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.

Procrastination Isn’t Cute Anymore

There seems to always be someone a few steps ahead of me, when it comes to creative pursuits. Someone who has take the story I wanted to tell, or made the blog I want to make or gotten the byline I covet.

It’s hard not to react to those discoveries as if I’ve been scalded or scolded.

My friends are unfailingly kind and patient with me when I lament about yet another project that seems to have passed me by. They try to remind me that’s just my ego, that there’s plenty of space for me at the table, for everyone.

Those are comforting words that I have no problem saying to other people about their own pursuits. It’s easy for me to cheer on everyone else in my life. I struggle with seeing those truths when it comes to my own work.

Imposter syndrome is something I’ve talked to my business coach, Michelle, about quite a bit in preparation for finally making this blog public. My lack of confidence is rooted in the preconceived notions of how other people measure success or authority.

I don’t have a college degree, I’ve never had my creative writing published (not counting my high school lit mag glory days,) my life holds no unique set of lived experiences that qualify me to talk about anything at all.

But something inside me reacts to the potential of creation, to the sharing of stories and the mere observation of life. It’s an opening, an expansion that I don’t feel towards anything else in this mortal life. Maybe it’s not much, but it’s something.

What have I been so afraid of?

I’ve been rejected and critiqued plenty, that was never the worry. The fear I have is abandonment, of finally putting something out there and getting no return on the investments of time and support I’ve made in other people’s work.

Not only do I realize that’s both selfish and illogical–because I know my community is an incredible and loving one–I also know that the risks aren’t significant enough for me to continue worrying myself into stagnation. Or at least, continued stagnation.

I’ve had this domain registered for over 2 years at this point.

Delaying and suppressing myself any longer would have just made each new discovery of my creative ideas reflected in the work of others more painful and demoralizing.

The truth of the matter is that I don’t want to turn myself bitter about work I’m just choosing not to do, especially when that bitterness is so easily weaponized against other creatives.

Because, honestly–what’s the worst that could happen?

Nobody reads my work.
People talk about my work behind my back, ask “Who does she think she is?”
Someone labels me a fraud.
I give up after only a few weeks of work.

Worst of all would be giving up my domain and seeing someone else use this space, after years of letting it sit dormant.

So I figure I’m left with one option–risk my pride for the sake of my psyche.

Lately, I’ve started asking new questions.

Why not me?
What if?
How can I not?

New ideas and concepts are already starting to push these old ideas loose, like sharp baby teeth ready to be wiggled free in return for some pocket change and glitter under my pillow. 

Guess I have no choice at this point but to grin and bear it.

Return of the Writing Self

A handwritten musing.

This is not the glamorous return to my writing life I had pictured in my head.

This is not the notebook, the preferred pen or my first choices of setting.

But the day is drawing to a close and I want to give my writing self the satisfaction of one hour on the surface.

My writing self looks and feels a lot like my middle school self. Fantastical and hopelessly romantic, a voracious reader and questionable dresses. Obsessive and innocent. Carefree and wildly under-scheduled.

I remember the hours and hours of uninterrupted time at my little desk in my bedroom, the gutted Singer sewing machine cabinet. Bare feet on the cool iron of the pedal, pulling notebooks from the cubby that once held the machine itself.

I remember my stories, every one of them. There was a very well constructed and tastegul Harry Potter fanfiction. A sweeping novel-style piece I was writing on a steno pad that I passed among my friends, my first taste of what having fans felt like. The magical realism attempt in a Dollar Store composition book. The historical fantasy on that busted up Dell desktop my dad let me use as a glorified typewriter.

I would have rather had a real typewriter, but it wasn’t until I was 21 that I inherited my great-grandmother’s Corona.

My middle school self, my first writing self, would spend what felt like entire days immersed in those pieces. Different containers, different worlds. It was an evolved version of spending entire days out in the yard, playing make-believe stories out in thin air. I just channeled it into writing.

My writing self is a solitary girl at play. Not participating in a sport or a game–there were no rules, no spectators and no competition. It was joyful, explorative and engrossing.

My writing was motivated only by the love of writing and the need for creative expression. I didn’t know about blogging and had no ambitions to publish my work. I wanted to be a teacher, or a youth minister, or a metrologist.

Writing stopped being play when I allowed spectators. In middle school, it was just spectators–still no rules or competition. In high school, rules and competition began to surface. I appreciated the structure and found an editing self. I wanted to work for a publication. I started interning.

As I got older, I found it more and more difficult to make-believe. I started taking long drives and recording my dreams so I could write about them. This is when I started writing about my love life. I started journaling.

It wasn’t until I went to college that I began to see writing as a trade. Editing, organizing, researching were before the writing in the trade. But I first dared to see writing as my bread and butter then.

Once I left college, it’s hard to pinpoint when my writing self dropped below the surface, became a shadow. Possibly during my sophomore year, when my class load became cumbersome and my free time was devoted to a job, a boyfriend, a group of friends that partied.

I don’t regret any of that time spent, but that’s where the marathon writing stopped and my poems slowed to a trickle. I went from writing when I should have been doing anything else, to doing anything to avoid writing.

My writing self was also now in competition with the writing selves of other students. My work was critiqued, graded and rejected. It was also published, paid for.

All of this is not to say that critique and technique are bad or harmful. I created some of my best work under the pressures of internships and course work.

But writing as play, as a life affirming activity that filled what the world had emptied? I forgot what that was like.

 

I knew my writing self still existed because I saw her surface in January, during the writing workshop I took on a whim here in Tallahassee. She is ready to get back to work.

My writing self is less innocent than my younger self. She’s scared that she won’t remember how–or worse–she’ll be too old to play.

Her biggest fear is her seemingly endless competition. She’s been out of the race too long. Everyone else, it seems, has continued to write. That is just who they always were.

I know I am going to have to move past these fears and ego trips. I will have to make sure I’m not choking out my writing self by being broke, hungover, heartbroken.

Trying to come to terms with the oversaturation of the writing landscape, silence the constant comparison and breakneck speed of production on the internet is something I know I’ll have to master.

My writing self is my best self. It’s not a hard thing to nurture, this writing life. Not for me. All I need is somewhere comfortable to work, background music, some decent coffee.

I can’t recreate that best self through sex, romance, socializing, success–none of those things are play. Those are past times, just passing time. Distractions and escapes, endless loops of fueling one kind of unhealthy coping mechanism for another.

Play is important because play can be messy, it can get you hurt. No one is looking out for your every move.

You win nothing, gain nothing, prove nothing when you play.

 

 

Bad with Money

I am horrible with money. I’ve never had a savings account of my own as an adult, my credit score is embarrassing and every month is a jigsaw puzzle of moving spare change around to pay bills on time.

This isn’t because I’m poor, I know I’m still wildly privileged in many ways. This problem isn’t anyone’s fault but my own–I don’t want to come across like I’m looking for sympathy. It’s just that my self control is basically nil when it comes to spending.

I don’t need sympathy. I need a muzzle.

The idea of being good with money is fascinating to me. I have huge internet crushes on some Canadian personal finance and minimalism bloggers. I’ve been fascinated with the concept of minimalism for a year or two now. I even enjoy making budgets, I just can never seem to stick to them for more than a couple of weeks.

I’ve finally reached the point where I’m bored and annoyed with my own bad money habits. I don’t want to keep hearing the same tired narratives over and over again. I don’t want to keep clawing my from paycheck to paycheck.

What’s fascinating and terrifying about unpacking my money baggage is that spending is so tied up into every aspect of my life.

Drinks and meals with friends. Fees to enter state parks or rent tubes for floating down rivers. Paying bills to live on my own and run a business.

It’s also in all of my social media feeds. Buy our beautiful, sustainably made fashion. Hire us to provide you with a service you crave. Purchase a worthwhile resource or tool. Support us on Patreon.

I don’t begrudge anyone their hustle. I get it, I’m right in the mix with them. Everyone needs to make a living.

It’s not anyone’s fault that I can’t control my spending. In fact, it’s more of a compliment than anything that I am over eager to support the businesses that I do spend money at.

However, something’s got to give.

The easiest way to describe it is like discovering you’re intolerant to something. Like dairy or gluten. Eating bagels for breakfast every day for a week will make me break out or bloat like a balloon. If I eat an entire pint of ice cream, I’ll be doubled over in pain for a solid 3 hours.

That’s just my body trying to protect itself.

So I’ve considered reframing the language I use around spending to a mild allergy or intolerance.

“Thanks for the offer, but I have a spending problem so I have to decline.”

“That sounds lovely but do you have spending-free options?”

“Wish I could, but my budget doesn’t react well to non-budgeted purchases.”

There are a few courses and challenges I’m considering taking on to give myself some guidance in making big changes to my spending habits, but I’ll cover those in another post.

I feel like it’s important for me to mention that I’m lucky enough to have very marketable skills and work in a lucrative freelancing space with clients who truly value my work. I want to respect that kind of rare working relationship but shaping up my spending habits.

Here’s the point in the post where I remind you that I don’t have any answers. I just feel like this is something that is too difficult to articulate in real time, this feeling of not ever wanting to say no to people because of money.

If you’re interested, this is the short list of new things I’m trying to start curbing my spending:

  • I got a library card. This not only gives me somewhere to go that isn’t a coffee shop to work, but it also gives me access to books, DVDs and audiobooks that I would otherwise spend money on.
  • I’m making space in my life for previously abandoned pursuits. Reading, video games (that I own but have not finished), drawing and painting. Using up the resources with skills that I already have seems like a pretty noble pursuit at this point.
  • I’m going to be more active, but not just by working out. I want to keep hunting for springs and going for hikes. (Admittedly, a bike and an Eno hammock are on my list of planned purchases.)
  • If I cannot find something I want (also often heard as “need”) secondhand at a thrift store or online or at a yard sale, I’m not going to buy it.

When I think about all of the time and money I’ve spent consuming, I have to face the fact that I could have spent the time and money creating or at the very least experiencing.

I don’t regret the time or money I spend with family or friends, that’s for damn sure. But being more intentional with how I spend that time and money is really worth the extra logistical effort on my part.

The truth is that I’m scared of missing out on anything or having people take my decisions to spend less personally.

But really, what good am I doing anyone if I’m spending myself out of the lifestyle that lets me support local businesses or creatives that I admire?

This is just the beginning of a longer exploration of my relationship to spending and consumer culture, with the hopes of delving into some useful ways to dismantle the toxic patterns I’ve established for myself.