Last week, I decided I would change how I do these weekly reviews. Forget inspirational quotes and reports on monthly goals. Forget focus and how well it went. I'm sick of trying to fit myself into the grindset mentality as though that was the only thing that mattered.
So here, instead, is a work-in-progress sort of review. What happened this week? What did I read? What did I experience? Did I get lost in a storm or hailed on? Did I read anything useful or wonderful? What awesome memes did I add to my ever-expanding collection?
That's where it's at.
I admitted last week that I'm struggling with deep resistance to writing anything right now. I might give that some more space when I'm ready, but here's one of those serendipitous moments. Right after I'd published last week's review, Google shoved this article into my feed. It's by the scholar, Grace Lavery, and discusses resistance, writing habits and patterns, in a compassionate and moving way.
Two things I take from this. The first is most relevant to me right now, that attempting to follow other people's routines for writing just doesn't work. Of course, if you've never written before, you might try out other people's routines. But assuming you have to follow other people's routines when they don't work for you is only going to stifle your creativity.
The second one is one I have a lot of shame and weirdness around. It's... the editing thing. I'm not very good at it. Like Grace, I'm a spewing kind of writer. I either have all the words or none of the words, depending on how much I'm plugged into a hyper-fixation or special interest. It was a deep relief to read somebody saying that it's okay to be bad at editing, to be unable to go back to my work and just do all new writing. I think I must've written three or four different versions of my thesis before I finished. I didn't re-write before the final resubmission and my god, it was painful.
So read Grace for her take on the difficulty of being honest about writing and the creative process.
What I've Been Doing
Aside from editing, I've spent most of this week discussing what I should do next, now I've got this PhD. After meeting with a few people, I'm going to be working on developing some academic journal articles of my own. This makes me anxious for reasons of rejection and the complex process of putting my work out there For Real This Time.
I also suddenly had this idea that I might go back through what I've written so far of both Amnar books (the one about Io and the one about Maali), take out the unnecessary detours, and try to restart some creative work. It's also a way to get back into the stories. Having anaemia and being busy figuring out what I do next, or even now, has distracted me for weeks now. Not to mention, I've been spending all my time thinking about the materiality of the Mandalorian.
On that note, next week I'm going to be writing about beskar steel. At this point, I'm not going to do any more Materiality and the Mandalorian posts until I've had a chance to watch more of the latest series. I've got writing on materiality in R F Kuang's Babel that I'd like to publish and share in the meantime.
Read of the Week
I've had this book sitting on my bedside "To Be Read" pile forever. It's Ursula K Le Guin's The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, recently republished by Ignota.org. Le Guin draws on Elizabeth Fisher's Carrier Bag Theory of Evolution, which posits that the most critical object in human evolution is the humble pot. Or bags, totes, anything that humans use to carry other items in.
This is a real challenge to turn into fiction. Donna Haraway's introduction is an extra challenge, because it asks the reader to really think about the concepts we use to think with. Before we talk about "But stories require conflict!" We have to think about conflict, what that is, why it matters, and how it shows up in our stories.
It's useful, though. I've been working on his novel where I wanted to move beyond the idea of a Chosen One, which also meant shifting my idea of what a hero could be. I sit back and think about how a lot of novels assume that the best way to develop a strong female character is to focus on a woman who's great with weapons.
How do you make a story that isn't about weapons and fighting, or at least, the main character isn't a conventional hero, but is still compelling and engaging?
Podcast of the Week
We need to talk about pots. On the way back from my run today, I found this podcast, Objeks and Tings, celebrating the everyday objects important to the Windrush generation. This is the official 75th anniversary of the Windrush, and as somebody with a fascination for objects and the materiality of the human world, I wanted to highlight this.
There's also an odd coincidence here, because the first episode ties in very nicely with the read of the week above. Guest Riaz discusses his Dutchie—a Dutch pot—and the role it plays in his and his family's life. It's about exactly what Ursula K Le Guin was examining in her theory above, that when we think about the objects that really matter in our lives and in stories, it's not the swords and the spears, it's the pots.
If you have an interest in material culture and current explorations of the way objects function in cultures as social agents, then I highly recommend this podcast. It focuses on the role objects play in stories, and it's not overtly theoretical, but it's delightful to hear people talking about the vital role objects play in their lives.
This week in Memes
My cat is in the process of setting up her OnlyFans. This would be fine, except that she does this when I'm in the middle of Zoom calls with senior academics or trying to write these posts.
Currently Reading (Fiction Edition)
It was my selection for our Roving Science Fiction Book Club last month. Our book club runs on an obscure, ritualised system for selecting books each month known as the Choosening. One person presents three books and the whole group votes on a proportional representation system. This month, I presented them with Finna by Nino Cipri, Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, and There Is No Anti-Mimetics Division by qntm (aka Sam Hughes).
I decided to read all three, and this week finished the sequel to Finna, Defekt by Nino Cipri. It's delightful, moving, and compassionate and I loved it. These books are set in a fictional Ikea, and I think the reason I love them is because whenever T suggests going to Ikea, my brain screams at me that it'd rather die.
Defekt's main character, Derek, is that kind of unlikeable person that I remember being when I worked around others before I knew I was autistic.