Tag Archives: literary

**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



10 Mar

I am scatterbrained. Not always in the “forgetful” kind of sense. Though sure, mental lapses of my to-do list are definitely a regular appearance in my day. But… I’m scatterbrained more in the sense that my brain is, well, scattered. It’s somewhat of a necessity, given that I’m finishing up two major with very different requirements, seeing how one is in biology (basically microbiology, since Caltech researchers seems to be wary of anything bigger than a cell…) and the other is in English (which here means “literary analysis”; here, read this book – now write a five-page essay analyzing some part of this. What? What’s this about creative writing? Journalism? Op-eds? No no, here, just mimic our motions of academia. There you go. That’s a good girl…)

Ahem. Uh. What was I saying? Oh. Right. Scatterbrained. I am that thing. But it’s because I have so many disparate sections of my life to keep track of. Bio major. English major. Wildlife volunteering. My personal creative writing.

Aaah, my personal creative writing. Even that is scatterbrained. Like, this blog. What the fuck am I doing here, guys? Sure, most of my posts are about writing, or about The Feels, but then I’ve also got a fair amount about feminism and rape culture and mental health, and then sometimes I also talk about writing, and then I randomly post about animals… and then there are poems and short stories and pieces of flash fiction… and if you are somehow able to lump all those things into one nice, cohesive genre, then God and Cthulu bless you, child, because I sure as hell can’t. “Uh, this one is fairy tale-ish fantasy… and this one is urban dystopia… and this is, uh, yeah I don’t even know what this one is…”

And then there’s the writing that I’ve still got under wraps. I have like seven lists of planned writing projects. Cultural/existential perspective pieces. Grunge fantasy series. Pop-sci-ish writing. Guys, WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING???

I want to write what’s interesting to me. But, as you can tell from my two majors, “what’s interesting to me” can fall across a highly broad range of departments. Sure, I could try to tie them all together in some grand way, putting more emphasis on areas and pulling less from others… but I don’t want to do that. Sure, I want to genre-bend and genre-cross in some ways, but I don’t want to make a giant messy lump of it. Some things I just want to look at, to write about in their own right. They are their own subject, and what I have to say about them is solely and uniquely for the stand alone entity. I don’t want to smush it all together for the sake of homogeneity, of some nicely-parceled, shrink-wrapped unified front.

This makes it very difficult to develop what I hear people refer to as “brand.” It’s the jack of all trades, master of none dilemma. I mean, sure, even if I am a master of one field (or many fields), apparently unless I restrict my writing to just that area, I won’t be perceived as an expert. It’s hard to become “known” for something when your image is spread across a smattering of work.

Which I find odd. I mean, sure, don’t spread yourself too thin. Don’t try to write about things you have business trying to speak on. But… while humans have strengths, sure, we’re not single-use automatons. Weren’t we all told to become like those lauded “well-rounded” people at some point in our lives? Heard someone referred to as “a regular DaVinci?” Plus… I mean… I DON’T WANNA SPECIALIZE I DON’T WANNA PICK JUST ONE I WANT ALL OF THEM AND I WANNA DO WHAT I WANNA DO WAAAANNNNHHHH! *stomps foot in proper two-year-old-fashion*

*Straightens tie.* Well then. As, uh, hyperbolic as that may be meant to be, it’s still fairly true. Picking just one path to explore, whether physically or mentally, is boooring. I’ve always admired the “Seniors” in Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series. At one point, she describes them as something like “people who have refused to specialize too far in their wizardry.” They’re Seniors because they know a LOT. About LOTS of things. They are the higher thinkers, the ones who can approach any problem because they know how to get at it from a bazillion different angles. They have not narrowed their thinking to one particular hallway. They know the layout of the entire building. Hell, the really good ones, the Seniors that cover worlds and galaxies and whatnot, they’ve probably internalized the blueprints for the entire city. At the very least.

I’ve always wanted to be like them. To know how to slay beasts of any shapes with weapons of any calibre. To know how to climb any sort of face. To be able to comfort any person who comes my way. To speak the language of many types of knowledge.

Alright. I’ll stop with the metaphors here.(Oh god, coffee, why haven’t you kicked in yet???) You all get the idea. I think the world – the universe, actually – is a pretty interesting place. So I don’t want to restrict my writing to just one angle of it.

Hrm. If only that didn’t make so many literary agents raise their oh-so-skeptical eyebrows at me. Maybe I should just shave them all off. The eyebrows, that is. How do you like it now, disdaining agent? Where is your shock and surprise? I can’t see it! AHAHAHAHAHA!!!

*Ahem.* Well then. Perhaps I should go get another cup of coffee now. And hide all the shaving razors…

Title (Optional)

20 Jan

So Katherine Fritz, my fellow blogger and an excellent person and kinda-friend who lets me send her overly excited emails about fucking awesome coffee mugs got an agent! And it’s awesome. And she’s hilarious. So you all should head over to her blog and read her post “Title (Optional)” because hoorah smallish-time writers getting literary agents before they’ve even actually written a book because hope and smiles and inspiration! 🙂

Title (Optional).

(No, I’ve not had an entire French press’s worth of coffee today plus also maybe recently a cookie-shaped form of refined sugar… not at all…)

via Title (Optional).