Writing On Testosterone

Pre-transition, I worried sometimes that I’d lose my ability to write fiction when I got on testosterone. It seems odd in retrospect that I’d even think that was possible. It was all part of the massive fear of the unknown that I was staring down. And I’d like to think it hasn’t come true, not at all.

I’d have quit transition if it fucked up my writing. That’s how much it means to me. I joke with friends that my true gender is Writer, but am I really joking?

I find that it’s sometimes harder for me to put the butt in the chair and write, because I’ve got more energy. But once I get started, I can write for longer. I can focus on a scene and get all the way through it, without being distracted halfway through with anxiety or with 1,000 different possibilities and options. Sometimes it’s harder to access my emotions while writing, almost like I’m nervous or avoidant of that headspace. But once I do, I feel like I can put emotions into words more incisively, in fewer words.

Plotting is less linear and more all-over-the-map, but I can handle multiple narrative threads in my head and juggle them without losing my place. Pre-T, I had to draw a lot of diagrams and make a lot of notes. Now sometimes I can just see plot dimensions and the structure of multiple books in my mind’s eye. It’s cool. Audacious plot risks are easier to adjust to, which I think is a product of being more personally confident.

I still see scenes visually, but it’s less like a stream-of-consciousness wandering around in the scene while describing it in typed words. Now it’s more like I’ll see a burst of scene like a vivid movie clip, and transcribe it once it’s done playing. That said, my understanding of my characters has vastly improved. I think the characters’ voices have become more distinct from each other. But it’s harder to see their faces in my mind now.

And I can hook together the plot a lot better, it’s like my memory of what I wanted to say and why is a lot sharper. I don’t lose my train of thought like I used to. And I have a lot less impostor syndrome about my choice of subjects.I no longer feel the need to research obsessively before I allow myself the tiniest narrative decision, lest I be caught out as a sham. As woman I’d often feel like, “who do I think I am to be writing about this subject, I’m no expert?” As a man, I’m like, screw it. I can bluff my way through.

Pre-T, handing someone a piece of my writing to read was like handing them a ruined dish and asking them to eat it anyway. I always felt so apologetic about “subjecting” people to it. It never felt done, and never would, no matter how much I worked. I couldn’t even conceptualize what “done” would look like on a story. Now I know — it’s done when it’s Good Enough, and that’s actually within the realm of possibility.

Has my writing itself gotten better? I don’t really know. I do know that I can more easily look objectively at what I produce, as opposed to just flailing insecurely at it and assuming it was probably garbage, simply because my mind was running on the incorrect fuel. If there are issues, I see them more clearly. Additionally, that tingly writer-sense that tells you when something works, or when it’s dead, seems to be clearer and more active.

All in all, testosterone hasn’t hurt my work as a writer. It’s been a tremendous relief, and something I’m still going to keep an eye on.