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  • It’s Probably Not You

    You might recall that, in my last post, I said this:

    Someone asked if there were things I worried about with my book. And, yes, there definitely are. Some are, I think, pretty universal artist concerns. I also had two specific worries that, whilst not unique to me, are less universal. You see, my book has bracing quantities of swearing and has characters with names that you might think are yours. In this post, I’m going to talk about the first. There will be another post for the other later on.

    Well, today is “later on,” so I’m here to talk about names. Or, to keep it not-too-long, character names in Peace Fire. This is one of those that I hope everybody who has ever known me reads, because I’d like to not have to say a million times that, no, that character isn’t named after the person you think.

    A toddler furiously reads a bookYou can probably just relax whilst you read

    Even before I had a band, back in the murky reaches of my teen years, I started pulling together the ideas that would become Peace Fire. That process is a whole other post, but I’m trying to lay out a timeline, so it’s worth mentioning.

    The year before I actually did form a band, I sat down and wrote out the roughest of rough drafts. It read something like the version you’d get if you didn’t care about spoilers and asked me to tell you the story on a lunch break. I did this in spite of being pretty sure I would never manage to follow through and write it out as an actual book.

    Spock pets a black cat and raises an eyebrow to indicate that you are talking rubbishI know , Spock…I know…I was ridiculous…

    One of the things on which I spent huge amounts of time was character names. I think names are really important, and I find it a painstaking task to choose a name for anything I care about. I wanted to find names that both fit the character and that would spare me from false accusations that I’d named a character after someone I knew. Fortunately for me, there were appropriate names for all the main characters, some of them appropriately common enough names to not make this a ridiculous affair, that fit both criteria. Hurrah!

    In fact, in that initial draft, in the section with notes for another story that might happen in the same universe, there was only one name that was a purposeful “naming after.” But she isn’t in this book. (Don’t worry, curious kittens, I’ll say more about that below.) Though, for the record, the outlines for the ideas that became the next two books in the series were done enough that I can probably just post this or point to this for them too. And, if some new character pops up when I do my next drafts, because I already have one draft of book 2 and the outline of book 3…And if I happen to grab the name of someone I know for that character…Well, chances are good that I’ll drop you a note, like I did for the other people who I can still find whose names I stole. If it’s about you, you’ll know.

    Now, fast-forward to 2015. Years after that initial work I did. I picked up my notes and my bits of scenes…and I realized that I now definitely had been social with some people whose names were like my characters’ names. In fact, for reasons there’s no need to go into, I felt pretty sure that certain groups of people would be positive I’d named particular characters after people in those groups. Oh, the drama! And I really hate drama.

    And I really felt (and still feel) sure that those people wouldn’t believe me when I told them that those characters weren’t named for them. Ugh.

    My initial instinct was to do a massive re-naming. I spent a whole day trying to do that for just one character. And then slapped myself. I know the truth; all I can do is tell it. In the end, I decided that it would be ridiculous to undo the careful work I’d done.

    Drawing of an angel holding a man's hands. Text on picture: And the angel said to him, "Stop hitting yourself!" But he could not stop, for the angel was hitting him with his own hands.Dramatic recreation

    So, instead of changing names, I’m writing this post. I’m pointing out the timeline. I’m trying to make it clear that, with the exception I’m going to list below, if you met me after I started making music, this definitely isn’t about you. If anything, naming the characters after people I know would have made it harder to stay true to the true characters of those characters. (Yeah, I know, that’s a bit of a tangled sentence.)

    I did actually change one name. By some horrific consequence, there was a real-life parallel involving someone with a character’s name that was a little too spot-on. Even knowing better, I felt uncomfortable and felt sure the real-life person would see it as an attack.The character was…not unimportant, but not one of the absolute core crew, which made it easier.

    Now, here’s the list of characters who are named after people I know, and notes enough that the people I know will know it’s them (even if I no longer know how to find them and send them a note to tell them I used their name):

    Sarah! I actually have more than one amazing friend called Sarah. I’d kind of like to get you lot in a room together because I suspect just watching you talk all night would be magical. One of you actually met me post-band formation, but there’s no way you don’t know you are one of my inspirations. You are the exception to my “all namesakes are pre-band people,” and you bloody deserve the honour. I love you Sarahs so much.

    Scott! But a particular Scott. And it’s your first name, not your last. Scott S. Scott with two Ts. Scott who used to dance with me every weekend. (At MachineWerks and other places…Oh, man, I miss those nights!) Scott who….well, a lot of things. I thought you’d appreciate being a doctor and wouldn’t fuss over being a woman. I should also note that Scott is why I know how awesome it is to let someone else scrub out your wounds.

    Me glaring over my shoulder at someone at a dance club. Pale skin, long dark hair, black makeup and clothesPortrait of the author as a dancing queen (aka me at MachineWerks)

    Paul? Paul! This is one of two people I’m not still in touch with. And I might be remembering incorrectly. Basically, when I needed to name a bouncer, I immediately thought of a bouncer I really liked back in those days when I was always out with Scott. I am pretty sure he was called Paul. But, hey, MachineWerks bouncer on Saturday nights, with your shaved head and ready smile, you deserved to be name-checked this way. Even if I maybe got the name wrong…(Updated to add the ! version of his name and to note that Scott has confirmed my memory is not entirely faulty. Whee!)

    Marleina! You won’t meet her in Peace Fire, but I don’t want to write this blog, which should cover all the books, and not mention Marleina. What you can’t see is the way my eyes become hearts when I think of Marleina. Sadly, she is also one of the people I lost touch with. But you’ll know if you’re her, because you would have lived in the same building with me on Capitol Hill (you got me that flat, actually) and have danced with me at MachineWerks. (I guess there’s a theme here, isn’t there?) I’m glad we were friends enough that I got to call you Mina, and I hope you read my books and wonder if it’s about you. (It is! Though you are way cooler than the character. I just didn’t figure I could describe her like you and have people not consider it way too fictional to even include in fiction.)

    And if you’re a friend who wonders why your name didn’t show up or why I won’t let you claim that the character is named for you…Don’t fret, my pet. You don’t need that to happen to be a loved or worthwhile person. Plus, how will you feel when that character I named after you dies or worse? Trust me; I’ve seen some really uncomfortable moments caused by well-intentioned authors naming characters for family or friends.

    (And if you’re someone who wants to argue and accuse me of lying, please send those notes to youarewrong@iwouldnotwastethetime.com. Heh!)

    Being reclusive decreases the number of people I know well enough that they might actually think a character is named after them, but it looks like I haven’t been consistently reclusive enough. I’ll try harder 😉

    Peace Fire cover: a silhouette with a red flare in the middle, in front of and a large, round, metallic shape
    Peace Fire is out 11 October!
    Pre-order your Kindle edition here.
    Sale price until 10 October


  • Not Ashamed Addendum: Isolation

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    (Relevant to bi-polar, autistic, musician, writer, introvert, reclusive, but also to “my own biggest fan”)

    Stepping out of the flow of existing topics for this addendum, because it seems like an important one for people who care about me and are reading along.

    I was talking to one of my sisters the other day, and she made a comment about how depression is isolating. Which is true. Feeling isolated and alone is a very common part of the depression experience for most (all?) sufferers. Which got me thinking about me and solitude (and also the fact that I think my sister was trying to carefully express worry about me and solitude given the fact that depression is isolating).

    Now, I’m in a rush to get some things done, so I’m not going to google it, but…It seems like depression is isolating because:

    • Depression seems to be tangled up with the lying voice of low self-esteem, so you isolate yourself because you are pretty sure you don’t deserve friends or good times and that your friends probably actually hate you.
    • You have no energy or desire to do anything but lie in bed or binge watch TV or something like that.
    • You don’t want to be judged for being depressed, and the best way to avoid judgement is to avoid people.
    • Other people can be weird or uncomfortable around you when you’re depressed, so they stop inviting you around or you get tired of that and you stop accepting invitations.

    There might be more reasons, but those are the ones that seem to be the main issues.

    If you look at the list of labels you could apply to me (as laid out in my Not Ashamed posts), you’ll see that figuring out my own situation (am I isolated by depression?) is complicated by other things. In addition to being bi-polar (which, for me, is where the regular depression is seated), I am:

    • Autistic. Autism can be isolating for all the causes noted up in that first list, but also because of social awkwardness, sensory overwhelm issues, and how much work it can be to try to appear “normal.”
    • A musician and writer.Setting aside the oft-noted isolation of a touring musician…For me, and for every creative I know, alone time is essential for actually creating. Time to process, to try things out, to do the actual work.
    • An introvert. I won’t waste time dispelling misunderstandings of that term. The internet is full of that. But the root of what an introvert actually is is this: whilst extraverts are charged by being around other people, introverts need alone time to recharge. For me, I need hours every day—and sleep doesn’t count—to recharge from interacting with other humans. When I’m super worn out, that also includes avoiding online or on-phone interactions.
    • Reclusive. For reasons of pure preference, not due to any of the stuff on the first list or the rest of this list, I just really love solitude and enjoy being away from humans.

    In a case like me, it would be hard to tell if depression were isolating me, because so many other things in me either need or lend themselves towards isolation. So, to maybe relieve some concern from others, I want to address the usual reasons for isolation that I put in the first list.

    • Low self-esteem: This definitely used to be the case. As noted in another Not Ashamed essay, I have known the grip of self loathing. But, these days, I’m my own biggest fan. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s good cos I can barely manage the friendships of those who do love the taste of me. And I’ve pretty much stopped spending time with people that I think actually hate me. So, nope. This one isn’t an issue.
    • No energy or desire: This happens. It sure does. But I’m never lying in bed and weeping because I wish I had the energy or desire to hang out with someone. And I know that, if I didn’t want to be alone in that, I have friends who would happily, quietly sit with me. Really, given my introvert nature, it is a relief to me to be alone on such days. Being around another human would only sap what little energy I might have.
    • Don’t want to be judged: I’m pretty lucky here. In addition to caring less and less with every passing year what others think, I happen to be mainly engaged with people outside the mainstream. One awesome thing about that is that such people don’t stigmatise depression. They don’t judge me; they feel compassion and—in some cases—empathy for me. Basically, I am totally blessed that my friends are awesome and not “normal.” (Again, see how I am Not Ashamed about my depression, so not even general societal stigmas can isolate me. Rar!)
    • Not invited cos I’m a bummer: As noted, I have great friends. I’ve always been very blessed with good people in my life. Even when I was a raging mess as a teen, my friends (again, not mainstream kinds of kids) invited me and welcomed me. We tried to support each other and care for each other and, at the very least, learn to work with each others’ messiness. These days, I think that I manage to keep my messiest bits out of the fun social times (which is something that is made easier by the lovely solitude I need, I want, I take for myself). And, even when I don’t, my friends aren’t weird about it but are thoroughly supportive and sweet.

    I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging. I wrote all that with an immense sense of gratitude. And I sincerely wish that everyone could feel so blessed as I do. And, if you are struggling with something and feel isolated for whatever reason, I truly hope you can find friends and resources to help you have as little solitude as you want.

    But no worries about me. I don’t feel isolated, and I know there are people I can easily turn to if I ever did feel isolated. (And thanks for those of you who have felt loving concern over this. I hope this eased your minds.)

    xx

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).


  • Word Warrior: Retired

    My parents did not agree on all points when it came to parenting style. The one point that seemed to me to cause the greatest disagreement (though not arguments that we kids saw) had to do with one of my favourite things about how my dad parented. I’m not even sure that it’s one of which my other four siblings took advantage, so that exclusivity, in a world full of sharing, hand-me-downs, and limited resources, surely increased my enjoyment of it. My dad’s policy with disagreeing with him was this: if you can state your objections or contradictory case in a calm and logical manner, I might change my opinion, but I will certainly try to listen and understand your point of view. Massive, right?

    In addition to being a very EMOTIONAL person (yes, all caps are warranted), I’m also very logical. That’s eroded a bit as I’ve focused my life on the pursuit of creative dreams, but it’s still there. It’s one reason I love writing code, I got great feedback as a technical writer, and I ended up with a degree in Philosophy. I wasn’t sure I’d end up there, though my dad predicted it very early on in my life and got surer after the many times I showed him the error of his logic and caused him to reverse his decisions on things like Going to a Party and so forth. I had too many things I loved and actually, given my intense, lifelong love of music; my early, applauded forays into writing; and the refuge I found being in theatre, I assumed I would go into the arts or at least critiquing the arts.

    But philosophy worked for me on many levels, whilst also spoiling me in terms of discussing differing views with other people. In philosophy discussions, you bring in what facts you can when making an argument for your points of view, and you can even take courses on logic (which I did and loved) in order to try to help you in making sure that the argument you are building is logically sound. But there are few provable theories in philosophy, much as in the non-scientific parts of life, so you can’t just “google it” and walk away with answers. As a result, I spent many hours in passionate, intense discussion with my fellow students over issues.

    In short, my life up to and through uni taught me how to disagree respectfully and logically. It taught me to research, to think carefully, to speak clearly, to leave out personal attacks (because they don’t actually help your argument), and to listen to others’ views. They taught me how not to be rude to someone even when I thoroughly disagree with them.

    There were other things in my life that helped me learn and apply all that as well. For instance, I often disagreed with my peers on spiritual matters. But I applied the parts about being respectful even if you disagree, and I managed to accrue friends with a wide variety of beliefs, opinions, viewpoints, and the like with which I disagreed. And, especially with friends, we managed to discuss those things without getting heated.

    However, once I was in uni, I found myself online constantly. And I used my intellect, logic, writing skills, and any other thing I could get my hands on—short of lies—to engage in arguments (aka to clearly, explicitly, in more detail than was needed, and with great sneering tell people online how wrong they were). Oh, the hours I’d spend on forums or email lists dissecting someone’s words. Oh, how I relished it and earned myself a bit of a reputation.

    So, when I tell you that what this post is really about is why I don’t argue online any more (and even hold back often in person), I want to start with the understanding that I don’t avoid it because I can’t do it. I most certainly can do it and, for some meaning of the word, can win at it. I’m intelligent, educated, a researcher, a professional word writer (yes, really), determined, capable of turning off my compassion when in competition (which is part of why I avoid competition), and so forth. I can do it. I have done it. And, MRAs with their threats and SWATting and doxing and such aside, I don’t fear much of anyone. I have extremely healthy self-esteem, much to the sorrow of the so-called suitors who’ve tried to use negging on me, which means that I don’t think there’s anyone—not even famous people whose work I think is brilliant—who’s worth more than anyone else. And that includes me.

    But, here’s the thing…

    I don’t have loads of spare time or energy. I’d rather use what time and energy I have to create new songs, write new books and poems, or engage with people and cats I like (who, therefore, are more deserving of my limited time and energy). Especially given that I no longer get anything out of the online arguing and, no matter how respectful and logical, never seem to change anyone’s mind.

    So, there’s your next reason: people seem wildly set in their opinions. Even in the face of overwhelming scientific proof. I’ve read essays on why that is, and I know our brains are wired in a way that tend us towards that. I might try to fight against it, because I like to believe there are actual truths and I want to know them. But it sure seems like most people don’t care to put up a fight.

    When I look at how people engage, including the conversational markers that indicate they aren’t really looking for a discussion of differing opinions, there’s a complete lack of respect. Most of the time, the very first message to express disagreement is filled with nasty personal jabs against the person with whom they disagree. Someone who does that is probably actually there to shame anyone who disagrees with them.

    On those occasions where I’ve tried to politely call someone out on that (“that sounded a bit uncivil” or something along those lines), I’ve run into one type of a display of a larger, problematic behaviour: the person often claims that they were just kidding or that I’ve misunderstood their tone because everyone knows that conveying tone in text is hard. How can you actually have a discussion if you won’t own your words? Granted, writing is a thing I do and for which I have a talent, but I think we’ve got millennia of written word to show that, in fact, a little effort can allow clear writing and (a related missing skill that stops me engaging) reading comprehension. In fact, it’s even easier in this age because emoticons are ridiculously widely used. Not sure you’re coming across as “just kidding” or wanting to be careful (without having to really take care with your words)? Throw in an emoticon before anyone accuses you of being uncivil 😉 (See how that works?)

    On the topic of reading comprehension, I have a few issues that add to my reasons for not engaging. The second two of which are also issues in spoken communication, so you should already know the problem is a problem. First, things are written down. If you miss words, that’s because you went too fast. They’re right there. But people often skim or don’t take the time to really read it because…Second, everyone is in too big a rush to get in their next slam, so the words I might carefully write in response are wasted. And, third, everyone seems committed to assuming that those with conflicting points of view are writing with nothing but the nastiest intent. I’m not sure what the root of that is (I have theories, but I know this post has already gotten too long for the average internet reader if past length complaints are any indicator), but the result is that I could say or write, “I’m actually seeing that, on page X of book Y, Expert says (something other than what you said),” and it’s seen as an attack. (True story: I once did that in a Humanities class and a girl broke down in tears and I was called numerous unflattering names by many classmates the rest of the term because I was, obviously, a heartless monster.) In other words, I could say, “The article actually says dogs aren’t cats,” and people read, “You are a total knob and you should die and dogs aren’t cats and that is because you are the worst person ever and I am a monster!” But shoutier.

    Of course, people don’t help encourage reading comprehension with their sloppy writing. I get that we aren’t all paid to write or naturally skilled at it, and I know that not everyone had the luxury of prioritising the education they got as children and holding onto the basic skills they might have learned then. That’s really okay. I’m no longer the 15-year-old who didn’t read notes from her boyfriend because his grammar and spelling mistakes pained her too deeply. I’m really trying to understand the intention behind your words. But it seems people have given up, even in professional correspondence and certainly in their unpaid hours, on using anything like proper grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Listen, I throw strict propriety to the wind in my personal hours as well. But I think we’ve all got to step back and ask ourselves whether someone outside our head wouldn’t appreciate a comma or a thought that is written out clearly, especially a nuanced thought that you’ve cut down to five words. I’m not being a “grammar Nazi” over it; I’m truly just looking for people to express their thoughts in a respectful and coherent way. (Not to be a jerk, but I’d note that I’ve got a number of friends for whom English is not a first language, who live in countries where English isn’t much spoken, who manage to write things that are much more elegant—in English—than some of the things I read from native English speakers who are trying to explain to me why I am wrong.)

    And, actually, there’s another issue. Sure, part of even the most civil and logical of my philosophy discussions might include explaining why the opposing viewpoint is wrong. But the more important part, especially in the real world, is approaching it from the perspective of trying to explain why you believe your viewpoint is correct or even just why you hold your viewpoint.

    In some cases, it’s actually okay if your viewpoint is based on your instincts, intuition, faith, or the like. But there are a great many more cases where it’s probably better and completely reasonable to have and expect reasons beyond that. Again, I don’t expect that every reason will be a scientific fact, but there are some lines (“Tuesday is the best day because dirt is green” is an example of a line I will draw…unless you live on a planet where dirt is sometimes green but only on Tuesday). And if you actually have no logic or facts or reasons beyond faith, instinct, intuition, covering that with hostility doesn’t make you more right. I might not agree with you, but I’ll respect you more if you just own it and do it without hostility.

    On a more personal point, since I’m willing to own my issues, it pains me to admit that my brain often seems like a full, slightly faulty hard drive. Where I used to remember loads of facts and all my smart reasons for things, I now have to go back and re-research if someone wants me to justify myself. It doesn’t matter the hours put into researching objective sources in order to come up with my viewpoint. It doesn’t matter that I found it interesting or that I wanted to remember. My brain, these days, doesn’t even do much good remembering fun things, like that film I watched or book I read. I have no idea how my brain managed to work so well back when I wasn’t sleeping and was starving myself…But there it is. So in-person conversations of a controversial nature really can only happen healthily with people who are already proven friends and make room for this issue. I could re-research for online conversations, but that adds even more time and that makes it even less worth it.

    There are other reasons, but those are the most pertinent (and this post has also gotten even longer than the much-past-140-characters length people online seem to prefer). If you’ve been in online arguments and not loved it, you can probably insert your own reasons.

    In short: online arguments rarely change anyone’s mind, they are usually rife with poor communication practises, and they are unlikely to leave anyone feeling good (beyond whichever person thinks they’ve won and gets to be smug…but that’s a kind of ooky kind of feeling good). I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like the kind of thing I want to spend my limited time and energy on.

    So, to the nasty guy online today who thinks he won because I didn’t reply to his passive-aggressive, nasty, reason-free comment, it’s more that I’m trying really hard to be a grown up and not spend my time on you. (I can justify the time spent on this post as having wider applicability and as helping me work through the residual annoyance I’m feeling at how I was treated and at the racist views you were espousing. Especially since dancing, music, kittens, food, ranting aloud, and reading didn’t help. But writing this did!) And to the next person I walk away from instead of getting sucked into an Internet Argument, ditto.

    Of course, I’m now considering re-opening my long-ignored LiveJournal so that I can rant out my frustration every time someone attacks (well, some times…every time would get excessive). I’m not a robot; I do have feelings. Including anger. I like to keep that out of all my other public places, aside from certain songs, because I really do like to keep my contributions to the world more on the positive side. Now that I’m no longer the online verbal assassin I once was.


  • Not Ashamed: Celibate

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    As my awareness of issues around consent and rape culture grows, my thoughts about being shamed for celibacy have gotten less patient. A lot of what’s in here is also relevant to all the people who seem to feel, often just because they think I’m pretty, that I should hook up with them.

    Whilst most people have written off my celibacy (or rejection of their come-ons) as an artefact of my religion, it’s much more complicated than that. However, I no longer feel like explaining myself to anyone. For reasons related to my first paragraph.

    Previously, my response to people’s unhappiness and shaming around my celibacy (or rejection of their advances) has been rooted in disappointment (at their actions and words towards me) and patience. Patiently keeping my mouth shut as they tried to make me feel bad. Patiently deflecting their advances, over and over and over, as they refused to accept my “no.” Laughing along with threats, usually in jest, to just dose me and take advantage of me anyway. And so forth.

    But let me make this clear, now that I have become better educated about consent and rape culture:

    • My celibacy (or rejection of your advances) might pique your curiosity, but it is almost certainly none of your business. Not the reasons or anything else about it.
    • You might be very sad when denied access to my vagina or other things you’d like, but your sadness doesn’t give you the right to ignore my “no.”
    • When you push me, press me, beg, cajole, threaten…you are ignoring, trampling all over, my lack of consent.
    • I won’t be called a tease for refusing to have sex with you. In fact, as early as possible in a potential relationship or makeout-buddy situation, I try to make sure you know what’s not going to happen. That you ignore that…that’s on you.
    • Actually, you do know that someone even has the right to realise they’ve changed their mind about it in the middle of things without being a tease, right? A person is only a tease if they’re promising you something they know they don’t intend to give you. There has never been a time when I was a tease.
    • If I’m sexy, that does not obligate me to have sex with you or in general.
    • I’ve had people get angry that I enjoyed singing a song about someone who wished their partner would shag them but I wasn’t shagging anyone at all (much less the angry people); they called me a hypocrite. I’m pretty sure that’s not how singing works…Imagine a world where you could only sing songs about things that are totally true to who you are. (I thought of a lot of song-related jokes to make, but then got paralysed by the fact that someone might read this years from now and the song might no longer be in the public consciousness and might make my joke less funny. I’m sure you’ll stumble across one of your own…)
    • In a world full of all sorts of sexual appetites and interests and practises, I won’t feel bad about what I do or don’t do, because I’m not teasing or lying or hurting anyone or messing with kids/animals/taken people. No shame.

    Also, since even I didn’t know better in the past, let me make sure you understand that doing something like dosing a person to get sex is rape. It’s not something we should laugh about. I won’t laugh or be patient with that sort of thing again. (When we laugh about that, there might be those in our social group who don’t know it’s a Bad Thing To Do and might feel more empowered to go do those Bad Things. Go read up on that, kids. Welcome to the reality of rape culture.)

    I also won’t be pushed or cajoled or anything like that. That is not how someone will end up getting to have sex with me. That is, with little or no warning, how someone will end up getting a “goodbye” from me.

    I’m also pretty much done with people who push for any kind of intimacy after my “no.” I like myself. You can’t neg me into giving you my number or a kiss or something more. And, whilst I like a confident person, I also like a respectful person. If I like you and want to know you or be involved with you, you won’t need to push or play games. Did you know that consent even covers the stuff that comes before you try to access my vagina?

    So, yeah, not having sex is a thing that happens. And being a jerk to me about it won’t have any results you like. It definitely won’t make you the person I do have sex with.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).


  • Not Ashamed: Goth, Punk, Not Goth, Not Punk

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    I tried to find a way to write this as 4 different posts, because I know we’re getting near the end of the list and some of you who have let me know you look forward to these weekly posts. But it didn’t feel right as 4 different posts, even though it’s 4 different labels. Sorry. In my next life, I’ll try to be more objectionable.

    These days, I see myself as a richly multi-faceted person. I like what I like, even if it seems at odds with other things I like. I wear the clothes that make me happy, even if others—including friends—don’t know how to classify me. That such classifications are important to humans is a thing I’ve felt and kind of understood, but that also has always seemed a little silly. (The need to classify others is silly, to be clear. I don’t think figuring out who you are or figuring out that you truly fit quite neatly into some specific label is necessarily silly.)

    The anger and aggression and political disgust of punk speak to me. The acceptance of darkness and depression and pale skin and loads of black clothing and makeup of goth spoke to me. Plus, I like the music and aesthetics of both and the fact that both are spaces with room for people who aren’t typical, that celebrate that. It’s a nice contrast to being made to feel like a lesser person for the fact that I’m not normal.

    Me. Looking goth.
    Here. Cos I know you’re curious.

    Of course, when you’re visibly punk or goth, all the normal kids shame you. It’s so expected that loving family and authority figures will say, “Of course they harass you. What do you expect when you look like that?” (For the record, it’s not okay and you shouldn’t have to expect it.)

    But I wasn’t ashamed. And I’m not ashamed now. I loved (and still mostly do) all the good things I found in being punk and goth. And there’s nothing requisite about being either that’s harmful. Sure, your looks can make some people uncomfortable, but anything else that’s usually attributed to one of those as part of a negative stereotype can be found outside them as well. And I was part of some great community…

    Until I wasn’t. Until I realised that my tastes and aesthetics and interests stretched outside that to extents that, apparently, suddenly earned me the derision of those still firmly planted in punk or goth. So, basically, humans are kind of prone to being crummy towards people outside their group. Even the subcultural humans. None of us get to feel morally superior on that point.

    Interestingly, I’ve had multiple experiences where people assumed that I was saying they sucked when I didn’t think they were in the same group as I was. Because, as humans, we are hardwired from an evolutionary perspective to crave belonging and to assume that any kind of not belonging means there must be hatred and mocking and so forth.

    The thing is…we are no longer wandering tribes that have to beat each other to limited resources. At least not in most the western world. And, much to my delight, it seems like the lines between subcultures and genres are blurring…I’ve also learned, as an adult, to get along with all kind of people with whom I share very few tastes or beliefs in common. (Though I still insist on some serious overlap in a romantic relationship. But that’s a whole other story.)

    Which is to say that it is silly to treat different as dangerous. And it isn’t helpful to assume that being different to another person makes us less cool.

    You know what’s cool? Being genuinely you. There’s a lot of power for you there. Plus, the friends you make are friends with real you, not the person you’re pretending to be. That’s how you make real real friends.

    So, yeah, I have thrown myself full into punk and goth. No shame. And I’ve still got those facets. No shame. But I have other facets and inclinations. Again, no shame. I’m going to like the things I like and wear the things I want to wear and enjoy the friends who outlasted my self-discovery.

    Oh, and apologies in advance if you try to shove me into a single facet and I get snippy. I just really refuse to be single-faceted again and I’ll thank you not to push it. (Also, please don’t mistake my objections as hatred of things I’ve been. It’s the single facet thing I’m against. I’m cool with goths and punks and all sorts of people.)

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).


  • Not Ashamed: Intense

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    I think intensity has some complications. As with other things on my Not Ashamed list, I’m not claiming that the things are all easy or good or whatever.

    For instance, a good percentage of the people I’ve thought of as intense in my life have also turned out to be drama-magnets. Nay, not drama magnets, but massive drama generators. And the worst of my bad romantic relationships were with people whose intensity I found attractive, until it turned out that they were too easily inclined towards darker emotions (or “thrilling” behaviours like stalking or abuse).

    And I suppose that one reason I get accused of flirting when I’m definitely not is that people are just so used to those who aren’t intense. I don’t want to spend time on small talk (I really loathe it) or with someone who isn’t interesting. Which means I don’t tend to go for light topics, and I try to pay attention to the person I’m talking to (sometimes just because I’m trying to figure out if I want to keep talking). So, you find yourself in the eye of my intense storm and you wonder…But, for 99.99% of you, you really shouldn’t.

    But I think of my intensity as quality. Condensed goodness. Fuel for my art. Not just for my art, but it’s also fuelling the fires behind my emotions, my devotions.

    I guess, if you’re used to only those who aren’t intense, maybe that can be frightening.

    I guess, if you’ve only interacted with intense people who turned out to be manufacturers of drama and chaos and unpleasantness, any intense person can be frightening.

    I guess, if it makes you have to look deeper in yourself because maybe now you wonder if you might also, buried in your core, have such intense emotions…or you look and see you can’t match mine (in romance or friendship or bandmate-ing) and you’re afraid telling me will hurt my feelings or make me angry, maybe that can be frightening.

    And I’m not going to judge you for preferring…less (nor assume that, in an objective sense, that is the same as lesser). There’s a world full of people for you, and I hope that you find the best non-intense friends and romantic partners and so forth.

    But I’m never going to be ashamed of being intense, and I’m going to treasure those few who can dig on my intensity…and those who have some of their own without going mental on me.

    I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m a rather strong cup. But I’d drink me (and so would a few, delightful others).

    p.s. I balance out my intensi-tea with a propensity for silliness and an inclination to laugh. Call it my sugar, my milk, whatever it is makes your tea something more than bracing.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).


  • Not Ashamed: A friend to multiple people who dislike each other

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    For the purpose of this topic, I’m using the word “friend” the way most people do.

    This might be the only item on my list of labels where the people communicating to me that I ought to feel ashamed are only my friends. Which makes sense, given the topic. After all, when the issue is that I’m a friend to multiple people who dislike each other, I imagine they’re taking it personally.

    I hope that none of my friends will take any insult from what I’m saying here. This certainly is all meant in love, not meant to be passive-aggressive (I’m saying just what I mean), and is, arguably, further proof of your quality and my loyalty. Got it? Good!

    In general, my friends tend to be strong, unique, passionate people. To me, in general, these are all positive traits. However, you can probably see that these are traits that might make them a little more inclined to disagreements with others (especially with others who share those traits) than you might see from those who are mellow and agreeable and just what you’d expect.

    Now take all these intense people (of which I think I’m one) and put them in group activities that are related to their passions. Or in romantic relationships. In an entirely non-judgemental way I’ll say that I don’t think one should be surprised when conflicts arise, including conflicts that people can’t or won’t resolve. And, so, there I am, with friends on opposite sides of a conflict.

    I want to pause a moment to clarify that, as far as I can tell, none of these conflicts involve sexual violence (I will definitely choose sides and end friendships in such cases) or hatreds like racism, homophobia, sexism, and the like. Any hatreds here are either hatred for personalities, controversial choices, or taste in media. Though the latter seems to have diminished as we’ve all grown up a bit. Heh.

    So, there I am, with friends fighting. Neither of them actually completely horrible people. Maybe they’ve been some kind of horrible to each other (especially in the case of romantic relationships), but they’ve been good to me. And the horrible they’ve been to each other doesn’t cross certain lines (the ones in the former paragraph and a few others that seem reasonable to me).

    I hate the unkindnesses they’ve done each other and I wish they hadn’t but…But I don’t cast off friendships easily, and sometimes I can see both sides of the issue. And, so, I take my time in deciding how their falling out informs my opinions of and relationships with each of them.

    I know that we want our friends on our side in things. That we love it when friends can support our dislike, can confirm that we have done the right thing or that we were entirely right in a disagreement, can be counted on to never invite someone we hate to their party. I also know that, given how nasty some people can be, we instinctively worry that the friends of our enemies will betray our trusts even if they are also our friends. I have trust issues. I totally get that.

    I’m sad over friends who felt their best decision was to walk away from me when I wouldn’t join them in walking away from another person.

    And I’m so grateful to friends who have trusted me, have known that I’m constantly striving for integrity and to keep their confidences.

    I value my intense, passionate, strong-willed, opinionated mates. And that is part of why I am not ashamed that I am a friend to people who dislike each other. It’s okay if our tastes in people are different. And I appreciate those of you who are my friends and who dislike other friends of mine but who never try to shame me for it. Thank you.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).


  • Not Ashamed: Very Selective in My Friendships

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    I suppose this ties into the last two weeks’ posts. I mean, maybe this is because I’m an introvert and I’m reclusive.

    When I was younger, I scrambled for friendships. I think that I did it because society taught me that having loads of friends was normal and a measure of just how well I was doing in life. I think that I did it because I thought that enough friends would prove (to others and to myself) that I had worth. I think that I did it because I was afraid of what I might find if I were alone with myself.

    But I…I want to say I outgrew that, but I don’t want to imply that there was anything wrong with wanting loads of friends. In fact, I think it probably is normal to want that. That the majority of people, for at least part of their lives, want that. I don’t look down on people for wanting it.

    But as I grew to really like myself and not be afraid to be alone with me. As I spent time alone with me and found that I really, really loved being alone. As I learned that “normal” didn’t necessarily mean “better” or “best for everyone.” As I had some really incredible friends who helped me see that that was the level of friendship I wanted if I were going to put aside the art I was making or the beauty of solitude and give time and attention to other people. As that all happened, I grew into a self who had rather high standards for friendship.

    Now, I understand that what I consider my bottom line for friendship is higher than what others consider that line. I know what you probably mean when you call someone a friend. And I don’t judge you for that. What right is it of mine to judge? Friendships are personal things, aren’t they?

    And I use the word “friend” the way that you do when I talk to you, because I don’t see the value in having to preface every use with an explanation and with, I’ve learned from experience, trying to help you not feel hurt that, whilst I like you as much as people that you like and call “friend,” I don’t use that word the same way and…Yeah, it gets a bit much.

    I might not agree with all his thoughts, but Michel de Montaigne groks my kind of friendship <3 (Not that I don’t also enjoy my acquaintances and familiar relationships...)
    I might not agree with all his thoughts, but Michel de Montaigne groks my kind of friendship <3 (Not that I don’t also enjoy my acquaintances and familiar relationships…)

    It’s been very clearly communicated to me, by people who I do consider friends, who meet my unusually strict and odd standards, that I ought to be ashamed of myself for having such high standards. (Or even for knowing clearly when people fall in my concentric circles of relationships.) They claim it means I’m unfriendly and cold and…Well, you get the point.

    As with some of the other topics about which I’ve written, I’m sorry, sincerely, if this one hurts your feelings. And I couldn’t tell you precisely why my brain has a very different picture for “friend” than yours does. (Mine probably looks more like what you consider your best friends.) Maybe I actually took to heart those idealised descriptions of what friends are in programmes, films, and books.

    But you’ll see that I still treat you kindly; I don’t automatically treat people who aren’t my friends poorly. And I can still enjoy your company. And I won’t correct you if you call us “friends.” (Not unless I feel like what you are to me is less than what typical people would consider a friend. And, even then, I don’t correct to be mean. I believe in being honest and that knowing where we stand with each other is the best for both of us.)

    Anyway, in case you can’t tell from this post or what section of the site it’s in, I’m not ashamed. Even if I didn’t have a different bar, I wouldn’t be ashamed. I don’t say this about everything on my Not Ashamed list, but: I believe we’d all profit from being very selective about our friends. We should all have only friends who are truly well-intentioned when it comes to us. Who set aside their jealousy to celebrate our victories. Who kindly, and without turning it into gossip fodder or finding some perverse satisfaction in it, hold each other in defeats. Who can be trusted with our vulnerable parts and our secrets. (And, let’s be honest, I have trust issues, so it’s not necessarily an insult if you don’t get my trust.)

    Everybody ought to feel loved and supported by their friends. If your friends make you feel uneasy or attacked or unsupported, maybe you ought to join me in being very selective.

    And, like me, don’t be ashamed of that. It’s better to be selective, to walk alone if you must, until you find those who deserve your goodness.

    (One more note: I’m sure the world has many great people who could be my good friends. But I’m also sure that finding and being friends with all of them would lead me to neglect my arts and the sanity that comes to me from solitude. I don’t feel like I “gotta catch ‘em all.” And no shame if you can’t catch me, even if you are super awesome and we are well-suited. I’m actually a difficult friend. No, really. Have you read the other posts here? I might adore you madly and think of you constantly, but that won’t be enough to get me to find nearly as much time for you as most people seem to want. Consider this so-called shameful quirk of mine your saving.)

    Now, go out and be selective! You deserve it.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).


  • Not Ashamed: Reclusive

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    This one dovetails nicely with last week’s post on being an introvert. My reclusive nature is similar (there’s overlap), but it’s not quite the same thing.

    Last month, I was talking with an older, mothering sort of friend. I said something about being a hermit, and she got a little upset with me. There are a lot of connotations that spring into mind with that word, and none of them, to a casual eye, apply to me. I tried to convince her to let me call myself reclusive, because they’re pretty much the same thing. She didn’t like that much either for similar reasons.

    When you see me, I’m not dirty or unkempt. I don’t have twigs in my hair. I’m not afraid of you or gibbering madly. I know how to be polite and hold up my end of a conversation. My home isn’t a little hut in the forest. Etc etc etc.

    Matthias Grünewald painting detail: St. Anthony visiting St. Paul the Hermit in the desert. (Detail shows St. Paul looking scraggly and hermit-y.)

    So a lot of people think I’m joking or speaking really hyperbolically when I say I’m reclusive or that I’m an urban hermit. Look at me on stage! Look at me chatting with some stranger at a bar! Look at me managing the food shopping without breaking down in fear! (If they can’t believe I’m an introvert, they definitely can’t believe that I’m reclusive. That’s a step further.)

    The thing is there’s nothing in either the definition of “reclusive” or “hermit” that requires me to be afraid (or dirty or gibbering or living in a hut). Nope. In fact, in examining myself, I don’t even think I have any real social anxiety. I mean, maybe; I might be deluding myself. But I have plenty of friends who struggle with social anxiety, and close enough friends that they’ve described it to me, and I don’t think I’m having the same experience as they are.

    For me, it’s kind of like you asking me, “Amber, would you like vanilla or chocolate ice cream?” and I’m really not hungry for vanilla, so I shrug and say, “Chocolate, please.” No big deal. And, sure, I’ll usually choose chocolate. But it’s not because I fear vanilla. There are even some times I enjoy a little vanilla.

    “Amber, would you like to leave the flat today?” I’m not afraid of it. And, sure, there are times I enjoy seeing family or friends. But, mostly, I’ll just shrug and say, “No, thanks.”

    Now, my reclusiveness is certainly at least partly there to satisfy the introvert need for time alone and the autistic appreciation for being apart so that I can prevent sensory overload. But it’s not a burden for me. I really, truly, madly, deeply love solitude. I need hours of it daily. Even from the person I love most in the whole world. (Need. I’ve tried going without and it doesn’t end well.)

    I know I touched on this last week, but I want to be clear here that there is a part of this that isn’t motivated by needing to recharge or by needing to cut down on stimulus. There is a part of this that’s a deep hunger of solitude. For days or weeks of no in-person contact with other humans.

    There was a day I was having a mad craving for Thai food. My cravings can be ridiculously strong. And there’s a really tasty place nearby that I can get to in under 5 minutes. Or that can deliver to me. Massive craving and kind of busy and all I had to do was interact with a delivery person (I can order online) and I just shrugged and thought, “No, thanks.” My craving was mad at me, but the thing deep in me that strongly prefers solitude was just beaming with contentment.

    For those who worry, no, I never neglect myself. Beyond the occasional craving denied. I never go hungry, I’ve never risked a job or messed up a gig, and I’ve never let the cat go hungry or missed a vet appointment. I’ve left the house to do kind things for others. I even drag myself out in the middle of the night sometimes to catch a film that I’d really rather see at the cinema instead of on my TV.

    I live in a city. On purpose. I love being near the things I want. Especially with this fortress of solitude into which I can retreat within minutes of being done.

    And I honestly don’t mean to confuse anyone. Nor do I like how often people think I must be lying about being reclusive in order to spare their feelings. If I were going to lie about myself or my motivations, I’d make up better stories.

    Fake postcard with child sticking his head out of a castle and saying, "I'm sorry. I am way too busy living my awesome hermit lifestyle to leave my house and party with you."

    Societies are, by nature, social. So, of course, my desire to stay tucked away in my cosy flat is seen as a shameful desire. Especially this part of it that I can’t even blame on a validated thing like introversion or autism. And I’m flattered by those who, in trying to shame me out of being myself, demand to know what right I have to deny people the awesomeness of my company. Hey, I hear you; it must be hellish to live without me as your constant companion.

    But I’m not ashamed.

    And, someday, when it turns out that what I’ve put out into the world instead of a lot of social nights is albums and books and blogs and some killer live shows, I will feel like I’ve put more than enough of myself outside of this flat. If it weren’t for my love of solitude, I couldn’t do the work to create those albums and books and blogs…I suspect I wouldn’t even have enough sense of myself and my emotional space to put on shows that are half so authentic.

    I’m not the first or the last reclusive artist. It’s a fine tradition. No shame here.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).


  • Not Ashamed: Ambitiously Pursuing My Dreams

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.


    Ambition has its pitfalls. I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t. For the sake of fulfilling ambitions, people have lied, cheated, stolen, and done all manner of other immoral and unethical things. They’ve thoughtlessly ruined relationships. They’ve lived with only their own personal glory in mind.

    I’m not here to say that all ambitious pursuit ought to be free of shame. Nope. I fully advocate shame for some people and the way they pursue what they do.

    But I’ve examined both my dreams and my intentions. I don’t just know what I want, but I also know why I want those things. And I see no shame in wanting success with my music or my writing, nor do I see shame in the reasons I want that success. (I won’t elaborate here, but there’s a list of reasons, and they have nothing to do with personal glory.)

    There are two ways in which my pursuits of my ambitions are seen as a reason for shame, in addition to the reasons listed in my rock musician and scifi writer essays.

    First, some people look at what they see as the personal cost of my pursuit. Working hard takes time and resources. How can I “waste” those on what I do? As I explain, I believe that talents are like divine callings. If you have a talent, there is something you are meant to do with it. I think that the purpose doesn’t just vary talent to talent, but person to person. I’ve done what I can to figure out how my talents are best spent. And, in the past, I have tried to live a life where I didn’t give that my all, but spent my time and resources on more “normal” and less-criticised things. I felt…hollow and incomplete.

    I don’t take lightly the impact of my actions on others. I try to be mindful. But I also recognise I won’t do it perfectly; none of us can make it through life without causing some upset, hurting some feelings. I do my best. I’m sorry that not everyone approves. But I feel no shame. (The only time I feel shame, a shame that sits deep in me and can’t be talked away, is when I don’t give everything I can to making the best of my talents. And then I am miserable. So those whose judgement seems rooted in the fact that I’m not social with them as often as they’d like, I’d say you either aren’t a true friend—cos you’d rather I be miserable so you can hang out with me—or you haven’t thought this through.)

    The other way in which my pursuits are seen as a reason for shame have specifically to do with the realm of my ambitions. If I were ambitious to the same degree but it were business, law, medicine, and things like that, I’d be spared this particular set of judgements. Because there are those, including those amoungst my friends, who believe that the only pure ambitions in the arts are those that have to do with making your best art. The instant you also admit that you wouldn’t mind if you got paid for it (you know, being paid to do what I love, like non-artistic people can do without judgement…being able to focus all my time on the art instead of having to give my whole day to a “day job” and cramming bits of art into my evening…) or that you see benefits in being known by people other than your friends, you’re suspect and a sell-out and a defiler of art.

    Ehm, no. I’m working to make authentic art that speaks to me and is high quality. Your limited capacity to conceive of a situation where one can be true to art and hope that truth helps pay the rent doesn’t sound like a cause for me to feel shame…(It’s okay. Pause a moment, reassess, change your mind. See, now you’re good? Didn’t change your mind? Well, now you know a topic you’re best not pressing me on.)

    Because I continue to work hard towards my dreams and to do that without shame.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).