On Motivation

I don’t really believe in natural motivation. If I want to follow an exercise program, I have to write a schedule and pretend that it is basically my second job. I don’t jump out of bed every morning saying, “Yay! It’s time to rise and shine and do chest, back, and abs today! I’m so happy!”

So why do I think I am missing something when I don’t feel motivated to work on my novel? I have sat down with it several times over the past few days and every time, I write a few words, then start to fuss about where it’s going next and leave it. I’ve gotten into a knot of anxiety over it because I think I know where I want it to go in the long run, but in the short run, I’m not sure how I’m going to get it there. My characters are starting to think and feel for themselves, but in the meantime, I need to direct them to make sure they end up where they eventually need to be.

It’s enough to drive me crazy.

So, why do I feel like I need to be motivated to do this? There are several ways to write. Some people sit down and basically throw up all over the page and then edit it later. Some people stress over every single syllable. Some people, like me on my first novel, just force themselves to sit down with it several hours a day, every day and write solidly, no matter what comes out. Editing can always be done later.

That said, I am having a lot of trouble making myself do that with my second novel. The doubts keep settling in. I didn’t have any doubts with the first novel because I had literally no fucking idea what I was doing. It’s kind of easy to do something if you don’t know what you are doing, because you can’t really do it wrong. You just barrel through and worry about the¬†consequences¬†later.

And now, here I am with one novel published in ebook format, and an actual publisher who is getting ready to publish it as a *real* book, and my first actual author appearance coming up with people who invited me to come and talk to them because they think I have something of value to say and I can’t get my two main characters out of their car and into a restaurant where they are going to run into someone who completely fucks up their chances of having an amazing date.

But that’s it. That’s where I just solved my own dilemma. Because I don’t have to be motivated. I don’t have to *feel* like writing right now. I don’t have to want it. I just have to open the file and sit my ass in the chair and write about what happens next and it I don’t like it, I can change it later.

As my friend Kim likes to say, “Any decision can be unmade.”

Time to get back to my second job. I’ve got a hot butch in a GQ menswear look who is about to be completely frustrated by her inability to get laid tonight. Trust me, Andy, I know the feeling. ūüôā

When do you lose the day job?

I follow an entertaining blog of a woman who refers to herself as a struggling writer. I was thinking about that today because I am a struggling writer, too. I mean, I am really struggling.

I am in the process of trying to order the thoughts that are going through my mind. I’m working on the sequel to “Man Enough.” I have a new project that is going on in the background… something completely cool and different and unlike anything I have ever tried before. I don’t want to talk about it yet, but it is kind of obsessing me a bit. On top of that, I keep making outlines for the book I want to write after “Andy’s Song,” a book I started a few months ago, but put aside to work on this one. It’s like the floodgates have opened and there is no way to shove all of this crap back.

But that’s not really where the struggle part of writing comes in. All writers, whether they write historical fiction, or WWII memoirs, or blogs about celebrity gossip have a lot of ideas. We’re brimming with ideas. There may be a struggle to find the discipline to sit down and order them and get them on paper in a coherent way, but we have the ideas.

The struggle for a writer comes in trying to figure out how to make a living from our writing. I think all writers are struggling writers. I mean, unless you’re Stephen King or (cough, groan) that 50 Shades writer, I imagine that most of us are just trying to get the words down on paper and get paid enough to do what we love full time.

That’s what I’m really looking for. I don’t want fame. Fame really isn’t for me. I’m an overweight, middle aged lesbian. Can you see me making the talk show circuit? I certainly can’t. Wealth would be nice, but really, I’m happy driving the old mini-van that my sister gave me for free, wearing my thrift store clothes, and buying books at yard sales. On the one hand, it would be cool to move back out of my mom’s house, but on the other hand, I kind of like it here. She lets me spend countless hours writing and she makes me eat fresh fruit. Life isn’t that bad.

Really, what I want out of my writing career is to get paid enough money so that I don’t have to do anything else for a living. I was in the middle of an amazing scene in which my sexy menswear clad butch has pressed her femme date up against the wall and is threatening to take off her tie and do all sorts of naughty things with it and I realized that if I didn’t leave the house in exactly three minutes, I would be late for my day job. And I was still in my underwear.

While at my regular job, I find myself thinking of my characters. I smile and nod at appropriate points in my interactions with the customers, but in reality, I’m thinking, “Is that really in Danny’s nature to do that?” “Would Andy go strap-on shopping with Leah?”

So lately, I have been really stressing over having enough time to write. One of my writing heroes called me within minutes of me signing the contracts with my publisher, Sapphire Books, and said, “That’s great. You wrote a good book. You did the sexy part. Now you have to worry about marketing.” She was right. I have to work on selling myself and keeping my novel out there in people’s minds while the next one is being written. I need to get the word out. I have my first appearance the weekend after next and the idea has me in knots of anxiety.

So, there is the day job. There is the marketing of the current novel. There is the writing of the next novel and other projects. And there is the full-time school. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.

Which is why I recently decided that the day job has to go. Now *that* is a terrifying thought. I may not make much money, but I get paid weekly. I don’t have to do anything special. I don’t have to rely on my own talent or discipline or intelligence or¬†creativity. I simply show up and they give me money.

It doesn’t quite work that way with writing. No one is just going to give me money. I have to go out and get it for myself. And I don’t know if I have the balls or the talent or the marketing savvy or whatever it takes to do that. But I do know that I have good friends and family and I know that regardless of what else happens, I won’t go hungry and I will always have at least a couch to sleep on in various homes around the country.

I’ve given plenty of notice, a little over two months. I did that for them and for me. I figure the last day of “regular” work will coincide with my westward trek to California. I’ll be on the road with my dog and my laptop and a frozen turkey. (Don’t even ask.) By then, the royalties for the first sales will have started rolling in. It will be up to me to keep them coming in. Sure, I’ll be below the poverty level, but I’ll be there on my own terms, writing, marketing, and taking classes.

Wish me luck.

Gays versus God.

It’s time for me to come out of the closet. I’m a jerk. I’m a total asshole. I’m a hypocrite. I’m working on trying not to be those things, if that is any¬†consolation, but for now, we might as well just face the facts. I’m a bigot.

Here’s the thing. I preach against homophobes all of the time. I can’t believe there are people in the world who still think being gay is something to be ashamed of. I post news stories about people getting beat up because they’re gay. I follow the stories of the LGBT youth who are so bullied at school that they feel their only recourse is to take their own life. My heart breaks over these stories. So I cry and I rail and I send out these stories to my friends and I post them on Facebook and I donate to the “It Gets Better Project” and I put a special message in my novel about how it really *does* get better and I try to live my life as an example of a good person (for the most part) who can (and has!) changed people’s minds about their own homophobia. And that stuff is all great. If we leave it there, I’m a good person. I’m stellar. If I end this blog right now, you can walk away from this thinking about how nice I am and how much I care and how I try to¬†facilitate¬†change and we will all be happy.

Except, I’m not. And it is time for me to correct a wrong that I have been¬†perpetrating¬†for a long time now. See, I’m anti-Christian. I have been for many years. Whenever I met someone who said they were a Christian, or that they had a relationship with God, I kind of nodded and my eyes glazed over and I got away from them as quick as possible. Of course, I have my reasons. All bigots can find reasons for their bigotry. There’s Fred Phelps and his contingent of hatred. There’s the fact that so many homophobes use the bible as an excuse to bash gays. There are all of those Southern preachers making headlines for their many comments about gays. “Let’s throw them all in a prison and let them die out.” “If your child exhibits gay behavior, beat it out of him.” “God hates fags.” I was even in a church once, and it was the last time I went to church, where the whole sermon was about AIDS being an example of God’s wrath. It was likened to Noah’s flood. Only this time, I guess all of the straight people were going to live, as long as they didn’t have any contact with any gay people. This is important to note. God-loving Christians in this church were being told that they shouldn’t associate with gay people, that they shouldn’t allow them to make physical contact. That’s a pleasant thought. Not only was I an abomination, but people were being directed not to touch me… not to pat me on the shoulder or give me a hug or even hold my hand.

It’s enough to make any gay person cry.

So I shut down interest in being friends with anyone who was Christian or religious or who said things like, “I’ll pray for you,” because let’s be honest, when people say that, they really mean, “I’ll pray for you because you’re a miserable sinner and I don’t want to be contaminated by your wickedness.”

Am I bitter? Maybe a little.

It didn’t stop there. If it had, then maybe I could refrain from calling myself an asshole. If all I did was fester in my own little bubble of bitterness and fear, I could still be okay with the fact that I am now having to take a second look at my bigotry. But that wasn’t all I did. I actively worked to bring an anti-Christian bias to other people. Did I run around to churches with signs, protesting their services? No. But I sought out stories about the evil Christians, the ones who “hate fags,” the ones who advocate beating the gay out of your children, the ones who think it is okay to rape a woman to “cure” her of lesbianism, the ones who still think being gay can be prayed away, as long as there is sufficient motivation and perhaps some electric shock treatments. I sought those stories out and I reposted them. I shared them on my Facebook page and I sent them out to my Twitter followers and I emailed them to my contacts. And so, without meaning to be an activist, I became one. I became an activist against God and Christians.

Let me equate this to someone who seeks out stories about gay people who happen to be criminals and uses them as an example of why all gay people are evil. Do you see what I’m getting at here?

It gets worse.

Within the past couple of weeks, I have started having a lot of questions about God and Christianity. It came about because of two stellar people I have met, one gay, one not, who are Christians with a strong and joyous faith in God. Neither of them preached at me, nor did they try to convert me. They just exist as they are and let me see by their peaceful and loving lives.

Well, meeting intelligent and loving Christians confused me. And when I am confused, I look for answers. So what do I do when I have a question about anything? I put it out to my Facebook friends. I simply wrote this:

Gay Christians… or non-gay, but accepting Christians. If you want, please consider messaging me. I’m curious about a couple of things and would love to ask a couple of questions in a completely non-judgmental way. Thanks.¬†

In fifteen hours after sending out that message, I got sixty responses. Sixty. I haven’t even finished sorting through them. I’m overwhelmed with the responses. Some of them were from people I know personally. Some of them were from people with whom I have become facebook friends in one way or another, even though we have never met in real life. Some were from people who weren’t even Facebook friends, but friends of Facebook friends. Some were removed by two or three or even four direct links. And my email exploded, too. The call went out and people responded, forwarding the questions to their preachers and their uncles and their friends and their fellow church members and their old college buddies.

The two main questions I had were these:

1. How do you reconcile homosexuality with being Christian?

2. If there is a God, does He hate me?

This is where it gets kind of embarrassing.

All of the messages were brimming with love. I mean, every single one. All of them. I don’t know how else to express this. I have been message bombed by people who have taken time out of their own lives to tell me that they love me and that their God loves me. They explained how and why the bible has been misinterpreted and how the press likes to focus on these bad Christians which makes a lot of the rest of them look like intolerant bigots, when really they are just people living their lives in non-judgmental ways. JUST LIKE JESUS SAID! The messages were short or long. They quoted bible verses or they were just personal heartfelt expressions. Some were scholarly, some were not. One was listed in bullet points with references. Many said they needed time to think about just *how* to answer, but in the meantime, yes, you are loved, yes, you are loved, yes, you are loved. A couple were requests for a face to face meeting or a phone call to talk the issues over in person. Without exception, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, they were kind, loving, beautiful, and overflowing with that kind of warm and joyous faith that I found in the first two women who even made me start questioning in the first place.

Well, now I feel like a total dick.

And now I have to go back and rethink everything I have thought about God and his followers. Now I have to stop looking for the evil in Christians, and let myself be open to the good. Now I have to take a good hard look at my own bigotry and my own thoughtlessness and figure out how to move forward from here in a loving and compassionate, and dare I say it, Christian way. Am I a Christian now? No. Do I have a deep and abiding faith in God? Not really. But I have a strong and joyous love for all of the Christians who messaged me last night and this morning. And this is how it starts. *THIS* is where we start building the bridges. Because there are gay Christians out there… and there are straight, but accepting Christians out there. And even more importantly, it seems, at least from what I have seen in the last couple of days, that there is a place in this world for gays and God.

For the record, though, I still think Fred Phelps is a douche.

The Roller Coaster of the Top Ten

“Man Enough” hit the top ten again. After bouncing back to number 21, it has come back to it’s place at number eight. Watching the Amazon list of top lesbian fiction is not a good thing. I tell myself every day to just stay away and not look at it. I just need to look at how many books I’ve sold and leave it at that. Oh, did I sell a few more today than yesterday? I did? Good, no need to go look at the list.

Of course, I can tell myself that a million times, but I still head right over there to check it out. I have very little impulse control. That’s why I have a pair of bright orange tennis shoes and more books on my Kindle than I can reasonably read in a lifetime. I can’t help it. I check it several times a day. I get excited when it moves up. When it moves down, I say, “That’s ok… we can come back.”

The crazy thing is that I love my little book and it really doesn’t matter where it is in the ratings. I’m like a mom who loves her kid, regardless of whether or not she makes straight As. It’s just that there is this tiny little part of me that thinks, “Well, wouldn’t it be cool to be number one? Just for a minute? Just for once?” And then I start wondering how long it can last, hence the¬†obsessive¬†checking. It’s a¬†viscous¬†cycle.

At any rate, my baby is in the top ten again and I think a lot of it has to do with the far reaching effects of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Womyn have been posting about my book on their pages. They’ve recommended it to their friends. Their friends are buying it. I’ve gotten emails from people who love it and tell me they made their hairdresser, or their masseuse, or their mom buy it. It’s amazing. The word of mouth is spreading and so is the love.

So, my thanks to everyone who has bought this book. Thank you to everyone who has posted it. Thank you to everyone who has recommended it to a friend. You have my unimaginable gratitude. And in return, I’ll try to stop being so obsessive about the charts. Oh, wait… one more look.

Oh, the joy!

I spent an incredible evening last night watching my little novel go up, up, up the charts on Amazon. At one point, I was at number 8 on the Amazon list of lesbian fiction. 8! Me? Oh, I so wanted it to go to number one, but still, to be in the top ten was Ah-may-zing! I felt as if the whole world was watching with me, as all of my Facebook friends kept chiming in about it all night.

I think a great deal of the upward swing had to do with the¬†Michigan¬†Womyn’s Music Festival. I saw posts all over some of my new friends pages, with comments from *their* friends saying that they loved the book, that is was wonderful, that they couldn’t wait to see what I was doing next. It was quite heady.

And of course, once a book hits the top ten, it feeds itself because of the people who just browse the top ten looking for new fiction.

The thing with “Man Enough” is that it isn’t *truly* lesbian fiction. And it isn’t truly transgender fiction, either. It crosses gender and orientation lines. I’ve had a straight male church deacon write a stellar review about my novel. I’ve had leather dykes and transsexuals tell me how much they loved it. I’ve had straight women telling me that they are now in love with Andy, my hot butch lesbian character. The thing about “Man Enough” is that it is thought-provoking without being over-bearing. I am not telling anyone what to think. I’m merely showing them a large cast of characters who are all very real people, with real feelings and letting the audience make their own decisions.

Fortunately, the decision I seem to be hearing most of all is that people are people regardless of orientation, gender, sex, age, or whatever.


Processing, writing, and readjusting to the real world

I just spent a week in Michigan with thousands of women, listening to music, attending workshops, making out with a stranger, walking in the woods in complete safety, and writing.

Let’s be fair, I didn’t do a lot of actual writing at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, but I was constantly composing ideas in my head. I wrote a whole scene in which Andy and Alice, two of the characters from my second novel, have a discussion about the festival. I can *feel* it in my heart, but getting it down on paper is hard. The barrage of feelings and impressions that I encountered at my first fest are still swirling around me in a kind of hurricane of love and acceptance.

It’s making the real world a little hard to take. I feel disconnected, like I am talking to all non-fest people through quicksand. I can hear myself saying things to my customers in that higher pitched, ultra-smiley kind of way and I wonder why no one else sees me as fake. Or perhaps they do, and I just don’t realize it. I think I hadn’t realized how shallow so many of my interactions in the real world were until I had so many significant ones at fest.

As a trans-advocate, I went in expecting to argue about the trans exclusion policy of the festival. However, having experienced it, I understand that policy now. I am not sure if I can articulate it yet, but I do agree that there should be woman born woman spaces only… just as there are some spaces that are only for people of color, or for men, or for Jewish people, or the hearing impaired.

I met a lot of amazing women, and a few that I consider lifelong friends. Even if we don’t see each other again, or only see each other at fest, there is the link between us now that will never die. I got to reconnect in the most wonderful ways with my soul sister, Kim. This is the woman who has, literally and figuratively, held my hand as I jumped into the deep end more times than I can count.

I wore nothing but a long skirt and a bra one night. I was walking down the road, feeling a bit insecure about it and several women stopped to tell me that I was beautiful. One shuttle driver actually stopped and yelled, “You look amazing!!” It made my night. How often does that happen in real life? In a word, never.

I was woefully unprepared for camping. It rained for two solid days and I was so cold at night that I woke up with my teeth chattering. Women from neighboring campsites brought me thick wooly socks and extra blankies. My best friend and soul sister, Kim and I learned some lessons in spooning… that is, do it. The only time I was warm at night was when I was cuddling with her. One cold day, as I was shivering in the rain, an amazing woman offered me hot tea and oatmeal, cooked at her campsite. Another brought me hot coffee. Still another gave me gloves.

I was offered some interesting sexual activities, which I sadly turned down. It turns out that I may be an adventurer in my head, but in the real world, I want a connection with someone before we have sex… even if it is just a one night thing, there has to be a friendship of sorts. I should make it extremely clear that there isn’t anything wrong with the things I was offered and I tried to make that clear as I was turning them down… It wasn’t a judgment call on the people who offered them, but my own shyness and trepidation. I would say that it was a failing on my part, but good friends wouldn’t let me say that. Instead, they reminded me that I am just out of a long-term, oppressive relationship and I am finding myself and my own boundaries. And that was also part of what Mich fest was about for me. Finding myself. And meeting people who embrace and love that self for who she is.

I walked everywhere, regardless of the weather. I showered in front of other women, out in the open, at the communal showers. I wrote a short story for someone and poured my heart and soul into it and then sent it to her.

I was unafraid to compliment people. If I found someone beautiful or gorgeous, I told them. If someone had a great smile, I told them. If they made me happy, I told them. It wasn’t a flirting thing, it wasn’t about coming on to anyone, it was purely about wanting to let them know that they gave me joy in one way or another. Almost everyone responded with love and joy… except one memorable woman who, in response to me saying “You look great in that cowboy hat,” said, “Thanks, my girlfriend likes it too!” Kim actually snorted over that one, but I just smiled.

I challenged myself and my assumptions. I accidentally jumped into the middle of the street during the butch parade because I thought some hot leather dyke was motioning for me to come forward… turns out she was motioning at her wife who was standing behind me. It was pretty embarrassing, but as Kim said, if there is ever a moment when I *don’t* jump into the street at some hot leather dyke motioning toward me, i might as well give up my lesbian card.

I threw knives and tomahawks at a target and actually hit a couple of them! Me! Throwing tomahawks! It was… in a word…. AWESOME! big props to Vick, the incredible teacher of that workshop who basically wouldn’t let me be scared and decided that since I was there, I was going to throw. She gave me courage. It was… again, AWESOME! I definitely intend to do that workshop again next year… and the archery one as well.

I was unafraid to be alone. Even in the dark. In the woods. I spent several nights walking alone in the woods after dark. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t even nervous. In fact, one night, as I was walking alone, I got into a place where I couldn’t even see any tents or any lights of any sort… and I suddenly heard steps behind me. I wasn’t afraid even then. I simply turned, said hello to the woman who was walking behind me and went on my way. It is impossible to explain how the burden of fear oppresses us on a daily basis, even if we don’t actively feel it. For me, it is there. If I am alone after dark and see a man walking toward me, there is always that bit of anxiety. It was incredible to not have that for a whole week.

I learned the sign language for “awesome” and “thank you.” (Two of my favorite words.) I met an incredible deaf woman with whom I had a lot of trouble communicating and I have made a pact that this year, I will learn at least enough sign language to have basic communication at the next fest. I never realized how much I take communicating for granted. I watched this woman in a crowd and my heart ached to be able to translate what was going on. We were able to talk several times through an interpreter, but when there wasn’t one, all we could do was smile at each other. As my sister said, we both knew that we had things in common and that we could have intelligent conversations with each other, but the language barrier held us back. I aim to correct that this year.

I had amazing conversations all day, every day. If I was just even hauling my garbage to a dumpster, or walking to the latrines, or going in search of coffee in the mornings, I met incredible women with incredible stories. I met lesbians from every race, culture, income level, age, size, shape, religious belief, etc, etc. Who knew there were so many different kinds of lesbians? I spent a lot of time talking to older lesbians, asking them about what it was like to come out when they did. It was good to be reminded that there is a whole generation of womyn in front of me who had to fight way harder than I have ever had to fight in order to be out and proud.

I saw more hot butch women in one place than I have ever seen in my life. There was the tall, white-haired super sexy stud in classy, pressed menswear in the butch parade who turned and winked at me as she was going by. Wow. Fluttered my heart. There was the hot New Yorker who was selling ice cream outside of the Crafts tent. Kim and I were sitting in our camp chairs, just watching all of the gorgeous women walking by and hot NY ice cream woman made our day. There was the sexy Minnesota butch and her beautiful femme girlfriend who were camped next to us. Lyda. (I’m not sure of the spelling, but she was intelligent and kind and beautiful.) There were leather dykes and flannel dykes and women who might label themselves as butch today and femme tomorrow and there were so many women like me who don’t really fall into either category, but who loved my idea of holding a “crunchy granola lesbian parade” next year for all of us in-betweeners. There were shaved heads and long ponytails, and big biceps, and naked breasts of every size and shape. It was an eye opener.

I met someone who refused to let me talk crap about myself. She didn’t¬†chastise¬†me… she just simply refuted any negative thing I said about myself in a no nonsense, irrefutable way. She was so sure and so confident that I had no choice but to believe her. I love her. Not in a marriage kind of way, but more of a general feeling of peace and happiness that I was lucky enough to have met someone who got into my heart and made it fuller. Every time I think my heart is as full as it can be, I meet someone who manages to get into it anyway. I have a lot of love to give in a lot of different ways and the festival is a great place to explore that. In fact, I loved several women that I met at fest, and I still love them. And I always will, whether we see each other again or not.

Perhaps most importantly, I found some of my own strength and self-worth. I have come away from this festival with a strong belief in myself and my path. I am going exactly where I want to go. I am a writer. I may still work in a grocery store to pay my bills, but I have a novel and a publisher and a second novel and short stories that can make people laugh or cry or say “WTF!?!” I don’t know how long I will have to have an actual job, as opposed to supporting myself with my true calling, but it doesn’t matter right now. I am following my true path and that is the most important thing anyone can do.

So in the end, for me at least, the festival was about so much more than just music. It was about love and acceptance and becoming more of who I want to be and peace and discovery. Next year can’t come soon enough.

That Loving Feeling

Yes, I admit. I had lost that loving feeling. I knew what my next book was going to be about. I had a full outline. I had even started writing it. Several times. I was deeply into it, but it never flowed. It just didn’t feel right. I had lost that loving feeling. Not only did I never close my eyes when my manuscript kissed my lips, but I wasn’t even slightly aroused by the sex scenes. Something was seriously wrong.

It was like the end of a long marriage, when you know you want to be together, but you don’t have any spark left and you just can’t figure out how to get it back. I talked it over with my sister, I read books and articles on how to rekindle the romance, but nothing I did seemed to bring back the joy and¬†ecstasy. I finally did what any self-respecting author would do. I cheated on it.

Yes, I turned it off and started working on something else. It wasn’t even that great of a something else, but it was different and exciting. I started spending a lot of time with my side fling and thinking about it when we weren’t together. I talked about it to other people in a far too casual way. Sometimes, I would wake up in the middle of the night and sneak a glance at it, as if to make sure it was still there. I was definitely in lust.

And then, one day, I opened up the old manuscript, the one that is meant to be my second book, the one that had become a boring old marriage and something strange happened. It opened its arms and welcomed me back. It forgave me for leaving. It forgave me for losing my lust for it. It didn’t ask any questions, it just welcomed me home. And I started writing on it again, and the writing was good.

I ended up editing out way more than I have ever done before, but what’s left flows. That loving feeling is back. And now, I think about it when I go to sleep at night and I turn on the computer first thing before I even get out of bed in the morning to reread what I wrote the night before. I’ve fallen back in love with my second novel. And I can’t wait to get it done so you can fall in love with it, too.