Let Me Go

I’ve been pushing for the past three weeks to complete a revise-and-resubmit from a year ago. Yeah, I know. I suck. In the end, though, the R&R turned out to be more like “totally rework the damn thing from stem to stern”–including rejiggering it into an unfamiliar online format– which led some of the ugly truths about my writing process to hit me full in the face.

1) Every project will take me 7-10 days longer than I estimate.

2) I tend to regard deadlines as flexible. This is a mistake for many reasons, the least of which is: see above.

3) The last few days of a writing project are akin to binge drinking: I eat badly, I don’t sleep, I walk around in an anxious, semi-coherent daze.

4) I become more of a self-absorbed asshole than usual. Can’t be buggered to answer emails or talk to anyone other than my keyboard.

5) In such moments of crisis, I write good stuff.

6) In such moments of crisis, I write complete and utter dreck.

7) Only reading my stuff out loud helps me even it off to some sort of workable middle ground.

8) I will never be pleased with the final product.

9) ..except in the first two minutes after submitting it to the journal, during which I think I’m a genius.

10) After which, all I can see, whether I wish to or not, is all that is wrong with the piece.

11) Depression and self-flagellation ensue, as does singing along loudly to mushy George Michael songs.

12) And then I think, how lucky I am to have the chance to write about this stuff, stuff that I care about, that I think is interesting, that I’d love for other people to read.

13) Maybe one day they will.

Meanwhile, back to the diss.

It’s Like Falling In Love. But With Footnotes.

dean confused by books

Academia is a feeling of failure wrapped in a taco of inadequacy. That’s what you signed up for, believe it or not. Embrace the salsa. Sit down and write.

Continue reading “It’s Like Falling In Love. But With Footnotes.”

An Engine of Discursive Pleasure

This post is a metatextual exorcism: me trying to get the stupid out, as my directing teacher used to say, in re: my research project about the rhetorical tactics of the Overlord. It’s also an excuse for lots of pictures of Misha, so. If that turns you off, you know, I’d suggest you check for a pulse.

Ok, so. Here’s why it’s been hard for me to wax academic about Misha Collins:

It was easier for me to [gleefully] objectify the dude than it was to take him seriously.

Like, bro: I could write some smoking hot RPS about you without breaking a sweat, but put on a Random Acts video and I went all Crayola.

Fangirling over his body? Fine. Fangirling over what he actually did with that body in real life?

Oh hell no.

Continue reading “An Engine of Discursive Pleasure”

All In On The Slow Burn

As a writer, there’s something to be said for taking your time.

For crafting. For reflection. For musing over the words until each and every one is right.

I almost never do that these days.

But when I do, I go all in on the slow burn.

cas smoulder at dean

For example:

Last month, I wrote a paper in two days that it took me a year to write.

Continue reading “All In On The Slow Burn”

Start Making Sense

I’ve written in this space before about my relationship with writing, but I’ve never really considered how I write, how I get shit done. So using Lifehacker’s How We Work series as a Proust Questionnaire-type model, I’m taking a crack at chasing my workflow, so. Here goes.

Continue reading “Start Making Sense”

Running In Circles

I get really anxious when I don’t write. It’s almost a physical thing, one that puts me on edge and tunes me right up to cranky, and there’s a cobra tied around my gut that I’m most aware of when it finally goes away, when I finally bang out something that I like, that I’d want to read, and then I’m back to square one.


It’s one of the reasons–the best one–why I’ve written so many fics in the past year and a half: I can’t not write, and it’s easier for me to retreat into Sam and Dean’s world, or Misha and Jen’s, or Kirk and Spock’s, than to hang too close in my own.

It’s an escape, they tell me. A means of getting away. Of not-being for awhile, as my beloved Gorgias might say.

When I can’t write, or won’t, I turn that same energy to self-sabotage.

What do you do in your spare time? he says. When you’re not in school.

I write, I say. Or try.

I’m thinking too much about it, this habit, this pipe, when what I should do is just write. Words on the keys, in the page, and be done.

But, like the man says:

Part of it, this anxiety, lies in where I am in my not-school work: I’m in the midst of two long pieces–very unlike me, mind–two pieces I’ve been fighting with on and on for freaking months when I’m more wont to just knocking those bastards out. Not always, you see. Not all. But often.

So I lie in the goddamn middle of the road to Damascus or 19th-century Wyoming or millennial Pittsburgh PA and it’s frustrating, hanging alone out there, like that. I want them done, want to get the boys to their fucking happily-ever-afters already, but even in this state of me-imposed despair, I know they’ll both be better for the extra time taken but crap, I’ve hung myself out to dry.

Self-sabotage, yes, in academic world, too. I have two essays that need revised–ok, three if you count that conference paper for PCA–and I can’t get out of my own way enough to get them done.

I want to write them, I guess, which is why I tell myself I must not.

I never said I made sense, dude.

I am my own worst enemy, yes. Never truer words spoken than this.

All academics, they tell us, Paul does, they have this internal critic, this voice that tells them they don’t belong. The imposter syndrome, they call it, hushed tones and sad eyes and soft shake of the head, yay. It gets all of us. But especially the women. Dominant discourse’s gift to we without the Y chromosome: doubt and self-inflicted fury.

So I am an impostor. I feel one, that is. And in the seeming vs. being song, that’s the only verse that matters, yes?

I suppose what’s surprised me lately is that I feel an imposter in all things, not just in academe. A big blank slate onto which people who damn well know better keep pressing these images of competency, of cleverness, of fleeting rhetorical skill.

Insert teenage-girl tumblr angst here: unloved sigh, sad poetry sniff, bad gifs of cute kittens. Bah.

Hollow hollow man, am I of late. Here’s to hope the road so gets a little less far.

Fleeing In Terror’s Probably Not The Best Option

I’ve finally figured out what’s bugging me, what’s dragging me down about the coming semester: the fear of other people’s expectations.

This time last year, no one expected anything from me because nobody knew what I could do. Including me. I just figured: I don’t want to suck. So I’ll go quietly about the business of not sucking.

Now there are, I don’t know, expectations and shit. There isn’t a question of can I do well; I’ve done well, at least in academic terms, and the expectation is that I’ll do so again.

I don’t want to screw up–which isn’t new–but I feel like there are people watching, now, for whom my screwing up isn’t a question. It’s like: you’re here. You carry the name of our program out into the world. And you’re not gonna fuck it up.

Even my editors and the admins of conferences I’m attending, it’s inherent in their communications with me: you’re not gonna fuck it up. You’re a professional. This is what you do. We trust you to come here or write this and talk intelligently about this stuff.

Which is fucking terrifying.

I’ve realized that I like going in with no expectations–my own or anyone else’s. I like flying in blind, with no one knowing me or my work and being like pleasantly surprised or whatever that I’m not a complete idiot. That I do know how to write, sometimes. How to speak, less often.

But that shell’s been spent and the bullet’s long gone. Don’t get to be a virgin forever, I guess. Now I gotta give the people what they want, what I think they want, and it’s no wonder that reading acres and acres of fanfic rather than putting any of my stuff on paper looks pretty fucking fantastic from here.

I’ve internalized all of this crap, is what I’m saying. And it’s acting like a major block that I’m allowing to prevent me from getting shit done.

Dude. I’m scared.

Into the Groove

I put together my calendar today. Laid out all of my engagements for the semester, from conferences to papers for publication to SPN Big Bangs. All the days, all the due dates, laid out in a line, on one giant sheet of paper that’s now happily stuck to my bedroom door.

And seeing it all laid out like that made me feel a bit better. A little less panicked at the prospect of doing all of that shit and classes and my work stuff, too.

A bit.

But one thing I did notice is how these real world venues cross and intersect with my online life, with spaces like this one, and Tumblr, and Sam/Dean Slash Archive, and Facebook, and A03.

What I’ve found is that having all of these places to talk, to be (potentially) heard both in real life and online, is having the strangest effect on me.

It’s making me reticent. It’s making me a little more uneasy about speaking, knowing that people might actually be listening. Or not.

On the one hand, I crave feedback. Don’t we all? And by “feedback” of course I mean positive feedback, because the negative kind almost always puts me into a tailspin, even when it’s constructive. Even though, as a teacher of writing, I recognize that constructive criticism is often more valuable than straight up “you’re awesome”–but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to hear just how awesome I am.

So when good things happen, when people say nice things or take my papers or don’t call me a moron, I  get squirrelly, waiting for that other shoe to drop.  It’s hard for me to say “I’ve done well.” Hell, it usually comes out as “I don’t suck,” which still strikes me as a more accurate way of thinking.

Basically, I swing between not understanding why anyone would want to listen to my academic fanwanking or read my weird-ass slash fic, to wondering why I’m not the next great novelist, why I haven’t had academic book deals tossed into my lap by seraphims raining from the sky.

In my mind, I’m either an idiot or a sage.

And I’d really like to find some middle ground before my brain wears a groove between the two extremes and I fall right the fuck down inside.

Real Ugly Like

I am caught up this week in the final, insistant rush that the end of each semester brings, each with its own particular kind of hysteria. This term, the due dates for my final projects are nicely spread out, which is allowing me [in theory] to give myself over to each of them in turn. It’s kind of nice, actually.

Though as Friday’s deadline–the first of two–begins to loom, I’m trying to shake free of the niceness and push myself more aggressively into the Cult of Done, so I can move quickly to the next project, which is due next Wednesday.

And then, of course, my students’ work lies in wait at the end of the tunnel, waiting for assessments that are due next Friday.

So another week or so of this, of this semester, of this first year of a PhD program. And then summer vacation!

But until then, I think I’ll stick to more immediate terms: today, tomorrow, and the next. Otherwise? Things might be looking real ugly-like.

Always Already Possessed


Writing is a physical thing, for me. The closest thing I get to an aerobic workout.

I spend a lot of time flailing, when I write; gesturing and pointing and dancing along to whatever music I’m listening to, whatever music is stuck in my head.

I talk back, I talk to, I talk out.

I bite my lip a lot.

Try to avoid seeing myself in the screen.

Look away and type. Close my eyes and type. Think faster than I can type.

When it’s too fast, when I can’t catch up, I write things down on paper, shove the pencil across the page and sketch and suggest and get closer than I can on the screen, sometimes.

I shift in my chair. I pet the cats when they hop up, hold the little cat in my lap and poke at the keys with one hand.

I sing.

I watch the screen for signs of email or Facebook or anything that gives me an excuse not to write, right then.

I flip between my story and my paper and my exam–between I want to do, what I am doing, what should already be done.

I curse, when I have to. Cajole the words to come, sometimes. Try to hold them at bay, at others.

I spend a lot of time unconscious, when I write.

My friend asked: “How can you not see this, in this piece? What I see? Didn’t you write it?”

And I said yes, of course I did, but I wasn’t conscious, at the time. Not in the same way.

And that’s when it’s easy to write, times like that, when it’s necessary, when it’s not me. When the text just comes and I have to get out of the way and transcribe, just type, just let the letters form on their own, without me.

It’s awesome, sometimes, and scary. Writing like that. Like muscle memory. An autonomic function that just is. Just does.

So someone watching me write? Might think I was possessed, a little. And they’d be right.

And sometimes I feel as though school–the first 12 years of it, at least–was designed to exorcise those demons, to drive them out and pour clarity, obedience, respect down my throat, into their place.

And those things rested easier, I guess, gave me less of a hard time than the demons that drive my writing did. But wow, was I boring, and shit, was I unhappy, and I think I’ll take possession over that, everytime.