Good luck with the second sentence

xR86IWe’re reaching the end of November now, so you NaNo writers are long past the second sentence- but we all know that feeling, whether it’s the second sentence of a project or the second sentence that just won’t come after an hour of staring at a stubbornly blank page.

I keep reminding myself that it’s worthwhile to tackle Hour One. You all know Hour One: Time spent typing things like She That day The tall Suddenly, or breaking for an essential snack; Surfing the web ostensibly to look up a synonym for “manner”  or attempting to find pictures to inspire that scene where your characters get into their big fight and push their waiter into a lake, and then spending a quarter-hour scrolling down Pinterest… It’s like the hero of a story fighting the Big Bad: Your brain somehow rebels against the very act of writing, and suddenly 101 tasks become vital to the well-being of the world. Anything besides writing is a good idea. You forget that you’re sitting down in front of a blank page because you love writing, because the truth of your world is built in towers of stories and bricks of words, because if you don’t write your fingers will lose their purpose and your heartbeat will become erratic, because you have a story to tell– or more accurately, a story is being told through you, and sometimes you don’t know why or how (but then sometimes you do).

So as Hour One recedes and Hour Two approaches, you slide into the Writing Zone, slowly, without even realizing it. Your characters walk and curse and laugh, and they are more real to you than the hairy man sipping coffee at the table next to you. The swirl and rush of words that square dance on the page pulls you under, until you are fully submerged in your writing. And that’s why you write.

What did you learn today?

When I was a kid, every night at dinner my dad would ask us, my brothers and I, “What did you learn today?”

phinferbpsych

Sometimes it would be a struggle to answer him– we would push our green beans or corn around our plates while mentally sifting through the day, scrambling for a “good” answer. Those nights, our answers would be something about a grammar rule or a mathematic formula or (this would be my brother) how it turns out that calling the teacher by his first name doesn’t go over well.

Sometimes we would already be bursting with news to share. I learned about the craziest guy in history! I’d say, and start describing a 200-year old story. One of my brothers would offer up a weird fact about science. We’d come away from dinner knowing a little something more about the world than we did before.

weird

But then there were those times when we would hear dad’s question, and all of a sudden realize, yes! I did learn something today! Something I read in a book, or heard in class, or stumbled across on the internet. Something a friend told me, or something I’d observed. The moment I realized I had learned something new while having what I thought was an ordinary, boring day, made the humble threads of daily life seem brighter somehow, and more worthy of attention.

I started anticipating dad’s question, and I would try to think of what I’d learned that day before he got home from work. Looking for what I was learning as I meandered through my day, changed the way I experienced the world around me. It gave me a sense of ownership in my own experience of learning and living.

stilllearning

What did you learn today? That question struck me out of the blue today.

What did you learn today? I learned that 1869 is the first year woman got the right to vote in America– kudos to the state of Wyoming!

What did you learn today? I learned that well-intentioned white feminists can shut out the voices and experiences of women of color by being ignorant, by ignoring the experiences of all women, by hiding in guilt, by failing to put aside ego and fear and privilege to ask all women what they need and to truly listen.

What did you learn today? I learned that I will never be too organized, too mature, or too experienced to chase after a bus.

What did you learn today? This is a question I am going to start asking myself every day. I’m going to start journaling about this, and see where it takes me. The days I scramble for anything to write, I will know I need to work harder at searching out knowledge. The days I am fired up with pocketfuls of learning, I will know what I care about enough to focus on more. And the days I find the unexpected staring back at me, wry eyes reflecting the knowledge that was there all along– ah, those are the days I know that life has more to it than we let ourselves remember.

cordy_seriousthoughts

Lines from the great Cordelia Chase

So… What did you learn today?

Get out the vote!

Do it! Vote in the midterm elections!

plsvote

Vote Democrat- -Republican– Independent– Green Party– Christmas Unicorns– or better yet, just vote your conscience, whether or not that falls along party lines.

Just vote!

I have this crazy idea, that if we (We as American citizens… If you’re from another country and you are able to vote, please do exercise this right as well!) take midterm elections as seriously as we take Presidential elections, our country will be in a much better place to evoke change.

Think about it: The President only has so much power- and that’s a good thing. Checks and balances, keeping government honest. (Honest-ish.)

The current, fall 2014 Congressional approval rating (according to a Gallup poll), has the American public’s approval of Congress resting at an appalling (but hardly surprising) 14%, the lowest for a pre-election fall since 1974.

How many times have we heard of a bill “barely” passing through Congress, or the Senate, or not passing at all? Look what happened to Net Neutrality. Whether or not you “like” President Obama, there’s only so much he can do, and only so much our next president can do. It’s not just about passing bills, either. Local laws are important, both for their direct effect in the lives of individual states’ citizens, and for the precedence they set for the rest of the nation.

Oregon has some issues on the ballot this fall that I feel very strongly about, so I was eager to seize my absentee ballot and make my vote count. Public office is a little harder (Here’s where Republican/Democrat comes in handy, because all the candidates’ promises are vague at best. At least I’m familiar with the voting records of the congressmen and senators.). I want to make a difference in my community and have my voice heard, and this is one way to do it.

Mary Poppins throwback

Mary Poppins throwback

Yes, I voted way before Nov. 4 (My brother alleges they send out ballots to feminists first. How thoughtful of “them.”), but it’s not too late for you to go out and vote, if you haven’t already!

Feminist Halloween

I’m going to leave this one to MarinaShutUp’s brilliant video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bCmNxpvVr8

Express yourself (whether that means Pirate Queen or Zombie or Smarty Pants). Have fun. Stay safe.*

*As Marina points out in the video, assaults go up around Halloween. This is not the victims’ fault. Sadly, people do bad things to other people, and because of this, we as human beings must take precautions for our own safety. A self-defense class I took described it like this: If someone is intent on assault or robbery or any other crime, they’re going to perpetrate that crime no matter what (and the responsibility for the crime lies with the perpetrator), and all I can do is keep myself safe to try and prevent that crime happening to me. This isn’t a solution to the ultimate problem of assault, nor can I protect myself from every situation merely by being alert, having a friend around, watching my drink, etc. etc… but it’s still important to do what I can for my safety, and the safety of others. I love that Marina reminds her viewers to look out for other people too, and make sure others are safe. “No man is an island,” as John Donne said; we’re a community, and we need to look out for one another.

Oh, and… Happy Halloween!

Nods to you novel-writers

Happy NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) to all you busy writers!

writing

I won’t be doing Nano myself this year, as I’ve got to focus on my screenplay and passing classes my last year of undergrad, but I want to extend a big high five to all you writers who are up to the challenge this November.

matterz

I got to about 33,000 words last year, which I felt was good for my first time. I’ve heard some criticisms of Nano as a writing process, but on the whole, I think it’s a wonderful tool for writers. For most people, sure, writing as much as you can in as short a time as possible probably won’t produce the best quality of writing, but Nano isn’t about instantly producing a polished product.

writinghours

Writing for Nano last year provided me with discipline. It gave me a reason to sit down and write each day, and it motivated me to write further in a story than I ever have before. Most importantly, it got me thinking as a writer: cultivating daily writing habits, leaving editing for another stage, and taking my writing seriously (meaning making time for my writing). It also provided me with a wonderful community of other writers. beruthlesswritingdayz

Getting into a writing routine has proved invaluable for writing my screenplay. Leaving my room to write, carving out writing time every day (or at least several days per week), setting writing goals (sometimes pages, sometimes, scenes, sometimes plot of character developments), taking time (but not too much) to plot and make outlines, and working with a writing partner (making writing dates, encouraging each other, and holding one another accountable for our writing goals): All these are habits I began learning last Nano, and which help me progress in my writing.

writeerryday

This November, even though I’m not participating in Nano, I plan to use the frenetic atmosphere my (Nano) writer friends will provide, and the suggested daily word count, as inspiration for finishing draft one of That Screenplay I’m Writing.

Best of luck to you NaNoWriMoers and other writers! May your pens never run dry and your keyboards never stick.

Writing is hard.

Writing is hard.

*Looking for writing tips? Here’s some advice from the master: Neil Gaiman

One more post about this… Street Harassment (Ick)

I’m the kind of person who does a lot of thinking, writing, talking things over, reading, and thinking and writing some more, before I know my stance on important issues. With this in mind, I plan to revisit a couple of my past posts.

1. Street harassment.

This video on street harassment really clicked with me, but when I read the comments on YouTube, I realized it’s not as simple as I first thought. Not everyone looks at this video and sees the same thing. I understand, and I certainly don’t think the video makers are trying to say street harassment is the only problem women/people of color/other unprivileged groups face, or the biggest, or that straight white women have that hardest time ever (I definitely don’t believe any of that), but street harassment is still a problem. Just because there are other problems out there, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address this one.

Some of the comments by men in this video seem innocuous, but I think the video does a good job of showing how exhausting it can be to be on the receiving end of an endless stream of comments, day after day– especially when some of the men in the video have a much more threatening presence. It’s the scary comments/actions that make all comments/actions suspect/worrying. Not to mention, all those little “compliments” are uncalled-for, and many of the men got upset when the woman ignored them, as if they felt she owed them a response. Maybe passing someone in the street isn’t the place for getting to know someone?

noonononono

This video says everything I’ve been thinking about street harassment this week. Last weekend, I took public transit on my own to a part of the city I’m less familiar with (but a very central part of the city, the theatre district) to visit a friend. Most of the day was a positive experience– but street harassment rattled me. It made me feel unsafe doing normal things like walking down the street with a friend.

The woman in this video didn’t just receive micro-aggressions and other comments; she was followed, for no other reason than that she was a woman. I’ve been followed too, and it’s not just aggravating, it’s deeply unsettling.

banggg

I hate that I feel I have to say this, but we were dressed in jeans and tee shirts, and preoccupied in our own conversation– not inviting outside comment. But there is one thing: Both of us were walking down the street while female. One older man followed us for two and a half blocks, talking, yelling, and singing at us, until we ducked into a bookstore to shake him when ignoring him didn’t work. Another man came up behind us when we left the bookstore and started talking to us about how “pretty” we were, and trying to talk to us until we sped up and walked far enough away from him.

stopdoing

I was very shaken by this. After that, taking public transit back to my neighborhood alone and in the approaching darkness was alarming rather than routine. I was hyper-alert about my surroundings and my safety. The whole thing made me not want to venture outside my usual places– and that’s just sad.

I won’t let a couple of instances of street harassment get to me. I’m going to keep seeking adventure in small and large ways. I’m going to try out new places and face discomfort head on. And I’m going to continue looking out for my own safety, recognizing that I only have control over my actions, and not others’. By that I mean, I will of course don my Assertive Woman Face as I walk down the street, and stay in well-lit areas, and do all those things that have been ingrained into me for my own safety– but I can’t control when/how others choose to harass me on the street, and I refuse to let fear of that harassment stop me from walking down the sidewalk to get from a restaurant to a bookstore in the afternoon.

classicandrew

Smile! : Street Harassment

When I started this blog a year ago, I set out to write about feminism and wound up talking about writing and cooking instead. When I started writing posts again this fall, I set out to write about webseries and have been talking about feminism ever since. Typical.

regretnothing

A short video recently caught my eye, and has been prickling under my skin ever since: Jessica Williams’s piece on The Daily Show regarding street harassment.

Jessica Williams on Catcalls

I’ve read articles about street harassment before, and I always have the same set of reactions to it: Disgust, incredulity– and gratitude that I haven’t had to deal with it. I guess that’s just in big cities, I thought.

Well.

That short, satirical video about catcalling changed my definition of street harassment.

While I consider myself blessed to not have had to deal with truly profane harassment like many of the women on Williams’ segment, I have in fact dealt with catcalls, some more upsetting than others.

Any time you are walking down the street and someone yells/hollers/whistles/comments/speaks to you a) in a way that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, and b) stems from your gender/race/sex/etc.— that is street harassment.

Look, if you see me walking down the street, go ahead and smile and wave. Say “hi” in passing (I live in places where it’s very common to give a smile and a “nice day, isn’t it?” to strangers; in New York City, that would be weird). If you’re lost or I look injured, by all means say something. If I’m wearing a t-shirt with your favorite band, you can say, “I love Bastille!” and move on. But if the only reason you’re talking to me is because I just happen to be a woman, don’t.

hpavmphp

What do I mean by this? During the summer, I spent 2 months at home after traveling through Europe. On numerous occasions, I received a shout or comment when I was just working in the garden or walking my dog. Once, I got out of my car at home and a guy on a bike hung around the edge of my parents’ property watching me and trying to catch my attention, until I ignored him long enough.

What I think is the really insidious aspect of street harassment is that a lot of the time, it feels like I should be flattered. Flattered by the attention, flattered by the implied compliment, flattered because how else should I react to various comments? But I never walk away from being addressed or shouted at, and feel cheered up; instead, I walk away feeling uncomfortable and bothered with something I can’t articulate.

Sexist comments, comments about my body, even strangers who strike up conversations on the street and act like I owe it to them to respond to them– it’s street harassment.

I don't know who this person is, but kudos, sir.

I don’t know who this person is, but kudos, sir.

In Europe, I had many, many experiences of sitting on a street corner, writing or just resting from the weight of my enormous backpack, and random guys would come up and strike a conversation with me. Now, I’m talking about men 10-20 years older than myself, different nationalities than me, while I was a single young woman who didn’t speak the language. The whole basis for their striking up a conversation with me was that I was a woman- and a woman alone. I felt extremely vulnerable, and wasn’t entirely comfortable with the situation, but they were these perfectly nice guys. I would walk away from the encounters feeling rattled and thinking, What gives you the right to come up and demand a conversation with me? Why do you act lie I owe you anything? I don’t know you! I’m a polite person, and so what they got from the conversation was me smiling and nodding but not being especially eager to continue the conversation. Invariably, they would make passive-aggressive arguments about how they weren’t the “kind of guy” a “girl like me” talked to (I have no idea what that means).

I’m guessing these guys have no idea what it’s like to be a woman traveling alone, always alert for the possibility of danger. When I’m looking out for my safety, having strangers approach me on the street or shout at me is very disconcerting. I’m not saying I don’t want people to talk to me, ever. I love meeting new people. But there’s a time and a place for everything. If we’re in the same tour group, the same hostel, looking at the same piece of art at a museum, something that isn’t you drawing me into conversation on the street when I’m minding my own business, then by all means strike up a conversation if you’re interested.

cartoon_street_harassment

I don’t know if I’m making my point well here. It’s hard to take these things apart and examine them rationally, when I’m affected primarily because of how they make me feel. The biggest thing, I think, is safety and location: If you approach a woman in this situation, could you make her feel unsafe?

Even here at school, at a women’s university, I’ve been heckled by a car full of guys– and of course, I’ve experienced guys shouting at me from cars in every city I’ve lived in. Talking with my girl friends, the consensus seems to be that this is so normal it doesn’t even merit talking about. Why talk about something that always happens? It’s like talking about getting poor quality food at the school cafeteria. Why bother?

I think this is worth bothering about. Ideally, yes, I’d prefer not to get yelled at from moving vehicles, and to feel safe on the street. But at a more basic level, a level I can actually control, I think we need to talk about street harassment so women can stop internalizing this toxic nonsense. We need to talk about it so women don’t feel like they have to take it as a compliment even if it makes them feel uncomfortable.

I had a hard time distinguishing incidents to talk about for this post, because like my friends, to some extent I just expect it whenever I go out. That’s sick.

One thing all the women in that Jessica Williams video had in common was that every single one of them had a “bitch face,” and were ready to paste this unyielding glare on their faces at a moment’s notice. I perfected my own glare while studying and traveling abroad; I call it my Assertive American stance or my Confident Woman walk: Head up, shoulders back, eyes meeting those of passersby, chin set, stride brisk and confident. Don’t mess with me, it says, i’m confident and I know what I’m doing.

If there’s one good thing to come from all this, it’s the Bitch Face/ Confident Woman face. Because I am a confident woman.

nobirdno

 

Not sure street harassment is all that bad? My experiences are the mildest possible form of this type of harassment. Check out better informed links here.