My Clarion Write-A-Thon Delayed Until Monday!

As you’ll remember, I was supposed to start live-writing my new novel for you tonight.  And I shall write it for you!
Just on Monday instead.  (But no worries, I’ll still write for four weeks, so you won’t miss a day.)
The reasoning’s twofold: first of all, I always forget how long writing the opening chapter to a novel takes, and thanks to me oversleeping I only have about an hour to write tonight.  (Figuring out how to set all the factors up is possibly my least favorite part of writing a novel.)  Ideally, I want at least two or three hours so I can bang my head against the keyboard until I come up with something good.
And secondly, quite honestly, watching the fallout from the Brexit vote is stressing me out to the point where I’m having problems switching gears to an equally-stressful opening chapter.  Though this eventually swells into a magical musical Ragnarok, the heroine of this book starts in dire, nonmagical economic straits – $8.10 in her pocket, living on the streets, begging to wash dishes – and emotionally, I need a day or two to switch into that headspace comfortably.
So.  If you have any money left after a global economic collapse, and can donate $10, then you can read about how to watch me live-write my new novel (along with blog posts detailing the techniques I’m using) here.  It’s a pretty cheap writing workshop, all told.  And it starts Monday, when I’ll have a lot of time to discover just who this new heroine of mine is.
(And to give her a name. Which I haven’t done yet.  Wondering if I can get away with “Melody.”)

"Internet Arguments Are Useless." "No They're Not!"

I do not expect to change anyone’s minds during an Internet debate.  Most people show up with pre-configured opinions and won’t be budged.
That’s not the same as Internet arguments – or political arguments in general – being useless, however.
I’ve had my mind changed in Internet clashes – I’ve come around to more nuanced positions on consent, I’ve gotten some radical education on trans issues, I’ve moderated my stances on gun control, often during some very flameworthy discussions on the topic.
Here’s the trick:
I rarely changed my mind during the argument itself.
I think what folks are looking for when they want to prove the worth of Internet arguments is the courtroom trial confession, where someone crumbles weeping on the stand and admits they’re wrong before all the world.   They want someone to change their mind in mid-thread, acknowledging their reasoning is a sham, and to roll over to the new side.
On the rare occasions that happens, it’s worthy of a viral screenshot.
No, what generally happens is that someone who seems intelligent scores a few significant hits during an argument, and friends I respect are on this person’s side, and while I’m too caught up in the moment to really acknowledge the hit was scored – in that sense, I’m often caught up in the wussy Internet equivalent of berserker rage, where you can shrug off critical hits and keep flaming – I’ll sometimes settle back later and go, “What I said didn’t seem right.”
I’m now sensitized.
And over the next few months, whenever the topic comes up again, I approach it with a little more curiosity, that concern I might have gotten something wrong, and a year later I’ve incorporated some new facts and my position has been modified.
At that point, I generally don’t even remember where the argument started that first made me go “Hmmm.”  I don’t go back to the people who were yelling at me to tell them “GREAT SUCCESS.”  In many cases, I still loathe those people for being mean.
But that argument has changed my mind.
And yeah, that’s not everyone, or even the majority of people!  But I’ve seen debates I’ve started play a part in changing other people’s minds.  I know some people reading me thought strongly that polyamory never worked, and years later, they’re hesitant to say that.  I’ve watched people who used to be against me on political sides slowly ally with me.  Sometimes, rarely, they even credit me…. but I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t remember we’d once crossed swords, or didn’t want to admit I had a part in it, because I know there’s some folks who put the tip of the chisel in who I’m still pissy at.
But I wouldn’t be out here writing essays if it was useless.  I don’t like howling emptily into the wind, nor do I like singing to the choir 24/7.  (Though I’ll be honest, it’s nice to sing along occasionally.)
And no, it doesn’t happen all that often.  It’s like panning for gold; lots of water, lots of grit, hardly any gold.  (And the percentage success on random idiots searching strangers, looking for a fight on Twitter is even worse.  That, I’d advise is so low as to not be worth it.)
But as I’ve mentioned, if it only works 1% of the time, 1% differences are enough to swing elections.  I get it if you don’t want to go to the effort of debating, as it’s stressful for the conflict-avoidant, but…
Don’t lose yourself in snark.  It’s tempting to write all that heat off as bullshit, but the fact is that gay marriage is accepted in this country when it wasn’t ten years ago.  Ten years is a small time.  Some significant percentage of  people who once went, “God, why should the gays get married?” turned around and said “All right,” which means that minds can be changed.
It is hardly ever a pleasant process.  And as noted, you hardly ever get anyone who flips their position wholesale.  You hardly ever get anyone admitting error in the heat of the moment.  Hell, the majority of people won’t ever admit an error period.
But some do.  That’s why it’s worth it. That small percentage of people who listen are worth their Internet weight in gold.
That’s why I keep discussing.  You don’t have to; as noted, some days it’s more work than I’d like.  But don’t just shrug and say “It never works.”
It works sometimes.  And given how difficult it is to change anyone’s mind on anything, sometimes is enough.

My Newest Writing Challenge: Writing A Different Sort Of Woman.

So I’m sketching out my next novel – you know, the one I’m live-writing for charity, please please donate, plug ends now – and I’m up against a weird stumbling block:
I’m writing a girl protagonist.
Which is a weird issue for me.  I don’t have a problem writing female characters – my two most popular stories involve an adolescent girl growing up in a space, and a teenaged girl caught in a time loop as she tries to rescue her terrorist brother – but most of my female characters are the no-nonsense, tough-as-nails sort.  My co-protagonist Valentine dresses up in a lot of frilly dresses, but she’s also very alpha and confrontational.
Yet this novel calls for a more ephemeral sort of woman, a Stevie Nicks sort with a hippieish streak at the center, and I’m like, “Okay, how do I do that?”
What I’m realizing is that I’m intersecting two issues here, and both of them are only tangentially about women.
The first revolves around ask culture versus guess culture – and all of my female protagonists have been very ask culture.  If they have an emotional need, they’ve got no shame in collaring someone and saying, “Hey, gimme.”  They experience no embarrassment about being turned down for something they asked for, and they’re not afraid to ruffle feathers.
Which is interesting, because what I realize I’m trying to write is not a girl per se, but a prototypically “nice” person, i.e., someone who values harmony and other people’s feelings equally to their own concerns (if not higher).  In guess culture, the whole point is that you never outright ask for what you want, because you don’t want to embarrass both of you by forcing someone to refuse you. Women are more traditionally groomed to be that sort of person, often because the cost of open confrontation for women is a lot higher, but that’s not a female problem per se.  There are prototypically “nice” men, too.
And honestly, “nice” isn’t hard to write.  What I’m struggling with is how to make the nice person a protagonist who’s initially proactive in their lives against heavy external suppression.  I’m currently reading Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED, which has a very sweet and caring protagonist early on – but the structure of the novel is how that character goes from passivity to power, and she literally has to be kidnapped to a tower with a wizard before anything happens.
I’m not looking for a “spunky” protagonist who gets roped into an adventure she didn’t go looking for, but rather a very sweet person who goes out and grabs adventures with both hands and yet is not the oft-clueless Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
I want a driving force.
So what I realize I’m having trouble with is understanding how a smart and ambitious guess culture person does anything.  I’m too New York, and all the artists I’ve known have been bite-your-face-off sorta people, and I’m trying to internalize how they actually function when they can’t just bellow, “This is what I want.”
Particularly since this lead character is a musician, and part of any artist’s struggle is sliding that foot in the door.
Then I’m trying to figure out how that intersects with a concern with for looking good for other people.  Valentine dresses very extravagantly in the ‘Mancer series, but you’ll note that she often sticks out like a sore thumb; she dresses because it makes her feel sexy, not other people.
And here’s the issue: as I’ve talked about before, my mind often tells me that something is important to this plot without actually explaining why.  Currently, my subconscious is telling me very strongly that this character dresses well because she’s hoping to impress others, which reveals something vital about her character that I don’t know yet, but when I do understand why she’s that way then I’ll understand.
Let’s quote the They Might Be Giants song again, children: “I already know the ending; it’s the part that makes your face implode.  I don’t know what makes your face implode, but that’s the way the movie ends.”
So in addition to being nice, I’m also trying to get my headspace into someone who dresses well largely to project a socially-approved image, which is… not something I’ve ever done.   Or largely experienced.  And I know men certainly do it (I can point to any number of guys who dress up for the club), and I know that women who dress to fit in also often get a sense of personal satisfaction out of it as well. 
But I’m trying to figure the distress of someone who, at various points in the novel, won’t be able to dress appropriately – and to express that concern without turning her into stereotypically idiotic ZOMG FUCK THESE DINOSAURS WHAT ABOUT MY HEEEEEEELS woman from Jurassic World.
Which is part of my stupid writer-brain.  It wants to stretch, to write a type of character I’ve never written before, and of course it’s the sort of person who I have seen a lot but never known that well.  And what I want to do is write someone realistic, not a cobbled-together bunch of personality traits, and so trying to import all the necessary libraries for this character to function is going to be tricksy, tricksy, tricksy.
And I suspect, sadly, that I know what will happen – it’s what happened with Flex.  I remember writing 50,000 words on Flex before finally getting to That One Scene With The Buzzsects, and going, “Oh, hey, I’ve written half a novel, how can I be meeting my protagonist for the first time?” Yet, in fact, I didn’t really know who he was until he first touched that Broach.
So I suspect that I’m going to have to write a lot of words before I connect with this as-of-now nameless character.  And I’m going to have to reshade a lot of conversations after I finally clamber inside her head and understand what makes her her, but goddamn if I am not hoping to avoid all that bullshit and just get her right on the first draft.
The issue is that I don’t want a stereotypical anything.  Despite the title, I want to move beyond “feminine” as a descriptor – as honestly, it’s sort of an insulting shorthand – and shift into the place I get to with my best characters, which is knowing them so well that I have a hard time condensing their personalities down for marketing purposes.  I’m trying to figure out how this person works so that “feminine” is merely one of several things that could be said to describe her, and I want to do it before I start the novel.
Probably won’t happen, though.  I start live-writing the novel Friday.  As mentioned, $10 will get you an entry to watch a man who’s written nine novels flail his way through the tenth.
As also mentioned, sometimes I write essays that point towards a wise and noble conclusion; other times I’m just sort of flailing and discussing difficulties.  This isn’t a wise conclusion.  It’s just a bunch of concerns I’m noting before I launch into this novel.
Let’s hope I can figure out how this works before then.

If You're Worried About Your Partner Leaving You, Go See A Fucking Movie

“How can I be sure my partner won’t leave me?”
If there’s a Poly Greatest Hits album, that track is #3, right after the smash hit “How Do You Deal With Jealousy?” and everyone’s favorite poly anthem, “You Can’t Be In Love With More Than One Person.”
But I won’t lie. Partners leaving happens all the time when people open up their relationships.
Fortunately, my wife gave me some great advice for that one.
See, back when my wife and I were on the verge of getting divorced – a divorce, I should add, that had zippo to do with polyamory, as we were monogamous at the time – we fought.
We fought every moment of every day, because we had to. We had so many goddamned issues to deal with! I was too insecure! Gini hid her emotions! We kept slamming ultimatums onto the table and then walking them back!
God, we were two inept carpenters trying to patch a leaky boat in a storm. All of our interactions were about Fixing The Relationship – and to this day, the words “The Relationship” make both of us shudder, because The Relationship became this huge ongoing chore that we were eternally battling to repair. There wasn’t a conversation we had that didn’t eventually metastasize into some problem with The Relationship.
Eventually, Gini lost her shit at me.
“Can’t we just go out somewhere?” she cried. “Have a dinner! See a movie! Forget all of the reasons we’re not getting along, and try to remember why we fucking liked one another once?!?”
“That won’t work!” I cried back. “We need to fix The Relationship first!”
We did need to fix The Relationship, it was true. But at that point, after having spent the better part of a year constantly fighting, we’d sort of forgotten why we wanted The Relationship. We were together largely because we’d gotten married and moved in together, lashed to each other by a combination of stubbornness and logistics.
What we needed to do was to remember why we liked each other.
We had a leaky boat, and a storm. But what we actually needed was a dinner and a movie and some sexy cuddlings afterwards that gave us a lighthouse on the shore. That was what we were heading towards.
That’s how you handle your partner leaving.
It’s counterintuitive, sure, but what I see a lot in the early days of polyamory is too much struggling to keep The Relationship among the other, newer lovers, and too few reminders of the tremendous love you’ve actually got at the core.
What happens is that they go out on a date with someone new, have a great time, and come back to discover their old partner’s a wretched mess. And then they go out for drinks and dinner with the old partner, and the old partner spends the entire time moping, asking plaintively if they’re really having a good time, they just feel so insecure these days…
…let’s talk about The Relationship.
(If I sound a bit harsh here, I assure you: I am this person.)
And slowly but surely, the old relationship transforms into this leaky boat with no lighthouse, just a lot of work to keep this pitching, yawing boat afloat, and they wonder “Wait, why am I stuck on Leaky Boat when there’s a wonderful yacht over there?”
And the problem is that the wonderful yacht is, in truth, often just as leaky as the boat you just left – you just haven’t been asked to do any patchwork on it yet. You’ll see a lot of partners swimming from boat to boat, continually astonished that whoah, this boat is a fixer-upper too.
As someone who tilts towards the “neurotic” end of the spectrum, I am not saying never to talk about The Relationship. Sometimes, you’re insecure when your partner goes out, and you need to talk about it. Sometimes you gotta do the heavy work of patching a leak before it capsizes the relationship.
But what I often see beginning poly couples do is getting so wrapped around the axle of “What if they leave me?” – spending so much time comparing everything they do to this new person, they forget to reserve time to do the wonderful experiences that only they can provide for each other.
Truth is, your partner started dating you because they saw something wondrous in you – and the trick to most successful poly relationships is making that homecoming feel more like a joy than a chore.
You have to talk, sure. You have to negotiate, sure. Don’t eat your feelings. But don’t make my idiot mistake and forget to also go out for dinner and a movie and some sexy cuddles along the way, because once your relationship turns into The Relationship, it’s awful hard to keep it afloat.

Fucking Doctors, Always Late For Appointments

ME (thinking to myself): The appointment was at 9:15, now it’s 10:00 and the doctor’s not even here yet, what kind of asshole doesn’t bother to show up when he has patients waiting?
RECEPTIONIST: Excuse me!  All of you here?  The doctor’s not showing up until 11:00….
ME (grumbling): Asshole.
RECEPTIONIST: …because he had an emergency heart patient on the other side of town and the patient is finally stabilized.
ME: Okay, maybe there’s a reason doctors aren’t always on time.