We all have them–those things we do that most people find odd but make perfect sense to us. One of my strangest quirks is the fact that I like to organize things. For most people, cleaning the garage is a chore. For me, once I get going, I bliss out with all of the organizing. I’ll work for six or seven hours straight without even realizing it.
When I get stressed out, I make spreadsheets to organize information. Or I go through and reorganize all of the folders in my documents folder on my laptop. I’ll alphabetize DVDs or clear out my junk drawer.
The other day, I found a website that keeps track of your writing projects and word counts. I was in heaven. I spent a couple hours just filling in all of the totals from my spreadsheet. Yes, I already have this information organized in detail, but I couldn’t resist going through it again.
I’m a little crazy like that. Anyone want to join me on the crazy train?
I knew I was going to have a tough time with this class. I just can’t get my brain to delve that deeply into a text. I don’t want to analyze a story to death–that kind of takes the magic out of it. But it’s required for my major so I push on.
This week we’re doing structuralist vs deconstructive criticism. I couldn’t even begin to explain what either of them mean other than they focus on the structure of the novel and not the words. I chose structuralism and spent the last few days in near tears trying to figure it out.
I have always had an interest in linguistics so I understood the basic concepts the book was talking about–how different parts of the novel became the structure that the story was built on. But I could not figure out how to transfer that to analyzing the text. It made no sense to me and everything I looked up online never said more than the text. I need examples people! And not just from my classmates who may or may not know what the hell they are doing (since the teacher has very little contact with us and never tells us if we’re on the right track or not after we make our posts).
I’ve been working on this for the last SIX hours. I was in near tears at one point, rocking and pulling at my hair, before I calmed down. I’m so stressed out. I have to find resources for my final paper this week and make an annotated bibliography, but nothing I can get my hands on can help me understand this crap. My public library has like five books on the topic of literary theory. I put them on hold but who knows when I’ll get them. Everything else is from online journals from the 70s (because no one uses this method any more). And now that I’ve figured something about this out, I’m not sure any of the sources I tagged last week (after 12 hours of searching) will work any more.
I’ve been busy this weekend trying to get two short papers written. One in Sociology and one in Literary Theory. I do not like writing academic papers. Fiction is more my thing.
Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if I’m cut out for this degree at all. I’m in my third term at Southern New Hampshire University (yes, the one that advertises on TV for their online school). So far I’ve only taken general ed credits except for the Literary Theory which is part of my major. In August I take my first fiction writing workshop. I’m getting nervous.
I like to write. I’ve gone back to writing some fanfic after taking most of last year off from writing any of it. I’m out of practice. But at least my fanfic gets finished (most of it) and is of high quality (usually). That’s more than I can say for my original fic which I rarely finish and is crap. I can’t plot a story to save my life so how am I going to get a degree in Creative Writing?
This negativity might be reality setting in after I enrolled in school while having a bipolar episode. Or it could be because I’ve been depressed since my last manic episode a few weeks ago when I stayed up for 36 hours straight and for 26 of those hours I wrote non-stop.
I wish I had someone now that could work with me to help develop a story/novel so I could figure out what the hell I’m doing. I’m scared I’m going to get to my first class and look like an idiot because all I know how to write is fanfic.
Fanfic is easy. At least what I write because I’m so into the fandom that the characters are real to me, the backstory is all there, and the set up for story lines are just there waiting to be taken advantage of. I wish I could develop my own world and characters like that. When I try, though, I just get bored.
I guess I’ll have to wait until August to find out if I’m cut out for writing.
If you looked over at the dresser to my right you’d see a stack of books with titles such as: Just Flirt, Allegiant, Geek Charming, How (Not) to Find a Boyfriend, Jenna and Jonah’s Faumance, and The Selection. Along with the line of brightly colored nail polish and spotted piggy bank you might think a teen girl lives here.
Well there is a teen girl that lives here. And a “tween” girl. And a soon to be eight-year-old girl.
The thing is the dresser belongs to me. As do the books and most of the nail polish. The funny part is I’m not a girly-girl. I never was. I’ve told my girls all their lives that if they want to wear make-up they’ll have to get it and learn how to put it on from girls because I have no clue. I can’t even pain my nails without making a mess of my fingers. And that was before the tremors I get in my hands.
So this is what happens when a tomboy grows up. She goes from playing army with the neighborhood kids, wrestling with her brother and friends, and devouring nerdy Star Wars novels to young adult romance books and a rainbow of nail polish.
It’s not so much that you stop being a tomboy because I’d rather run around in the mud then put on a dress and wear heels. Hell, I’d break my ankle if I tried to wear heels. I’ve just broadened my horizons a little. The nail polish started out being the girls. But quickly I found myself picking out colors that I like. I started reading young adult books like Harry Potter and the Hunger Games. I filled my time with dystopian novels filled with teen protagonists while writing Stargate SG-1 fanfic and forcing my butt out of bed by 10am on Sundays to watch football (it starts really early here).
I’m definitely not a girly-girl, but I guess there is some girl inside of this tomboy. Apparently my daughters take after me. Nails painted, hair uncombed, jeans with the knees torn out, and t-shirts with funky designs. They occasionally love sci-fi, still gag at kissing scenes and would rather spend time cleaning their room than wear a dress. Well, getting the in dresses really depends on the dress and their mood.
Why did couldn’t I have had boys like I wanted? I relate so much better to them. Oh, wait, I also have two boys. And they drive me just as nutty at twelve and three. They get filthy and are always covered in sticky stuff.
I’m sure a lot of you have heard the hoopla around Maria Kang and her “fitspiration” faux pas that has lead to all sorts of backlash across the interwebs. It all started when she posted a photo of herself and her three children. Her very skinny, perfect self. With the headline: What’s your excuse.
Hmmm, I can see why people got upset. Not everyone can be as perfect as Maria after having three kids right in a row. I know I didn’t and I had three kids just like she did, one right after the other. Then again I was never thin before I started having kids.
My oldest three kids–Meagan, Owen and Brenna–were born in 2000, 2001 and 2002, respectively. There is 28 months (2 years, 4 months) between Meagan and Brenna (and only 13 months between Owen and Brenna). All three of them were c-sections. Yes, I had three c-sections in just over two years.
Here’s a picture of me right after my third child was born. You can’t see my stomach but trust me it was all hanging out. During my pregnancy with Owen (#2) my abdominal muscles split right down the middle (ouch) making it impossible for me to suck my stomach in. I got pregnant with Brenna right away so they didn’t start to heal until she was almost two.
Back then exercising and staying fit were the last things on my mind. I was busy with three babies/toddlers in diapers and making bottles and cooking, cleaning, laundry (oh, the never ending laundry) and dealing with my debilitating depression. My husband worked as much overtime as he could get so there could be days where we didn’t see him at all. And I had no other help. It was just me and the kids all day long. There was never time to exercise. When the kids laid down for a nap I was either cleaning or resting because I was exhausted. Yeah, those were my excuses and I’m sticking with them. I was doing the best I could.
Almost 11 years later (that teeny baby in the picture will turn 11 in a couple weeks) and nothing much as changed except that I added two more children, moved 2000 miles from my hometown and had a nervous breakdown that almost ended with me swallowing a bottle of pills.
It’s true. The picture may have been taken over two years ago but my kids tell me every day how pretty I am and how much they love me just as I am. My husband also thinks I’m beautiful and sexy just as I am even though I’ve gained about 50lbs over the 14 years we’ve known each other.
Personally, I don’t really fault Maria Kang for her photo. It wasn’t meant for the general public and I think people are blowing the thing way out of proportion. Women, especially, are getting their panties in a twist. I guess maybe I’m secure in my fatness after all my 36 years. I’ve been overweight since I was a kid. But I’m pretty healthy–blood pressure is fine, no diabetes, I love to walk (although I have trouble finding time, especially in the winter when it’s raining constantly). Yes, I know I’m obese and my knee wouldn’t flare up if I lost thirty pounds. But this is who I am.
Fat-shaming will never inspire a fat person to lose weight. Most likely it will have the opposite effect–they’re likely to pull out that pint of Hagan Dazs and finish it off. Or pop open a family sized bag of potato chips and eat almost all of them. Or they might just wish they were dead because they will never be as perfect as Maria Kang and no excuse will ever be good enough for those people that do the fat-shaming.
The only way someone is going to lose weight and get in shape is if they want it. Really, really want it on an elemental level. They can’t want it for someone else (so their husband will think they are sexier). They can’t want it because society thinks they should be thin. They have to want it at the core of their being because they know they will be healthier and happier and free of the weight holding them down. It takes a lot of strength and will-power. I know, I’ve tried it and lost over 20lbs but I’ve never gotten lower than that.
My real excuses (in case Maria Kang was wondering):
I have had six pregnancies and five births–all c-sections (my fifth pregnancy ended in a traumatic miscarriage in the waiting room bathroom at the hospital).
I had my first three kids in just over two years, never giving my body time to recover (just like Maria Kang except I started at about 60lbs overweight).
I’ve suffered from severe clinical depression, general anxiety and severe social anxiety my entire life. It was untreated until two years ago after I almost killed myself because life had become too much for me. Had I seen her poster back then it might have pushed me over the edge. The depression left me uninterested in life, in pain, and unable to cope with stress.
I’m anemic. Apparently I have been since I started having kids 13 years ago except I never had it treated until a few months ago. As my iron builds up the more energy I have. That paired with my increasingly good mood thanks to antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication has given me a new look on life, a want to change me to the person I always should have been (but depression stole from me).
I’m a stay-at-home-mom with a toddler at home. I can’t make it to the gym whenever I want. Sure I can do simple exercises but at this weight just cleaning the house can leave me worn out. Something thin/fit people don’t seem to understand is that exercise when you are obese is hard. Really, really hard. It’s hard on your joints, breathing and energy levels. You can’t just jump up and run a few miles to counteract that big lunch you had. You do what you can but a lot of people get frustrated, depressed and unmotivated.
I’m a writer. No, I haven’t published anything (yet), but I plan to some day. Writing means sitting in a chair… writing.
And, really, I don’t give a fuck half the time. Who cares what I look like? I’m the person that has to live in my body and why is it anyone else’s business if I exercise or sit in front of the TV eating bon-bons. You can see from my picture that my kids did not get my genes and I have taught them better habits than my parents taught me. They are all skinny as heck (a few of them underweight and needing to eat more fatty food–which is fun when you’re cooking and you need low/fat-free foods).
So to Maria Kang and all the fat-haters and fat-shamers out there I want to say:
I don’t need an excuse because I’m perfect just the way I am. And it’s nobody’s business but my own.
To all the overweight/obese women (and men) who feel ashamed or despondent, who can’t find the energy or the want, who saw Maria Kang’s poster and didn’t feel inspired but instead felt shame or inferior, I say there is nothing wrong with you. You are perfect the way you are. If you want to lose weight–you are perfect. If you hope some day to look like Maria Kang–you are perfect. If you are skinny or fit and had to work for it–you are perfect. If you are skinny or fit and it’s natural–you are perfect. If you don’t really care about your weight–you are perfect. If you want to lose weight but can’t find the energy within–you are perfect.
In my last post I talked about how I planned to go back to school to finish my BA in English because I’ve decided I’d like to be a book editor along with being a writer. This is all part of the new me that is developing. I’ll talk about some of my other changes in future posts but today I want to talk about editing and why I want to do it.
What is editing? This post over at HuffPo by David Kudler sums things up pretty well. The part that best explains is this:
Developmental editors work with the author to craft the manuscript, looking at structure and argument in non-fiction or plot and character in fiction. (In traditional publishing, these are usually the acquiring editors.)
Line or substantive editors also look at the manuscript as a whole, but generally don’t work as closely with the author and aren’t expected to edit as deeply. (This and the previous category are sometimes lumped together as substantive editing.)
Copy editors concentrate on the language or copy. They focus on trying to make the style of the manuscript clean and consistent.
Proofreaders are usually the last folks who look at a book, in galley or proof form, as it’s about to go off to be printed (or, in the case of ebooks, as it’s about to enter distribution). They’re looking purely for misspellings or errors in style, such as improper punctuation, grammar or formatting.
There are many different kinds of editors and each work a certain way. I’d like to be a developmental editor and/or a line editor. I’d probably end up doing both–substantive, as it’s called in the article.
Early this year I made a friend, Sarah from A Place That Does Not Exist. Actually we met at livejournal in a writing challenge community that I co-owned.* I saw a post about her novel she was working on asking for concrit so I checked it out. After reading her first chapter I just got this feeling in me. It’s hard to explain but I felt bold which is very unlike me (because of my social anxiety issues I’m very timid around new people). She asked for real concrit; tear it apart she said. And so I did.
I could see the potential in the plot. I could picture the characters. I could see what was wrong with the scene. The things just jumped out at me. So I left her a bunch of long comments asking a zillion questions about the plot and things that were confusing. I noted how her world-building needed improvement and she needed more details.
I was really worried she’d get upset at my sometimes harsh (although I did it politely and with much encouragement) comments. But she didn’t. I now count Sarah as my best friend and I love helping her with her novel. When a mutual friend of ours had a part of her novel looked at by a professional editor he said many of the same things I said to Sarah and both of them admit they have very similar writing styles and weaknesses. I was emboldened by that. If I was saying the same things a professional was saying then maybe I really was good at editing (Sarah swears I am).
Recently I remembered signing up for this site called Critique Circle. It’s a place for writers to submit their work and have others critique it and constructive criticism. I never participated because you have to earn the right to submit by giving critiques and at the time I was too timid to write anything. The other day I found a similar site, Scribophile, that operates pretty much the same way. They each have groups and forums and such but their critique windows are slightly different. Both have really nice people there (like me) and I highly suggest them to anyone that needs help on their writing or wants to hone up on some critiquing skills.
Since finding/remembering these sites I’ve stayed up way too late reading and giving advice to writers. I’ve had very good responses back from them which makes me all squee inside. On my first critique at Scribophile (my first one ever) I mentioned I was new at this but wanted to be an editor so it was good practice. The guy wrote back that I was well on my way and my remarks were very helpful and insightful. Not sure how honest he was being but it made me feel like I’ve really found my path.
The funny thing is: in school (grade school, high school and college) I HATED when we had to edit/critique other kids’ writing. I never knew what to say and didn’t want to upset anyone. Obviously I still had those feelings until I met Sarah earlier this year. Now editing is in my blood. I’ve known for a long time that when I read I automatically correct grammar, punctuation and word usage in whatever I’m reading. Those errors just jump out at me. They make me cringe. I’ll also substitute my own sentences when I feel the written ones could have been stated in a better way or they seemed wrong to me. Maybe that should have told me something.
Of course, now, I’ve run into some issues. Most precisely, time issues. November is NaNoWriMo and I have a 50k novel to write before the end of the month. I’ve got a pile of library books that I need to read and review, netgalley books needing to be read and reviewed, and now I’m adding reading and critiquing on those two sites I mentioned. Come December I’ll be editing my own novel and in January I’ll be starting classes (fingers crossed).
But for the first time in my life I feel I can handle it. With actual support from my family and friends online, I know I can do this.
In conclusion, I want to be an editor. And a novelist (who will need an editor that isn’t me). Also if you are on scribophile or critique circle look me up (the links lead to my profile pages on either site). If you want me to look at something you wrote leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you (I’m so not good at this self-promoting stuff).
I love this video from iCarly. You’ll get why I posted it towards the middle. It’s pretty funny so I suggest watching it even if you don’t know what iCarly is or don’t like the show.
* (If you are on livejournal look up writerverse for fun challenges in creative writing. I no longer own the comm but have passed it along into capable and enthusiastic hands. You can join at any time and only need to commit to participating once every two weeks. It’s loads of fun.)