Saturday, December 29, 2012

Not so happy holidays

I loved Christmas growing up. The music, the tree, the presents. It was the time of year I got to cuddle up in warm flannel pajamas, and chase my brothers around the house.

Christmas is magical for children, and as you get older, year-by-year, the magic slowly fades away. Christmas becomes a chore.

As an adult I still want the magical Christmas that I had as a child, but unless you have children of your own there is no real way to reenact what you experienced growing up. Then there are other people who never had magical Christmases, or maybe they had too few. This time of year looms heavy in their heart because they know not to expect anything. Maybe they never celebrated Christmas, and going to school after the holidays meant having to explain that you didn't get any presents, that you didn't get the newest toy or backpack or lunch pail.

Then there are those, like my Mother-in-law, who don't get to have Christmas with their family. And others who are experiencing their first Christmas since losing someone important in their lives. There is a reason that the holiday season brings with it so much pain and sadness -- the memories of our childhood Christmas that haunt us.

Maybe its the fact that I'm unemployed, and I was unable to participate as enthusiastically in the buying and giving this year. Maybe its the fact that I'm seeing the unhappiness of the people around me, or feeling it myself. Maybe its because I've grown up and realized that these holidays are a little too manufactured, a little too forced, but Christmas has lost its magic for me.

This year's Christmas tree. 
I saw a video from Jay Smooth that really echoed how I feel about the holidays, and the pressure and stress it can put on people, and I've come to realize that it isn't healthy building up the expectations of a holiday.

And at the same time I saw my friend Nanette share her daily elf on a shelf pictures, and I know that it is something that her daughter will remember her entire life.

So it's a conundrum. Do you give your children the magical Christmas you had growing up, knowing that there is a large chance of them having seasonal depression as an adult? Or do you try to communicate a more realistic version of the holidays? I think that is the key--finding a way to show them while they are young, that not everyone gets to have a happy holiday. Maybe through volunteering, or donating. I can tell you right now it is not through the exorbitant buying of crappy toys and games.

It's not our parent's faults that they wanted to give us a good holiday. I will always cherish those Christmases past. But maybe it's time to reevaluate how we celebrate these holidays, and find a way forward that doesn't include buying into the industry built around mass consumption and black Fridays and malls being open 24 hours. Because after it is all over Christmas is just a dead tree disposed unceremoniously on the sidewalk, and nothing about us changes except the balance in our bank accounts.


After reading through the above a couple times I realize how depressing all this sounds. I would like to say that I had a good Christmas, despite everything I said above. I was able to buy thoughtful, inexpensive gifts for my loved-ones. I wrote 43 Christmas cards to friends and family all over the country. I'm extremely grateful, and I guess, I just wanted to acknowledge the same way Jay did that there are others who experience sadness and pain on the holiday season. I wanted to acknowledge them and say it's okay to have a shitty holiday, and that you're not alone.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Being patient in suffering

More thoughts on unemployment.

When you're a child you can't wait to grow up. You want to be able to do whatever you want without your parents correcting or controlling you. But what children don't understand about being an adult and making your own decisions is that liberty means you have to find your own way without a safety net. As an adult, reprimands and punishments no longer come in the form of time outs and groundings--they come as traffic violations, DUIs, pregnancies, illness, jail and death. Uplifting, right?

So in order to protect yourself from life's injustices you get a job. You compromise. You do something that isn't important to you so that you can collect a paycheck, pay rent, buy things. And if feels like you live your day-to-day as an investment in your future. You invest your money for retirement. You plan your children's lives in order to give them a successful life. You live to benefit other people. You live for another time.

I've been in such a hurry for so long--sprinting towards my goals wanting more money, more accomplishments, more of everything. I'm finally coming to realize that the wanting has brought me to a place of dissatisfaction. If I'm always looking ahead to what I don't have, I'm not looking around to appreciate what I do have. 

I have a luxury that many others who are without work do not--I have savings, and a husband with an income that provides us with enough for now. I'm collecting unemployment which also helps. So I'm not going to compromise on my next job. While interviewing I'm going make sure that the company is the right fit for me instead of only thinking about selling myself to them. I'm not worried about finding a job, I know it will come.

So my goal for the remainder of my unemployment, and really something I hope to do going forward is to slow down. I want to take time to do things mindfully, and to let the passion and eagerness and ambition that sparks white-hot inside me settle into a slow, sustaining burn. I'm going to take the time that I so willing shucked away as a child right now. I believe it will make me a better writer. And my hope is that it will also make me a happier person.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This is what unemployment looks like

You wake up at 10:30 or 11 or even 12 and you feel guilty about it. You have a cup of coffee and you look at job postings but there is nothing new from yesterday. You check your email, you check Facebook, you try and IM friends with jobs and get impatient when they don't respond promptly cause they have actual "work" to do. You tell your friends you are bored and they tell you they are jealous and you feel guilty for bothering them at work. You sit down and re-read what you wrote yesterday and you hate it, but you try not to get discouraged. You read "The Savage Detectives" by Roberto Bolano and pretend you can tell why people think he's a genius. You read "The Savage Detectives" by Robert Bolano so you can impress people by saying you're reading Roberto Bolano. Most of your friends have no idea who Roberto Bolano is so it's just a waste of time.

You think about going to a cafe to write but that would include having to buy something to drink or eat. Buying anything makes you feel guilty because your bank account doesn't refresh the way it used to every month. Instead you stay home and eat sandwiches and cheese and you don't eat salad because you are lazy. You feel guilty about not eating salad. You want to exercise but before you exercise you have to get some writing done. So you sit down at your computer and surf through three dates of back-dated posts on On No They Didn't. You feel guilty for wasting time. You open up your writing file and start writing and you write a couple pages and it's all shit.

You have a notification on Facebook. You check the notification. One of your friends is sent you an offer for Southwest airlines. You open the job postings again and you apply to at least three. You find one job posting at a company you really like but they won't even look at your resume because you don't have enough experience. You are in a weird in-between world of over and under qualified. You check your email, Obama is asking for $37 dollars. You delete the email. You feel guilty for deleting the email until you get another one in five minutes. You delete that one, too.

You pet your dog and wonder if she is as bored as you are. You think of taking her to the dog park but you're supposed to be writing so you don't. You laugh when you think back to the times you were in a job you hated, and all you wanted was to quit to stay at home and write. You think about your story again. You love your story but you aren't writing it well. Your thoughts aren't translating down to the page. You're writing a bunch of nonsense and you know you'll eventually edit it all out anyway.

You think about going somewhere, but then you think about how much gas that trip would take and you stay home. You wait for a reasonable time to turn on the TV. You made a rule that you aren't allowed to watch TV until the late afternoon. You turn on the TV at 4pm and wait for your husband to come home. You watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Real Housewives of New York and yesterday's episode of Sons of Anarchy. You knit while you watch these shows. Your husband comes home at seven and you have already spent three hours in front of the television. You are almost done with a really ugly orange scarf. You spend the entire rest of the evening in front of the television. You will stay up until 2AM reading "The Savage Detectives" by Roberto Bolano because despite having no idea where the story is going you can't put it down. You decide there might actually be something to this book. You fall asleep. You will do the same thing tomorrow. You will feel guilty about it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dear Republican Party,

You asked me a question—whether or not I thought I was better off today than four years ago. I’ve thought about it, and I am finally ready to respond.

I was born three years into President Reagan’s first term of office, so I’m not as familiar with the folksy charm that made him into the Republican God he is today—what I do know of Reagan is “trickle-down” economics. We learned about it in high school. In college I learned that this economic theory didn’t work—and as a UCLA student I saw the evidence of its failings in every homeless veteran wandering outside the gates of the Veteran Center and sleeping in the streets of Westwood.

Four years ago I was hired to work at an Internet start up in Santa Monica. I remember seeing 170 open positions under the Online/New Media category on MediaBistro when I began my job search, where just a year before that number had hovered around 290 (as I write the number has grown to 484). The opportunities were few and the good opportunities—the kind that grow your career and not make you want to give up on the world, renounce all worldly possessions, fall of the grid and live on a commune—were far fewer. This was before LinkedIn became the ultimate source for jobs in the tech industry. The success of LinkedIn—a social network created for the purpose of professional networking—should in itself be an indicator of job growth. I found my new job after some searching, but I found it. This was in July of 2008.

Since then I have had a successful career. My salary has increased 23 percent since 2008, and the startup where I worked went public. I received stocks as part of my yearly reviews and was lucky enough to leave that company with some extra money. My 401K is doing well, I’ve invested it in alternative energy and it continues to grow. I bought a new car, a motorcycle, a new TV. I’m not saying these things to brag, it is shameful consumerism, but I’m saying this because four years ago, I was not able to afford any of these luxuries.

I know that I am extremely lucky. I was able to go to college at a good school, a public university, and my parents are helping me pay for it. I am grateful that I can afford to pay my student loan, which at $40,000 with 7.75% interest costs me $350/month. I am lucky to live in Los Angeles where the job market is large and diverse. I am also young, which means I was able to take the low-paying entry-level jobs with technical requirements that older individuals with more experience would not be considered for, or afford to take. I say this knowing that both of my parents were unemployed for a large period of time during the last four years. My father has since gotten a new job, and my mother is enjoying early retirement—although she complains that her social security checks are small, “33 years of work and this is what it amounts to?” I say this with a brother in Las Vegas who lost his construction job and with another brother who is working as a Real Estate broker in Southern California and doing really well. I know I am also lucky to be married. My husband came to the states when he was 19 because opportunities in Bulgaria are ever shrinking. He came close to being penniless and now has a successful career, and is taking classes at community college so he can go to a 4-year school and study computer science. Last year he became a citizen of the United States and this will be the first time he votes in an election.

Life is easier for us than it is for most people.

So in terms of my career and my income things are indeed better for me than they were four years ago. But there are things that still seem completely out of reach, like owning a home. I don’t know how my husband and I will ever be able to save for a down payment, but we’re trying. We also want to have children someday soon—and the question, “Can we afford it?” is something we have to consider.

I want to close by telling you why I was frustrated with this question in the first place. Asking whether or not people are better off than they were four years ago, is the same thing as saying the economic crisis could have been solved in four years. I studied English Literature in college and openly admit I am not an economist, but I know that repairing and rebuilding economies of scale takes time. People say that anything worth doing takes time. I want to publish a book someday—writing a book, and writing a decently good book takes time. A lot of time. It takes writers years—sometimes decades to write a book, but these are the books that are loved and revered for generations after the author’s passing. Creating a good marriage takes time. Raising a responsible child takes a lot of time and hard work. Fixing a debt crisis that was created not just in the Bush administration, but with the deregulation of banks and the crash of the derivatives market, is going to take time. Asking me if I’m better off than I was four years ago is an appeal to the impatient, impulsive child inside of me that screams, “I want it now!” You are assuming that America is made up of Veruca Salts. I don’t believe that to be true.

I know that there are people who responded to that same question with screams of NO! People who are pulling their hair out, desperate people who can’t feed their families; people that just want to work. So when you ask that question you are also playing on their fears and their will to survive. You ask that question and then propose tax plans that would only make them poorer and you richer. You tell them you are going to reform welfare when you know it’s going to make it harder for people—people like them who are not lazy, and are not freeloading, who want jobs just as badly as they do—to get help. What you are doing, sirs, is playing of the fears and prejudices of the people to gain power, and there’s a word for what that makes you—a demagogue.

I think the question you should be asking, which is the question that Fareed Zakaria brought up last week is—Would I be better off in four years if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are in office? I have to say I don’t know much about the specific details of the policies you are proposing—we, the American people are still waiting for you to tell us—but I do know that giving the richest 1% a tax cut isn’t going to help. I know that my reproductive rights would be in jeopardy. I know the people I love won’t be able to marry because it doesn’t fit in within your religious beliefs. I’m worried what will happen when you make it easier for people to buy guns. I wonder if my children will be able to afford to go to college. I fear what would happen if I got cancer—how I would afford radiation and chemotherapy. If your party was in office, I couldn’t.

I think you didn’t ask this question because you know what the answer would be.  

So now I’m asking you—do you think we’ll be better off four years from now if you are in office? Take a moment to think about it. If the honest answer is no then I hope you will reconsider some of your policies. If it is yes, then I guess we’ll have to see if the American people agree.

I hope you ask me again. Ask me. Not the white, Christian, neoconservative audience in Tampa bay, Florida. Ask me, or my mother, or my brothers, or my friends who live in St. Louis and are going to business school. Ask my friend Brandon who is veteran, or my grandfather who is a retired teacher. Ask people who aren’t planning on voting for you and then listen. And when you listen if you can’t find compassion or empathy, then I don’t know what that says about the future of the leadership of the Republican Party. Because I know Republicans, I have family members who are registered and vote republican—they’re not bad people. They’re just like everyone else, and whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, white, black, brown, yellow, gay, straight, transgendered, young, old, rich, poor, homeless, disabled, employed, jobless, insured, uninsured and mentally ill, we are all trying to do the best with what they have. We are all Americans, even if we don’t vote for you. We all hope for a better future. This is why President Obama’s message is so powerful. We all need hope.

Yours sincerely,
Krisserin Canary

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sartorialist Inspiration

She tiptoed through the snow, watched it float around her, down to the grit of the New York City sidewalk, under her shoes. She'd been walking, marching, teetering on the balls of her feet all night and into the morning since Simon gave her the address at the party.

Are you sure? He asked, pressing the card into her palm. I’m sure, she said. She squeezed the thick card stock into a ball, hoping the pointy corners would hurt her—drive the ache to one fixed point of pain.

It had been six months since she learned Maria was alive and living in New York. Six months of looking for her on every street corner and in every cafe window. She wasn’t going to wait a minute longer. 

What would happen once she got there? Would Maria welcome her inside? Pour her a cup of cocoa? Would she allow the hot tears building up in her throat to roll down her cheeks or would she swallow them? 

She wanted her to see the person she’d become. She wanted to say, "Look at me, Mom. I did it without you."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I just want you to care

Hello? Are you there? Can you hear me? It’s hard to tell with this screen separating us. The only way I can communicate with you is by tapping my fingers on this strange plank with small-lettered buttons, or on an even smaller screen using my thumbs. In the future humans will be known as a species that communicated using only their hands.

I’m sure you’re busy. You have a job, things to do, but I’m wondering if you have a second for me. I have something I want to tell you.

No? You’re too busy reading Dlisted? You have a meeting? You’re bidding on something on eBay? That’s okay, I’ll wait.

Hey! Do you have time for me now?

Can we talk about the important things? What do you mean what important things, the important things. Let’s talk about politics. You’re not political? What does that mean? I don’t want to get sanctimonious on you but it’s important, you know? You have to know what’s going on. You can’t just condemn your right-wing cousin in Arizona and not be a little concerned about where he is getting his information, or what other less sane people will do with it.

Have you seen the news? There was another shooting. No, not Aurora, I’m talking about Texas A&M. I know it’s tragic and I know your father believes in the 2nd amendment, but do you know the statistics show having a gun in the home is more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense? Do you really think you need to be able to have semi-automatic weapons to protect yourself? Does your Dad think he’s some sort of cowboy? He’s going to have a shoot-out at the O-K Corral?

I’m sorry I shouldn’t have said that about your Dad. Sure we can talk about something else. Did you see the new Batman movie? Every time I’ve gone to see a movie in the past month I’ve had a moment of panic where I think someone is going to come into the theater and start shooting people. I’m being serious. I think about what I would do if it happened. You know what I’d do? I’d climb on top of my husband and pretend to be dead. I’d try to hide under the seats. If I ran, I’d run in zigzags to make it harder for the gunman to shoot me. All of this would be for naught if he had a semi-automatic rifle, though. He could just spray the crowd and we’d all be dead. I think, if something happens to Boyan I want to die too. I wouldn't want to live without him.

I know. I’m sorry I’m back to that but I can’t help myself. I don’t understand why we can’t talk about this without you getting mad at me. Preachy? You think I’m preachy? I care. It’s important. I care. If that means I’m preachy I guess that’s what I am. I guess I am trying to convert you. You’re my friend and I know you’re smart and I just want you to care. This election is too important not to care.

You plan on voting for Romney? Why? I don’t understand. You know by voting for Romney you’re voting against your own best interests, right? You do? Okay.

Then I guess I don’t know what to say. 

Judgmental? I don't want you think I'm judging you. I don't know, maybe I am. I'm sorry. Yea, we can talk about something else. 

It has been really hot recently. Climate change, you know. 

You gotta go? Alright. Are we still on for this weekend? You can't come? That's okay. Another time. We'll talk soon. I hope it's about something important.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reflecting on Tin House 2012

Tin House ended a week ago today. I miss being in lecture, I miss the excitement of hearing new truths about writing, about your friends, and about yourself. I want to keep the dream alive so I thought I'd write a small, not very well-digested recap, and outline some of my favorite things from the workshop, along with a few choice jewels of advice from the faculty.

I was rejected in 2009. It's a bit shame-making, admitting this past failure, but a writer's success, much like any artist endeavor, is defined by those who can triumph over rejection. I tell you about this rejection, because I want you to know how much it meant to me to be accepted this time; also to let friends who applied and were previously rejected (from anything!) know that success is possible with perseverance. 
I labored over my submission, and when I was finally accepted I felt like I had won something. A prize that was bestowed on me not because of luck or chance but because of my hard work. It was, and still is, an incredible feeling. 
Tin House always seemed like some far off dream, something that only "real" writers get to experience. I went in with high expectations and they were met and surpassed beyond anything I could have dreamt or imagined.

Aimee at her reading.

I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to study with
Aimee Bender, who is by far the most generous and kind teacher, brilliant and talented writer, I've ever encountered. I read her novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, before Tin House and loved it. Since leaving I begun reading her short story collection, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, which is filled with magic and sex and humanity and whimsy. I aspire to see the world the way she does.

 *   *   *

One of many cocktail receptions.

It can be overwhelming. You look around and there are 200+ people, all of them like you, laboring over a blank page or hovering in front of a blank screen. They all aspire to write something honest and true and profound. Being in the Tin House bubble means that you look around and know the most interesting detail of everyone's lives. Everyone you meet is like YOU. They struggle with the same things you do, have dedicated their lives to the same pursuit. 

I felt equal parts of accomplished, inspired and intimidated. You can't sit through one lecture or workshop without hearing people say names like John Cheever, Raymond Carver, and Alice Munro, names of people I know I should've known, and will soon know intimately (I promise). You quickly realize there isn't enough time to read everything: the Tin House reading list is debilitatingly long.

You listen to Pulitzer prize winner Paul Harding explain "The Jewels of the Cabots," like he fucking wrote it; learn about narration from the wickedly funny and honest Steve Almond, listen to Robert Bosworth tell a loving loving recollection of how he met his wife Antonya Nelson (and the story of his brother) which almost makes (or does make) you cry, all while teaching us the 12 steps to alternative characterization (Tonal dissonance!). You listen to Tony Doerr's brilliant talk on story structure (Freytag can suck it basically) and you realize there is so much you don't know. So much you didn't even think to know and you feel humbled. But it's okay, because then you sit in Aimee Bender's lecture on "Useless Rules" and realize that there is a liberating freedom in writing. Writing ultimate celebrates the individual, the unique voice. Suddenly things start to feel better. 

Aimee talked about this scale, which reminded me of the last post I wrote on "The Writing Disease."

She said that most writer's go through bouts on either side of this scale, but the healthiest, most productive place to be is slightly left of center. Open and receptive to feedback, but willing to take a risk, to trust your voice and try something new.

D.A. Powell's lecture on short poetry was particularly incredible. I could listen to that man recite his poetry for hours, but that is another story. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention Mama Allison (Dorothy Allison that is) and her talk on reading as performance. I do believe she brought the house down. Her talk is an experience I won't soon forget, and her advice on reading and listening to your work is something that will become part of my process from here on out.

Here are a few of the best snippets from these lectures that I'd like to share with you:

Aimee Bender from our workshop
- Where the language feels alive is where the story is. Follow the fire.
- Senses are the way humans experience the world.
- Avoid details that are just, "following the shoe leather." Neutral details that are not filtered through a narrative voice.

Paul Harding
from his lecture on "The Jewels of the Cabots":

- The best story embodies it's own characters.
- Stories dictate their own meaning; give instructions on how they should be read.

Christopher Beha from his lecture on Sentences:
- Style is a way of looking at the world.

Matthew Zapruder from his lecture "Useful Poetry":
- The stakes are too high to have one word mean something other than what they usually do. How important can what the poet  say be -- if they are willing to disguise it?
- Avoid the pressure of the real.

Wells Tower from his lecture on the Grotesque:
- Using the grotesque to show the darkest parts of humanity without begging for sympathy.
- Investigations of the ordinary must be handled as an investigation of the grotesque which must be handled as an investigation of the mundane.

D.A. Powell from his lecture on short poetry:
- Compression - when a thought that would be ruined by dwelling on it is made graceful by a light and rapid touch.
- Compression is the first grace of style.
- Time does the editing for you. It gets ride of the loose parts.
- Trim away the unhealthy parts to make the tree healthier.
- Each word must earn its space.

From D.A. Powell's lecture on compression.

Steve Almond from his lecture on Narration:
- People like to know they are in a story, that there is a narrator on duty to guide them through. 
- The reader knows nothing at word one.
- Readers want to know where they are and what is important.
- I want to know enough to feel what is being shown.
- Effective first person narrators are aware they are telling a story.
- Keep reader abreast of the important details.
- (Told by Elissa Schappel, repeated by Steve Almond) The flatest character in the novel is usually the writer, acting as a merged narrator.

Steve Almond on Narration. 

Robert Boswell from his lecture on Alternative Characterizations:
- What the characters say reveal who they are. In plays, the actors speak to conceal themselves. Give a character something to say that people do not usually say. 
- Forced choice questions: where the character is given two options and neither is preferable.
- Say the hardest thing about your character.

Dorothy Allison from her lecture on reading as performance:
- Read your work out loud. Record it, and listen to the story. You will hear where it's lagging, where the grammar errors are.
- Performance (and writing) is about risk. Tremendous emotional risk.
- Performance is the perfecting of text.
Dorothy Allison. I could hear here from all the way in the back.

If any of my Tin House friends have other jewels they gathered from lecture or panels please feel free to share.

 *   *   *

The workshops and lectures and readings were incredible, but my favorite part of Tin House was the people I met. Talented people whose names I hope to find printed somewhere, sometime soon. People who I hope to call "friend" for a lifetime.

It is easy to be intimidated by the talented people you meet, especially the faculty, at Tin House. But as my good friend Ron Maclean, author of Night Bus, told me, writing is at least a 10 year apprenticeship. Writing well takes time. The amazing faculty are like individuals who have reached a higher level of nirvana. It's something I feel everyone can inspire to, if they believe they are able. Tin House gave me faith in hard work and perseverance, and it gave me faith in myself.

I will carry the lessons I learned in my heart, until next year.

Tin House resources:
About the workshop
Reading list on Good Reads

Literary Journals and Daily Reads
The Rumpus (subscribe to the daily rumpus)
The Millions

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Writing Disease

The definition of our illness, or its chief symptom, seems to be related to bi-polar disorder:
Bipolar disorder or bipolar affective disorder, historically known as manic-depressive disorder, is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and mood with or without one or more depressive episodes. - Wikipedia 
We allow ourselves to be consumed by self-doubt. We build a fortress of self hate so high that our only rescue is the opposite in extreme. Ebullient, childish, adoration of our literary genius.

Do any other professions punish their aspirants so cruelly? Are all artists prone to waves of self hate and delusion of grandeur? Maybe so.

Are these symptoms by-products of the writing disease or the fundamental cause?

I believe if I did not at time think myself brilliant, I may never suppose anything I write worthy enough to put to paper. You have to love your words enough to achieve a temporary blindness of judgment. You must fight away the demons of self-doubt, those slinky, seething creatures whom you befriend in your self-pity rise up to meet you, nay, tear you down in moments of artistic longing. They whisper all the nasty things you've ever told yourself, every painful and seemingly truthful fault that, in a moment of despair, you let foolishly pass your lips. They wait for you to reach the exctasy of inspiration to attack, and their assaults become violent the more you open yourself to the possibility of their being true.

But there is a way to defeat them.

Look all your faults. Know them well. Accept them and move on. In doing that you have defeated them. Self-doubt is the scariest, most dangerous adversary you will ever face. It is a poison made of your weakest moments, your darkest fears. If you can see your faults and say, "Yes, but I go on," you have allowed yourself the opportunity to fail, to be imperfect, and try again. Once you've defeated them you will be able to recognize any foe you meet along the path of your journey -- because in their faces you will find the familiar gleam of your own fear, and you will be able to say, "Yes, but I go on," and nothing will stop you.

Writing is a profession of imperfection. We are not pointe-perfect ballerinas, you can not pitch a no-hitter in the literary world. Our endeavors will always strive for perfection and fall short. There will always be a better word, a more perfect phrase, a more syntactically-sound sentence. Perfect prose is the product of robots. Writers are flesh and blood. Writers are human.

This humble scribe believes that it is how you break the rules that defines your voice. It is in your failings as a writer that you become a distinct light in the fog. The closer you get to perfection the higher your mastery; of course. But true mastery is knowing the rules well-enough to break them.

A writer who has learned to manage their disease is the one who can navigate the balance between striving to be technically proficient and being true to themselves. There are no rules when it comes to voice. If it feels right to you, if in your gut you have found the way to express what you are trying to say, than you are right. Authenticity above all things.

The writing community is a vicious one. Like most people with a disease, we hate the reflection of our faults in others. Don't listen to critics who don't have your best interests in mind. Jealousy is an ugly thing. Find a support circle (writing group, class, workshop) and while receiving feedback listen to the words that sound most true. Listen to what is useful and forget the rest. Don't let fear of what other people say hold you back.

In my younger more insecure days I convinced myself I wasn't a writer. I thought, "How can I call myself a writer if I'm not published?" I believed I couldn't be a writer until someone elsetold me I was writer. I was preventing myself from doing what I loved, because of the fear of what other people would think.

It was a self-fulfilling prophesy. I wasn't a writer. I allowed my own self-doubt to paralyze me from doing the one thing fundamental to all writers; Writing!

All you have to do to be a writer, is write. All you have to do to write well is practice. All you have to do to be the best possible writer you can be is to allow yourself to fail, to learn from those failures and still say, "Yes, but I go on."

Be kinder to yourself. Accept your weaknesses, explore them, endeavor to improve. You have to recognize the symptoms of your disease so you can manage them. It's the only way to live with the writing disease. There is no cure.