Beyond the Fad: Polyamory and Relevance

As I write this, my fourth post to this blog in as many days, acknowledging a newfound urgency to express the things I’m thinking, I also find that I need to admit one of the reasons I wasn’t posting for so long:

I worried that polyamory had become a fad.

It was a moment of weakness, I admit. I faltered under the weight of the fear that all I wrote might be summed up by readers to simply be anecdotal contributions to the trendy new lovestyle that has garnered so much attention in the media, including TV shows like “Polyamory” on Showtime. I stopped working on my novel because I decided that, by the time I was done writing it, finding an agent, and doing the work necessary to get published, I would have “missed the boat” – the fad would have passed, polyamory would be old news, and no one would want to publish the book.

Discussion and visibility of polyamory has skyrocketed in the last year or two, and while the benefits of that include visibility, the drawbacks include the fact that people enjoy simplicity, and trying to simply define something as complicated as polyamory just doesn’t happen. Instead, people define it by comparing it to things they already know – infidelity, swinging, commitment phobias, sex addiction, etc. I feared being lumped into those definitions.

I should have been stronger. I should have waved away the possibility that I’d be just another voice in the polyamorous cacaphony, just another polyamorous person whining with other polyamorous people about being misunderstood.

But this blog, and my book, and my writing in general, are not about that.

This isn’t about polyamory and its visibility. This isn’t about convincing people that polyamory is okay.

This is about love; about rethinking relationship norms. That will always be worth writing about, even if the whole world suddenly became polyamorous. Ultimately, my biggest hope for every single person who reads what I write is that they stop to think about the way they love, and decide for themselves what ways of loving work for them. If polyamory is not a model for you, I have no intention of trying to “convert” you; I simply want you to know that for yourself because you actually took the time to think about it.

Blogging about polyamory has never, for me, been about getting more views and attention by playing into a popular topic. When I started doing it in 2007, it wasn’t a popular topic at all. Just because it has become one shouldn’t deter me. If it is a fad, then like all fads, it will pass. When the dust settles, I’ll still be here, plodding along, thinking about love, sex, and relationships and how people can be happier with all of those things in their life.

Hopefully, if it is a fad, it will be one that changes some love lives for the better.

NaNoWriMo 2013

Yup, I’ll be at it again – and, not only that, but I’ll be rebelling and rewriting Love Times Infinity, the novel!

celebrateIt feels like a long time since I started this blog with the intent of keeping myself motivated to edit the book. It has, in fact, been nearly two years. Everyone moves at their own pace, I guess, and this is apparently mine.

When I printed the manuscript in June, I was able to fit it on 150 pages. I’m taking some time now in October to read each of those pages, and mark changes that need to be made and places that need to be reworked (pretty much the whole thing, to be honest). I’ve got a notebook for a sidekick in which to take down all of my lengthy notes.

It’s a slow process. I’m on page 17.

Come November 1st, though, I’ll hopefully be far enough along to start the rewrite. I think ultimately, my goal is for the rewrite to be closer to 80,000 words. I know that I could write that many words in November, but I don’t know if I will. It all depends on how much of this editing I get done, and how far along I am before Thanksgiving rolls around and I travel to California to visit family for a bit. Despite my rebellion, (NaNo rules officially state that “previously written prose…is punishable by death” – I guess I could avoid that by completely rewriting every single word of my first draft, but there might be bits I like and want to keep, so I’ll do as I see fit.) this, I think, is a difficult but doable goal for myself.

Thank you ahead of time to those who offer encouraging words and support – and apologies ahead of time to anyone who is friends with me on Facebook, for all the statuses that are simply numbers about to clutter your news feed.

Progress and Patriarchy

Step 1: Print out manuscript

Check!

It took me over a year to do it, but yes, the manuscript of Love Times Infinity is finally printed and ready for my red pen. I have chosen to reward myself for completing this step by sharing two of my observations this week with you, because sharing feels good. I’m a sharing person, in case you couldn’t tell.

The first was something I stumbled upon while doing research for work. I’ll be teaching an outdoor education lesson on the Native American Lenape people in a week or two, and of course, I began my independent study on their history with everyone’s favorite free and readily available encyclopedia, Wikipedia. I couldn’t help but copy and paste this tidbit, even though at the time I wasn’t sure what I would do with it:

The Lenape kinship system was traditionally organized by clans determined by matrilineal descent. That is, children were considered to belong to the mother’s clan, where they gained their social status and identity. The mother’s eldest brother was more significant as a mentor to the boy children than was their father, who was of another clan.

I’ve read about a culture similar to this before: the Musuo in China, where at a certain age girls get their own room where there is a door that men they invite over can come discreetly through, and when the girls get pregnant, their brothers help raise the children. The fathers of the children are responsible for their sisters’ children, not the ones they father themselves. Like the Lenape, the Musuo are matrilineal. Unlike the Lenape, Musuo children may not know who their biological father is.

This got me thinking about how some have noted that “no matriarchal societies exist”, and how others have countered that perhaps it seems that way, because we expect matriarchy to look like patriarchy, except with women in all the roles of power instead of men. These people argue that matriarchies may actually exist, but we call them “egalitarian”, because when women are given equal power, well, things are more…equal. Thus, matriarchy = egalitarian. (I have more reading to do on this, here.)

So there my head was, swimming in matriarchal, patriarchal, and egalitarian thoughts, when, while out and about one night being an adult with fellow adults, a friend uttered the following phrase:

“Girls who claim to want it hard are cancer.”

We had been having a conversation about sex, and the different ways people like their sex, and at least two of us in the group had voiced our approval of women who are comfortable saying that they like their sex “hard.”

Then, that happened. *sigh*

Unfortunately, because we had been out and about adulting so hard that it was futile to begin an argument with that friend (I doubt he remembers even making the comment, now) I had to spare myself the frustration of calling him out and being the mood-killer by explaining why I was doing it. The feeling followed me until the end of the night, though, where I made sure to jot down a few feelings before I went to sleep.

Patriarchy hurts everyone. Men come of age in a society which cultivates an assumption that the “right girl” will be one who fits into the submissive role for women the patriarchy has established. For some men, society wasn’t needed to foster attraction to submissive women, and that’s fine. But many other men likely miss out on the great women they really want; the forward, bold, aggressive women who say what they want and say it proudly. Those women are sexy, too, but as my friend’s comment revealed, those women are also still seen by some as only sexy, and not…here it is again…”relationship material.”

And all of this, of course, hasn’t even touched what it does to non-normative relationships and trans* people.

There’s still work to do, people. Be you, be proud, and be happy.

 

Donations of Motivation Welcome

I began this blog nearly a year and a half ago to keep myself motivated while editing a novel manuscript. (See here.)

I have hardly touched the manuscript.

So, after much hemming and hawing, after much non-novel-related goal setting and ball dropping, after much ashamed admittance to interested friends and family that, well, “I haven’t finished editing it yet,” I’m here to say that it is TIME to EDIT.

Yes, dear friends, Love Times Infinity absolutely needs to get plucked off of my digital shelf and metaphorically dusted off for editing. The story of a young, monogamously-inclined man in a nonmonogamous world needs to be told, and it won’t be if I don’t tell it.

All motivational words, thoughts, forms of social media support welcome and thoroughly appreciated.

This Doesn’t Count Towards My Word Count, But…

Six days left of NaNoWriMo. I am on track, though I have four heavy days of work coming up, and I probably will fall a little behind during that time. Thankfully, I have the 30th off, so at worst, that’ll be my mad dash to the finish.

It’s getting difficult to continue writing. The topic cuts a little deep for me, and, as I expected, has me debating which of my values are my own, and which are shaped by the way I was raised and the way people talk to and treat both me and other people. That was the point though, after all. A little demon-facing never hurt anyone…I hope.

In an attempt to stay true to the intent of this blog, I’d like to recommend that everyone who thinks about love and it’s many forms, and the perceived limitations we sometimes assign it, take on a creative writing project. Make it a hypothetical world, even if the people in it are based on yourself and/or people you know. Then, break some rules. Do something different in the story. Have people act in unpredictable ways, and then, here’s where it gets really crazy…

let the characters explain themselves. Try to see if you can find a way to understand those characters, and get possible readers to understand them, too. Why are they breaking rules? Do they think it’s okay? Can a relationship or relationships work with that rule being broken?

I’ve had fun exploring love that way; maybe you will, too.

I have been contemplating my creative writing goals for after NaNoWriMo this year. I would like to continue working on them, rather than completely stopping like I did last year. I would also like to edit last year’s novel, which was kind of the whole driving point of creating this very blog in the first place. I’ve been thinking of a write-a-short-story-every-other-day challenge.  I may have to start a new blog for that, and that would take away from this blog. Then again, I don’t exactly post here often, so perhaps it really is worth thinking about.

Live and love, everyone, and do it like you mean it!

NaNoWriMo 2012

I have decided to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year, even though I have hardly touched last year’s manuscript to edit it. I understand why some people would rather I edit last year’s novel than start a new one, but from my perspective, if my heart is set on writing something, and not on editing, shouldn’t I do what’s going to make me and my heart happy?

I think so. Especially since I have notes on this book idea dating back three years. THREE YEARS! I think it’s high-time I get to putting that idea down on paper (or screen).

It’s going to be Literary Fiction, once again, and I’m still working out the details, but it will center around the thoughts and various neuroses of a girl who’s father isn’t doing such a great job of being a father. I’m hoping to have the story switch between the past and present, showing the correlation between how her father treated her growing up and the decisions she makes and emotions she feels as she grows into a young woman attempting to make sense of her relationships with men.

For those who know me well, it’s obvious that this idea is very personal to me, given my own experiences. It’ll be a harder book to write, in that regard, because it will probably hit home and cut a little deep once in a while. At the moment, I’m remembering days when I wondered to myself if what I called “polyamory” was simply my own hackneyed attempt at making sense of my fragmented perception of self-worth in the eyes of men.

That worry has passed, though, and I think I’m ready. If not, it’s sure to be a hell of a learning experience.

Wish me luck!

Live Like You’re Dying

Honestly, life’s been great, and recently all of my revelations and thoughts seem to circle around to the same basic ideas:

Life is short, spend as much of it as you can doing things that make you happy, and try not to trample on the happiness of others.

The reason I haven’t been around much is that I’ve been doing just that. Not that writing about polyamory, nonmonogamy, and ethical sluttery doesn’t make me happy – it very much does – but I’ve been doing other things that make me happy as well, so much so that this particular thing has fallen to the wayside.

November is coming up slowly, and with it, NaNoWriMo. If I want to participate again, I should at least start thinking about what the topic of the new novel would be. I feel like my focus should actually be on editing Love Times Infinity, of course, seeing as I haven’t touched it since shortly after beginning this supposedly motivational blog.

Right. Motivationally distracting.

The new job I am now at is in a new location (Michigan), full of new people for me to meet, new classes for me to teach, new experiences for me to have. It seems so far like I’m going to be very happy here, and that excites me. Because I like happiness. Happiness is nice.

It’s not conducive to blogging, though. Sorry about that. I know that some of you find happiness in reading about these topics, and I could help aid you in finding happiness by writing about those topics (and I’d be happy doing it!). . .but tell you what – if you can’t find something to read about these topics one day, go work towards creating, and then carrying out, a list of things you want to do in the next five years. It’s helped me be happy.

Now, go!

The Lack of Novel Progress

I’m having a hard time logic-ing my way back to editing my novel, and a very easy time logic-ing my lack of desire to do so.

While I’ve been known to enjoy a good fiction, even fantasy, novel here and there, I am, at my core, a very fact-based, rational, truth-loving, non-fiction lover. It’s not that I don’t love works of fiction; The Alchemist and The Chronicles of Narnia are some of my favorite reads (does this sound like a homophobe saying “but I have gay friends!”?). It’s just that I don’t think I’ve ever been able to identify just how non-fiction writers are able to pull a story out of thin air, or why they should have to, when the real and existing world is so ripe with amazing and fascinating truths.

My story, in my eyes, is one long lie. Nothing in the story ever actually happened. It could have, and that’s why I wrote it: to let people imagine what could have been if history had been a little different and how they would have fared in the new hypothetical world. But, damnit, fiction is HARD. Making up facts is hard. Making up people is hard. Deciding what these make-believe people would do in given situations is hard. It’s all hard.

I’ve never been one to walk away from a challenge…but I don’t like lying. Writing the rough draft of the novel was a fun project, but now, trying to edit it and build it and make it better feels too much like trying to fool people. I know that it’s not the case. I know that readers will know that it’s fiction. But, to be honest, my goal with the book is to get people to re-examine their beliefs on love and decide for themselves what they think their hearts are capable of doing, and I keep thinking…couldn’t I do that with a non-fiction book?

And so here I sit, unmotivated to work on the novel, because all I can think about now is how to write a non-fiction book, based in truth and facts, that will get people thinking about love.

It won’t be a pretty story, which means less people will read it, and therein lies the reason why I haven’t completely abandoned the novel. People like stories. I know: I tell stories all the time. They’re true stories, though: things that I’ve experienced, usually. Real life is amazing. Telling an un-true story – it’s a whole different skill, and I’m deciding whether it’s a skill that I possess at all, and if I do, whether I can convince myself to develop it.

Voice

Voice has been my issue today, while writing Chapter 3 of the novel. Voice, voice, voice.

What voice do you hear? I'm listening to Lady Gaga, personally...

I haven’t yet developed a writing style that I feel satisfied with for a novel. I’ve got this blogging thing down, and if I’m relating a real-life occurrence in short story form for friends to enjoy, I’m pretty happy with the voice I’ve developed, but this…is different.

I know that I shouldn’t feel the need to conform to the styles of writing I’ve seen in the novels I’ve read, but I fear that if I let completely go and just do it my way, that I’ll be the only one ever capable of reading my novel and, well, getting it. I don’t want that to be the case. I want lots of people to get it. Thus, I feel the need to use a style that most people “get”.

Confused Robot = Readers. Heart = My book.

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to pretend that this long, made-up story that I’m telling has actually occurred. Just convince myself that this is a completely true story, that I’ve met all of the characters, that they told me this story some years after everything went down.

And yet, there’s a problem with that. When I tell/write a story, it’s one that I have actually lived and experienced myself, sometimes along with friends. I’m not in this novel. I mean, there might be aspects of my personality in some of the characters, but they certainly are not me, and I don’t make a guest appearance.

This is hard.

I never could figure these things out...

However, while struggling to find my voice today, there was but one glimmer of hope when I wrote the following:

Mikhail looked at the empty space on the grass next to Ria where Axel usually sat, a literal space that the breakup had just figuratively opened up for someone.

“Someone like me,” Mikhail thought to himself. He didn’t sit in the empty space, though. He wasn’t ready for it. 

Go for it, Mikhail! Go for it!

Characterization, Polyamory, and Race

Chapter 2 is “re”-written; whoo!

Honestly, there are no marked “chapters” in the NaNoWriMo rough draft. There are sections separated by a “—“, but those sections aren’t necessarily chapters. Realistically, each section should be a few chapters.

I’ve motivated myself to do this re-write by telling myself that each day, I am not allowed to post in this blog until I’ve done some rewriting. It’s working well so far, but I can see that the problem is going to come in with feeling that I’ve done enough rewriting for the day to reward myself with blogging. For example, I’ve re-written the first 1,000 words of the rough draft, and now have 1,700 words. It should be a LOT more, but I’ve decided to relocate some character descriptions and, well, should I have rewritten those character descriptions before coming here to blog today, or am I cool here?

Only I know, I guess, and therein lies the danger.

I choose "DANCE" every time.

I had polyamory and race on my mind last night, because of my character descriptions yesterday. While I was rewriting, I found myself feeling like I had to slap some appearances on my characters, and me, desiring a “diverse” cast, started describing the various skin tones, hair colors and types, eye shapes, etc. of Mikhail’s family. It felt very, very forced and ingenuine, and it bothered me, and I ended the chapter shortly after pecking the descriptions out.

Part of my discomfort, I believe, stems from my firm belief that appearances really shouldn’t matter. I understand in fiction that appearance is simply a part of characterization, and it helps readers “get to know” your characters. However, I’ve always been pretty uncomfortable with relying on readers’ stereotypes and prejudices to characterize my characters. I don’t like feeling like I’m validating or perpetuating those stereotypes and prejudices by allowing them to be a part of my characterization. As someone who constantly reminds others to “not judge a book by its cover,” I just can’t comfortably do it.

What? No goth friends? Psh, diversity my bum.

I had to shake my head at myself when I realized that, when I thought “diverse” cast, I had automatically assumed that I needed diverse appearances to get the idea across. There are many things besides race and appearances which make groups of people diverse, though, and I’ve finally come to a decision:

I’m not going to use any physical descriptions of characters in my book. There’s just no need for it. The story is about what these people think and feel, not what they look like. So, it doesn’t matter what they look like. They can be an alien race or talking penguins, for all I care. Forcing race into the story not only is, well, forced, but it also makes me uncomfortable because I’m asking my readers to visualize these people, and perhaps expecting some of my very own stereotypes and prejudices to be upheld as part of defining who these people are.

The Rare Polyamorous Penguin Breed

So, physical descriptions deleted, more personality traits and habits inserted. Much better.

Of course, me being the nerd that I am, I continued to think about and even research polyamory and race long after finding this solution to my personal problem. It’s been long noted that the polyamory movement has been one composed of mostly white, middle-class, educated Americans. I’ve written down (in my personal journal) my thoughts on that and possible reasons why, and my homework tonight is to read Progressive Polyamory: Considering Issues of Diversity in order to compare my thoughts to some research, before posting another entry here on what I’ve learned and discovered.

Whew! I think that’s about it, y’all. I’ll see you again soon after Chapter 3 and some research.