People Who Don’t Read Fiction, or, A Defence of Fiction

Chances are, if you’re reading my post here, you are a fan of fiction. After all, I’m all over the internet as a writer and reader of fiction. Also, taking an assuming leap here, chances are that if you are a fan of fiction, like I am, you too are confounded by people who do not like or refuse to read fiction.

I have to admit that I see people who don’t read fiction in a strange light. Just like I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with people who don’t like animals. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people who don’t like fiction. I think it’s strange, but it’s not nearly as odd to me as the animal thing.

My friends and I have discussed this topic at length, and the main rationale we hear from people who don’t read fiction is that they don’t/can’t learn from it. Honestly, this infuriates me. I don’t want to insult anyone, but if you can’t learn from fiction, you’re either too lazy to figure out its purpose or you lack an ability to sympathize, or you have some combination of the two.

Understanding fiction isn’t for lightweights. Not only do you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but you have to be able to read between the lines. Reading and comprehending fiction requires skill and intuition.

Now, I read non-fiction as well. I enjoy books on history and philosophy and science. One of the best books I’ve ever read is a non-fiction book called Sex with the King. But the thing about non-fiction is, you don’t have to go an extra step. All you have to do is read a straightforward argument and decide whether you agree or not. You can go an extra step, but you don’t have to.

With fiction, you’re always presented opposing views. Sure, the author leads you in a certain direction, like a thesis would, but you get to see all the sides. This isn’t always the case with non-fiction. Exceptional non-fiction will provide a full view and use counterarguments, but there is still no requirement that you think outside its confines.

I must admit, I’m tired of people trashing fiction, especially genre fiction. If you open your mind, you can learn just as much, if not more so, from fiction of any kind. And it’s usually a much more enjoyable journey. Some books I would liken to non-fiction, as far as what they can teach a person, include: The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, A Thousand Acres, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Beautiful Monsters.

Those are just off the top of my head. What fiction books would you consider more educational than some non-fiction?

Learning from Meditation: The Power of Not Doing

Last week I posted my first goals check-in on Anxiety Ink. While I was writing my update I was happily surprised by how positive my first quarter turned out. I tackled the new goals well and finally paid attention to ones I’d neglected for a long time. One of those neglected goals was to learn how to meditate. For years I’ve heard about the positive health benefits of mindfulness. Even in my yoga classes, which I started in January, the meditation portion is one of my favourite parts.

Despite all the great information at my fingertips, I never took that step to learn how. Mid-March I was playing around on Pinterest and was led to a blog where the author mentioned a meditation app, Calm. I figured that was the easiest way to try it out because my phone is always on and it’s always near me.

I took their 7 day meditation challenge and I’m hooked. I want to try out a few more apps before I commit to this one –there are only a few meditations to sample without paying– but I love the concept of a meditation app. It’s just too convenient.

The biggest lesson I have taken away from my foray into meditation is the power of not doing. I know that goes against everything we learn as productive members of society, but it’s true. Our minds and bodies are not designed to be occupied 24/7. Doing so, regardless of your natural energy level, leads to burnout.

I’ve suffered burnout, and it’s awful. And I am very close on the heels on of my second bout, which is likely what spurred me to get my butt on the meditation train.

The ten minutes I take a each day to sit at my desk and simply be are the best, most refreshing moments of my day. Hands down.

If you’re like me, an anxious, overachieving, type A perfectionist, you likely suffer from some kind of guilt if you’re not doing something. There’s always something that needs to be done, and sitting on one’s butt doing nothing isn’t getting it done. But that’s the thing, no matter what you do, there will always be another thing that needs to be done. It never ends. So why not take those moments of peace for yourself?

I leave the house and go to work five days a week. Depending on the day, I have household or pet chores to tackle when I get home, a workout to accomplish, blogging that needs to be handled, and now coursework on top of all of my regular stuff. Not to mention the people who need my attention in my life.

When I step back and take in all of the things I do in a single month, from the big items to the minutiae, it’s a wonder I haven’t snapped. We live in a society that believes if we’re not stressed and doing a hundred things at once we’re not working hard enough. That’s crap. All of us deserve to take a moment and recharge every day.

For me, those ten minutes of not doing have helped with my sleep, helped me cope with my anxiety, they helped me bounce back 90% faster from an extremely emotional day, and they have helped me focus better on tasks.

I’m taking my 10 minutes and I’m not feeling guilty about them.

Interesting Finds

Since March is a woman-focused month, what with International Women’s Day happening on the 8th, I decided this was a great excuse to be women- and feminist-focused myself. Please enjoy these great reads.

This professor took her students to see the inimitable Roxanne Gay in person. If you haven’t read anything by Gay, you need to remedy that. I loved Bad Feminist, and I’ll be reading Difficult Women very soon. http://msmagazine.com/blog/2017/02/23/watching-personal-meet-political/

I really really like Roxanne Gay. And Simon and Schuster not so much right now. http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/02/roxane-gay-calls-out-book-publisher-simon-and-schuster.html?mid=facebook_nymag

I genuinely detest any person who thinks they get to have a say over another’s body, so I won’t get started on certain laws in certain places. I hope this particular Viagra law goes far so that the unenlightened members of society understand how intrusive those certain laws are. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/law-proposed-kentucky-restrict-access-viagra-married-men-permission-from-wives-abortion-mary-lou-a7589026.html

Feminists have boobs?! In all seriousness, though, this is ridiculous about Emma Watson. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/emma-watsons-boobs-prove-why-we-still-need-feminism_us_58b8bd55e4b02b8b584df9f4?

And before we place Watson on a pedestal, here are two posts you should read. This http://wearyourvoicemag.com/more/fashion/emma-watson-white-feminist and this http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/a9101840/emma-watson-beyonce-feminism/.

This list about the emotional labour people expect of women –even other women– really hit home with me. http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/08/women-femmes-emotional-labor/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=expect%20constant%20emotional%20labor&utm_campaign=What%20Just%20Happened%20-%20A%20Day%20Without%20A%20Woman

And lastly, this article on white feminism and the movie Get Out underscores why all feminists need to be intersectional. https://bitchmedia.org/article/get-out-movie-white-feminism?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=%C2%A0insists%20they%E2%80%99re%20not&utm_campaign=The%20Weekly%20Reader%3A%20February%2026-March%204%2C%202017

 

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Point of View: N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season Will Change Your Reading Life

There are so many things in N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season that will change your life as a reader and a writer and a human that I can’t touch on them all. I just don’t have the time and space. So I’ve decided to touch on the story’s point of view.

I’ve shared my opinions on point of view extensively on both blogs. I have strong opinions, mainly that different points of view should not be mixed in the same story. It’s a major pet peeve of mine both as a reader and a writer. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to your book, novella, or short story you stick with the narrative style, tense, and point of view you started with. There are no takebacks.

Writers who mix things up always make me feel like they’re simply trying to get unstuck, which doesn’t make for compelling or convincing reading.

I’ve read books where one character is in first person and then another character is thrown in and their view point is written in third person. Usually this is done because the story needed extra information that the main character couldn’t provide with her limited point of view and the writer couldn’t think of a different solution.

I’ve read books in series where all of sudden in the third and/or final book, the author realizes they’re stuck, the story arc can’t go further the way they started, so they have to throw in a new narrator. Yeah, Allegiant, I’m talking to you. No, Veronica Roth is not the only guilty author out there, but I was particularly upset with Allegiant, so it has to feel my wrath.

The Fifth Season swung out unexpectedly and toppled me off my Perch of Judgement.

The story is written from three different points of view: Essun’s, Syenite’s, and Damaya’s. There’s a purpose to each choice because they show different aspects of the complex world Jemisin has created. Essun, in her 40s, shows us the dangers and consequences of hiding what you are in a world that hates your kind. Syenite, in her early 20s, shows us what it means to follow the rules and dictates of an order that will control everything about you and destroy you if it can’t. Then Damaya, only 8, shows us what it means to be discovered as the other and the painful lessons the world will use to break your spirit.

That doesn’t sound too different from your average coming of age story despite the separate narrators, right? Well, Essun’s story is written in second person. Syenite’s is in close third person. Damaya’s is also in close third person, though I feel there is greater distance with her narration. Perhaps because I’m closer to Syenite’s age.

At first I was a bit shaken as a reader. I haven’t read much, if anything, written in second person. And I’ve never been exposed to second person point of view for such a long piece. Mixed with the third person parts, I should have been outraged as a reader.

I waited to be. And I waited. And then I was hooked.

Jemisin’s skill as a writer so pulled me in to each character’s story that I couldn’t help but be enthralled. I was too excited to pick up different threads and try to figure out where all of them lead. I was floored and I was schooled. I have never encountered a writer with enough skill to leave me satisfied with mixed points of view.

One of the keys was her consistency. Each point of view was given nearly equal time to the end. And the second person narration didn’t change into anything else. Plus, the story starts out in second person, in the prologue, and I think that was a genius choice. That the narrative jarring didn’t happen after a third person narrator started things off was important because I don’t know that a lot of readers have been exposed to second person point of view. So moving to the strange from the familiar would have been a bad choice.

Besides, Jemisin can write. She just can. Her words are magic.

If you haven’t read or heard of The Fifth Season, you should remedy that. Before the third book in the trilogy comes out this summer.

I still have strong opinions about point of view and I don’t think it should be messed with lightly. But if you know what your aim is, and it reflects not only the structure of your story but your characters and world perfectly too, do it. I will be much more willing to fiddle with my points of view in the future now that I’ve seen it done effectively. And I will give stories more of a chance when point of view is altered –but the author needs to sell it, and not do it simply because they’ve backed themselves into a corner.

Forethought. Forethought and purpose are everything.

 

*Please note that this post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and decide to purchase an item I’ve mentioned I will receive a small commission from the seller at no extra cost to you. All funds are put back into E.V. Writes. Thank you in advance for your support.

Public Service Announcement: I’m Heading Back to School!

On Friday, the entire story of how I arrived at the point of determining that I need to go back to school will be live on Anxiety Ink. The short version of it is this: I want to acquire new writing skills and eventually find a career that challenges and utilizes those skills. So I have enrolled in a professional writing certificate program specializing in marketing and public relations.

Because I work nearly full time, and I do not want to try to figure out my vacation to do the courses on campus, I am doing distance learning. I’ve never taken any online courses before so this will be interesting in itself.

My first course starts in April and I am so excited.

However, even coming to the point of enrollment, I am floored at the cost. And that’s what I want to touch on a bit today.

Right now, I work at a day job where I make just above minimum wage with a limited amount of hours I’m allowed to work. I’ve made it work, and I am on track to pay off my Canada student loan this year and then my Alberta student loan next year. I graduated in 2013 and gave myself a 5 year window to pay those suckers off.

Now, having done some minor job searching, I’m feeling underpaid and under-challenged, though I realize I’m unqualified as far as being able to head in the career direction I currently want to go in. I don’t mean for this to sound conceited, but there is not much I can’t learn. As long as it doesn’t require advanced physics or neuroscience or a non-Latin alphabet, I can learn it.

Nevertheless, people don’t want to take you on if you don’t have a piece of paper that says you’ve been educated. Because I earned my BA Honours in English, I understand the skills required and acquired in that process. I also know how those skills can be applied to a variety of jobs. Unfortunately, that opinion is in the minority as far as the job market goes.

I don’t regret earning my English degree, though I am wishing I had minored in either business or communications or something else. Anything to show people that I can excel in the workforce. It’s irritating because I can –I’ve been working since I was fourteen– but I can’t find anything long-term to suit my degree.

I love the arts. I will never not admire the arts and what they give society, but those outside of them do not value what they can bring. Heck, I’ve met people inside them who think they’re bunk.

I graduated with an astronomical amount of stress and debit with no career options. I was fortunate enough to find a job close to my house and have parents willing to let me live with them largely cost-free, but I’m ready to move on.

It’s a good thing I am an excellent saver despite my meagre earnings because this certificate is going to cost me upwards of $3500 in the end. Couple that with my outstanding debt at about $12,000, and the price of my education leaves me scratching my head.

It’s unfair, we live in a world that says we need a college education to truly advance and build a worthwhile career, but that doesn’t account for the insane costs that not many of us can handle. I’m in a better position than most, though I don’t come from an affluent family. I’m good with my money, I’m driven, but if something were to happen to one of my parents tomorrow I would have to drop out of this program because that would place an enormous financial burden on my shoulders.

We have to spend money to make money…I’m $30,000 in, where’s my cut?

I value education, I always have. But between the costs of education, the cost of living, and the availability of jobs that will pay me well to use the skills I’ve spent years developing, I’ve got a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.