Tag Archives: Chuck Wendig

**Trigger Warning**

2 Feb

Over on his blog, the ever-fantastic Chuck Wendig is currently hosting a comments-based discussion (brave one, he is) on trigger warnings when it comes to written material. Not every book is exactly “safe to handle” for every reader. But is that the reader’s job to gauge? Or the writer’s job to present up front, like an STD in a potential lover? Should books come with sets of trigger warnings?

For those who don’t want to read the N paragraphs below, I’ll tell you my personal opinion up here: No.

If you’d like to know the credentials behind that opinion and the whole long rambling comment I left in Wendig’s discussion, then, dear reader, venture on.

I pretty much promise there are triggers.

* * * * *

Context on me as a commenter: As someone who grew up with abuse of many kinds, eating disorders, and depression and who spent most of college in and out of treatment, residential and outpatient, for the lasting impact of all those things, I talked and was taught a crap ton about triggers. My therapists and I and the other lucky people in treatment discussed triggers around food, triggers around weight, triggers around body image, triggers around physicality and sexuality and self-esteem. There are about a *makes up really funny-sounding humongously big number* triggers out there. Some of them might stir feelings in me of wanting to not eat for a week, or puke up anything I do. Some of them might make me want to tear my skin apart. Some of them might send me flying back into a near-hallucination of memory-based, stimulus-galvanized panic attack where what’s real and what’s not becomes really slippery and I have to tell myself over and over and over again that the floor is real, the wall is real, the door is real, the friend beside me is Person X or Y and they are there to care and not to hurt me like my brain is trying to say there are, conflating them with so many person Z’s in the past who have. Triggers can be loud, concussive noises that send my adrenaline bursting. Triggers can be soft, gentle, well-meant and goddamn *wanted* kisses. Triggers are songs and sentences and slantwise jabs from strangers. tl;dr – triggers are everything.

But they are not everything *always.* What could poke at my emotions or my sanity one day might be something cathartic and beneficial another day. If the entire world is a trigger, then, as I have been told in so many group sessions again and again, it is not my job to censor the world. That’s not feasible. And that’s not fair. While I am not responsible for what’s happened to me, I am responsible for how I deal with it. If I want to do any semblance of living, it is my job, now, to figure out warning signs and preventative measures and people to throw in my safety net and what to tell them about different scenarios and breathing techniques and focusing techniques and fighting techniques and no, it’s not fair that I have to do all these things, but that’s just how it is. Because that’s how I get better. That’s how I fight back the triggers and pick off their numbers, one by one. Neural plasticity is a wonderful thing. But if I continually hide, never ever deal with the thing that hurts me, never practice coming up against it because I’ve cloistered myself from any possible sharp thing, then I am never going to change. I am going to remain crippled and afraid and hiding. And that’s when everything that led up to these triggers wins.

Yes, flashbacks are damn painful but I’d rather navigate my way through them than never be kissed by another human being ever again.

Yes, reading about suicide might make me remember my own attempts, but it also reminds me that hey, there are people out there who have experienced these things too, or who at least understand them well enough to write about them this way. And that’s way more valuable, how much less alone that makes me feel, then reading about rainbows and sunshine all day long. Because really that’s only going to make me nauseated.

There’s a difference between seeking out specifically triggering material and reading material that might crop up some stuff. I know not to go reading pro-ana or pro-mia stuff. That’s just intentionally triggering. And dumb. And not well-written, really. And on a day when I’m teetering back and forth across the line of sanity, I know that maybe I should pick up a Harry Potter book instead of Forman’s ‘If I Stay.’ But on days when I am angry at the world and what it has done to me, IS doing to me, then it’s those days that I really, really need Miriam Black and Palahniuk’s cast of psychopaths and N.K. Jemisin’s gloriously unsafe Nahadoth. I need characters with dangerous thoughts and dangerous emotions because they make me feel unalone in mine. They make my existence feel justified. They make me feel like I’m not just some aberration amongst the rest of the human race.

It’s up to me to know when my brain can play nicely with them, or meet them, if I’ve never perused their pages before. That vigilance is not your job. The only amount of warning you’re required to give me is a synopsis on a book jacket. Anything more, and it’s really just cheating.

—–

The only kind of trigger warning I want:

trigger warning

Water Bottles

16 Mar

– A Miriam Black fanfiction

Vamp-red hair and black leather, a mousy brown-blond braid plus jeans, and sharp bob on top of a suit. This was going to be an odd conference.

All three were women. All three had something to do with a story. All three looked anything but placid. The similarities ended there.

The suit sat down. She extended a hand towards the noncommittal middle space between her two guests. “Hello. Thank you both for coming. I’m -”

“Cynthia, but you go by Cindy,” braid-jeans cut in. “You think it makes you seem more accessible, less exotic. You always resented having such a French mother, growing up in America. Made assimilation so much harder.”

Cynthia – er, Cindy – colored. She retracted her hand. “Uh, yes, that’s… that’s, uh, accurate.”

Vamp snorted. “Nice,” she muttered, throwing a look of appreciation across the table at her fellow guest.

“Sorry!” braid-jeans back-pedalled hastily. “It’s just… well, it’s true!”

Cindy brushed off her clothes, as if straightening them could somehow restore her lost composure. “Yes!” Her voice was too loud. “You must be, uh…” she checked her notepad. “Margaret, is it?”

Braid-jeans nodded. “Yup. Such a sweet-sounding name, isn’t it? Everyone’s always so surprised when they learn it means “bitterness.” Fitting, really.”

Vamp raised an eyebrow and stuck out her hand. The red nail polish on her fingers was chipping visibly. “Miriam,” she said after a second. She released Margaret’s hand quickly. Margaret nodded. “Your nail polish is more chipped than you like it to be. You’ve been busy.”

Miriam cocked her head sideways. “Can you ever not do that?”

“Tell the truth?” the edges of Margaret’s face pulled away in wry wrinkles. “No.”

“That’s so interesting. I would hate it.”

“And that,” Cindy cut in hastily, leaning forward across the table in an attempt to regain authority (they were her guests, after all), “is why we’re here! As I was saying, thank you both for coming. The Daily Dish thanks you for taking time out of your busy schedules to talk with me about this piece.”

Miriam and Margaret looked at each other. “Busy?” Margaret scoffed. Miriam raised an eyebrow again. “Schedule?”

Cindy bit her lip. “Uh…”

“Ah yes, I’ve been so busy,” Margaret muttered bitterly. “What with trying to avoid people and all…” Across the table, Miriam nodded. Margaret gestured towards her fellow guest. “You get it.”

“Oh honey,” Miriam said, “I get it hard.”

“Whydon’tyoutellmemoreaboutthat,” Cindy spurted out, desperate to regain her ground. She flipped open her notebook again, uncapped a pen. “Margaret, how about you first? Why do you want to avoid people so much?”

Miriam choked on her own laughter.

Margaret merely rolled her eyes. “Only being able to tell the truth, always, forever, compulsively… do you really need any more explanation?”

Cindy leaned forward. Blinked. “Yes.”

Margaret sighed. “Knowing people’s truth… My grandfather told me it was a gift. My mother told me it was a curse. I’m more inclined to believe my mother, now, as an adult.”

Cindy was still staring. Her pen was suspended, floating right above the page. “And?”

Margaret looked at Cindy. Harder, this time. Dead in the eye. “Think about it. Ever told a white lie? Just a little one? To make your life just a little bit more convenient? Smooth something over? Tell someone what they wanted to hear?”

Cindy nodded slowly.

“Now imagine not being able to do that.”

For a moment, Cindy didn’t move. Then, slowly, her eyes got wider.

Miriam kicked her feet up on the table. Leaned back in her chair so it was tilted on two legs. She whistled. “Christ,” she looked at Margaret. “I mean, shit man.”

Margaret nodded. “Little white lies are the trivial fluff that keeps our delusioned society functional. Truth, on the other hand, is an ugly black boulder that people don’t seem to particularly care having lobbed in their face.”

Cindy was silent in her chair. Her face had started to blanch toward sheet-colored.

Miriam leaned forward in her chair. “You can’t even be manipulative with it, can you? Well, maybe you can, but fuck that would take some skill.”

Margaret nodded. “I don’t do it too often. Not saying things can be as much of a lie as telling deliberate falsehoods. Pauses, meaningful silences – they’re hard to do, when your tongue is chomping at the bit to flood someone with the full truth of it. Misconceptions – they’re hard to work into a routine intentionally.”

“So,” she looked back at Cindy. “Most of the time, I try to just avoid people. If I don’t see anyone, then I don’t have to tell them not-nice things. And when I do have to see people, I try to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. You know, generic. Braid my hair like every other something-year-old. Jeans and a t-shirt, bland as can be. Kept my childhood name of Margaret. Simple name.” She eyed Miriam. “Though maybe I should just go for eccentric. Get it legally changed to Magnolia or something. Give people a reason to write me off.”

Miriam laughed, a rough, guttural sound. “Making yourself something most people don’t want to see certainly helps turn you invisible.”

Margaret smiled. Frowned. Turned to Cindy. The woman’s hand had gone limp and her pen lay on the floor. She was the color of a pale albino in winter.

“Uh,” Margaret took the woman’s hand and rubbed it between hers. “You okay there?”

Miriam reached out a hand, grasped the woman’s elbow. Margaret saw her eyes unfocus for a second.

Then Miriam blinked. Sat back in her chair. “Don’t worry,” she said, looking at Cindy, “you don’t die of shock. Not even a little.” She looked down into her coffee cup, still mostly-full of the unpalatable sludge they’d left out in the guest lobby. She pushed it toward Cindy. “Here. Taste of your own medicine. It’ll do you good.”

The woman grasped the cup, took a sip. Spluttered.

“Eh, there you go!” Miriam clapped her on the back. “There’s some color in your cheeks!”

Margaret reached into her purse and pulled out a water bottle. “Here,” she set the water bottle in front of the slightly-less-dazed reporter. “Helps the truth go down.”

Margaret and Miriam stood up, both watching Cindy work ineffectually at twisting the cap off. Miriam looked over at Margaret. “The truth, takes some getting used to, hunh?”

Margaret gave an upward flick of her eyebrows in agreement. She looked at Cindy. Made a face. “Just keep working at that. You’ll get it.”

Miriam took Margaret by the hand, pulled her towards the door of the conference room. “So, Magnolia, how about you and I go get gloriously drunk together?”

Margaret hesitated. “I don’t know… people tend to, uh, not like me very much when I’m drunk. You know, inhibitions and all that. Tend to say some pretty nasty things.”

“Lovely!” Miriam chirped. “So do I! We’ll get along splendidly.”

The sound of laughter followed the two women’s silhouettes out of the conference room and into the elevator.

Inside the conference room, there was silence.

Then, the sound of twisting. Something coming loose.

And a snap.

Pi Day Challenge

14 Mar

Happy Pi Day, lovely readers! A late pi day, to be sure. Now readers, I’ve got a challenge for you all!

Let me first introduce you to an amazing magazine called Fireside. It’s a crowd-funded fiction production that states its mission as “finding and publishing great storytelling regardless of genre, and fair pay for creators.”

Both of which are awesome goals. Espeeeecially that second one, about fair pay for creators. The forces behind Fireside are writers and artists and musicians themselves, the lovely kind that understand the financial shit that most creators have to put up with. They’re in it themselves, really. So they want to pay their contributors as well as they can.

And they’ve got some friggin ridiculous quality contributors! Chuck Wending contributes short stories, Lucas J.W. Johnson is giving out copies of his experimental fiction and music project as one of the perks, Hugo-winner Galen Dara is the magazine’s illustrator… seriously, it’s a giant compendium of artistic greatness.

But… if it’s not successfully funded, the magazine won’t run this year. AND I WOULD REALLY LIKE FOR IT TO RUN THIS YEAR. You know. Just a little.

So, I’m beseeching all you readers to help with a challenge. It’s pi day. Let’s celebrate! I want to see the number of backers that Fireside‘s got go up from the 208 it has as I write this post to 314 (get it, 314, like 3.14, for pi? eh? eh?). And I want to see that happen within the next 24 hours.

We can do it! This is the internet! The massive force of world culture! It only takes $2 to become a Fireside backer. That’s less than the cost of a latte. I really, really hope we can get 106 people to pledge $2 for cultural goodness.

And, beyond the awesomeness of being that much closer to another year of Fireside, I’ll add to the perks too! If we get up to 314 donors within the next 24 hours (so we’ll say 9pm PST on Saturday), I’ll release a cool little poem that I wrote for pi day and that’s been all artsy-ed up right here on my blog. MORE POEMS FOR FREE WEEEEEEEE!!!!!

If you do go and back Fireside but we don’t get up to 314 donors, I’ll email ya the pretty little ditty. If you comment below with your email address or email me with it. Honor code, people. No saying you donated when you didn’t. Doing that would make you a shitty person and I wouldn’t like you in real life. So. You should just go give Fireside $2 to earn a poem and my good favor. And then share! Ask your friends, your family, your coworkers that you only talk to for a very awkward minute while you’re both in the elevator! Do it! DO IT!

become a Fireside backer here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/firesidemag/fireside-magazine-year-3

One Thing, Ten Ways

28 Feb

Alrighty, folks. I follow this famous writerly person called Chuck Wending, which means that I get about half a billion blog posts from him filling up my inbox every day. It’s pretty good, actually. Wending has added half a dozen books to my oh-god-please-just-read-me-already list, and his, uh, spritely writing style constantly challenges me to make sure mine is adequately colorful.

Anyhoo, every week Wending hosts a challenge of his own – usually in the form of a flash fiction topic, but this week, as an assignment to take one thing and describe it ten ways. Abstract ways, concrete ways, literal and figurative ways. All that jazz.

So. I figured I’d describe something that I know pretty damn (read: way too fucking) well: depression.

I know, sounds like a depressing topic, right? Depression sounds like it’d be pretty depressing. I mean, I think that’s why they call it that. But… well, depression has been with me for a long while, and it’s a beast I well know the shape of. It’s a terrible beast – but I’ve learned from the best of books (the ones like Harry Potter and the Young Wizard Series) that if you can describe something, you have power over it. Why do you think the best of magic is always done with words?

And so if I must keep this bedraggled familiar in check, at least I can do it eloquently.

So. Here goes. Depression is…

  1. Hopelessness, helplessness, soulessness, joylessness – all those “lessnesses” that come in the form of deceptively paltry checkboxed lines on a psychiatrist’s diagnostic sheet.
  2. A searing pain felt in hot tears down cheeks and a throbbing throat and a chest that’s constricted and convulsed with crying.
  3. Nothing. Nothing at all. Numbness, listlessness, a-motivation. An inexorable annihilation of being that turns a person into glass eyes and an empty shell.
  4. The point of last resort – self-harm, eating disorders, suicide, all those co-morbidities of depression arise not as a wall of rock bottom but as a desperate attempt to tunnel back out. Sometimes you shut the door behind you.
  5. A paradoxical battle in which there are no sides. It’s not an I against the world, an I against a villain, an I against a situation. It is an I against an I. Not even two clear-cut sides tearing a someone down the middle; a confused and blurred raging that smashes everything together and leaves nothing whole.
  6. A murderer, plain and simple.
  7. Not a fault, not a choice, not a mistake of the patient. Ever.
  8. Incredibly mis- and mal-understood.
  9. A broken brain; a disconnection between know and feel; a mis-firing, bad wiring; a nontraditional way of processing neurochemicals and pharmaceuticals aimed to fix them; a bastard to consistently properly medicate.
  10. A demon that yet an angel can make, in more ways than one, and likely more ways than ten. But that, I suppose, is for another description.