And there are millions of teens who read because they are sad and lonely and enraged. They read because they live in an often-terrible world. They read because they believe, despite the callow protestations of certain adults, that books-especially the dark and dangerous ones-will save them.
As a child, I read because books–violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics so, yes, I recognized the domestic terrors faced by Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. But I became the kid chased by werewolves, vampires, and evil clowns in Stephen King’s books. I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life.
And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”
Catherynne Valente, Palimpsest
I haven’t lived alone in three years, but there are occasional moments of silence. The emotion that I’d been able to quell rises up, forces me to confront it. That is what being alone can offer you - a glimpse of yourself that otherwise would be hidden from you.
Nobody wants to pay you what you’re worth.
You don’t get into the business of writing because you wanted a quick way to make some cash. If so, day trading and prostitution would have been much more viable options. But like every other human being currently living in a Capitalist society, you need money to pay your rent and maybe enough to go to the hospital if you need your appendix removed. Anyone can start up a magazine, and even without offering any pay or compensation whatsoever writer’s will flock to submit. Even professional publishers who should know better vastly underpay writers - the rate of short story fiction hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years to account for inflation - so what was once a method of earning a living has become a way. People will try to take advantage of writer’s desperation and insecurity about their work. And it works. I now have a policy where I don’t do free work - to maintain integrity for my work and to show that I take it seriously as a product.
Don’t be an asshole.
Don’t be a parasite to your boyfriend/girlfriend/parents/random person you met at a bar. If someone wants to support you so that you have vast quantities of time, great, go for it, but don’t expect it from anyone. You still need to support yourself. Art is not a higher calling that allows you to be an asshole and become a financial burden on your barista girlfriend making $8.50 an hour 20 hours a week, or a worthy excuse to not pay your rent or move out of your parents house. Find your own ways to make money, even if it’s donating blood or responding to questionable ads on Craigslist. If you don’t, there’s a high potential to burn bridges and ruin friendships. You are not Bukowski, and if you are Bukowksi, I feel bad for you son.
Keep your day job if you can, until you don’t need it anymore
It will give you a lot more flexibility and the ability to say “no” to projects that make you uncomfortable. It will give you the money to fund your writing, especially if you’re freelancing and need to contract out editing and book cover services, not to mention ISBNs, web hosting, etc. You might go insane and get burnt out from so much work - I have to take frequent breaks and I’m not as productive as I wish I was - but I still write everyday, and I should have my new novel out in a month or so. Just do creative work every day, drink lots of caffeine or upper of your choice. Sleep is an option, right?
That first check
Most likely, It won’t be for a lot of money. I got my first check for writing when I was 18, and it was about $40 for a fantasy story I wrote for an online magazine. Spend it on something symbolic. Spend it on a reminder that what you’re doing is worthwhile and the suffering that you go through is bliss. As a writer you don’t live for the future, you live for moments, experience, the time when you lose yourself in the flow and become the words. That is what makes you an artist.
You deserve to get money for your work. The competition is fierce. It seems like everyone is putting out a novel these days, and even the big publishers are giving out paltry advances. Never give up, keep pushing, keep asking for more (the worst they can do is say no), keep submitting, keep writing. You started doing this because you loved it, and in order to keep doing it you need money. The idea of the starving artist is romantic, but unrealistic - after a few days of lack of food and the stress of unpaid bills I didn’t even have the mental strength to create. If you feel it’s worth it, you’ll keep going, you’ll get the money. You’ll get the freedom to do what you love.
“…I kept having this dream we’re sitting out in the desert together. You cradled a cow skull like a baby. It was so hot in that desert. I knew we hadn’t had food or water for days. I panicked. I said, ‘We’re going to die, Charles. We’re going to die out here.’ You’re still cradling the cow skull when you looked up at me calmly, serenely. You said, ‘Everything dies. But not us. Not today.’
“’I’m so thirsty, Charles, I know I’m going to die’ I said. I kept saying your name like I would forget it. In the dream your name was the strangest sound I’d ever heard. And then you said, ‘We’re going to get out of here, and I’m going to find us a lake. A cool, glittering lake. We’re going to forget this horrible heat, and we’re going to jump into the water and swim out so far we can’t touch the bottom. I know we need to get to that lake, so we’re not going to die.’ Then I wake up.”
are you familiar with Terayama Shuuji and/or J A Seazer?
I am not, please elucidate me :)
“So the universe is not quite as you thought it was.
You’d better rearrange your beliefs, then. Because you certainly can’t rearrange the universe.”
– Isaac Asimov (via we-are-star-stuff)
Me, trying to appear like I have some kind of strange, idyllic life as a replicant who lives on a Seattle rooftop.
As a kid I would’ve never described myself as fashionable or stylish. At about 2nd grade I started refusing to wear the fancy dresses my mother bought me, grabbed a pair of slouchy jeans and a t-shirt, and wore that as my uniform for the next 18 years. To be unfashionable and unfeminine was my security blanket. If it didn’t look like I tried, then no one could make fun of me for my failed efforts. I wore a lot of big, black band t-shirts to hide my stomach, and the same ill-fitting bra for all four years of high-school. I refused to cut my hair or even trim it, and it grew into a mass that I could hide my face into. The goal wasn’t to exist. The goal was to disappear, to fade in and out of an amorphous identity.
I hated all pictures of myself as a kid. If I wore a dress my ugliness shined through it. If I wore a swimsuit, I had to throw a t-shirt over it. I refused to wear shorts even in 100 degree Texas summer heat. I was intelligent, yes, and funny, and well read, but I wasn’t attractive. It took going through several boyfriends and girlfriends to realize their attention wasn’t an act of charity - that I could be desirable to someone at all a revelation.
Going into a store was an anxiety-inducing experience. I lacked identity. I didn’t know what I liked, or what I should like. Mostly because as someone with social anxiety, I saw myself as if I was watching from a third person perspective. How “should” I look? What “should” I like to fit my persona? This led to panic attacks in the mall, and buying a lot of ill-fitting, unflattering clothing that I didn’t like, and didn’t suit me. I didn’t trust my taste. I wasn’t a real person, and I definitely didn’t want to display this on my body. If I were to pick out an outfit that I truly liked (If I even knew how to begin) - then perhaps other would see the shadow I truly was instead of the person I pretended to be.
I remember when I had to start over - when my entire closet was taken away and I was left with only the clothes that I wore. For a year I wore nothing but two pairs of wal-mart jeans, a camo jacket, and my boyfriend’s t-shirts. After I made some money on my first game design gig, I decided to buy some clothes for myself. Instead of going to the mall and perusing the trendy, loud, crowded shops I went to etsy. I searched for days before finally settling on purchasing a tank dress printed with day of the dead skeletons. (Which I still have to this day) It was the first thing I could remember buying that truly belonged to me and my style, without compromise or questioning whether I would be accepted inside of it.
I began to realize - fashion was not frivolous (as I’d been taught to believe) and feminine was not weak or silly. Fashion was a mirror through which to explore oneself. It was a way to understand who I was behind the tent-sized Tool t-shirts and baggy pants. It was a way to learn how to take attention from others and not shrink from stares. Walking out of the house in six inch, spiked platform heels, ridiculous sunglasses, and loud prints was an exercise in confronting this anxiety. I got stares, and compliments, and insults, and questions. I was a part of the human race - not a shadow - but a physical object, three dimensional, able to be touched.
It was a way to accept that I was not an ugly person, only worthy to be sequestered away, hunched in corners writing or game designing. It was a way to accept that the stereotype was false - one could be stylish, and love clothes and fashion, and still be intelligent, and a nerd. I still love literature, and video games, and obscure music. I still go to a mentally draining, challenging (but rewarding) job every day where my sole purpose is to solve problems.
At first I thought my love for fashion was somehow antithetical to everything else I was. I spent hours browsing online shops, lookbooks, and style guides, feeling guilty that I wasn’t devoting all of my time to “intellectual” pursuits.
But fashion, like writing, is an art. And being able to get up every day and discover a new way to dress yourself is a way to be creative every day. I found it refreshing to be able to go through my closet and discover my moods and my body through such a lens. Did I feel strange today? Did I feel modest? Did I feel classic? No matter what, I was proud of how I displayed myself, even if it was anxiety inducing because of the attention it might bring me. It was a way to boost my mood. Wearing dirty sleeping clothes all day made me feel the same way - dirty, sleepy, unworthy. If I dressed, then I was ready for the day. I felt more ready for the challenges that faced me - and with anxiety even getting out of bed could be an enormous task - if I dressed in clothes that I was proud of.
And discovering who you are, and seeing yourself, truly seeing yourself, through the mirror that fashion can provide, is as worthy a pursuit as any.
I’m listening to David Lynch’s “Crazy Clown Time” while doing edits on The Crooked God Machine. Finally red-penned the entire 400 page novel after a few months of alternating between that and finishing up We are Wormwood. Now, simply to transfer thousands of notes into a word document and transmute it into a saleable .mobi file.
I think sometimes - maybe if I focus on my art the pain won’t creep in. But I can’t keep it away. It sits in the bottom of my stomach. I bend over and I vomit and the words come out. For me, pain is not some necessary thing that’s part of the artistic process, it’s just a necessary part of life. I think if god existed and if he/she ever decided to speak to me, they would say.
“You’re my little black rain cloud, baby. You know that’s what I like about you.”