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responsibility

Convention Life: The Other “Con” — Consent

Conferences

I’ve decided to republish the series of posts about conventions and convention life that were originally published over at Speculative Chic. This particular post, about consent — a super important topic in con life — was published on August 10, 2017. You can find the original here!


Maybe you’ve heard the term “Cosplay is not Consent.” It’s a movement within the fan convention community to educate people on how to act — or rather, how not to act. And it all revolves around Consent.

Why talk about consent?

Conventions can be a lot like parties, and at parties people want to have fun. But generally, folks are thinking of their own fun and not necessarily the fun of others. So talking about consent is important both within and outside of conventions so that we can also be aware of other people’s comfort and wellbeing at the con.

It’s also important to talk about consent because having ownership over one’s body is a fundamental right of being human. Setting boundaries on how other people treat us is a healthy way of living life. And consent is a big part of boundary setting.

 

What is Consent?

Photo: CARE – Campus Assault ResponsE – http://campusassaultresponse.org/

Consent is simply agreement. It can be nuanced in different ways, but when you drill right down to its basic definition, it is agreement.

Consent means that all involved parties agree to what is happening, whether it’s something physical, like touching or taking a photo, or verbal, such as being catcalled, being talked about, or objectified.

What does consent mean at a convention?

It means that no matter how someone is dressed, no matter how much (or how little) skin is showing, there is no touching without asking. It is not an invitation for other people. It does not mean that the person — usually a woman — is a party favor for your use.

This isn’t just about touching, though. It’s about everything from touching to speaking. It’s about being aware of how the words we say affect the person we’re speaking to or about. It’s about treating people with dignity.

Cosplay is Not Consent is the movement that has come out of the flood of complaints of harassment and, in some cases, assault, that has happened at conventions across the country, from the biggest to the smallest. Check out Geeks for Consent for some great links to news stories about this topic.

Is it all in the gender?

Fan conventions are often male-dominated, so it makes sense that the higher number of consent violations are done by men. It can be difficult to explain to men why being touched without permission or being objectified by verbal comments is unwelcome.

Often, when we, as women, say, “How would you feel if…?” the response tends to be, “Oh, I would love it if a woman just walked up to me and grabbed my ass!”

What these men often don’t have perspective of is that women receive this sort of treatment all the time. Catcalls, inappropriate comments about their bodies, and even unwelcome touches from men. And it is all with no choice in who is doing these things. It can be any man, at any place, at any time.

If men think this is something they might enjoy, I believe they’re envisioning a woman they’re attracted to doing it at a time and place they would like it to be done. And that is not the experience of women who receive this sort of attention from men, both at conventions and outside conventions. These behaviors are done by men, regardless of whether the woman is attracted to them, is in the mood for such attention, or wants any attention at all. In other words, without her consent.

So men who think they would like this often don’t understand that they probably wouldn’t, if their reality matched the reality of women’s experiences.

But men are not the only people violating consent at conventions. Women do it too. Not nearly to the numbers as men, but they can be just as offensive as men. I once watched a woman literally grab a guy’s codpiece for a photo, to the man’s absolute surprise. I couldn’t tell whether he was offended or not, but it was still non-consensual and a sexual assault by its very nature.

Anyone has the ability to violate consent. It happens much more to women by men than vice versa, but it can happen both ways. The only hope in combating this is to make us all more aware.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to police our own actions.

How To Avoid Being ‘That Dude’ (or ‘That Chick’)

Do

  • give compliments or ask questions focusing more on the costume than the body in it — “Did you paint your leggings yourself? Those are really cool!”
  • give generalized compliments –“Your costume is amazing!” or “You look just like Gal Godot! That’s incredible.” etc.Keep Calm and Get Consent
  • pay attention to body language and environment — If they’re waiting in line for the bathroom, be very brief in your interaction, if it’s necessary at all; if they look like they’re on a mission to get somewhere, let them go; pay attention to whether your attention is welcome.
  • be respectful of someone’s time and space — don’t monopolize.
  • ASK — Everyone appreciates someone who takes a moment to ask their consent to take a photo or touch a part of their costume or body; this can’t be stressed enough.
  • Be respectful of the answer to your question — Always remember that they’re allowed to say no. Don’t already be doing the thing as you ask for their consent. Wait for their answer.
  • Say thank you when they’ve agreed to something you’ve requested, because they’re doing something nice for you.

Don’t

  • catcall, unless it’s appropriate — It might be appropriate at a costume contest, or some other situation where an audience is expected to make noise.
  • comment specifically about someone’s body — Consider “You’ve got great boobs!” vs “You look great!” The first is a big no; the second is a big yes.
  • assume anything — And this means anything.

Accidents Happen

So what do you do when you’ve offended someone by accident, or realize you’ve done something inappropriate?

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

~~Martin Luther King, Jr.

It doesn’t have to be about you having made a mistake. It is absolutely about how you handle the mistake you made.

Always, the first thing to do is apologize. And be sincere. Sometimes, this is the only thing you can do. Sometimes the person you offended doesn’t want to hear it and will walk away. Let them go. They’ve made their decision, and you trying to force your apology on them is just another version of the mistake you made in the first place.

But if they do listen, you can then ask what you can do to fix the situation, what will make the other person okay? There may be nothing you can do other than go away. And that’s okay. But maybe you took a photo without asking, and they tell you that you can make it better by deleting the photo. Then delete the photo. Act with integrity.

The final thing you can do has nothing to do with the person you offended. The final thing you can do is remember your mistake. Remember it and do your best not to do it again in the future. Err on the side of caution if you’re unsure. And, again, you can never go wrong by asking.

Conventions can be a great time! They’re big and fun and exciting. We’re among our nerdy tribe and our fellow fangirls and -boys. Convention producers create them for folks to have a great time. But we have to make sure our good time doesn’t make someone else’s experience a bad time. We’re all in this together!

Do you have questions or comments about any of this stuff or conventions in general? Drop them down below! 🙂

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are mine or CC0 licensed.

Put On Your Unicorn Hat: How to Create Writing Boundaries

Writing

Are you constantly interrupted when you sit down to write? Does it seem like every time you try to get some words in, that is the exact moment that your spouse needs your input on something, your kids suddenly MUST have your attention, your mom wants to chat for an hour about her dog?

You’re definitely not alone. People in our lives can often be excited to hear that we want to write a book (or whatever we’re writing), but then when we try to do it, they want all our attention. It’s almost as if there’s now a subconscious competition with the writing.

It can be really frustrating, because of course we don’t want to hurt the feelings of someone we care about. And we definitely want to be there if we’re needed. But, in my experience anyway, the interruptions are almost always about trivial things, or things that could have waited an hour or two, til my writing time was over.

What makes the people who care about us subconsciously try to undermine our writing time? Who knows. And the “why” doesn’t even matter. What matters is that we are able to get our work done. So here are a few tips that might help with the “interruption-itis.”

Talk with your people

Help the people you cohabitate with to understand how important your writing is to you. Explain that this is a job for you, not just something you’re wasting time on, like when you watch television or play a game. If they can understand the importance of this, they will be more likely try to be aware of when they’re infringing on your time.

There is another side to this, though. If you tell them that this is important to you, that it is like a job for you, it needs to be those things. If you are setting writing boundaries for them, you must also set writing boundaries for yourself.

Don’t sabotage your work by constantly being on Facebook or Twitter during your writing time, or talking on the phone, or playing a game. Because not only does that undermine your own goals, but that sends a message to the people around you that even though you said you were serious, you’re really not.

So be serious.

Silence your devices

This goes hand in hand with not messing around with Facebook during your writing time. Turn your phone off, turn off notifications on your computer, close down your e-mail, your social media, and anything else that might distract you, like your mom wanting to talk about the dog. It’s surprising how often our concentration is stolen simply by a blinking light, a vibration, or a funny sound, even if we don’t respond to them. Silence the devices, turn them face-down so you can’t see the light notifications. Let your writing time be about your writing, not about everyone else.

Get behind a closed door, if possible

Being able to close a door in order to create your own writing space is incredibly powerful. If you have an office, wonderful! But if you need to close yourself off in a bedroom, in a laundry room, in a garage, or heck, even a bathroom, try to do it! And then teach your people to always knock when a door — any door — is closed.

If there are no closed doors in your house, create a symbol

Sometimes you can’t hole up in a room, such as if you have kids. In that case, create a symbol for your writing that other people can see. I have a friend who told her family that if they saw her sitting at the computer with her unicorn hat on, it meant she was writing and not to disturb her unless someone was bleeding or something was on fire. This was an excellent symbol of her writing boundaries and it was silly enough that it didn’t come across as pushy.

Maybe you don’t have a unicorn hat though. What else can you use? Here are a few suggestions:

  • A paperweight moved to a different location on the desk, such as the corner, where it is clearly visible.
  • A glittery sign on the back of your monitor (or the back of your chair, if that’s more visible) saying, “Writer at work. Do no disturb on pain of DEATH!” Or, yknow, use your own words 🙂
  • Wear a particular shirt or sweater or jacket that is your “writing attire.” Make sure to throw it in the wash regularly. Although not throwing it in the wash might also make an acceptable deterrence to interruptions!

Anything you can use to communicate that you are writing, without having to be interrupted in order to tell them that you’re writing, can often work.

Enforcing Writing Boundaries

So you’ve set up your glittery sign on your chair and your monitor and your Pennywise paperweight on the corner of the desk, clearly visible. But your spouse still comes in to ask you where the can opener is.

All the signs in the world are not going to help enforce your writing boundaries if you’re not willing to say, “No.”

If someone interrupts you with a non-emergency, point to your sign (or your paperweight or your unicorn hat) and make it clear that you are not open for questions at this time. Enforcing these boundaries is just as important as setting them. Because they won’t mean anything if you’re still answering the question about the can opener, even though you’ve said you need to be left alone to write.

If you’re not willing to respect your writing boundaries by enforcing them, no one else in your household will either.

Do you have some fun symbols to help enforce your writing boundaries? Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking for new ways to communicate with people around me.

Happy writing!

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Do You Only Make Your Target Word Count During NaNoWriMo?

Craft of Writing, Writing

Motivation and Procrastination

Some writers have the drive to write even when they’re not at the computer (or the notepad). For some, they’ll ignore most of the rest of their life in order to get their words done. I’m not really like that. When I’m not writing, I forget that I like to write. This is especially problematic for me when I’m in editorial mode for clients, because it’s more challenging to get back into creative mode, which causes me to forget for even longer that I like writing.

My Struggle with BICHOK

As an editor, I advise my writerly clients to get their Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. You’ve probably heard that or something similar, if you frequent any sort of writer groups, whether in real life or on Facebook or some other social platform.

As a writer, I struggle with this myself. For some reason, I put off writing, as if it’s a chore like doing the dishes (which I also put off! lol). It’s really not until I’m in my chair and actually in the midst of belting out words that I realize how much I missed it and wonder why I waited so long to get back into the chair. And you’d think that when I make this revelation that the next time I have a plan to sit down to write, I’ll remember it and be excited. But no, I still think it’s doing the dishes. *sigh*

My Most Productive Writing Time Period

I was lucky enough to be able to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree at Seton Hill University. During this program, students have a required page count that they are responsible to write each month. This number is decided on in conjunction with the student’s mentor for the semester, so it’s not arbitrary and the student has input in the decision. The common amount is 30 pages per month. There is also a critique group of, usually, two other students to whom a student sends these pages as well. So, at the least, you have three people every month who are waiting for your words.

As you might imagine, the years I was in that program were the most productive of my writing life.

If You’re Like Me…

…you do much better when you know someone is waiting for your work. I think this is a common issue for writers. It’s easy to push our writing off in favor of doing something with the kids, binge watching a few more episodes of Supernatural, reading the new Stephen King book, playing Halo, doing game night with friends, or even *gasp* doing the dishes. Sometimes it seems like we’ll do anything else aside from writing. Even when we know how much we like to do it.

But when there’s someone who’s looking over your shoulder, watching your progress…

Well, that changes everything.

A Tool to Help — AAMP

AAMP is the Author Accountability Mastermind Program. It’s designed to help you by giving you someone else to be accountable to. Essentially, you have your own personal cheerleading drill sergeant. 🙂

Why I created AAMP

At the beginning of the year, I joined the Single Malt Mastermind, which is helmed by Matthew Kimberley, who’s a fantastic sales and marketing instructor in the entrepreneurial space. While I was somewhat skeptical as to whether it would be useful for me, I was happily surprised. Having someone who watched what I was doing, even if he wasn’t directly involved at all, helped in making me much more productive. Knowing I had to write that email at the end of every week helped me keep my head in the game.

How does AAMP work?

AAMP is modeled on Matthew’s program, but structured a little differently and tailored for writers. There are two versions. A semi-automated version and a more personalized version. Whichever version you choose, you will receive an e-mail each Friday with writing tips, tricks, and/or advice. Then, depending on whether you’re a RockStar or a MegaStar, you’ll fill out a survey or reply to the e-mail directly.

RockStars will know that I’m reviewing the survey responses and I send out e-mails randomly to members for encouragement, help, or just to touch base. RockStars won’t get a personal response every week, but may get one any week.

Megastars have a slightly different path. They don’t fill out a survey. Instead, they reply directly to the e-mail and answer three questions. In the early part of the next week, I sent MegaStars — all MegaStars — a personal response.

Whichever version of AAMP you choose, I’m there, keeping tabs, checking in, and cheering you on!

When you can get access to AAMP

AAMP officially launches on August 1. That’s right. Just one week from tomorrow! There will be membership bonuses and a discount for everyone who signs up on Opening Day!

Want to make sure you’re in the loop?

New Idea, Wait Your Turn! 3 Tips for Capturing the New Shiny

Writing

So, you’re tooling along, hitting the middle of your story. Things are slowing down a little bit in your production (because middles are hard!). Or maybe you’re a bit stuck; the words aren’t coming, and you’re struggling.

And then it happens.

That voice.

You know that voice.

We all know that voice.

“Hi! I’m a new, shiny idea! Come play with me!”

What do you do? Your good, steady story is a little boring right now. It might be frustrating you a little bit.

And there’s this beautiful, new, shiny idea right there! It’s just right there! Waiting for you. Winking at you. Telling you how awesome it is and how much fun you’ll have with it instead of your old tried and true story.

The current story was once shiny and new too. But the luster has worn off. It’s easy to want to stray.

What do you do?

If you’re like I used to be, you set aside the current story and dive straight into the new-shiny!

Glorious!

And it is glorious!

The characters are exciting. The story is fun and different than the old thing you left sitting in your other window. You’re learning about the world, about what makes the characters tick. It’s just so stimulating! So sexy!

You’re writing and writing and writing. And soon, you’re in the middle. Things slow down. You’ve learned the characters pretty well and the thrill of discovery has faded.

And then it happens.

That voice.

You know that voice.

We all know that voice.

“Hi! I’m a new, shiny idea! Come play with me!”

What do you do?

I suspect all writers have been there. And it’s fun to work with new story ideas, of course. But if we repeat the above pattern (and I’ve definitely been guilty of that!), we never actually get back to the half-finished stories. We never actually finish anything. And if we never finish, we never publish. If our goal is to get our work out there, then that never, ever happens.

So how do you keep that new, shiny idea but still focus on your current project? I’ve got a couple suggestions.

Write it down

This seems pretty obvious, right? Get the new, shiny idea down on paper. Write as much about it as you need to in order to both get the concept recorded and to get it out of your head. I have an entire Scrivener project that’s just for ideas. (Though I only actually have 4 ideas of my own; I steal the rest 😉 )

Give yourself some time to play with it

Allocate yourself a certain amount of time — an hour or a day — to play with the story idea, engage the characters, write a little bit, whatever. You can wallow in the new shiny as much as you want during that time! But once that time is up, you go back to your current project. Because that’s the priority and that’s the decision you made.

Tell yourself the story

Get out a recorder (your phone, computer, an actual recorder if you are one of the few who still owns one 😉 ), and tell yourself the story of your new, shiny idea. Babble about it. Be excited. Talk about ALL THE THINGS. This is an especially good resource too for when you’re able to come back to this idea to work on it, because you’ll have yourself and your original enthusiasm to help you get back into the excitement of it.

New story ideas are what give us longevity as writers. So you shouldn’t ignore them. They can be hard to ignore anyway, so you must give them some attention. Just don’t lose sight of the overall goal.

Do you have other ideas for capturing those wild new-shinys? What’s worked for you in the past?

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Responsibility Means Saying No

Life Stuff

What I’m Listening To: “Smalltown Boy” by Bronksi Beat on World Shut Your Mouth

Something Cool: Con season is coming up!

One of the podcasts I’ve been listening to while I travel is the backlist of Beyond the To Do List. It’s all about creating a more productive life. I was on Episode 21, which featured Christin Taylor. It’s a good podcast ep, particularly for Millennials (of which I am not), and something she said struck me as really interesting.

Christin and her husband were at a marriage retreat, and they each took a quiz which highlighted their strengths and weaknesses. She was really surprised when one of her husband’s strengths came out as responsibility and that was not one of her own strengths from the test. She felt like she was the one always committing to things and he was the one always saying no, so she she felt like she was the more responsible.

I found this really interesting. Like a lot of people, I sometimes have trouble saying ‘no.’ I’ve done a lot better in the last several years, but especially before that, I was terrible at it. It never occurred to me that saying yes all the time didn’t make me responsible or highlight that I was responsible. It actually made me a bit irresponsible, because I’d agree to do too many things and I’d do none of them well because I was spread so thin.

I’ve always considered myself to be a responsible person, even from a very young age, so this is a bit of a paradigm shift for me. But it’s one I want to make, because I see the validity in it being more responsible to limit what your name is attached to so you can do those things well, versus attaching your name to *everything* and all of them done in a mediocre way.

How about you? Have you ever thought about responsibility in this way? Or does this kinda blow your mind the way it did mine? Let me know in the comments!