16 Things Your Disabled Friend Wants You To Know

1. I am a human being.

My diagnosis is just a label that tells part of my story. Yes I have a disability that makes it harder to do some things. My disability also gives me a unique perspective that I wouldn’t have without it.

2. Just because I use a wheelchair…

doesn’t mean I know everybody who uses a wheelchair, or that we should meet because we’re sure to be friends. When I went to college I had another person who used a wheelchair declare me his mortal enemy. I’m still not quite sure why.

Everyone is unique. Even though two people share a disability which gives us something in common on the surface, I promise we’re very different people underneath.

3. Please don’t think my disability is the most important thing about me.

I’m an introvert. I like science fiction. I like to read and write. Stories are my passion. I prefer a day at the movies to going outside. I prefer to socialize with people in a one-on-one basis.

4. I wish people wouldn’t talk to each other about me when I’m in the room like I’m not there.

It’s not rude to ask me about my disability. It is rude to assume that because I’m in a wheelchair it’s OK to be asking people questions I can answer myself.

This happens a lot in doctor’s offices. A new doctor will come in and start asking my aide questions about my medical conditions.

Talking around me instead of to me is the fastest way to really annoy me.

5. Please don’t say, “When I look at you I don’t see your wheelchair.”

I know you’re trying to say something like, “your disability isn’t important to me.” But when you say, “I don’t see your wheelchair,” I hear, “Your wheelchair makes you less than human.” And I know that’s not what you mean to say. 🙂

6.I wish crawling were more socially acceptable.

For me crawling isn’t painful or humiliating, it’s simply the safest and easiest way for me to get up a flight of stairs when there is no elevator. Offering me a piggyback ride isn’t safe or dignified for anyone. Having a group of people carry me up a flight of stairs in my chair isn’t really safe either (although I did it many times in college.)

One of the nicest things you can do as my friend is let me crawl up your stairs.

7. One of the hardest things to deal with is feeling excluded from things.

Once when I was little my friend invited me to his birthday party at Applebees, which I thought was really nice. Until I realized that they were going to have ice cream and cake (the best part of the party) back at his place and I wasn’t invited because his parents were afraid I’d hurt myself at their house and they’d be responsible.

Another time I was planning to go to a movie with some friends, until they realized my chair wouldn’t fit in their car and they went without me, and blasted all over facebook how great the movie was. That felt super crappy

Look, I know there are places you can go that I can’t. There are going to be times when you don’t invite me to things because the logistics don’t work out.

All I ask is that you consider my feelings. Talk to me about the situation first. If you can’t find an accessible party venue, talk to me about it. I might be able to help. But even if I can’t, I’ll know that you thought enough about my feelings to talk to me about it. That’s much better than feeling like an afterthought.

8. Quit using politically correct phrases.

Phrases like “Disabled means Differently Able,” and “My Ability is stronger than my Disability,” and “You’re handicapable!” all miss the point.

Every single person on the planet has strengths and weaknesses. We all have things we’re good at, and things we struggle with. In this way we’re all differently able.

My abilities aren’t stronger than my disabilities. My abilities are different than my disabilities. And all of them work together to make up a small part of who I am as a person.

Anyone who uses the word “handicapable” is too focused on my disability and how they think I feel about it to ever be able to make a genuine connection with me.

Again, my disability is a diagnosis, that tells part of my story, and not the most interesting part. If you want to know my abilities, ask me. As long as you’re genuinely interested in learning about me I’ll be happy to answer.

9. My disabilities are not something I need to overcome.

My disabilities are a part of my life that has shaped who I am. If I could wave a magic wand and take away all of my disabilities instantly, they’d still be a part of me because they helped make me who I am.

10. Most disabilities aren’t visible.

There are many conditions both physical and mental that you can’t see just by looking at someone. Invisible disabilities are often the hardest to cope with because if people can’t see a disability, they often underestimate how much effort it takes to cope with it.

11. Accessibility is a big deal. It’s something I have to consider whenever I travel anywhere.

Even though it’s 2017, and the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, there are still a lot of places that aren’t accessible.

Any building built after 1990 has to comply with certain standards to make it accessible. And there were new standards passed in 2010. But there are still exemptions. The most frustrating one is the idea that a business only needs to make themselves accessible if it’s “readily achievable” which means “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.”

This allows more places than you’d think to pay lip service to accessibility without actually being accessible.

12. A business isn’t really accessible if I can’t use their public bathroom.

I’ve been in many bathrooms where the bathroom stall is too small to fit my wheelchair.

I’ve been in some bathroom stalls where the stall was made too small because of the grab bars put into the stall, meaning I have to stand up using the grab bars and leave my wheelchair outside the stall, go the bathroom and then try to get back into my chair from when it’s sitting outside a stall that’s too narrow for it. Not fun.

13. A place isn’t accessible if the ramp is too steep.

Under most circumstances a ramp should have a slope of 1 inch of rise to 1 foot of run. So if you’re building a ramp to a landing that’s 2 feet high, the ramp should be 24 feet long. This is so it is easy for me to push myself up the ramp and it’s easy for me to control my descent down the ramp. If the ramp is too steep it’s dangerous for everyone.

14. In order for a crosswalk to be accessible there need to be sidewalk cutouts on both sides of the street.

If there aren’t curb cutouts on both sides of the street I can’t safely cross the street. And if I don’t realize there’s not a cutout, I’m stuck in the street until I turn myself around and get back on the sidewalk. It’s a very dangerous situation. I was actually hit by a car one time while trying to cross the street.

15. A lot of people think being disabled is the worst thing that can happen to you…
It isn’t.

I love my life.

Sure, I have bad days and there are times where I wish I could go places that aren’t accessible. There are times when people have been mean to me. I’ve been bullied, and I’ve had more than one girl say they don’t know how a relationship would work with someone in a wheelchair. None of that was fun.

But I once sat onstage at a Pussycat Dolls show in Vegas because nobody told me I had to move. (The venue was all one level. The “stage” was behind a velvet rope. It was my first time in Vegas and I got on the “wrong” side of the rope by accident. When I go to amusement parks like Six Flags and Disney World, once I get on a ride I’ve been able to stay on the ride as long as I want, because it’s so hard for me to get on and off.

And the best part of being a disabled person is that 9/10 people want to like you. They want to help you. They want to make your life easier if they can. When I went to college, at least twice a week one of my shoes would fall off because I couldn’t fasten my Velcro shoes tight enough. In the hundreds of times this happened over four years, I only had one person ever say they weren’t comfortable helping me because they didn’t like touching feet. I just asked the next person. It wasn’t any kind of big deal.

To know that the vast majority of people on the earth are looking for a way to be helpful and kind is an incredible gift that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

16. There are as many disabilities as there are people in the world.

Everyone has something that is hard for them to do. Everybody is human. Nobody is perfect. The most important thing that everybody needs is acceptance of their humanity, and the love of their family and friends.

Everybody has something they struggle with. Some days you’ll be able to help me with my struggles, like when I lost my best-dog-friend Trucker. Some days I’ll be able to help you with your struggles, like when you need someone to talk to about things going on in your life. Some days we’ll both be too wrapped up in our own problems to be able to help anyone else. But no matter what, we’re friends because we care about the person underneath the labels that society uses to define, categorize and separate us.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog post.  I tried to mention the most important stuff and still keep it relatively short.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at tom@thomasbennettjr.com

This post was inspired by a conversation with my friend Marzi Wilson connect with her in the links below.

Related Links

 

https://adata.org/ — is the best website I’ve found on the Americans With Disabilities Act
https://www.facebook.com/introvertdoodles/ — Check out Marzi’s Facebook Page
http://introvertdoodles.com/ — Check out Marzi’s website

Buy the Introvert Doodles Book
Preorder the Intovert Activity Book

My Theory on Writing Story Part 1

I’m coming up with my own theory of writing fiction. I’m writing this blog post in Notepad to see if that makes me dictate faster. I have a feeling that it will.

The major problem I’ve had with writing is that I always seem to have a problem writing scenes. I can plan a scene just fine. I can describe the scene. I can outline scene. But when it comes to narratively writing a scene, I have real problems. Mostly, I think those problems come from a lack of confidence. Also they come from a lack of knowing what to write next.

There is a class on Iactingstudios.com that talks about the moments of reaction that character have. And that’s what I want to figure out. If I can figure out how to write a story sentence by sentence, then if I end up getting lost at least I will know where to look for what comes next.

The scene Sequel approach has benefits, but I can’t seem to make it work in my brain. Chris Soth wrote about sequences in his graduate film school thesis on movies. I think the sequence approach makes the most sense.

The sequence approach makes the most sense because it deals with how you’re going to be character reacts to a problem.

The other problem I have with this scene sequel approach is this idea of goal. In life there are many times where a person simply exists without a goal. Likewise in stories, there are moments when your character is not going to have a goal in mind. In the beginning of your story just for example.

Of course, a character can have a goal at the beginning of your story. But often a character does not. It may just be semantics, but it makes sense to me in every scene of your story your point of view character has an intention, not a goal.

Intention to me is less direct, and more flexible. A goal is a specific thing. An intention can simply be a way of being.

For instance, Douglas Fairkeep, the point of view character at the beginning of my story, as the intention of being left alone. He is alone that drinking at a spaceport bar, when Saul Rubik wants to hire him for a job.

As you can see Douglas does not have a specific goal in mind. He does have an intention and the Saul enters as an obstacle to the intention. What follows is a sequence of motivation reaction units until Douglas accepts the job to help Saul steal spaceship plans.

The thing is there’s also a sequence of reaction units that can occur in every scene. Some of the sequence is optional, some of it is not. The sequence goes like this.

The sequence of scenes

1. The hero had his status quo. He has an intention.
2. An obstacle to his intention enters the scene. At first he ignores it. [Optional. If your character’s first reaction is to ignore the obstacle to his intention this is where that the comes in a scene]
3. Our hero will try ordinary solutions to remove the obstacle is intention. [This is so the audience won’t ask later, “why didn’t he just do the obvious thing?”] These avenues of ridding himself of the obstacle to his intention will be closed to him for adequate storytelling reason.
4. Our hero will make a new plan to rid himself of the obstacle to his intention. He will put this more extraordinary plan into action, and it will all go to shit because he lacks certain vital information about just how difficult this obstacle is going to be.
5. This is the point in the scene where our main character takes stock of where he’s at and figures out why he hasn’t been able to accomplish his intention. He renews his interaction with the obstacle reinvigorated.
6. He has a new plan based on his previous interactions with the obstacle. Depending on where the scene ends up, at the end of the beat he is either on top of the world or buried 6 feet under. This is the point in this scene where we’re diametrically opposed to it will end up at the end of the scene.
7. Revelation. This is where after twice failing to succeed at ridding himself of the obstacle to his intention, our main character finally understands what he has to do to move forward.
8. Our main character does what is necessary. His status quo changes and the story moves forward.

Beats 2 is optional. You don’t need these beats in every scene. As I stated above there are times when the point of view character doesn’t ignore the obstacle that occurs. It seems like everything I’ve read has the sequence of moments in it. I think that is the secret for me in terms of how to write fiction.

The Secret to Fast Writing

I discovered the secret for me for writing quickly. The secret is don’t judge words as you write them.

In order to write quickly you almost have to write stream of consciousness without worrying about whether the words work or not. You have to talk like nobody’s listening. (I say that because I’m dictating.)

The problem I’ve been having is every time I write something, I want to know how this sentence I’m writing now will fit into the story that is evolving. The truth is, it may not. Not if I’m writing into the dark.

Writing into the dark isn’t just the most fun for me. It’s the way my creative voice works best.

The problem is my critical voice is always editing as I write, and that grinds my production down to nothing.

Here’s the problem: if you’re editing as you are trying to create it’s an obstacle to your creative voice, because your critical voice is filtering everything that comes out of your brain. And if you allow your critical voice to filter too much then your creative voice just gives up, and the critical voice wins.

So, if you want to write faster, don’t let your critical voice judge your work as you are creating it. It’s nearly impossible to succeed that way. Because even if you end up getting a finished product you will have stripped out all of the personality that is you.

I think I should have done this work on a notepad.

I think if I had used a notepad I would be writing faster right now. Because I wouldn’t be focused on word counts. I’d only be focused on the words as I’m saying them.

The thing is you’re not going to know what the story is until you’ve written the whole thing. Even if you outline a story, inevitably the story will change in the telling. A story is going to change as you produce it. You simply have to write as you go, and edit afterwards.

Right now I have four days to finish my manuscript that I actually haven’t started yet. I have two false starts totaling almost 14,000 words. I know I can accomplish the word count. I have the time available to me. The question becomes can I craft a story into the dark with enough time to spare. I think it’s entirely possible.

I’m continuing to write this blog post because I want to see how many words I get written in 15 minutes. My previous record was 744.

The issue with a writing this novel into the dark in four days is will I have enough time to put together and make it coherent in terms of a lineal flow. But if I have the manuscript written by Saturday, that will give me the remainder of the month to do what I have to do in terms of editing and putting it together.

I think the important thing to do at this point is to focus on where I am now. The issue with my brain is that I think too far in the future and lose sight of the present.

My first test is am I going to be able to do this? The next test after that is can I make it into a series.

If I was going to design a series, I would want a series that is 12 books long. That way my readers would be set for an entire year.

Can I write a 30,000 word novel into the dark in 9 days

So I paid for this novel challenge with dean wesley smith. I have 2 partial manuscripts with a total combined wordcount of 14,554. The end result, I hate both of them and I’m afraid I won’t be able to finish. The money isn’t the biggest deal. It’s a bummer. I mostly don’t want to disappoint Dean and myself. I’ve been saying I want to write stories since I was 7 years old, and now I have a great opportunity to do just that. And I’m choking again.

It’s incredibly frustrating. But I have a new plan, which will work. I can type 500 words per hour into the dark. That has been my constant. So I’m just going to start a novel into the dark and see what happens. I have a character, in a setting, with a problem. Let’s see how this goes. *fingers crossed*

The Secret to Writing Fiction

One of the most persistent myths about the writing of fiction is that it’s supposed to be work. Writing fiction isn’t work. You’re telling a story. You’re supposed to have fun when you’re doing it. Really, if you’re not having fun telling your story what’s the point? I didn’t write any fiction words today although I did practice and figure out that each scene can be it’s own story. When in doubt, write the next sentence.

Changing my WordPress theme

I’ve thought a lot about whether or not I should change my WordPress theme. I think I am going to at some point soon. The problem with changing my WordPress theme right now is that I’ve got a lot going on, and I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of learning a new theme right now.

The benefit of changing my WordPress theme is able to use more accessible to more users. I’m currently using an outdated theme, Weaver. I tried their Weaver update and it’s entirely different than the version of Weaver that I’m currently using. But the problem with being outdated on the Internet is that you’re limiting your reach.

A recent study shows that 50% of people are searching the Internet from their phone, and that percentage is only growing. I need a website that is better at being mobile responsive, and has a cleaner more elegant look. But I’m not going to do that right now because I have bigger fish to fry.

Wound Care and The Novel Challenge

I was supposed to go to the wound care clinic today to have my wound tended to. But the elevators broke down, so the rescheduling my appointment for Friday. Tomorrow is the offramp for Dean Wesley Smith’s novel challenge.

I could take the offramp but I really don’t want to and is still very possible for me to write a 30,000 word novella in the time I have left.

I went ahead and wrote the story in 54 beats. Now all that remains is to make those beats into scenes and go from there.

My goal for the day is to compose 5000 fiction words. I’ll post tomorrow how well I did.

I didn’t get to bed until after midnight last night so today is going to be an interesting day because I’m pretty tired.

Thoughts and Who I Write For

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Thinking about what I want to do with my life and how I want to live it.

I’ve had a lot going on healthwise and in my personal life. Two close friends passed away in May. I’ve had a chronic wound since the end of January that finally looks like it’s starting to heal.

Last year I declared a goal of writing 10 novels in a series. We’re half way through the sixth month of this year and I’ve only written one short story.

I accepted Dean Wesley Smith’s novel writing challenge. The challenge is to write three novels in three months. So far, I’m about 3000 words into a story that I just don’t want to read anymore. I started it because it wasn’t fully formed story idea in my head. The problem is it’s a romance, and I don’t read romances. Not only don’t I read them, I don’t like reading them. With the notable exception of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which is one of my favorite stories ever.

As it stands right now I have 17 days to write 30,000 words. Very doable. But not if I try to force myself to write something I don’t want to read.

So I’m putting this story idea in the vault. I have another experiment I want to try. I’ll be sure to let you know if it works.

Why Write Stories

I’m a member of two accountability groups. I’ve had conversations with both of them recently where we talked about why we write.

In both conversations members of the accountability group said the primary reason they write is to get paid. On the face of it this makes sense. Artists create art and want to be compensated for it so they can spend time making art, rather than working as a survival job.

My problem is I’ve been learning the craft of writing to make money for over a decade now and to date I have finished two short stories.

There is no way I can make a living writing a short story every five years.

My problem with writing for money is that I concern myself too much with what my imagined audience will like. I haven’t published anything yet. I don’t have an audience. And even if I did there’s no way to know for sure what my audience would like or not.

So starting today, I’m writing just for myself. I’m writing stories that entertain me. Because that’s the only thing I can be sure of.

I’m also recommitting to post in this blog every day. I want to start a streak of writing so that my subconscious gets used to writing every day. I’m not going to worry about topics or search engine optimization. This blog is just for me, and anyone who happens to stop by.