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Category: writing about writing

Oh the Periphery

It seems I’ve gone months without writing and this may be the first time I don’t feel guilty about it. Writing used to be my primary mode of communication, but now, I am learning to vocalize and interact using this alien contraption that is my body. I have a voice and I can’t keep quiet like I used to. Most of it is probably frustration. Not probably—definitely. But no guilt, no shame.

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In lieu of writing, I’ve been going out to eat at places I’ve never been to before, visiting thrift stores for alternative rock CDs from the 90s, and spending time with new friends watching LGBT films, playing retro video games, sharing dreams. No longer on the periphery, I might be participating. There are more people around me having conversations and less usernames pinging in my ear. The orbit is seeing other stars, the universe is expanding. Maybe it goes against my natural wiring, but this kind of friction might be necessary.

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Me: Why am I being so nice today?
Coworker: We can tell it’s hurting you.

I thought about making a spreadsheet of my rejections, but I figure it’s a waste of energy and I’m already angry enough as it is. I do admire something like Jac Jemc’s rejection blog though.

PANK Magazine is closing its doors soon, which is sad news. I joked with some friends about being the grim reaper for literary journals because the journals I get published in tend to fold once they have me as a contributor. Pear Noir!Metazen, and now PANK. Who’s next? It could be you! Best watch yourself. If you see me in your submissions queue, you might not even want to take a glance, actually. Just turn away. It could be the death knell. Press REJECT as soon as possible!

Becoming an active participant and being more vocal has made me realize that I cannot fake being an extrovert, however. I can fake being nice when I don’t want to, but I can’t fake where I get my energy and motivation from and how. I’m still drained after all the interaction. I still replenish myself with the solitary. My lungs continue to fill with the quiet.

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Sedatephobia: Fear of Silence

My life is full of noise now: highway traffic, phones ringing in unison, the voices of irate city residents. If you asked my past self what he thought of his future self, I’m sure it wouldn’t be this. But I’m not sure what else he would’ve said instead. I can’t even begin to hypothesize. Besides hopeless or dead, of course. But those are a given.

I visited the Morikami Museum and Gardens this week and the first thing I noticed was the quiet. The heat came second. It’s hard to ignore. I’ve lived in South Florida my whole life and I can never get used to it.

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Strolling through the gardens, I thought about this fear of silence many people seem to have. I thought, how crazy. What is it about silence? Is it really just a distant cousin to the fear of loneliness? Is it the sudden break from technology and constant feedback, the “likes” and the pings, where the world opens up and reminds us of just how big it is and how little we are? Why do people sleep with the TV on or the radio beneath their pillow? Why the relentless bombardment to our senses?

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When I go to sleep, I sink soundlessly. A pebble dropped down a bottomless well. The sleep is often uninterrupted and dreamless. The background noise doesn’t matter. It’s all oblivion or it isn’t sleep.

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Confession: I used to need waterfalls. One of those tapes of running water on loop in my ear.

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I’m happy I’ve lost those fears from childhood. I don’t miss my dreams waking me. I’m happy I can enjoy silence.

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My periods of intense focus on writing have disappeared this past month or so. If I’m a writer, I should probably write. But I’ve read. I thought I should maybe start a Recommended Reading feature here. I love sharing what I love. Back in the Livejournal days (remember those?), my journal was always punctuated by critical thoughts on what I was reading at the time. I was all about intertexuality and really, life as a text itself. I’ll try to do this in the quiet I can find.

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I’ll Be as Universal as You Want Me to Be

bestgaystories2015

Originally published in Metazen (now presumably defunct, RIP), my story, “Year of the Queerling,” has been included in Best Gay Stories 2015. The anthology is now available for pre-order and will be published next month by Lethe Press.

Many gay writers wonder if they identify as a “gay writer.” Taken literally, this is silly. Of course you are a gay writer. However, it’s not the literal term that brings about such conflicted feelings, but rather the label used in terms of the literary landscape, readership, and what you see on bookshelves. It’s really the same question women writers face: Is what you write “women’s fiction”?

Many writers, more so than anyone else, have a great fear of being pigeonholed or put in a box. “We are not gay writers,” they say. “We are merely writers.” In other words, they don’t want to write only for a gay audience; they want to write fiction that transcends category and can be enjoyed by anyone of any sexual persuasion or background. Many will say this proudly, even though I think most of these sentiments arise from a great fear—fear of not finding a more mainstream readership (see: the straights) and fear of not being taken as seriously because of that. You write “gay fiction,” therefore, your perspective is somehow limited or bound by certain tropes of a genre. It can’t cross boundaries. At best, it may garner a cult following with a very particular readership.

It reminds me of a question once posed to Toni Morrison: Can she just not write about race issues for once? She looks puzzled at first, then feels insulted. Can she? Of course she can! She’s Toni Morrison. But Ms. Morrison wasn’t insulted because the question inferred that her writing abilities may be limited, no—she was insulted because the question inferred that the white perspective is the only valid perspective to write from, the only perspective that can be viewed as universal and possible of transcending category.

I admit: I used to feel the same way about these labels. I was that kind of writer. I understand these fears and where they come from, but I no longer care. I’ll just let the readers and publishers decide what words they want to use to describe my writing.

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