I wrote a poem in response to a prompt some time ago: the artist who prompted me has responded with a set of truly astounding illustrations. I wish to draw everyone’s attention both to the beautiful detail in the inkwork, and to the light on the crown and the face of the beast. Top-notch.
Likewise in the arts arena, acquaintance and fellow-writer Anna J Roberts has popped out another book, and this one has my cover design on it.
It was my birthday yesterday, and to celebrate my friend F wrote me a poem to my requirements: about fish.
If you’re into buying presents, my Amazon Wishlist and Etsy Favourites; if you’re not into money-spending/broke, I really like it when people do fanart/writing for me. Stick figures are fine. Haiku are terrible but I appreciate the effort anyway. Really I’d just like to hear from you.
(I’m tempted also to say I will provide free Kindle copies of anything people have bought of mine in print, but I’ve no idea how to work it).
A quick warning before I begin: if you have come to this blog looking for tips and tricks to make you into a studmuffin, sex princess, or shagdolphin or whatever the cool kids are calling it now (judging by this site and my own exploration of OKCupid it’s the ability to make women “squart” which I’m assuming is like squirting but with more farts?) when they mean “I want to level up at some sort of mythical, generic, catch-all sex that is supposed to satisfy everyone”… you are on the wrong blog. This is more in the vein of How To Date Without Being A Douchebag and How To Write Gay Characters: a collection of ludicrously obvious common-sense advice that for some reason gets overlooked in favour of complicating matters.
This is kind of a checklist to go over before more involved explanations are sought.
Work out what sexual orientation you actually are. This is the level of advice I’m offering. It may seem enormously logic but given the heavy societal default towards heterosexuality there are lot of people labouring under the belief that they are or ought to be straight or are or ought to be gay etc when they’re neither, and while some people are certain from a very early age of who they’re attracted to, other people aren’t, and it’s always worth checking with yourself to see who actually yanks your crank. It’s also possible that you’re just not into sex at all, which is perfectly okay and a lot more common than advertising would have you believe. Do not think that because you’ve picked an identity based on your attraction that you can’t change your mind. Not everyone’s sexual identity is concrete and finished in their lifetime: you may start out attracted to dudes with penises, become more attracted to dudes who don’t have penises, and later decide that you’re not attracted to anyone any more. Ultimately it’s important to pay attention to your desires rather than making assumptions based on what other people tell you that you want.
Determine your sexual preferences. This is different to your sexual orientation: orientation tells you what the genitals and gender identity of the people you are attracted to are (or that you’re not attracted to anyone sexually), preferences tell you about your type and role in sex. Some people don’t have any physical preferences of type and are only attracted to people whose personality stimulates them, some people have a very broad range of people they are attracted to, and some people have a very specific set of criteria that they find attractive. All of these are okay. Again, it may sound ridiculous that people don’t know what they like, but remember we live in a society where one standard of attractiveness is held up as objectively attractive and what everyone wants: while it’s entirely possible this is what you’re into (and there is nothing wrong with finding popular depictions of beauty or handsomeness attractive), if you feel there is something missing then it’s worth checking if you’re actually attracted to the people you go on dates with or if you go on dates with them because conventional wisdom tells you they’re “a catch”. For example, you might spend years of your life wondering why sex that makes your friends envious isn’t really doing it for you, only to work out that you aren’t actually so much attracted to Kristanna Loken as to Meera Syal, or not so much to Chris Evans as to Mo Farah. There is no such thing as a “wrong type” of adult to be attracted to.
Your preferences don’t just cover your “type”. Your preferences can also cover the role you take in sex. Again, there are standard ideas about who should do what in sexual circumstances, often culturally-dictated, and sometimes they don’t line up with what people actually enjoy the most. It’s worth checking with yourself to see if maybe, perhaps, the idea that you have about “who you are” is eclipsing “what you want”, and to remind yourself that the one doesn’t negate the other: you can still be a kind, nurturing, compassionate person and get pleasure out of hitting someone with a belt, for example. Or to go less extreme on it, maybe you’ve always believed that “gay sex” means anal sex, but you would actually be a lot happier with oral sex. Again, as long as your partner is also happy, there isn’t really a “wrong” sexual preference.
Talk to each other. This is the standard advice everyone gives and with good reason: people are not mind-readers. No one is going to know that you want your toes sucked unless you tell them, and you’re never going to realise that they actually really want a mouthful of foot unless they say so. Strive for non-judgemental conversations about stuff, and you’ll find it’s a lot easier to talk about potentially embarrassing desires/fears rather than allowing the thought “if you would only go a little to the bloody left” to fester. That means not making a ridiculous scene, pulling a face, or baulking if someone brings up something unexpected or undesirable, and it means not throwing a hissyfit if your “best moves” don’t meet with a rapturous reception: what works for one partner you’ve had won’t necessarily work for others. Communication is key.
Get to know yourself. Fairly self-explanatory: you can hardly communicate to someone else what it is you need or want from them if you don’t know yourself what you need or want. Have a fiddle. At worst you’ll find out you don’t like fiddling.
Don’t obsess over orgasms. Greta Christina has some insights on this (if you can bloody find them), but it’s worth reiterating that “better sex” doesn’t necessarily mean “endless pornographic orgasms”. Not everyone orgasms with another person around: not everyone orgasms at all. That doesn’t mean that you can’t generally schlub about with each other and have a good time anyway. This is another area where getting to know yourself and what you want can be useful, as you can warn the other person in your sex to either not expect you to come or to expect you to be a giant fountain of fluids, or whatever is most natural to you. As above: there isn’t a wrong way to be. Not orgasming is only a problem if you feel like you want to but can’t for some medical reason.
Relax. Don’t make me quote Frankie Goes To Hollywood here, it’ll embarrass us all. Being uptight about what’s happening and worrying about how you look or what kind of impression you’re making on each other makes it harder for you to enjoy yourselves. The difficulties adults (particularly British adults, apparently) have in relaxing about sex may account for why “most heterosexual people in this country, and around the world, meet each other, and get together with one another when they’re totally, totally drunk.” [Dylan Moran]. It does help, however, if you don’t sail wildly past “relaxed-drunk” into “amnesia-drunk”, and therefore forget that you’ve had sex at all. You may well scoff, but that was a large part of my sex life for years.
Eradicate shame as best you can. Feeling terrible about yourself and the things you enjoy unsurprisingly diminishes the amount you enjoy those things. Sex, along with food, is probably the most shame-filled of enjoyable things in Western society, meaning that everyone continues to indulge (because abstaining – as opposed to being simply uninterested – places a strain on one and leads one into obsession and greater temptation than simply “do as thy will dictates” does, as anyone who has ever been on a diet will tell you), and then to self-flagellate and doubt afterwards. Advice columns are filled with worried anonymouses anxiously asking am I normal, when the answer they want is to the unasked question: am I okay? Fuck normal. People have been into all sorts since consciousness and sexuality coexisted in the same bodies. It’s not easy to slough off a lifetime of conditioning to the contrary, but not haranguing oneself for one’s desires – however “strange” or “boring” they might seem to anyone else – is a recipe for instant improvement in sex.
Every time you open your eyes you look through the filter of your experiences, beliefs, and culture. You are not objective. No one is objective.
Every time you listen to what someone else is saying, you listen through the veil of your experiences, beliefs, prejudices, orthodoxy. You are not objective. You are in all probability ascribing other meanings to what they are saying than the ones they intended when they chose those words. No one is objective.
There is no perfect method of communication. Two brains cannot directly share information. Everything must be encoded in language or symbols, and decoded again at the other end. Language is an imperfect tool. There are no perfect tools.
Not only does language imperfectly describe the thoughts and experiences of the person attempting to communicate, but your own, our own thoughts and experiences, prejudices, and culture also colours what you understand of their linguistic encoding. Ten people can hear the same speech and come away with ten different opinions of what the speaker meant, and none of them will be what the speaker intended.
You cannot tell someone what they intended, you can only tell them what you understood. You cannot tell someone what they understood, only what you intended.
Language is an imperfect tool. It becomes even more imperfect when we assume that it is perfect and that our own understanding is the same as someone else’s intention.
“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
All of these and several others are available from my Etsy store.
Brass brooch frame with metal pin back, brass filigree bead, and glass pearl drop: Elizabethan etching reproduction image and glass cabochon.
Wear a little piece of Shakespeare’s London with this Tudor-style brooch and fragmentary glimpse of London Bridge as it used to be! Couples up beautifully with a quilted jacket, or on a blazer, but don’t limit yourself! The key to great style is not being afraid to experiment.
28 inch / 71 centimetre brass chain, acrylic and glass bead necklace with brass filigree beads.
A dainty but eye-catching combination of vivid green and deep brass, this delicate mid-length confection is perfect paired with long or short necklaces, and makes a subtle statement when worn alone.
Gunmetal ball chain, white leather and paper dogtag.
Who says dogtags have to be cold metal clanking against your chest? Why not wear a strip of William Morris’s finest on soft, comfortable leather instead? Quirky, one of a kind pendant perfect for unique dressers.
When you’ve already made a grand proclamation about your very ambitious NaNoWriMo project in public it’s a bit humiliating to have to admit that while you can write with a full-time job you cannot do the copious research necessary (in hindsight “read every single book about London history and mythology ever” might take a little more than two months) with one.
But that is what I’m doing: the requirements of The Ideal London, which is only about two-thirds plotted still and has a very mushy middle (always my problem with plotting, the second act is so frequently like the middle of a badly-baked cake), far exceed the time I’ve allotted myself for my usual NaNo outbursts, and something else has been nagging at me demanding to be written.
Now generally speaking if you’re trying to write something and it’s being an obstructive ass that you have to slog through, it’s probably not the right time to be trying to write it: if you’re constantly being distracted by another idea and no one has commissioned you for idea number one, then it makes perfectly good sense to write the one that’s demanding to be written.
This is the advice I would automatically give to other people, which is probably why I was failing to take it myself. It took an observation from my friend Lin (who has within the last couple of years gone from “I should write that” to “I’m writing that” and as a consequence hiccupped out a trilogy of fantasy novels as if it were nothing) that 2012 is my designated year of “Write Whatever The Fuck You Want” (which is how The Breaking of M came to be) to make me decide. Of course, the ever-delightful Lizzie also pointed out that every year should ideally be the Year Of Write Whatever The Fuck You Want, and that’s definitely worth taking into consideration. Regardless of whether the actual business of physical output is hard, if one’s brain is continually shying away from writing something it’s not worth forcing it.
In light of that, I’ve now exchanged a London-based metafictional fantasy with added world-saving and commentary about the nature of fiction for a less research-heavy London-based organised crime story involving blood magic and bisexual love triangles, for which the research amounts to “watch Shakespeare adaptations and Guy Ritchie movies”, which I think I can handle in the time I’ve got left a little better than my meaty, weighty, literary-fiction project. The Ideal London has plenty of material for it, though, and I will definitely be writing it… when I have a little more time!
I will turn 30 on the 30th of this month, which was not an age I’d really planned on reaching and was in fact previously supposed to be the point at which a friend of mine and I enacted our grandiose suicide pact. As the gentleman in question now has a) a stunningly pretty boyfriend, b) a flourishing and well-regarded business that he recently took to the London Alternative Fashion Week, c) a frightening quantity of good friends and d) a really good relationship with his parents, I somehow doubt that he’s any more into “take acid and jump off a carpark” than I am, now.
This just goes to show, I suppose, that a lot can happen in the seedy years between adolescence and what will have to pass for maturity (I’m not sure it’s actual maturity until I’ve stopped doing energetic dances at dinosaur skeletons where members of the public can see me or learnt how not to refer to things as “bangin’!”, especially when said things are, for example, pre-Raphaelite paintings). While I’m still medically and legally completely bonkers and not likely to be cured of it, all the frantic wallbanging and hideous desperation has been drained out in a long series of slowly improved friendships and less hateful jobs, and in the company of one very patient man who is currently trying to fry bacon with his arm in a sling.
I can’t really muster the requisite introspection just yet – I’ll save that for the actual birthday – so I’ll settle for being surprised, pleasantly even, that I still haven’t joined the choir eternal and no one dislikes me quite enough to shove me under a bus any more. Oh, and for prodding people at my Amazon wishlist, because why the hell not? It is a little weird-looking, primarily because I use it as a reminder list rather than a hopeful request to the kindness of passing strangers … usually.