More destruction

I wrote an essay for the Disabled People Destroy SF project and its Kickstarter, and here it is: Malfunctioning Space Stations.

I am still quietly weirded out by this personal essay thing, where I write a professional non-bloggish thing and don’t have a veil of not-about-me around it, but all the same here it is, and it’s actually important to me, so go read it, please.

Access, ability, health: this week’s round

After the debacle that has been several years of World Fantasy Con, Mary Robinette Kowal has posted a convention accessibility pledge. It’s worth a look; it’s worth thinking and talking about. I specifically want to highlight something that I know Mary and the other people who have been talking about this pledge agree with: that the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is a starting point for convention accessibility, not the be-all and end-all. Not everyone will want to sign this pledge for a number of reasons, but taking part in the conversation and advocating for accessibility is important for all of us regardless of what form it takes.

Accessibility is an ongoing conversation in part because it never takes part on just one axis. Something that makes a convention more accessible for people with one kind of limited mobility won’t help people with another kind; mobility accessibility won’t help people with hearing limitations; and so on. We understand more about neurodiversity than we did twenty years ago, or even ten, but our understanding is still imperfect.

It’s been disheartening to watch people get defensive on these issues, to see comments that amount to “I’ve tried hard and been a good person and that should be enough”–especially since “trying hard” often applies to completely different fields of endeavor: you can try very hard to have an allergen-friendly green room, and that’s wonderful, and it doesn’t do anything for wheelchair access to panels.

The post I intended to write, before this came up, was about unhelpful reactions to other people’s medical situations–thankfully not mine, no one’s in my house. I have watched people play “guess the random diagnosis” for a friend who was having enough trouble without having their random friends with no medical expertise whatsoever pelt them with guesses for diagnosis and treatment. I have listened to stories of misrecorded personal details that could have serious impact on future care. I have heard reports of care costs that were supposed to be covered by insurance and were not, to the tune of four figures–or that were covered by insurance, and were still four figures. So the main thing I wanted to say was, “Never start talking about someone else’s medical care with, ‘you should just…’ because it’s almost never ‘just.'”

And this ties back in with convention accessibility, because if you’re dealing with health problems and/or disability. Even if they’re short-term–even if you’re “just” broken your leg and “only” have to get around on crutches for weeks. You are already wrestling with a labyrinthine system that is draining your time and energy in addition to the health problem that is draining your time and energy. And then you turn to your leisure activities to relax, and you’re the one who has to put in more and more time and energy to make them baseline functional. If the conrunners don’t do it in advance, it’s the people who are already having problems in the first place (this is a known pattern across other concerns) who have to put in more time and energy that they already have depleted.

I had a miniature hissy fit while doing some revisions on Itasca Peterson, Wendigo Hunter. I was adding supporting characters, and I noticed that everyone in the book was apparently able-bodied. And I had a miniature meltdown in the privacy of my office, going, “I have to deal with disability crap both first-hand and second-hand every day. Literally every. Day. Why can’t some able-bodied person who lives only with able-bodied people be the one to notice and deal with it in their children’s book?” I am not proud of this hissy fit, and when I had finished with my meltdown, I pulled up my socks and gave one of the kickass college students Itasca looks up to a kickass walker that is painted with cool designs. Which is not the ne plus ultra of disability in children’s books, so hey, any able-bodied person who lives only with able-bodied people who wants to notice and deal, feel free. But it circles back again: the people who have to deal with this stuff, statistically, will be the ones who deal with this stuff.

So if that’s not you, one way or another…think about changing the trend somehow? Thanks.

Tell me about your dreams, Sad Godzilla

There is a blog I like to read that tells funny stories, personal stories, about the blogger’s own life, but about every third entry the blogger does something that makes me wince on her behalf. Before the main subject of the post, she goes into Sad Godzilla Mode, stomping all over her own internal Tokyo with her mascara running, thrashing around destroying the buildings and roaring, “Not perfect! not perfect!” before she can start telling the story she wants to tell. She covers the blog post with disclaimers about how she doesn’t have a perfect life–quite often adding, “not like those bloggers you see” and then a list of the attributes of Perfect Life Bloggers.

And the thing about perfectionists–I know because I am one, and I used to be even more of one–is that telling her, hey, you don’t have to do that, it’s better when you don’t do that will just make her more self-conscious, not actually make her feel better about herself. There is no way to frame this as a far-outsider that will make her feel like she doesn’t have to be perfect. She has to come to that idea on her own, because anybody else introducing it–at least from as far outside her life as I am–will sound like “we have already realized that you suck, and here is another way that you suck: you write your blog posts badly,” not like, “hey, perfection is not a thing that exists in humans, so let’s move on without the disclaimers and hear about where your kid put the peanut butter; that’s what we’re all here for.” I would love to say, “No one reads a blog post and thinks, ‘that person is perfect, their life is perfect,'” but in fact this blogger’s comments are proof that some people do cherish that illusion about others, and flagellate themselves with it. It’s just…most of the rest of us don’t. Most of the rest of us get it. We’re all just doing the best we can, and hey, today the dog was cuddly because she got a haircut and the weather turned, woo. Or today something funny happened in the Ikea elevator when I was there to have lunch with my aunt and uncle. Or whatever. Onwards with today. That is what we’re all doing, glossy photos or not. We are all doing the onwards with today thing.

This is actually why I have started trying to avoid the opportunities to tell my favorite new college student How To College. She will college just fine. She will screw some things up, not because there is something wrong with her but because we all screw things up, and she is in a time in her life when everyone is telling her How To College, as a subset of everyone telling her How To Her. And so when she asks for my thoughts because I actually know something she wants to hear, okay, but otherwise, I am trying to mention thoughts like, hey, I love you and I believe in you, and otherwise thoughts like, I thought this picture Tim took was cool. Here is a video link I liked. Etc. In Hard to Change, Meg Hutchinson sings the line, “don’t wanna make the same mistakes that my parents did,” and once in concert she talked about how her father called her to say, don’t worry, honey, you’ll make your own mistakes. And I think that can be hard from the older side, thinking, well, I’ve made these mistakes, I should be able to stop my younger friends, my children or grandchildren or nieces or nephews or godchildren or whoever, from making them. But there’s a line between the sensible teaching and the overadvising, and the overadvising just feeds into the Sad Godzilla that lives inside many of us. I don’t want my favorite new college student to spend her first year at college feeding Sad Godzilla. I don’t want to be a force in her life pushing her towards thinking about what she’s doing that’s not perfect. I want to be a force in her life encouraging her to think about what she thinks is awesome.

This week I started a class in Scandinavian Woodcarving. I knew I would not be perfect at it. If I was aiming for perfect, I would never have taken it, because I was guaranteed to start out vastly, vastly imperfect. As it turned out, I started out even more imperfect than I had hoped, requiring five stitches, so we’ll see if the vertigo meds induce too much neuropathy for me to do this or if I can work around it. But it’s the sort of thing that can’t arise if the question is, “What would my life have in it to be more perfect?” The question has to be, “What might be awesome? Can we try that and see?” And then iterate. Get better or try something else, or both. Not perfect. Not perfect. Yes. Dreams don’t come in perfect. Let’s hear about what might find room for awesome after Sad Godzilla is done with the flattening.

No book post this fortnight

I usually do a mid-month book post, but I have been so sick the last several days that I am just now sitting up in 15-20 minute increments instead of 5-10. (Let’s not talk about standing up. Whoever came up with this whole “standing up” idea is a jerk. And pointy food: why is all good food pointy? Argh.)

So! For June, I will do a whole-month book post at the end instead of two for halfway, and meanwhile I will go sprawl on the guest bed with good pillows and reread things and not infect anybody and drink water and continue trying to convalesce in time for Fourth Street.

I am usually crap at this convalescing wisely thing, but I am being handed a complete lack of choice here.

using my words

I have been trying to find a way to say this that will not make the wrong people–which is really pretty much anyone–feel like I am guilt-tripping them.

I am pretty short of social/chatty email these days except for a very small number of the most usual suspects. While things may have turned a corner in terms of getting adjusted to this med, I am still not to the point where things are what one might call “good” or more to the point “highly functional and able to do things like drive and arrange for social outings and stuff.” So if you are a friend of mine and find that you have the time/energy for social/chatty email, that would be a good and useful thing to do. I would appreciate it.

This is the sort of request that is very hard to phrase for two reasons. The first is that I really, really do not want to nag or guilt-trip. Really. The second is that when you ask something like this and then do not get it, that is not always easy. And I have had the “I would like to hear from you more”/”yes I could do that” conversation with a couple of friends in the past and then not heard from them more, like, at all, and that was with individuals who knew that I was talking to them specifically and personally; a more general request is deliberately not meant to be a burden on anyone (anyone! really!) and yet leaves open the possibility that everyone will be unable to do an email blathering about what they read or what they are thinking about ancient Greek wind instruments or what line of paint color names they have thought of next, and will hope that someone else will take their turn at being helpful.

Still. Things have gotten enough better that I can say that this is a thing that might help make this next bit a little less rough. So I am saying.

Cooking vs. gardening

I’m still working on revisions. I have two kinds of writing process. This kind is cooking. The other kind is gardening.

When I’m cooking, I have one project that I am working on, and I will work on it until it is done, and most of the work (vast majority) I am doing goes towards it. I will still sometimes open a file and write notes or even sometimes complete scenes on another project, so that I don’t lose those ideas (/complete scenes). Sometimes when I’m working on a novel, I write short stories in the middle of it. The longer it takes to write a novel, the more likely it is that I’ll write short stories in the middle of it. The longer it takes to write a particular short story, the more likely it is that I’ll write another short story in the middle of it. Or a novel. Things happen. But when I’m cooking, I might do bits of side project–I might finish chopping the rest of the broccoli that I’m not using in this particular stir-fry, so that it’s ready next time I want broccoli–but I’m not going to start cutting things up for stir-fry and suddenly find that I have chopped everything in the kitchen. Cooking is about knowing the task and working steadily towards the end of the task, which is the meal. Yum.

When I’m gardening, I’m not writing any less, but it’s less focused. I will write a thousand words on one idea and a thousand words on another. Sometimes less–sometimes it’ll be 500 words on a project, or 200. For some people this is a really bad sign. It means that you’re completely unfocused, that you will never get stuff done, that you’re just noodling around with things and enjoying the idea of being a writer without ever finishing anything. At this point I think I can stop worrying about that. I have the assurance from long experience that while some stories never reach the point where they get finished, many to most of the stories that I work on this way do. Most of the stuff I work on in “gardening” mode gets to the point where it’s ready to be “cooked”–it reaches a critical mass where I’m ready to just work on it until it’s done. So it’s not actually something I should feel bad about. It’s not pointless, it’s practice. It’s weeding, tending the soil, picking off aphids. Keeping the whole garden growing.

The weird thing about how I’ve been writing lately–other than the fact that it’s been a lot for months now–is that I haven’t been having to tell myself not to stress about what comes next. That’s…totally unlike me. It’s totally unlike me in general, and it’s not like I am going through a period of less stressing/fussing just now in particular. (Hahahaha no. Seriously, um, no. Nearly everyone who has vertigo ends up with at least some degree of anxiety, and I’ll tell you why. Because it is somewhere on the spectrum from stressful to producing of clinical anxiety to not have a reliable sense of the vertical and to fall over and stuff. Seriously, just on a physical level: your body wants a vertical. And to not fall over, and to not throw up, and stuff. Your body has opinions on that stuff. If you haven’t had vertigo problems, your body might not have made them known. But trust me, they’re there.)

So anyway: it’s not like I’ve generally become a more laid-back, chill person. I’m just…feeling like, yep, there will be a thing that I write next, and nope, I don’t have to be absolutely certain whether it’s Wielding the Stars or King of Flowers, King of the Sea or The Winter Wars or something else on the list or something I think up tomorrow in the shower. A few years back I was asking people to remind me that I didn’t have to figure out what book to write next, and apparently that’s become an automatic function for the time being. Which: cool, okay, plenty else to worry about, thanks, brain. The part of me that can’t resist poking things with a stick is kind of going, “But…why are we…?” But never mind, that part! We’re fine. We will write something else next. It’ll be fun. So okay then.

short list…sorta

I have a very short to-do list this week, because nearly everything on my to-do list is large. I’ve handled the birthday present shopping and the letter writing and most of the errands and calls to get things fixed and thises and thats, or else I’ve put them off to next week.

So basically there is a flowchart with two questions on it, each with two outcomes. 1. Do I have a glass of water readily to hand? If not, get one. (This is not about some nonsense someone came up with about an abstract number of glasses of water everybody should supposedly drink every day. This is about the med I personally am on, which turns people into raisins. Seriously, this stuff makes you turn your head around and drink from the shower, because the length of time to wash and condition long hair is too long to go without water really.)

2. Do I feel good enough to work on book revisions? If so, do so. If not, go curl up on the couch with someone else’s book.

Seriously, that’s…pretty much the list. I have a couple of stories to work on also. But I have the revision letter from my insightful agent, and I don’t have a lot else on the list for the week, and (possibly not coincidentally) I’m not up for a lot either, so…it’s sort of a pure feeling, when it comes right down to it. Everything is very straightforward. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. No, that’s something else. Drink the water, pet the dog, revise the book. Yes. That’s the one.

State of the Mris report

So I realized that I had not put this clearly anywhere: the vertigo has been quite bad since Christmas. I had hoped that it would get a bit better when I recovered from my cold, but it has not. I am going to the neurologist soon, and when I do, the likeliest outcome is the same meds I’ve been on before, which are fairly effective but which (among other side effects) make writing somewhat harder. (Still possible! But somewhat harder.)

In the meantime I cannot drive, which complicates alllllll sorts of things around here.

So. Combination of these factors means that I am trying to get a whole book’s worth of revisions done before I go on the meds. Brain is not cooperating–the good kind of not-cooperating, the kind that is generating lots of new material for other projects. Still. Focus required. Revisions required.

And the upshot of that is that you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t see me on social media for the next week and a half, two weeks or so. I will probably be ignoring Facebook and Twitter completely and checking in with lj less frequently (once or twice a day rather than having the window open and refreshing when I feel like it). I will still do my midmonth book post so that I don’t fall behind (yes, I recognize that that only matters in my own mind), and I’ll be checking my email, because, well, email. If you’re someone who has long-duration correspondence with me just for fun, though, rather than topical timely communications, don’t be surprised if my long-duration correspondence pieces don’t arrive very much before the end of the month.

Determination, go.