I Have A Mouth, So Why Aren’t I Screaming? (Or Where I’ve Been)

Been a few weeks, hasn’t it? Don’t worry, I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet. Indeed I’ve instead been all over the place doing lord knows what in graduate school. I’ve been working hard at my thesis (which will have a website face shortly). I’ve been spending time at great game design opportunities like Practice at NYU (which I’ll have a breakdown of too). I’ve been working hard. But one thing I haven’t been doing lately is blogging. And there’s a reason why. So here’s the story I’d like to tell about how criticism can steal your voice.

I wake up in the morning. I have a long schedule ahead of me. I write things down, you see, because if I don’t I forget half the things I need to do. So I have a list. And on that list is things like ‘pay this bill’ or ‘do this homework’. I go ahead and take out the trash, do laundry, all the things one needs to do. I answer emails. I do what is needed. And on that list is inevitably the reminder: blogging. Every day, my eyes would slide past it. Every day, I’d say ‘that can wait.’

And it waited. And waited. For weeks.

After a little while, I wondered just what was going on. I, like anyone else, can be avoidant of things I didn’t want to do. But the real question is: why didn’t I want to blog? I had so many things I wanted to talk about! Yet something was stopping me, something that was making me balk at the notion of putting my ideas down on the internet for all to see. So as I am want to do, I posed the question to my friends online, almost rhetorically: why was I suddenly nervous about posting up blog posts?

A friend and brilliant young woman came back at me with an answer in the form of a question: did this problem start after you started receiving those threats about the content of your talks and posts?

Ahem. I believe the word I’m looking for is duh.

I’ve been pretty vocal about things on my blog, on other blogs, for the last few years. I believe that standing up and speaking out is an imperative if you see something that needs discussing. “If you see something, say something” is used by the cops, but it isn’t just a slogan for the NYPD. It’s an idea that the world is only improved when people use their powers of communication to make changes to situations they encounter. Yet a lot of people who have spoken out recently have received backlash of the most toxic variety. I got only a little bit of it. But what I did get startled me. And frankly, it shocked me more than I originally understood.

I’ll share a little secret here: I’m a fairly squishy-centered person. Down deep beneath the ‘raaar!’ that often comes out of my mouth beats the heart of someone who honestly wants us all to have what we need in life, with people who care about us, so we can make awesome things that we can share and that make us happy. Idealistic? Sure, and why not? There’s nothing wrong with idealism except that perhaps these days it’s considered naive and nay-sayed by those who are bitter and cynical. But when that ‘can’t we work towards a better tomorrow?’ me is met with rampant douchebaggery (yes, that’s a technical term), it tends to wall up for protection. And it gets tired.

I got tired of getting yelled at for a little while.

I got tired of people asking me why it’s necessary to talk about women in the gaming community. I got tired of having to explain that just because you speak out about women’s rights doesn’t mean you’re blaming all men for the inequality in the world, or that you’re demonizing the men who are trying to help too. I got tired of being accused of being a fence-sitting feminist for not embracing more radical ideas. I got tired of being told ‘I’m tired of hearing about this’ from people who, for them, the issues we’re talking about seem so large and so all-encompassing that they don’t know what to do with them. Or else they’re tired of hearing about it because, to them, it isn’t an ongoing reality that needs to be addressed over and over.

I got tired of speaking up when I would get comments like ‘fat pig’ sent my way.

A person only has so much bandwidth and for a while a little bit of it behind the scenes was negative. Most of it was overwhelmingly positive. But that little toxic bit got to that little squishy center and, well, I got tired. A part of me wants to apologize for that, but I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to say this: turtle-time is over. I’m back.

We don’t create things in a void. Getting used to the voices out there that will fling awful at your feet is part of creating things. It seems like a skill needed more and more every day. I’m cultivating it. But in the meantime, I can’t let myself be afraid of putting words to paper (or blog) for fear of what might fly my way. The awful, insulting crap being slung around the internet is NOT okay. Trolling is not okay. But if I’m going to exist as a creator then I will need to remember just what it means to have the courage of my convictions and stand by what I say.

I’m also going to be trying a radical new approach: I’m planning on creating a lot more than commenting these days. I realize a lot of my time had focused on commentary about other work out there – be it comic books, television, movies, ect. And that’s great, commenting and criticism is awesome – having opinions is what we do, provided we put it out in the world in a respectful fashion. But I’m a writer and a designer. I want to be making things of my own to be the creation I want to see in the world. And if I’m so busy commenting, I don’t have as much time to do what I want. So there’s going to be a little less of my usual ranting criticism goodness for a bit. Why?

I have projects. And they’re good ones. And that’s what you’re going to hear about for a while.

So that’s where I’ve been. That’s where I’m going. Let’s keep in touch more, shall we?

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