Declarations and Commitments

Hello from the distant ends of when-the-fuck-do-I-update-this-thing:

As it says in the “About” section (which I really should update), my brain is churning out a lot of narrative and monologue and opinion and reaction, more or less constantly (turns out: that might be an ADHD thing). I have a lot of opinions and plans and thoughts, and I think I explain things well (regardless, people have told me I do, and even if that sounds like “MY MUMMY SAYS…” from Matilda the Musical*, let’s roll with it).

I sometimes feel that the reason I explain things well is that I take the time to come up with context, and angles, and metaphors, and what that means is that my posts get very long. Settle in with a cuppa when I update this marvellous platform for sarcasm, swears and communication.

It also means that they take a long time to write.

I mean: an hour, maybe? Maybe two.

That first writing process is fine. The problem is that I have a very high standard when it comes to whether something is readable. I work primarily in the sciences, and the problem of readable scientific communication is one that will never fully be resolved, particularly in the primary research literature. Largely, this is because the stylistic features that make something readable and the features that make something acceptably professional… well, we’re not talking about a nice overlapping Venn diagram. It’s a hard line to walk, being objective and precise and unemotional in your language while still managing a sufficiently lyrical and structured flow of information and sentence structure that means people’s brains won’t implode with sheer boredom.

I’ve read papers on the most interesting and fabulous topics and experiments, and been almost nauseated by trying to convince my brain to absorb meaning from the sentences therein. Either they’re boring and repetitive in their construction (which means that I try to fall asleep), or they’re SO FUCKING LONG that by the time you get to the end of the sentence, you’ve forgotten where it started***. Where’s the joy? Where’s the thrill? Alright, it’s hard to communicate the joy and the thrill of discovery when reviewers pull you up for using as benign a word as bizarre, but it can be done. I promise.

What this all means is that I know two very important things about my process of communication ideas and patterns and experiences:

(1) firstly: I will take many words to tell my story, or present my perspective, or outline the problem, whatever it is I’m trying to do in that post. This isn’t something I’ve been able to change, and when I try, I don’t communicate as effectively. I feel very strongly that the background and the context matter. 

(2) secondly: it’s hard to hold a reader’s attention span when you take a long time to communicate. It requires real skill, patience and nuance to keep that entertaining, and snappy, and make sure you’re delivering the kind of impact and interest that will reward a person who says, “Well, okay, I’ve got a fifteen minute coffee break. That’s all I’ve got today. I’m going to spend it reading the blog of this babbly, excitable scientist who writes about politics and gym and medical tests.”

Given that I’m in this bind where a verbose writing style comes galloping into the brick wall of limited attention spans, I end up keeping my draft posts in the drafts folder. They don’t meet my standards. They started out well, but then I didn’t know how to finish them. Or they didn’t quite work the way I wanted to. Or they were too personal and painful. They need to be structured (and maybe filtered) and that’s a second draft situation for me (most of the time).

This is why I haven’t been able to update the blog much this year – other stuff has come screaming down the line. 2018 has been a suffocating avalanche of chaos that I’m struggling to process, and as it happens, it’s definitely going to get worse before it gets better.

But I’ve been doing an awful lot of cogitating lately, and I’ve decided that it’s time to up my game. I’ve decided that I can up my game. Whether that means lowering my standards, developing my skills such that less drafting is necessary, or just making sure I set aside the time (a couple of hours on a Sunday?), I’m not sure. We’ll see.

Since Sundays are the days I’m most likely to have free, that can be my writing day. I usually have a fair bit of time free on Tuesdays – that can be my “proofread and re-structure” day.

Let’s say, then, that I’ll update Tuesday evenings (Australian Eastern Standard Time).

Since I’m on this roll, I’ll also try and get my tags and categories under control. I reserve the right to rant and babble about random shit, as is my wont, but here are some specific series that I am hoping to maintain:

Morning Coffee Feminism: This is for little stories about feminism, about sexism, about my experiences as a cis lady-person hanging about in the patriarchy. Sexism impacts my life in some of the expected ways, but also some surprising, frustrating and almost hilariously stupid ways, and I like to tell those stories.

This Keto Life: I don’t pick up this one often. The fact that I’m medically locked into a ketogenic diet (well, approximately 75% of the time) is on its own fairly uninteresting. It can, however, be interesting to see how it interacts with things like energy levels, food anxiety, social eating situations, doctors, lipid panels, and so on and so forth. Every now and then I’ll uncover some unexpected piece of keto wisdom (for example: don’t be a wanker about sweeteners) and then, I shall share.

O Bendy Gymster: I write about this a lot, and it’s on my mind a lot. Being hypermobile, having Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (depending on which set of diagnostic criteria you adhere to, and isn’t that a fun time), has a significant impact on my daily life. My bones have grown crooked. That can’t be fixed. I look fine; but standing up for long periods is exhausting. I have chronically low blood pressure because when your collagen is stretchy, your body doesn’t manage vasoconstriction so well. I spent a lot of time working out (because you need to maintain muscle tightness with EDS), and trying to figure out how to work out without damaging myself. This is the story of how I live in my bendy body, and sometimes it’s as much mental as physical.

Dog Quest: I have a Rottweiler. His name is Amos. He is adorable. Sometimes I write about dogs, and dog training. It’s something I am very enthusiastic about, and concerning which I do a lot of research.

Cat Quest: I also have (at time of writing) two cats. I don’t know, they’re cute, sometimes I might write stories about them.

Whimsical Banality: random shit I decided to get lyrical about, from “I like hotels” to “this is what it feels like to sleep on a ship out on the open ocean.”

Rainforest Living: I live in a fairly inaccessible house in the rainforest. It’s gorgeous, and entertaining, and presents a number of intriguing challenges. I tell stories. So far I’ve only put one post up on this, but it’s something I want to get back to.

For Want Of Nuance: I haven’t written any of these yet. This is where I want to dig around at common talking points. There will probably be sarcasm. There may be funny metaphors. There will be illustrative anecdotes and also some swears (I’m a fucking potty mouth so let’s be clear, there will be many swears). The reason I want to write this series is because I do feel that we suffer enormously from a tendency to oversimplify the world around us. That’s human – it’s actually a cognitive survival trait – but it’s incredibly dangerous and has caused enormous harm. Nothing is as straightforward as it looks on the surface. It’s like a kid trying to figure out simple machines by pulling them to pieces – the fact is, you’re not going to know how it works until you take it apart (which is why grave robbing was so common in past eras of medical research and probably why the most high-achieving medical students smelled god-fucking-awful).

ADHD and Other Letters: I have ADHD. This is a relatively recent discovery, although looking back it should have been fucking obvious (and a number of people, upon hearing me disclose my ADHD status, have actually replied, “Wait – you didn’t know?”). I also (probably, at time of writing – I’ve filled out the screening forms but not returned them to my specialist yet) make my home on the autism spectrum (ASD). On top of that, I have major depressive disorder (MDD) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD, best acronym, and fuck winter). This leads to interesting fun times, and I have stories to tell.

Shit I Know From Not Having Known Shit: I haven’t started this one yet, but this one ties in to the “and other letters” above. When you live on the spectrum and you’re essentially forced to conform to a world of non-autistic (usually neurotypical) people, you have to watch carefully to figure out how it all works. When you don’t come with an instinctive map of human body language, facial feature recognition, facial interpretation, emotive tone of voice, etc. etc., you miss out on a lot of communication. This is a bummer, because you have to teach yourself from first principles – if you even can – and that’s fucking hard and exhausting. It does come with a particular set of advantages: that is, you don’t come with the same assumptions that other people do. You derive everything from first principles. And what you figure out is that most people are terrible fucking communicators (best of intentions, best efforts aside). I’ll go into this more later, but this series will be about the things I’ve learned and figured out from watching, and how it’s helped me be a better communicator. Maybe it will help other people, I don’t know. That’s the dream, right?

That’s all the titles I’ve got. I write about medical things a lot, and I don’t really have a subheading for those.  I might put my scientist hat on and explain some commonly misunderstood concepts from time to time. There will always be random posts that don’t quite fit with any of these.

But… it’s the broad plan.

This is the story of how I live my life in my bendy body, with chronic pain, unstable joints, crooked limbs, and an occasionally inflamed small intestine (Crohn’s Disease is a riot a minute);

…the story of how I live with mental illness and multiple neurodivergent characteristics;

…the story of how I react to the world as a survivor of parental abuse because that changes things in ways you might not expect.

It’s about seeing things differently, and explaining things that other people might take for granted, or misunderstand; but also, it’s about sharing those experiences with other people like me who might just want to know that there’s someone else out there who has gone through this.

Hi. How’s it going? I’m sorry it’s been so long, but I promise to tell more stories soon. Let me know if there’s a series you want me to start with up there.

Regardless, I’ll see you next Tuesday.

-Kate


(*you haven’t seen Matilda?! You should. It’s freaking awesome.**)

(**unless you don’t like musicals. In which case, give it a miss.)

(***sidebar: This is why I didn’t finish my law degree, and by didn’t finish I mean I gave it one semester and then knocked it on the head like I was euthanising a dying goldfish. Law was interesting. It was genuinely interesting. But the reading was an intolerable, unendurable horror for my English-literature-loving, lyrically-driven, ADHD brain.)

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