On Connection

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Groovy, baby.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–Carl W. Buehner

Ever since writing my 2018 report the other day and putting thought into 2019, I’ve become increasingly aware of a theme woven into the music of my life and now coming to the forefront: I must develop my ability to create connection, both on a personal and professional basis, and within my writing.

Because when I look at what isn’t working in my life right now, I see two sides of the same coin: needing to learn how to network in order to build my coaching practice on the one side, and being told repeatedly, “Your writing is crisp, clean, and professional, but the book just didn’t grab me…” on the other. Both of these things are about creating an emotional connection with people, whether directly or indirectly.

I’ve always been vaguely aware of this in terms of watching the audience for Suburban Jungle (and my place within the furry fandom generally)– it’s just like my friendships have been over the course of my life. SJ has a smallish knot of devoted fans, some of whom are intensely devoted to it. (NeverNever was like this too, only moreso.) As long as I can remember, I’ve had a few very close friends, and often been very challenged around getting outside of that group.

Those tight friendships (and very devoted fans) mean the world to me and I don’t want to downplay them. But it is increasingly clear to me as time goes on that I need to widen my circle. A small number of tight friends can make a handful of referrals in my client hunt, but their potential is quickly tapped out on that front. A very devoted fan might buy all of my books and support the highest tiers of my Patreon, but they are only one fan and cannot subsidize my life (nor would I want them to).

And besides the straightforward inability of the math to get me what I need, these small circles also don’t give me what I want. I want to help people with my coaching. I want people’s days to be better because I was in them. I want to have crowds at my table, and people writing fanfics or doing in-depth analysis of my work on Tumblr. As nice as it might be to be recognized as a genius posthumously? I want my work to be loved now.

When my Aunt Iris died, half of Fairfax and Loudoun counties came to her funeral, and everyone– everyone– had something to say about the way she’d connected to them. By comparison, when my father died a year later, his funeral was attended by maybe twenty people, including his three children, their spouses and children, and some of my friends.

That stuck with me.

I loved my dad. Everyone there did. But there is no denying that his life was, in its way, small and limited. I don’t want mine to be.

So what am I going to do about it? I think I was starting to come to awareness of this gap when I came up with my writing goals for 2019, because I listed my goal as “Create self-satisfaction, expression, and meaningful impact in others’ lives by means of becoming a successful and widely-read author/artist.” I added as one of my goals to change my relationship to, say, my Patreon, by focusing not on the dollar amount it brings in, but by the number of subscribers who sign up and the amount of comments that are left.

Similarly, I tweeted last night, “I’ve got ~1500 followers on Twitter and ~450 on Tumblr, and I would like to double those numbers by the end of January. But I’m looking for, y’know, real people who will like my work, not bots. Any suggestions on what I should do, real people?” And that’s an important distinction! I don’t want fluffed up “metrics” that don’t mean anything, I’m not some dot-com-era middle manager looking for clicks.

How will I do this? By finding ways to make my writing grab people. By making more genuine connections with the people I meet. By being with people, instead of either up on a stage or hiding at the back of the room.

If this past year was finally learning how to be friends with myself? This coming year is going to be learning how to be friends with the world.

Gneech’s 2018 Report

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My best self.

As I write this, I’m sitting at the drawing table pictured, wearing the headphones and necklace pictured. The rest is a bit harder to pull off. >.>

So! How was 2018? On the grand social scale, of course, it was a dumpster fire. This is hardly news. All the worst people, frantically trying to destroy not just the USA but the whole world, before it all comes crashing down and they end up shooting themselves in the bunker. It’s as inevitable as it is sad. But those of us who are working to build something better will keep working.

On my own personal front, by comparison, it’s been what you might call a challenging year– not in a drama and angsty way, but in the form of taking on difficult obstacles and working to overcome them. This came mostly through the coach training, which was a deep dive into 49 years of mud and gunk that needed cleaning out, but was also singularly more effective than decades of counseling had been on that front. (Which is not to bag on my counselors over the years, but they just didn’t have the intensive focus of the coach training.)

So, looking back on my plans for the year, how did I do?

  1. Gneech, Life Coach. This is up and running! I have passed my exams with Accomplishment Coaching and I’m about 2/3 of the way to my first ICF certification. Right now I’m working on fluffing up my client base a bit more, and I expect to go on to become a Mentor Coach for next year’s program. I’ve got a coaching blog up and running, and I’m looking forward to big things on this front in 2019.
  2. Help Laurie Get Her Business Running. Well, I did help! She’s still working on it. >.> The business exists, we’re getting our insurance through it, so that’s good! The rest of it is up to her. 🙂
  3. Stable and Reliable Income. This piece is still under construction. As the coaching business grows, it will naturally come to pass.
  4. Figure Out What’s Up With My Writing. Honestly, I just didn’t have time to work on this with the coach training going on. I have a project in place to take this on again in 2019.
  5. Sell. A. Book. Didn’t happen, ‘cos above.
  6. Issues Seven, Eight, and Nine. Seven done. Eight 1/2 way done. Nine will have to come next year.
  7. Continue Fixing the Country. I’ve marched, I’ve voted, I’ve campaigned, I’ve called my reps a million times. It’s an ongoing process.
  8. Take a Vacation. Alas, did not happen.

It essentially boils down to “the coach training was huge and intense and took most of my mental energy.” So a lot of other things didn’t get done while that was happening. I have no regrets, though– this was something I badly needed.

What did happen was that for the first time since I can remember, I really and truly became friends with myself– like, all of myself, even the parts I had not been willing to talk to since I was four. There was a specific moment that I had never forgiven myself or let go of the pain and shame from, which I confronted and processed… finally. Only forty-five years later! But better late than never.

Confronting this moment led to the birth of Nii-chan, about whom I’ve written at length elsewhere. In a lot of ways, she is the best version of me, and whenever I find myself wondering what I want to do about something, or who I should be in a moment, I ask myself “What would Nii-chan do?” She’s like the integrated version of the Three Lions and an Otter, but even her version of Business Guy is a lot happier. (Nii-chan is also practice for my next incarnation, so I can hit the planet running when that comes to pass. I don’t want to waste forty years of my next life trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.)

So, yeah. It’s been a big year on that score. But where do I want to go in 2019?

  1. Bring Rough Housing to Its Conclusion. 2019 will be the 20th anniversary of Suburban Jungle, and it seems a fitting place to bring that chapter to a close. My current plan is to finish the story at the end of issue ten. As my hand tremors get worse, it is becoming harder to keep up with what was already an ambitious production schedule, and honestly, I think that story-wise, RH will be done at that point. So I’d rather finish something and feel good about it, than to drag it out to stay within the familiar.
  2. Writing Goals. My goalposts on this front are two short stories sold, an agent secured for Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, a furry novel written for NaNoWriMo, and an anthology project created with FurPlanet.
  3. She-Ra Writing Gig. Seeing Seanan McGuire geek out about landing the writing job on Spider-Gwen made me realize that I wanted that experience in my life. Spider-Gwen is a character that Seanan was pretty much born to write, and honestly, I feel the same about Catra and myself. I have no idea how I’m going to convince the She-Ra writing team to let me on board, but I’ll find a way.
  4. Full Coaching Client Roster. My goal is 14+ clients by this time next year, including five Creativity Klatch clients and three Mentor Coaching clients.
  5. California Trip. I miss Big Sur like whoa.
  6. 222 Pounds. Something that wasn’t on my 2018 list was losing weight– so naturally I made big strides on that! XD Specifically I lost 30 pounds since May, bringing me to my lowest adult weight yet. I have another 50 pounds to go to be at my goal weight of 222, but I am confident that I will hit it this year.
  7. Continue Continuing to Fix the Country. Keep going ’til it doesn’t suck.

So, yeah. That’s where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. I think 2019 is gonna be a great year. 🙂

Shade-Of-the-Candle

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A very Shady lady.

Christmas presents are on Shady this year.

…Also, the kobold king called, he wants Santa to put her on the “Naughty” list.

So yeah, this is Shade-Of-the-Candle, or “Shady” to her friends. I had already been noodling around with this idea for my next D&D character, and Catra from the new She-Ra series inspired me to go ahead and flesh her out some. She’s a chaotic neutral swashbuckler, an adrenalin junkie with no fucks to give, whose motivation basically boils down to doing all the things people keep telling her not to. (Of course, I am not a jerk player, so her CN alignment etc. are not excuses to wreck the game, merely descriptors.)

I love my little problem child. <3

A Cinnamon Roll Who Wants to Kill You

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Catra practices her 'Take Down Shadow-Weaver' touch.

Last night, Multiclass Geek finished watching She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and, on completing it, asked, “So why do you like Catra so much? You said she was a cinnamon roll! But she’s the villain!”

Well, yes, she is. And by the end of the series, Catra does some very cruel stuff. But like Adora herself, I still love Catra and hold out hope for a redemption arc, and I think it’s worth talking about why. I’ve mentioned before the parallels between Catra and my own Leona Lioness, and honestly it wasn’t until I watched She-Ra that I understood why Leona resonated so strongly for so many of my readers.

Catra is all about the way pain twists you and leads you to make dumb mistakes– and then committing to them even when you realize what a dumb mistake it is.

Having lived her life in a never-ending series of no-win situations, Catra is a survivor of a very specific kind of gaslighting abuse. Shadow Weaver explicitly states that Catra’s only purpose growing up was to be “Adora’s pet,” and this is underscored later by the way Shadow Weaver treats Catra’s successes as Force Captain as being irrelevant. What Catra thinks is “I have to jump twice as high to get half the recognition” (which is already an injustice to begin with), is actually “You will never get recognition because you are not the favorite.”

Catra finally realizes this when she says to Shadow Weaver “After all I’ve done for you, it’s still Adora that you want?” This line is the beginning of her deciding to take her own power; it’s also the moment when she shifts from feeling mostly sad and betrayed at Adora’s defection, to being straight-up wrathful.

Catra is every minority dealing with the reality of privilege. Catra is every red-headed stepchild. Catra is every younger sibling who has to get out from the shadow of their superstar older sister/brother. Catra is every kid who got beat up by a bully, and then was sent to detention for fighting.

So to answer why I refer to Catra as a cinnamon roll, I can only point to the amount of time Catra spends crying. She is deeply unhappy throughout the entire series, and even when she does smile it’s a mean “How does it feel, bitch?” kind of smirk. Her only experience of power and agency have come through being the victim of cruelty and injustice. Even Adora’s attempts at kindness had to be filtered through that. Catra’s been indoctrinated that there is no good or bad, only strong or weak, and you can tell on some level she doesn’t really believe it (hence the little moment of heartbreak when Scorpia describes her as being a great friend).

This poison in her mind makes her see Adora’s love and support as patronizing. Catra believes herself to be weak, and assumes Adora believes that as well, and so it makes perfect (if misguided) sense to resent that. Catra is the darkest version of Entrapta’s kitchen staff believing that they can’t do anything because they’re not princesses.

The entire society of Eternia is built on this “Princess/Not-a-Princess” hierarchy, which is presumably why Shadow Weaver (having been raised in Eternia’s biases herself) is so fixated on Adora. She-Ra is at the absolute top of that hierarchical heap, being the one that even the other princesses answer to. The only way to be “as good as” Adora, for Catra, is to become her opposite.

As I say, this puts her in a no-win situation. And she knows it, and she hates it, and she doesn’t see a way out of it.

So, this is why I love Catra, because I’ve lived in that no-win situation. I know how it feels, and I know how it hurts, and I want her to escape, because on my dark days I have to escape it again myself over and over again.

Categories: Gneechy Talk

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Why Am I Awake? Oh Well, Have Some News

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One of these is a sweet and loving feline, forced by circumstances to seem mean. The other is GrumpyCat.

First item of news! I passed my coach training finals! 😀 This means I will graduate from the Accomplishment Coaching training program, and I’m about 2/3 of the way to an Associate Certified Coach certification with the International Coach Federation.

Now… just to earn a living with it. >.>

Second item of news! Yesterday I was so inspired by Seanan McGuire geeking out over her Spider-Gwen gig that I decided– with no plan how or even idea of the feasibility– that I wanted to get involved in working on She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, on the grounds that as Seanan was basically born to write Spider-Gwen, I was basically born to write Catra. >.>

So I have spent all day canvassing anyone and everyone I know even marginally related to the animation industry looking for referrals or leads, as well as just flat-out e-mailing Noelle Stevenson via the address on her web page and saying “I want in! What do I do?”

In all of my years of creating comics, I never wanted to connect directly to a larger franchise before. As much fun as I’ve had banging around in the My Little Pony fandom, it never occurred to me to try to actually get involved in the show. Heck, LevelHead once offered to finance the creation of a NeverNever pilot to shop around back in the day, and I just didn’t think I was ready for it.

Why She-Ra, and why now?

Well, like I say, Catra is a big reason. She’s basically the Leona/Langley/Tanya/Brigid archetype I’ve been writing for 20 years. Another reason is something I described on Twitter a few days back, of having spent 20 years thinking I was being Tiffany Tiger in my career, when I was actually being Leona instead. For various reasons I’ve been going through my life with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake, sabotaging myself without realizing it and feeling defined by the wins other people were achieving that I felt like “should be” mine.

The transformative process I’ve been going through in my coaching career has really opened my eyes to this, and it’s time for me to change it. Part of that includes putting down the ego-driven “Must create it all from scratch!” mindset and connecting to other creators (and other projects) outside my own little corner of the universe.

Wish me luck! This is a scary, ambitious undertaking for me. Not the actual work of the writing, that part is easy! But changing who I am, moving into a much larger world… that’s hard. O.o

 

The Blogosphere Is Falling Down, Falling Down, Falling Down…

So, Tumblr has famously splinched itself. Patreon is trying desperately to serve its most dedicated users against the will of every bank in the universe. Facebook is and always was a dumpster fire. LiveJournal was Russianized ages ago. Twitter has a Nazi problem in its upper offices. And now WordPress is “updating” itself into unusability.

I don’t mind telling you, I am frustrated.

For a shining window of time (say, 2000-2005ish? I’m terrible with dates), blogging was AMAZEBALLS. There was so much cool stuff to read! People just expounding on any nerdy thing that interested them! People would actually have discussions about stuff! Flamewars did happen sometimes, but they were considered a breakdown of the system, not an inescapable fact of life.

There’s no point in saying “What happened, man?” ‘cos we know what happened. Bots happened. Apparatchiks looking for targets happened. A bunch of broken sadboys happened. Corporate pettiness, short-term thinking, and mendacity happened. The religious right happened. A ton of bullshit happened.

Well I also don’t mind telling you, I’m not giving up. The human capacity for creativity, beauty, and deep thought is limitless, and humanity’s desire to connect, share, and grow is limitless as well. Once there were storytellers, then there were poets, then there were philosophers and playwrights, then there were writers, then there were bloggers. The mode evolves, but the drive remains.

I don’t think that the heat death of the blogoverse is inevitable, and I fully intend to rage against the dying of the light on that front. But I also know that even if the form completely chokes, that drive will manifest again in another form. And I will be watching, ready to pounce on it.

Categories: Gneechy Talk

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