Writing what you (don’t) know: new article

An article of mine is being published on Capital Letters, the ACT Writers Centre blog on the 27th of December. It’s a look at the debates about whether we should write what we know, or what we don’t. There’s a lot of writing advice out there and I sort through what is helpful and unhelpful in each perspective.

Take a look on the 27th!

A long time coming

It’s taken a long while, but finally my article on going vegan is up on the Vegan ACT website. It’s been a long writing process that tracked with my own transitioning and challenges changing my eating habits and assumptions about animals. If you are interested in going vegan than you might find this especially interesting.

~Rach

I forgot I could do anything

“You can do anything you want sweetie.” most of us were told that by our parents. If we were fortunate we were told that. They leave out the bits about classism, racism, sexism and the glass ceiling, but it’s an inspiring sentiment regardless. And it’s more than sentiment, however naive it may feel, surely it is better to live with a feeling of possibility than assuming few opportunities can be had?

At some point I forgot that I could shape my life to the direction I wanted it to be. School and parents guide us and sometimes cripple our abilities to think for ourselves. But again, I forgot it was up to me how I wanted to live. The prescriptive narrative is both temping and depressing. I don’t think I’ll be escaping the rat race entirely and living in Barbados with my sudden millions, but I could live in a commune under a dormant volcano near the border of Queensland. And why don’t I?

I was reminded that I had more control over the shape of things by something that is intangible to me now. But the idea has been emboldened by a recent encounter with a brilliantly strange woman. As she says, she may have paranoid schizophrenia, but this doesn’t cancel out that she’s living an authentic life; living off her art and wits. She is doing what I feel the Romantics and old bohemians did with cunning and some approximation to nobility; living off their art and accepting lack of toothpaste and expensive lingerie when it arrives in tumultuous spurts.

I have also recently met a new person, who’s exuberant past shows a courage to take risks for relationships and a colourful path to knowing his truest self. I do compare it to my own past, even though comparison is rarely useful. And I don’t come up badly, but I do see a fearful influence that might be called “stability” but may also be called “cowardice” and lack of imagination.

The point is not to bejewel oneself for the sole reason of a marvelous life tale or to impress on some level, but I do wish I went looking for a few more daring opportunities. The sort of daring that is daring to me; that challenges my fear and limitations I place on my spirit. My fears may not cause others discomfort, which brings me back to the idea that my life direction must be for myself and for the impressing of myself.

I don’t know what manifestation of action this concept will take me, but that shall be revealed in the future. For now I have the idea and I want to let it change me.

I applied for the ACT Writers Centre Blogger in Residence program. My application was not successful, but I feel I have succeeded regardless for two reasons. The first is that applying for competitions, residencies or trying to get published can be confronting work. It can feel like we are being judged as a person if we don’t get in or a publisher doesn’t want our work. To keep going requires courage and a developing understanding that these rejections are not personal. I keep pursuing my writing and publication which always feels like wining.

I was also pleased because they offered me the chance to write a number of blog posts over the next three months. I’m thrilled with this outcome. To have a platform to write from is essentially what I wanted.

One of the post ideas is to write a bit about my experiences during the Project Space Residency. I’m thinking this could lead into a discussion about writing days and creating a conducive environment for creating.

You”ll be seeing more of my work around the place soon.

~Rach

becoming reliable

I didn’t expect it, but one of my biggest goals as part of my residency at Gorman House (Project Space) is actually to become a more organised person. I am not great with deadlines and remembering to get back to emails or finish an article, but a large part of getting work and keeping it (even if its unpaid) is to be reliable. 

I’ve worked out I need clear deadlines and probably a big calender in front of my face in my office. Maybe even an adorable planner would help? Writing out a list of upcoming writerly commitments, deadlines and goals would likely help as well. 

What I would like to achieve while I have this space is:

  • Editing to a publishable standard my “Dictionary Sex” article and sending it to Lip Magazine. 
  • Finishing my “write what you (don’t) know” article 
  • Applying for at least 2 internships 
  • Start writing that particular fiction short story 
  • Going through my files of half written articles and working on 2-3 that could be edited and hopefully published 
  • Making connections and using every resource offered or available to find a job (even just vaguely) related to my degree in writing. 

This doesn’t seem like enough to fill up another 5+ weeks, but I will see how I go with what I have got. I’ll update you on my progress!

~Rach 

What do you write?

What do you write? For years I have gotten this question and I’ve had only the lame answer “I don’t know” or “weird stuff” as my defense against such adult queries. This may in part be because I have not spent much time trying to categorize myself. I’m still finding what it is I have to say and what I want to write.

But having spent some time in the dark thinking about this (as I go to sleep) I see that:

I write articles and short stories at this point. My articles tend to be political and strongly third wave feminist, centered around sexuality, reform and how language and ideas shape belief. There is an element of self help as well as  using psychological tools of analysis to makes my arguments. 

My short stories are self consciously musing and experimental. The brevity of them is particularly post modern. My stories struggle to master plot and neat resolution, instead they are often maddening circles, eddying towards full immersion; a deep double take of human, (meta)physical experiences. I work from the vantage of fiction and memoir mostly. I bricolage genres like romance and absurdity into intense experiences of word play. (I’m interested in exploring gothic horror and magic realism/surrealism). Gender deconstruction is explored heavily in all my work. 

What further enabled me to define myself in terms like ‘absurd’ and ‘experimental’ and not just ‘weird’ was the submission guide from a literary online publication called MetazenI saw the website not long after I wrote down my initial ideas about  postmodern style and political themes in my work. 

 Kinds of fiction we like: Experimental fiction, literary fiction, metafiction, meta-meta fiction, magical realism, absurdist fiction, surreal fiction, K-Mart realism, minimalist fiction. We like all of this stuff. We like things that feel true in non-normal ways. We like text that is broken up and structures that seem unfamiliar. We like to read things that show a kind of suffering went into the work. We like pieces that use minimal means to achieve maximum potential.

By reading what they would like to see submitted I felt a rather relieved tear sting my eye (finding one’s place in the world as a 20-something is a dramatic thing I have found. And a process prone to dramatic crying!). I recognized myself in these definitions!

I’ve found a legitimate frame for which to understand my predilections. I knew my style and topics were often cruelly lacking in the desirable fluff of happy endings or clear meaning and lacking in that more essential stuff like character arcs, strong or traditional plot lines, but perhaps this may not entirely be ‘faults of the young writer’ but hints at a style still developing. Since this revelation of category, I feel more able to express the absurdity I witness in my work, as it seems less like an aberration that has no place.

I may say to you in the future:

“I write stuff you may not like. I’m developing my skills in plot and Romance but I find myself deeply committed to Literary genres which collude in disorientation, ambivalence and experimentation.”

Blog Post Published

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On Anger and “Man Haters”

I don’t want to be as angry as you. Sometimes you come across like you hate men.”

This would have to be the most frequent and banal dig at an open feminist. This is what my mother said to me recently when I offered her some of my books. Raising my voice, I replied, “How unreasonable! How dare I be angry at guys who slut shame and think it’s ok to take drunken girls home?” After all, showing anger towards some people’s behaviour is not the same as misandry or generalised hatred for all men.

I had still not calmed down about her comments the next day. I knew my mother’s intentions were not to shame or slander me. She was simply conveying her own discomfort with expressing anger.

The question persisted though: “Maybe I am angry. Is anger a problem?” Surely it is reasonable to feel rage towards the men who call you a slut, who collaborate in a culture that insists you are inferior, who assault you, who make you feel unsafe, who yell at you from cars, who make sexist jokes, who undermine your economic independence, who beat you, who think they are better than you because they are a man, who subtly but insidiously encroach on your personal space, who feel entitled to tell you how you can and cannot use your body, who say “pussy” is gross and use “cunt” as the ultimate insult.

Nevertheless, it would be unbalanced to hate all guys. But to hate or feel anger towards those who perpetrate crimes against women is balanced. At some point most women are going to feel specific or generalised low regard towards men. This is not an attack on all men but a common symptom of those who have experienced sexism, trauma or violence. There are few women who have not experienced harassment or violence based on her gender.

I am convinced that it is ok and reasonable to feel negatively about these situations. Feeling outraged is good; we need to be aware of the issues that affect women. It is important, though, to keep a balance between rage and healing. Change is most likely to occur if we are determined to use our rage to bring about positive action.

Some guys may feel personally attacked by generalised comments about the bad behaviour of men. Statements such as “men are all” or “women are like” are broad-sweeping and tend to perpetuate sexist stereotypes. Anger is best spoken about in specifics.

If you are reading this as a white, Western woman then you are most likely better off than other women and minority groups. But “better off” or “better than the past” are not terms that mean we should “shut up and be grateful” or stop “complaining”. One Billion Rising, a global event dedicated to ending violence against women and girls, was held at the ANU on the 14th of February. The event revealed the terrible statistics of intimate partner abuse and violence against women both overseas and in Australia. I almost found it vindicating to listen to the disturbing plethora of facts about physical and sexual violence towards women. “I knew it was that bad!” I practically yelled to a friend who came with me to the event. These frightening statistics do exist and I felt I had the language and the facts to argue with anyone who says, “It’s not that bad; we’re not in India”.

We need to be angry; angry at a society that is complicit in the creation and protection of patriarchal structures and gender constructions that lead to these statistics. Our anger has the potential to generate change. I use the self-publishing forum ‘Zines’ to express my anger. I piece together images and statements to reduce the weight of powerlessness I feel as a woman living in a patriarchal society.

At some point we must move past the debilitating and festering resentment which only consumes and embitters us. Instead, it is better to focus on the discussions, groups and movements prepared for action.

There is going to be rage. We are going to be angry about what has happened to us, our friends, our mothers, to all women – both past and present.

Hatred can trap us – but anger can revolutionise.

(image by WishCandy) http://wishcandy.net/