On Cultivating Resilience

Cthulhu Scribe by Drew Pocza

The drama llama, as I like to call it, has been very active these past few weeks. Main thing, for me, is that I’m speaking up ’cause really? There are a ton of people in the industry who are new and feel very threatened by the current state of trollish affairs. It’s not about hating on anybody, really, it’s about saying a vocal minority of assholes does not speak for the majority. Do I hate white men? Ah, no. I have very simple rules about people. Are you an asshole? If the answer to that question is “Yes!” then buh-bye. If folks don’t get that? Not my problem. Opening a door and saying “You are welcome! Join us!” does not mean that people who already feel welcome can’t join in. I’ve worked with conservatives and liberals and everybody in between. Assholes, though? Those tend to be the people I don’t work with (if I can help it) or I find ways to avoid dealing with long term. No time for them.

I really don’t give a crap about the fact that I’m a woman making art (stories, games, comics, etc.). That [the female experience] isn’t my area of focus and it doesn’t really show up in my game design. It does for other designers, though, and I am behind them 100% because the gaming industry is big enough to include these types of games. Good for them! Inclusivity is a thing for me, however, and it’s usually because most, if not all, companies share an industry-wise goal that I also happen to believe in: everybody has the right to see themselves as the hero and, when they do, they will have more fun. That is why we are all here: make games so all different kinds of people can have fun. This is especially true for highly visible games I’ve worked on, like when I was developing the Firefly RPG and contributed to Unknown Armies 3rd Edition RPG, and it will be true for the Hunter: the Vigil 2nd Edition RPG and the Cortex Plus Action corebook, too. Among others, which will be announced shortly!

Other people, however, do seem to care quite a bit about the fact I’m a woman. People in positions of power, people who could buy my stuff, people who could review my stuff and don’t ’cause I’m not a dude. Even I get tired every once in a while, because there are a lot of misogynists who, in point of fact, care so much about their own image they don’t believe they’re actually being misogynistic. Point. Missed. Especially when they attack women for um… what again? Oh right, hating them. Look, I don’t talk about what it’s like, I don’t talk about how frustrated I get seeing folks in one breath say “Yes, women!” and then only recommend books/games by men, or how desperately I wish I didn’t have to be reminded of the fact that I have teh boobies every day, or how infuriating it is when I do speak up and folks are like “Well, it didn’t happen to me.” “Prove it.” “You’re so sensitive.” Right now I’m saying it because there’s this belief that if you don’t hear about a thing it doesn’t exist. Um, not true. Sexism exists. I just choose to deal with it in my way.

I wish I didn’t have to worry about this shit–ever, really–and just make art. I do. However, I make art when I am feeling positive and happy, and sometimes it’s a fight to do that because there are idiots in the world who actively work against my space. This means, I gotta push back so there’s room for me and for other folks to come in after me. So yes, I will rant on occasion, and then I will get on with my day, and I will keep fighting. But, and I say this with the greatest amount of gravitas, it is 1,000 times worse for other minorities, because they don’t get the chance to “forget about it.” I talk to a lot of people (you’ll see this in my list of coping mechanisms to follow shortly), and it is incredibly obscene and unforgivable what’s being tossed my peers’ way. Those people? Made of iron. If your immediate reaction is: “Well, white male designers get it, too!” Yeah, they do, but this latest eye roll-inducing behavior isn’t about that. This is about sharing some thoughts to broaden perspectives, to include the fact that there’s an additional layer (or layers) of fuckery that everybody else has to deal with, too, to varying degrees.

I’m sure other folks have more (and better) tips to share than I would, but if it helps? Here’s a list of things I do to help increase my resilience. I do believe that resilience is both a skill that can be cultivated and a natural inclination. Thus, your mileage will vary and, as always, I know you’ll take what you want and leave the rest. I’m a big proponent of doing what’s healthy, as opposed to focusing on getting in the last word or trying to get closure or attempting to speak with someone who doesn’t understand the definition of rational thought, but you might feel very differently. (And, that’s totally okay by me!) The thing about learning how to be resilient, is that some folks are more naturally resilient to begin with and others learn it over time. There’s never “one true way” for anything, in my mind, and I feel this is especially true when it comes to your mental health. You do you.

1.) A to Z Gratitude – Take a sheet of paper and, starting with “A”, write down what you’re grateful for.

2.) Fan Letter – If there is somebody you admire, send them a letter telling them how awesome they are. Never too late to do that!

3.) Go for a Walk – The obvious answer, step away from the internet, doesn’t always work because you’re so emotionally charged up. Disconnect, even if it’s for five or ten minutes, and go for a walk.

4.) Free Write – Notebook. Pen. Fresh screen. 30 minute timer. Get it all out as fast as you can, then rip it up, burn it, delete it? Whatever. Discharge that angst!

5.) Assess – Have a little handy guide you can refer to when you’re dealing with the bullshit. Write down five questions that help you rationally solve your problem. For me, they’d be: Who am I dealing with? Is this person’s opinions valuable to me? What is the effect that this person’s opinions have on my life? My career?

6.) Rant – Look, characters aren’t static. Right? Neither are you. I totally believe that ranting every once in a while is healthy, and it’s a very human thing to do. It’s my choice not to spend time ranting, ’cause I have outlets for that angst.

7.) Make Art – Oh, gods… I have so many options here. Origami,

8.) Clean – Sometimes, I definitely clean house as a way to physically have an impact on my head space.

9.) Spoil Yourself – Favorite recipe? Make that! Favorite shirt? Wear that!

10.) Calming Rituals – As a musician, I associate a lot of memories with music. Star Wars, by far, is my favorite comfort food along with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

11.) Support Network – Whether you talk to friends online or off, I do feel sometimes people need the ability to understand what’s normal for them. What’s normal to experience? How do they cope? Are the problems you’re having unique to you or much bigger than that?

12.) Positivity – I could post about the trolls who attack me, but I don’t. Meh. I’d much rather talk about what I’m doing, what makes me happy, how I can positively contribute to the future. So I force myself to be positive, to draw those smiley faces, and to keep on, keepin’ on.

Of course, these are short-term solutions to dealing with the bullshit. I find dealing with the immediate issues helps prepare me for the long-term, really, because regardless of where I go or what I do? There will always be varying degrees of bullshit, and I know enough about myself to know how/when/where to deal with it if it gets “that” bad. I feel that’s really the key to all this: a sense of scale to know how common the problem is, how serious it is, and if it can be resolved.

Anyway, hopefully that helps. You do you, and I gotta get back to writing. Huge announcement in a couple of weeks!

Miss Random USA

Yuna Final Fantasy X-2

Good morning! Well, this week was supposed to be a strict “reading deprivation” diet. I made it all the way to Wednesday — excited I’d gotten so much done — then Thursday I blew it. Mostly because I was nervous sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for the SO to come back from his appointment. (Good news, so far. Phew!) And got overly excited with the Top Cow Talent Hunt announcement that loomed on my immediate horizon. The contest had almost 900 writers submit and the commonalities of the pitches helped eliminated the writers. While I did not win, I am very happy for whomever did, though! However, that does not declare the end of my fate in comics. I signed a contract for an original short comic and I’m pitching another series. So, I won’t qualify next time around, but I’m very excited that I’m finally breaking into this industry.

I’m trying the reading deprivation tack again for another week. I managed to get the edits done for an adventure science fiction novella and have to enter them into Megatron (my compy) yet, but that should be done today along with cleaning and a plethora of [Redacted Projects x a lot]. This is the first time The Thirteen is reading one of my longer works and I’m anxious to see how they critique this. Then, we’ll try an even longer novella. Hee.

I finally sent out some of my Christmas presents, which will be pictured at bottom. The red quilted earrings, choker, and copper ball drops are original designs; the other two are variations on a pattern. I had no choice but to stick to my original Edward Gorey plan o’ Christmas cards. Only, the interior said Season’s Greetings. I may have decorated the inside with flowers, music notes, and other paraphernalia by saying Happy Spring Season’s Greetings, but so it goes.

Because I was supposed to reduce my intake of words, when I did get caught up in news, I was more painfully aware of what happened when I did. A few articles in particular got under my skin. Namely, having to do with politics and predisposition, the Magdalene Laundry tragedy, and the Orson Scott Card writes Superman kerfluffle.

I took my stress as a learning opportunity and translated the experience into hard data, a tactic designed to reduce stress and increase productivity, and wrote about it for BookLifeNow.com as a two-part article. I’ll let you know when it appears.

The other consequence to going offline is that I miss news and whatnot. This weekend, I’ll also be putting together some lots for an auction called “Evil for Crestline.” You can read more about the tragedy (the burning down of Crestline Elementary and its effect on the community) in the auction. I’ll update you about that, too, as more news develops.

Overall, I’m very happy because I’m seeing immediate payoffs to the attention I’ve given to my business, the goals I’ve set, and what I’ve achieved so far. My writing pace is back where it needs to be (3,000 to 5,000 words per day) and I’m steadily pursuing a better and a consistent method of editing. What I’ve found, there, is that it all comes down to how the draft was written. I know a lot of writers talk about process, but I prefer to internalize those elements and the only way to do that? For me, the answer is to write. Not talk about writing or give advice or obsess about process — but write. If I can’t write, I show up anyway, and flip to something else. But tying my creative work to the dollars I earn has been the best motivator, overall.

And, for that reason, I believe 2013 is the true start to my career. *winks*

Here are the pics!

Red Quilted Earrings 2
Cupcake Pendant 2
Victorian Choker and Copper Ball Earrings 2
Daisy Crystal Bracelet 2

    Mood: Not caffeinated enough.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: WAY too much pop-a-doodle-doo.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walking. In the bitter cold.
    In My Ears: Cher! ‘Cause… CHER!
    Game Last Played: Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed
    Movie Last Viewed: A Good Day To Die Hard
    Latest Artistic Project: SHINIES. A few you can see above!
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

When You Can’t Get No Satisfaction


John Adamus wrote a post today about The Writer and Fairness, in which he mentions how a lot of writers aren’t content because they’re not treated fairly, and why that shouldn’t be an issue.

I agree for the most part but, in my experiences, the issue of being treated fairly is often made complicated whenever finances or marketing of oneself, others, or a product (e.g. books) is involved. Additionally, it is absolutely true that sexism, racism, and all those other -isms exist. Sometimes, an author gets slighted (or receives unjust praise) not because the work is (or is not of) superior quality, but because the publishing industry, self-published or not, is run by people. Not robots, not hamsters on a wheel, or cultists — but mercurial human beings with all manner of beliefs and personalities.

Though it will increase your chances, I do not believe your success solely relies on writing the best story possible. Success is not achievable unless you define what “success” means. I feel you absolutely need to determine its parameters in order to be truly happy, manage expectations, and achieve your goals. Not everyone wants the same things. Again, this is another reason why people get extraordinarily nutty on occasion — peer at your creative works through the eyes of anyone else, and you will see a distorted image. We do this (I’ve done it once or twice) because honest feedback is rare even in an internet age. Occasionally, we seek guidance to know we’re headed in the right direction, even when you’re the only person who understands where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.

When you hear something positive about the work you’re doing, it can be very encouraging. But when it’s not? Or when it’s fake or what have you? I think you know what happens when negativity hurts, because you’ve seen the result of that. You’ve seen “author bad behavior” where they go off on fans. You’ve heard about writers attacking other writers. This has happened before and it will happen again. Either way, positive or negative, those comments shouldn’t stop you from the act of creation. That, my readers, all circles back to you. This is where I feel the test of a truly contented artist lies: that you will go on, in spite of all the bullshit, because you are an artist, painter, sculptor, writer, etc. and you will not let anyone or anything get between you and your creative works.

Whenever I’m dealing with major dissatisfaction, I ask myself a few questions to hone in on the real problem. For smaller annoyances, I either rant or make a sarcastic comment or play a game or dive into a new project or whatever — and then I move forward as quickly as possible. Sometimes, I get stuck and I have to work through a tough decision about cutting personnel or severing ties with a publisher, etc. Other times, I require focus. e.g. Not be online. In the end, the work has to come first for me – which is where these queries come from.

1) What did I expect to get out of the situation in the first place? – If the answer is: I did this as a favor, took a lower rate, or let a lot of mistreatment go without saying anything, etc. etc. etc. Then, clearly, I should not expect to be treated well in return, because I did not put my own considerations first in a reasonable and healthy way. By taking too many shortcuts and one too many niceties, I’m basically sending out an unconscious message that I’m too accommodating or that I don’t care about myself or my work. Ergo: I’m supporting an illusion that I’m a doormat. Instead, the solution here is to remind myself of two things: one) I am self-employed and two) I have every right to take my career seriously. Because if I don’t — no one else will, either. That L’Oreal advertising phrase “I’m worth it!” from years back? Applies.

2) Is the company/person professional? – There are a lot of different types of authors out there. There are, also, a variety of publishers. Some run a business, full-time, and earn their income off what they do. Others? Well, you’ve seen market listings 4theluv. Some publishers don’t expect to make any money. Toss finances aside, for a second, and focus on the word “professional.” Size of publisher matters not. Volume and quality of publications matters not. People, on the other hand, are everything and it’s quite possible that no, they aren’t going to be professional. I’ve found that most don’t care where you’ve been or what direction you’re heading for; they deal with you as you are now according to their own objectives. Unprofessionalism explains a lot of industry-related treatment; while inexcusable from my perspective, even bullies get book deals. Knowing that, there’s really only one thing I have every right to be worried about: the words on my screen. Sometimes, though, certain comments and remarks are taken out of context and that can cause hurt feelings on both sides. Publishing is a people business. And people don’t always say or do the right thing. The majority of times, I believe mistakes are unintentional; sometimes, though, they are.

3) Has this sort of thing happened before? – In my experiences, problems can either be endemic or specific. When they are endemic, the answer is “YES!” But you don’t know that unless you talk to people or have loads of experience. When they’re specific, well, there’s still a bunch of factors that could have borked the situation. It’s fundamentally true that you will not get along with everyone; sometimes, you have to find the people that you DO get along with, but that requires social skills and/or copious amounts of alcohol. (I jest on that last. And not joking about the social skills.) This industry is pretty small and, if you’ve been around long enough, you’ll probably make a few friends, enemies, and (though I loathe to use this word) frenemies. You’ll hear rumors, conjecture, gossip. You’ll find opportunities, get recommendations, and exchange favors. And, eventually, you’ll start to navigate the industry the same way you do your day job (if you have one) or your social life. Having a support network, whether they’re in the industry or not, really helps ground me.

4) Am I happy with the quality of my work? My ability to produce words? Upcoming projects/contracts? Financial solubility? Where I’m at with my career? – These yes or no questions sum up the crux of any dissatisfaction issue for me. In order, right now, as if 1/21/2013: yes/yes/yes/no/no. Ah! So I’ve just confessed I’m happy with my work, but I’m not satisfied with my overall career.

This little reality check nails what I need to focus on and identifies the possible source — the real epicenter — of my distress. No room for “maybes.” If I say “maybe” for any one of those questions, I count that answer as a “no.” The more yes’s I have, the more content I usually am. Win win, I say. More words on the screen cures all ills.

Or, as they quip here in double digit freezing temperatures… Time for chocolate mint cookies.

    Mood: cold
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Not enough
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Blargh. Housework.
    In My Ears: Nothing.
    Game Last Played: Bears!
    Movie Last Viewed: Lorax
    Latest Artistic Project: Holiday gifts
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

Arrrrr, Thar Be An Interview (And A Career)

Fire She-Ra Avatar

The folks over at Charisma Bonus interviewed me a few weeks ago, and in my haze of travel/vacation/writing/etc. I forgot to mention it. So let me rectify that right now, before I get back to my daily slog. Hop on over to The Ladies Table with Monica Valentinelli to read about my thoughts on horror, horror in gaming, and other fine inquiries.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to right myself to center, to re-align my thoughts with my goals, and figure out what it is my original stories mean to me on the pragmatic side of the equation. And I have one word, really, to describe it: career. Applying that? Whether it’s in a part-time or full-time capacity? Means many things, since folding my original work back into what I do professionally is really just a logical progression on the stairway to heaven.

Or, to quote The Princess Bride: “Fool!” cried the hunchback. “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.'”

    Mood: Okay, I just need to out with it. I’m hungover.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: There really isn’t enough.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Groovin’ and shakin’
    In My Ears: Macalania Woods Final Fantasy X-2 Soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Origins
    Movie Last Viewed: MirrorMask
    Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
    Latest Release: “Fangs and Formaldehyde” from the New Hero anthology through Stone Skin Press

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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