“Oh? And how’s that working for you?”

While reading The 4 Day Win (a book I heartily recommend for the life advice if nothing else), Martha Beck points out that we all know how to lose weight: we just have to eat less and move more. And then she asks, reasonably, “And how’s that going for you?”

I want to make this phrase my new life motto, because it’s brilliant. I’m all for grit and sticking out the difficult parts of life, but I’m also all for changing your life so it’s less teeth-grittingly terrible. So the next time you say, “it should be so easy to get myself to [respond to all of my emails/cook dinner every night/eat more vegetables/go moose hunting with my dad],” slow down and say to yourself, “huh. And how’s that going for me?”

Also, I do not recommend moose hunting. That sounds like a lot of accidents waiting to happen.

As a recent example from my life, I have decided to start lifting weights. There are a couple of reasons for this, one of which is that I feel genuinely great after lifting weights, especially on arm day. I may be lifting 10lbs, but I feel like freaking Superman, and it’s hard to beat that feeling. However, the other reason is that my firm belief in the power of cardio wasn’t working for me. Cardio needed to be a part of my routine, not all of it.

Want another example? I’m currently writing a manuscript in a world I am completely in love with. The problem? I’m absolutely paralyzed by the idea of messing it up, so no amount of telling myself, “just write five chapters” is actually going to work. I needed to try something different, and by doing that, I found my winning strategy: telling myself I only need to write a sentence. It usually leads to a lot more than just the one sentence, and the marginal progress does a lot more for me than the self-hatred and paralysis.

So, this week, if you find yourself beating your head against the wall on a persistent problem, stop your internal monologue about how you just need to [whatever] and ask yourself, “How’s that going for me?” and open yourself up to making some changes!

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On “Rules for Writing” Lists

Argh. Today’s post is short and sweet, about an issue that gets further under my skin every time I see it. I won’t link to any of the lists, but there are tons of them out there. A lot of them include things like consistent grammar and regional dialects (for example, forward vs forwards). So far, so good.

Then we get into rules about using power verbs (croaked instead of said, for instance) or lyrical set descriptions, or adverbs. Bad author. No colorful prose. There is one correct writing style.

Bullshit. BULLSHIT. Go on, try to argue that Kushiel’s Dart and Neuromancer should be written in the same style. Try to convince me that The Concubine (Norah Lofts) should be written like a military thriller.

No, it’s pretty clear that you should tailor your prose style to your story. I’ll be honest, here, sometimes you’re going to strike out. Not every style you try will work for your book, or work at all. Still, the world will never get your best work if you don’t play around a little.

I’m going to say that again: the world will never get your best work if you don’t play around a little. The world will never get your best work if you don’t experiment. The world will never get your best work unless you get up the courage to try something new. The world already has a ton of books. You need to write one that doesn’t exist yet. As with all writing advice, take the bits that help you, and leave the bits that don’t. You like outlining? Screw Stephen King’s advice on that, then. You hate outlining? Stephen King has some great advice.

Don’t ever, ever let anyone sell you on the idea that there’s only one way to write.

Weekly Roundup: June 20th-24th

We started off on Monday with an accountability post. Oops.

On Wednesday, we discussed one of the biggest issues with depression and other mental illnesses: being nice to yourself.

We rounded out the week with a post on living with a creative writer.

Some assorted wonderfulness from around the web this week:

Happy reading, all! -M

Living With a Creative Writer

Things you should know if your spouse, roommate, family member, or friend is considering pursuing their dream of writing:

  • Their answer to “how are you?” is as likely to be “I suck, please don’t leave me for one of the rich authors” as it is to be an extended description of a plot point they just wrote
  • In fact, you can expect a lot of detailed plot descriptions…
  • …and hand-drawn maps all over the dinner table…
  • …and approximately 8 million scraps of paper on the coffee table…
  • …and their study…
  • …and your study…
  • …and maybe the cat…
  • You will hear things like, “Okay, I’ve got about 20 minutes until the pies are cooked, which is almost enough time to write the massacre”
  • Writers have the capacity to believe both that they’re one of the greatest writers who ever lived and that they’re one of the worst writers who ever lived. Not on different days, on the same day. Literally at the same time.
  • You’d think it’s mystery authors who have the highest body counts, but you’d be wrong. It’s not even military thriller authors. It’s SciFi authors. You wrote a murder? That’s cute, I just destroyed a planet.
  • There’s approximately a 1 in 7 that anything you say will be met with, “that gives me an awesome idea for a story!”
  • They’ll spend a lot of time talking about things such as the latest measures of page counts in ebooks, the French branch of a major retailer, or some equally obscure part of the publishing industry.
  • Often, they’ll be totally fine with their reviews. Occasionally, even a good review can send them into a tailspin. Refer to this chart for best practices.
  • Staring at a screen, wrestling with words is genuinely exhausting. I don’t know why, I just know it’s true. Just prop them up somewhere and let them drool down their front. Maybe cover them with a decorative blanket if you have company.

Anything to add, authors?

Depression and Being Nice to Yourself

There are at least as many kinds of depression as there are people with depression. The Bloggess, for example, describes the onset of her depression as a literal darkening of her world as her peripheral vision disappears and everything she sees becomes trapped by darkness.

Mine has been a bit different. Up until last week, my depression has always arrived in a somewhat menacing fashion, like the earliest whisper of an enormous wave. The world rocks sideways and the boat tips slightly and I feel the absolute despair of knowing that I’m caught in the grasp of something much bigger than I am. It isn’t there yet, not quite, but the wave is coming, and it’s going to dash the boat to bits, and there’s nothing in the world I can do to stop it.

(Now, oddly, it turns out there actually are some things I can do that usually help somewhat, but the feeling at the time is one of helplessness.)

Last week, I learned that depression doesn’t always manifest the same way even for one person. Frankly, I feel like I could have done just fine without knowing this, but I didn’t get much choice in the matter. One moment I was having a spectacularly bad day, and the next, I found myself sitting vaguely at my desk, wondering why it was so difficult to believe that depression hurts so badly even when it’s actually happening to you, and also thinking vaguely that I should probably stand up and do something. Eventually, I did, which is to say, I managed to sloth myself upstairs to the bedroom and curl up in a miserable little ball in the dark.

This was actually a more productive action than it might appear to be on the surface. You see, what with the long lead time on my usual waves of depression, I have plenty of days to get more and more freaked out about the pending disaster, which means that I go farther and farther down the rabbit hole of pushing myself to work like mad before it hits. It doesn’t take much more than a moment of thought to realize that this is wildly counterproductive, and yet I do it every time, only to proclaim, after it’s all over, “I really have to be nicer to myself while I’m dealing with this stuff.”

This time, I was halfway through trying to push myself to work late into the evening (a process that mostly involved me doing nothing productive, just staring teary-eyed at the wall while waves of pain welled up and ebbed away) when I realized that I was falling into the same trap all over again. I was even composing a grumpy post about it when I realized – ta-da! – I could just, you know…put that “being nicer to myself” thing into action right then.

And not only did I go to bed to get some rest, I even managed to brush my teeth. Like a boss. (Okay, so depression warps the normal life goalposts a bit sometimes.)

It took a bit to get back to normal, as it always does, but allowing myself to rest, freeing myself from the barrage of angry, hateful insults I so often throw at myself during those periods, made a huge difference. I guess the point I’m making is, whether it’s something to file away for later, or something to put into practice right now, being nice to yourself when you’re dealing with runaway herds of brainweasels is something that really helps. I know how difficult it is, and I know there isn’t even a good reason for why it’s difficult – it just seems like an impossible thing. But I’m here to say I’m struggling along with you, and I hope you’ll cut yourself a break.

Oops

It’s important to show backsliding, so: today I disregarded all of my own advice. I didn’t make sure to stretch. I didn’t make sure to drink enough water. I worked into the evening, skipping dinner. Accordingly, I now have a big headache and I’m losing vision in my right eye.

I don’t know quite why I do this, although I know that I feel better about myself when I’m overworked than when I’m working a reasonable amount. But I’m trying to work on that (…reasonably).

In short, however: knowing the consequences of your actions doesn’t preclude you from doing stupid things. You’ll backslide sometimes, and I think it’s important for people (especially people writing blog posts telling others to shoot for the moon) to be honest about struggling to be the people they want to be in the world. Sometimes we fail at being nice to ourselves. All we can try is to do better.

Mega Weekly Roundup

Dear Readers –

¬†My deepest apologies! It looks as if weekly roundups have been neither posted nor sent. Of course, that can mean only one thing – it’s time for a mega weekly roundup post! Enjoy ūüėČ

-M

*****

May 8th – May 13th

May 16th – May 20th:

May 23rd-27th:

June 1st – 5th:

June 6th-June 10th

June 13th – June 17th

And now, a huge backlist of assorted wonderful things from around the web:

  • Top ten lists of anything are great, but when someone produces a top 43 list, I know they’ve done more than scratch the surface. Here’s Dan Wohl’s list of¬† 43 Real-Life Female Leaders Who Deserve inclusion in Civilization VI
  • How about a U.S. road trip with a cool stop in each of the 48 contiguous states?
  • I place a real premium on healthy dinners that can be made quickly and easily, and these sesame peanut noodles fit the bill perfectly. They’re vegetarian, but I’m tempted to try pairing them with some grilled flank steak (and a big salad)!
  • I adore this tumblr blog of nature photography.
  • Still loving Fitness Blender! As I start strength training, I’m looking for core, upper body, and lower body workouts. I’m trying this one tomorrow and this one on Monday!
  • To get you in a summer cooking mood, here’s a recipe for a really nice, fresh potato salad full of veggies
  • In case you’re wondering about the X-Men: Apocalypse post-credits scene, here’s a breakdown
  • As you may recall, Netflix rescued The Little Prince – and now we have a new trailer, and a release date!
  • I recently read The House of Wisdom by Jim Al-Khalili, and recommend it! It’s a very interesting look not only into scientific advancement, but into some of the dynamics that have shaped the modern middle east, showing a history that most of us aren’t taught
  • With the full disclosure that I have a Patreon page, I was fascinated by this look at Patreon as a potential future for publishing. I’ve enjoyed being able to support both individuals and teams over Patreon, but many people have conflicted feelings about crowdfunding. How do you feel about it?
  • There was a very contentious plot point in the most recent issue of Captain America. This is only one of many thoughtful pieces on the topic, and I encourage you to read up. For one thing, as was pointed out a fan of color on Tumblr, what makes someone an unexpected and unsettling enemy to a person raised in a position of social strength is, to a member of a marginalized group, yet another echo of all too much pain, disappointment, and truly deadly attitudes.
  • A few years ago, I had the chance to meet one of the scientists behind NASA’s Cassini project, and I’ve kept up with news on it ever since – which isn’t hard, given that it’s always sending back awesome photos. Like these!

Hope you enjoyed this catch-up! Happy reading, and we’ll be back next week! -M

Ghostwriting

I’ve hesitated to write this post, because I know people have some strong feelings about ghostwriting. These feelings are legitimate. Reading can be very emotional, and I can see why someone might feel betrayed if they found out that a book they loved and went to a book signing event for, for instance, had been written by a ghostwriter. As a reader, I understand and even share some of these feelings at different times. However, I want to share my experiences being a ghostwriter for those of you thinking of doing the same, and to provide some perspective on underlying assumptions we have about art. Read on, and absolutely let me know what you think in the comments! -M

*****

One of the three questions I get the most often is, “don’t you get resentful to see someone else taking credit for your work?” The truth is, no. I need to pay my bills each month, and using my skill at writing to¬†ghostwrite helps me fulfill that need quickly. If I were to write a story for myself, I would not only need to spend more time formatting, uploading, and editing (most of the people I write for have their own editors), I would also need to wait 2-5 months for the royalties to start coming in. While I’m building my own back list right now and someday may not need to ghostwrite to pay monthly bills, right now that assured paycheck is very useful (for one thing, royalties fluctuate month to month).

Another question I get a lot is, “doesn’t it feel a little bit soul-crushing to write stories you don’t care about as much?” and this one is a really interesting, very layered question. We all have a very complicated relationship with the concept of art, but my personal belief is that there is no correct way to make art and no correct or incorrect reason to make art (as long as you don’t really mess with people, and I do know that for some people, ghostwriting falls into that category; more on that soon).

To phrase this “correct and incorrect reasons” concept another way, consider if I had an incredible talent as a waitress. If I had a knack for suggesting meal items, refilling water glasses discreetly, and being a cheerful, unobtrusive presence, most people would have no qualms about me using that talent to make money while I was working on my novels. Likewise, if I were a trained accountant, working part time at an accounting firm would make sense to most people. However, because we regard writing as art, the concept of using that art to make money is a bit alien to us.

The truth is, anything you do to make money will have good and bad days – just like parenting, relationships, hobbies, and chores. Some days and some projects are very difficult, and some are not only fun, but informative. Some days I look for freelancing jobs that will have me utilizing a different talent than creative writing (data entry, blog posts, etc). Overall, however, I enjoy creative writing, and especially enjoy learning how to write new genres and try out new writing styles. It makes my own work better by expanding my repertoire, and I’ve found that there’s a distinct difference between writing stories I don’t care about, and writing stories I didn’t come up with. It is perfectly possible to care about a world that isn’t a product solely of my imagination!

That said, when I wrote that we have a complicated relationship with art, I really meant all of us, and I’m no exception. Sometimes it feels soul-crushing to write stories that I can’t manage to breathe life into, and unlike my own work, I can’t set a contract project aside. Sometimes my feelings are too complicated to put into words (ah, the irony). It’s difficult. But then, every job is at times.

The third question I’m often asked is, “why do people hire ghostwriters?” The truth is, I don’t always know the reason, and I don’t always feel comfortable asking. However, I do know some of the reasons. Some people love creating concepts, but have incredible trouble writing. Some people write well in one format (short stories, screenplays, novels, video games), but have trouble in another format, and want to hire someone to adapt the concept, while keeping a cohesive author or brand name across the whole set of media. Some authors are looking to try out the market potential of a new genre, and might write their own stories in that genre later, but want an inside look at sales data and promotional difficulties before investing their own time. Some people, as in any other business, have more of a knack for marketing and promo than they do for writing, and want to build a back list of stories with a particular style or set of tropes. This is another place that our feelings about art give us pause, but I don’t think we’d expect any of the executive team at Nike, for instance, to have a hand in making the shoes.

The major question that remains, and to which I have no clear-cut answer, is whether or not ghostwriting is immoral. I have zero problem with a public figure hiring a ghostwriter for an autobiography or other non-fiction book, but others might, and their opinion is valid. Likewise, I often effectively function as a co-writer, developing a story and helping people give voice to their vision of a story they believe the world needs, but do not feel comfortable writing themselves, and I have no problem with that, either (though some might, and again, this would be a valid point of view).

For me, the real question comes when a new author is brought in as a ghostwriter to handle an existing series (sometimes writers are brought on publicly, such as Brandon Sanderson on the Wheel of Time series; this is different, as readers have more information). A good-faith effort can be made (often very successfully) to replicate plot structure and style, but it’s impossible to replicate another author’s style exactly, because authors learn from the manuscripts they’re writing as they write.

On the one hand, there’s no guarantee that a reader will like a new installment of a series, no matter who writes it – I think most avid readers have had the experience of getting six or seven books in and just not enjoying the direction in which the author took things (or a new writing style). On the other hand, one could quite reasonably say that the author has made an implicit contract with the readers in which they take a chance on the book on the assumption that the author is the same person.

The truth is, I spent so long answering the first question that I didn’t think of the morality until a friend mentioned it two projects in or so. I’ll be honest that I’ve been struggling with it ever since. On every project, I push myself not only to write the best manuscript that I can, but also to replicate tone and style. Is this enough, however? I don’t know. I have turned down projects that I did not feel comfortable writing for various reasons (in one case, for instance, I would have been effectively claiming to represent an ethnic minority I was not a part of), but in general, in terms of hard and fast rules? I don’t know.

I don’t know.

What are your thoughts?

Building Your Perfect Life: Hated Tasks

There’s a lot to be said for self-sufficiency. It’s nice to know that whatever happens, you can pay bills on your own and take care of yourself, and it’s also nice to know, as a small business owner, that you can make the whole thing run under your own steam. The problem is when you start to think that you have to do it all on your own, and wind up wasting a ton of time on tasks you absolutely hate: first by avoiding, then by slogging through, and finally by being so exhausted and angry that moving on to other tasks takes more time.

One of the most empowering beliefs in this world is that you can make marginal changes in your living situation. Some of these can require money, but not all of them do. What they require, unfortunately, is a bit of courage, so hang in there. Today, we’re going to tackle the strategies for making marginal changes in relationships, home life, and work. We’ll start with work, because often this can be the least fraught place to draw boundaries.

What are some work tasks that cost way more energy than they should? For me, one of them is email. This also plays out in my personal life, and my friends are now accustomed to me dropping off the face of the earth without notice – but that’s hardly a good way to handle business relationships, alas. Here are some strategies I use (and some one that I could use in the future) to change the way I do email:

  • Rewards: I’ve spoken about Habitica before, and it continues to be useful to me for giving me a little ticky mark (and maybe a new pet or piece of loot!) each time I answer an email. I’m not above bribing myself.
  • Limiting: I tend to limit in that I set a time frame (i.e., 4-4:30 PM three days per week) for responding to emails. That way it doesn’t hang over my head, because I know I’ll get to it, and I’m not tempted to go on my email other than that. Some people, however, will schedule one time every week or so, and have an auto-responder on their email saying when they check it. People tend to respond pretty positively to this, actually.
  • Exchange: I don’t presently do this, but if I knew more people around here who were running small businesses, I might. The idea is to have each person exchange a task they dislike but the other person doesn’t. Get together for tea at someone’s house, and exchange little parts of your business for a better experience overall!
  • Hiring a VA: many people I know hire virtual assistants for whatever thing it is they hate (or is very time consuming). Routine email communications, formatting and uploading books, querying daily book deal sites, or whatever the tedious parts of your small business are, there just might be someone out there to help you! (I don’t presently have the spare funds to do this, but I’d like to in the future, so that I’m using email only to keep up with my friends and family.)

What are some relationship tasks that cost way more energy than they should? There are a lot of things in relationships (friendship, family, romantic) that end up really taking time and energy. The thing to remember is that we’re free both not to participate in activities, and to participate in different ways. Some examples:

  • Perhaps you have one friend who’s a brilliant cook and likes to invite people over for lavish dinners. You, personally, hate cooking (or just don’t think you’re very good at it), and while you want to reciprocate the kind gesture, you’re stressing about doing so. But there are options! You could buy pre-cooked food (out here, Byerly’s and Whole Foods both have a pretty good selection), host a wine and cheese party involving little to no cooking, take people out to dinner if funds allow, or help your friend out another way, from babysitting their kids to bringing wine and helping with clean-up when they host.
  • Maybe you and a friend have a great relationship, except for one topic they like to bring up in conversation. For this, unfortunately, there’s pretty much only one way to handle it: draw the boundary. Remember that you don’t have to offer detailed explanations or apologies, and simply mention that while you’re happy to discuss anything else under the sun, you don’t want to talk about this. Be prepared to enforce the boundary once or twice! (And you’ll learn a good deal about your friend from whether or not they’re willing to honor it.)
  • What if all of your friends adore a specific activity, and you don’t? Remember that you’re perfectly free to tag along with or without participating (reading in the ski lodge is perfectly okay as an alternative to skiing if you enjoy it), or simply catch up with them all later. Remember that drawing your own boundaries here will make the group of friends (or family) stronger as people realize that they don’t have to do everything together in order to stay friends. You may see more people opting out of things in the future with less hurt feelings, as people realize that not every outing needs to be tailor-made to every participant.

What are some household tasks that cost way more energy than they should? This one can be tricky, because we have a boatload of expectations on people (including ourselves). The thing is, while the apocalypse might happen tomorrow and you’d have to exist all on your own, making dish soap from scratch and pounding your clothes with rocks, that isn’t exactly likely in the near future. Here are some examples of things you can do to free yourself up for other things you do best:

  • Again, rewards can be a powerful motivator here. Perhaps you hate washing dishes, but are happy to do so if you can bring your laptop along and watch a show on Netflix, or sing along with some of your favorite tunes. Maybe after you scrub the kitchen floor, you get to take a long, luxurious evening to curl up in a chair and read a book.
  • Exchanges still work here, too. Maybe one of you cooked and the other cleaned up, but it’s wearing on you both. Why not switch it up for while, or alternate days? Perhaps a friend of yours doesn’t mind dusting and vacuuming, and you really don’t mind cleaning kitchens. Just leave a cold beverage in each other’s fridges for when you’re done, and exchange away!
  • Hire some help. We did this recently. Turns out, we hate deep cleaning, and right now we have the funds to have someone do that. We handle the day to day stuff, and don’t have to stress about the scrubbing. And there are modifications on this concept! Read on.
  • Maybe you don’t hate a specific task, just little parts of it. So, for instance, you’d be entirely happy to cook if you just didn’t have to do the chopping, or the slow-cooking, or some other piece. Sure, you could do an exchange, but it’s also relatively cheap to outsource whatever the one piece is that you hate the most by buying frozen veggies, precooked rice, or something else.

Small, marginal changes can have a remarkable effect on your quality of life. Remember, it says nothing about you as a person if you dislike any particular piece of your life. It is perfectly reasonable to draw your own boundaries and make your own solutions, and to leverage your community to do tasks collectively. Often, the biggest impediment to changing our lives is the belief that we must be responsible for getting things done in a particular way. This week, try challenging that belief in one little way: when a repetitive task truly irks you, consider ways to change it or remove it from your life.

What are some of the changes you’ve made in your life?

We Always Shut the Door

I’ve composed this post so many times and… To tell the truth, I don’t know why I haven’t posted it. It’s most likely that I’m trying to avoid stirring up controversy, but the truth is that people are dying.

It’s time.

*****

The first of my ancestors here on American soil were Iroquois. I know almost nothing about them beyond the fact that one of them married a French Canadian ancestor of mine. I don’t know anything of the culture (including which of the coalition tribes they were part of). I don’t know if they and their family had argued against integrating, against letting Europeans into America. They would have been justified in doing so, certainly.

The ones after that were English, Puritans who watched their brothers and sisters burned at the stake in Mary’s inquisition, and fled to the new world, where they promptly did the same to others. If I’m wrong, if they stayed longer, they were instead a part of the culture that raped, starved, and killed the Irish into submission, in addition to waging a bloody and completely unnecessary war over parts of French territory, and running one of the widest ranging Empires in the world – an empire whose human rights atrocities are well documented.

The next ancestors were of French ancestry, though it’s likely there was English and Dutch and other ethnicity mixed in. I don’t know what they were fleeing, or what they were hoping for. I know that they were almost certainly part of the turf war the Christian sects waged on American soil. The French would go on to perpetrate some of the most culturally devastating colonizations around the world.

At the turn of the twentieth century, two more pieces of my family arrived on American soil. The first of those was Irish, fleeing the same violence my protestant forebears had inflicted on their country, starving from an entirely preventable famine, despairing of justice or religious liberty. They face persecution, religious and ethnic, with cartoons in the paper warning of the dangers of their religion, and still, my grandmother told my father that when she was little, her neighbor told her that the neighborhood was getting full of “filthy Jews.”

The last piece of my ethnic heritage arrived around the same time, from Greece. Family photos show a solemn, dark-haired family, their features proof of ethnic mixing with their historical rivals. They were the people of Alexander, whose conquest was not bloodless, and not free of civilian casualties. They were the people, in fact, of Sparta, who enslaved even their own citizens, killed babies they considered deformed, and collapsed under the weight of their own military state.

Whatever glory my ancestors were part of (and their cultures produced much to be proud of), nearly every group of my ancestors fled here, religious or ethnic outcasts in their own land, and faced a hard scrabble for acceptance.

And nearly every group of them turned around and tried to close the door behind them. They managed to forget, because our memories are so short, that they were the Syrian, (or Somali, Vietnamese, Japanese, South American) refugees of their generations. They forgot how they were feared, how they were hated, how they were beaten in the streets, how Op Eds were written in the papers about how America would collapse under the latest wave of dangerous, uneducated, unskilled labor.

When I stand here in front of you now, watching what is happening to the Middle Eastern, African, and Asian refugees who are seeking asylum in our country, watching what is happening to my brothers and sisters who are being shot in nightclubs and beat up outside of bathrooms, I want you to see me and understand what I represent: luck and cowardice.

Luck because my ethnic background washed out to a combination of features that the majority of my fellow citizens don’t have preconceived notions about.

Cowardice because I didn’t post this sooner.

Luck because every one of my family members made it to safety in this country.

Cowardice because it is still so hard to accept that so many generations of us were complicit in multiple waves of genocide and cultural destruction, through our silence if nothing else.

Luck because while I might easily not have, I fell in love with a man, and am entirely comfortable presenting as female, while my features are clearly identifiable in a way that means no one’s likely to beat me up for trying to go to the bathroom.

Cowardice because I so rarely say any of this, because I don’t want the complications. Because I’ve listened to so many people say terrible things and I haven’t even tried to change their minds.

So, please, if nothing else, take a moment to think about this: none of what we’re debating right now with Muslim immigrants, or the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, is new. It has all happened before. Eerily similar words, cartoons, and violence have followed each wave of immigration and each civil rights movement, and the majority of people reading this are likely a mix of ethnicities that spent a large amount of time trying to annihilate one another.

Because we keep trying to shut the door behind us.

I am proud of a country that was founded on such profoundly noble intentions, and I am disturbed to be part of a country that carried out delusions of manifest destiny through such horrific violence. I believe that the Founding Fathers were onto something incredible, and I also believe that they were too limited by their place in history and their prejudices to fully enact the principles they set down on paper. I believe that we keep getting closer to that world, and I also believe that this progress does not need to be so bloody.

I believe we need to stop trying to shut the door behind us.