Okay, so my high school had this program where seniors could leave school like a month and a half early and opt out of exams if they took on internships around the neighborhood, but not everyone wanted to/was eligible to do it. Back in like 2013, they had like 15 bored seniors stuck in the school, so the administration brought in this Professional Life Coach, left him in alone in a room with them for two hours to talk to them about like, self-esteem or some shit. All the kids were pulled out of their classes for this*, and later told the administration that they loved him, they really enjoyed the talk.
So, about a year later, we have a new principal. He’s supposed to set up an assembly for all the 11th and 12th graders, but he doesn’t know what to do. One of his coworkers mentions that there was a life coach that was a huge hit with the kids that didn’t do community study last year, so maybe he’d also be great for a larger audience. The principal basically thinks “okay, what the hell” and calls up and hires Jason C. Jean to come talk to the kids.
Now, it’s like, 10:30, maybe 11:00 in the morning, and two entire grades are getting shepherded to the main gymnasium, and no one wants to God damn be there. We ain’t got time for self esteem talks. We want to sleep. And this guy, watching us all drag our feet in and collapse into the bleachers was just like…offensively peppy. There’s a couple faculty members sitting behind him, the woman who suggested he be hired for this, the vice principals for the grades- but the principal himself kept getting calls so he was in and out the whole time.
Now, Mr. Jean was like…the chill “Just call me by my first name dude” history professor at college times 30. He was trying so fucking hard. I’m referring to him as ‘Mr. Jean’ in this story just to be disrespectful. So anyway, we all get in there, and he tells us right off the bat “You guys are totally allowed to be on your phones and laptops during this! I get it! It’s no problem, like really, I insist!” so while the faculty members are exchanging smiles that read ‘how do we kill that while respecting him’, all the kids are immediately pulling out their electronics and he’s starts his speech.
Now, again, I really wanna reiterate that he told us we could be on our phones- because when the news articles started coming out about this, I remember all these angry, annoying comments from old people like “Why the hell were the students on their phones in the first place! So disrespectful! These damn millennials and their social media!” like, they were completely ignoring the entire story and just focusing in on kids using the internet, and it Really Super Pissed Me Off, so. Again, we had permission for this (which also ended up being Mr. Jean’s fatal mistake).
So, he starts off this speech fairly normally, like ‘hi, I’m Jason, I’m a professional life coach and I wanna teach you kids about how to be The Best You!’ and like people were tuning him out and listening to varying degrees. Some kids (like myself) were kinda dozing off, and everyone was on twitter or facebook.
His approach to a self esteem speech seemed to be ‘let me tell you my entire life story for hours’ and like, at first I was like “I’m not really hearing this, I’m half dreaming right now” but the more I started making myself pay attention the more…bizarre and rambling his story got.
So like, for instance, he told us he drank a lot in high school. Like, a lot. But he didn’t use that as a ‘don’t drink or party too hard’ lesson, instead he was like “I was fourteen so I always called my parents to pick me up, and they weren’t mad because they knew it meant I could trust them. So remember, always tell your parents when you’re drinking!” and then it kinda got to a point where it sounded like he was encouraging partying and drinking and the like to the group of underage kids.
And then, he told us how he used to play baseball all the time when he was a kid, and at 16 reached a crossroads in his life where the Phillies wanted to draft him or he could go play football for Penn State. And he said he went with Penn State but later lost the scholarship for some reason and we’re like…really.
There was absolutely nothing coherent about anything he was saying- nothing that tied anything together, made a point, seemed like it had anything to do with an assembly on self esteem. He told us at one point he was making upwards of 7 million a year. He told us one time before college he was homeless. He told us he used to own a construction company and built his own branch of nightclubs himself, that he and his friend then ran. He told us he fought a shark and came out with no scars. He told us that he had less money now, because after surviving a work related accident- direct quote- “I fell almost 30 feet and I broke in half” - he decided to leave that industry and spend more time with his family.
So, yeah, I was pretty positive this was bullshit, but there were clearly kids in the room that were falling for it. But then he said something like…he and his friend got bored one day and started jarring up their own pasta sauce, and made a deal with wegmans or some store like that to start selling it, and now he has a pasta sauce empire. Like he spent 15 fucking minutes on this. The way he kept saying ‘pasta sauce’ was so annoying I was about to claw my ears out. But anyway, two girls in my grade wanted to find out what brand he was talking about, so they googled his name.
And then quietly gasped.
And then furiously started typing into their phones.
And remember- everyone, even though they were paying attention- was on twitter and facebook. All the sudden I see heads flying up and wide eyes and people whispering to each other. Mr. Jean doesn’t seem to notice the change and keeps rambling on, but I know something happened so I google him too and-
Okay so basically he’s 1) been arrested, 2) filed for bankruptcy like three times and 3) has been hailed as a ‘Swinger Guru’ by playboy.
EVERYONES SILENTLY FLIPPING OUT.
So by now, this is a fucking game- he still doesn’t notice anything wrong amongst the kids, so we’re all silently texting each other to fill each other in. Pulling up receipts. But still playing the part of politely intrigued audience members. The school faculty have no fucking idea what’s going on, until one of the students texts her mom, who happens to be the woman that convinced the principal to hire this guy. We see her check her phone, go wide-eyed, and she runs out of the fucking room presumably to either find the principal or hide in terror.
So Mr. Jean had been talking to random people intermittently throughout this speech, but we reach the ‘questions’ part of it. Everyone seems to silently agree that instead of just asking him anything outright, we should just see how good of a liar he was. So they’d be asking him stuff like ‘how much money did you make with ____ company’ and he’d give a ridiculously high number as people were sending each other reports of him filing for bankruptcy during that time. Or they asked him about his construction business which he said was great, and while he was talking about how great it was we were all reading his arrest report, from when a woman hired him to build her house, and he took her money and then like…just didn’t build anything. Wild. Someone asked him about his family and he’s extolling Christian virtues while we’re all on the website for his annual Swing Fest. People would ask him how he got certain jobs and he was making promises to hook kids up in interviews and shit. Everyone was loosing their God damn minds online and just barely holding it together in person. This man was so beyond full of shit- like, he was a God awful life coach but his dedication to lying was inspirational.
We eventually get to leave and everyone is yelling and cracking up and freaking out, all running to our classes to tell the teachers and the underclassmen everything, and the teachers are freaking out, alternating between horrified confusion and laughing hysterically. Before the school day even ended, someone had called a bunch of news stations. The principal was freaking out and denying he had anything to do with it, before calling some students to his office to see what exactly the kids had searched up on the guy…Because apparently teenagers can perform better background checks than school officials. It was all anyone could talk about for weeks.
A couple months after this, for my theater class’ showcase, I wrote and directed a skit called ‘Mason B. Mean’. It was a huge hit. The principal was in the audience. I’ve never seen a grown man look so dead inside. I made sure I was out of the room before he came up to congratulate the cast and everything. The next day, my theater teacher told me his only comment about the skit was a quiet, long-suffering “Why.” 😂😂
Annnnnnnnd that’s the time a Swinger Entrepreneur rambled on about pasta sauce and money in front of teenagers who knew how to use google for almost two hours.
Writing books often exhort you to “write a shitty first draft,” but I always resisted this advice. After all,
I was already writing shitty drafts, even when I tried to write good ones. Why go out of my way to make them shittier?
A shitty first draft just kicks the can down the road, doesn’t it? Sooner or later, I’d have to write a good draft—why put it off?
If I wrote without judging what I wrote, how would I make any creative choices at all?
That first draft inevitably obscured my original vision, so I wanted it to be at least slightly good.
Writing something shitty meant I was shitty.
So for years, I kept writing careful, cramped, painstaking first drafts—when I managed to write at all. At last, writing became so joyless, so draining, so agonizing for me that I got desperate: I either needed to quit writing altogether or give the shitty-first-draft thing a try.
Turns out everything I believed about drafting was wrong.
For the last six months, I’ve written all my first drafts in full-on don’t-give-a-fuck mode. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
“Shitty first draft” is a misnomer
A rough draft isn’t just a shitty story, any more than a painter’s preparatory sketch is just a shitty painting. Like a sketch, a draft is its own kind of thing: not a lesser version of the finished story, but a guide for making the finished story.
Once I started thinking of my rough drafts as preparatory sketches, I stopped fretting over how “bad” they were. Is a sketch “bad”? And actually, a rough draft can be beautiful the same way a sketch is beautiful: it has its own messy energy.
Don’t try to do everything at once
People who make complex things need to solve one kind of problem before they can solve others. A painter might need to work out where the big shapes go before they can paint the details. A writer might need to decide what two people are saying to each other before they can describe the light in the room or what those people are doing with their hands.
I’d always embraced this principle up to a point. In the early stages, I’d speculate and daydream and make messy notes. But that freedom would end as soon as I started drafting. When you write a scene, I thought, you have to start with the first word and write the rest in order. Then it dawned on me: nobody would ever see this! I could write the dialogue first and the action later; or the action first and the dialogue later; or some dialogue and action first and then interior monologue later; or I could write the whole thing like I was explaining the plot to my friend over the phone. The draft was just one very long, very detailed note to myself. Not a story, but a preparatory sketch for a story. Why not do it in whatever weird order made sense to me?
Get all your thoughts onto the page
Here’s how I used to write: I’d sit there staring at the screen and I’d think of something—then judge it, reject it, and reach for something else, which I’d most likely reject as well—all without ever fully knowing what those things were. And once you start rejecting thoughts, it’s hard to stop. If you don’t write down the first one, or the second, or the third, eventually your thought-generating mechanism jams up. You become convinced you have no thoughts at all.
When I compare my old drafts with my new ones, the old ones look coherent enough. They’re presentable as stories. But they suck as drafts, because I can’t see myself thinking in them. I have no idea what I wanted that story to be. These drafts are opaque and airless, inscrutable even to me, because a good 90% of what I was thinking while I wrote them never made it onto the page.
These days, most of my thoughts go onto the page, in one form or another. I don’t waste time figuring out how to say something, I just ask, “what are you trying to say here?” and write that down. Because this isn’t a story, it’s a plan for a story, so I just need the words to be clear, not beautiful. The drafts I write now are full of placeholders and weird meta notes, but when I read them, I can see where my mind is going. I can see what I’m trying to do. Consequently, I no longer feel like my drafts obscure my original vision. In fact, their whole purpose is to describe that vision.
Drafts are memos to future-you
To draft effectively, you need a personal drafting style or “language” to communicate with your future self (who is, of course, the author of your second draft). This language needs to record your ideas quickly so it can keep up with the pace of your imagination, but it needs to do so in a form that will make sense to you later. That’s why everyone’s drafts look different: your drafting style has to fit the way your mind works.
I’m still working mine out. Honestly, it might take a while. But recently, I started writing in fragments. That’s just how my mind works: I get pieces of sentences before I understand how to fit them together. Wrestling with syntax was slowing me down, so now I just generate the pieces and save their logical relationships for later.Drafting effectively means learning these things about yourself. And to do that, you can’t get all judgmental. You can’t fret over how you should be writing, you just gotta get it done.
Messy drafts are easier to revise
I find that drafting quickly and messily keeps the story from prematurely “hardening” into a mute, opaque object I’m afraid to change. I no longer do that thing, for instance, where I endlessly polish the first few paragraphs of a draft without moving on. Because how do you polish a bunch of fragments taped together with dashes? A draft that looks patently “unfinished” stays malleable, makes me want to dig my hands in and move stuff around.
You already have ideas
Sitting down to write a story, I used to feel this awful responsibility to create something good. Now I treat drafting simply as documenting ideas I already have—not as creation at all, but as observation and description. I don’t wait around for good words or good ideas. I just skim off whatever’s floating on the surface and write it down. It’s that which allows other, potentially better ideas to surface.
As a younger writer, my misery and frustration perpetuated themselves: suppressing so many thoughts made my writing cramped and inhibited, which convinced me I had noideas, which made me even more afraid to write lest I discover how empty inside I really was. That was my fear, I guess: if I looked squarely at my innocent, unvetted, unvarnished ideas, I’d see how bad they truly were, and then I’d have to—what, pack up and go home? Never write again? I don’t know. But when I stopped rejecting ideas and started dumping them onto the page, the worst didn’t happen. In fact, it was a huge relief.
REMEMBER HOW VIKTOR SKATES STAY CLOSE TO ME TO YUURI IN THE ABSOLUTE FIRST SCENE
AND THEN HE GETS THIS SMILE ON HIS FACE
THIS IS THE SOFTEST VIKTOR
especially when you consider how sad he looks while skating the same program at Worlds, because although it might be an artistic choice I also think it’s meant to highlight the deep longing Viktor feels for someone to be close to
NOT ONLY DOES HE GET TO PAIR SKATE THIS PROGRAM WITH THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE HE ALSO FINALLY GETS TO PERFORM IT KNOWING THAT HE’S NOT ALONE ANYMORE BECAUSE YUURI WILL NEVER LEAVE HIM
Before she died I said to her “Sylvia (Rivera), it just drives me crazy when people say to me ‘now was Stonewall a gay rebellion or was it a transgender rebellion’”. And I told her “I just tell them yes”. “Sylvia, what do you say? What would you say if somebody says 'did you fight back that night because you were gay, because you were a self-identified drag queen, because of police brutality, because you were a sex-worker, you had to turn tricks in order to survive, because you were homeless, because you knew what it meant to go to jail, because you didn’t have a draft card when the demanded to you that night?” And I’ll never forget her answer it was so succinctly eloquent, she said: “we were fighting for our lives”. And the fact is that oppressions overlap in people’s life, as they do in this room. There are people in this room who are carrying heavier burdens of discrimination and oppression. There are people who had more dreams that have been deferred. There are people who have less opportunities, more doors slammed in their face. And that was true at the Stonewall too … But the fact is that when they all came together, shoulder to shoulder, to fight back against a common oppressor that night, they made history. Not in spite of their differences, but because they came to understand the need to fight together against a common enemy. And that was the most important lesson of the Stonewall rebellion for so many of us, that was the power of what we could do when we all came together.
sleeping on FaceTime is amazing. I’ve gotten so used to the sound of her fan while she’s quiet and the sounds she makes when she moves in bed. I have grown so attached to these noises that I can no longer sleep well without them. and when I’m with her it’s just a million times better when I physically get to be in her arms all night long and I get to roll over and give her a kiss whenever I want to.
A geography and history refresher, in the wake of Irma and Maria
I am really appalled by comments that I’ve seen about us coming to the aid of Puerto Rico, which has been brutally ravaged back-to-back by hurricanes Irma and Maria - comments about how they don’t deserve our “foreign” aid, they send too many “illegals” and “refugees” here…
So, I thought it would be worthwhile to share the following:
⭕ Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory! Therefore, they are not a “foreign” land. ⭕ Puerto Rico is not a U.S. territory by our virtue and goodwill - we took control of Puerto Rico in a war with Spain. ⭕ All Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Not a single person born on Puerto Rican soil, is “illegal.” ⭕ Puerto Ricans were made U.S. citizens by the U.S. Congress - despite Puerto Rican protests - in the 1910s, which meant that Puerto Rican men were subsequently drafted into World War I. ⭕ Puerto Rico has **ZERO** voting representation in Congress - therefore, they cannot vote on things like the budget (which includes hurricane relief), whether or not to go to war, etc. ⭕ Puerto Ricans are not Mexican. ⭕ Puerto Rico is an island - and therefore, they don’t share ANY border with the contiguous United States. This makes “Build That Wall” chants sound even more stupid and vile.
Let’s not spite our fellow countrymen and women, just because their native tongue isn’t English. 🇵🇷