100% your responsibility

Hello! This is Alice!

So, the other day I ran into a particularly murky post on Facebook. I don’t remember exactly how it went, but it was packed with big-ass statements like, “Doctors don’t make you healthy. Teachers don’t make you learn. Trainers don’t make you fit.”

The point of the post was that you gotta take one-hundred percent responsibility for yourself. All that you do, all that you achieve, is entirely due to you.

So, how is that murky, and why am I pissed off as all hell?

First, anybody can see that the statements don’t make sense. Doctors are, in fact, a great help in defeating diseases. Kids don’t pick skills up from thin air, teachers have a lot to do with the process. And how many top-level athletes don’t have coaches?

I know what the post was trying to say – that we shouldn’t relinquish self-responsibility, and should instead focus on being self-reliant. Now, that brings me to my second point, the thing that makes me pissed off.

It’s this fucking godawful modern idea that humans are fucking islands. You know, this individual-worshipping bullshit. This idea that “YOU can create the PERFECT you”, or whatever shitty words the demagogues use.

Let me just come out and say this: nobody on this goddamn stinky planet is ANYTHING without other people.

All of us need help, in some way or other.

All of us were raised by the herd. All of us need the herd.

The herd is nothing to laugh at. The herd is power. The herd is glory.

And, since Alice’s blog is about writing, Imma turn this around to the writing topos, don’t ya worry. However, I’m not gonna say, “If you a writer, get help.” I mean, that’s pretty good advice, and it applies to all ability levels and states of health. But what I wanna say is far more important.

If you a writer, give help.

It’s nice if you wanna further your own career. I don’t blame y’all for that. Perfect your craft, amass readers, yeah, all that stuff. But realise, at some point, that we’re not here for me.

We’re here for us. We’re here for the great herd.

So go out and give help.

Don’t just look for beta readers for your novel. Be a beta reader yourself. Don’t just go asking for reviews, review books yourself. If you’re in a writing group, don’t smash the other members with your witty wit. Instead, brainstorm with them, encourage them, and comfort them. If you blog, don’t just fish for followers, but go out, read other folks’ blogs, talk with them, be with them.

Ask payment for your help if you feel like, but consider also giving it for free. And realise what “free” truly means here. It means “without any obligation to return the favour”. Too often, even a thing ostensibly given for free contains a hidden fee. I pat your back, so you must pat mine.

Forget it, peeps. Do truly free work. Don’t expect even thanks. Expect nothing.

That’s the hard core of helping. You help, even when you know that all your efforts will be forgotten, and the one you helped will claim, “I alone made the perfect me!”

Even so, you help. You do it because at the bottom of your soul, beneath the layers of pettiness, beneath the layers of loathing, beneath the layers of me-first,

there is nothing but love.

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To write like God

Why is there evil? Why did God, in omnipotence, create pestilence and genocide? Why do the weak suffer though God is said to be benevolent?

This is a topic I’ve talked about previously, though never from such a biblical angle. I beg you to bear with me. They say every artist only has that one painting in them, the one they keep trying to bring out in all their paintings. Maybe this topic is that painting for me.

So, why is there evil?

In short, because that’s how creation works. You, who create, understand this in your bones.

It’s not possible to create a thing that is good. Neither it is possible to create a thing that is beautiful. When you look at the naked core of creation, only one thing is possible for you: to create things that live.

That is why there is evil. Though good, God could not create a creation that was good. He could only create a creation that lives – and it lives by its own free will.

The creation and all its creatures just slipped through God’s fingers like so much fine sand. All he did was breathe life into them. He couldn’t choose. Choice was reserved for the created.

Like, think of motherhood. As mothers, we can’t choose to bear good children. The gametes join, and they grow into something. All we can do is hope that this something stays alive.

This concerns deeply all you artists. Ya wanna write, paint, or sing like gods? Then you gotta surrender to it. What you create will flow through you. It wants to live, so it cannot stay in you. It wants to be free. It wants to be unburdened by you.

The child cannot stay in its mother’s womb, and neither can the story stay in your imagination.

Once it gets out, you can rule over it no longer. In fact, it was never for you to rule. You were the seedbed. In you, the seed had a safe nest. In you, the seed drank the fresh rain and basked in the sun. Through you, the seed burst into the world. You gave it the foundation, the outlet, but the rest was up to the seed. The glory is not with the seedbed, but with the bright green shoots that reach toward the light.

Recognise your seedbedness. You are no author. You are not in control. When you know this, and accept this, you will write like God.

Hard work is a lie

Hello, peeps! This is Alice.

A short trawl through the quotesphere turns up a ton of sayings praising persistence. You know the type: Never give up. Work hard and success will follow. According to internet, if you just “stick to it”, you can achieve anything.

Well, guess what, peeps? Alice calls BS. If we’re talking ’bout success, hard work is not the way.

What is, then? Well, recently I read an interview of Kari Enqvist. She named the two main ingredients of the success soup. The first is networking. In short, knowing people gets you places. Being buddies with the boss. Drinking with the good ol’ boys. Makes sense, right? Humans work in herds, because the herd is a power multiplier.

The second is luck. People may not want to admit it, but life is pretty random. We live in an age of unprecedented order, so it’s easy to think there are clear rules in life. It is not so. Scratch the shining surface of orderliness, and beneath you’ll find the scintillating colours of chaos. That’s life. Luck rules.

Oh, there’s a third factor, too, pointed out to me when I read another interview, this time of a Swedish nobleman. Yes, you guessed it. Success is inherited. It’s easier to be rich if mama was rich. It’s easier to be famous if papa was famous. It’s, get this, even easier to be smart if mama was smart! The nobility lives, folks. Equal opportunity for all is a big ol’ lie.

So, to sum it up: You wanna succeed? Easy. One, be born rich. Two, know people. Three, get lucky.

Hard work gets the fourth place. Maybe.

All right! Depressing part ends here. There’s a silver lining, and I wanna look at it, too.

First, if you like doing something, like being an artist, but don’t like working hard, this is great news for you! You can flip the bird at all the anxiety-inducing persistence mantras. Instead, let yourself be a lazy loafer.

I know being lazy isn’t fashionable in our super-charged, by-the-minute scheduled world, but you know what, kids? Creativity is born right there, in idleness.

Second, if you wanna get good, hard work is totally your medicine. If I work hard twelve hours a day, can I become a master at spinning flaming poi, painting watercolour landscapes, or dealing with mentally unstable humans? Yes, I can! (Just recognise that being skillful and being successful are not synonymous.)

Third, hard work can be a pleasure all on its own. The same goes for, say, training. The best reason to work hard or to train hard is just that: because you love the work, or because you love to train.

Do it for love, peeps. Love the work that you do. When the chips are down, that’s the only real reason to do anything.

(Okay so I was kinda lying when I said hard work is a lie… but it is a lie the way people link it with success. So there. Imma stop my frothing now.)

Alice’s Idea Giveaway Sunday, vol. 9

Hello, fellow writers! Welcome to the jungle! It’s all abloom with ideas, all you need to do is reach your hand and pluck one!

As per the time-honoured tradition, I am giving y’all my best writing ideas for free, gratis, at no cost – though if you want, you can send me a postcard. Just kidding, don’t send me postcards.

Anyway, what do we have? Let’s see!

Mother Lord

So, I was reading Larsdotter’s Kvinnor i strid and I came up with a nice idea where I can use Eva, my unstoppable robot super soldier. So, let’s imagine the Eurasian steppe in the distant, semi-apocalyptic future. The Grandmaster, the invincible self-ruler of the north, is losing a war against a superior enemy. The Great Patriotic Army is crumbling. In a desperate bid to turn the tables, the Grandmaster’s daughter Pische is sent to ask help from one of the nearby neutral dominions (a region roughly corresponding to modern-day Kamchatka).

En route, however, the battleship escorting Pische is shot down. The ship comes under heavy attack, because the enemy has learned about Pische’s presence, and considers her a valuable hostage. The ship’s captain is faced with imminent defeat and makes a fast decision: Eva, the ship’s on-board “special unit”, is released from lockdown. Eva’s mission? Escort the Grandmaster’s daughter to safety through hostile zones.

A small band of marines join Eva and Pische, while the rest of the battleship’s crew engage the enemy as a diversion. They make their escape… and… various adventures ensue, I guess. I haven’t thought it through yet, but it’s like Halo, except Cortana is flesh and blood and not a sex object, and the story won’t suck the balls of alien superweapons. (Well, hopefully.)

Oh, and I want to have an all-female scout company assist Eva and Pische at some point, as a nod to Soviet snipers. And I’m still thinking about that whole mother thing, but maybe I’ll can it for now. I’m also canning the lord thing. Also for now. A new working title is to be expected.

The Moonlight Monastery

Do you know how much of our action entertainment is driven by the premise that the hero must avenge a wrong? Seriously, we’ve got films that classify as vengeance porn. Like, think of the first John Wick (eugh). We get handed two minutes of exposition where John’s dog dies, and then? The rest of the show he just shoots people.

Now, in The Moonlight Monastery (working title), the hero Aguilliere falls in love with the blasphemous vampire Arienne. Arienne’s kin, however, don’t take kindly to Arienne getting amorous with a human, and they butcher her to set an example. You’d think Aguilliere has now the perfect excuse for a vengeful reprisal?

She does, but she doesn’t do it. Sure, she’s heartbroken, and she’s angry, but guess what, peeps? She’s also a professional. She was gonna kill the vampires anyway. Arienne’s death doesn’t change it at all.

Now, the vengeance part comes along, but from a different angle. You see, Arienne’s furious spirit is bound to a sword, which Aguilliere wields to destroy the vampires. In this fashion, Arienne’s spirit wants to get back at her sisters – but the twist is, Aguilliere, the wielder of the sword, needs to fight against the vengeful urges that overtake her while handling the Arienne-charged blade. Otherwise she’d be consumed by Arienne’s rage, and what she needs in battle is not that, but what the boxers know: never get mad.

 

That’s it for this Sunday, fellow seashells! What are some of your best ideas? Give them to me!

Write badly

Hey peeps! What’s the single best piece of writing advice you’ve got, and why?

Like, imagine you’ve got a moment alone with a budding writer. Also, let’s imagine you’re not a murderous bastard and don’t stab them to death then and there, to cull the competition. Let’s imagine, instead, that you want to give them the best chance of survival in the shit sea of the writing world. You can give them one piece of advice. What is it?

Mine is, “Write badly.” As in, aim as low as you can. Set your standards as far beneath you as possible. Imagine the shittiest piece of writing in existence, and then write a bit more badly.

Why?

Because the biggest obstacle in writing, now and forever, no matter how well seasoned a veteran you are, is resistance. As in, that small voice inside of you that says, “I’m not gonna write today, ’cause I gotta pick the kids up from school, cook, clean, and wrassle with a grizzly.” The unholy adversary, the Great Excuse. That’s resistance.

Aiming low helps deal with resistance, because, now that you’ve already set yourself up to fail, neither failure nor success hold any fear for you. (Well, that’s the theory.) Aiming low doesn’t negate resistance – nothing ever does – but at least it’s a small zap in the ass.

All right. I’ve shown you mine. Now will you show me yours?

Alice’s Idea Giveaway Sunday, vol. 8

Hey peeps! This is Alice. Can I have a round of applause for another bloody Sunday, with its bloody pile of ideas, free for all? That’s the spirit!

If you haven’t been here before, the deal is simple. These are my writing ideas. Take them. Everything is free.

You know, in my previous giveaways I’ve presented my ideas in a highly structured form – in units that are well on their way to being stories. And that’s as I like it. Ideas aren’t usually worth jack by themselves. I’m only calling them worthy once they collide with other ideas and form those delightful train wrecks called stories. Before that, ideas are just dust.

Sometimes, though, a spark can ignite that dust.

Now, to celebrate that conflagratory quality, I’m presenting y’all with a slapdash list of random things, flecks of thought, what-ifs, dark futures, and talking animals of all flavours. Here you go!

Alice’s Random Ideas

  • What if you had auditory hallucinations (i.e. you heard voices), and the voices are mean, and know the future?
  • What if there was an objectophiliac sword-fighter, who was in love with their sword?
  • What if cannibalism was state sanctioned?
  • A protagonist who suffers from a disease, which isn’t cured during the story, which isn’t about the disease
  • A medium who can’t see ghosts, but has a miraculously keen eye for the workings of the human heart
  • A house where the walls have ears, and mouths, and they chat, argue, and advise
  • Everybody knows berserkers, but did you know there were said to be “boarserkers” as well? Look it up, that stuff is hilarious!
  • Related to that, anybody ever write a woman berserker (as in, a professional warrior employing ritualised fury) and didn’t turn her into a beer-guzzling, bar-brawling, masculine woman? And none of that “bear mother defending her young” stuff either, we’ve seen that. I want femininity and fighting not to be mutually exclusive. (Seriously, why does this point still need to be stressed?)
  • Also, more flaming gay fighting men that can be taken seriously, please!
  • What about a perfect wishing amulet? Unlimited wishes, interpreted in the kindest and most reasonable manner possible. Take that to its logical conclusion and see how long it takes for its owner to become miserable!
  • What if tokamaks started to work and we had commercial fusion by 2050?
  • Did you know that in some shamanistic cultures, women generally did not become shamans because they were too busy with householding and child-rearing? But as they aged and left the chores behind, they could discover the latent power within themselves! I WANT A STORY ABOUT A POST-MENOPAUSAL SHAMAN INITIATE!
  • A character who takes better care of their boots than people, but this isn’t treated solely as a fault
  • Cool animal companions? Sign me up! How about a badass ranger accompanied by a talking cow? Also, do not make it into a joke. Cows deserve a thoughtful, many-sided treatment.
  • How about another stock character who always seems to be out of stock? The heroic clown – a character who is ridiculous and weak, but also acts bravely and efficiently, and neither of these sides negates the other
  • Okay, plasma guns, amirite? Anybody ever played a videogame with a plasma gun and thought, “jeez, what a limp-wristed effect”? Starting with Doom’s plasma gun: it’s a stream of weak-looking blue blobs. HOW CAN EVERYBODY GET THIS SO WRONG? Kids, plasma is ten times hotter than lava. Plasma is nature deciding, “Imma take this stuff that insulates electricity and heat it up until it doesn’t!” Plasma is God frying up giants with a snap of His fingers. Please, somebody write a plasma weapon I can actually believe.

 

Whoops, getting a bit carried away here! Anyway, let’s sweep up this dust and lay low till next Sunday, okay? In the meantime, why don’t you give me a sample of your best ideas? I’m greedy and want them all!

Princely advice

Hello! This is Alice. Do you guys know Queen Elizabeth’s consort, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh? He said a thing once that’s loyally served as my guiding star.

To paraphrase, he said never to talk about yourself. And why? Because nobody cares. Deep down, everybody is interested in themselves, and nobody cares to hear who you are, or what you do.

I’ve always thought that was kinda comforting. Y’know? Don’t have to prove anything to anybody, ’cause nobody cares. I can just be me, and not be bothered by any asshole.

(Yeah, I wish… but hey, that’s not the topic for today.)

I realise that Prince Philip’s advice can be scary for some. If you’ve lived your whole life dependent on others’ good opinion, well, that kinda eats at the foundation of your being, don’t it?

Try living by it sometime, though! There’s a special kind of power in getting to decide for yourself as to what constitutes a good life.

Anyway, what I actually wanted to say is, Philip’s words may seem doubly scary for writers. We want others to hear what we’re saying, right? We need people to hear us, and we need them to care! Is there anything worse than writing a story and having nobody read it? Philip must be dead wrong!

Well, not quite. You see, when you write a story, that’s not you talking.

The story talks. You’re just the interpreter.

There’s two advantages in thinking like this, I believe. First, if your story doesn’t hit big, hey, who cares? It’s water off the bird’s back. You’re just the interpreter, after all.

Second, if your story does hit big, well, who cares? It’s nice and all – but you’re just the interpreter. What a great safeguard to keep your ego from swelling!

Heed the Prince, peeps. Nobody cares!