On the cultivation of writerly contempt

This is a long reflection based on a talk I had today. It’s sort of an unpopular opinion, and you might not like it. So I’m putting a whatsit.

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Oh hello, dear Stiles repressed grief feelings and also buildup of an imaginary and therefore hypothetically safe relationship with previously unattainable girl. It’s like he has Stiles-real-life-world, which mostly sucks but he gets by, and Stiles-in-his-brain-world, where he has Lydia and can be a hero and doesn’t have to worry about Scott and never thinks about his mom. And now the worlds are colliding and the wires are getting crossed and I don’t think he means it all to come down on her, but she’s there so it does.

At least, that is how it appears that he is playing it.

Actually, no, now that I think about it.

In Stiles’-brain-world (I know this, because I have a J-Brain-world), he isn’t the hero. He doesn’t have to be. He’s 147 pounds of pale skin and fragile bone, so he cannot be held responsible. In his imaginary version of the world, he is the comic relief who is completely in love with an unattainable, top-of-a-tower style beauty.

His inner life is a TV show.

Holy shit, have I just made Stiles Abed? I think I did.


Stiles in real life is a hero. He has to take responsibility. He hurts. He takes punches meant for other people (“Do you really think this was about hurting me?”). He loves no one, and no one loves him, because he frankly does not have time for that shit. 

He plays at being in TV-show-land as much as he can, and it always worked—the Lydia thing, I mean—because she would never speak to him. She was like a celebrity, or a fictional character. And now that she’s actually in his Real Life, out of TV-show-land, he doesn’t know how to deal with it. She is, unintentionally, making him resolve the two worlds.

He’s not doing real well.

But it’s okay, he’s got time. And they appear to be stuck with one another, at least in terms of narrative.

He should hang with Allison. Her inner/imaginary TV-show-life is way more fucked up, but just as confusing and just as false. 

They can be dissociated and miserable together over lattes.

(Source: rooneymara)


Today was a very good day

Until I got cramps so bad that I was dizzy for two hours. Damn it all to hell and tarnation.

The thing that pisses me off about this whole birth control “debate” is … many things.


I get cramps up to five days before my period starts. Bad ones. And throughout my period. Before I started on bc, my periods lasted for 8 or 9 days. That means that up to 14 out of 28 days were spent in extreme pain. That’s half of my life. 

And the thing about cramps … Okay, if I’m horribly hungover, there’s an aspect of “Well, you shouldn’t have gotten so wasted last night.” If a guy, I don’t know, gets kicked in the balls, there’s an aspect of “Maybe you shouldn’t put yourself in a situation in which you are likely to get kicked in the balls.” For cramps, there’s literally nothing I “did wrong.” All I did was have a uterus.

Uterus-havers are treated like we’re asking for special treatment. We’re not. If I don’t have 20/20 vision, is there a massive stigma around me wearing glasses? What about allergies? Am I forced to eat shellfish even though I’m allergic? 

Uterus-havers were born with this monthly affliction. I call it an affliction, because it bothers the shit out of me, it’s messy, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s inefficient. It’s similar in my mind to allergies or poor eyesight—naturally occurring, annoying, whatever. (The metaphor is flawed, but go with me.) The thing is, Uterus-havers (like allergy-sufferers and squinters) also were born with human brains capable of creative problem solving. So the squinters (and their friends) invented eyeglasses and contact lenses. The allergy-sufferers (and their friends) invented antihistamines. And the Uterus-havers (and their friends) invented menstrual regulators (like birth control.)

This is clear in my brain. I do not understand why it is not clear in the world.

Anyway. I’m crampy and annoyed.  That is all.


Here is the problem

I’ve figured it out. The post-grad life crisis thing. Holmes, I figured it out.

So. I was good in school. And so were you, you know, equivalently successful in your education. And then college. And we were good at it. And we were in a field we loved and worked hard and failed but eventually got validation. We were awesome. We deserve great things. We’re the best. I’d hire you. You should be an artist. Etc, etc

And now, we don’t have that. We’ve been out of that world and gotten very little of that validation. Looking for jobs, applying to schools, we’re exactly the same as everybody else. No one has time to know us, so we are completely and absolutely not special. We are standard representatives of our demographic.

But the only way to get things is to believe that you deserve them. Auditions, interviews, etc. You have to honestly believe you’re the best for it. And that used to be so easy. But now we have to make that feeling ourselves and it’s hard.

I think that’s it. I think that’s the problem.


astudyinpanda said: A writing question: Do you have any editing tips?

Try not to take your eyes out with a grapefruit spoon or swallow a handful of nails. If you can.

Um. Acknowledge that the process is going to suck. Have a moment to wallow in self-pity. Then leave self-pity behind and do the fucking work.

Reading aloud tends to help sometimes, even just mouthing the words. Particularly if your character has a specific regional/class/language affiliation or if you want them to sound a specific way. Also, big chunks of description need a second and third look. (This is where I get into trouble in my last Many Roads chapter.) If possible, you don’t want to over-analyze things for your audience, even though the instinct is to write long paragraphs going “he was like this, she felt this, this is symbolism in case you can’t tell.” So there’s that. Do not trust huge chunks of text.

Then, find your favorite line/paragraph/etc. The one that you are shaping the rest of the piece to fit. Maybe it’s the first thing that popped into your mind when you got the idea. The one that makes you go, “This is the best line. The rest of the piece has to fit this line. I will move heaven and earth to make everything fit into the style and idea and confines of this. line.”

Then cut that line. (or scene or, sometimes, character.)

It will hurt. You will feel like you just killed your child. You will think you suck. But all of a sudden there will be a dark cloud lifted off of your writing, and your story will go exactly where it needs to go. Without the artificial limitations of That Line, you will make a lot more progress.

The reason this is hard is that you get some really, really good ideas when you start writing something, but every piece—no matter what it is—changes in the execution. Many Roads was supposed to be 6 chapters long, have no OCs, and be an angsty buddy-cop kind of thing.  There are still elements of that in the piece, but it’s expanded and changed and sort of done it’s own thing.

When writing is going well, the piece becomes it’s own monster and you can only control it up to a point. Not to get all mystical on you, ‘cause it’s a lot of work and it’s not like some super-spiritual “O Call Upon The Muses” thing. But it is kind of like digging in rocky soil—Most of the time you have to chop and stamp and sweat and toil, but sometimes there are patches of damp, clean earth and it just melts away under the shovel and the whole seems to dig itself. Not the majority of the time, but sometimes.

That was longer than you wanted. Sorry.


I’m starting to think that adulthood happens when you realize “It’s going to be okay” is a declaration of faith, not a statement of fact.


TW: body image stuff

I found myself very annoyed with the universe this morning. This is why.

As a general rule, I avoid mirrors. Reflective surfaces in general kind of freak me out. But today I was doing my hair in front of my bathroom mirror and found myself unconsciously cataloguing the bits of me that stick out “too much,” the size of my hips, the curve of my thighs. And then I stopped and just stared. 

I’m not very big. I’ve actually shrunk somewhat alarmingly over the past few months, and I’ve noticed the difference. But still my first response is to look down at my body and scoff at how much space it takes up.

Why the hell should I apologize for taking up space? I have mass, do I not? Why should anyone apologize for the amount of space their body covers? Yeah, we’re a crowded planet, but it’s not quite to the level where we need to shrink ourselves to fit like sardines. 

On top of that, I’m an actor. Part of my job is to own my body, to fully explore it’s range and size and flexibility and presence. I thought I was good at that, but apparently my first instinct is the unhealthy one.

And then I realized that what my brain immediately goes to for criticism is size and shape—I’ve got a pimple coming in on my forehead, but that just got an “ah, well” from  my brain. My hair wasn’t behaving and my lips are chapped and thin. Brain doesn’t care. Brain fixates on love handles and extra skin under the jawline.

What the hell, Brain?

It’s just so bloody indoctrinated. We shouldn’t have to check ourselves from the immediate apology “Oh, sorry for being present. Sorry I have mass. Were you using this cubic meter of space? You can have it back, I can scrunch down.”

Fuck that. 

There wasn’t a point to this, I don’t think. I’m just peeved when my brain does not behave logically. That’s what you’re for, Brain. That’s why I keep you around.




I am so furious with Donovan by the end of ‘Reichenbach Falls.’ Because you know what? She makes sense. From her perspective, she did everything right. She was trying to do the right thing, and she genuinely believed Sherlock was behind everything.

So I’m torn between LV ANGRY LV SMASH MEAN LADY WHO MAKE SHERLOCK SAD, and logic. It’s really frustrating. And the result is I want to shout at Donovan, who may be one of the most well-drawn minor characters on TV at the moment.

Side note: Vinette Robinson is BRILLIANT in this role. WELL DONE.- LV

Indeed. When she (and Anderson and Lestrade) talked to the superintendent, they effectively destroyed her career (and Lestrade’s). It would have been easier to keep quiet, but they didn’t because they suspected they had made a terrible mistake in trusting Sherlock and wanted to rectify it, even at a great personal cost.

Donovan didn’t do it out of spite, she did it because she’s a good copper.

I love that she’s logical and makes sense, and is also an asshole about it. I sort of think that most of the characters on this show are assholes. Which is why I enjoy it. Because nice, nonconfrontational people don’t play all that well on screen.

But Sherlock’s a dick, John can be a tool, Mycroft is arrogant, Lestrade snippy, Irene is a superdouche, Donovan and Anderson are angry and contemptuous little fuckers, and Molly and Henry are kind of like … “Wha?”

I love it. Because I don’t think I’d like to spend a significant amount of time with the majority of the characters in the show. Those are the shows I like. Some people I’d get a drink with? Sure. But only a few per show, please. 

I don’t know why that is. Maybe because strong characters are strongly motivated, and a lot of motivation is selfish, or has to have some selfish aspect, in order to be playable? Like, Robinson has to be like “Why does Donovan do this? Because she’s a good cop. Sure, but why does she do it like this, now, in this way? Because she wants to show that she’s a good cop and be recognized for it.” So, self-interest. Which is much easier to play that “selflessness.” Because selflessness is boring and a pain in the balls for an actor. Or a writer.

Anyway. Loveable assholes, the lot of them. 

I express affection really strangely.

(Source: altair)


I feel a thesis coming

For me, this show was really about how people treat difference. In this case, it’s genius, non-normative intellectual capacity. Because you’ve essentially got two guys with non-standard brains who have been failed by the world.

Thing is, Moriarty is much better at being a genius than Sherlock, because he can manipulate people. He’s crazy, but the man’s got social skills. That is, actually, his genius. He’s the genius that can make you feel good, if he wants to.

Sherlock doesn’t have that, I think this whole episode is really about how unwilling we “ordinary” people are to accept our own limitations. How quickly everyone turns on him! It’s even stated explicitly in the episode—Moriarty is playing off people’s envy, people’s desire to see the mighty fall, quite literally. Like a devil. It’s brilliant.

And this really is how we react a lot of the time. Don’t get me wrong, there are geniuses we love unconditionally, particularly in the fields we follow (on here it tends to be writers, actors, directors, designers, etc.). But a lot of the reaction is “GOD, WHEN I SEE GOOD ART I WANT TO GIVE UP.” or “JESUS YOU WITH YOUR ACTING TALENT REMIND ME OF HOW SHITTY AN ACTOR I AM.”

And that is a compliment. To an extent. But Thompson twists it around (“Gosh, Sherlock, being around you makes me feel so stupid!”). Imagine if that artist who blew you away (“Oh my god, why do I even try this art is flawless I will never paint again”) was revealed to have stolen her work from someone else. You’d be like “Ha! I knew it! No sixteen-year-old is that good! I’m just as awesome as I thought I was!”

This isn’t a judgement on hyperbolic reactions to art. Trust me, I am pot, you are kettle. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m saying it’s recognizable and true. So the entire “fall” is completely believable. 

You don’t want to coexist with gods. You really, really don’t. It’s easier to just diagnose them and get on with your life.


Why I have been a bit melancholy lately.

(I know that 6.4 billion other people feel this way, so it ain’t news, but it’s my blog so I post what I please.)

Allow me a metaphor.

Sometimes, when I am talking to people—workmates, flatmates, friends, strangers—I feel like I am standing behind a tall pane of slightly distorted glass. Like I can see the person on the other side, but they can’t see or hear me very well. We are apart.

So I have this gun with me, called Conversation. And all kinds of bullets scattered around at my feet, willy-nilly. Thoughts, Words, Sentences, Questions, Ideas. So I load them into my gun, intending to shatter this high wall of glass so that we can see each other clearly, smile, shake hands, find skin to meet skin. Hello, I’m real, how are you?

But then I shoot my gun, and discover that these bullets are paintballs. They splatter on the glass, obscuring the view, and the more I shoot the worse it gets. Finally, I give up, realizing that I’m just making the problem worse. But the other person, who already can’t really hear me, now can’t see me at all. Just splashes of red, blue, yellow, orange. So they begin to walk away.

And I’m left scrabbling on the floor, calling out
Come back.
I can do this.
I have the right ones. They’re here. They’re somewhere. I promise.
Don’t go.
I just have to find … 



Oh wow. I want to draw him.

This man


Changed my life as an artist

With an offhand comment.

I wish I were kidding. But I’m not.

Shall I tell you how?

(For those that don’t know, this is magnificent British stage and screen actor Harry Lloyd.)

I went through a bit of a Harry Lloyd kick after seeing him in a few things. And I found and interview that he did with [insert magazine here, I can’t remember.] During this interview, the journalist asked him an extremely interesting question; something along the lines of “Okay, Mr. Lloyd. You have an English Lit degree from Oxford, and pretty much left school right into your acting career. What did you find different or difficult about acting vs. being a Lit student?”

Now I, at the time, was getting my Bachelor’s in Lit and Theatre as an actor and writer. So naturally, I was very exciting.

Lloyd responds that he had to get out of the analysis and paper-writing mentality to properly play a character because “You have to remember that character is not an argument. You have to be okay with contradictions and stop trying to clear it up.”

That quote has carried me through a number of productions and projects, as a writer, actor and director. Me writing a male character? Not a thesis statement on “WHAT I THINK OF MEN.” Me writing a woman? Not an argument on “ALL OF FEMINISM.” 

A character. Is not. An argument.

(Source: harry-lloyd, via rambunctiousschultz-deactivated)


Interesting things I’ve been thinking about (warning: ramble)

RE: Irene and Sherlock.

So, I’ve been thinking about these two and how their characters function in the show. I really think that Adler is very like Moriarty in that she’s a type of person that Sherlock could become. It’s a class thing.

Bear with me.

In these stories, the people with narrative power are the people like Sherlock: geniuses with a certain type of intelligence. That kind of of intelligence, for the purposes of this argument, is the Capital. Sherlock, Moriarty, and Adler all choose to associate with people of their own “class”—those in power and those with their form of intellectual Capital. At least in the beginning.

This is where John becomes vitally important. Moriarty and Adler are, in some (simplistic) ways, what Sherlock could be without John. 

Irene is really interesting in her difference from the ACD canon Adler. ACD’s Adler was motivated essentially by “LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.” BBC Adler is more like “poke with stick, run away.” She loves her power, in anyway she can get it. Not because she’s aristocratic (she doesn’t play that role), not because she’s necessarily economically privileged (though she is). Just because she likes the feeling of being the one on top, the one with the narrative power. In control. 

She is, as I would say if I knew her, kind of an asshole. They all are. Those with the intellectual capital to control the narrative tend to be assholes. (disillusioned? who, me?) So Mycroft, Moriarty, Sherlock, and Irene all at least partially occupy that space.

One of the main things that unites them is their acknowledgement of their own class. They are in power, they know it, and they have no problem with that. It’s “us” and “them,” “genius” and “idiot.” The idiots are, essentially, cannon fodder. Unnoticed, numbers on a page, corpses to be trampled.

And John. John, Mrs. Hudson, Molly and Lestrade are all—as far as the narrative is concerned—expendable. (I mean narrative in terms of Moriarty playing with Sherlock, Irene playing with Mycroft, etc. I’m not saying the characters aren’t vital to the story, I’m saying they don’t have the same kind of power. Sorry if that’s confusing.)

This is where Sherlock is becoming different. Irene can play whatever games she likes, sell out bits of information to whoever she chooses, and not have direct contact with the Cost. (The Cost, in this case, being the expendable people mentioned above.) It’s unclear what role her assistant Kate played, but given her lack of concern when Kate is assaulted by the Americans I would bet that their relationship is not quite a parallel of John and Sherlock. As far as I can read, Irene stays pretty much above the masses, having relationships with people in power—economically, politically, intellectually—and mostly ignoring the rest. She doesn’t pay John a whole lot of attention except for one scene, and even then he is barely in her sights.

Sherlock, however, is changing. His direct and nearly constant contact with John and his world of “mundane trivia” puts him more in touch with the Cost of things. Not to say he cares in the sense that John cares—consciously and actively. But I think a greater awareness is there. He plays Christmas carols for Mrs. Hudson and apologizes to Molly. Would Irene play a song for anyone without expecting something in return? I would guess not. Given my reading of her.

(Mycroft, incidentally, is also more in contact with the Cost, even given his position of extreme power. I think his connection is actually made through Sherlock—not Sherlock the Genius, but Sherlock the Baby Brother. He isn’t hugely empathetic, but 400 human lives does mean something to him if he puts Sherlock’s face on one of them. Which is kind of funny, then, that Sherlock says “I’m not the Commonwealth.” Because, for Mycroft, that’s exactly what he is.)

So. There isn’t really a point here. Just observations about the classed nature of Irene and Sherlock’s interactions. And the reasons that he can’t really fit there anymore. And maybe she’s on her way to another arc, as well, given her observation of his own attitudes. But still, Irene can put hundreds of civilian lives at risk with no concern beyond her own direct safety and security. Two hundred dead in bombing? No one can trace it back to me, so it’s all good. You can bet that Sherlock won’t be able to hear that statistic without a voice at the back of his  head: "What would you like me to make him say next? On the count of three, shoot Doctor Watson.” It’s not as fun as it used to be, and that’s down to John.


I was just thinking about these things.

I thought the characters were compelling and interesting and I loved watching their dynamic. And well played. 


Let’s talk body image

So this is the problem I’m having right now. I’m getting skinny. To the point that my pants don’t fit and people at work are commenting. On the skinny thing, not on the pants-falling-down thing. They’re too nice for that.

And there’s a lot of “good for you” kind of attitude. “You look great.”

But the thing is, I was okay being bigger. I worked really hard for a really long time to be okay with being bigger. You know? It was hard and I didn’t like it and thought of myself as fat and tried (and failed) to lose weight. But then I worked on it and I started to like myself. And then I accepted myself. And it was cool.

So now I feel all weird. Like people will be thinking “J used to be big and now she is small. She must have really disliked herself and went on a diet.” When in actuality, my life just changed and I’m in a job where I’m on my feet and eating 2 meals a day. That’s all. 

And I feel weird that it makes me feel good. Like, when I look in the mirror, I’m like “yeah. Looking good. I like that shape.” But then I start feeling all guilty like “What are you doing engaging in normative evaluations of beauty. Shut the fuck up, failed feminist.” Which doesn’t make sense.

But yeah. I once was large but now am small. Comparatively. It’s not even really that dramatic. I just feel good and bad and weird about it.


Still have a ginormous rack, though. I guess it is beyond the powers of heaven and earth to get rid of that.


So, I’m not referring to individuals here, but to a trend. And it’s not a big deal, it’s just something that’s got me thinking. So don’t freak and be like “J IS JUDGING WITH HARSHNESS AND FIRE” ‘cause I ain’t. Really.

There’s this trend. On the tumbles. When someone mentions/talks about/shares a piece of art/writing/vid/music/whatever. To respond with “that’s so good I never want to create my own _____ again, because it won’t be as good and I’ll be ashamed.”

Which is fine, really, because we all get like that. There are days when I listen to Cecilia Bartoli and want to take my esophagus out with a rusty straight razor. So yeah, I get it.


Here’s a thing about talent and work.

There’s a time in a person’s life when they accept that they can do something. It can’t come from outside, because it doesn’t matter how many times people say “Hey Norah, you’re great at ___ ” or “Hey Miguel, can you _____ some more?”, because you still feel like it’s a fluke and their figure out that you’re just faking it.

But then, one day, maybe after somebody compliments you but probably just out of the blue, you realize that you’ve been working very hard to get better at a skill and you know what? You are. This thing gives you great pleasure, and you care a lot about it and, because of that, you’ve gotten pretty good.

This is not you going “I’m so awesome” or making unreasonable pronouncements about you own worth. This is you finally, finally giving yourself some freaking credit. You put in the time. You put in the soul and the blood and you’re getting results.

Are they Itzhak Perlman results? Probs not. But they’re results. You’re accepting your own talent.

And now that the magic switch has been flipped, you can listen to your buddy Itzhak or see a film or a sketch that is magnificent, and instead of feeling useless you feel inspired. Oh my god, my friend created this fantastic portrait. Now I want to make something, too, because she’s inspired me and reminded me the heights that we artists can reach! Look at this poem. This writer uses words in a different way than I do, and I love it. I’m going to do some of my own writing now, because my brain has been rejuvenated by it’s foray into his worldview.

I’m not saying it’s not okay to get down on oneself. ‘Cause it is. It’s what we do. When homo erectus started walking around, he totally saw himself stumbling around and went “yeah, good job genius. shoulda stayed in the swamp.”

I studied acting in undergrad, in a program that was quite small. So we were all very close, and there was a definite sense of community. Freshman would watch the seniors and then ask them for advice, help, etc. It was great. But one day, after a show that I was particularly proud of, a freshman girl came up to me and said “That performance was so good that I don’t ever want to act again, because I’ll never be that good and I should just quit now.” I laughed it off and said “don’t be ridiculous” and thanked her for the compliment, but then I went home and felt horrible about myself. Is this what I became and artist for? To make aspiring actors and singers feel like shit? Part of what makes a successful work is its ability to inspire creation in others. I’m an artist who also teaches, so this is a big deal to me. The girl was just being nice, I knew that, but I still felt like I’d done something horrible by sharing with the world something for which I had a talent. Something I worked hard on and cared about. 

A few performances later, yet another freshman approached me. He also complimented the show, but then he said “I can’t wait to do work like that. I want to know what you read to prepare for the part, and I’d really like to start taking voice lessons so that I can get a part like that. Do you want to have coffee sometime and talk about the process? I’m new and I don’t have much experience, but I’d really like to learn.”

I’m no expert at I didn’t even have a BA then, but it was the greatest feeling. Yeah, I put a lot of work into this part. Fuck yeah I’ll talk about it. And hell to the yeah you’ll make your own wonderful performance, and then I’ll see it and be inspired and make a performance and you’ll see it ad infinitum. That’s the gig, man. That’s what it’s about.

This became a ramble and a rant. But blogs are for brain-spillage, so have some of my cerebral cortex.