writing

Breaking writer’s block by being willing to write posts that don’t feel good enough

I have had writer’s block from hell lately, largely because I’ve been too attached to getting everything right. 

This blog was easier to write when I posted every day, because it meant that I didn’t get trapped in perfectionism-driven writer’s block. I just wrote things that were as good as I could make them in the time I had available, then posted them, then posted more things.

Now that I don’t post every day anymore, my posts tend to get indefinitely delayed. Nothing I write lately feels good enough to post, and I want to just keep working on things until they feel done — but the thing is, there is *always* room to improve posts. Wanting to wait for things to be better isn’t resulting in better posts, it’s resulting in *no* posts.

So, I’m trying to keep in mind what I know: If I want to write good posts, I have to *actually finish posts*. Waiting for posts to be better will not get them written; being willing to write them will get them written. And if I write some bad posts along the way, that’s a step towards writing the posts I want to be writing long-term. Silence will not help. 

With that in mind, I’m planning to post every day between now and Friday. I will most likely hate most if not all of this week’s posts, but they will be written and they are a step towards getting my blog voice back. 

Picking humanities paper topics

Picking a good topic for college papers in humanities classes can be challenging. It’s particularly hard if the subject of the class is new to you, and/or if you’re not used to choosing your own topics.

Good topics usually have all of these attributes:

  • You find the topic interesting.
  • The topic is relevant to the class.
  • Enough material is available that you’ll be able to find sources.
  • The topic is small/specific enough that you’ll be able to write about it in the amount of time you have.
  • The teacher knows enough about the topic to be able to help you if you get stuck.

One way to find topics that probably fit into all of those categories is to use the class syllabus:

  • Look through the syllabus of the class.
  • Find the reading that is most interesting to you.
  • When you do that reading, notice what you’re curious or confused about. 
  • Is there something that doesn’t make sense? 
  • Is there something that makes a surprising amount of sense?
  • Or something that you’d like to know more about? 
  • Or something that raises a question?
  • Once you’ve found something you want to know about, write down your question. 
  • Then look at the footnotes in the reading. 
  • Go look up the sources the reading cites.
  • It can also help to check out the book that the reading came from, or to look up other things by the author.

This usually works well because:

  • If the reading has a citation related to your question, that means there’s material on it. 
  • If your topic is related to the reading, your teacher will probably be at least somewhat familiar with it.
  • If you’re raising a question about the reading, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to finish the paper in the amount of time you have.
  • If the topic is coming out of a question you had while reading, you’re more likely to find it interesting while you write.
  • Writing about something closely related to the reading can also help you to review material and prepare for the final exam.

tl;dr Picking a paper topic in humanities classes can be hard. Using the readings and the syllabus to find topics can make it easier. 

when a class is harder than you expected

said to :

My entire life English has been my thing - my best class, I even just started writing a novel. And AP Lang is kicking my butt up down and all around.

Advice on avoiding the soulcrushing feeling that I lost a large part of my identity to this class?

realsocialskills said:

I think it might help to remember that this class is not an ultimate test of whether you’re good at writing.

It’s one class. I don’t know why it’s kicking your butt. There are a lot of possibilities.

For instance:

New skills that don’t come naturally to you:

  • Sometimes students who are good at a particular subject expect that everything about it will always come naturally to them.
  • In the long run, that’s unlikely to be true.
  • No matter how good someone is at something, there will probably be things that are difficult, unnatural, and have a steep learning curve.
  • This can be scary the first time students experience it, particularly if they have a lot of identity hung up in being good at something.
  • Particularly if they’re young enough that their peer group might be made up of people who also haven’t experienced struggling with their strongest subject much before.
  • If that’s the issue, it might help to remember that this is normal. Everyone struggles with something related to their field in the long run. That’s ok.
  • And it also might help to remember that part of being great at something is learning how to do hard things
  • Most people who write seriously consider writing to be difficult.
  • Writing is probably going to be hard sometimes. Sometimes it’s going to feel like a miserable slog. It’s still worth doing. For a lot of writers, writing through the stuck places is a vital part of what makes good writing possible.

The class might be designed to kick your butt. Some classes are like that, eg:

  • Some teachers assign things that they know are barely possible for their students
  • The point of this is to push you hard to increase your skills dramatically over the semester
  • Teachers who do this tend to keep making the assignments harder as their students develop more skills
  • Your teacher may be assigning books they expect most or all of the students to find extremely difficult to read
  • Your teacher may be having you write in ways that they know will be very difficult
  • Or holding you to very high standards that they expect to be only barely possible for you to meet
  • Struggling with that kind of class doesn’t mean you’re bad at English
  • It means that you’re in a class where the teacher is pushing you really hard, and not giving you any chances to do anything comfortable
  • If this is a factor, it might help to remind yourself that it’s ok to struggle when you’re being asked to do difficult things

The grading standards might be more difficult than you’re used to:

  • Different teachers grade differently
  • In most classes, there’s a default grade you get if you do all the assignments more-or-less competently. In some classes, that’s an A. In others, it’s a B. In others, it’s a C.
  • If you’re having to work much harder for grades than you’re used to, it may well just mean that the scale is different.
  • (Even if it’s a teacher you’ve had before; many teachers grade AP classes more stringently).

Your classmates might be different than you’re used to:

  • Sometimes students are used to being much better than their peers at a subject
  • Then they take an advanced class, and everyone else is good at the subject too
  • Then they’re not dramatically better at it anymore, and feel like they must not be good at it after all
  • This is also common among people who are used to being at the top of their class in high school, then go on to an elite school and have peers who were also at the top of their classes
  • If this is what’s going on, it might help to try to focus on doing things well rather than doing them better than your peers
  • And to remember that if you’re around others who are strong in your subject, you can learn from them as well as the teacher
  • You don’t have to dramatically outperform everyone else for your skills to be real
  • Writing well and reading seriously matter as ends in themselves, whatever test scores say.

The class might suck:

  • Some classes are terrible and make students feel terrible.
  • The teacher might be giving you unreasonable or unclear assignments
  • The assigned books might be excruciatingly dull.
  • The writing assignments might be pointless busywork that makes you hate writing.
  • The teacher might be mean.
  • Your classmates might be mean.
  • You might have access needs that the teacher isn’t meeting.
  • Or any number of other ways classes can suck.
  • Most people who go to school for a long time deal with classes that suck sometimes.
  • If that’s the problem, it might help to keep in mind that bad classes don’t mean you’re bad, and that the class will end.

You might have a lot of other stuff going on.

  • High school is hard on a number of levels for a lot of people.
  • Particularly the last two years, in which there can be a lot of pressure to believe that your future will be ruined if you don’t push yourself superhumanly hard.
  • Life in general can be hard for all kinds of reasons.
  • Sometimes when stuff is really hard, people find things difficult that they normally are able to do easily.

Mental or physical health:

  • If you have a mental or physical health condition, that can make school harder.
  • Some mental and physical health conditions tend to start in adolescence.
  • Long-standing conditions often also change or develop complications in adolescence.
  • Health conditions in adolescence are not always diagnosed quickly or treated appropriately.
  • Even when things are managed well, they still have to be managed, and that can still complicate things a lot
  • And that’s not always acknowledged, particularly when people want to reassure you that your brain is fine and you are totally mentally normal
  • The reality is that mental and physical health problems, as well as treatment, tend to make school harder
  • It can help to remember that it’s not your fault that dealing with health is hard and takes time and can suck in other ways and makes things other than health hard sometimes.
  • Or, as one of my friends once said to me, “it turns out that brains care more about oxygen than they do about academics.”

Disability issues:

  • Sometimes students with disabilities start needing academic accommodations when their classes get harder.
  • For instance, someone who could take notes by hand in an easy class might need a computer to take notes in a hard class.
  • Someone with dyslexia who can read 20 pages a week of standard print might need to use a screenreader for a class that requires 120 pages a week.
  • When students haven’t needed accommodations before, or haven’t needed them in a while, it doesn’t always occur to anyone that they might need them now
  • (Particularly if they were pushed really hard to learn to do something in the standard way, and were able to do so for a few years before classes got harder).
  • If you have a disability or suspect that you might, it’s worth considering whether you would benefit from modifications or support.

And in general: There are any number of reasons this class could be hard. This class is not a test of whether you are good at English, whether you are good at writing, or whether you should write a novel. If you want to write, you can do that, and do it well, no matter what happens in this class.

tl;dr A lot of things can make classes hard, even in subjects you’re used to being good at. Those classes aren’t tests of whether you’re good at the subject, or whether you can keep doing the things you’re interested in. They’re just classes. It’s ok to do hard things.

disneysmermaids:

cherribalm:

site that you can type in the definition of a word and get the word

site for when you can only remember part of a word/its definition 

site that gives you words that rhyme with a word

site that gives you synonyms and antonyms

disneysmermaids said:

THAT FIRST SITE IS EVERY WRITER’S DREAM DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY TIMES I’VE TRIED WRITING SOMETHING AND THOUGHT GOD DAMN IS THERE A SPECIFIC WORD FOR WHAT I’M USING TWO SENTENCES TO DESCRIBE AND JUST GETTING A BUNCH OF SHIT GOOGLE RESULTS

andreashettle:

lysikan:

realsocialskills:

I can’t think of any other blogs to ask, or just, anyway to find the answer to this question, but I’m writing a short story about a young man with chronic pain in his leg (as a side effect of lycanthorpy) and I want to know if, on a good day, but one where he was…

lysikan said:

It depends on what the cause of the chronic pain is and where. For example, if it is muscular or skeletal then dancing is out, but if it is in the nerves then dancing could be possible. Mobility aids, such as using a cane to take some of the weight off the leg, COULD reduce the amount of pain even from muscular or skeletal causes, but unlikely to reduce it enough to make the dance fun.

(My guardian suffers chronic pain in his legs from hip replacement and we got to see all three types of pain after it.)

 andreashettle said:

Also try these blogs, specifically for writers who want to write characters with disabilities:  http://disabilityinkidlit.tumblr.com and http://disabilityinkidlit.wordpress.com.

Also, consider the possibility (if both his creativity and motivation to dance is high) that the character might come up with ways to adapt the usual dance moves so they can do them with minimal pain.  There is a long history of many dancers with various kinds of disabilities who have found all sorts of ways to adapt dancing so they can still enjoy themselves.  Though I admit, I’m not sure how many of them have pain conditions.

As just one example of a pair of dancers (the man has one leg, the woman has one arm) who have adapted quite beautifully: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK29iPaQDbg  And you can find more tapes like these, both of the same pair of dancers and with various other dancers and whole troops of dancers with various types of disabilities from around the world.  So you could look around for more examples.

cryptix23:

realsocialskills:

I can’t think of any other blogs to ask, or just, anyway to find the answer to this question, but I’m writing a short story about a young man with chronic pain in his leg (as a side effect of lycanthorpy) and I want to know if, on a good day, but one where he was…

cryptix23 said:

I usually go to Little Details, a livejournal community, for advice on this kinda stuff. Don’t need to have an account – I don’t – and I’ve gotten some useful responses.

Anonymous answer about dancing with canes

Speaking as a square dance and Scottish folk dance person…there have been people at my groups who’ve used canes while dancing, and others with limited mobility for other reasons. You adapt as best you can, and a friendly group will adapt right along with you. A good teacher, if you give them a heads-up, will be able to work with you in your particular mobility range to adapt steps and perhaps choose a good repertoire that accommodates you. You wouldn’t necessarily be doing fast dances or fancy footwork but participating in box step type stuff, especially in a group where you’re a regular, shouldn’t be a problem. 

realsocialskills said: Do you know if any of the people in your group had chronic pain as well as mobility impairment?

lysikan:

realsocialskills:

I can’t think of any other blogs to ask, or just, anyway to find the answer to this question, but I’m writing a short story about a young man with chronic pain in his leg (as a side effect of lycanthorpy) and I want to know if, on a good day, but one where he was…

lysikan said:

It depends on what the cause of the chronic pain is and where. For example, if it is muscular or skeletal then dancing is out, but if it is in the nerves then dancing could be possible. Mobility aids, such as using a cane to take some of the weight off the leg, COULD reduce the amount of pain even from muscular or skeletal causes, but unlikely to reduce it enough to make the dance fun.

(My guardian suffers chronic pain in his legs from hip replacement and we got to see all three types of pain after it.)

I can’t think of any other blogs to ask, or just, anyway to find the answer to this question, but I’m writing a short story about a young man with chronic pain in his leg (as a side effect of lycanthorpy) and I want to know if, on a good day, but one where he was still using a cane, would he be able to dance something like a box step and how would that be different with a mobility aid than without. Also, what’s the best way to get answers for questions like this in the future?
realsocialskills said:
I don’t know, but I’m betting some of my followers do.
Does anyone want to weigh in on either the answer to this question, or where to go for writing advice related to disability?

cocksucking-accent:

victorsparade:

Don’t miswrite dialects

southcarolinaboy:

passionslikemine:

matchbook-stories:

realsocialskills:

pumpkinskull:

realsocialskills:

So, I’ve seen this problem when people want to write characters from a culture other than their own:

  • They know that those characters speak a different…

victorsparade said:

I’m struggling with this in writing Winning Streak, because as a native English speaker trying to make my main character a native Spanish speaker, I’m sort of treading a fine line between othering and being true to the dialect.  So what I’ve done is some research with Latino/a writers who write for mostly English-speaking audiences but maintain some of their Spanish, especially Junot Diaz (imo, the expert on this), and come to the conclusion that having my heroine teach her best friend and her boss some Spanish for daily conversation was the best/truest way to convey what she was saying without giving it a “look, this is Spanish! isn’t it exotic and pretty?” feel.

Thoughts?

cocksucking-accent said:

Two more problems about writing dialects phonetically:

1) It only works for people with your same dialect - others will read it differently because they read what you’re writing with different phonetics.

2) Non-native speakers may not be able to understand it. My sisters and I (Spaniards) could kindasorta read Harry Potter in English by the time the 5th came out, but we could never understand Hagrid. Not even reading it aloud, because a) we read it differently (see point 1) and b) we didn’t understand the “accent.”

TL;DR please make your writing accessible and non-racist please.

victorsparade:

Don’t miswrite dialects

southcarolinaboy:

passionslikemine:

matchbook-stories:

realsocialskills:

pumpkinskull:

realsocialskills:

So, I’ve seen this problem when people want to write characters from a culture other than their own:

  • They know that those characters speak a different…

victorsparade said:

I’m struggling with this in writing Winning Streak, because as a native English speaker trying to make my main character a native Spanish speaker, I’m sort of treading a fine line between othering and being true to the dialect.  So what I’ve done is some research with Latino/a writers who write for mostly English-speaking audiences but maintain some of their Spanish, especially Junot Diaz (imo, the expert on this), and come to the conclusion that having my heroine teach her best friend and her boss some Spanish for daily conversation was the best/truest way to convey what she was saying without giving it a “look, this is Spanish! isn’t it exotic and pretty?” feel.

Thoughts?

Writing autistic characters

I’ve found a lot of guides for what NOT to do with autistic characters in writing, and basic “to dos” like “treat them like people.” These have been useful and I have taken it to heart. But I’m actually struggling with how to show that a character IS neurodivergent without relying on stereotypes or anything offensive. It’s a med/fantasy setting, too, so I don’t even know if they would have a diagnostic label. Any suggestions?
realsocialskills said:
I don’t write fiction, so mostly I’m going to turn this over to followers.
There are a few things I can think of to suggest, though:
Read a lot of things by autistic people describing their experiences.
  • If you want to write autistic characters, you have to know a lot about autistic people
  • The best way is to find out about what people say about themselves
  • Read more than one perspective
  • Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking is probably a good starting point
  • Do not read stuff written by nonautistic parents of autistic children for this - that will give you information about parents; not information about autistic people

Watch/read/etc media with good autistic characters:

  • The only thing I can think of offhand is Community seasons 1-3. Abed is a very good, non-stereotypical autistic character. 
  • There are probably other things too, but I don’t know what they are

Make your character’s disability matter:

  • Autistic people are disabled
  • Autistic people are also capable of doing worthwhile things
  • These two facts do not cancel each other out
  • If you want to write a realistic autistic character, their disability has to create practical problems from time to time
  • This does not have to be a big deal or a major plot point or a focus, it just has to be there
  • It’s ok to write stories where it’s a major plot point, but it doesn’t *have* to be.
  • People with disabilities are disabled all the time and it causes a lot of practical problems, but we do things other than be disabled, and we care about things other than the practical disability-related difficulties we face.
  • Make sure that disability matters and that it isn’t the only thing that matters

Be realistic about social violence:

  • If the culture you are writing is anything like ours, your autistic characters will be treated poorly in it
  • If you want to do justice to your autistic characters, it is important to show that. Because the way they are treated influences every aspect of their lives, including how they see themselves
  • If you write a culture in which autistic characters are treated as fully human all of the time, it will need to be very different from our current culture
  • And one of the ways in which it will need to be different is that there will be a *lot* more severely disabled people around being treated equally in public space
  • If your autistic character is the only disabled character in the story, it’s because there are a lot of other autistic folks being kept out of the space they’re in.
  • The pervasive discrimination against people like them will affect who they are. Acknowledge that context, or else change it and write in their disabled peers.
Get feedback from autistic people about specific things you’re considering, and about drafts:
  • You’re probably going to write in some stereotypes on your first attempt
  • There’s no way to completely avoid that at first, getting this right will take practice
  • But it’s better if you don’t make your initial, inevitably somewhat stereotyped, attempts really public
  • Get autistic people to beta your initial attempts so you can get some experience first
  • If you post in #askanautistic, you will likely be able to find someone willing to help you
Do any of y'all have suggestions?

Don't miswrite dialects

passionslikemine:

matchbook-stories:

realsocialskills:

pumpkinskull:

realsocialskills:

So, I’ve seen this problem when people want to write characters from a culture other than their own:

  • They know that those characters speak a different dialect than they do
  • And they want to convey this
  • But they don’t realize the dialect actually has a rich grammar and other idioms and conventions
  • So they end up just using a lot of stereotypes, or mis-using well-known attributes of the dialect
  • For instance, white authors who want to write characters who speak AAVE often misuse “be” as an indicator (by replacing “is” with “be” at random times rather than learning how “be” actually functions grammatically and writing it correctly.)

It’s important not to do that. If you want to write dialogue in a particular dialect, it’s important to actually learn that dialect so that you can write it correctly. 

pumpkinskull said:

and remember, if you’re unsure of how to write a dialect - do research! There are lots of guides to “how to put on an accent” and it’s fairly easy to transfer that into your writing. Or, find someone who speaks that dialect, and ask them for help.

if you have learned the “markers” of the accent but aren’t sure of your ability to transcribe them faithfully all the time, instead of showing the differences in pronunciation orthographically, describe it once or twice when introducing the character.

(quote starts here)

“Can I take your order?” asked the waitress. She didn’t pronounce her Rs and her vowels had a bright sound to them. (Australian, British)

“Don’t do that kind of shit,” he said. Or, something like that. There was a be in there somewhere that I didn’t understand. Was that one of those new fads young Americans did? (AAVE - from a older British narrator visiting the states, perhaps)

My teacher spoke in a peculiar way, putting stress on the wrong syllables, with Ds and Ts for THs. (Québécois)

“The other day, I was trying to tell this one tourist how to get somewhere, so I said, "Oh, you know, you go down Main Street, and then take a left on Jordan, and walk about five minutes,” and he asked me, “Sorry, what boat?” and I realized that we do sort-of say “a-boat,” or “a-boot,” you know?” (Canadian)

(quote ends here)

And of course there are arguments for and against writing accents at all; some people think it’s “othering” to mark some peoples’ speech and not others, while others find it dishonest to pretend everyone speaks the standard (written) language. Do what you as an author are comfortable with, do your research, and try your damnedest to be accurate, polite, and take criticism to heart.

realsocialskills said:

What do y’all think of this?

matchbook-stories: said:

tbh i would never ever figure out what accent those descriptors were trying to convey and would probably at that point stop reading. 

that doesn’t mean you have to phonetically type an accent. i don’t see why there’s anything wrong with just saying “she had an austrialian accent”.

additionally, you can write in a dialect without phonetically typing the accent it’s spoken in. In fact, writing a regional dialect is actually a great marker for the accent in and of itself. You probably don’t want to write your canadian character saying “Oh sohrry I missed your call, I was oot and aboot” because that would be silly. But if you use the syntax and idioms of canadian speech, you can still convey their canadian-ness, and the accent is implied.

passionslikemine said:

As a Southerner who cringes when a Southern accent is very obviously written, even by fellow Southerners, I advise on exercising a great deal of caution when writing anything phonetically (just don’t do it), or even doing more than just the absolute bare minimum of switching of syntax or use of idioms. And by bare minimum, I mean, only use things that make sense in their context and do not even try to go further than that, especially if you are improvising. Southern character uses “buggy” instead of “cart” as they and their friend go to get groceries? Fine. Saying “Howdy” or “y’all” excessively? Noooooo. Southerners who don’t live in the South are very conscious of the way our vocabulary alters perceptions of us; it took me a few years before I started using “y’all” as a form of group address again, especially in a classroom setting, and even now I hear the occasional titter. (Shit, even in the South, one of my student teachers got a full round of laughter from the class for saying pee-can instead of pe-kahn; in South Georgia this is common, being a more rural area with pecan farmers, in N. Georgia we tend to use the more neutral version.)

For a Southerner, the worst you’re going to do is annoy me, maybe hurt my feelings, or come off as classist if you deliberately make the character poor and uneducated. With other accents, AAVE being the first to come to mind, but also any sort of South Asian accent if you’re not from there, writing them phonetically or overusing syntax or idioms runs the risk of making a racist caricature. And then you’re just a dick.

Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having your POV character speculate briefly on where the other character is from, if you don’t want to take the direct approach suggested above. “She had a drawl to her voice, stretching vowels out for much longer than most of the Americans Stephen had met, but he had no clue where she was from. She didn’t sound like a Texan oil baron, but she didn’t sound like Scarlett O’Hara, either.” And later on he asks her and boom, she’s from Alabama. Or East Tennessee, and she’s actually got a really old-timey Appalachian accent. Or Mars, and she learned by watching True Blood. I don’t know.

invite-me-to-your-memories:

Don’t miswrite dialects

pumpkinskull:

realsocialskills:

So, I’ve seen this problem when people want to write characters from a culture other than their own:

  • They know that those characters speak a different dialect than they do
  • And they want to convey this
  • But they don’t realize the dialect actually has a…
Mostly good! But: * some “accent guides” on the Internet are rubbish. Linguists tend to be better sources than others. * native speakers remain the best guide to a language and dialect - they _instinctively_ know how the grammar works. When you learn a foreign language (or a new dialect), you have to think about things like verb tenses and sentence subjects and so on. The average native speaker has been able to make grammatically correct sentences, without thinking about grammar at all, since they were 5.

clatterbane:

Don’t miswrite dialects

realsocialskills:

pumpkinskull:

realsocialskills:

So, I’ve seen this problem when people want to write characters from a culture other than their own:

  • They know that those characters speak a different dialect than they do
  • And they want to convey this
  • But they don’t realize…

clatterbane said:

In a lot of cases, it seems better to convey the point through syntax and idiom, IMO.

Otherwise it’s a little too easy to come across like the hideous, deliberately Othering 19th century attempts at dialect writing. Even if you do some actual linguistic research, and aren’t trying to give that effect. I have seen modern examples that were just so bad (usually dealing with already stigmatized dialects) that I personally try to use a very light touch with that.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, this is definitely a much less risky approach.

tardis60:

Don’t miswrite dialects

pumpkinskull:

realsocialskills:

So, I’ve seen this problem when people want to write characters from a culture other than their own:

  • They know that those characters speak a different dialect than they do
  • And they want to convey this
  • But they don’t realize the dialect actually has a…

tardis60 said:

Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors. I can think of half a dozen instances where one of his characters’ unusual speech or pronunciation is written out phonetically to give a sense of personality. Sometimes this is over-the-top off the wall, for humorous effect, as it has no real-world equivalent that I know of (Mr. Tulip’s speech impediment in ‘The Truth,’ Findthee Swing in 'Night Watch,’ Edward d'Eath in 'Men at Arms.’).

Another favorite author of mine, Tad Williams, wrote my favorite series Otherland without making accents and nationalities obvious in dialogue with a few exceptions (Long Joseph Sulaweyo, Daniel Yacoubian spring to mind), to the point where I would forget a character was British or Australian. That effect worked really well for me to confuse identities and cast mystery, which added to my enjoyment. Some characters had unusual speech patterns or slang that conveyed personality in memorable ways without being distracting or obfuscating.

In the hands of skilled writers, both approaches worked for me personally, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the very things that were fine for me offended or turned others off. Everyone has different triggers and thresholds. I’ve found there are certain words and ways of expression that are much more likely to cause offense, and others much less likely.

Unilateral arbitrary rules don’t tend to work well in communication, and certainly that seems to go double for creative expression. If you’re concerned about causing offense, I’d recommend getting feedback from people in a position to understand and have a valuable point of view (e.g. those you want to avoid offending), and err on the side of caution. Be creative in what solutions you try. Figure out what you want to convey and all the ways of doing it. I as a writer love trying different things and coming up with creative solutions.

Don’t miswrite dialects

So, I’ve seen this problem when people want to write characters from a culture other than their own:

  • They know that those characters speak a different dialect than they do
  • And they want to convey this
  • But they don’t realize the dialect actually has a rich grammar and other idioms and conventions
  • So they end up just using a lot of stereotypes, or mis-using well-known attributes of the dialect
  • For instance, white authors who want to write characters who speak AAVE often misuse “be” as an indicator (by replacing “is” with “be” at random times rather than learning how “be” actually functions grammatically and writing it correctly.)

It’s important not to do that. If you want to write dialogue in a particular dialect, it’s important to actually learn that dialect so that you can write it correctly. 

How to Write Women of Color and Men of Color if you are White.

kaylapocalypse:

kaylapocalypse:

A colleague of mine was talking to me recently about her misgivings about her capabilities regarding writing Women of Color. She wanted very badly to include several WOC characters in her sci-fantasy series, but she had some concerns about correct portrayal and writing them in a way that wouldn’t instantly piss people off. I told her I would write something about it that might help. So, here we have it: How to write POC without pissing everyone off and doing a horrible job.

In general, it comes down to three things. Research, Persistence and Consideration. Also. for the point of this essay, I am going to use Black women, Native Women and Mixed Race women as they each represent different individual (yet very important) racial struggles that need consideration.

1. Research is by far the most important thing. EVER. For this example, I am going to use black women.

It is important to start by trying your hardest to forget anything you think you know about black women and black female identity. As a white person, anything you would know about them you probably learned from media that is not controlled by or monitored by black women themselves. Meaning that it is likely not a good representation of black women at all. Or maybe you just have a black friend.

Which you should consider in the same way you would a control group for a science experiment.

One or two subjects would not provide conclusive evidence in regards to any hypothesis. Having one or two or even five black friends can’t help you with understanding the complex history of black discourse….

In order to start from scratch, I would first spend some time reading literature written by black women for black women. Learning the way black women have discourse among each other is the first step to understanding their perspective AND emulating their voice. Literature is the genre of media where POC have the most liberty (unlike film) to discuss certain topics or parts of their identity.

Then, I would delve into “complaints”. There are thousands upon thousands of articles where black women complain about their portrayal in media. These complaints are both valid and often eloquently expressed. It is important for you to know, what things black women (WOC) are already so fucking tired of seeing in regards to incorrect or offensive portrayals of themselves. Not only will it help you avoid making the same mistakes as white writers before you (an example of this: Arthur Golden and the hot mess that is Memoirs of a Geisha), But it will also get you upset about certain ways black women (POC women in general) are portrayed, and make you want to write them better. This can improve your writing in that not only will you avoid being offensive, but you now have the chance to be progressive and kick stereotypes out the window! 

Finally, I would take some time to follow some tumblr blogs that are run by the group you’re trying to write. This part of the research can really help because you’ll get a first hand, contemporary dialogue about issues within the specific POC community.  Which leads me to my second topic…

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Don't tell me my pain is beautiful

I’ve seen this happen a lot:

  • Something awful happens to someone
  • Or they see something awful happen to someone else
  • Or they notice a thing that’s awful in the world
  • And then they write something about it
  • And they put a lot of effort into writing it, so it is really polished

And then a lot of people comment along these lines:

  • What a beautiful piece
  • That was so eloquent and moving
  • You’re such a good writer
  • I wish I could write like that

And often, those are the only or the primary comments a post like that gets, especially if it is written in highly personal terms.

I think there is something really wrong with that. Because when someone wrote something like that, the point was to communicate something important. And often, people completely ignore the content and focus on some sort of beauty unrelated to what the writer was actually saying.

When someone’s trying to tell you about violence, the right response isn’t “you’re so awesome at describing this violence in an asthetically pleasing manner!”; it’s “That shouldn’t happen,” or “What can I do to stop this?” or even “I think you’re wrong,” because sometimes you will disagree and sometimes you will be right. In any case, it’s important to take the content seriously.

readingpolitics:

The Adventures of Dame Ladycock, War Princess: Some examples of social violence against disabled folks

girljanitor:

realsocialskills:

I wrote a post a while back about writing characters with disabilities. I said that in real life, disabled folks experience social violence regularly. In order to write realistic disabled characters, it’s important to write in social violence (and not…

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It’s important to note that having been through child abuse is extremely likely (20% is a conservative estimate I’ve seen in some research). Writers should be aware of the effects of trauma, gaslighting and Stockholm Syndrome, which will all be intimately familiar to their disabled characters.

Also remember that many of us who cannot use service dogs - because no organization trains them for autistic adults, because we have traumatic memories of abuse that involved dogs and thus having one around all day would be self-defeating,  etc. - are systematically disenfranchised by the fact that no one believes our service animals are trained, uniquely necessary for our needs vs other members of their species, necessary at all, or autonomous creatures with the right not to be arbitrarily violated.

For example, i cannot bring my service rats on commercial transit because there’s no enforcement of disability rights and the bus driver can just say “i don’t think so”, and boom, wedding trip canceled. So i can only travel long distances compromised. Not to mention that i can’t bring some of the medicine i use to accomplish a basic level of functioning, on an airplane, due to archaic federal and international laws. So disabled characters should not be written as cheerily breezing through your travel scenes, unless you explain how your world is different in this area.

Returning to service animals; some ‘normal’ people are always out to prove we’re not really disabled for their political project, which may involve advocating that people on disability rolls lose the right to vote. One disturbing image and attached thread going around tumblr from a contemporary US town shows a cowardly threat from a Tea Party group tacked to a tree, saying they would expose the names and addresses of people receiving disability payments, imploring “the community” to decide for themselves if they were really disabled and implying that they shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Aware that we’ll inevitably encounter someone with that much disregard for my dignity and autonomy, it’s hard to justify regularly subjecting my service rats to the risk that the person will try to throw them to some horrible fate, especially as i show more visible signs of disability.

We live these kinds of impossible choices every day, weighing lethal risks against things that will harm our health.