As a long-time wishy-washy people-pleasing nicey-nice female blogger, I have something to say about the tone argument.

Last week, the latest SF/F brouhaha began with an article by K. Tempest Bradford: “I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year.” The headline is the most incendiary thing about it, and honestly, it’s not all that shocking or offensive, especially in this age of clickbait headlines. In it, Miss Bradford discusses the value of conducting reading experiments to increase the diversity of what you read. She even includes some helpful lists of books to get you started.

Some people got upset about this article, and some of these upset people brought out the tone argument. Miss Bradford should have been nicer in her article (even though it is completely professional, mind you). Miss Bradford should have suggested reading some diverse authors, but should never have suggested reading all diverse authors (even for a limited period). Miss Bradford should have been helpful by giving the reading list but not suggested a reading challenge at all (even though the idea of a reading challenge is neither new nor particularly subversive at this point. At least theoretically.) Miss Bradford should not have been an asshole in talking about a diversity reading challenge (she is apparently an asshole because her reading challenge excludes a certain kind of writer, ie the most privileged, most published, and most well-read kind). And on and on.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about privilege and how it works at play here, as well as some confusion as to how widespread any adoption of such a reading challenge is likely to be. (The answer? Not very.) But what I want to talk about right now is the tone argument, because I feel particularly qualified to comment upon it.

Photo Credit: Elodie R-S via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Elodie R-S via Compfight cc

When you are nice, when you bend over backwards to avoid offending every single person, when you water down your message, when you take on everyone else’s issues along with your own, when you speak quietly and mildly and sweetly…NOBODY LISTENS TO YOU.

Believe me, I know. People might say they respect you, but they certainly don’t act like they respect you. They probably won’t listen, and if they do, they’re less likely to remember. They dismiss you at the first opportunity. Not only that, but they tend to walk all over you. And if you’re trying to engender change, well, forget about it.


I wrote about my own PoC Reading Challenge last year. I did everything people said Miss Bradford should have done. I didn’t issue a challenge to my readers to follow my example. I gave a list of books written by people of color. My own personal challenge was less “extreme.” I was super nice about the whole thing.

And guess what? Nobody read that post. Nobody talked about that post. Really. I’ve looked at the stats. The post did quite badly. And while I bring up my experience with that reading challenge on a semi-regular basis in conversation, no one ever brings it up before I do, asking me about how it went or what I learned. Nobody read it, and the people who did read it don’t remember it. Why not? Because the post wasn’t effective and compelling.

Miss Bradford, on the other hand, wrote a highly effective post. She had a headline that meant people would both read and remember her post. She had a strong call-to-action, and she didn’t water down her message or try to avoid making people uncomfortable. Nor should she have, because the discrimination prevalent in the publishing industry today is, quite frankly, not comfortable. She maintained a professional attitude while discussing her own personal struggles and process.

This is what a good blog post looks like. This is a blog post that has a chance of making a small difference in the world.

Do I think it’s cool when people spew rage-filled rape and death threats at other people? No way! Am I on board with personal attacks and name-calling? Again, no. But this blog post is not that. Not at all.

Jaym Gates makes an excellent point in her response to all of this: “Wendig and Sykes have a loud, fun, wacky internet presence, and are loved for it, but a female, queer, or POC author who has *one* outburst, or makes a mildly incendiary post (like this one), gets piled on.” We are imposing a double standard of presentation and behavior here. I mean, seriously. Can you imagine someone saying, “Oh, Scalzi, you should have been nicer when you talked about that controversial subject?” Because I can’t.

The same kind of thinking that is behind the tone argument is what kept me silent and stifled and miserable for years. Don’t have opinions. Don’t have emotions. Don’t say what you think. Don’t take a seat at the table. Don’t demand the respect you deserve. Play it safe, and don’t take chances. Don’t be a voice for change, it’s too risky. Don’t be authentic. Don’t show people who you really are. Not ever. If you’re nice enough, and patient enough, and sweet enough, you’ll eventually get your chance and be treated with respect and have a voice.

For the record, I did not get my chance and be treated with respect and have a voice until I stopped being so nice.

Which is to say, the tone argument is complete bullshit. Be nice and no one will listen to you. Be courageous and loud and true, and they just might.

On a great date, the conversation will flow, there will be a bunch of questions you want to ask and a bunch of topics you want to pursue, and it will end with a continued sense of fascination about the person with whom you’ve been spending time.

Most dates aren’t great dates.

But before we start talking about my own personal date conversation dislikes, let me suggest that we all try our best not to take this post too seriously. Because you know, life is short and we’ve all made a few of the conversational blunders I’m about to point out. ME TOO. That doesn’t mean they aren’t funny or worth talking about. That also doesn’t mean you fail at dating or socializing.

It simply means, hey, life is ridiculous sometimes. We screw up sometimes. Things that don’t work for me might work swimmingly for you. Etc., etc.

So with that out of the way, let’s talk about my least favorite conversational gambit of all time: the What Do You Like to Do in Your Spare Time question.

Sometimes this question can masquerade as “What are your hobbies?” Both questions are about equally wretched and boring. In fact, I hate this question so much that at this point I will endeavor to avoid having to answer it. Unfortunately, most people who have strayed so far off a good conversational path will inevitably HOLD THEIR GROUND, thereby consigning us both to an asinine few minutes. The only consolation, and it is a tiny one, is that I can then ask them the same bad question to see if they actually have a good answer to it. For science. (But they don’t. They never do. At least not so far.)

Okay, stop and take a deep breath if you often ask this question. I’ve asked it too. We are okay. Really. Just, you know, maybe think about it before you ask it next time.

Here’s why I think it’s such a bad question: because the response it encourages is merely a bland list of activities. Basically this question sucks for the same reason that my blog sometimes sucks, because it doesn’t give you nice, juicy concrete details. It doesn’t lead to stories. It doesn’t lead to connection. It leads to boring boring boring. (Or if you’re talking to me, it leads to me going completely blank and giving you a piteous look.)

Photo Credit: jwordsmith via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: jwordsmith via Compfight cc

A better conversational tactic is to talk about what the two of you have been doing recently, which will usually automatically give rise to talk about activities and subjects that interest both of you, but in such a way as to encourage anecdotes and details and maybe even an actual discussion. (I know, I know, I set my sights high.) Granted, if all you’ve been doing lately is working, this won’t be as effective, but here, have a nice reason to strive for a little bit of balance in life. You’re welcome. (Or, barring that, I suppose you could talk about what you want to be doing or what you’re going to do.)

Here are some other quality conversational blunders I love to hate:

  • “I know you don’t drink alcohol, so let me talk for a lengthy period of time about alcohol.” No. Just don’t do it. In a group, I will deal with it. One-on-one, this is totally unnecessary. If you have a huge passion for wine, or Scotch, or whatever, I accept that maybe someday I’ll have to listen to you talk a lot about it, just as you’ll have to listen to me blather about musical theater. But that time is not the first date. Or the second. Or probably even the third. Basically it just shows you’re not paying attention to what your companion finds interesting. (If, on the other hand, it hasn’t come up that I don’t drink, you’re totally off the hook. Expecting your date to be a mind-reader is not cool.)
  • Personal questions about money. I understand my date might want to be reassured that I’m solvent and responsible and not about to flee the country or file for bankruptcy, but beyond that, waiting a couple dates before prying into all the details of my financial situation is a good call. I know some people think this is totally fine behavior, which is their prerogative, but I’d never to do it on the first couple of dates myself.
  • “Here’s what you should do about x situation that you didn’t ask for advice about.” Ugh. This is often kind of annoying anyway because people usually want a different response (and that’s if they’re actively talking about their problems in the first place, which is rarely the case in early dating, when you’re merely trying to get to know one another). But on the first couple of dates, it’s particularly bad because the other person probably doesn’t even know enough details or information to actually be giving relevant advice. But then when I stand my ground and then try to change the subject, they won’t always let it go. Fun times.
  • Saying something mean-spirited/putting the other person down. Here’s the thing. Maybe the person was nervous. Maybe the person was making a joke (granted, a mean-spirited joke). But ultimately I don’t care why it happened. If someone says something kind of mean during one of your first times together, odds are it’s going to happen again. And again. And again. This isn’t just a red flag, it’s a get-the-hell-out-NOW flashing neon sign of doom.

(Note: I’ve gotten some push-back in the past when I’ve talked about this particular neon sign, and I think it might be because people are worried their teasing will be interpreted as mean or negging or whatever. But if it is interpreted that way, then that means the two of you are not compatible, end of story. Your senses of humor simply do not mesh. Or else it means you are crossing the boundary between teasing and being disrespectful and aren’t aware of it. But nobody owes you a lesson in that; it’s something you’ll have to work out for yourself. Or maybe people are worried that I am too sensitive. Don’t be. My main failure at reading people is sugarcoating what I know and being too accommodating, and I’m fine with being willing to stand up for myself.)

In conclusion, most dates aren’t amazing out-of-this-world I-can’t-stop-talking-about-it dates. If they were, dating would be a simple and short process (and for the people for whom it is, hey, more power to you!) But dates are certainly a lot more pleasant when both people are kind and polite and make an effort to be in tune with one another. On that I suspect we can all agree.

PS: If you would like to share your least favorite conversational gambit of all time, I’d love to hear it!

The Rock Star Formula

“How do you build up confidence?” he asked.

I gave him some of my general advice, and then I had an inspiration. “Or, just pretend you’re a rock star because that will be way more fun.”

I love this thought experiment so much. It doesn’t really matter what form it takes. You can pretend you are a rock star, or a movie star, or a famous opera singer, or a Bohemian poet, or a tragic romantic figure, or that you’re leading a literary life (substitute that adjective as needed), or that you’re the type of person who is going to have ridiculous memoirs to write when you’re ninety years old. The point isn’t the exact shape the thought experiment takes, but rather, using your imagination to get out of your own head.

The trick is to get out of your normal mode of thinking. Instead of thinking, “What would I do in this situation?,” I think, “What would rock star Amy do?” And then I do the rock star way, pretending like it’s actually what I’d do and ignoring any resulting discomfort as much as possible.

So how I am leading my rock star life?

Well, because I’m a rock star, heads turn when I enter a room. I’m allowed to wear fabulous and eccentric clothes as much as I want. And I’m charming, and people generally enjoy meeting me and are interested in hearing what I have to say. And I can go and strike up conversations with random people without it being a big deal. Whatever, I’m a rock star.

Because I’m a rock star, I generally get to do what I want. I’m not afraid to ask or put myself on the line. And when something really sucks, I speak up or I move on. When someone isn’t treating me respectfully, I just walk away. Because I’m a rock star, so I don’t have time for that shit.

Sometimes I am also a super hero with a secret identity and everything.

Sometimes I am also a super hero, with a secret identity and everything.

Because I’m a rock star, I can try new things and be fearless. My self-esteem doesn’t ride on my success or failure. I feel good about myself, so it doesn’t matter if I’m bad at something when I start out, even when other people feel the need to vocally judge me. Instead I can enjoy the satisfaction of the challenge.

Because I’m a rock star, I can say absurd things in conversation and then stare the other person in the eye and dare them not to find it funny. And if they don’t find it funny, I laugh anyway.

Because I’m a rock star, I stay up late and I sleep in late and I don’t cook unless I feel like it. I can find instant oatmeal and peanut butter toast glamorous when in the right mood. I have dance parties in my kitchen, anthems that I talk about incessantly on Twitter, and I proudly make brownies from a mix because they’re damned good.

Because I’m a rock star, I never have to apologize for who I am. And I don’t care if you like me because hey, I am who I am. Instead I celebrate myself.

Because I’m a rock star, I can walk in a room where I know no one. I can stand in a crowd and not have to talk to someone every single second. I can afford to not hide behind my phone. I can smile a small, amused smile and watch the world turn until I choose to engage.

Because I’m a rock star, I get to go to live concerts and plays and museums and clubs and dances. I get to travel and see new places and learn new things. I get to write and dance and sing and spill out my heart and soul for you in characters on a computer screen, and I get to be nostalgic about ink.

Because I’m a rock star, I get to surround myself with other rock stars, people who have passion and dreams and ambition and gratitude. People who don’t ask me to shrink down a few sizes but who take up their own space just as I do. People who love and laugh and have accidental adventures on a Sunday afternoon. People who are both fascinating and fascinated and love to laugh. Imperfect people, yes, but imperfect people who don’t take their lives for granted.

Here’s my secret: I’m not really a rock star. But when I pretend to be a rock star, all the above things are true anyway. Because when you pretend something long enough, after a while it stops feeling pretend, and instead it simply feels like you.

So if you want to become more confident, give it a shot. Pretend to be a rock star, and see if you can find the freedom to be yourself.

The Maybe-Date

I was having a conversation with a friend, and after telling me about someone new she’d hung out with, she asked, “So. Do you think it was a date?”

This is not as uncommon a question as you might think.

I myself am the master of the maybe-date, so much so that I have coined the phrase “maybe-date” in order to more efficiently communicate with my friends. “Oh, what am I doing Wednesday night? I have a maybe-date. Yeah, I’m not really sure. Maybe.”

Photo Credit: zeevveez via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: zeevveez via Compfight cc

Here is how the maybe-date tends to come about. You’ve met someone in real life (aka not via internet dating, which tends to cut down on ambiguity, although YOU WOULD BE SURPRISED). You’ve met them at work or at a party or at some other social event. You likely have at least one friend in common with them, and often more. They are your preferred gender, and they are available. At least you think they’re available. If you’re me, you also think they might not be polyamorous. At least you hope they’re not polyamorous. (Although if you’re me, you have tons of polyamorous friends, and therefore the likelihood the guy you just met at x social function is polyamorous is fairly high. This tends to confuse things even further.)

Anyway, you and this person who you think is available have made plans for just the two of you. But is it a date? Or are you friends hanging out? WHICH IS IT?

You think it’s easy to tell the difference? Well, yes, sometimes it is. And it’s always satisfying to be able to say, “Yes, I have a date” with conviction. But sometimes, between the context and the casual way everything has come about, it isn’t so clear. Add to that the fact that sometimes I’m not even sure if I want it to be a date or not, and the confusion can mount quite quickly. And sometimes you’re pretty sure it IS a date, only to end the evening with a shrug and an “Or not.”

Okay, so let’s break down some signs of date vs. not a date that you can disagree with me about in the comments, shall we?

  • Gives you lots of compliments: more likely a date, unless it is a colleague trying to help you out of the depths of impostor syndrome
  • Pays for your meal/activity: not clear. Yeah, I know this is gendered, and it used to be my go-to way for telling if something was a date, but it doesn’t work anymore. It’s actually become a pretty bad way of telling, because enough people like to treat and enough other people go Dutch as a matter of course that this is simply not enough data.
  • Touches you a lot, like on the hand or shoulder or whatever: more likely a date
  • Is also touching other people in the same fashion (say, if you’re at a party or other group event): probably likes flirting in general, so who knows?
  • Invites you to dinner: more likely a date, but solidly in the gray zone
  • Invites you to a group activity: probably not a date
  • Invites you to a group activity, and then because of the vagaries of life, it ends up being just the two of you: probably not a date, unless they’re trying to be weirdly crafty (which is unnecessary, since they could, I don’t know, just ask you on a date?)
  • Randomly runs into you and then hangs out: not a date (yes, I’m defining a date has having been planned in advance.)
  • Mentions dating: Who knows? People on a date love talking about dating. It’s kind of weird but true. But people also just like talking about dating in general.
  • Asks you on a date-like activity soon after meeting you: more likely a date
  • Has gone to a lot of trouble to elaborately plan what you’re doing: probably a date. Either that or maybe they just really like to plan stuff?
  • Flirting: more likely a date, but people’s definitions of flirting differ (for example, smiling can be seen as flirtation, but I smile at EVERYONE, it’s just part of Amy-ness)
  • Stays up talking too late with you: more likely to be a date, but could also just be a night owl (like me) or love chatting (also like me)
  • Hugs you: I live in California. This means nothing here.
  • Asks for your phone number: more likely to be a date, although context really matters here. The advent of the Facebook age has definitely increased the number of maybe-dates in the world.
  • Holds your hand and/or kisses you: yeah, it’s a date
  • Asks you explicitly on a date (aka “Would you like to go on a date? Would you like to go out sometime? I’d like to ask you to dinner. etc.): Easy peasy! It’s definitely a date.

Basically, it all comes down to body language and social cues, and sometimes those things make the “is it a date” question?” very clear, whereas other times…who can say? This effect is probably heightened when more of the interaction is done via a text medium (no body language and no tone of voice make it a lot harder to read) or if at least one of the people involved is a bit on the awkward side.

What to do about the maybe-date? Well, you can try to make your plans in a way that is more explicit. Certainly I have plenty of first dates that aren’t internet dates that I am still sure are dates. Barring that, you can just straight-out ask. This isn’t the smoothest thing ever, but it does resolve the question in a quick and efficient manner. Or you can learn to be comfortable in the maybe-date zone and wait and see what happens.

As for myself, I’m perfectly happy to take a wait-and-see attitude on occasion. By the end of the outing, I’ve usually made up my mind about something, anyway: either on whether or not this was a date, or if not that, perhaps on whether or not I wanted it to be. Although if I’m still really uncertain, I’m probably less likely to want it to have been a date, because you know, life’s too short. And then there’s Mark Manson’s popular Theory of Yes to keep in mind.

And what about my friend? After much discussion, we decided we think it was a date. But we’re still not a hundred percent sure.

I’ve Got Places to Be

Him: “Yeah, I went to the movies this past weekend, it was my fun thing for the month.”

Me: “You only do one fun thing per month?”

Him: “Well, it’s probably more like every other week, but yeah.”

Me: “Oh. But don’t you want to spend time with your friends?”

Him: “I’m kind of a Lone Wolf.”

Me: “Uh huh….”

Him: “I don’t have time to have a social life like you do.”

Me: “Hmm. I will ignore your condescending tone and actually think about this.”

So yes, I am lucky to have the time and energy to maintain the social life I do. And having had to jumpstart it twice in the last three years (yippee!), I’ve collected a lot of experience and information about making friends, and having friends, and what friendship can mean, and what can go wrong in a friendship, and what I want. And I have a bunch of theories about friendship and social dynamics that I occasionally trot out. (I want to say I bring them out at dinner parties, but I am never actually invited to dinner parties.)

Anyway, here are two myths about friendship that I’ve been thinking about recently:

Myth #1: Everyone has a lot of friends and a swinging social life.

I don’t know why I ever believed this one, but maybe it’s a weird remnant from high school or something? Anyway, as is becoming the norm for me, I’ve been meeting a lot of people, and as I talk to all these people, I’ve recognized a thread that keeps returning.

Not everyone has a lot of friends. And a lot of people are kind of sort of lonely. A lot of these people are really busy in their professional lives, and, like the guy in the conversation above, they don’t feel they have the time to prioritize friendship. Some of them don’t really know how to be a friend. Some of them don’t really understand how one goes about making new friends. Some of them feel stuck.

Of course, the amount of ideal social activity varies from person to person. And there are plenty of people who are content with their social lives. But this isn’t all people.

If you are unhappy with your social life or if your life is kind of unbalanced right now, you are not alone.

Myth #2: Having friendships and an active social life just kind of happens.

I don’t know why I ever believed this one either. Because oh my gosh, maintaining a busy social life is A LOT OF WORK.

I know, tiniest violin, right? I’m not saying this is something warranting complaint, but it is simply fact that it takes a fair amount of effort. Maintaining social ties takes work. Making new friends takes work. Keeping in touch takes work. People say all the time how bad they are at keeping in touch, and the reason that’s something it’s even possible to be bad at is because it requires thought and action and time.

And of course, when you’re kickstarting your social life, it takes even more work. Or, um, when you’re running your social life close to capacity. Which, yes, is what I’m doing right now, and so I’ve been feeling like I’m running behind, and like I always have messages I need to answer, and occasionally I forget them because my brain cannot hold all the information it needs to hold, and I can almost always make time, but that works exactly the way it sounds, with a whole bunch of effort put into somehow making that time materialize. And then once in a while I have no plans and I don’t have to schedule or coordinate or drive for two hours or find parking or figure out an activity or restaurant suggestion or communicate clearly and instead I can sit on my couch with Nala on my feet and eat ice cream and watch Star Trek and that is the best thing ever.

Have I mentioned I’m just the tiniest bit tired?

It’s completely worth it, or I wouldn’t be doing it. The rewards are incalculable. But I have also realized that five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. It would have been actually impossible for me. Because the only way I can keep this up is by communicating as clearly as possible and asking for what I need and sometimes saying no and not moving heaven and earth when the logistics are really complicated but instead just accepting this isn’t the right time. The only way it works is if I can trust my friends to take care of themselves the way I’m doing my best to take care of myself. The only way I can do everything I want to do and spend time with everyone I want to spend time with is by accepting that in the process, I’m not going to be perfect.

I couldn’t have done those things five years ago. And as a result, I might have been a bit of a Lone Wolf. I didn’t really like being a Lone Wolf. It was lonely, and also I didn’t have as many choices, and also when someone behaved poorly, there was more incentive to ignore that instead of taking care of myself.

But no longer. When the particular Lone Wolf at the beginning of this post spent the conversation putting me down and proceeded to make a “joke” telling me I needed more exercise (implying what? that I’m fat? really?), I was completely happy to run, not walk, the other direction.

I’ve got better places to be.

San Francisco at dusk.

San Francisco at dusk.

The Flawed Feminist

Lately I’ve been feeling like a bad feminist.

It kicked up a gear last month when my feminist book club read Feminism is for Everyone, by bell hooks. I learned a lot from the book, but the entire time I was reading it, I was thinking, “Wow, I feel like I’m really falling short, and I don’t even really understand how.” It talked about raising consciousness, and I’m pretty sure my consciousness is completely NOT raised. Whatever that means.

This month we’re reading Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay, which is making for a nice change of pace. Roxane Gay is smart and insightful and funny, and she also seems like she isn’t perfect, which is reassuring since I am also far from perfect.

For example, I have this fascination with eye makeup. It all started when my friend was visiting this coast from Boston, and the friends he was staying with invited me to stay for dinner. It was a lovely evening of good food and even better company, but I kept being distracted by the woman’s eyelashes. She had AMAZING eyelashes. And I was sitting there at the table, wondering if she glued on fake eyelashes every morning or if she was able to work these wonders with mascara, and if so, why had I never been able to work similar wonders with mascara?

Thus began my fascination. It started with mascara experimentation, but after some months I branched out to an interest in eyeliner and different colors of eye shadow. And a few weeks ago I took a field trip to Sephora and obtained this fat eyeliner pencil that is a modern wonder of cosmetics.

Flawed Feminist

Flawed Feminist

And every time I play with eye makeup, I know I’m probably being a bad feminist. I’m propagating a certain ideal of feminine beauty, and I guess as a feminist I’m supposed to deliberately subvert that ideal, and I don’t. I get almost as annoyed when people imply I shouldn’t wear makeup as I do when people imply I must wear makeup. I want to look the way I want to look, and I want to wear what I want to wear, and I don’t want to care about the messages I’m sending or the subconscious misogynistic ideas I’ve no doubt internalized over the years. And so I wear makeup when I feel like wearing makeup.

Also, when I’m on a date with a guy, I allow him to pay. I’m pretty sure a good feminist would not do this. My rule is never assume, but accept graciously. I cannot pretend that this is motivated by anything but self-interest. I don’t want to get into an argument about who’s paying for dinner (conflict adverse, me?), and also, it’s really nice when someone buys you dinner. The allure of free food and being fed, which to all rights should have died down after college, remains strong. The allure of being treated remains strong. It’s also super unfair, and I know this, and yet. I accept graciously.

Even my language is suspect, and for a writer, this is inexcusable. I like to say and write “you guys.” I like to say, “Man.” I know a good feminist would never say or write these things. And I do try to avoid this gendered language sometimes, especially in tweets. But there aren’t any good alternatives! I’ve tried “you all,” but I’m not from Texas and I’ll never be from Texas. “You people” is horrible. “Friends” sometimes works, but not always. And the best substitutes for “Man” are all profanity. So I have to choose between saying “Man” and swearing a lot.

I imagine if I had my consciousness raised, I wouldn’t do any of these things. I’d effortlessly never say “you guys” and I wouldn’t wear any makeup EVER EVER and I’d insist on going Dutch every single time. So where does this leave me?

I guess it leaves me far from perfect. But that doesn’t mean feminism isn’t important to me. That doesn’t mean being a feminist isn’t part of my identity. I think what it really means is that I’m human and flawed and complicated, and aren’t we all?

You guys, I’m a bad feminist. But even so, I’d rather be a bad feminist grappling with these issues than not be a feminist at all.

So what’s going on with your blog, Amy?

If you’re guessing my blog is coming up more than usual in conversation and correspondence, you’d be right. And there’s a story behind it.


I was sitting in the bar at ConFusion one night, the way you do when you’re a writer, and I was hanging out with two of my favorite bloggers. I have to admit I’m kind of snobby when it comes to bloggers, and these two people both knock it out of the park on a regular basis. And one of them said they had trouble emotionally connecting with my blog.

You might remember that at that time I was in the throes of impostor syndrome, so my poor brain was screaming at me, “You see, Amy, you see? You even FAIL AT BLOGGING.”

I listened to my brain for a minute or two, and then I said, “No, this is dumb, I don’t fail at blogging, and also, hello? This is a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY.”

So I asked these two bloggers for their advice. They had both read my blog. What was one thing I could do that would improve it and create a stronger emotional connection with my readers?

I talked with one of the bloggers about how to structure a post for maximum impact, which was geektastic and fascinating. And then I turned to the other blogger. “You tend to be kind of vague, Amy,” he said. “You don’t use specific details.” And then he gave me some examples.

And I thought, yes, I know, I totally do that, and worse, I do it on purpose, I pull my punches. I don’t say what I really want to say. I try to write about the truth without showing you the truth.

I tend to pull my punches in real life too. I can be so freaking nice. You know what other words spring to mind along with nice? Milk soppy. Wishy washy. BORING.


So I resolved, there and then, to write a post about my impostor syndrome, which is something that most writers face at one time or another and yet many of us are afraid to write about for fear of damaging our careers. And I resolved to NOT pull my punches. I resolved to pay attention to structure and to use specific details. I resolved to tell you what it was like in that bathroom, down to not knowing where the hell to put my glasses while I cried.

I became a better writer the day I wrote that post.

And the day I published the post? Well.

I did not expect the reaction I got. Not at all. The outpouring of support was….well, it was amazing and overwhelming and inspiring and strange and deeply meaningful. It changed me. You changed me. Part of the reason I write this blog is to give something to you, and then you wonderful human beings turned the tables on me and gave me something so precious that I’m tearing up while I’m trying to write about it.

Thank you.

Thank you thank you thank you.

So that’s what’s going on with the blog. I’m experimenting with the good advice from two bloggers who I deeply respect. I’m not pulling my punches. I’m trying to give myself permission to write the way I was born to write. And it’s making people uncomfortable, and it’s making ME uncomfortable, and it’s making me a better writer, and I don’t know where I’m going with it.

And it’s not just the blog that’s changing either; I’m changing right along with it.

Exciting times, my friends. Exciting times.


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