WORK IN PROGRESS: Tallahassee (1)

NOTA BENE: Submitted on January 25th to Midtown Reader’s Story Slam. Read at Midtown Reader’s Story Slam event on February 1, 2018. Process notes below the piece. 

TALLAHASSEE (1)

I’m afraid that when I leave Tallahassee, I’ll lose it.

I treated this city like a lover. I flirted with it, yearned for it, got dressed up and went out on dates with it. It took a few years, but I fell for it. Tallahassee would have been my forever.

But a city can’t really love you back, so I tried loving the men who were born here. Men that complained to me that they could never escape, that they’d never amount to anything because of the super magnet or the sinkholes or the alcoholism that runs in their family.

Tallahassee rears boyish men that claim you make them too happy to write music, make them absolutely crazy, make them want to buy you a house–only they never do. Boyish men that I wanted so badly my chest ached and my bones hurt and I wrote so much terrible poetry. I was convinced by their tattoos and their hands between my thighs and how much this city loved them that I must be worthy of loving too, that they could somehow love me back. The men and the city.

Jane Eyre is my favorite book. All three of my copies are rotting in the trunk of a 1990 Mercedes 300E, white with leather interior. Four years ago, a man I loved let it get towed away to a junkyard without telling me.

In this city, you can only lose things you never wanted to be rid of.

Loving this city is going to the springs on a Tuesday, having completely forgotten that there are people wearing business casual and going to offices, running the state capitol and major universities. You sink your toes into the mud and wonder how many dead bodies and alligators are floating beneath the tannic water.

Loving Tallahassee is taking a writing workshop, in a beautiful house with a big screened in porch, where you’re the youngest by 15 or 20 years. You bring your drunk prose about the boy you love (who doesn’t love you back) that isn’t very good at all, but the women you read to are kind and wise and they understand. They teach you more in one month than your four years at Florida State ever did.

But this city is at its best when it’s just a hub connecting back roads to other small towns, where the thrift stores aren’t so picked over and where you never run into anyone you know or used to sleep with. You’re nothing but a sweet stranger.

People ask me why I’m moving, why I’m leaving after eight years, and I can’t tell them the whole truth. I can’t tell them I feel like I’ve lived a hundred lifetimes in Leon County and I didn’t do a great job with any of them. That nothing feels the same, the magic is gone, this city isn’t what it used to be because the people I loved while I was here keep leaving, fading, disappearing and I can’t take it anymore.

I can’t tell them it’s because I stopped wandering into the woods alone two years ago, just to be somewhere that felt big enough to swallow me whole, that felt more powerful than the thoughts in my head. I wanted the Spanish moss to suffocate me.

I love Tallahassee, but you can’t make someone miss you and you can’t make this city care that it’s finally worn you out.

PROCESS NOTES: This is the piece I wrote for Midtown Reader’s Story Slam and read the day before I left Tallahassee. Thinking about the place I wrote this piece from feels so far away from the place I’m at now, but I wanted to get this version of the piece catalogued before I try editing it with the new perspective I have.
This original version of the piece was created from two different free-writes on the Story Slam provided topic of “love and loss” that were not strong enough to stand on their own.
The most surprising thing I learn every time I read a piece out loud is that people think my writing is funny. In my head, it doesn’t sound funny. I can understand why other people find it funny and I am glad that it gets a reaction out of people. But I do wonder if my reading style versus the written cadence has any bearing on the reception of my pieces.
I wanted to submit this to a publication but it’s about 125 words below the preferred word count and I can’t bare to stuff this piece with fluff just to make it fit some submission guidelines.

Where to Share

So here’s the funny thing about being a writer in 2018. You have all the options for self publishing, sharing your work, connecting with other creatives–or so they say.

No one talks about the crippling insecurity of trying to carve out a space for yourself in front of hundreds, if not thousands of people that you’ve amassed before you decided to “get back into writing.”

You’re just as tired as anyone else of the personal branding, the guru worship, the algorithms and the self-proclaimed expertise of people that just decided to give your long term passion/craft a try (in hopes of making a few extra bucks a year.)

But you’re working, there are things happening for you creatively and you still feel torn. Torn between not wanting to seem braggadocious and the aching need to get these pieces out of your drafts and out into the world.

You look for writing groups, you look for resources online, you ask a few friends to read your work over email.

You submit something to a local reading night and your work gets selected and you read it and it’s well received.

You want to keep going.

So you start writing more, working harder. You get your heart broken and you end up with a few of the best pieces you’ve written in years that you think are important because there is some girl, 21 or so, going through her first heartbreak and you know if she comes across this piece, it has the potential to really help her.

If nothing else, you know that when you write, people tell you how relieved they are to know they aren’t alone. That’s all you want for them and for yourself. You don’t want to have to live this alone, write it alone, leave it alone. At least bring it out, into the light.

The blog is too public, it feels. There are no boundaries there. You want to know that the people who read these new things, these pieces that continue to evolve and improve, you want to know that these people actually give a shit and aren’t just scrolling, bored on their phones, reading about the raw hems of your life lessons.

But then again, what right do you have to censor yourself?

If people want to read your work while they’re on the toilet or screenshot it and send it to their friends via group chat, you don’t really get to object.

Can you post something online and then try to submit it later, when it is strong and solid and you’ve sunk hours and hours into editing it? Can you stand having that work rejected? Do you even know where to begin in that process?

You know they didn’t teach that process in college. They don’t really want you to know how to enter those spaces, unless you get the degree and preferably an MFA. You are afraid your work reeks of independence and that what you consider polish and revision to other people just reads as self-indulgent dribble.

You consider if any of that matters to the people who read your work and are comforted by it. You wonder if that makes you just as bad as the banal, bearded Instagram poets. You wonder if wondering that makes you a judgemental bitch. You wonder if maybe you’re over thinking all of this.

The fear of being not intersectional enough in your deeply personal essays and your heartfelt, ardent advice to your younger self will result in your being skewered by the communities you consider yourself a part of. You wonder if you have any right to share, to create, to do anything as just another cis white girl struggling with the very normal cycles of life.

Sometimes you miss writing in your notebooks as a kid, by yourself, for hours on end, at the same desk you’re sitting at now. It’s a black Singer sewing machine cabinet. It used to be a refuge. 

You miss the freedom of writing as a hobby. Then you wonder what it would have been like if you had actually focused on school, finished that degree. Do they hand you a packet with instructions on how to be a writer in the world with your cap and gown? Will you ever get over yourself for not finishing college?

You make a mental list of the possibilities:

Patreon: Would people pay a dollar a month to see these other pieces? Do I have any right to charge for access? Can I explain to people that I just want to know they aren’t reading out of morbid curiosity?

Newsletter: Will people even trade their email addresses for this work? Can you feel brave enough to hit the send button once a week on a piece that feels like a nude photo? What if someone forwards it to the person you are writing about? Why are you so afraid?

Submissions: Can you figure out how to submit to publications? Are you able to put your ego aside and ask for help? Can you reframe rejection as a practice of tenacity and contact management and deadline agility?

Blog: Will people care or notice when you post something different? Something nearly unhinged and a bit rough and potentially oversharing? Do you have any right to talk publicly about the men in your past and the memories of your childhood and the very unsexy parts of being nearing 30 with a bunch of banal baggage?

Zine: Can you save it all up for a season? A year? Then put it in a combined PDF and get it printed and then what? Sell it? Leave it around town in tree branches and bathroom stalls? Will people tease you like you teased that girl who does the interpretive dance that you secretly love and want to be?

You decide to toss all your inane worries into a single blog post and put it up for now and see how you feel tomorrow.

Beginner’s Guide to Wretched Precious

A quick and dirty run down of what’s going on around here.

“WHO ARE YOU?”

Hello, I’m Stephanie.

I write about my life in the South, in North Florida. I’ve been here for all of 25 years and I don’t hate it (which is rare in these parts.) I’m tired of not seeing much of my experiences or my friends’ experiences in the content I consume and I was tired of reading only news or “useful” blog posts.

I wanted more conversations, more musings. More writing.

My writing background is pretty extensive, but this is my first serious blogging venture. I’m a marketing consultant by day–if you’re curious about how I pay my bills, all of that is here.

“WHAT IS THIS THING?”

Well, mostly it’s a blog, but I also see it as an archive.

Specifically a collection of essays and advice that gives form to what I see as the unique beauty and struggle within the mundane chaos of daily modern life in weird little town in North Florida. (Hence the name: Wretched Precious.)

Ideally, this space will evolve into a resource for other people who want to get back to their creative roots and forge new paths from that place.

But for now, I’m excited to share a body of work that allows me to explore some topics and techniques. It’s my own safe pathway to return to the better parts of myself.

“WHY NOW?”

It’s finally reached the point where I’ve accepted that I will have to write what I wish I could find to read.

Frankly, I think that banal marketing speak has homogenized the creative expression of our own stories (not that I’m hating on the hustle, everyone’s gotta make a living–myself included.)

Personally, I want to remind myself that the entire world isn’t just Instagram posts, Facebook comments and news.

There’s still good stuff being written and created out here, I want to get in on the action.

“NO ONE CARES ABOUT FLORIDA OR THE SOUTH.”

Well, I do. I’ve come across plenty of other people who do too.

Other outlets are starting to peek into the weird, wild world of Florida and dip their toes into writing about it. It’s good stuff, no doubt–I’m just possessive and want to make sure that they’re competing with voices from within.

Don’t believe me? Check out S Town, or Vogue’s piece on the Weeki Wachee mermaids, just for starters.

“WHY BOTHER?”

Ultimately, I want to help people if I can and, at the very least, leave a record of what living looked like while I was doing the damn thing.

Writing is a practical way to process both the light and dark parts of ourselves. This blog should be a place where it feels safe to say “I am so tired” about anything at all. It’s also high time there was a place where on the internet where you are not sold to, patronized or placated.

If nothing else, let this space be evidence that it’s possible to return to creative work as both craft and play. That blogging doesn’t have to be a grind, if you don’t want it to be.

My goal is to do this work consistently, share it with people who might enjoy it and try my best to improve as both a person and a writer.

Welcome aboard, y’all.