On Writing: Healthy Masculinity

Healthy Masculinity.jpgHealthy masculinity versus toxic masculinity is a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately. In the last ten years, the publishing industry has focused a great deal on strong girls, and I’m so very grateful. I’m seeing evidence of this feminist push every day in my classroom. I have THE BEST strong girls as students this year. Girls with dreams and voices and determination.

But our world needs healthy men, too. And I’m growing more and more concerned at what we feed our boys–through media, movies, games, TV, advertising, and literature.

The hardest part of this process is realizing that my idea of masculinity has been formed by toxic messages around me. And that I need to change my own ideas on masculinity.

A moment that woke me up was my general lukewarm feelings towards the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I couldn’t put my finger on why this movie didn’t thrill me like Harry Potter did.

Then I watched this video:

The Fantastic Masculinity of Newt Scamander

After watching the video about Newt’s version of masculinity, I learned that Newt wasn’t the type of hero I was accustomed to in film–and yet he was one that embodied many of the traits I wanted in a man. And I suddenly realized that something was wrong with my ideas of masculinity. And it was disorienting. I needed to rewire my brain.

My very first celebrity crush was Han Solo. I watched Star Wars for the first time in 2nd grade. So I was seven years old when Han Solo became the epitome of crushworthy. I know I’m not alone in my crush on Harrison Ford. But that crush gives me a sick feeling these days.

Because this video shook me to my core:

Predatory Romance in Harrison Ford Movies

I’d had a crush on a man who didn’t value consent. Who didn’t listen to women when they said no. Who trapped and coerced women. This wasn’t the kind of man I wanted in real life. I wanted one who listened to me and respected me.

With this new awareness, toxic masculinity was appearing to me everywhere. It unnerves me that my male students are likely absorbing these messages about masculinity each and every day.

What is toxic masculinity? The social construct that defines masculinity as unemotional, violent, sexually aggressive, the lesser capable parent, and more. Any traditionally feminine traits are emasculating. Men cannot: be emotional, show sympathy, need help, like cute things, and more.

I suddenly realized there were ways that, in my very classroom, I was unconsciously feeding my students this toxic masculinity without realizing it. Every year while teaching Shakespeare, I criticize Romeo for how he goes on and on about his emotions. I chastise how moody he is, swinging from depression to bliss and back again. However, in doing so, am I further sending the message to my male students that it is not okay to share how they are feeling? Am I telling them to bottle up their emotions because no one wants to hear them?

I needed to educate myself and do self reflection. So I have been. And it’s made me appreciate so many things about the men in my life.

I love that my boyfriend prefers going to art museums with me than spending his Sundays watching football. I love that he is comfortable talking about how he’s feeling, things that are bothering him, and his dreams for the future. I love that he’s a good listener. And I love that we’ve discussed the possibility of him being a stay-at-home dad. None of these things make him any less of a man to me.

I love watching my younger brother and his wife. He freely expresses how much he loves her. He dresses up as Disney characters because it makes her happy. He frequently plans and cooks dinner. None of these things make him any less of a man.

As a writer, every single thing I experience feeds my writing. How has media shaped my perceptions of the ideal man? I don’t want my subconscious to create toxic men in my books. And so I’m trying to rewire my brain with healthy examples of masculinity.

So in addition to creating strong girl characters in my stories, I will now be very conscious of the male characters I create as well. I want to fuel a new vision of masculinity:

  • Men who show emotion: love, sadness, fear, compassion, and giddy joy.
  • Male/female friendship and companionship.
  • Men who appreciate romance and the slow process of getting to know someone.
  • Men solving problems diplomatically and in non-violent ways.
  • Men who compromise.
  • Men who enjoy childcare and parenthood… and excel at it.
  • Men who ask for help, work as part of a team, and consult others for advice.

I am still learning, growing, and developing my understanding of this topic. It’s going to be a process, but awareness is the first step.

I’d love to do some follow-up posts on books, movies, TV shows that have great examples of healthy masculinity. Comment below with anything you think I should check out!

Here are some additional sources that helped inform me on the topic:

What is Toxic Masculinity?

The Unfulfilled Potential of Video Games

Male Protagonist Bingo: A Study in Cliches

We Need Better Male Literary Heroes

 

 

Return to Blogging 2017

It has been over two years since I’ve posted, but I’ve missed blogging! I took a break for many reasons: completing my MFA, enjoying the beginning honeymoon stage of my relationship with my boyfriend, and moving homes/jobs.

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 2.54.41 PM

Ready to write!

But I realized that blogging helped me in two ways connected to productivity: getting my butt in the chair writing and giving me reading goals to work towards.

Having a writing schedule has always been the best way for me to produce new writing. While I want to be a fiction writer, not a full-time blogger, the act of producing blog posts helps me create a writing rhythm that my fiction writing benefits from as well.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that time management has only gotten more difficult in the time of social media. It is so easy to get sucked down a hole of distractions for an hour at a time.

It may seem contradictory to say that publishing posts online could then improve productivity! But I found that setting reading/reviewing deadlines and participating more in the online book world led to dedicating more time for reading as a whole.

Overall, having a blogging platform and the structure of regular posting increased my productivity as both a reader and writer. The one thing I have to keep aware of is not allowing my blogging writing to overwhelm my creative writing. Because ultimately, my end goal is to be a fiction writer not a book blogger. ¬†ūüôā

The month of December:
Will feature reviews of all the books I read this year. Get ready to put some fabulous books on your to-read list!

Behind the Story: Deciding Between Standalone or Multiple Books

Owl & White/Red BookBehind the Story¬†posts will be about what goes on behind the scenes as a writer creates their story. ¬†I’ll be writing about my own writing process and sharing any tips or advice I’ve discovered on my own or gathered on the topic. Hopefully both readers and writers find these posts fascinating!

This week’s topic:
Standalone to Multiple Books: Making the Decision

When I set out on my current Work-In-Progress (WIP), I was resolved to write a standalone novel. ¬†I am doing an adaptation of a classic piece of literature. ¬†That classic¬†is one, admittedly long, book. ¬†Therefore, I would write one book. ¬†I thought a standalone novel was a good place to begin for a new writer, and I didn’t want to jump on the series bandwagon. ¬†One book. ¬†I could handle one book.

But as I started writing, I began to worry. ¬†My word count was high. ¬†And climbing. ¬†I am not a verbose wordsmith either. ¬†My scenes are quick. ¬†Rarely do I write more than three sentences of description. ¬†I like action. ¬†In fact, while I’m praised for my fast pacing, my advisors and critique partners often want more description. ¬†So the fact that my word count was so high made me nervous. ¬†Because I knew I would need to eventually go back and flesh out descriptions and close plot holes that I sped past.

I was less than two-thirds through the first draft when I hit the max word count for a typical Young Adult standalone novel.  (YA typically falls between 55k and 90k.)  And so I knew I had to do some serious thinking.

Why had I tethered myself to this one book idea?  Mostly, it was because I wanted to be identical to the classic novel I was adapting.  Was that a wise decision?  Can I consider another option?

And when I thought about it, multiple books actually made more sense.

  • My one book is very much divided into three distinct parts.
  • There are three completely different settings.
  • Each part ends with a devastating event.
  • Each part ends with both a resolution as well as a cliffhanger.
  • Each part begins with my character grappling with change and new conflict.

I had three books.  Easily.  In fact, three books made so much more sense.  So I gave in.  And the good side is: I have almost an entire trilogy drafted.  Not just outlined.  Drafted.  And that rocks.

The tough part: it’s all a little more overwhelming. ¬†Because a part of every writer wonders why anyone would want to read their book. ¬†And now I have to persuade a reader to not just invest their time and money in one book, but three. ¬†And that’s more pressure.

But I love my story. ¬†I love my characters. ¬†I love my setting. ¬†And I know this story isn’t like anything else that’s out there right now.

So I’ll ignore the pressure and doubts. ¬†And keep writing. ¬†Because deep down: I just love this story. ¬†And I have to write it. ¬†Even if it takes me three books.

Have you ever had a story evolve beyond your expectations?
Let me know if there is a “Behind the Story” topic¬†you would like to see… Happy Writing!

Behind the Story: Journaling Your Writing

Owl & White/Red BookBehind the Story¬†posts will be about what goes on behind the scenes as a writer creates their story. ¬†I’ll be writing about my own writing process and sharing any tips or advice I’ve discovered on my own or gathered on the topic. Hopefully both readers and writers find these posts fascinating!

This week’s topic:

Journaling Your Writing

I wanted to share something I started doing as part of my writing routine that’s been helpful for me. ¬†Perhaps it will be helpful to other fellow writers as well! ¬†I’m calling it journaling because that’s pretty close to what it is. Here is what I include in my journaling:
  • Today’s Date
  • Brief Description of Where I Left Off in My Novel
  • What Scenes I Know Are Coming Up Next
  • Surprises While I Was Writing
  • My Final Word Count For the Day
I don’t write a ton for each entry. ¬†A typical day looks like this:
Write Tip Pic
I want to explain what each part does for me, and why this has been a useful tool:
  • Today’s Date: Helps to hold me accountable for writing each day. ¬†And it’s useful in tracking my own productivity. ¬†I also give myself gold star stickers on a calendar for each 1k I write, and if I forget to “star myself” then I can go back here to check.
  • Where I Left Off: I always begin my writing day by re-reading the last scene that I wrote. ¬†I usually try not to do any editing. ¬†Rereading gets me back in the zone and refreshes my memory. ¬†And then writing a brief blurb of that scene in my journaling helps me focus on what about¬†that scene was important.
  • What’s Next: Listing the scenes that are coming up next can serve as an outline, menu, or brainstorm session. ¬†Sometimes it’s a reminder of what’s on my agenda. ¬†Sometimes I can kind of pick from the menu based on what I think comes next organically. ¬†And sometimes I have no idea what comes next and I brainstorm some possibilities.
  • Surprises: This is probably the part of my journaling I love most. ¬†Whenever I sit down to write, something will usually come out that I was not expecting. ¬†An unplanned plot point or an emotional burst from a character or a new quirky secondary character makes himself known. ¬†My favorite part of my writing day has become writing down the surprises, and often I want to explore that surprise more the next day. ¬†I also think it might be fun to share with readers someday… “This character came out of nowhere!” or “I was never planning to do that!”
  • Word Count: This holds me accountable for my writing most of all. ¬†I try to write a 1,000 words a day… no matter what. ¬†It’s a high goal, but honestly, the hardest part is making the time to write and getting your butt in the chair. ¬†Once I’m started, I usually make it.
Not only has this journaling been helpful, but I also think that somewhere down the road, this is going to be a sentimental keepsake. ¬†Being able to look back and see how my story unfolded… I wish I’d done this from the very beginning.
Now I have a beautiful use for all those awesome journals/notebooks that people give me as gifts ¬†ūüôā
Any other writers do some form of journaling?  Anyone plan to give this a try?
Let me know if there is a “Behind the Story” topic¬†you would like to see… Happy Writing!