Strick66 asks a very good question.

Strick66 asks: “Where did you go? If I may ask.”

Good question, Strick.

TLDR answer: Taking care of my grandparents and generally trying to hide from America. (Not in a cool “Snowden” way, more of a “I HAS ANXIETY” kind of way.)

 

 

The long answer:

For the past eight years I have been taking care of my grandparents. In the past few, it required a lot of my attention and energy.

Taking care of two people with varying levels of dementia in their nineties is hard. Doing that and trying to take care of myself was more than enough.

I left the blogging space around the time Donald Trump got elected. Comedy/humor culture was already changing, but it was becoming more apparent, although still only a suspicion, that people in the country were speaking two different languages. Identical words meant entirely different things to different people.

It may come as a shock to some readers, but I don’t aim to offend people with my writing. Accidentally hurting someone’s feelings sucks.

(Huge tangent alert!!) Some humorists have a very defensive, or outright aggressive response to people reacting negatively to their work. I believe this is a reaction rooted in the horrible feeling one gets when

  1. The thing you wrote to make someone laugh, instead made them angry/sad.
  2. You are confronted with evidence that you’re not as good at your craft as you think.
  3. You are confronted with evidence that you are not a Socratic gadfly, but just some a^$hole on the internet.

I felt then and feel now like the window for acceptable humor has shifted, and in a lot of ways it has narrowed. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Part of what we are saying is “no more sexist jokes, racist jokes, homophobic or transphobic jokes.”

Tangent within tangent alert: What I think has a lot of comedians up in arms is that the culture is also starting to say “No more sexist jokes. No more enforcing the gender binary with “women be like SDKJFHAK” and “men be like ASKJANCSJBASNCAK” material.  This is also a good thing, but it should be understood that this is the premise of many comedians’ careers. It’s how they make their living, and is a legitimate threat to their livelihood. It would be like telling a pop musician, “Okay, no more C Major chords. The kids get upset whenever you play a C Major chord.” (Tangent over!)

I didn’t have the chops to keep my IRL responsibilities in order and pay close attention to the shifts in culture to stay reliably and consistently funny in a way that was up to my standard. I felt like I would write something that I would regret in a few years time. Looking back at some of my older pieces, I feel like if I were to publish them today, they would not be received nearly as well as they did pre-2016.

There was a part of me that wanted to devote more energy into writing longer pieces of political satire, but again, I had a lot going on, and to “do it right” would have taken more than I could give. While I don’t agree essentially anything with the current administration’s direction, I’m not willing to speak in a way which will ensure that its supporters won’t listen to me. Scorched earth criticism of Trump, however merited, doesn’t seem to change anyone’s mind nor does it encourage anyone to look at the plight of the other. Additionally, I think there are enough voices out there doing that.

To me, the joy of writing is finding ways of being succinctly understood, and connecting with a wide variety of minds and perspectives by way of a single idea, or a verbal image; even better, to be understood by the minds of those with whom you are in direct opposition. I think there used to be a larger space for critiquing social/political issues founded in duopoly or bureaucracy, but in my own experience of the past few years I’ve felt a tremendous pressure to “pick a side.” It felt like I would have to choose between being heard by half the people in a disingenuous way, or authentically by no one. At the same time, I couldn’t bring myself to continue writing escapism-based, inane concept jokes about anthropomorphized animals in light of all the dramatic shifts happening around the world. It felt wrong, like a tacit endorsement.

So the dilemma was this:

In a situation where there’s so much noise and yelling

and you know you won’t be heard in earnest

do you yell and make as much noise as everyone else

or do you stay quiet and save your energy for something else?

Walking away from writing completely was probably not the best overall move I could have made, but it was the best move to make for me at the time. If blogging or forming a career as a writer was my top priority, I might have stuck it out and kept going, but it wasn’t. My grandparents did a lot for me when I was a boy. They raised me for several very formative years, and it only felt right that I be there for them.

If you’ve played through OK Boomer: The Game, (found here: https://poetrobot.itch.io/ok-boomer-the-game) you’ll see some reference to end of life care. You gotta write what you know, right? Caregiving is tough. It was a lot like having small children, but they’re 140 lbs and can turn on the stove.

When my blog started gaining readers, I made a conscious decision to try to keep my personal life out of the content. I would throw out anything that pushed past sixty words because I didn’t want to take up any more of your time than was necessary to get to the chuckle parts. As my grandparents got older and needed more help, it became impossible to keep up the pattern of escapism which helped me produce. I didn’t want to write about my grandparents in a humorous way because it wasn’t funny to me, or them. I don’t like mining my life for material, and I honestly assumed that my readers didn’t care. I didn’t really want you all to care about who I was. I wanted you to like what I was writing in spite of who I was. I hated myself. I assumed you would too, given the time.

Thankfully, I have grown. I had/have a great support network which was able to lift me up when I was falling. Caregiving has been the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Most of the time it was a struggle, but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. Changing adult diapers and helping someone from a wheelchair to the toilet every hour or two? That’s the easy part. Playing it cool when you realize the person you’ve been living with for eight years, who helped raise you, can’t remember your name or how you’re related? Medium. That’s the medium stuff. The hard parts are still ongoing, (and old habits being hard to break, I’m not really ready to jump into them here) but being a caregiver makes you strong enough to endure.

It might take me some time before I’m ready to write about certain things, but understanding how isolating and difficult caregiving can be, I’m happy to share whatever I can. If you are a caregiver, know one, or think you might become one in the near future (spoiler alert, you probably will at some point), and you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. Or just ask me anything. F#*& it. I’d like to try connecting and communicating with you all on this different level as I work on my next interactive fiction project which will hopefully be done by Christmas. Don’t worry, it’ll be silly, casual and attempt to solve none of society’s problems.

Thanks for the dynamite writing prompt Strick,

and yeah, sorry for just plopping back into existence with no explanation like some bad ex-boyfriend.

 

Love you guys

 

 

Pimp your LinkedIn/This Picnic is Filth

I’m a volunteer

anonymous life-coach

 

although I’d like to see myself

as the Gordon Ramsay

of volunteer anonymous life-coaches

 

who works primarily with small children, the elderly

or any other park-goer off put by a clown

in full military camouflage

 

& there are nine of us in the camouflage

 

but I’m the Gordon Ramsay.

11 Bits of Writing Advice for My Younger Self

Well, not much younger… Maybe three years ago; the about to graduate “me.”

I would have told him these things: (These aren’t really in any order of importance, just what comes to mind. )

1. Take a marketing class. You’re an idiot. You don’t know how to sell anything. It doesn’t matter how good you are at writing if you don’t know how to describe your work in terms that a possible publisher/distributor can understand and relate to. Arm yourself with information. You are about to walk into the world completely blind. You are a level one spell-caster with no armor. Start memorizing your spells now.

2. Write everyday. If you want to improve in writing, then you have to accept the fact that there will come a point in the future where you will look back at the things you’re doing today and recoil in horror at how “bad you were.” This is actually a mark of improvement, and with that in mind, you should use this as a means of liberating yourself from “needing to be good every time.” Give yourself the freedom to write terrible things. Everything will be bad at first. Get used to that. You being frustrated with your writing means you’re on the right path towards improvement.

3. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I know, right? Right after I just said “EVERYTHING YOU DO IS GOING TO BE TERRIBLE FOR TEN YEARS.” (I never said ten years, but mathematically that’s about how long it takes to get good at something if you do it everyday) But remember: writing is hard. Getting good feedback is hard. Taking criticism and applying it in a constructive way is even harder. Publishing? Come on, if publishing were easy would you be reading this?

4. Push yourself. There is a difference between sitting in a pity party, whining about why things aren’t happening for you and putting your whole being into what you’re doing. Go to weird places in your writing. Do you know how much brain power you use trying to convince yourself NOT to write? All of it. You’re using all of the brain power. Just a few minutes ago your brain convinced you to read this bullshit instead of making some headway on whatever it is you really should be working on. But seriously, the advice gets really good from here on out, so keep reading.

5. Get a job, hippie. When looking for jobs, find menial tasks that allow you to write in your down time. I work in a library and a comedy club. There is lots of time to write. Here’s a tip: email yourself material. It looks a lot like you’re working really hard. Having little tasks to break up your writing is helpful also, especially in the editing process. I always end up having to reread lines when I take writing breaks to help people. Nothing improves your writing like getting sick of reading your own writing.  It also keeps you from obsessing.

6. Move slowly. I live in a city. I take the bus. When I can, I walk everywhere. Driving takes up too much brain power. Your commute to and from work can be a time for you to think about your writing. My bus route takes up to two hours to travel a little over nine miles. That time is spent reading, writing or brainstorming. As I said in number 2, you have to admit that sometimes you will shit your writer’s bed. If you need to do some whiny, narcissistic lamenting, why not do it on a composition pad on the bus like all the other weirdos?

7. Carry paper and pens with you. Or pencils if you’re wrong all the time. I think writing by hand is invaluable. It not only forces you to slow down and consider your word choice more carefully (most people under 50 type way faster than they write) but it also imposes another stage of editing when you transpose onto a computer. I carry multiple page sizes with me. Full college, graph paper, composition paper, and little hand books. Every size lends itself towards different writing rhythms. Make it a novelty. Even superficial means of getting excited about writing get you excited about writing.

8. Read. I don’t do this enough, but no one does and it is obvious enough for all writers that you should be doing this. Read outside your comfort zone. AND READ NON-FICTION. SPECIFICALLY NON-FICTION BOOKS ON HOW THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY WORKS. Come on, that should be obvious. Nerd.

9. Make use of your local library. This is a cost saving measure. Not only that, but your librarian can help you find not only what you’re specifically looking for, but other things in your topic of interest that you might have not thought of. This isn’t a plug for the library because I work at a library. I also recommend doing this because going to the library puts yourself in a quiet room with other people who are either trying to improve their minds or get some work done. It’s a great environment for writers.

10. Exercise, you nerd. Usually, writer’s block can be dealt with using a long walk. It’s better than drinking. Here’s the trick: Actively try to not think about your writing. Your brain will say “fuck you” (because it’s always working against you, isn’t it?) and give you a great idea. That’s also why you should always carry paper with you. Your brain will be a dick and give you ideas in the moments where it’s really not appropriate to sit down and flesh out a thought on paper. Do it anyway. Piss off your friends, coworkers, patrons at the library who don’t understand why you won’t look away. The great thing about the library is that it’s a government job, and those are pretty hard to get fired from, especially for things like poor customer service. For proof, visit ANY GOVERNMENT BUILDING EVER. I get in trouble with my girlfriend constantly because I’ll have an idea and stop listening to her mid-sentence. Sometimes, I’ll just walk away from her completely as she yells at me.

11. Have a life. Yes, you should put in four to six hours a day on craft in some capacity whether it be reading, writing or just thinking about it on a walk. Yes, you should give your writing a high priority. Yes, you will and should make sacrifices for it. But you also should enjoy your life. The greatest inspirations will not come from the outside world, nor the inner workings of your soul, but the combination of the two. Get black out drunk once in a while. Finger blast a stranger. Spend time with your family and loved ones, especially if your family is full of dicks. There is some great material there. You can do all of these things at readings. There is wine at readings. Drink it all. Here’s a fun drinking game: Every time an author says “uhm,” take a drink.