Considering the fruits of the past ten years, from the midst of a transiting Mars in Gemini x Mercury in Capricorn retrograde
How have you been?
I’m writing to you from the tail end of a blessed week off from the day job. It’s New Year’s Eve. Philadelphia has been enveloped in a foggy drizzly cloud all day, and it’s 53 degrees out in the dark of early evening.
I’m finally starting to catch my breath from work during ‘the holiday season’ (my copy writing brain rings out), aka Q4, aka 3 (arguably 4) straight months of all hands on deck concentrated effort.
Back when I started self publishing and distributing my ALL THAT’S LEFT (ATL) zines around town and the early-mid 2010s internet, I had a number of encounters with people who would ask or assume that I was well read in the literary canon of scifi fantasy (SFF) writers of the past 80 or so years, and most of the time I’d be like mmmmnaw, I mainly…watch anime and like, a lot of blockbuster movies and pulpy comics and shit.
So around that time I began to read more ‘classics’ of scifi, kinda more the cyberpunk authors of the 80s and then back into the feminist and ‘speculative’ wave of the 60s and 70s. Ursula K LeGuin and James Tiptree Jr, Octavia Butler, Stanislaw Lem, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, etc. And I began to, I guess, read more about the lives of scifi authors of those eras. Who was middle class, who was in the CIA, who cooperated with the Pentagon, who was an engineer by trade, who worked in advertising…
And I remember starting college at 23, majoring in Communications, telling myself, as I focused on theory, that, shit I could neeeever deliberately go into advertising and marketing —can you tell where this is going? Yeah. Now I’m like 15 years in at a boutique retail job where I started as a part time floor staff/blogger and now work full time as self proclaimed Online Director. Until 2 years ago, I single-handedly translated and wrote all the copy, photographed all the product, designed and operated the ecommerce, admin’d all the social media, researched and selected product we should sell, and basically shaped the voice and branding personality for this small biz. I wound up in a persuasive communications job. The only steady paying, physically doable gig for me in this town.
In January 2020 I had officially moved on from this job to pursue writing full time, with my then partner boo willing to cover some of my bills. I wrote like 4-5 chapters of novel manuscript. Then we all know —the pandemic hit, my brain melted, we were in the streets, we were panicking online, massive transfers of power and capital occurred, Instagram and other social media platforms took off the mask re: data mining shopping preference direct to consumer advertising, and by October I went back to my job for that steady paycheck.
This is kind of all a setup to say that I realized this year, when Q4 rolls around anymore, I have to relinquish my expectations that I will get ANYTHING else done in a regular fashion besides day job work (half in person half computer jockey), taking care of my body, and prioritizing socializing and rest.
The other reason I bring up my day job here in this cyberspace is because I’ve been ~reflecting~ on the fruits of my efforts of the past ten years. METROPOLARITY officially started 12.12.12 and anyone who came to our events knows, we brought the fucking zeitgeist. About a year before that I had been putting out zines with the first fully formed ATL short stories. I won grants, awards, read up and down the east coast, had stories published, taught classes, facilitated workshops, dropped spoken verses on friends’ albums, and generally wrote my ass off in fits of rage and lamentation.
I’ve also experienced my reputation and work falling out of relevance and being forgotten. How short lived some things are, and as they say, you don’t realize just how brief they are until the time has already passed.
I had started writing what would become ATL around 2005 as a method of claiming mental space for myself through/after a longterm abusive relationship. And nearly since 2012 I was supposed to make this hyper/nonlinear story world a novel ten times over now. I can’t seem to finish it.
“Who am I writing this for?”
Ras Cutlass reminded me the writing has to be for me.
I think writing fiction is one of the most grueling things to do “for fun”. Over the years I’ve lamented how a year’s worth of writing and editing a short story resulted in a grand total $50 reprint payment for publication in a book that would go out of print. I’ve lamented how you have to have time/space/wealth/resources to write books it seems. You need a wifey or a really good friend group to feed you and keep your spirits up from time to time. You need to have a routine, habits, some kind of stability. Your hands and eyes and brain need to be reliable. And you somehow need to “make sense” to publishers when you believe that publishing is full of people who uncritically subscribe to the conventions of upper middle class white society.
Over the past ten years, I took to reading some classics, applying to prestigious workshops and grants, used/offered my beliefs as the basis for organizers to imagine what’s possible in social justice circles, and said over and over and over again about how all I want to finish this novel is to 1) get access to a mentor I can relate to, and 2) get access to an intensive style writing/arts program that would support me to finish this story… and no one was giving it to me. I watched my Metropolarity peers have specific concepts from their works lifted by social justice organizers, who then for years profited off of and built up their own platforms with that work. I have watched the results for #queerscifi and #afrofuturism hashtags transform away from the people who first wrote them. I have watched the SFF publishing industry working to diversify itself away from the myopically middle class cisgender white American concern, mining for fiction to publish to its markets from other parts of the world while unable to notice the WEALTH of POOR and WORKING writers in its own backyard, the ones who could stand to get well paid in advance or at all for their efforts.
Furthermore, working by trade for long hours on the internet and all its physically inhospitable devices, I’ve become so incredibly dismayed by the manipulative infrastructure of today’s internet, that my pre-pandemic habits of maintaining a productive and timely internet presence feels crazymaking. I even hesitate to call what we have now the internet —and I would LOVE to hear from any people in their teens and twenties what they think of the internet and what it does to society and how it makes you and other people feel and behave like —but yes, the era of platforms we’re in, it sickens me. The platforms Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, we know them all and then some. We know they’re built to be addictive. We know they manipulate what images and messages, advertisements and suggested accounts we receive. We know they’re full of bots and fake accounts from god knows what operator. We know it makes us feel…something. And how is this place of platforms an appropriate space for sharing information anymore —when it’s all every inch a surveilled market?
That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. I am feeling the effects of 20+ years staring at an illuminated pane of glass just 2 feet or less from my face. I am standing on the other side of a few generations now, reassessing the terrain and where I stand and why. What do I have to show for myself? Who is looking? I learned 8th house moons need a witness.
Angry animal, soul sucked of connection, replaced with ads, noise is deafening, eyes full of light and can’t see shit
Lurking as a form of protection surprise it’s no better than participating passive consumer parasocial experiment make rich miners sons richer
Writing a novel may not be for me in this pandemic society
Can’t believe how many parties i missed cause I didnt want to willingly disable myself with plague, it’s so civil, now I’m isolated from where i started
Hello hello are you out there
So it’s been a sordid and begrudging experience contending with a choice I made midway through 2022. I told myself I had better start taking pride in and acknowledging the work I’ve put in and contributed over the years. And no where is that more tangible for me than at my motherfucking day job. Through my trade as a self-taught freelance designer. Where has my writing and artistic output gone, I ask myself? Why honey, I’ve had to use it to make a living now.
I’ve found myself with more responsibility than ever. At pay job but also in mundane life, with myself (physical therapy, therapy, resting), and spiritually. Before this week vacation started my brain was unrelentingly teeeeeeming with tasks and obligations from the second I gained consciousness to the late hour I went to sleep. A long durational constant state for more than a year it feels. An ever-refining pressure that I need utmost efficiency in all my routines, so that I can possibly continue to write produce make things maintain relationships feed myself get enough sleep and… That, if I wasn’t staying on top of things, as the saying goes, I would never get this novel done.
For a while I’ve known something is wrong. Something is blocked. Fear lurks in some place just beyond my conscious awareness. Anger threatens to choke and sadness smokes the day away. I ask myself why I feel burnt out and disgruntled, disillusioned and strangely isolated. Why writing has become so difficult and unfun, paralyzing, words brittle and meaningless. The other day I was chatting with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha about how this 3 years into the pandemic/end of Saturn in Aquarius are bleak fucking times in so many ways, or that shit lately has been taking me back to the bleakest period of my life, where I was working multiple jobs saving money preparing to make a big move out of the 4-years-long abusive situation I had got myself in. The difference between then and now tho is that now the abusive situation is as big as climate catastrophe world war living through a technological paradigm shift. And where do you go to get out of that?
Into the ground, honestly. But I’m not talking about killing myself. I’m talking about needing to shed and release a whole body of constraints.
Writing all this out is me pulling the cork on a long stopped bottle.
I have a backlog of things to say.
I may not know who you are, reading this, but I appreciate you.
The following is an earlier version of the sentiment in this newsletter, which I started like the day I started my week off. I was trying to lay out all the loose threads connecting internet platforms, internet archives, fruits of one’s efforts over time, bodily capability, and what’s real.
I’ve been missing connection something terrible, and yet my motivation remains contorted around the never ending task list in my head.
I got a new doctor back in the neighborhood I grew up in and suddenly I’m speaking to a behavioral health specialist, starting physical therapy for my chronic inflammation, getting an EYE EXAM…
My brain does not feel good when I start to think about what I used to concern myself with before the pandemic. I say this referencing its capacity to stick to a task. Now I am flooding over with tasks.
Every bit of divinatory advice has repeated the following:
- go with the flow
- release the water (pent up emotions)
- rest the brain
Instead my notion of rest is getting a spare minute to concentrate and write this missive from behind a dining room desk strewn with notebooks, PT weights and bands, pens and markers, a poetry book open face down, tarot cards, gum, a doob tube, a couple empty bowls that could get washed…………………………………
So, as if I never spent so many days several years ago waxing and waning about the treatments of Saturn, I feel myself once more undergoing some form of submission.
I’m writing this listening to The Ire’s song Dirae, thinking about the other night when I was standing outside in the lumpy backyard where it’s dark, smoking a jazz cig and staring up at that commanding red wanderer, Mars. Lust and distraction. Tell me a lesson.
What to do with it and how to focus. I was the one who wrote “you have to forge yourself into a weapon” and I’m still here struggling to grip the tongs. Or so it seems, in my haste.
I’ve been attempting to find this flow or go with it, but then I stop to ask myself do I even know the end goal. The old one that I started with doesn’t seem to stand, or… I question its merit.
Frankly I’m sick of myself and this ever present berating of what I still haven’t accomplished. There are so many hours in the day and I have to allot quite a chunk of them to a day job in this unseemly, insulting American society. I read that article too about there being considerably less working class artists in British society now. Do we all really have to keep working?
I’d been wanting to update my URL cyborgmemoirs.com to the latest WordPress theme, but then got so sad when I realized I truly did not have the capacity to get into the outrageously nice WYSIWYG theme editor functionality and so on and so forth. So I changed a typeface on my current theme and feel a little better.
What bothers me, in all this task keeping, is the way I feel splintered and my voice, my broadcast, my “internet presence” is as shattered and disjointed as its ever been. Am I showing signs of information burnout? Me, the one who calls their personal site Cyborg Memoirs? The internet as anonymous journal, cyber refuge—that’s all over. For me, with this moniker, maybe…
One thing I’ve never forgotten through reading that 90s experimental academic anthology The Cyborg Handbook, is that cyborgs historically, as entities, arise from war culture.
If I disappeared and unplugged what would there be to come back to? It’s a question I’ve only asked myself in this moment typing it.
I keep finding myself at junctures where the question is how much do you believe the story you’re telling yourself?
Are these the real reasons?
Where’s the scent gone?
What do I need to give up? Did I give up the wrong things?
It’s that kind of shit. Perhaps a misleading tangent to come back and say that all these conniving platforms has my archive-oriented brain STRESSSSSSSSSED OUUUUUUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I can’t believe how much impactful writing I did on that deleted tumblr (2011-2015?) that is gone, and from such a particular era. I’m stupid for deleting, and I even have a personal policy that I don’t trash my old journals.
I can’t believe how much collected writing stands to be generated just by piecing together the archive of this very newsletter. You know, I talk about how I’ve been struggling to write this novel, meanwhile I’ve written tomes in other forms. Shit, I’ve had a tumblr archive zine all gathered together and “just needs to be laid out” that I haven’t gotten to for over a year…
And it was only this week, maybe even TODAY, that I realized how much of my creative energy now goes to my job. A classic cautionary tale. Don’t be a jack of all trades and don’t be someone who HAS TO WORK!!!!!!!
And yet, who will keep the lights on and your belly fed? Who will wash the dishes? Who will do the laundry and sweep the floors?
I swear there is a long game in this forlorn recounting. Rather than, say, intuitively building out a website because I have the energy agility and willpower to burn, experimenting and learning along the way, turning up exhausted after overlong hours at the deck… I have to think about my end goal, my actual desire, what I REALLY WANT at the end of my effort. I have to pay better attention.
I’m amazed at all that I’ve done and made and accomplished from my ‘sheer force of will’ style of doing things. But the way I’ve been trying to “finish this manuscript” or “write this novel” hasn’t been working. I’ve spent the last seven’ish years steadily prioritizing this book, scheduling my “free time” for isolated writing (since I haaate a co-work session where ppl don’t respect the silence), attempting various routines/cycles/methods, running my own writing intensives, and cutting out every and any possible side project or collab that would take my focus off the book. And I’m not getting the results I desire.
So. It’s time to change up what I’m doing.