Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Grocery Shopping Syndrome [in writing] and A Bad Drawing

You never, ever, ever, ever, ever want the meat of your story to take the form of background music. That’s what’s happening in Hollow Kingdom. Reading through a chapter is like taking a stroll through a grocery store for nothing in particular. You browse items on the shelf, you see cashiers ringing up food, but none of it is really appealing to you; maybe you just don’t feel like Lindt Lindor chocolates today and the line is backed up to hell. You spend a few more minutes waiting for something to capture your fancy and when it doesn’t, you walk out.

Kira Jane Buxton has done something quite extraordinary. She’s built a world with immense creative foundation and no structure. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the ideas are beautiful; the execution is mediocre.

S.T and Dennis are still trekking along and why I likened these last few pages to strolling through a grocery store, uninterested, is that I find my focus waning from each sentence. I’ll realize my thoughts have drifted to something even less important than the book: what am I going to eat for dinner tonight? I wonder where the cat is. I have to get up soon.

For reference, it’s 6:44am.

The book just can’t keep my focus, and normally I’m very invested in plot and character development.

It’s something we have to keep in mind while writing our own novels. Not only is brevity a skill to hone, it’s also for the sake of your reader. You can describe brilliant scenes in just a few sentences if you know how. When things stretch beyond their capacity, it just gets weird.

I wouldn’t say Hollow Kingdom is boring, it’s just not captivating. The idea jumps off the bookshelf, but the book itself lands flat on the carpet.

I’m done with the figurative language, I promise.

When I notice parts of my novel that drag, it’s a drag for me too, because that means I have to tweak something that maybe I didn’t want to tweak. To me, it’s fascinating to delve deep into character minds, but to others who don’t know the character in the same way I do, it just becomes overarching and tedious. I also want to also keep in mind that writing a book can bring you very close to fictional people. You squeeze a bit of yourself out into them, and there’s a large possibility that Buxton is quite fond of S.T and his mannerisms and thinks he’s hilarious. I think that’s important to acknowledge, because this book is pretty much her baby. So, I’m not ripping into Buxton to burst her spirit (as if she’s ever going to read THIS) nor am I doing it to burst budding writers’ spirits, I’m doing it because this is the internet and we’re allowed opinions.

It’s truly nothing personal.

I also think reading these types of books are a great way for amateur writers to see what they like, what they don’t like, what to do, and what not to do. Clearly, depending on the publisher, you can get away with extraneous description and rackety rumor, but do you really WANT to?

There are people on Goodreads who find Hollow Kingdom HILARIOUS. And that’s great. I’m not one of those people.

When you or I publish our work, eventually someone is going tell us: “hey. Your book SUCKS.”

And how’s that going to feel?

I imagine it’s going to feel like that time in high school when I read Catcher in the Rye and I thought it was the most entertaining, relatable thing in the world and my friend gave me one of her wild looks and said, “I hate that book, it’s just about a whiny teenager. It’s dumb and boring.”

One day someone will critique our work in similar fashion and we’ll smile about it because we’re published anyway. Then we’ll go home for a couple whiskeys and wonder about our life choices and maybe sing a little Lana Del Rey and drunk-call our agent to ask “am I REALLY a writer, though?”

Were Kira Jane Buxton to beta read for my novel, I’d let her. She can write, after all. There are semblances of her talent brushed throughout Hollow Kingdom. And you know what? She’d probably rip me to shreds in her blog afterward because that’s how things work in 2021. In the wise words of Waka Flocka Flame: “You talkin’ shit like a blogger.”

I mean, is that all we really do, Waka?

Really?

Until next time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @thephilopsychotic

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Happiness 2.0

Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I picked up Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments because I just couldn’t handle Hollow Kingdom at midnight. Not because it’s scary, but because I didn’t feel like raising my blood pressure.

If you click through some of my older posts, you’ll see I’ve talked a lot about happiness. One post entitled Happiness I wrote when I was taking pain pills for my injured back. I noticed the stark difference between my baseline happiness and this new, inorganic happiness. I struggled with accepting that our brain runs on limitations: we get a finite amount of dopamine, endorphins, and other stimulating neurotransmitters, unless we bring in an outside source. In this case, my outside source was Percocet. It pained me to think the contentment I felt was initiated and could never be natural.

So when I came across the essay The Dangers of Happiness by Carl Cedarstrom, I was inclined to absorb every word.

He talks first about Aristole. If you recall from your undergraduate philosophy days, Aristotle insisted happiness came from being a “good person” and that meant living an ethical life, guided by reason and cultivated virtues. The Stoics, Cedarstrom says, decided no matter how daunting life became, no matter the circumstances, people could be happy. Christians took that and 360’d it: pain was more desirable, as it lead to a “divine union in the afterlife.” Happiness, after all, couldn’t ever be met on Earth, only in the Crystal City with God.

Today in the west, where capitalism rules, we are more inclined to pursue that unobtainable happiness within ourselves. Cedarstrom says “to be happy in a time when we price authenticity and narcissism, we need to express our true inner self, get in touch with our deeper feelings, and follow the path set by ourselves. . . we are assumed to find happiness through work and by being productive. We are required to curate our market value, manage ourselves as corporations, and live according to an entrepreneurial ethos.”

This means if you’re unemployed, you’re worthless.

Okay, not worthless. It means you can’t truly be happy. You must never rely on other people for help, you must “struggle for self-improvement” and your fate is in your own hands. ONLY in your hands.

This is why people beat up homeless people.

This is why money, particularly in my county, is shoveled away from community organizations that are set up to help lessen the circumstances that can cause homelessness. This increases drug use and relapses in mental illness which in turn increases homelessness. Do you see the problem, yet?

Cedarstorm says, “If we may all be equally happy, irrespective of our circumstances, then that would equip politicians like Mr. Bush with convenient excuse[s] to stop looking at structural issues like class, social and economic inequality, or poverty.”

What Cedarstorm is getting at is quite disturbing: we’re using this message of the American Dream, of this deluded individualism, to distract ourselves from the actual problems we face in society. This is why people go hungry, it’s why crime rates soar and people think “thoughts and prayers” on twitter means something. We’ve created an illusion of happiness.

That’s not to say we can’t be happy, something Cedarstorm doesn’t get into. It’s true we use our self-righteousness as a way to shun those we think aren’t “trying hard enough”, but there is truth to the message that if we want to get somewhere in this society, we have to push ourselves–not because that’s the formula for happiness, but because that’s the formula society has created. It’s an unfortunate creation; rather than help each other, we trample over each other and call it helping.

When I took Percocet, the happiness was distracting. I didn’t worry, I didn’t think, and I nodded out in class. My notes look like someone with Parkinson’s wrote them. But I was happy.

We’ve basically drugged ourselves.

I’m not bashing people who work hard, and I’m not bashing people who don’t work at all. I’m encouraging us to look at things from a different perspective. I’m personally someone who strives for progression in the self and beyond myself; I don’t consider it progress if I’m not lifting others up while I do it. I’ve been lucky enough to have groups of encouraging people surround me. Were it not for them, I wouldn’t have continued to progress.

My stubbornness helps.

But the point is, this idea that we have to do everything by ourselves is complete and utter bullshit. That thought process is designed to keep those who are already down further down; when we see them as lazy, as not working hard enough, we don’t feel the need to expend our precious energy on helping them. But in reality, who has helped you get to where you are today?

My parents have helped me, even through all the pain we’ve suffered together.

My former coworkers have given me more emotional support than I’ve ever received, and they are the sole reason I’m continuing my education.

My friends.

Professors who ran after me in the rain and pleaded with me to never stop writing, never stop learning. Professors who walked me through a calculus problem step by step because I learn differently. Professors who just inspire.

Random strangers who have smiled at me on the street, who have engaged in conversation not knowing I was feeling terrified, scared, sad.

The nurse at the last hospital I was in who told me my so-called illness is actually a gift.

The doctors who have been patient with me through all my worries.

And so many more. Without them, I wouldn’t be me, and the same goes for you. You haven’t done anything by yourself.

It’s an illusion.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and catch me on instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Uncategorized

Oddly Satisfying

I said I would come with more podcast information and here I come, bearing gifts of the great beyond.

My boyfriend and I decided that our unique coupling would make great entertainment for some people. We decided we’d start a podcast in which we not only talk about how we get along being an interracial couple, and me being bi-racial myself, but current events that seem to have struck the world with such a vengeance. I’m sure we’ll talk about COVID at some point, and not just the way its uprooted all our lives. We’ll discuss some difference in opinions we have, and how different personalities can yield more than just arguments in a relationship, but also provide an opportunity to grow with each other. We’ll talk about mental health as well, and not just related to our relationship or relationships in general, but how it is getting along in the world with a diagnosis that makes people–including doctors–scared.

Since we’re new to podcasting, it may take a few episodes until we’re really comfortable behind a microphone, and our true personalities shine.

I’m a comic, that’s what I do. Quite literally, I live in a comic it feels sometimes, getting turned page by page by some snort-nosed mortal with an affinity for chicks with big anime titties. And so expect some humor. I’m not going to censor myself, but I am going to keep things generally PG until we define our audience better.

When I have the time and space, I want to create a second podcast dedicated to the books I’ve read and am reading, as well discussing the stark difference between a New York Best Seller bad kind of book and a self-published bad kind of book. Some people seem to think that if you’re on the NY best seller list and your book is trash, that’s much worse than a self-publish book that’s trash, and I disagree; it doesn’t matter where your book goes or who markets it, if you are putting something out that you wish people to read and it looks like it’s been edited by a 2 year old, spit on by a five-year-old bully, and beta-read by a teacher at that one high school that made the news this year about its best student having a 1.6 GPA, then you should be held accountable.

In the podcast with my boyfriend, we’re going to hold people accountable too, including ourselves. We’re all apart of this world and we should all start acting like it.

We’ll release the podcast on Spotify most likely, or here on WordPress, we haven’t decided yet. I’m hyping us up so we could have at least one listener. It will encourage us to continue to hone this craft which, believe it or not, is a good skill to have these days. Learning Adobe Audition was pretty simple, and learning to record hasn’t been too difficult, but we want to do videos later and adopt premiere and after effects can get tricky when you’re first starting out. So please drop by our podcast if you can and give us some good vibes through the screen. Give us a listen. Give us a like, if that’ll be possible on the platform we choose.

I’ve been reading more Hollow Kingdom. Just wait.

Just.

Wait.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me over on instagram @ alilivesagain or on twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

Two Books and a Bad Drawing

Keeping to my promise from days ago, I read some more of both Hollow Kingdom and Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments. Here’s where I stand:

Dear God, someone burn Hollow Kingdom.

Dear God, someone give me more of 77 Arguments.

Let me explain.

Hollow Kingdom

I’ve started editing this book as I read, crossing out extraneous sentences and verbose explanation, things the readers can infer while we read the book. That is the area which most infuriates me about reading this. Because, the thing is, were that taken care of by the editor, this book would have been close to groundbreaking. There aren’t really any books advertised that describe the apocalypse from the animal’s point of view, and I haven’t read any, so this could have been a very new, very intriguing topic.

For example, instead of saying “he blinks” or “his blinking” or “he blinked”, she says “his nictitating membrane licking his eye.”

Now, I understand the need for varied vocabulary, but not when it takes away from readability and believability. Some advice: just because the ‘dictionary word of the day’ is relevant to your writing, doesn’t mean you should use it.

S.T also calls the crows he doesn’t like “ass trumpets” and I’m just over these silly little names. I would have laughed at ass trumpet when I was 14. I won’t at 25. This isn’t advertised as a kids’ novel or a YA novel either.

I did get a tickle our of the bear cubs being called fuzzy potatoes. If she’s stopped there for that whole chapter and not said ass trumpets or any other silly names, I would have been okay. Fuzzy potatoes passes.

So far I’m only on chapter 8. S.T and Dennis the Dog are embarking on their own travels to seek the wise Onida and find the reason why the MoFo’s (humans, remember?) are acting so strangely. S.T wants to find the cure for his beloved Big Jim. Dennis went after a bear that came out of the library and got side-swiped by a huge claw. Other crows and birds came to their rescue, and S.T has a bit of an attitude with them; we learn that S.T’s wings are clipped and he’s been more of a human pet than a wild crow. The other birds refer to humans a The Hollow Ones, and S.T doesn’t like that either. There’s a whole conversation about S.T going to find Onida and then he rides off on Dennis’ back like fucking Clint Eastwood or something.

I don’t know what Chapter 8 will bring, but if it’s any more silly names, I’m flipping a table.

Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments

I read two essays, but the one that sucked me in was How Should We Respond to “Evil” by Steven Paulikas. The line ” . . . the notion that evil can be ‘destroyed’ is an ethical version of a fool’s errand.” is what caught my attention.

The subject of this essay, although written in 2016, is the Sept. 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. This goes for both sides when I repeat, “how can we be sure something is evil and not simply opposed to our interests?” For example, the tragic 3,000 death in the 11th attacks were countered with 460,000 deaths in Iraq, and that includes more American soldier deaths than civilian deaths at the WTC. We are tying to “make order out of chaos”, as Paulikas puts it. What did we solve in meeting murder with murder? What did we prove? Paulikas asks, “can evil ever fully be destroyed . . .?”

He describes Paul Ricoeur, another philosopher who suggests the solution isn’t to identify evil, but to “respond to it appropriately”, that the real pain of evil isn’t the act, but “the experience of the victim.”

I would agree.

And so to bust down the doors on evil’s house, to ransack his place, to steal his jewelry and kill his dog isn’t honoring the experience of the victim, it’s creating more victims; It is, in itself, evil, to respond violently to evil.

We consider these types of responses as justified. When someone murders three people and we put them to death, we consider that justice for the victims when in reality we’ve only created more; the family of the murderer who may not have known that side of him/her, mourn their loss as well. We’ve circulated loss. Congratulations.

That’s not to say punishment isn’t needed. But that’s exactly Ricoeur’s point: we need to respond appropriately. We must focus on the victims. Help them, support them, lift them up, and let the one who perpetrated the evil live within his perpetrated evil. If that means life in prison or banishment or whatever, then fine, but let’s not put the focus on the evil committed. Let’s put the focus on the victims who suffer. And if the punishment is indeed death as in many places, let’s put the focus then on the victims we’ve created, the family, and know that we can mourn loss with them without feeling sorry for the murderer.

I think this is a touchy, uncomfortable subject for some people because we’re raised behind the mythological versions of good and evil: angels vs demons, good gods vs destructive gods, and we think these things are black and white even when, time and time again, the world shows us the blurred lines. And so friends, I implore you, look beyond what you’ve been taught. People are not simply good or evil, they are an amalgamation of sinful, prideful, grateful, decent, destructive, beautiful–and much more.

I also implore you to read this book. Some of the essays are a little wack, but most of them are quite enlightening.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @ThePhilopsychotic. I appreciate you.

Posted in science, Uncategorized, writing

Why I’m Leaving Behind Psychology as a Major (but still read and talk about research).

It’s not challenging enough, simple as that.

It’s also one of those majors where 80-90% of the students pass because it’s not challenging enough. And what I mean by that is it’s easy to get through a class without doing the supplemental reading or textbook work. You can even write papers without reading all the research necessary for your paper–and still pass.

The problem with textbooks and laxadasical studying is that these students grow into clinical professionals who believe their intuition knows better than science. Now, in some cases, intuition is important. Maybe your client has a tendency toward injuring themselves, and you notice this is increased when they lack eye contact in a session, talk softly, and rub their hands. You ask if they’ve had thoughts of hurting themselves, and maybe that client is comfortable with you, so they admit it. That’s using your intuition correctly.

When you believe that you know how to treat someone’s Panic Disorder or PTSD over the ONLY emprically proven method of CBT, you’re being clinically arrogant.

You can sit here and tell me “well this treatment worked better for me than CBT.” Great. The problem is that’s anecdotal. If we studied your treatment specifically, maybe we’d find your psychologist hyped up the treatment so much, your effects were placebo. Granted, once you knew that, your symptoms could come back full force, but at least you’re know the truth.

If you’re a psychology major and don’t know what “anecdotal” means, you’re only proving my point.

I know many people whose mindset is “C’s get degrees” and that’s true. For some classes like physics where the required GPA at my university is 2.7, that’s true. Those classes are HARD.

If your mindset in psychology is “Cs get degrees” and you become a clinician with the “C’s get degrees” mindset, I wouldn’t want you on my professional team. It’s nothing against you personally, it’s about the drive, the motivation, and the curiosity. I want all three of those things in someone who is digging into my brain.

You can also say there are a lot of different career options under psychology, and that’s true, but none of them interest me. It’s all a bunch of reading and that’s just not challenging enough.

Research psychology tickles my fancy, but what’s the point when the people who are supposed to be reading the papers (clinicians and professionals) DON’T READ THEM.

I. . .

It’s BAFFLING.

Almost sickening.

The general public still believes chemical imbalance is a proven theory, when it’s nothing more than a poorly supported hypothesis (that’s been debunked by researchers many times) that got headway in the media and is easier to accept than “we don’t know what’s going on, maybe people are just a variety of human” or “maybe people are more traumatized than we realize.”

In fact, a lot of research gets headway in the media. Often if you hear a researcher in the news, their article isn’t peer reviewed nor do they have multiple replications of their data under their belt. They just want the recognition. The writers who write about science don’t always have a background in it, mostly a background in journalism or English, and purport things that aren’t discussed in the research or that they are misconstruing; they don’t understand methods and procedures, and therefore misrepresent the findings.

That’s what propels me toward science writing. If I can impact the public, if I can help researchers get valid experiments out to the general public, that would be grand. I’ll have a background in lab science as well as psychology research and I’ll understand when a researcher puts out an article talking about the black hole in the center of our universe, I’ll know it to mean we’re not getting sucked in right away.

I’m not saying don’t pursue psychology. I think they are many great students as well, who are going into it with the mindset of “I want to make a difference.” And that’s beautiful. Just make sure you understand the facts and the research and you and I will be fine.

I’m writing this for others but also for myself. It’s been hard deciding to drop a major I once fell in love with. It’s a break up. I’m processing emotions and feelings of betrayal.

It’s hard, guys.

Until next time.

You’re not following The Philosophical Psychotic? Don’t forget! Just hit that little button and we’ll be all squared away. Join me on instagram @alilivesagain and twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Late Night Thoughts, Uncategorized, writing

Discovering Purpose

I’m an avid Linked-In user now and follow/am followed by doctors, wellness coaches, and mental health professionals because of my previous career. I came across a post tonight by Chelsea Turgeon, MD, a Career Pivot Coach. Because I’m in the middle of switching careers and educational goals, I thought maybe it would be fun to do her “questions to discover your purpose” journal prompts. I think people here on the blogosphere might find them useful as well. If any of these questions jump out at you, please feel free to answer them in the comments below, or use them in your blog (as long as you credit this site and Chelsea’s Linked-in Profile).

Let’s get to it.

1.What Are the Things You’ve Always Wanted to Do?

This is a harder question than I thought it’d be. I’ve always wanted to travel and somehow integrate that into my career. Not like an airline worker or a travel agent, more like a travel writer, someone who informs others about fun places to be and great places to eat and monumental places to visit. I’ve learned that I love sharing information with people.

I’ve always wanted to be published. I was published once when I was 17 in a Hans Christian Anderson contest, but I just don’t see that as an accomplishment. I want to know people read my work and enjoyed it and they enjoyed it so much that it deserved some extra recognition. I don’t care about what comes from it, if anything, and I don’t care about money. It just warms my heart when people find my work appealing.

I want to ride an ATV, I want to slide down that slide in L.A that’s made of glass on the side of a skyscraper. I want to find happiness and contentment.

2. What’s an idea that keeps coming up for you?

Learning the survey, poll, and statistical results of how many research papers psychologists and clinicians actually read in a year is what started my pull toward science writing. I have an idea to create a research courses for professionals (psychiatrists, medical doctors, therapists, e.t.c.) that teach them not only how to read up on research, but to inspire them to continue to read it. A lot of what you experience in therapy and in doctor’s offices today are not empirically supported methods. Most of them don’t even know that Gabapentin was never, ever, and has never, ever been studied for any type of anxiety. They don’t know that Parke-Davis, the company that created Gabapentin, said he wanted Gapapentin prescribed for everything from bipolar to headaches.

They might not even know that medical science is the most corrupted science to date.

I want to educate professionals and the public. My idea is to combat publication bias without ever going after a single pharmaceutical company.

If you’re curious about Parke-Davis, read The Two Branches of Psychology. If you’re curious about the research stats, read Is Psychology a Science? Part 1. All relevant links to sources are provided in those posts. The stats in Is Psychology a Science came from my research course.

3. What fascinates you?

People, in a sense. I’m fascinated by our greed and by our altruism. I’m fascinated by our ability to complicate the simple things and breeze through the hard things. I’m fascinated by life too, the mystery of it. It’s quite unique; I don’t know if there’s anything else like it in the universe. We are here and then we aren’t and I’m fascinate by finite things, curious about them really, and how hard-pressed we are for answers.

4. What did you enjoy doing when you were younger?

I read more when I was younger. I preferred to read books than talk with other children and hated when people interrupted me. I enjoyed running around outside and being apart of nature. I enjoyed learning new things and I enjoyed appreciating what there was.

5. What are you secretly obsessed with?

Creating things. I’ve had almost five months off now, and in that time I’ve submitted some short stories, wrote multiple songs, revamped my neglected Linked-In, gained a social media presence, worked on my manuscript thousands of words at a time, edited my friend’s memoir manuscript thousands of words at a time, and now I’m starting a podcast. I mean I just can’t stop.

Well, that was fun. I’m not sure what I learned, but it’s a nice reflective practice. What do you guys think of the questions? Were they difficult to answer for you? Feel free to put answers in the comments or post on your own blog (guidelines above).

You’re not following The Philosophical Psychotic? Let’s change that. Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or Twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Late Night Thoughts, Uncategorized, Voices

In Moments

I said we would get back to Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments today, but I was sadly mistaken. I’m still halfway through the essay on Altruism and may re-read it before I’m ready to dive into that paradox. I’m also arranging my room to get ready to record a podcast. My boyfriend and I are thinking of starting one together where we talk about the mixture of our cultures and how it relates to our relationship. He is Mexican and I am biracial black and white. He didn’t know to put butter on grits and I didn’t know authentic tacos didn’t have cheese.

Yeah, it’s been a ride.

We have tons of great stories, and we laugh with each other every day. We want to share that joy with others. We’re also going to talk about how being so different creates obstacles for us, how we’ve overcome each of them, and how we’re still growing together. We’re going to talk about places we’ve been and places we go to (as we go to them, once Coronavirus lifts). We’ve got tons of more ideas and I can’t wait to get started on that project.

What I’ve learned from all the time I have off is that life tastes better when lived. I’ve spent so long living in my head, chasing grandiose ideals that don’t exist, that I never learned how to just BE. Now I’m learning to be. I’m making connections on Linked-In, I’m learning what I really enjoy is teaching people about science and learning science and communicating scientifically, and find that science writing pulls to me more than anything I’ve ever considered. The possibilities are endless.

If you haven’t yet found your niche in life, don’t worry. It’s there. It’ll come to you when you need it most. If you have, reflect on your journey. Appreciate the pain and the agony and the joy. We only live in moments and we only see in memories.

I’ll have more on the podcast coming relatively soon. If you have a podcast you like or one you run, link it in the comments below! If you guys think this sounds like a good idea, let me know in the comments too!

Until Next time.

Don’t forget to follow and share The Philosophical Psychotic. Join me on Instagram @alilivesagain and on Twitter @Thephilopsychotic. I don’t have friends IRL Fr Fr, so I need internet buddies. Please.

I’m begging.

Posted in Late Night Thoughts, Uncategorized, writing

Can’t Sleep? Read This.

You guessed it. It’s another 5 a.m shit-post.

I decided to stop by before I started working on my manuscript. The best time to write, I think, is when the world is dark. It really gives your thoughts nothing else to work with and that’s exactly what you need when focus is your priority.

It’s fascinating watching word count increase, and simultaneously terrifying. We know there are long novels like The World According to Garp or War and Peace or these monumental novels like East of Eden. We also know people have computers and cell phones and the 2021 attention span of half a goldfish.

Half.

The dead half.

And so publishers follow suit. Short, simple, to the point is the way novels are these days, and while that forces writers and editors to learn new skills, it also takes away from what stories used to be. They used to be journeys. The used to be full of depth and motifs and while books these days still have that potential, not many live up to it. Long novels are now “boring” and you’re limited really in what you’re allowed to do unless you get published by a small publisher with a lax editor, or you self-publish.

I’m not against self-publishing, I’m just a horrible self-marketer with a small social media following and while even one or two people reading my novel would be enough for me to buy a $500 dollar bottle of champagne and drink it with my pinkie up, it wouldn’t be enough to break even for all the time I put into my work or pay my car off.

What’s more important to me than money, champagne, and pinkies though, is readers. I didn’t write the book for it to sit on my shelf in hoards. I already have hoards of books. I wrote it for people to read. I wrote it to spark discussion and curiosity and disgust and fear and smiles and laughs and many conflicting emotions. If I just cared about the title of an author, I’d have self published three short-story anthologies and two novels by now.

I’m not bashing those who self-publish. I’m just saying my goals aren’t conducive with self-publishing.

I’m also very interested in what an editor would rearrange if given the chance.

I submitted my short story to two separate, small magazines. I’m still looking for beta readers though (can you tell I’m anticipating rejection?), and if anyone is interested, just leave a comment below! I see some are jumping on that bandwagon and I’m more than appreciative.

There’s nothing wrong with anticipating rejection, by the way, because if you’re familiar with submitting pieces to magazines, you’re probably also familiar with disappointment.

Thank you readers. You all have made my week with all the views and likes. I’m surprised my banter hasn’t scared a few of you away. Next post we’ll get back into Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments.

Don’t forget to follow The Philosophical Psychotic and join me over on Instagram @alilivesagain or on Twitter @ThePhiloPsychotic. I’m a lonely female bastard in need of internet friends. Feed me.

Posted in Community, Late Night Thoughts, Uncategorized, writing

Late Night Show: Let’s talk about cliche characters.

Hey everyone, welcome to another rendition of “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing up so late.”

I do know, actually. I got three hours of sleep the previous night because of a bad dream, went through the day normally, worked out, came home, and fell asleep at 5pm. I awoke at 2am, refreshed, to find the dark world at my disposal, and I must say I’m not disappointed. There’s a quietness in night and early morning that swells my soul sometimes, in the same way one swells when the smell of good food passes by.

What do you enjoy most about working on your manuscript or short stories or poems or whatever it is you pour your heart into? Sometimes for me the editing is tedious, and then I read little snippets of my work that make me say “damn, I wrote that?” and the process feels worthwhile.

I’m trying to figure out how to sum up my work-in-progress without sounding cliche. I’ve purposefully chose to write with a typical character base in mind for irony. Eventually I want some beta readers, so I’ve finally decided to come out of the writer’s closet and tell people I’m writing a novel. The first question out of everyone’s mouth, with their stupid, curious little eyes twinkling, is always “what is it about?”

I don’t know, stuff happens, people exist, what more do you want me to say?

That’s going to be the description on the back. I’m obviously brilliant.

If you’ve written a book, or are writing one, how do you give people a synopsis without giving away too much or sounding too typical? We all want our work to be unique I guess, and maybe the fact of the matter is there’s no such thing as a unique idea anymore. We’re all just building off of each other, and that’s kind of the running theme in my work, hence the necessity of cliche base characters. But you tell people that and they lose interest.

This is why when people ask me what I write, I say “nothing much, like some short stories or whatever” because I don’t want to get into everything else I work on. I suppose I mirror my protagonist a bit, or he mirrors me; I’m not quite sure which one of us came first.

I didn’t really base it off of my life, but I pulled from some experiences because they were necessary to a few characters, basic traits like shyness or arrogance or unwavering personalities. Some characteristics of our characters have to be relatable, under stable, and predictable, or else the believability falls short and, again, people lose interest. That’s the struggle with writing a protagonist who you anticipate people won’t be fond of: you need to show that their despicable characteristics are flaws any of us could have, but do it in a way where they aren’t do despicable that they’re irredeemable. That doesn’t mean the character needs to be redeemed at the end, that’s actually more cliche than anything, but it does mean there needs to be some understanding for why the behavior or thoughts of your character are as they are.

There are very few people on Earth who would be considered horrible and nothing else. Even child predators and murderers have come from backgrounds that make you say “well, I get it but that’s no excuse for their behavior.”

Because there quite literally is no excuse for their behavior and you quite literally do get it.

There were two particular subjects I hated reading about because they always followed the same steps: murder and mental illness. The murderers haven’t always been mentally ill, I mean those categories to be separate from each other.

With murderers, the cliche is always a detective trying to find them, or a murderer narrating their sick desires.

With mental illness, the whole focus of the story is always on the mental illness.

I got tired of that.

If a character has a mental disorder, I’d prefer it’s not even mentioned. Just show it through characteristics and wrap the story around a different plot line. If you don’t have the disorder yourself, you’re going to be hard pressed trying to describe it, no matter how many lived-experience interviews you do. Sorry. And, for the love of God, don’t interview a psychologist for that. They’ll be incorrect 99% of the time.

If a character is a murderer, I’d prefer they not be driven by something like “I hate the world” or “mommy was mean to me” or “look at me being a vigilante and all.” It gets boring. There are so many other motivations besides drugs, lifestyle, trauma, abuse. Those things can be included, but they don’t have to be the reason. They could just be part of the puzzle.

I guess my book is intent on using cliches to get rid of cliches. I feel like that’s been done before, and I’m okay with that because again, we’re all building off of each other. My protagonist gets mixed up with a person who’s been following him for a reason I can’t share, and upon learning more about this stalker, he learns he will never not be stalked. No, he doesn’t die at the end. Jesus.

I guess that’s a good, quick summary.

What’s your WIP about lately? Anything juicy? Let me know.

Also, I’ve always wanted to read “John dies at the end” or whatever that book is called. Does he really die? Hollywoo stars and celebrities: What do they know? Do they know things? Let’s find out!

If you don’t know what show that’s from, we can still be friends, but like, you need to step it up.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain. I don’t have friends IRL so I need internet buddies to help my depleted self-esteem. K, thanx.

Posted in Late Night Thoughts, Questions for you, science, Uncategorized, writing

Death in the Anthropocene

I fell asleep at 8pm last night and woke up at 5 this morning and so let’s talk about death.

I read this essay called Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene by Roy Scranton in the book Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments. If you’re a philosophy buff like me, if you took a lot of classes in undergraduate college on the subject and found that you talked often about the older guys and not so much about the people today, then this is the book for you. I will say some of the people today are lacking in their creative abilities and misunderstanding a lot of basic philosophical concepts, but I guess that’s just how we move with the time.

How to Die in the Anthropocene (our new era today), though, is well above some of the other essays I’ve read so far in this book. It talks about facing one’s death in light of climate change, in light of war, in light of being human and succumbing to our ultimate end. Scranton challenges that a bunch of philosophers sitting around and talking about life doesn’t make changes, BUT that the Anthropocene may indeed be the most philosophical of ages in that it’s requiring we question what it means to live, what does being human mean, and, most importantly, what do our lives mean in the face of death? He says, “What does one life mean in the face of species death or the collapse of global civilization? How do we make meaningful choices in the shadow of our inevitable end? . . . we have entered humanity’s most philosophical age–for this is precisely the problem of the Anthropocene. The rub is that now we have to learn how to die not as individuals, but as civilization.”

He describes his time in Iraq and how he faced death everyday. Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hagakure, a samurai manual, provided some solace. It said we should “meditate on inevitable death” daily. And so Scranton did so, imaging each day that he’d be blown up or shot or killed in some other war-torn, horrific sense, and he’d tell himself he didn’t need to worry because he was already dead. What mattered, then, was helping others come back alive. Tsunetomo says, “If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead. . . He gains freedom in the Way.”

In the end, we realize that we are already dead. Each day is a new death for us in that every moment is something new, the next moment new still. We are indeed living death. Scranton doesn’t focus on what we need to do to save ourselves or our planet, he focuses on the fact that we’re already dead and that instead we should focus on adapting to this new way of life; “we can continue acting as if tomorrow will be just like yesterday, growing less and less prepared for each new disaster . . . or we can learn to see each day as the death of what came before, freeing ourselves to deal with whatever problems the present offers without attachment or fear.”

That is learning how to die.

We can apply this to physical life just the same as Scranton did. When someone passes, they leave behind what has come before (life) and if they move on to something, each moment will start anew again, as there is nothing that doesn’t come with something; if something came alone, there would be no such thing as nothing, and visa-versa. If we didn’t have death, there would be no life, quite literally, and so to those wondering whether living infinitely is possible, it’s not. You wouldn’t be alive if you can’t die. You couldn’t even “be” because there is no chance for you to “not be.” Sorry to burst your bubble.

I would argue that in the face of death our life means exactly what it’s meant to mean: we are here, shortly, and then we are not, and that goes the same for the bee that stung my foot, for the plants I sniffed as a child, for my first cat who died peacefully on the kitchen floor. We aren’t here to make a purpose on earth, we’re here to die. And the sooner you’re okay with that, the sooner life will be enjoyable.

Death hurts. I would go so far as to say it’s the most hollow, defeating, crushing feeling I’ve ever felt, to have someone pass on without either of you ready for that. But it doesn’t have to be. They have not only graduated from life, they’ve completed their purpose.

We can’t know if anything is next, we’re almost purposefully physically limited from ever knowing something like that. All we can know is that we will all complete the same end-goal and we should find celebration and happiness in what people do here and in their graduation.

This isn’t a somber topic. Rejoice.

Until next time.

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