wandered away again, and eventually came back. Lather, rinse, repeat.

golconda-rene-magritte-he-718x400

It was slow, but I didn’t worry too much about the time it was taking, or the digressions. I always thought of this book as the book I would write to learn how to write a novel, and that’s what it turned out to be. And nobody cared whether it got finished or not except me, so I always told myself if it became completely unsalvageable I didn’t have to go back to it. Nobody would be mad at me. There would be no consequences, other than lost time.

I always did come back to it. Because as it turned out, this story is a story I am passionate about. It combines a lot of things I love: Greek mythology, California history, silent movies, and a main character I really love and identify with. Sometimes I would get frustrated, or overwhelmed, or just busy with other things, so I would have to leave the book for a while. But I could never leave it alone.

I love this story.

On the other hand, I have been staring at the same words for so long that now they all blur together in front of my eyes and have no meaning, and I have to trust other people about what does and doesn’t make sense anymore because I feel like I might as well be adjusting a test pattern at this point.

word-repetition-in-writing-300x200

The good news is, that means we’re almost done.

 

*I very much did create this dystopian future. Just this one though.

 

 

Back to blogging!

Hey everybody. It’s been a while since I kept a blog, but I figured it was about time to start one up again, because a pretty big thing happened to me last week.

I accepted an offer of representation from a literary agent. Her name is Hannah Fergesen and she works at KT Literary Agency and she’s awesome.

Wow! You’re going to write a book?

Actually, I already wrote a book. If it’s fiction, they make you write the whole book before anyone will treat it as a saleable commodity. But I have done that. Yay me!

I didn’t know you wrote a book.

I probably didn’t tell you. I didn’t tell very many people, because when you tell people you’re writing a book and you are not already known for writing books, the general (and correct) response is, “Oh good for you, I guess. What’s it about? Dragons, or all the people you slept with in college? Uh-huh no I’m totally interested, you should keep talking. I’m just going to order another drink.”

Congratulations on writing a book! Where can I buy it?

You can’t yet. That’s why I need an agent. When you write a book, you have to get an agent to sell the book to a publisher for you so that they’ll print it. You see, there are a lot of steps in the publishing industry, especially for somebody who’s brand new like me, and–you know what, that’s okay. Go get your drink.

So how long before your book gets published?

Ahahahahaha I’ll let you know.

You know, I have a cousin who wrote a book and she just put it up on Amazon herself. 

Yeah, I didn’t want to do it that way. But I hope your cousin’s book is doing well.

Anyway, why are you making a whole new website over this?

I’m so glad you asked! Since it’s going to take a while for the book I wrote (which is amazing, by the way) to actually make it to interested readers like you, I wanted to make the most of the intervening time by creating a nice web space for myself, where you can check in and see what I’m up to, and get updates on how the book is progressing, and hear about whatever else I might be working on.

Aren’t you on Facebook?

Totally. I’m on Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr. If you want to follow me there too that’s awesome. By having a website of my very own in addition to that, I can make it easy for you or anyone else to learn what’s up with me immediately, and show a little more of my own personality. They say it’s good for writers to have personal websites. It builds their platform.

What’s a platform?

Honestly, nobody knows. But it’s important to have a big one.

I get it. Want a drink?

Yes, thank you.