I am not a great writer

(LINK WARNING: The YouTube links in this post are kinda bloody -- accurate metaphors, but bloody.)

Last week I got critiques back on two of my novels. They were great critiques. I mean really great, like editor-from-Tor great. (Don't get excited. They were not from an editor at Tor, nor any other Big 5 publisher; I'm still very much in submission hell.) And this super-editor critique, that I'm extremely grateful for and will probably owe my future career to, well... it totally and utterly crushed my soul.

For two days straight, I was the authorial version of John McClane's feet. I knew I could write in theory -- I mean, people have said so before and even paid me for doing so -- but I couldn't make myself believe it. I didn't feel right reviewing other people's stories or even Torment docs. I felt like I knew nothing about telling a story or stringing words together.

Then I had a revelation, and I want to share it with you because I know all too well how common the soul-crushing critique is. The revelation is this:

I am not a great writer.

But damn can I revise.

Twisting it that way changes everything. If I think I can write, but then I get this critique that rips through my novel like a chain blade through a clan of ninjas, then surely I know nothing. I'm a pretender, a wannabe, and I will never get it right.

But if I consider myself a reviser, then a critique like that is expected -- desired even. It's just more ammunition to do what I'm really good at. Everything I write is going to get critiqued that hard, so it's a damn good thing that I can revise anything.

Don't get me wrong, the critique still hurts, and it's going to take a lot of work for me be happy with it again, but thinking of it that way gave me back the motivation I needed to tackle it. This is something I can do.

Gaming, Women, and Missing the Point

There is a murderer on the loose. Some of the victims are men, but the overwhelming majority are women. Yet for some reason, instead of doing something about it, this conversation is happening all over the internet right now:
A: "Help! There's a murderer on the loose!"
B: "No there isn't. You're just making up that murderer nonsense to get attention."
A: "What? But... dead bodies. Murder. Facts."
B: "Fabricated. I mean, look how obviously these pictures have been photoshopped."
A: "These pictures are from the NY Times. One of the bodies is right over there. Someone is murdering women."
B: "Now you're blowing everything out of proportion. They're not murdering women. They're murdering men, too. But you don't see me complaining about it."
A: "Complaining? I... Look, I'm not saying men haven't been murdered. I'm saying the killer is primarily stalking and killing women. Even most of the men he's murdered were because he accused them of being women. Why are you arguing about this?"
B: "Oh, so now you're blaming me? I didn't murder anybody! You need to get your facts straight. There are a lot worse things than being murdered, you know."
C: "Hey, I heard you're trying to raise this issue about women getting murdered again. I thought you were a rational person, but I guess I was wrong."
D: "Woah! Stop blaming us for the murders! I interact with women all the time without murdering them!"
E: "Oh my God! You're not talking about this 'murderer' again, are you? Shut the f*** up!"
Of course I'm not actually talking about a murderer. It would be so much simpler if I were. I'm referring to online harassment, stalking, threats, and severe sexism -- particularly toward women, particularly in and around gaming culture. A recent public example being Anita Sarkeesian, who was stalked and driven from her home by abuse for bringing up the objectification of women in several mainstream games. I wish it were the only example -- if it were, maybe then we could talk about whether it actually happened -- but it's not even close.

The most horrible part about this conversation is that there are now two problems. There's the "murderer" who is actively killing people (Oh no! Facts! Don't look directly at them!), and there is this small but ridiculously vocal group of people shouting down everyone who tries to do something about it.

(There may be some overlap between the two -- I would not be surprised at all if there was -- but for now, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say they are separate groups.)

Look, I can understand if you don't see the problem. Twenty years ago, I didn't see the problem either, and it was another decade after that before I saw just how prevalent the problem really was. By its very nature, the problem is invisible to us.

But you have to understand that when you argue with the victims, it makes you a part of the problem whether you see it or not.

This is not a blame game, though (making it such is also a part of the problem). It isn't about you at all. We're probably all sexist at some level, but it's not about labels either. It's about this: what will you do when confronted with people who are hurting? Will you argue that, hey, it's not all men? Will you throw up your hands because that's life and there's nothing you can do? Will you cuss out the person who dared to accuse you of the systemic discrimination that influences every single person on the planet?

Or will you own up to the problem, see it for what it is, and try to minimize it in yourself? Will you try to help and try to do better?

That's what this is for me. The point of this post is not to argue whether or not this crap happens (please don't, it makes you look dumb), but for the people who are where I was, who aren't aware of the problem and its extent, who don't realize that they are part of the problem but that there is something they can do about it.

Because it is a problem. This murderer makes gaming a toxic environment for many, and several times worse for women than for men.

And the second problem: a group who, while perhaps not murderers themselves, make it very difficult for anyone (though again, especially women) to try to talk about this problem. Discussion and awareness are key to any kind of progress, and while the harassers are extremely good at raising awareness (nice work, guys), they are less good about rational discussion.

What can we do? Talk about it. Read about it (you've got 9 good links right up there, most of which link to more good links). Post about it. Call it out when you see it, and don't play with people who do this sort of thing.

God, that last bit is the kind of thing I say to my 7-year-olds. But you know what? When we do or allow this sort of thing, that's exactly what we're acting like. It's way past time we grew up.