commentary and current events

Q1 Blogging Roundup: Everything I’ve Blogged This Year So Far

Is Daylight Saving Time kicking your tail right now? It’s definitely kicking mine.

There will be more Actual Content(TM) in this space next week, I swear. In the meantime, please enjoy this roundup of all the blogging (here and on Medium) I have done so far in 2021.

Image: Blog post title image with title and URL, and a photo of a person blogging on a laptop.

On Writing

Beginners: A “Writing Strategy” Isn’t What You Think It Is: Lots of beginning writers ask for my “writing strategy,” by which they mean “how do you actually get a book out of your head and into your publisher’s hands”? What they mean is “what is your process?” A “writing strategy” is something else – something just as important as a process (or possibly even more important).

How to Write Realistic Legal Objections: TV and movies have schooled generations of Americans on how legal objections work, and not for their benefit. Here’s how to avoid using objections for dramatic effect and how to start using them like an actual lawyer would instead.

How to Fake a Conlang: Need some words or names in a made-up language, but don’t want to make up an entire language? Here’s how to make it look like you invented an entire language when you did not.

So You Need to Name a Fictional Character: Here’s how to find names that really reflect your character’s personality or traits, rather than simply being names you chose randomly from a baby name site.

Here’s Why a Plagiarism Checker Won’t Save You From Plagiarism: Plagiarism checking software can’t actually detect all types of plagiarism, and it also flags many things as “plagiarism” that aren’t.

How to Submit to an Anthology: I break down how to read a call for submissions and respond to it, step by step, using the call for Spoon Knife 7 (which is currently open!).

How to Tell if an Editor is About to Steal Your Book: Does something about your editor just seem…dastardly? Here’s how to tell if your editor is about to bring out the Giant Book-Stealing Laser.

On Working and Creativity

What Are Employers Paying For, Anyway?: Workers automate their jobs, then agonize over whether to tell their employers. And for good reason.

The Atlantic vs. My Impostor Syndrome: I thought I’d never be good enough to write for The Atlantic…until I did it.

What’s My Creative Process? This. And It Works: Here are the ten steps I follow for creative work, from idea generation to final product.

What It’s Like to Be Addicted to Work: “Workaholic” was once a source of pride for me. Then it nearly killed me.

“Too Lazy”? Try Not Lazy Enough: Over and over, studies demonstrate that humans do our best work when we have plenty of time to mess around and play. Yet that’s precisely the kind of time we deny ourselves out of fear that we’ll look “too lazy.” What is going on?

Niralanes 101: Welcome to the Language I Built a Novel Series Around: So much of what happens in my novel series depends on understanding the conlang I wrote the series to support. Here’s how to start navigating it.

24 Books Every Beginning Witch Should Read: Everyone wants to start their witchly journey by reading poetry to candles. Here are 24 books that can make you a lot better at that – or explain why it’s not the best place to start.

We Shall Overcome: A Creative Commons licensed arrangement for concert band.

On the World We Live In

We’re Worried About Student Performance. We Should Be Worried About Student Survival: Students can’t learn, online or in person, if they’re hungry or homeless. Too many of our students are both.

“Cancel Culture” Didn’t Cancel Dr. Seuss. Capitalism Did: The decision to stop publishing six Dr. Seuss titles was purely business.

“Happy” Quarantineversary: The obligatory “a year ago I was” post at the one-year mark into my personal COVID-19 Experience(TM).

Inauguration Day 2021: Looking Back, Looking Forward: Over half a million of us did not survive Trump. Here’s what we need to do next.

On Forgiveness: How do we move forward when the person who committed a wrong against us will never redress it themselves?

Three Unusual (but Potentially Useful) Approaches to Insurance: Sometimes weird risks need weird coverage.

Why You Should Keep Your Cat Indoors: Not only is it safer for them, but they really love it, too. Three cats weigh in on why Indoor Life is the Best Life.

Silly Stuff

The Worst Thing I Ever Did in a Video Game (So Far): I had The Sims 4 for, like, five minutes before it proved I am the worst human being who ever lived.

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About the Ferengi: Why do people constantly ask me Ferengi questions on Quora? Anyway, here are my answers about Star Trek’s greediest little alien weirdos.

Here’s How Many Calories of Turkish Delight Edmund Pevensie Ate: No wonder he was in such a bad mood.

Best of the Blog: My Top 10 Most-Viewed Posts of 2020: Here is a link in a linkpost to a post full of links.


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commentary and current events

“Happy” Quarantineversary

The date varies a little depending on where you were last year. But you already know which date I mean. The date everything changed.

Image: Blog post title image with photo of two people wearing masks outdoors in the city.

For me, the week of March 8, 2020 was a week of preparation and apprehension. My state’s lockdown orders went into effect Friday, March 13. My last day in the gym was Tuesday, March 9; I skipped wind band rehearsal that week, so my last time with the ensemble was Tuesday, March 3.

I’d spent the previous Saturday, March 7, putting a Class A winterguard on the floor in our pursuit of what, at the time, we all expected to be a solid state championships run. Maybe not a medal-winning run, but one we could all be proud of for a Class A guard in its debut year on the floor.

Winterguard competitions tend to be packed. We sit shoulder to shoulder in the bleachers; we perform in poorly-ventilated gyms; set up and tear down are a mad scramble of a dozen or more people in close quarters, gathering equipment and folding or unfolding a 40-foot by 70-foot tarp in the two to three minutes (total for both) we get to do those tasks before we take a penalty for delay of show.

Even at that last competition, I felt apprehensive, but nothing seemed real yet. I knew what was happening in Italy; I’d seen the Bay Area shut down just days before; I knew we were next. But I didn’t really understand on a more than superficial level what that meant. No one did. We’d never lived through it before.

I planned this post months ago, while making my blogging schedule for the year. At the time I thought it would be easier to write. After all, we were ten months into this pandemic. We all knew the ropes, right?

Now that The Week Everything Changed is back, I realize–again–how I have underestimated this pandemic. I’ve underestimated the house of mirrors time-travel aspect of trauma–again.

This is not an easy post to write. This is not an easy day, or week, for me to be living through. In the process of changing everything to Pandemic Mode, I have spent the last year more or less in a constant present. The past, so different from the pandemic, served no useful reference. The future became un-plannable and therefore unknowable.

Today, though, I see the past like it’s here again. I relive moments of The Week Everything Changed, when Before Pandemic was still normal and During Pandemic was strange, quiet, terrifying.

I’d say “otherwise, this is just a normal Monday,” but I don’t even know what that means. Not anymore.

The pandemic has not been entirely terrible for me. I’m still alive, for one thing; 525,000 Americans, 2.59 million people worldwide, cannot say the same. I’ve had time to breathe, to figure out my priorities, to set goals and to question whether everything I ran around doing pre-pandemic needed to be done by me and what it cost me to do it.

I don’t even want to talk about how bad this pandemic has been for the U.S. We know. We watched it all fall apart under the opposite of leadership. And as promising as the latest stimulus bill is in many ways, it’s not going to repair the damage that has already been done. It can’t. So many things are irreparable.

I’m not sorry we forced the world to slow down. I am sorry it cost so much.

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commentary and current events

On Forgiveness

While leafing through one of my old journals yesterday, I came upon a note from my past self: “Maybe forgiveness is learning to live with an unaddressed wrong.”

This description of forgiveness struck me as particularly important in our current political climate.

When I defined forgiveness as “learning to live with an unaddressed wrong,” I was thinking about a situation in which I both felt I had been wronged and knew that the chances of the person who committed the wrong actually making it right were slim to none. I realized that my emotional equilibrium could not depend on the other person apologizing, providing redress, or changing their behavior to prevent the commission of the same wrong again in the future (against me or anyone else). Because those weren’t gonna happen. If I were to find any peace of mind after having been wronged, I had to find it myself.

I had to let go of what I didn’t control: The other person’s behavior. Instead I had to focus on what I did control: Living my own life from this point forward.

Before I defined forgiveness for myself as “learning to live with an unaddressed wrong,” I’d spent years needing the person who wronged me to apologize, make amends, and change their behavior. When I accepted that the apology or amends or change would never come, however, I freed myself to start deciding what I was going to do about this unaddressed wrong. I didn’t need to “let go” or “pretend it never happened.” Instead, I could treat that wrong for exactly what it was – harm done to me, without any attempts to make it right – and respond in ways that protected me. I couldn’t make that wrong right, but I could respect my own understanding of the harm caused.

Almost immediately after armed insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to force Congress and the Vice President to violate the Twelfth Amendment and illegally certify the 2020 election results for one Donald J. Trump, Republicans started calling for “unity.”

I wouldn’t describe the call for “unity” as a call for forgiveness, exactly. When someone asks for “forgiveness,” they’re usually acknowledging, if only tacitly, that they committed a wrong.

Calls for “unity,” on the other hand, aren’t admitting to a wrong. In fact, the most strident of them insist that no wrong was committed at all: They’re proud they stormed the Capitol to demand a lawful election result be unlawfully overturned, and given the chance, they’d do it again.

“Unity!” may not be a demand for forgiveness, but it’s a loud and clear signal that the perpetrators of the wrong will not address it. The rest of us have to learn to live with this unaddressed wrong.

The good news is that “learn to live with” doesn’t have to mean “resign ourselves to.” It can also mean “address the wrong ourselves, as far as we are able.” Specifically, post-January 6, addressing the unaddressed wrong may mean that we proceed in a way that protects us and the nation from people we know would happily harm us again.

Defining “learning to live with” to include “addressing the wrong myself as far as I can” was also freeing for me, personally. If I know the wrong hasn’t been and isn’t likely to be addressed, then the work required to protect myself is on me. I don’t have to wait for the wrongdoer to make it right. I can do what I need to do to avoid being harmed again.

Because our national wrongdoers are obviously unrepentant, learning to live with them – safely, healthily – means kicking them out of any space where they might be able to commit similar harms.

Kick out the members of Congress who encouraged the events of January 6. Kick out the ones who voted against impeachment of a President who incited an armed insurrection against the United States Capitol. Convict him of high crimes and misdemeanors, so that he can never again hold any kind of public office. Refuse to do business with him, so he can’t screw you over the way he’s so gleefully screwed over so many others. Put the country back on a track that protects it from similar wrongs, so that it can flourish.

That’s how we find peace of mind. That’s how we live with the unaddressed wrong that is insurrection. That’s what forgiveness for January 6 looks like.


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