A Funk of Many Different Sorts

Lately I think the main thing I’ve been feeling is frustration with my craft. I switch over to drawing when it gets to be too much, but the same kind of pattern emerges. Basically, it’s a growing feeling of dread, of anger, both at myself and the work in front of me: WHY CAN’T I GET THIS RIGHT.

So to inspire myself, I seek out writing advice. People and words to tell me not to give up, that one day it will all be worth it. Lately, that just isn’t cutting it. Because no matter what I do, my story just isn’t clever. It doesn’t delight me. It’s like the ugly child I birthed that I cannot help but dote on, but feel pity for. It’s just wrong wrong wrong.

So I think to myself, why not write a blog post? Haha, maybe I’ll look back on this one day and laugh. And then I think, wow, how many posts can one person have about feeling like a terrible writer? Too many.

ANYWAY.

In happier news, I finished up the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo today. So so good. As I read through it, it just felt like magic. Before I knew it, it was midnight and I was laying there, staring at my ceiling wondering how the author had done it. She lives in LA. Plausibly, I could stalk her and find her and SHAKE HER AND DEMAND TO KNOW WHAT KIND OF WITCHCRAFT SHE POSSESSES. But that’s crazy. I’ll just settle for obsessive surgery on her books. Because this is the kind of book I want to write. Something amazing, magical, funny, sad, and beautiful all at the same time. I just feel like all of my old favorites dull next to this sparkling masterpiece…AND I LOVED THOSE BOOKS TOO!

Most importantly though, these books are genuinely funny. Lately, I haven’t been able to get books that don’t have an inkling of humor in them. They’re good, well written, and possess great worlds, but I’m ashamed to admit I’ve put down more than a dozen books this summer because they weren’t funny. I think that’s really important to me and I’m glad to have discovered that because MY story is NOT funny.

There are glimmers of humor here and there, but it is definitely not funny for the majority of the ride. Near the end, I simply typed out word after word with a dull glaze over my eyes. That’s not fucking good mate. So I’m re-evaluating. Obviously I’m a little child who needs to snort at her own jokes so my book needs to change to accommodate me. Sorry Ilya. Sorry Pierre (who may not even exist in the 3rd draft).

Hmph. Writing.

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Sansa Stark Is Princess Of My Heart

One trend I’ve noticed in TV, books, and media is the ‘Exceptional Woman.’ This is not to be confused with the ‘Mary-Sue.’ She’s different from the others. In a world full of bland, mundane, vapid ladies, this one stands out because she is not only competent, she looks down on the things that are traditionally considered feminine. Rather than going shopping or focusing on her looks, this woman is fighting with swords and kicking ass. Often times, she’s the most compelling of all the characters because she works against the curve and proves herself to be exceptional. However, I’m going to argue that having only this kind of woman character dominating our culture is actually detrimental and follows the usual patterns of looking down on women as a whole. 

You see the Exceptional Woman  everywhere and she is written so that she is the standard to which her gender should strive, she is good enough to be ‘one of the boys.’ A pack of dudes are on a mission, they kick ass, they can hack like nobody’s business, so how does she set herself apart? By being better than them. Only by showing them up, is she accepted as their equal. They never thought before to include a woman’s talents into the group before this because women had never been an option. Yay, she won against the odds.

This kind of narrative shows up in fantasy worlds as well–one where we assume because they are derived from Medieval Europe (or at least, Tolkein’s idea of Medieval Europe), women are automatically in the backseat. It’s even clearer in these settings ‘why’ women were excluded. The excuses are typically insulting: women are physically weaker, women are baby caretakers, women tempt men and distract them. So to overcome these odds, the Exceptional Woman hones her skills so that men don’t have to worry about her getting hurt or getting in their way. She joins men in looking down on other women because she internalizes masculine traits and derides feminine ones.

“Most girls are stupid,” said Arya.

Arya is no doubt a cool character. She’s a survivor. However, it is my belief that George R.R. Martin did NOT write her to be an Exceptional Woman. She is rather, along with her sister Sansa, a study of this strange hatred of the feminine. The most common thing I hear about Game of Thrones is that Sansa is stupid and weak while Arya is smart and strong.

What?

Whaaaat?

I think this kind of reaction derives from what we’ve seen in the mainstream, where there is always a female focused on things without consequence and serves as a contrast to the Exceptional Woman. Step back for a moment and think why there is such a negative backlash to Sansa. Sansa and Arya go through parallel challenges–one within the court and the other in the wider world. Both are settings where they are in constant peril, yet they learn, they grow, and they maneuver through the waters with ever increasing skill. They are not contrasts of each other, rather they are two complementary parts of the same picture. There is more than one way to be strong. 

 

I guess I’m just tired of people ragging on Sansa for no reason, other than it was their gut reaction to hate her. 

My other issue with the Exceptional Woman trope is that her arc is dominated by her escaping the expectations of her society….which is based on our society. It’s a world the writer made up in her head. I feel like women are therefore limited if in this made-up world where anything can happen (even a setting that is technically modern) they are STILL thought of as the exception to the rule if they do something cool.

Not to say that I don’t think that the Exceptional Woman is necessarily bad, but it’s not exceptional that women have fought in wars or they were doctors. They’ve done it all along yet we pretend that for the majority of history, they were silent, which is why in the stuff we see today, the cast is largely empty of females. So why do we limit the role of women to what we believe is ‘realistic’? Why is it realistic that all the ladies in your fantasy world are weak and stay inside all the time? Why does anyone want that reality?

 

 

June Update

Hi there! It’s been a while. I’ve been keeping busy with my writing , talking with friends, planning my future, and studying for law school. I’m about halfway through my second draft of my book and it’s been a bit of a slog to dig into, but at least it’s going. I have confidence in it and that I can make it better. I’ve also read a few books while I was away–I don’t remember all of them because they were all library books and I was only allowed to have them for two weeks. My kindle makes it marvelously easy to read. One that sticks out was the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. So lovely, lovely. Keep reading, friends, and if there’s a topic you’d like me to address, feel free to leave something in the comments!