Tag: daniel jose older

On Forgiving "Writer's Guilt" & Paying Your Rent – Daniel Jose Older on the #BGNPodcast

Daniel Jose Older NYCC14
Here’s Daniel at a Geeks of Color Go Pro Panel at NYCC this past autumn

I did another podcast this week with Black Girl Nerds, this time featuring author Daniel Jose Older, whose book, Half Resurrection Blues came out last week. He was very insightful and open about his writing process — offering many great pieces of advice — which I found very encouraging as a writer.
On finding your writing process:

“A lot of what being a writer is, is finding out what your process is and not doing somebody else’s.” He says that even when you’ve found your process, it can still change, depending on your life at the time and what’s necessary for you.

On the realities of being a writer:

“I believe really strongly in taking days off, even when you’re deep in the throes of trying to finish a project. You have to live. You have to be alive. And you have to pay your rent.”

On the advice to “write every day”:

“I’m a big advocate of not feeling like you have to write every day. If that’s your process, then awesome. But that’s not everybody’s. And what really happens with that advice is that people start feeling guilty, shameful, and they don’t write every day and they feel bad about it so they have a really unhealthy relationship to the blank page or the project or whatever. You can’t sit down at the writing desk feeling guilty already! You have to forgive yourself before you begin writing otherwise you’ll be cramped. You’ll just be mad at yourself — that’s not a good place to write from.”

You check out the full podcast here, where Daniel gives more amazing advice on being a writer, the ways in which we should and can use sci-fi/fantasy to discuss power and control especially with regard to racial and economic injustice, and the books and cultures that inspire his writing, but these two quotes above especially stuck with me.
Maybe it’s because I am a chronic procrastinator (most writers are — but I feel like I really take the cake), but I don’t think writing every day is my process. I certainly need to write more, and I need to overcome at least a basic level of sitting down and writing for more than an hour or so at a time (also, I need to make writing more than chronic outlining, though outlining definitely is my process), but it’s encouraging to know that writing every single day doesn’t have to be my process. Because there is a level of guilt or reluctance to sit down. And when you’re in that mindset that you’re “forcing” yourself to write, that often makes the words come harder, because you’re so distracted or you don’t want to be sitting in that chair (even if it’s a bungee chair from Target).

I have this one.

I need to write more, but if I don’t every single day, I’m not failing as a writer. It’s just not my process. I think I am getting closer to what my process is (it involves my shiny new iPad Mini), but it’s good to hear again (because I’ve of course heard it before) that your process doesn’t have to match what the books say or what anyone else’s process is. In the end, as long as you get the work done — and being reasonably happy and healthy during the process might also be nice — then that should be what matters. Your writing process just has to be for what you need, as a person, as a writer, for your genre. So I’m going to keep finding my process, but if I don’t work on my spec script today (I totally did, so HA!), I shouldn’t be harder on myself or feel guilty. That, as Daniel said, develops an unhealthy relationship with the blank page. Writing is hard enough and full of negative emotions based on how inferior you’re feeling, how your words aren’t flowing together, how plotting is SO HARD. When you are able to sit down and write, you shouldn’t be worried about if you didn’t write yesterday. You had other things to do (like pay rent, or get some much needed rest). And as they say, write forward. Work on bettering your writing and your process so that you WILL want to write everyday — no guilt necessary.
I’ll stop blathering, I feel like I’ve stopped making sense. Listen to the podcast, read Daniel’s book, ask me if I’m writing, but don’t expect guilt if I haven’t been. (You might get a little guilt.)(And I should’ve been writing recently at least.)
(Ok, I’m really done now.)
Happy writing!

ConStar Clicks

Happy new year! Start off the year with some cool articles I found last year (ok, like three days ago):

Abuela speaks Spanish to Jane, who speaks English back. The show makes no apologies for it’s subtitles.

In typical #Clicks fashion, I start off with a Jane the Virgin article. This one, by author Daniel Jose Older, praises Jane for being “unapologetically Latin” through it’s use of Spanish “without without issue or apology.” Older ends with this: “Art is at its best when it refuses to translate itself or cater to the lowest common denominator,” which, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see is similar to my favorite quote from The West Wing, “It’s not our job to cater to the lowest common denominator, it’s our job to raise it.” And of course he’s right. There’s a lot of talk about the global success of different genres of movie and TV shows. It’s something to think about when talking about how black films or POC centered TV shows do overseas, because a lot of times, those shows are given so many US-centered guidelines that of course they don’t do well overseas. They’re not authentic in their presentation. If black media, or Latino media were more like Jane the Virgin, “unapologetic” in the way they talk about and express their culture, they might do better overseas. People respond to truth and authenticity and can see through a false construct built by meddling executives who think they know how to sell any story, as long as it’s done their way.
This article at Refinery 29 is about the head of original content at Hulu, Beatrice Springborn. She actually started in TV pretty late, having started her career in Journalism out of school. Places like Hulu and Pixar (which she also worked for) are sort of like what it sounds like to work at a place like Google or Apple. Aka, sounds like a dream!
BGN blackish podcast
I’m co-hosting this podcast with Black Girl Nerds!

Fun fact: On Sunday at 7pm I will be co-hosting a podcast with the kids from the show blackish. I’m super excited, they’re such cute and talented kids! In this article, the author writes about how the blackish family resembles her own.

[M]e being wrapped up in kente cloth is a thing that happened.

It’s so important to have a black family back on television. I could be wrong, but wasn’t Everybody Hates Chris the last network TV show with a family? If not, it’s still been few and far between. ABC’s last black family was My Wife and Kids (right?) which ended in 2005. As the author mentions, she and many viewers see themselves in various parts of the Johnson family. Shared experiences from childhood or finally understanding where her parents’ mindset was coming from when they made the choices they did. But it’s not just important for adults to see themselves on TV (which is certainly is). It’s a show you can watch as a family and it represents differences in generation when it comes to all kinds of things, like technology and social media but also the obvious differences in dealing with race. The blackish kids give their kid viewers people to relate to (barring any future child star problems of course). Just as I looked up to Olivia from The Cosby Show as looking similar to me while also hanging out with her funny, jazz loving grandfather, kids today finally have some peers to look up to. I hope blackish inspires more black families on network television (remember that not every family has access to cable, even today), so that more kids (and adults like us of course) have more families like their own representing them on television.
It’s stated all the time that we’re in a “golden age” of television, where there is a lot of high quality content and things are changing and evolving dramatically. Ad Week went over 5 ways in which the TV landscape has changed in 2014, including the expansion of the Neilsen ratings system to finally include new media, really good new media content (“We saw the first crop of streaming shows as good as premium cable.”), and a decline in reality TV ratings (praise emoji!).

Basically my notebooks are filled with charts and images like this. I need formula. You may not, but I do.

TV is formula. I know this and Noah Charney over on The Atlantic is learning this. People always say to just sit down and write, but I need formula. Formula isn’t bad. One you learn a formula, if you’re the rebellious type, then you do what you want and break the formula. But I need structure when I write. I’ve been learning that my problem with actually sitting down to write is that there are too many possibilities. I am overwhelmed. So I come up with one way to tell the story, but then am paralyzed because what if another way is better? What if I get seven pages in a things aren’t working, do I start over with another direction? Or just go back a page and change things there? There are too many possibilities. Charney’s article breaks down the sitcom into bits and pieces and uses my current favorite sitcom as an example. (I need to compare this article to my 2/3rds written Parks and Recreation spec script and see if I can finally figure out Act 3, even if the show isn’t usable as a spec anymore.)
Finally, here’s some much needed inspiration on actually calling myself a writer:

When can you call yourself a writer in private?
Now. Absolutely right now.
Tell yourself in the mirror before you brush your teeth, then again when you’re driving home from work.
Say it so many times that you get exasperated looks from your spouse. Heck, get business cards printed, too. [<– totally did that!]
When can you call yourself a writer in public?
The answer to this question is also now — but this is a different matter altogether. The reason you want to take this step immediately in public is to apply pressure to yourself. [<– Mhm! The pressure is real! And works!]

The author goes on to say, “So don’t refer to yourself as a writer in public until you have a plan to deal with follow-up questions.” Those questions include: “What are you working on?” “Where can I read it?” He says to be confident, if you’re not confident in your answer to these questions, then you’re not ready to call yourself a writer in public.

[T]he sooner you start calling yourself a writer in private and in public, and the sooner you create a website and business cards, the sooner you will realize your career choice is a serious endeavor and demands your time and attention.
And that is what will drive you to sit down, put in the hard work and create.

That’s why I changed the name of my blog and made the business cards (I need new ones with my updated URL, but I still have so many of the old ones!), I am trying to treat writing as a serious venture, worthy of my time and attention, which will (and has) inspire me to write more and more and more.
Hmm, this week’s clicks gave me a lot to talk about. These weekly articles are a great way to get me writing and discussing things that I might not have otherwise.
Happy 2015!