Why I’m Marrying My Best Friend

16 Sep

I shouldn’t have to do this, you know. I shouldn’t have to explain why I’m marrying the person I started to fall in love with in seventh grade. It should be enough to know that we met in English class and kind of hated each other until a Greek Mythology unit made us realize we’d each finally met someone as smart as ourselves. People should be happy to know that I’m going to spend my life with someone I’ve got 20 years of history with, who has moved heaven and earth to be there for me, and who has stood by me through thick and thin and even a diagnosis of an un-curable chronic illness.

But because she’s a girl, and I’m a girl, well…

Let me make something clear though: we’re not lesbians. We both lean more towards the hetero side of the spectrum, to be honest (although I prefer the term “queer”, if you absolutely need to label me). Not that it’s really anybody’s business but ours, of course, but people seem to be infatuated with who we’re sleeping with. We’ve had a number of people respond with “wait…are you two sleeping together?” and things along those lines. Which does amuse me – I’ve never seen another couple have their sexual orientation questioned so thoroughly upon announcing their engagement – but it makes me angry, too. Nobody asks straight couples if they’re heterosexual, or monogamous. Nobody questions why straight couples want to get married.

The truth is we’re not sleeping with each other. There are a number of reasons why this is, most of which are incredibly personal, but among them is a mutual understanding and respect that we each have reservations about the way sex alters a relationship. For this reason primarily, we’ve decided to “save ourselves” for when, and if, we’re ready. We want it to mean something and to enhance our relationship, not complicate it. Right now, sex would complicate our relationship, so we don’t do that with each other. Our relationship is open, but there are rules and guidelines, just as there should be with every loving, respectful, and honest relationship. Among these rules is that we keep sex out of it between us, because to do otherwise would hurt us both. When and if that changes, we’ll address it – but not until then.

And here’s where people have trouble. If we’re not sleeping together, then why are we getting married? More importantly, why are we being so public about our unconventional marriage-to-be? Because we want to make you think about one very important thing: what makes a marriage?

This is what we think:

Marriage is about more than sex. A lot more! First, to state the obvious, it’s about legal rights. Marriage is a legal institution, sanctioned by The State. It allows the two people to be viewed as a single unit in the eyes of the law for the purposes of things like estates and medical benefits. It is essentially incorporating, only instead of starting a business you’re beginning a life together. So there’s that, and while it is true that we could accomplish just about everything that marriage does with a stack of legal documents as high as I am tall, that seems a little ridiculous in light of the fact that there’s this thing called “marriage” that does it all at once.

But you shouldn’t get married just for the legal aspects, right? I mean, that really would sort of cheapen it for the people who are deeply in love and want to build a life together. So there’s another piece of it. This is the piece we want people to think about. This is The Important Part.

Marriage is about finding that ONE person in the world that you want to spend the rest of your life with, no matter what happens. Regardless of sex. Regardless of what they look like. Regardless of the setting, or circumstances. They are, hands down, without a doubt, your Number One. It’s the first person you want there in an emergency. If you had to be stranded on a desert island for the rest of eternity with only ONE other person, it’s the one you’d want there with you. It’s the person who would wipe your ass for you if you suddenly fell and broke both your arms, AND they’d do it with a smile and make you laugh in the process. Marriage is about building a life together – the life you’ve always wanted. It’s about finding someone who gets you completely, and who loves you even when you’re at your ugliest and worst. Through thick and thin, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.

So I’m marrying my best friend. Because I love her deeply, with all my heart! We have 20 years of history together. All our hopes and dreams are tangled up in one another. She understands my little quirks. She gets me better than anybody else, and she respects why I am the way I am. She doesn’t want to change me, and I don’t want to change her. We’re perfect just the way we are, and part of that perfection is each other. My life is better for having her in it, and it would be forever lacking without her.

I’m sure a lot of people aren’t going to “get it”. Sadly, I’m sure some of them will even be the people we’re hoping to help by speaking out and being public about our marriage. But I hope that it makes people think. If the only objection people have to our marriage is that we’re both women, and homosexuality is an abomination, well rest assured that we’re not sleeping together. Neither of us wants to have children of our own, so nobody needs to worry that we’ll be raising children in our Den of Sin. All we want is to be able to stand before our friends and family and say “I love this person more than all the other people in the world, and I want to be with them until I DIE!” That’s all.

That’s all any couple looking to get married wants, really. To be with the one they love. And we think everybody should have that right. So we’re taking a stand and making a little noise about it in the hopes that it makes people think.

Marriage is about love. Love should be a Right, not a privilege.

Writing With A Partner Is Better *IF* You Can Pull It Off

28 Aug

When Meggie suggested that I should take the story I’d started for us 18 years ago and turn it into a real book, I don’t think she meant to do it with me. And when I responded by saying she should do it with me, I honestly think it was motivated by the fact that I’m the kind of person who likes to have a “partner in crime”. The truth is I really don’t like doing much of anything by myself and if I can drag someone along with me, I will. I can’t tell you why she went along with it (I like to think it’s because she’s known me for so long and she figured this was bound to be an adventure of ceaseless wonder and excitement), but I can say that neither one of us knew what the hell we were getting ourselves into.

Writing with a partner is not easy. I don’t think it’s really any harder, per se, than writing solo, I think both ways have their ups and downs, but I do think that if you can pull it off and make it work for you the final product of writing with a partner is better. But there are two major obstacles standing in the way of achieving this.

The first hurdle of the process is that there is very little positive support for would-be team writers, as Meggie and I discovered. So what is already a difficult process full of self-doubt and questioning becomes compounded by most people being negative. You would think that in an industry that is fueled by the imaginations of its primary workers, such as in the world of fantasy writing, people would embrace the individuals who try to do things their own way. It would make sense to assume that in field where originality is worth more than gold, being able to think outside the box, or doing something your own way would be rewarded and encouraged. The logical mind would conclude it absolutely stands to reason that in the realm of the writer, there would be open arms and warm embraces awaiting anyone who dared to create in an unconventional manner.

And you would be wrong.

What Meggie and I discovered was that almost everyone said something like, “writing with a partner is twice the work for half the money”, with some people being as straight to the point as to flatly say, “don’t do it!” Despite the fact that there are plenty of books written by more than one author, and that many of them were perfectly successful (Good Omens, anybody?) It didn’t matter. People simply didn’t do things that way – not if they want to succeed – and the more we insisted it was what we really wanted to do, the more it only seemed to prove how un-serious we must be about it. At pretty much every turn, when we said we were writing a trilogy together, people would either try to talk us out of it, or politely nod their heads and plaster a wide-eyed, pained smile on their faces and say something like, “oh woooooooow, yeah, that’s really great.” To say it was discouraging would be understating things, grossly.

For a long time, I was angry about it. How dare they stand in judgement of our dreams?! At least we HAVE dreams, right? At least we’re DOING something about it! But ok wait, hold up a second. There’s a reason why they don’t think we can do it. BECAUSE IT’S FUCKING HARD!!!

If I were to show you some of the first stuff Meggie and I wrote, you would probably pat me on the head and do that obnoxious wide-eyed, pained smile thing I just described above. It wasn’t horrible, and to be honest, most people couldn’t even tell that two people had written it. Our transitions were literally seamless in that regard. But we didn’t know how to tell a story for shit!

Every fantasy writer has to learn how to tell a story at some point. It’s just how it goes, you can’t avoid it. Fantasy stories aren’t delivered like TPS Reports, with graphs and numbers and memos key people don’t get. At some point, the aspiring fantasy writer must learn the art of telling a story. This is the process where you learn how to “show, not tell”. More importantly though, this is the process where each writer (hopefully) learns how to stop writing for themselves, and how to tell the best story they’re capable of telling. It’s a complete divorcing of the ego where you surrender yourself to the Muse and focus on crafting the best story – not catering to a particular demographic, or trying to fill a market, just the pure, unadulterated essence of The Story.

Which brings us to the second roadblock on the journey to tandem-author stardom. When you’re writing with a partner, you have two egos to deal with, two personalities to keep away from the plot, and two opinions about how everything goes down. Ah, you’re starting to see why people think this impossible, aren’t you? It’s NOT though! Let me tell you!

Meggie and I spent the first year, maybe as much as eighteen months, working on learning how to work together. I had lost my copy of the original story years ago, so to me it was all relatively new again. I didn’t have as much of a problem stepping back objectively and saying, “this is good” or “that should go” because I didn’t have an emotional attachment to the story or characters the way I used to. Sure, parts of it stood out and showered me in nostalgia, but most of it I simply didn’t remember anymore. The same was not true for Meggie, however. She not only had her copy, she took it out every year or so and read it again, and then wondered what I had in store, or how I might have ended it. To her, these characters and their story was sacred. Changing it was blasphemy. But all I have to do is explain that this was written when we were 13-16, and there’s a part where a dude offers to cure this chick he just met of an evil spell…with his penis…and you can see why changes were necessary. (To be fair, she was never against changing that part…)

We had to learn how to check our egos at the door, and we spent pretty much most of our discussions in that first year-to-eighteen-months going back and forth on trivial crap that was leftover from the childhood version. Credit where it’s due, too, because I truly believe lesser people would have told me to go fuck myself where Meg struggled to let go of her attachments. I was kind of a bitch about it sometimes too, which was something I had to learn to stop doing. Pretty soon we started to see that it couldn’t be about us, though. It had to be about doing this story justice. And that process was hard, but in a way we had an advantage. We had each other there to keep one another honest and on track. I imagine solo writers may let some things slide, allowing a character or reference to make it in because it amuses them or is some kind of inside joke (this is what I tell myself every time George R.R. Martin loses me), but we couldn’t do that unless we both agreed that it wasn’t going to detract from the overall delivery. That meant most of the silly stuff that was just for us got left behind as we structured a story that we could both agree was absolutely, without a doubt, the best version of it that we could possibly craft.

Maybe you’re still thinking “this doesn’t sound so hard”. But oh, believe me, it’s is! See, there’s more to it than that. It’s not as hard when it comes to accepting that something you wrote isn’t as clever or good as you thought it was, or that your idea is in direct conflict with something you already wrote into the plot – that’s actually kinda easy to get over. You do it once or twice, and you get the hang of it. No, the hard part is when your partner has been banging out 1,000 words a day for a week solid and you haven’t even read the 2 page document they sent you two weeks ago, let alone wrote anything, because you’re blocked. That’s when it gets hard. Not having an ego allows you to step outside the situation and simply acknowledge that work is getting done. You have to focus on the part of your glass that’s still half full.

You see…

Meggie has strengths that I do not have. For example, she is amazing at keeping track of a sequence of events, and she is a stickler for details. She also comes up with beautiful pieces of detached imagery that don’t necessarily fit neatly into a scene. I am the poster child for ADHD, and have been known to do things like – and I am not exaggerating, or pointing to a single instance, this happens frequently – forget to finish sentences, down to and including not even completing the last word. On the other hand, I am much better at writing dialog than she is, and I am better at emulating different styles and speech patterns.

And if she’s writing while I’m blocked, then shit man! At least someone is still writing!

If you want to write with a partner, you need to be able to acknowledge these kinds of things, without an ego or attitude about it, and you need to work with each other to fill in one another’s gaps. I am blessed that my best friend, and the first person I wanted to work with on this, turned out to be perfectly suited to compliment my strengths and flaws. Make no mistake about it though, it still wasn’t easy. As much as we love each other, we still fought like crazy (and probably will fight again, I’m sure), and at one point we nearly went our own ways. It was still hard work. But it was work worth doing because what we’re getting out of it is better than what we would have gotten without it.

It’s not about who spends more time at the keyboard, or who comes up with more ideas, or whose ideas were the best. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you put your heads together to come up with a better story than you could have come up with on your own. THAT, my friends, is the great advantage of writing with a partner, and why I say it’s better. Because they come up with things that you would never dream, and vice versa. They supply something you cannot, and if you tried to do it alone the end result would be lacking. Not because you’re a shitty writer, or you can’t tell a story on your own, but because you’re only you. You can’t think up what they think up – you can only think up what you think up. It’s really as simple as that.

What ever happened to Anti Eff Bee?

23 Aug

I feel like I need to address the issue of my leaving, and then coming back to, Facebook. Less because I’m concerned that I’m being silently judged (although I’d be lying if I tried to pretend that wasn’t a factor) and more because I feel like I’ve left the whole Anti Eff Bee project unfinished. When I logged off that blog, I really imagined I would never be back, and since that hasn’t been the case, I feel like I owe some kind of explanation.

Or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to write. 😉

Ok so what happened, anyway? I had started off with every intention of never going back to Facebook. At least, I think I did… I want to say that’s what happened, although I feel like maybe I never believed that was possible to begin with. Regardless, when I started the blog, I really didn’t think I was going back. What I discovered, however, is that it is almost impossible to live in today’s world without being on Facebook.

When you leave Facebook, you’re not just leaving behind the most convenient and commonly used form of communication in today’s world, you’re divorcing it. Forgetting about “right”, “wrong”, or anything in between, that reality is that Facebook is where people communicate, plan events, make social arrangements, and even meet people. Yes, I had a handful of friends who called/texted/emailed/visited so they would make sure we stayed in touch, and they know who they are. And yes, I went through a period of about a week where I got intensely angry at the rest of the people who made zero effort to stay in touch, but after about a week, I calmed down and realized it wasn’t really their fault. It wasn’t like they were snubbing me, or punishing me. In fact, it was a lot more like when you move away as a kid and you have to switch schools. You and your friends all swear that you’ll stay in touch, but how often does that ever really happen? The difference here though is that unlike a childhood move to a different neighborhood, I made the choice to leave Facebook. If I was missing my friends, I could always go back.

So that was one piece of the puzzle.

The other piece was that, bless their little hearts and souls, those of my friends who did make that extra effort to see me and stay in touch outside of Facebook, were running me ragged!! My phone was blowing up constantly, my calendar was booked solid for days on end, all of which was really awesome in the beginning, but pretty soon I found it to be exhausting and invasive. That isn’t to say I don’t love my friends, or that I didn’t want to see them – I did!! I continue to!! But I seriously don’t have the energy to keep up with that kind of a social life. I used to, and I kind of still wish I did, but I don’t now. *shrug* Wha’cha gonna do?

Go back to Facebook, that’s wha’cha gonna do!

My time away has given me a new appreciation for both the pros and cons of using Facebook. As a busy artist with a chronic illness that zaps me of most of my strength and energy, it is an invaluable tool for staying in touch with a mega FUCKTON of people at once. Like it or not, I cannot achieve this any other way without sacrificing something more important. Fortunately, my experience through the Anti Eff Bee experiment taught me a lot about what I was “doing wrong”, for lack of a better term. As I discussed in my post about Personal Responsibility, I owe it to myself to avoid those pitfalls now that I know they’re there. I’ve learned a lot about my own limits, and now that I’m finally getting things done again, I’m loathe to mess it up. If I see myself slipping back into my old, bad habits, I know what to do to get back on track again.

So I’m back, albeit in a much more minimalist fashion. And this is why.

Alright, we’re goin’ to war!

20 Aug

(If you read the title of this blog in Batty’s voice from the movie “Fern Gully”, please hug yourself for me. I love you in the face!!)

I recently read a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and it changed my life. No really, it did!! Not because it told me anything I didn’t already know, in fact nearly all of it was stuff I’d come to suspect on my own. It changed my life because it confirmed what I already knew. What this book did for me was calm me down and say, “you’ve got this” in as firm and reassuring tone as a book written by someone I have never met could. As my friend Adam (who also recommended it to me in the first place) put it: “it’s a reminder from the trenches to get back IN the trenches.”

The book talks a lot about the concept of Resistance (capital R), which is that stupid part of all of us that comes up with perfectly legitimate and reasonable-sounding excuses for why we can’t do [fill in the blank]. Diets, exercise routines, careers, relationships, art/writing/film projects, all these and more are destroyed by this evil menace called Resistance.It also talks a lot about how to overcome Resistance and make sure your motives are genuine and pure so that the final product is satisfying no matter what. This was the part of the book that spoke to me the most, I think. This idea of making sure you’re doing things for the right reasons. It talks about how you have to do things because it’s what you’re driven to do, not because you’re trying to make money or please a particular demographic. If you were the last person on Earth, would you do it anyway? If the answer is “yes”, your motives are right on track.

Ok now put a pin in that, we’ll be back in a moment.

As many of you know, I have been working on a trilogy of fantasy novels with my best friend Meggie for the past three years. It’s been a long, hard journey, with a lot of pitfalls and setbacks as Meggie and I learned how to not only create an entire universe and write down a compelling story about it, we learned how to do it with a partner. (This is the most complicated process in the world, and one that I plan on exploring further in this blog. STAY TUNED!!) During that time, our story has evolved and mutated, changed and grown, and all for a number of different reasons. Most of those reasons had to do with telling a better version of the story, but we also went through a phase where we got completely caught up on genres and demographics and appealing to this or that crowd. Needless to say, we started and restarted, wrote and rewrote time and time again. Sometimes the reasons were…reasonable, but mostly they were excuses. That’s the truth.

By the time 2012 started, Meggie and I were both silently questioning whether or not we’d ever finish. I’m not sure either one of us ever verbalized it, but I’m pretty sure we were both wondering if we were kidding our selves or what at that point. We had maybe 100 total pages of fragmented bits and pieces of the first book, almost none of which went together for more than 10 pages at a stretch. There were hundreds of hours of voice notes that never got transcribed going back nearly three years. Each of us had stacks of books exploding in a rainbow of Post-its and page flags, and notes galore, and no idea how to organize it all. What the hell were we doing anyway? We had everything we needed to write a book except one, irreplaceable thing: a love of writing.

But then a marvelous thing happened. People were assholes. For very separate and personal reasons, Meggie and I found ourselves very alone for a few weeks. Now, I can’t talk about her experience, so I’ll focus on mine, but know that we have both come to alarmingly similar conclusions.

I sulked off to my lair in the basement (I think I’m a lair kinda gal) and contemplated how my life had brought me to that point. What I came up with at first were a bunch of really good insights in my blog, Anti Eff Bee, but the thing that really changed my perspective was that I found I enjoyed the writing more than anything. I wanted things to write about. I wanted it so badly, I would sit around and self-reflect and ask myself questions just so I could write about it.

Ah-HA!!!

When I took away all the people and distractions from my life, and I was left with nothing to do but entertain myself, what I discovered was that nothing fulfilled me the way that writing did. The first short story I finished a couple of weeks ago was only about 1,200 words. That’s barely over a page. I have never felt prouder! I had finished a story concept. It had a start, a middle, and an end – something I couldn’t say about pretty much anything I’ve done in years. Submitting it for publication, even though I knew I’ll probably be rejected, was such a rush!! It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Like one part rockstar center-stage, one part graduate student submitting a thesis, and one part ALMIGHTY GOD creating with my very words! And I wanted more!

The funny thing is, this is nothing I didn’t already know. 18 years ago, I started a story for my best friend (yes, the same one), so we’d stay in touch. It was a different time – one without email, chat, or long-distance phone calls that didn’t charge by the minute. We were kids, we couldn’t drive, and it was way too far to ride our bikes. The only thing we had was the United States Postal System. And I could have drawn her pictures, or just written letters, but what I decided to do was tell her a story. I wanted to write about something so amazing, so entrancing, so captivating that she could never, ever leave my life because she had to know what happened next.

Ok now remember that pin? We’re back.

For a hot second I worried that this whole story was born out of misguided motives. I started questioning if it was really good to anybody but ourselves, and if maybe we were kidding ourselves…maybe we should give up. No, that’s Resistance talking. It doesn’t matter that I started the story to keep our friendship going. It matters that when I needed to do something that mattered, I chose to do it by writing. Because writing is what I love to do. If there was nobody else on the planet, I’d still be writing. For me. Because I love it. Always have, always will. It’s who I am.

I’ve been writing a lot these past days, and I’ve never been happier. And when I say “I’m happy” I don’t mean some creepy manic upswing where I’m laughing too loudly at everything or something like that. I mean that I feel peaceful where I used to feel restless. I feel fulfilled where I used to feel empty. My days feel like they have purpose and meaning in a way that nothing else I have ever done has made me feel. It makes me glad I read that book. It makes me glad I remembered who I really am.

One day I will learn that I’m really only good at being one person: me. Until then, I shall give thanks to people like Mr. Pressfield for his notes from the trenches.

And so it begins…

16 Aug

Website updated – check*

Blogs created – check

Etsy store up and running again, with content – check

CafePress for Team Mojo up and running, with content – check

 

HOLY CRAP I NEED TO SLEEP!!!

 

* – the website still needs more content, but there’s a simple skeleton up there now and it serves my purposes for the time being.

 

How to Write and Use an Outline

10 Aug

This was originally posted on my Facebook page, however, since I think it’s so spiffy, I’m also going to repost it here.

My writing partner was having difficulty understanding how to create and use an outline, and I was having difficulty explaining it to her without sounding like a patronizing twat. I decided to use satire as my vehicle for transfering my knowledge to her brain. The results are below.

Please feel free to share this with anybody you think might enjoy and/or benefit by reading it.

Mae’s Paper Outline Method

Begin with your topic and figure out how best to organize your thoughts. Identifying the timeline, or sequence of events, makes it very easy to create an outline. By doing this, you determine the order of events and you can easily identify a clear beginning, middle, and end for your piece. For this example, I’ll use the topic “Buying Groceries” to illustrate the steps I would use to create an outline and then expand upon it to write a full paper.

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