I'm pretty over being told to put my hands up in the air...
Brandon O'Brien is a writer and poet from Trinidad. This is his other brain.
Caution: May contain intense critical analysis, long rants, and uncomfortable (but necessary) subject matter.
I think the part that stinks the most about the GoFundMe page for Darren Wilson is that so many of the people who are saying ‘you are innocent until proven guilty’ also refuse to extend the same courtesy to the boy Darren Wilson undoubtedly shot to death.
So I think this is the point I’ve been struggling to articulate:
one’s impact and one’s intent are two different things. (I knew this already.)
But defending one’s impact by saying ‘that was not my intent, and other people got that’ is unhealthy for your work, and unhelpful to your audience.
If I, as a bad analogy, step on someone’s foot, I don’t get to say I didn’t mean to; and I definitely don’t get to say my friends know I’m neither a clumsy nor a malicious person or that it’d be unfair to say I meant to step on your foot.
Because no one is saying I meant to step on anyone’s foot. (Unless, of course, I keep acting like my stepping on their foot is defensible.)
They’re just saying, ‘ow, you stepped on my foot’.
Sometimes I feel detached. Like space is turning around me and leaving me behind. I’ve become untouchable, I say aloud then, no one can feel me. I can walk right through responsibilities, plates stay stained on tables, my pencil rolls away, anything tangled or dusty remains. I’ve become untouchable. It’s a dark observance, and sometimes it calls sharp sounds around me, things to wake me up. Maybe I’m asleep, I ask aloud. Maybe I need this. Sharp. Maybe. Because it would make no sense besides if I asked this question to those I know are alive although I’ve become untouchable, and yet I’ve become untouchable. Now, no one answers my calls. I don’t think I’m here, because otherwise I’d be angry all through this moment. And yet. I’ve become untouchable.
What I realize I should be doing more often is writing in my journal.
Because otherwise I am stuck between not having people to talk to IRL and policing what I post on my blog for fear of other motherfuckers’ drama.
one of the things I sometimes daydream about, in my theoretical future life where I actually finish more than one blasted novel,
is what motifs and trends in symbolism people will discover in my work that I will never notice.
Like, what will be the one trope that accidentally crops up, subverted or not, in all my novels even when they don’t address the same issues or characters?
What one part of my setting will always strike people as a habit of mine - will my roads always bend, will a character always pick a certain kind of flower, will it always be hot and humid?
Will they be able to tell what kinds of music I’m dramatically drawn to, what pop culture references I’m lampooning, what works of art I admire, just by reading it?
What kinds of people will my characters always tend to be, what quirks will show up as stereotypical of works of mine?
How much more of me will critical readers be able to find than I can find of myself on my own?
I may be weird and borderline-pretentious here, but I think that’s friggin’ fascinating. That a work is a way into its writer; a mirror gazing back into them often so deeply that the writer doesn’t notice what it reflects til someone else can point it out; a signpost of what they find interesting or new or important or fascinating or frightening or hopeful.
Maybe that’s the other benefit of thinking long and hard about the meaning that you do want in your stories and novels.
That way, the symbols and metaphors that you don’t think about are still as close as possible to displaying the real you to the reader.
There is a note in my draft that reminds me that all of the racist young white people in this novel draft read like the dense straw-men of intensely preachy novels that don’t actually communicate a point gracefully so much as they assault the reader with pure unhelpful nonsense.
But then, as a study for portions of that novel, I flip through YouTube comments that read (verbatim) like: ‘Black people just love it when they can find another reason to say why the hate white people , Obama only makes stamens when blacks are killed by whites never when a whte person is killed by a black .' and it makes me wonder if the racist young people in this draft sound so unrealistic after all…
I don’t know what today is.
Mike Brown is yet another reason I should be working on my draft, but I was feeling so much about Mike Brown that I couldn’t actually touch it. I could touch the world of poems. But the draft still eludes me.
There is a wall between me and making an offering to the ocean of black boys, the nameless mass of bodies that calls the names of all our young and asks us when we’ll make sure they don’t join the black and riddling form of them. It’s begging me to feel and not do. It’s asking me why I want to feel or do anything.
But I must do, I think. Not just feel. Do. Try to summon and séance.
They say writing is part showing up for work. I’m here; I’ve been at my desk all day and overtime too. That is not enough, and the gods know it.
I should stop thinking about it and make something.
Mike Brown is the new name added onto the list of born-and-now-dead reasons for black America to not trust its white counterpart, and one of the new responses to that distrust is the Twitter hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.
What’s important about this is that it isn’t discussing all the simpler parts of the conversation about institutionalizing violence against African Americans, like the mere fact that they’re dead and get away with it, or how protests and other public attempts at social justice are met with more police hostility than less important white actions actions (i.e. if a white person pickets Obama with a sign that reads ‘nigger’ no one challenges it). These are important, mind you, but the whole hashtag seems to be focused elsewhere:
on media representation and its significance in discussing racial violence.Read more
In other news, I didn’t know who the focused antagonist of this arc would be for a while, and then I listened to Watsky’s ‘Ink Don’t Bleed’ and now I definitely know.
Asking myself what I will hereby call ‘The Doctor Who Question’ in relation to one (really all) of my serials.
I know what the conflict if this arc is, and I know when it starts up.
But it doesn’t start here. In the first chapter, there is pure establishment, and a slow intrapersonal conflict. This is what I want. I want to make characters I like here and wait until chapter two or three for the reader to deal with who they should doubt or hate or be annoyed by.
And I keep asking myself, ‘Wait, how do you introduce The Doctor to a companion in Doctor Who?’
I’ve never seen the show, mind you, but every time someone describes a companion’s first meeting, it sounds the same, so I’m relying on the fandom’s assertion - that the show gives us a snippet of someone’s mundane daily routine, and then The Doctor meets them and says, ‘hey, you seem like a cool person. Also, something dangerous is on my tail. Do you mind following me in order to not die?’
That first chapter always has some kind of action, right?
Which… I don’t think I like? I like showing characters in [certain situations I won’t spoil] being mundane for as long as possible, broken up by equally mundane moments of just talking about what makes them different. Of debating and discussing and doubting, but not doing anything. Of having to deal with it like adults - by rationalizing, feeling anxious, confronting.
Even when the action happens, I want a lot of that kind of drama.
And I keep being afraid that this means chapter one of [this serial] will be too boring for anyone to care, compared to Chapter One of Rosewater, which starts with a fucking monster battle.
I don’t even plan on doing that a lot with Rosewater - there are other, more dramatic conflicts there, like Rinne’s relationships and the world’s sociopolitical ideas clashing and shit. Rinne will probably talk a lot and stab things very rarely (no matter how good she is at stabbing things).
Is that a thing you’d still read?
Been mad jammin’ to Watsky’s ‘Bet Against Me’ almost non-stop. I think All You Can Do is gonna be a large part of my musical diet for a while once it’s officially out.
No, really, please don’t be afraid to let me know if you actually want more essays like these. I do a lot of them for fun, and to help myself understand art and what I want to make better, but it would mean a lot to me to know that you folks care about it, too. It’d be quite a motivator to make this blog more engaging and interactive for you guys.