Personal Stuff

Business But Not Business As Usual

I don’t know where to begin, but I’m starting here.


I’m currently on the road and visiting family. This past Sunday, my uncle arrived for dinner and with flourish presented my grandmother and I with the gift of vibrating toothbrushes. He saw a multipack at the wholesale store of his choice, was intrigued, and on a whim got them for us. It was silly and a bit ridiculous, but we were excited about them — why not be? — and agreed the next time he came for dinner we would compare notes about if we liked them and how they worked.

The next time he came to dinner was Wednesday, and DJT was our President Elect.

We didn’t talk about the toothbrushes that night.

Like most of us, I’ve been trying to grapple with this new reality, and mostly with limited success. I’ve read a lot, and written very little, and poured my anxieties out doing the small things I can do right now. It’s the best I have, at the moment. I’m also working to keep it together–to keep my honest terror at the possible future we’re facing internalized–because I’m visiting family and you know how that goes.

So then last night. I’m standing in the bathroom brushing my teeth with the ridiculous new toothbrush and idle thoughts came to me. Hunh this does work better. Who knew. It’s nice. I think I like it.

When my active brain caught up with my passive musings, I broke down. The crying I’d held in so long started and boy did those floodgates open. No obvious reason for that being the spark, but something along the lines of: Here I was using this unnecessary improvement on an everyday item that’s still a luxury for so many, abstractly musing over it having more efficacy than my not-powered toothbrush. I felt so far away from everything, from all the struggles and fear and anger out there, from being able to do anything about it, from my own privilege to stand there with this dumb toothbrush having a moment of normalcy.

It’s quite the thing, standing over the bathroom sink ugly crying. Unstoppable gasping ugly crying, with toothpaste froth bubbling and going everywhere, the toothbrush still buzzing against my teeth and filling my cranium like the angry static I haven’t been without since the news broke, and in the background the TV volume set to 80-billion for my hard of hearing grandmother blaring a Christmas carol from the movie we were watching.

It took me a while to cry it all out. Then I had a quick shower, because toothpaste everywhere, and afterward I sat ignoring the movie thinking what can I do, what am I going to do? on a refrain.

I’m not sure. That’s the answer I arrived at–I’m just not sure.

But I do know that 1) I’m going to keep writing and being a writer and 2) I’m going to fight like Hell in the years to come. That leads me to the rest of what’s on my mind: how being a writer and fighting like Hell don’t always mesh (while conversely they can be so profoundly interdependent).

The thing is, I don’t begrudge people who had to go to the office today and write professional emails, take professional conference calls, and wade through normal life even though life has gone off its axis for so many. I don’t think it’s terrible a shop owner flipped her sign to OPEN and made sales in order to keep her business viable. I wouldn’t sneer at anyone who has to go out there and be ‘real people’ in the world despite the turmoil and uncertainty they face.

I need to do the same. And allow myself the same. Writing is a passion but it’s also my business. I gotta write more, and sell more, to keep writing more. It’s my job, same as that shopkeep or lawyer or cable technician. So I’m going to keep talking about writing, promoting my books, promoting others’ books, doing my fun weekly features, tweeting & retweeting, enjoying my author facebook group. Being a writer, if you will.

But with what has happened, and who & what all is now made so vulnerable by it, I cannot be only a writer. I cannot only post fun weekly features, plug my books, and sit on my hands hoping no one will notice I’m decidedly absent from important conversations because at the same time I’m trying not to alienate potential new readers.

Given the choice, the choice is obvious. I’ll take alienate potential new readers for 2000, Alex. I don’t know what the balance is, and I expect to be 80% Author, but who can say. Given the past week, I’ll wager no one.

I’m also never going to sneer at another author who is busy promoting their work. I’ll never say “Gosh, don’t you care about what’s happening? How can you just sit there blogging and retweeting!” Please don’t anyone else do this, either. It’s not fair, it’s such an undue burden, and remember–promoting, blogging, tweeting, writing–it’s their job.

I must write to tell good stories, necessary stories. I want to give happy endings to everyone out there thinking their chance at happy endings might be rapidly disappearing before their eyes. I want to be part of the energy of creative conversation that doesn’t let whoever is in charge get away with claiming no such things exist, no such things are decent or allowed, no such things can be dreamed of or wished for or achieved.

I am and will be an ally–but I am only an ally. I know this as well. Writing gay romance doesn’t magically put me on front lines of activism. But it does make me a part of the community, and one that I will protect. As I will protect other minority, disenfranchised, and at risk communities. So I’m going to listen, and learn, and get with my own people when they need talking to, instead of leaving it at the feet of those more vulnerable.

In the initial wake of the election news, my heartsick self didn’t know what to write anymore. If I could write anymore. What difference would it make? who cares? on and on. But in the eloquent, truthful words of my dear Damon Suede: Romance is the literature of hope.

So let’s get out there and kindle some. Let’s make stuff. Yell stuff. Share what we’ve made and share our voices. Reach out with both. Oppressors want silence. Those who Create–art, science, education, journalism, books, music, movies, guerilla graffiti–should get as loud as they possibly can. Big, small, whatever you can do, do it. We’re gonna need it.

No, a teaspoon can’t empty the ocean, but it does move water.

Small Steps

  • How should you react if you see racist/sexist abuse? Wear a safety pin, if that’s your thing (but be ready to do so much more). Use the privilege you have to protect those without the same privileges.
  • Donate to places & causes that need your help right now. Pick one or two causes important to you and focus on those. Don’t let all your effort and energy get lost in just trying to keep up.
  • Recycle, even if it’s inconvenient. Eat less meat. As you can, use less water, less electricity, less stuff.
  • Reach out to loved ones and tell them you care, you’re here, and support one another.
  • Stay informed–beyond of the cycle of the 24/7 entertanewsment channels.
  • Don’t read the comments.
  • Remember this anger and fear but don’t let it poison you–use them to drive forward & sustain your fight 4+ years.
  • Self care. Cliche? Maybe, but needful and important. If you’re not taking care you can’t take care of anyone else.
  • Boost minority/diverse voices. Support minority/diverse businesses & makers. Boycott harmful ones.
  • Be kind–to yourself & those needing kindness–but not to your or their expense.