Tag Archives: thought

Settling for ‘Good Enough’

Not in your love life (hell no!). But in writing.

I know the ideal is to always strive for perfection, and to keep working until something is the best that it can be, both for yourself and for the thing. It’s Art, dahling.

Frankly? F*** that. In a general sense, I think that striving for perfection damages you. It will never be perfect. It will never be exactly how you want it to. My choice has always been to get it as good as I can, admit the flaws, then move on. I take what I’ve learned and I do better with the next piece.

However, in a specific sense, I do try to get the best I can. I do aim for some level of perfection. I want to write the best work I can; I want to iron out the flaws, fill the plot holes, make the characters tug at the heartstrings. I want my readers to immerse themselves in a story without getting dragged out by flaws or problems.

And most of the time, I succeed. If it’s three major edits and countless minor ones…or another proofread on top of the one I’ve just done…or a complete rewrite…I do want what I push out into the world to be as perfect as it can.

Unfortunately, for one piece that I’ve just completed, I’ve had to just say f*** that. It’s done.

It’s not perfect. It’s good, sure. It’s ok. It’s probably got some flaws and some holes. But meh. It’s as good as it’s going to get.

Part of the problem is that I’ve had so much criticism of the piece that I can’t see where the flaws are any more. I don’t have any distance or confidence in myself to be able to fight back. I’ve been advised to almost completely re-write it, and that is a bit of a shock when I considered something pretty good. Is my judgement flawed? Am I wrong? Am I truly as crap as I feel when I’m reading the critique? I have tried to take the advice on board, tried to be reasonable, and some of it I have accepted and changed. But…at the point that I’m shouting at the screen? At the point I’m nearly in tears? At the point I’m considering giving up writing, because I obviously can’t do this? No. I can’t do more work on this; I just can’t. It’s finished. And that means that my choice at this stage is simple. I put this work out in a format that’s Good But Not Great, or I scrap it. That’s it.

So much as it frustrates me, I have to accept my limitations. I am not perfect, and in this case, I have not achieved the perfection I wanted. It’s not awful, sure. But it’s not as good as I want it to be.

And in this case, I’m fine with that. I make that choice, and move on. I’ll do better next time. I have to do better next time.

And I think that’s what matters: keep learning. Always keep learning.

Abusive relationships and friends left behind

I follow the social media of a friend in an abusive relationship, because it’s one of the only links I have left to him. It’s hard when he hasn’t posted for a few weeks, or is really excited about something. I want to connect, I want to reply, I want to check he’s ok. But I know it would only cause trouble, both for him and for me. Even posting this has the potential to get me in trouble; it’s a fine line to walk, but it’s a situation that bugs me and this blog is for my personal thoughts – so hey, what the hell. This is what I think.

Being in an abusive relationship sucks, and watching from the sidelines also sucks.

We can’t reach out. He thinks the world hates him, and he believes that no one wants to be friends with him. Despite words, emails, gestures…there is only so much you can do against someone who really doesn’t want to believe, and has been systematically cut off from anyone who could show him a different view.
But the relationship isn’t everything. We want him to do better in his love life, yes, but it doesn’t meant that’s the be-all and end-all. We revel in his every moment of happiness and small victory. We root for him when he struggles. We enjoy the moments of life that he shares with the world. He’s building a life for himself and building himself up, which is brilliant; I wish we could share in that, but it’s fantastic to see it happening even at a distance.
I wish I could do more. I wish he’d believe that people like him, share his interests, want to know him. But…
Well. What happened, happened, and it’s as much his choice to be where he is as it is ours to remove ourselves from a situation that was made harder by our presence. He’s not in any serious danger; it’s mild emotional abuse from someone who genuinely intends no harm, but doesn’t see how often they cause it. It sucks for us to not be able to contact someone, even as an acquaintance or just to check on them, without it opening a can of worms. But that’s the path he’s treading, and it’s better that we’re not causing problems for him by trying to stay in contact. All we can do is be ready to offer support as and when it’s right to do so again.
We’re still here. We haven’t forgotten you. We don’t hate you. If you choose another path, we’ll offer whatever support we can to make you realise that you are worth so much more than you think you are.
We’re here, whenever you want to reach out. We’ll answer.

On trans* and fantasy

I’d like to start by saying that this is my opinion. If you’ve got a different one, that’s great – weigh in in the comments!

I write fantasy. I don’t think I have actually ever put a dragon in a story (not yet, anyway) but I write things that don’t exist; magic, strange worlds, flying machines….and I write people. Ordinary, normal people just trying to cope with the life they lead. No magical heirs or people with destiny-based coping mechanisms. I might write fantastical worlds, but the people within them – and their view of the world – is based on our one here.

So I write diversity. I wrote a story for the anthology Steampunk Universe recently, featuring a disabled character named Kita. I’ve got a short story coming out soon that features a transgender character, and No Man’s Land is full of Ghost being kick-ass and transgender. But I stopped in the middle of writing a recent story about Ghost to sit and worry.

I got told off a few weeks back for using the wrong word, saying the wrong thing, in a recent explanation I did. I had worried over the entire thing anyway and done my best, but I got it wrong; I offended someone by being thoughtless about the meaning of my words. And now I’m worried about even writing Ghost – I’ll get it wrong. I’ll say the wrong thing. I’ll mis-represent something, I’ll offend someone, I’ll screw up and give a really bad or biased or unfair portrayal that makes everything worse…

I’m currently feeling paranoid, scared and angry.

And I think it’s time I grew a thicker skin.

It hurts and it’s hard for me to do, but there’s always someone who’s going to be offended, and there’s always someone who is going to have a different worldview to mine. I will never be completely right. I need to deal with that.

So, basically…screw it. Yes, I’m going to get things wrong – but then I also got the height of a floating island wrong, and the time it takes to travel a distance in a plane. I frequently mess up the laws of space and time, story continuity and hair colour. I have people in two places at once and someone whose injured hand changed sides three times in the course of the story. I had someone whose entire backstory changed because I’d misunderstood what powered their anger. And if these things are pointed out to me, I amend them (if the story hasn’t been published) or do better the next time (if I now can’t change what I wrote).

Why should this be any different?

I want to be someone who does give visibility and agency to LGBTQA* people. I want to write people whose sexuality and identity and gender identity aren’t the same as mine – in the same way that I want to write people with backgrounds that are different, jobs that are different, outlooks that are different. I want to write mental health and physical health in good and bad states. I want to write anger and sadness and love. I want to be able to understand how different people react to different circumstances, and how they view the world. I want to learn, and I want other people to learn right along with me. I refuse to write what I know because that wouldn’t be the point of fantasy. Why take a journey in your imagination if you’re just going to stay in the same place?

This needs to happen. I might get it wrong, but the more positive visibility that smaller communities have, the better. The more the idea of different identities and different outlooks and different ways of dealing with the world are out there, the more tolerant and broad-minded the world will be. If I want to read stories about people different to me, and I want to learn, and I want a more tolerant society that accepts not everyone is the same as them…I need to start showing that not all society is like me. And that means writing it into the worlds I create.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

So if you read a story of mine and you think I’ve got something wrong, tell me. Be polite. Point it out and tell me what it’s been like for you, or your friend, or someone you know. Explain how I could do better; explain the meaning behind a word, how you view it, how it would be different if I’d said something else. Tell me your opinion, and I’ll listen.

I am human. I am trying to understand things that I have not experienced, and I will get it wrong. Instead of fighting me, help me.

And that goes for the physics of airplane wings as well as everything else.

Fantasy Faction: Gender and Stereotyping in Fantasy

There’s an excellent series ongoing over at Fantasy Faction at the moment on gender and stereotyping in fantasy by Leo Elijah Cristea. I’ve ranted before about diversity, but this is an excellent – and many-parted – look at why it’s important and various aspects, including bisexuality and the need for balance.

Part One – Strong Women

The female characters presented in the opening are excellent examples of why setting warrior women as the standard can be problematic. A great number of people imagine leather-clad women with loose dark hair and a black handgun, staring over one shoulder in urban fantasy, and our dark, heartless assassins with troubled pasts in epic fantasy…It isn’t this leather-clad heroine who creates the problem, but rather those who assume her to be the standard. The norm. This urban fantasy diva with her attitude and gun-slinging night-job isn’t the only woman out there, taking on the night.

Part Two: Switching Roles

We need weak women who only find their agency later through a story as much as we need strong women who know exactly what they are doing from the get-go, and we need weak and strong men to do the same. Agency shouldn’t be an assumed asset and neither should strength. Both of these things are subject to personality and circumstance. And perception. Many people write characters off for being weak simply for not exhibiting strength in a way we’ve been taught to see. Ultimately we need diverse people and people who think and act diversely. Real people who are reflections of those we’ve known and loved and met.

Part Three: Balance

The need for gender equality in fiction doesn’t threaten or invalidate everything that appears more traditional: those are part of the tapestry by default. Just as with the cold hearted assassins who are stripping feminine, softer and less traditionally “strong” heroines of their limelight, for fear of writing “weak” women, casting every woman as hard and every man as soft would do the same.

Part Four – currently missing!

Part Five: Bisexuality

Whether an author consciously decides to make a character bisexual as part of an organic process, or if, after careful consideration of the abundant cishetronormativity of their work, they decide to give bisexual representation, it is very easy to convey the point that a character is open to relations with people outside of the gender society has ingrained the reader to expect. A passing glance in a tavern from the gentleman thief to the fetching stable boy just popping in on his way to bed; a runaway princess thinking fondly of her lady-in-waiting, with whom she might have nurtured secret budding romance; that warrior on the battlefield who can’t get the eyes of the other swordsman from his head when the fighting is done.

They’re definitely an interesting series of articles that I’d highly recommend reading!