Why the 'Me Too' Movement is Making me a Bad Writer

by - May 14, 2019

This is an OLD post. My draft screen says I wrote it on October 18, 2018. It's been sitting there because I am afraid of it. I had intentions of formulating the message of this into a letter from the author when my book is finally ready for print (I touched on that in my last post) — and I think I'll still do that — but, in the interest of transparency, and because I think it's important to share my process because maybe someone else is actually struggling with the same thing, I'm going to post this post even if it makes me uncomfortable...

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October 18, 2018

I've been lying awake at night working through plot struggles, excited that I'm actually thinking about writing, but not able to bring myself to actually do it. I am writing. Other things. Things for Blank Spaces and things for work. But my own stuff? The beat of my heart and the tale that rests just below my skin? Not a word. The truth is, I haven't given that a fair shake since my writing retreat last May. It hurts me to say that. And it leaves me feeling like a fraud.

A woman came into my day-job office last week; she interrupted an informal meeting to ask me how she could get my next book, to tell me how much she loved my first one.

I told her about The Ghost of Iris Carver. About how it was short. Just a little tease. I saw the disappointment on her face and I felt it in my gut. "Another novel is coming," I promised. "I'm just struggling right now to find the time to write it."

LIES!

UGLY,  EMBARRASSING LIES!

I have time. I have loads of time. Sure, I'm experiencing some health things that make me tired, but I do have time. Sure, I pour tons of energy into the magazine and into my publishing business and into my home and my family and my day job. But seriously—true confession time—most evenings lately I'm crawling into bed around 9:30, putting on some senseless Netflix show, and doing jigsaw puzzles on my iPad until 11:30. That's two hours of golden writing time that I'm just turning my back on. If I'd been using that time to work on my novel instead of distracting myself with bad television and pretty pictures, I would have a complete draft by now.

But I can't do it. I just can't.

I am frozen where I stand. Er...sitting in my pyjamas...under the covers...with a bowl of yogurt covered raisins and a cup of tea...

Frozen.

Because Alyssa Milano started something that SCARES ME TO DEATH!



#MeToo empowers women to speak up against the men who take advantage of them. I am all for the protection and empowerment of women; I celebrate the freedom this movement has brought to many, how it's fostered community and solidarity. I believe no one—woman or man—should be forced into a situation they're uncomfortable with, that no means no, and that for too long people have gotten away with loose morals and disrespecting behaviour. The thing is, it has expanded into a creature that has the whole world walking on eggshells. It started the conversation—and that's good and healthy and yes, let's build a future for our children where our daughters won't be afraid to walk down the street at night—but it also stopped the conversation.

I never want to minimize anyone's experience, but the rose-coloured glasses through which I observe the world tell me that there's always another side to any story. There is history and circumstance and mental health and misunderstanding. Rape is never okay. Assault is never okay. Bullying is never okay. Coercion is never okay. But the story of the offender is a powerful bridge, not to excusing the offense, but to understanding it.

Yet, I'm afraid to tell that story because #MeToo means the only voice that matters is that of the victim. #MeToo never calls for redemption. It never looks deeper than an accusation. It assumes the worst and it applies labels. It wants to return hurt for hurt.

And there-in lies the rub.

Black Bird, the next novel in The Fallmoore Chronicles, tells the story of an unwanted sexual encounter and how it created a ripple that crossed generations. As you should expect from me, especially if you've read The Church in the Wildwood, my goal with the story is to bring a message of redemption.

Redemption does not exist without sin and sin cannot exist without a perpetrator and a perpetrator can't tell their story if culture refuses to hear it. 

I am not looking to excuse any behaviour. Excuses aren't necessary for redemption, but an honest examination of the situation is. I believe the story I'm telling in Black Bird is important. I think it will challenge people to rethink the way they respond to certain situations. I'm going to trust that this is the story that's coming out of me because someone needs to read it in order to heal themselves.

So much focus is on justice and public shaming. Justice is important, but it's not the same as finding personal freedom.

If you are a victim of sexual violence, my heart breaks for you. I don't want to minimize your experience or your feelings. They are yours and they are valid and important, just as you are valid and important. No one deserves the kind of treatment you've experienced. It is my hope that you're being equipped with the proper tools to continue your life in a positive way, not to live as a victim, but as a victor. Everyone deserves the opportunity to move forward—not necessarily to forgive, but to leave behind.

The challenge I want to present is this: avoid the mob mentality. Put down your pitch fork and focus on your own well being. If the world was in a place where self-care was more celebrated than protesting, I would venture to say we'd all be a little bit healthier.

All this to say, I'm afraid of the response #MeToo advocates will have towards this book I'm trying to write. I think it will offend some people. I think it might stir up some angry conversation.

But maybe that's okay. Maybe in the conversation we find a common ground.

I recently saw a clip of Jonah Hill on the Ellen show, discussing his writing/directing debut, "mid90s". Ellen brought up the fact that the film is full of offensive language, language that today would be considered hate-speech, but in the 90s, it was just part of the culture. Jonah's response was brilliant. He said, "My job is to present a palette and not to judge it, that's for the audience to do."

What a powerful, freeing statement!

My job as a writer is not to tell you what to think, it is to present a very real situation and allow you to navigate it in your own way. Understanding that gives me permission to tell this story.



p.s. It's taken me two weeks to write this post because I'm afraid of the fallout. But I'm also coming to the point where I have to push past this block and write the story I know I have to write, culture be damned. I've learned from experience that the fear that stands in our way can often be overcome if we name it. So that's what I'm doing. Let's get this book written!

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(present day) p.s.s. I am writing! I am working! I am getting things done. 177 days!
 

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