I have struggled with this a lot since becoming chronically ill, and even more so since the pandemic started. Sometimes I need the reminder.
Other safe stuff HERE.
UPDATE: This comic is now available in my store.
I have struggled with this a lot since becoming chronically ill, and even more so since the pandemic started. Sometimes I need the reminder.
Other safe stuff HERE.
UPDATE: This comic is now available in my store.
And immediately I thought to myself, I should write a story about writing that story. It could be meta and funny and clever. I have so many amazing anecdotes about this process, e.g., the time I sat in a Casino for a bit to see what the fuss was about for Research Purposes, or the time I was working in a café like a Proper WriterTM and the waiter actually asked what I was doing and I got to say ‘writing a novel’, or the time used a sword.
So I sat down to write this meta and funny and clever story.
After several months, four abandoned drafts, many unintended tangents into grim trigger-warning topics, an existential crisis, giving up twice, extreme use of the backspace key, and many, many, many cups of coffee all I had to describe writing a novel was …
… a montage.
No, worse than a montage. A montage without a kick-arse soundtrack.
Actually, small request? Could go put on your favourite montage track on. Spotify, mp3 player, CD, tape deck, vinyl, acapella cover band taking requests, however you play your music. Doesn’t matter. Got it? Cool. Now that’s playing, would you mind looking at that last illustration again?
… any better?
It wouldn’t do. This may come as a shock, but I have standards for this site. Not every loose thought or whim ends up here. I try do an acceptable-if-not-amazing-enough-to-get-widely-known job (and since no one has shared my stuff enough to make me widely-known yet, I assume I’m hitting that sweet spot. This is definitely fine and deliberate and not at all a secret disappointment to me).
I thought a bit harder about what the writing process was actually like, and finally I came up with something else.
I thought, better. Much better. It introduces some conflict, reveals character, and does that satisfying thing where I am completely honest about what a terrible person I am but somehow this entertains people rather than driving them away probably because they wrongly assume I am being hyperbolic (and I have just done that thing again by pointing it out). I have finally, in Proper WriterTM terminology, advanced the story.
Excellent. What happens next?
Here’s the thing.
Writing a novel felt like carrying the one ring to Mordor across an endless plain. It felt like slipping into a Lovecraftian dimension to stare down the old gods. It felt like fighting to the death in an arena for the entertainment of the Capitol (… if all the other tributes were me as well and I was also everyone watching it on TV, anyway).
It took years. I made myself chip away at it, re-write whole drafts, do better each time. I used it as a distraction from my miscarriages, my growing depression, the world. Sometimes the thought of it sitting on my laptop waiting for me kept me hiding in bed in the morning, other times it got me up early.
But all that happened in my head. From the outside, it just looks like a montage. And I don’t have a meta and funny and clever story to tell about writing.
Nevertheless, I have set up a brand spanking new alternate site so I can chat about writing ad nauseum for, ideally, the rest of my life.
Maybe chuck it a follow if that sounds fun?
* Pretty much. Some final polish to go still, but I’ve done four-ish total re-write drafts as well as several editing rounds. It’s there. It exists. I feel I’ve earned use of the phrase ‘I wrote a novel’.
So my new blog is OVER HERE. It will be different from Silence Killed the Dinosaurs, and Silence Killed the Dinosaurs will absolutely continue as is, unaffected. You do not have to follow the new site, particularly if you have no interest in writing, fantasy novels, or me as a person and not a stick figure. But, if you do, head on over.
Other light-hearted, non-dramatic stories and comics collected HERE.
[Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware this post contains the names of people who have passed away]
I know I promised fluff, but now is simply not the time. I’ve been watching the police brutality and the protests happening all over the US. This is just my statement as a white Australian, and it is intended for white Australians.
It’s really easy right now for us to look across the sea and say ‘oh, that’s terrible, good thing we’re not like that’, but the truth is we are a lot like that. Just with fewer guns. We are also a colonial country built on stolen land and the destruction of Indigenous culture and lives. We have our own racism problems—both the covert, microaggression variety that protects and builds into the more overt, violent variety. Since a royal commission into Indigenous deaths in custody in 1991, we have had over 400 Indigenous deaths in custody, not a single one of which has resulted in a conviction.
This is unacceptable.
I want to do something about it, and I hope you do too. Here are some resources.
There are a number of places to donate to support the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. I’m not familiar enough with the states or legal system to easily break it down, but I’ve found a few basic ones:
National Directory of Bail Funds—a collection of bail funds for different states across the nation to pick from.
If anyone from the US has any suggestions for me to add, please leave them in the comments (I am particularly asking this of white allies, since I’m pretty sure black people have enough on their plates right now without critiquing my blog posts for me).
EDIT: Suggestions from comments:
Fund to support the legal inquiries on behalf of David Dungay Jr, who also died on camera saying ‘I can’t breathe’ while authorities pressed on his neck.
A petition to change public drunkenness laws in Victoria which, all the way back in 1991, the Royal Commission into Indigenous Deaths in Custody recommended to be replaced with community health oriented approaches instead. In 2017 this law was used to arrest Yorta Yorta women Tanya Day, who was then injured in custody and died.
In Western Australia people can be imprisoned simply for not being able to pay a fine, and the vast majority of those imprisoned for this reason are Indigenous single mothers. The Free Her Fund helps these women
The Healing Foundation, which supports ongoing trauma caused by the Stolen Generation and forced removal of children.
If you are Australian and on Twitter (or even if you aren’t Australian but are on Twitter) and aren’t already, I highly recommend following IndigenousX. I have been for a while, and now I support them on Patreon too. If you aren’t on Twitter but would still like an easy way to hear Indigenous perspectives, you can watch NITV.
And, please, when the dust settles, however it settles, don’t forget. Be anti-racist. Speak up when people around you say racist things—give them the opportunity to know better, let the other people around you see that it isn’t socially acceptable. Use your position to do the right thing. Pay attention. Give a shit about other people.
Okay, so this one isn’t exactly fluff, but ideally it’s not a downer either. Despite my resolve to post fluff as often as possible through all this, I have been … struggling. My old friend depression has been circling. Which is not particularly surprising, given everything. So if you’ve been wondering why the comics dropped off even after I promised, or if you’ve been hanging around your own comment sections, wringing your hands, waiting for me to appear and leave inspiring words such as ‘nice! I liked this’ … sorry. I’m working on it.
But don’t worry. I’ve got a major in psychology, antidepressants, and a decade’s worth of therapy under my belt*. I’ve passed through this before. I can do it again.
* and my cat, I guess. But despite this comic, I don’t think cats are in and of themselves the answer to depression. Sorry. They can help, sure, but for actual clinical depression probably get some medical advice.
Safe stuff HERE.
Generally for everyone in the entire world, it seems. My personal suckitude began in November 2019 when I had my fourth consecutive miscarriage, and then continued as I evacuated from bushfires threatening my home, watched the rest of my country burn on the news, visited the ED for a sudden and scary bleed, had an array of blood tests and scans and finally a (very minor) surgery, and has now peaked (fingers crossed this will be the peak, anyway) in a fucking pandemic.
I’m not someone who’s ever been into inspiration as a thing. I don’t have ‘live, laugh, love’ emblazoned on my couch cushions. (Fine if you do, just not for me). I do not like, share or even relate to any quote that has ever been super-imposed on soothing nature photography. (Again, fine if you do). When my wedding celebrant said with delight that, as someone prone to writing, I would surely come up with something beautifully inspiring to say to my soon-to-be-husband during our ceremony, I told her I wouldn’t because just getting married was enough for me.
But, still, sometimes I say to myself,
Just the one, lone word.
Forward is exciting.
It means the future is coming. It means keep going, there’s more. It means you can’t go back, so don’t wait around.
I said it to myself when I decided to propose to my now-husband. I said it to myself when we started trying for a kid.
The last few months I’ve started so many stories and comics. I start them with big ideas and enthusiasm, but then somehow they twist off the path I imagined and end up somewhere darker. What I’ve created here is heavily autobiographical, and right now I can’t tell you anything about my life without talking about my miscarriages. They touch everything inside me.
Sometimes, that’s okay. It has helped me process, and it comforts me to hope that sharing creates a degree of openness on a difficult subject, makes even one person feel less alone in a giant mess of trauma, or at least semi-prepares someone who doesn’t yet know they’ll go through this too.
But other times, it isn’t. I don’t want everything to be tangled and dark. I don’t want to rehash endlessly, lost and unable to re-find the path. I don’t want to soak everything I make in pain.
Forward is healing.
It’s picking yourself up of the ground. It doesn’t have to be about rushing to do or achieve things; it’s just about taking the next step. Maybe the next step is taking some quiet time or establishing a habit of getting outside in the sunshine.
I said it to myself after my first and second miscarriage.
I’ve always had anxiety. Insomnia has been a huge problem throughout my life. I have had panic and anxiety attacks. There have been days I couldn’t make myself leave the house. Sometimes I get so worried around people I can’t speak, no matter how much I want to. My voice just shuts down.
For the last few years, my anxiety has been focused on my health. I’m only 30, but my body has betrayed me so many times. I can’t trust it anymore. Any time I get a headache I’ve have to be talked down from self-diagnosing a brain tumour. Every twinge is cancer. Every cough is death.
Covid-19 isn’t bad in Australia (yet), but I can open my phone and see tweets, articles, footage from China, Italy, France, South Korea, the US, everywhere and peek into potential futures.
I need some balance.
So over the next few weeks, months, whatever, I’m going to try and create some nonsense.
It won’t be easy. Fluff has been a challenge for me lately, even pre-pandemic. I’m probably going to have to push out some absolute clankers just to keep the gears turning. I can’t promise how regular or successful I will be, but I’m going to try really hard to make this little corner of the internet a softer place for a bit.
Forward is grinding.
It’s for when you are lost. It’s for when you don’t know what happens next, but you know it can’t be nothing. It’s for when a whole journey seems impossible, too big, and you have shut everything down to the next step.
I said it to myself after my third and fourth miscarriage.
I’m worried about what happens when I run out of toilet paper because everyone else has panic-hoarded it. I’m worried about my older relatives. I’m worried about my chronically ill friends. I’m worried about my siblings—both of whom are doctors working in hospitals. I’m worried that next fire season a bushfire will reach my town, my home. I’m worried I’ll just keep miscarrying forever. I’m worried about lurking tumours. I’m worried about living in a country with a marginal environment and unsustainable habits while the world gets hotter.
It’s scary outside, and it’s dark inside.
Forward is not about choice. It’s going to happen anyway. The future is coming, and you can’t go back.
One more step.
P.S. Wash your damn hands.
Update: I have created a NO VIRUSES HERE page. I will collect all my new fluff there as well as gather other fluffy creations from the past few years.
I’ve had a fourth miscarriage.
I drew journal comics to process the experience. I’ve decided I will post them here. I have written about miscarriage before, (first two here, comics drawn after the third one here and here) and I don’t think I can do it again. Not like that. To do that, you have to revisit it. And I can’t.
On that note, you don’t have to read this. In fact, if you’ve had similar experiences and know that reading about this will bring things up for you, please don’t. Don’t do that to yourself for me. I would never ask it of you.
Here we go.
The bushfire I evacuated from on 20/12/2019 was the Cudlee Creek fire that burned in the Adelaide Hills (my home) in South Australia. It destroyed more than 80 homes and claimed one life. Although it didn’t reach my town, it did reach others in the area. Blackened trees and burnt ground are visible from (and sometimes very, scarily close to) the main streets of many of them.
And that fire has not been the only bushfire in South Australia over the last couple of months to destroy homes, the environment, and lives. Notably half (actually, literally, ridiculously half) of Kangaroo Island (a place I have holidayed, a place my brother lived for a year, a place where relatives of mine own property) burned the other week, claiming two lives. That fire isn’t out yet, and as weather conditions are bad today it is spreading and several communities have been evacuated and are under Watch and Act (yellow) warnings even as I write this.
Meanwhile the fires in New South Wales and Victoria (which have made international news) are utterly horrifying and still going. At this time an estimated 1900 homes have been destroyed in NSW and at least another 200 destroyed in Victoria. Many lives have been lost. These fires will certainly not be controlled for some time, and they are expecting considerable fire danger weather tomorrow.
There have always been fires in Australia, but not like this.
If you are able, please consider donating to the fire relief. There are a lot of places to donate. Here are some basic ones:
Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief. (Australia wide).
South Australian Bushfire Appeal. (South Australia).
CFS – Country Fire Service (South Australia’s volunteer firefighting service).
RFS – Rural Fire Service (New South Wales’s volunteer firefighting service).
CFA – Country Fire Association (Victoria’s volunteer firefighting service).
WIRES – Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Services (New South Wales wildlife rescue organisation)
RSPCA (SA) – Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (South Australian appeal specifically)
This is about creativity, which I firmly believe is green. However, it can be about other things too if you like.
If you want to support my art more generally, check out my Patreon page. You can support my work and get unique rewards!
Ten years ago I was diagnosed with depression (although I believe I had it much longer—from way back in my childhood). I started medication and went to therapy. It took a really long time and lots of two-steps-forward-one-step-backs, but a couple of years ago I reached a point where I didn’t need medication to be mentally and emotionally okay.
Since my three miscarriages, the depression has been trying to wiggle back into the cracks. Fortunately, thanks to everything I learnt over the last ten years, I am much better at holding it off.
Eat your meds and stay in therapy, kids!
One year when I was still in highschool I asked for a green ipod for my birthday. The green was important. It was an unwell pistachio colour, sort of warm and cool at the same time. But teenagers aren’t renowned for their emotional restraint and despite the vomit-undertone I couldn’t have fallen more head-over-heels in love with this colour if it fronted a boyband. I stared at it in advertisements and in shop windows. I dreamed of it. I repeatedly prompted my mum so to make sure she absolutely knew the green one was mine, the one I was meant to have.
On the day, there was a heart-flutteringly ipod-shaped present for me.
Before we go any further, I’m going to throw up a wall of disclaimers just in case this escapes the orbit of my regular audience and ends up in the gross, judgemental part of the internet where navigating the comment section requires bio-hazard gear, and even then it’s best to detox afterward with a full exorcism.
Disclaimer: I was psyched to get an ipod.
Disclaimer: Even though it wasn’t soul-mate green.
Disclaimer: Although I asked for the ipod, I didn’t expect to get it. My family routinely request present suggestions from each other and giving someone a suggestion doesn’t obligate them to fulfill it. I also did not feel entitled to expensive presents at all. Plenty of times we were told a suggestion cost too much.
Did I miss any potential judgement-windows?
Oh, of course.
Disclaimer: Yes, I’m a millennial. As horrifying as it sounds, some people were born between 1981 and 1996 (or wherever the boundaries are), including me, and sure, we meet up virtually over the interwebs every full moon and use complicated tournaments of Mario-Kart-by-proxy to decide which industry we’ll be assassinating next, but that’s really not the point.
And the point isn’t that I didn’t get the colour ipod I particularly wanted, either. The point is what I was told next.
When I was in my early twenties I lived alone. I had moved to the city to attend university. Previously I had lived in a residential college and then with a friend, and afterwards I would move in with my partner. But between all that there was this quiet year where I inhabited a tiny apartment with an awkward diagonal wall all by myself.
I’m introverted, at home with my own company, a wee bit controlling about my personal space, and perfectly happy staying in most evenings. I liked it.
At least until the mouse.
I waited until I’d seen it a couple of times to confirm that, yes, it was really there, and no, it was not just a one off visit. I had acquired a housemate.
I called my mum, who was 665kms away and could not physically help me.
There as no one to deal with it for me. I didn’t want to live with the mouse, but I didn’t want to kill it either. I also didn’t own any mouse traps. So I rigged up my own solution.
(With hindsight, there were warning signs I would end up turning my life into cartoons.)
You’ll be shocked to learn it didn’t work.
But I tinkered. I found if I spilled some rice the mouse would come out, even if I was quite close. And then I tinkered some more. Until finally…
I was so proud of myself. I even managed to locate a sneaky mouse-hole and block that up. I was sure the mouse would not come back.
And I had not killed it.
I bought a trap, baited it with peanut butter and put it in the cupboard. My partner stayed with me so when it happened
I wouldn’t be alone.
‘Proper’ jobs are out for me, unfortunately, due to chronic illness. I’ve made my own job writing and drawing. (I don’t make enough to pay income tax). I’m proud of it and I like it, but not everyone sees it as a ‘proper’ one.
Even though my partner did have a ‘proper’ job, there were a few years where buying a house seemed utterly impossible. The world is no longer built for a couple on a single (‘proper’) income (at least, Australia isn’t. I can’t speak for everywhere). But, somehow, we pried our way into the exclusive club of Valid House Hunters.
House hunting was a long, weird series of meetings with hyper-adulty sorts—mortgage brokers, real estate agents, conveyances. We put on sensible-masks, threw around words like “interest”, “settlement date”, “pre-approval” and waited for the inevitable moment they twigged to our game and threw us out.
No one was more surprised than us when we pulled it off.
And home-ownership was fun.
But it really was.
And then we had three miscarriages.
(I looked again to confirm it that, yes, it was really there, and no, it wasn’t just a one-off)
Each time we made the appointments. Paid for scans. Let people know. I went to the hospital (my partner stayed with me so I wouldn’t be alone when it happened). We made more appointments. We tried to make time to grieve, to process. We booked ourselves into therapy. We reassured other people when we didn’t feel at all assured ourselves.
It’s been almost a year since the third miscarriage, almost two years since the first, and most mornings when I wake up my first thought is still
Some days the big, ultimate answer, the only thing capable of getting me out of bed, is the dishwasher. Or the laundry or the vacuuming, or whatever chore it’s my turn at.
Because I get that little high of accomplishment from getting them done. Because I don’t feel like I have control over anything else in my life anymore. Because I still don’t know how to be someone who had three miscarriages. I don’t know who that is. I can’t get out of bed for her.
But I can be someone who empties the dishwasher.
And once you’ve emptied the dishwasher everything seems a little more possible.
But not fun.
Fun is hard. Fun is elusive.
Fun is a chore.
Really. It’s a job you have to do to stay healthy, like flossing. It just doesn’t feel like flossing when it comes naturally. Right now, for me, it doesn’t. If I want to catch it, I have to set traps.
We set traps. We bought some new video games. We build each other blanket forts. We taught our cat to hi-five. I take refuge in adventure-steampunk, comedic SSF, and comic books.* We go for walks and adventures and find new places.
Am I an adult?
Over the course of my life I have been told so many things about what being an adult is all about. I’m nearly 30, and according those adulthood criteria, I’m not sure I qualify.
I’m (considerably) over 21, so I definitely meet the age requirement. I also (part) own a house, which I believe some people would count in my favour.
But I do not have a ‘proper’ job. I do not earn enough to pay income tax. I do not have children, which some people seem to think is necessary (I might still have them one day, but I might not). I still play video games and read comic books. I am the proud owner of a stegosaurus-shaped handbag.
Am I an adult?
If I was to tell someone what adulthood was, to impose my own definition, I might choose to say that it’s just doing the next thing. I think the accurately vague nature of that is perfect for adulthood, and bonus, if it’s a thing you do, then it’s a verb, and therefore ‘adulting’ becomes valid terminology.
When I first started writing this, that’s what I thought I was going to say. But as I wrote and drew, I looked and thought again, and that’s not how this ends anymore.
Am I an adult?
It’s not the real question. The real question is, do I have to be?
The essence of adulthood, from what I’ve been told, is that you’re not supposed to enjoy it. If you do, people will line up around the corner to say you must be doing it wrong or you’re naive and deluded, and anyway just you wait for the next milestone, that one will really wreck you.
The criteria are ridged, pointless, and in some cases unhealthy and irresponsible. It’s all about ticking boxes and how things look on the surface. It’s not about how you’re doing or what’s going on underneath.
And if everyone says it’s that, who I am to disagree?
So take it all away. It’s been messed up too much for too long. I don’t want it. I don’t even want to fix it, though you can try if you want.
I’ll just be over here, doing the next thing, drawing dinosaurs, and choosing puke-green everything. Crowned queen of the dishwasher and nothing else. Trying endlessly, desperately, to have fun.
After all, adults can do anything they want.
* Sidebar: for fun giggles from those respective categories I recommend Soulless by Gail Carriger, Redshirts by John Scalzi, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (beginning with Vol 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson).
I have thought about writing a follow-up to ‘Expecting’ dealing with the aftermath of my third miscarriage, but I haven’t. I’ve tried several times. But it’s proved too emotional, and then I realised that how I’ve been since could be summarized by one comic repeated over and over again. (Which might also feel relevant to other people dealing with ordinary life after different kinds of loss or trauma). So I drew that instead.
(Maybe I will end up writing the whole thing someday. Maybe not.)