No Clever Titles

Hi, everyone! I hope your week is off to a fantastic start! I know. I know. No one likes Mondays because the week's off to a new start. But you know what Mondays also mean? It's time for Monday Musings! Wherein I ramble about various and sundry depending on my whim or Patreon requests/suggestions. Posts are somewhere below 2,500 words at most and consist of short personal essays and discussions.

No Clever Titles

Ah, Mondays. That beginning of the week, that first day after the weekend, that moment I decided to post short essays on various and sundry topics that more often than not turn out to be somehow related to asexuality, aromanticism and/or my writing…

Today I have no clue what to write about, so, instead, I’m writing about, well, that. It will, perforce, be nowhere near 2,500 words in length, but that may be a good thing. I started this project partially because I wanted to give people a chance to prompt topics they were interested in hearing me talk about. Though I suppose being a pretty private person in general that tends to leave little room for people come up with really good ideas? I don’t know.

The thing is, I like talking about things and rambling about them semi-coherently, but I rarely, if ever, feel like I have anything useful or interesting to say. Sometimes that doesn’t really matter that much, like with my experiences with types of media. That’s a very subjective and personal topic and it’s easier to talk about those and assume people are interested in them. I have a lot of experience chatting with them with friends and have ample proof that some people, at least, find my thoughts on these topics interesting. Another example is the Hugo Voting rambles I’m doing, though I’m doing those as a recording predominantly. They’re topical (and largely about books), but that topic is actually broader since it’s also about my overall thoughts on science fiction and fantasy as a genre, the direction contemporary writers are taking it in, and my experiences with both. Yesterday’s ramble has a tangent into my early experiences with science fiction, for example, and the role perception can play into our desire to pick up a genre. I could have gone on a tangent about how geek culture has become more and more mainstream because that, too, is related to that, but that would have strayed a bit too far from the topic I was actually discussing.

Anyway, my point is that sometimes it’s easy for me to work past my anxiety and fears about whether or not I have anything interesting to say and it’s relatively easy to find something to talk about. These Monday musings have never been that easy for me to do. It’s part of why I started the project, actually. I wanted to try and push myself to talk about things even if I might not always. I wanted to practice writing shorter, more personal essays just in case someone wanted to hire me to write them or if I could come up with a topic I wanted to pitch somewhere.

There’s this belief, often, that if you’re a writer, all types of writing is easy. Writing is, after all, writing, and if you can do one type of it, you can do any type of it. If you’re a fiction writer, it’s generally assumed that you are, perforce, also a good nonfiction writer. The fact that we don’t hold the opposite to be true is my first piece of evidence that I’d like to present to say that all of this is bollocks.

True, the mechanics of writing are similar no matter what you write. The goal is to present a clear order of words that allow people to understand a thing. The words are the same. The grammar is the same[1]. Formal rules, when different, can be looked up easily enough. It’s always been one of my greatest annoyances about academic writing classes: they never actually teach you how to write. They teach you to memorise formal rules, so you can format your text faster. Oh, they’ll include bits on how to connect sentences and how to make idea B flow naturally from idea A and they’ll have a section on how to structure your essay, what should be included in an introduction, how to pick the best type of conclusion, all that good stuff.

What they don’t teach you is what makes a paper a good paper, what makes it legible or engaging. (In fact, they categorically try to eradicate the latter, in my experience, so it isn’t like they can use “This is subjective and illusive and almost impossible to teach” as a reason.) I know how to make a text engaging when it’s fiction. I couldn’t rightly explain it to anyone asking and I imagine it’s subjective and partially down to the magic of writer style and reader preference alchemy meshing in a way that creates narrative gold instead of remaining coal. I don’t know how to make a text engaging when it’s nonfiction.

Truthfully, not all writers do and I’d not be surprised to discover that that is the reason why some writers get known for both nonfiction about the craft (or other topics) and others don’t. It’s notable that the first authors I can think of who’ve published nonfiction collections are trained journalists and academics: Terry Pratchett, Ursula K. Le Guin, Diana Wynne Jones, John Scalzi, Bogi Takács… All of them have a background in producing nonfiction, and it shows.

Oh, don’t assume that I think all writers aiming to write nonfiction ought to pursue a career in journalism or academics or anything. I’m not. What I’m getting at is that all of the people I can readily think of who are well-known for both nonfiction and fiction writing, are people who are just as practiced at writing nonfiction – specifically nonfiction – as they are fiction.

I’ve never felt quite comfortable with nonfiction, not even treating it like a narrative, and it’s part of why I fell out of academics after my MA. (In fact, one of the driving decisions in pursuing creative writing at university was the ability to avoid writing a paper I didn’t feel comfortable or confident writing.) Working on these weekly essays has reminded me why that is, but they’ve also been good practice. I might still be utterly rubbish at convincing myself that I have anything worthwhile to say and I might struggle a lot to find topics, but I cannot deny that they have been good practice.

This piece is the first freeform piece I’ve done in a while, actually, and that’s because I ran out of discussion topics I could easily think of. Well, that and I’d like to take a bit of time off writing these Monday musing posts to focus on bigger and larger essays. Because nonfiction like this is hard for me, it can cause a lot of stress for me and I’ve got… rather a bit on my plate right now. I’m in the middle of reworking DemiPrincess2 (and have given up hope that I’ll have both book 2 and 3 finished by the end of the year, but I may surprise myself yet!); I’m in the middle of a scholarly article on how books with ace protagonists explore the concept of love; I’ve got a whole verse novel project I’d like to finish a draft of over the summer; I’ve got Hugo Voting reading and commenting to go through…

What I’m getting at is that I’m feeling incredibly overwhelmed by all the things I put on my plate and I’d like to give myself permission to dial back the Monday posts a bit. I don’t know if I will. I’m stubborn and I don’t want to bail on the project, but I also have… no idea what to write about at present and I have a bunch of big projects that suffer because I’m anxiously staring at the Monday slot.

Part of the point of writing these posts was to take a step back from the research and intensity of the longer ace and aro rep essays I’ve got and I’ve lost sight of that partway through and while I set 2,500 as an upper limit, I turned it into a requirement for myself.

So. I don’t have anything much to say this week. No clever titles, no spectacularly workmanlike titles, no deep insight. Just some musings on why I’m struggling with these Monday posts and whether and how I could adapt them.

I am taking next week off, though, no matter what. After next week, who knows. If you’ve got any topics you’d like me to write about, let me know in the comments on Patreon (or on Twitter or the like)! I would absolutely love to know what you’d like my thoughts on, if anything!

But I think I’ll aim for far shorter and even more informal musings for a bit.

[1] Well, unless you’re writing in different languages. Then they might differ.

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