#WIPjoy in February

A desert at sunset with a text overly that reads WIPjoy in February

WIPjoy is a series of questions and prompts are from Bethany A. Jennings (on Instagram, Twitter, and her website)  for writers to answer about their work-in-progress. I was late to the January party, and I don’t want to wait until the next one, so I’m doing the first 28 prompts through February!

The WIP (work in progress) I’ll post about is The Pilgrimage. I’m well on my way to having the draft done and ready for intense revisions, so I figure now is the perfect time to shout my love and joy for this project. I’ll be posting daily, but they’ll be very short posts!

Week 1: Introductions

  • Introduce your WIP.
  • Why does your protagonist pull at your heartstrings?
  • How do you get to know your characters?
  • Share a line about your premise!
  • How easy is this WIP to write?
  • Which character is hardest to write?
  • Tell us about YOU and your work!

Week 2: Relationships

  • Who’s your protagonist’s best friend?
  • How did the main characters meet?
  • Anyone suffering from a broken heart?
  • Share a line about love or hatred.
  • What was your antagonist’s past like?
  • What’s a message about relationships in your book?
  • Which characters get along the worst?

Week 3: A Few of My Favourite Things

  • At its best, my WIP’s dialogue is…
  • I love how I describe things when…
  • I love how I depict characters because…
  • Share an example of your best prose!
  • I love my world/setting because…
  • The relationship I root most for is…
  • I’m most impatient to hear reader reactions to…

Week 4: Character Takeover (Roleplaying!)

  • Describe yourself in five words.
  • One thing you’d change in your past?
  • Favourite way to relax?
  • A line you were proud to say.
  • Tell us about where you live.
  • Do you sympathise with (or relate to) the antagonist?
  • What are you self-conscious about?

Month In Review: January 2017

An open book with a calendar and a text overlay reading Month In Review: January 2017

The first month of 2017 is done already? I’ll be honest: this month was a blur. I don’t have much to write on January… It’s been a strange, hazy thirty-one days. I’ll make my Months In Review quick this year, with a few lines to sum up highlights and woes of each month—and maybe a few sentences to add some flavour.

A celebration: I reached my word goal of 70,000 for The Pilgrimage!

A change: I moved to new accounts for a fresher start to a new tome of my life.

A conflict: My PTSD and dissociation were incredibly prevalent this month, which might be why I was in a haze most of the month.

A relief: My application to graduate from university was accepted!

A regret: I didn’t make as much art this month as I planned or hoped to do.

A random memory: At the convenience store, I happened to look up as a girl left and her earbuds fell out of her pocket. It took me about 2 seconds to put down my things, tell my boyfriend I’d be right back, and pick up the earbuds to go return them to her. She was just walking out of the parking lot and looked incredibly relieved when I handed them back to her.

Onward to February!

Changing Identities

A broken computer monitor on tiles with a text overlay that reads Changing Identities

This isn’t going to be a deep, profound, or philosophical post about my personal identity. It’s about my online usernames!

Since 2009, I have made my online presence as “coryldork”—to the point where it’s literally every online handle for every account I use. 2009 to 2017 is a very long time, and it’s time for a change. I’ve grown up, after all, over the eight years I’ve been doing this online thing. I’m in my 20s, no longer in school, and—arguably—at the biggest changing point in my life. Finishing classes means a natural transition into a different world.

Early during my social media days, I used my real last name on the Internet. But as time has gone on, and as I’ve navigated the concept (and reality) of being a writer and creative with a digital platform—being a person who could have a large presence online—I came up with a pen name. Since the middle of 2016, I’ve been itching for a change from “coryldork” for a few reasons. The first is hearing about it from my family, and how they didn’t quite get the slang of it. (Honestly, the twentieth time you hear your grandmother say your email address with scorn, you’re exhausted.) The second reason is drifting away from “Coryl o’Reilly” and feeling uncertain about that presence. And the third is the realisation that I’m gunning to be more than a writer—I want to create more art as well and delve into editing.

So, starting February 1st, I’ll be using the new handle of “corylwrites” and the name “Coryl Reef”!

Coryl Reef is obviously not my real name. “Coryl” is, and every time I introduce myself to someone by saying my name, I say, “Coryl, as in coral reef.” It was a punny suggestion from someone and it just… clicked. It makes sense. It’s obvious and helps people to know how my name is said. It also makes it fairly clear that the identity that I put online is only half real. I’m more than my tweets, Instagram photos, and blog posts. There are still facts and truth in it, but at the end of it, I want to better curate my presence on social media.

My blog is registered until October 2017, so I’m not sure if I’ll renew it then. I had a second website for the previous name, but I’m going to let that one expire this spring. But anyway! I’ll be moving to a new Twitter account (which will be a relief, actually—there is so much whiny garbage from my younger years), but simply renaming all other social media that I can. If I can’t rename the account, then I suppose I’ll be moving to a new one.

I’m so excited!! Have you ever changed your online presence? I feel so liberated.

Thoughts On Being Transgender

A pink balloon attached to the string by a white chair in a grey setting.

I’ve hesitated posting this, because it’s part of my identity that I’m still… coming to terms with. The whole reality of gender identity and gender expression and biological sex—it’s a mess in my head, but there are a few things I’m certain of: I’m bigender. I’m gender non-conforming. I’m queer. I’m still questioning. And I’m just as transgender as the Trans Poster Child who plays with “opposite-gender” toys and transitions with surgeries and full social transitioning.

I’m keeping my breasts and my given name and my female sex reproduction organs.

And that doesn’t make me less transgender than someone who would have sex reassignment surgery or another type of surgery to alter their body.

I do not have to hate my body to be transgender.

I do not have to feel like I was born in the wrong body to be transgender.

I do not have to identify with the opposite gender on a polarised scale to be transgender. I do not have to go from female to male, or male to female, and then stay that way to be transgender. I am not zero or one. I can be infinite, but I’ll choose the numbers that fit best.

I do not have to be out of the closet or ashamed of being in the closet or proud of being out of the closet.

I am trans, I am trans, I am trans. I am gender non-conforming and I identify with multiple gender roles constructed by society—sometimes multiple, sometimes only one, sometimes none.

I am transgender and I exist within the changing social constructions of gender.

Gender is not an inherent part of existence. We make it. We shape it. We create it the same way we create our identities. We express ourselves in certain ways. We express gender in certain ways. It is a category that societies use.

You are not born with a gender. You grow into one. You learn and you create your identity. You make it the same way you make a sandwich. You choose what to include, what to exclude, and some people will tell you what to put on it and what not to put on it.

Be peanut butter. Be jelly. Be Swiss and ham and pickles on rye. Be your own mixture of tastes and flavours and appearance. Be different today and tomorrow and next year. Be your childhood favourite whenever you want. Be Cheese Whiz and smooth peanut butter on crustless white bread, because it feels good that day, and forget anyone who tells you it’s weird or gross. Be my aunt’s Nutella and mayonnaise. Be a sandwich with lettuce or napa cabbage instead of bread. Be a tortilla wrap.

I am transgender. I don’t have to have pronouns “opposite” to my sex characteristics to be transgender. I do not have to physically transition to be transgender. I do not have to change my name to be transgender. I do not have to be anything except a gender I was not given at birth to be transgender.

I am transgender and that still exists in the gender binary spectrum created by social norms. And I am unsure how to reconcile that, or if I even need to. I am hoping I can embrace the social construction of gender while still urging it to expand and be more than what it currently is. Maybe one day, the notion of “gender” will evolve to a point where “transgender” is a different identity to what it is today. Maybe “girl” and “boy” and “queer” will mean different things, too.

I am bigender and my pronouns are “he/him/his” and “she/her/her” and I am happy with whatever you choose to refer to me, whenever you do it, as long as you understand that my gender is not my body. You don’t have to know if someone is transgender. You just have to know that gender is not genitals.


Therapy Diary: Mindfulness

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

When I was in therapy last year, my counsellor told me that the goal for our sessions would be creating mindfulness. There were a number of ways we worked through being aware of my body and my emotions. Because my PTSD is very dissociative, it means there’s a mind-emotion-body disconnect. I often feel “outside” of myself in varying ways. Sometimes I am a floating balloon being held by my body. Sometimes I am a suitcase being dragged. Dissociation is a beast in itself and I wrote a short blog post on it a few months ago. This post acts as a bit of a follow-up.

Along with the exercises we did, such as identifying where an emotion existed in the body and describing it (anger being in my throat, or despair being in my belly—that kind of thing), I use or have used these tools to become more aware and mindful of my entire existence:

  • journalling
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • tarot reading

I don’t journal as much as I used to while I was in therapy. I think this is because I’ve gotten better at being mindful/aware/in-tune/etc. Journalling was a very explicit way of creating awareness of my emotions and my body, and the relationship between the two.

These days, I lean toward yoga, meditation, and tarot reading. The yoga helps with my mind-body connection, with a focus on my body and how it connects within itself. The meditation points me toward the relationship between my mind and body while emphasising my emotions, feelings, and thoughts.

Tarot reading is a new one, though. I grasp onto symbols and metaphors, and that’s all tarot is. I don’t use a classic tarot deck, with Major Arcana and whatnot. Instead, I use regular 52-card playing cards with numbers and suits. There’s an additional layer of abstraction with these cards. The symbols and metaphors come from interpretation of the numbers and the suits. Instead of seeing a moon or a sun, I have to consider my own intuition and understanding for the numbers and suits.

When it comes to the tarot reading, I do a combination of reading cards for in-depth interpretation of a single card, or I do a self-reading with a 3- or 4-card spread. Some spreads require a question to answer, and others are assessment or guidance spreads. I don’t read the cards for prophecy or fortune-telling. I read them so there’s somewhere I can project my worries, concerns, desires, and intuitions.

On the whole, creating mindfulness has been the key to lessening my dissociative states—whether by frequency or intensity. I have been plagued by a constant disconnect between my mind and body because connecting the two was dangerous during my traumatic childhood. There’s been a lot of learning, trial and error, and patience involved. I have to constantly work in order to hinder the PTSD from dictating my life, but I’m finding ways that let me progress.

2017: Beginning

This will be the first January I spend out of school. Not only university, which I just finished, but any type of school. I started kindergarten in the 90s and have been in some sort of education institution ever since.

In a way, I’m hopeful. My life has been defined by grades and schooling—the classes I took and excelled in; the grades I received, whether I worked for them or deserved them; the people I spent time with. The framing device of my life-long narrative, up until this point, has been broken.

In another way, I’m terrified. I don’t have the guiding restriction of primary school, high school, or university… and that’s odd.

But I’m taking this new freedom and running with it.

Each quarter this year (because I am not going to be able to hard-plan my entire year right now) has a few different goals I’d like to accomplish.

January, February, March
  • finish writing The Pilgrimage
  • edit The Pilgrimage and send it to beta readers
  • open an Etsy shop for my art
  • redesign my blog with a custom-coded theme
  • rebrand my personal identity online

Q1 of 2017 is really the only solid plan I have. Everything else is tentative until I see how I’m doing by the end of March. I’m new to having deadlines that aren’t set by school, so I see the first three months as a trial and training run.

I’m starting to hate my online alias (“coryldork” and “Coryl o’Reilly”) and I want to change them this quarter. My last name is not “o’Reilly” but I won’t be using my real last name when I change it. I’m still so unsure about how I want to present myself to the world, both personally and professionally.

April, May, June
  • query The Pilgrimage to agents
  • start a second writing project
  • code WordPress themes for sale
  • consider freelance design, and a related portfolio

Q2 of 2017 has looked like an artsy and lucrative space. I want to get back into front-end design and graphic design. Since last summer, I’ve realised that my skills in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign are incredibly valuable and useful. I want to work on them.

However, this part of the year will be hectic. My lease ends on July 31, so I’ll need to consider if I’m staying in Windsor. But I have time to think on that.

July, August, September
  • finish draft 1 of the new writing project
  • possibly move

Q3 is the true grey area and where the shrugging begins. It’s also the time of the year where I feel the most anxiety right now. It’s what people have been asking me once I tell them I’m staying in Windsor until my lease ends. They ask, “And then what?” Boi, I don’t even know either, so stop asking.

October, November, December
  • apply to teach English in Japan

Because of how Q3 looks, I’m not sure what else I’m planning for Q4. My living space and my subsequent connections and resources will be affected by what I decide—and what’s available—for the end of the year. The program I’m considering for ESL in Japan holds their applications in November, but if I’m accepted, I wouldn’t be leaving until the middle of 2018. Of course, throughout the year I’ll be looking into learning Japanese. I recently found out that my grandfather still has some knowledge in it, and he lives in Alberta (along with my brother)… so I have options there.

That’s what I’m looking at for 2017. Throughout the year, I’ll check in and see how my goals are shaping for the future, and how well I’ve achieved the ones I’ve set here.

My resolution this year is to persevere. I’m prone to giving up, and I have no excuses for it. The only way for me to live, as well as achieve my dreams, is to keep going. No matter how much I want to end something, like my projects or my goals or my life, my desire to stop is not a good enough reason to stop. I will keep going. I will persevere.