Friday, August 26, 2016

Sagamihara: Remembrance

Light danced on my skin today, an experience you'll never have again.  My breath catches a little when I think of you, all nineteen, and the things you'll never have again. Or never had to begin with.

Did your families visit often?  Which seasons made you feel most alive?  Did you have a secret crush across the hall, burning your ears with secrets and tingling your lips with kisses?

Who were you?  Who would you have become if given the chance?

Today is the anniversary.  The day a hole was torn through your community.  The day you slipped away, faceless and unnamed, while your assailant smiled for his fifteen minutes.  Well, more like two minutes.  Not everyone spoke of it.  Most did not.

But we did-- we do.  The members of your extended community, the disabled community.  We have cried for you, screamed, raged.  We love you.  Love you still.  We hold you in our hearts and minds.  

I will never speak your murderer's name.  The vile scum will slip into the rot of forgetting and I'll leave him slide there... into the cold darkness where he belongs.  

I will never speak your names, but I want to.  I want to shout them out as a cry for justice and as a reminder of wretched ableism.  I want to whisper them to the stars so I can imagine you as light, happy things.  I want to say them, because you were important and worthy people, the kind of people deserving of remembrance that includes names and faces.

But I will remember you, regardless.  Always...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Writing Retreat at Home (Tips)

Last month, I addressed planning a DIY writing retreat.  It is less expensive, there isn't an application, and you can pick a venue more suited to your needs.  But, if the options presented during the last post aren't feasible, perhaps creating a retreat at home is what you need.

First, a caveat:  Not every tip will work or benefit every person.  
Take what you can and/or want.
1. Schedule your retreat and let everyone know.  
Figure out when you have time and schedule a weekend (or other span of time) to have your retreat.  Unless there is an emergency, don't cancel.  It is easy to dismiss a retreat at home as unimportant.
After you schedule, let your friends and family know you won't be available (or will only be available on a limited basis).  Tell caretakers what your plans are, what you need from them, and how this might change your interactions for a few days.  Let everyone who follows you on social media know so they don't think anything is wrong.

2.  Disconnect from online... and television... and cellphones.
If you're constantly checking Twitter, or are on your fiftieth cute cat video, you are probably not writing.  Cut yourself off from distraction.  If you need to research something for a story, make a note in the margin and look it up when the retreat is over.  Can't stop social media entirely?  Give yourself a half-hour before bed and no more.

3.  Pack your bags.
Get yourself in the right frame of mind by packing.  Put all the clothes you intend to wear for the duration (including extras for various accidents) into a suitcase and ignore your dresser while on retreat.  Gather your pens, laptop, notebooks, and anything else you would need to write and add them to your stuff.  Everything should be in one place for your needs and will help keep you focused.

4.  Plan your meals.
For those who do your own cooking, prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them so preparation time doesn't distract or cut into writing time. Those who don't cook for themselves can still save time by having discussions about meals in advance.  No one has to interrupt your creative flow to ask you what you want to eat when everyone knows beforehand.

5.  State what you hope to accomplish, but go easy on yourself.
Know what you want to get done, put it into words (write it down, record it on a sound device, etc.), and visit your intentions every time your day begins while on retreat.  Give yourself a goal.  Don't just leave it at "write every day", but try something specific.  Do you want to complete your novel's first draft?  Do you want to write six poems?  Are you in dire need of finished (and brainstormed) blog posts?  Make it clear what you're working towards.
But, if you didn't accomplish everything you wanted on your retreat, don't hate yourself afterward.  You might have had chronic pain flare-ups for two days and couldn't function.  You might have had news from a doctor that stopped your progress.  Things happen, in the skins of cripples and gimps.  Focus on what you managed to get done, no matter how little.  Progress is always something to celebrate.

6.  Try to write near nature...
A change in environment can do wonders for creativity.  Try writing outside your home one day during your retreat, if you're able.  If you can't go outside, sit beside an open window for awhile to feel, see, hear, and smell a different slice of the world.

 7.  ...or change your surroundings.
Your sleeping and/or writing area may also benefit from alterations.  Borrow different art from a friend and switch it with what's currently on your walls.  Buy a blanket in a different texture (one you like) and put it on your bed.  Put on a CD that has nature sounds or soft music.  Find an appealing, subtle fragrance you enjoy (that no one in your residence is allergic to) and add that to your room.  Give your senses pleasing things that aren't daily occurrences, but remember any allergies or sensitivities.  No one can write on overload.  Anything added to your environment should enhance your experience, not distract from your writing.

8.  Remember your comfort and health.
Wear comfortable clothing.  Find a spot to write that gives you the least amount of pain.  Take your medications.  Eat.  Stay hydrated.
Your health, comfort, and safety come before your writing.

9.  Write!
It's what you made time for, right?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Discovering Another Poet's Diagnosis

I found out (on Twitter) a poet I admire has multiple sclerosis.  In every biography I can find on him, there is no mention of it, though he offered the information freely.  It took me by surprise.

Why isn't it common knowledge?  Is he afraid people will see his (many) accomplishments differently?  Is it a fairly new diagnosis?  Does he just not identify as disabled?

I wanted to fire off a billion questions.  I did ask when he was diagnosed, but he didn't answer.  I didn't ask anything else because, no matter why there wasn't a response, it isn't my business.

We are not entitled to other people's medical histories or a detailed disability report just because we, ourselves, are disabled.  It isn't our place to categorize someone as disabled.  We wouldn't want someone making decisions about us we didn't agree with.

It did affect me, knowing he has MS.  I felt excited... and scared... and sympathetic... and honored.
He didn't have to tell me.  I wonder how he's going to navigate our ableist world when he's not considered able-bodied.  I have something (somewhat) in common with him besides writing.
Our brief exchange also made me question (again) my decision to omit my disability status with most of my published works, something I debate a lot.  Does the stigma some editors may have outweigh presenting more of my true self?  Is the fear an editor will publish me just to increase "minority representation" in her magazine more important than telling future crippled writers that there are other literary cripples (me, in this case) gaining visibility?  Is disclosing my disability on Twitter and my blog enough?

I am not sure.
Have you ever discovered someone you admired was disabled/neurodivergent?  Did it change how you thought about things (them, the world, yourself)?
Would you ever disclose (or stop disclosing) your disability status?  What could make you decide?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Ableist Writers, Inaccuracy, and Double Standards

It's important to write the stories we want to see, the books not being written because the majority of people aren't comfortable with those unlike themselves.  It is just as important to our art, however, to write whatever we feel compelled to write.

Society is more accepting of disabled/neurodivergent writers when we stick to disability issues.  (This, of course, doesn't mean able-bodied/neurotypical people will actually want to read works written by us.)  It's more of a... silent permission.  But things turn a bit more acidic when we write outside our sanctioned area of expertise.

Criticism cranks up to full blast, our disabilities/divergences are dissected, and the discussion of our "ability" to write about certain topics all start coming up when one of us dares to write a novel with "normal" people in it.  We are also faced with extra infantilization ("Aww, you wrote a cute, little story") or dismissiveness.

But able-bodied/neurotypical people can write about whatever they want, even if they are inaccurate or disrespectful (unless other people like themselves call them out).  They're told censoring what one writes injures creativity.  They're told to rush headlong into whatever subject ignites their passion.  They are not often told to do research for minority characters like they would a location or certain time period.  Accuracy doesn't matter for an actual group of people but, dress a character in a gown twenty years out of fashion, and the world explodes.
I know just the sort of backlash I (a fat, disabled, non-Christian, woman) would get if I wrote a story messing up all the able-bodied, Christian male characters (maybe making them all sexist villains with orange hair) but made everyone else diverse and alive.  It wouldn't be good.  Hell, it already isn't great, facing some of those people (ableist fatphobes) in my daily life.

I'm just so aggravated with the double standards.  And the crappy representation.  And having to be twice as good as a writer for many people to see me as half as talented as a "normal" one.  I'm tired of being told I shouldn't write about something with no logical reason why not but someone else can offensively pen something and it be defended as touching free speech or unabridged creativity.  It's exhausting.

Have you had to deal with someone downplaying your accomplishments because you're disabled/neurodivergent?  Has a writer ever been so inaccurate or offensive that it enraged you?  Ever been called a great writer, "for a disabled person"?