On 31 Days of Writing

I decided to do a writer’s version of “inktober”. It’s my own personal exercise, before the world gets swept up in NaNoWriMo next month.

I let my writing stagnate over the past month and a half. The move, the hurricane, work. There were plenty of reasons not to write.

On top of that, I let my summer ideas slip away. The sweet little things I was going to capture, the ideas and lists I wanted to share. Those didn’t happen.

But I went to see one of my favorite writers and former professors speak last week and ran into my writing workshop instructor (guide? teacher?) while I was there. Read more, talked about writing more.

Realized that I have one way to make this writing thing work, which is to write every day. And not just write, but publish it. 

We can only be held accountable for so much in private.

Sure I can journal, I could sit at my computer and bang out a few hundred words every day and let them languish in my Google Drive forever. No one would ever know if I followed through or not.

But I’m committing to writing every day and publishing everything that I write so that I can move through a serious volume of ideas. For better or for worse.

My most recent kick in the ass was from this article: Writing usually means writing badly.

That was a good reminder because I know I have to keep working to get better. That’s the only way that writing works. I listen to this quote from Ira Glass regularly to calm my fears of just being a tasteless, worthless buffoon with a laptop.

I decided to emulate Inktober because, as far as I can tell, it’s about showing your process and your messy edges and I think that is so much more aligned with my process than the grind of NaNoWriMo. (I also have no desire to write a novel at this point in my life.)

My questions when it comes to the process of writing and the reality of being a writer are becoming an obsessive part of my daily life.

Instead of asking for permission and trying to replicate the process or product of people I admire, I’ve realized that the only way out is through. Through the shitty first drafts and through the half-baked ideas and the immature topics and the clunky prose.

There are some things I need to get through. I need to broach the taboo, talk about some shit that slinks around in the darkness and tends to only come up when people write their memoirs or when they get that one gut-wrenching essay spot in the big, beautiful publication of their dreams.

I don’t think I can get to those places unless I start chipping away at this stuff now. So, here I go.

Some of that stuff is going to be ugly or upsetting to some people. I would apologize proactively, but I really am not sorry at all. Hopefully you all understand.

I just can no longer afford to be precious with the things in my mind. If I’m going to see any emotional progress, any progress with my craft, it’s got to come through work.

So, that’s what this is. If you show up here every day and read, thank you. If you show up every once in awhile, thank you. If you get fed up and never come back, thank you.

Thank you for reading.

(PS for rule followers: I did write yesterday, but it was analogue and will be typed up later.)

If You’re Also Tired/Angry/Sad

This is not what I wanted to write today. I wanted to write about spooky podcasts or muse on the October fervor that I feel every year.

But instead, I feel like I have to write about tragedy and how tired I am.

I wondered how long it would have taken for me to learn about the Las Vegas shooting if I wasn’t on social media? What I would have written if it wasn’t my routine to check Facebook and Twitter before getting out of bed?

Does any of this make any difference? Does my crying in bed at 8am do anyone any good?

Then there is the pressure to respond. The pressure to be outraged, to grieve publicly and loudly. To call for justice, to count the flaws and wrinkles in our systems. To point fingers.

My heart is in Texas, my heart is in Mexico, my heart is in Puerto Rico, my heart is in Barbuda and in Florida. It is also abroad, it is in the Middle East and in Myanmar. This list is not long enough. I can’t even keep track anymore.

My heart is everywhere, but my body is here. In the woods in Tallahassee, at my desk.

We all know that hope and prayers will not fix any of this. Those are our own comforts. Private luxuries.

I will call my representatives. I will donate money. I will donate blood. I will donate clothes and whatever else I can give away.

But as our own narratives swing back around on us, from calls to be outraged and to resist to instead survive and persist, how do we keep going?

How do we account for our own personal tragedies, our own upheavals and trials, along with those of the world?

I’ve seen death up close this year, I’ve grieved. I’ve celebrated in equal parts to grieving and it’s all life, it’s how things go. Sure, fine.

I am not made to endure all of this. Neither are any of us.

I wake up wanting leadership and action. I don’t want to have to push every single day towards what should be the norm.

We should all be safe, cared for, protected.

I am not an elected official. I am a private citizen, with my own struggles. I want to keep showing up every day. I want to do my part.

But is my part to have to be broken apart every single fucking week by a new tragedy? How does anyone look at anyone else and have time to judge or point blame to a private citizen for how they are reacting–or not reacting–on social media?

I want to build a community. I want to intentionally love harder on the people around me and I want to devote myself to trying to preserve the smaller, below-the-fold lives we lead.

I want to keep us safe, in that way. I want to leave something for my daughter’s daughters to look back on and see that it wasn’t all just terror and violence and rage. That there was love and the seasons changed and we kept going. That we asked questions and tried our hardest.

I’m tired of acting like I’m strong and woke all the time to every single injustice and tragedy. It’s too much. I’m admitting that here, I don’t really care what the outcome of that is.

Here’s what I know I can do:

  • Call my representatives. Vote according to plans for action.
  • Donate. Money, blood, time, possessions. Whatever.
  • Amplify correct information and valuable insights. (But it is not my job to be a news aggregate. There is a reason I’m not a full time journalist.)
  • Keep showing up to my work and my life.

The reality–and this is something I personally realized years ago but forget often–is that we do nobody any good by playing armchair quarterback in a crisis situation.

It is not our responsibility to cure the world with our righteous anger and well-worded social media posts. It just isn’t. We have government and law enforcement that are supposed to protect and serve us. It shouldn’t be up to us. I’m mad as hell that so many of us feel that it is up to us to post our way into progress.

I am mad as hell.

Calling for our elected leaders to actually lead us to peaceful days and guide us through a tragedy is not being political. If everyone was doing their jobs, we wouldn’t have as many tragedies and catastrophes to get political about. It’s truly that simple.

I know I’m going to post and share this. I wonder if I’m already a hypocrite by writing anything at all. But I told myself to write every day this month, so this is what I have this morning.

Anger. Exhaustion. Desperation. Confusion.

Nothing that is going to be cured by a hot take or a think piece. But if you don’t feel up to writing or creating today, maybe this helped you. Maybe you need to be reminded that it’s okay to not be up to the task of saving the world every week.

It’s not your job to save the world. How you decide to cope is ultimately up to you, but if something like writing or art helps you make sense of your own place in this fucked up world, go ahead and do that.

Do what you can. Make some calls, donate, amplify. Take care of yourself.

I love you, I’m sorry we are all in this place together again. Hoping, as always, that it’s the last time I write something like this.

How to Start Journaling

Journaling has always been one of my favorite feigned habits.

I’ve kept a myriad of diaries, notebooks and journals since childhood, but it’s only been the last two years or so that I’ve actually developed any meaningful consistency.

I’ve been trying to force myself into a “miracle morning” type routine for two years now. Ideally, it would look like:

  • Make coffee
  • Meditate
  • Read tarot
  • Journal
  • Write (as in write for writing’s sake)
  • Yoga
  • Work out
  • Healthy breakfast
  • Bonus points for making my bed and actually getting fully *ready* for the day

And I would be damned if I wasn’t going to do all of that before 9am. Every morning.

Because–I don’t know if you’ve been on the internet lately–but that’s what your mornings are supposed to look like if you’re an evolved and interesting human.

Especially if you have the freedom and privilege to work for yourself from home, or find yourself blissfully roommate and live-in partner free. What a treat, right?

Well, I’ll tell you what my morning looks like right now:

  • Wake up because the cat is literally poking me with his paw
  • Pee, while the cat whines at me
  • Feed the cat
  • Make coffee
  • Get back in bed for about 30 minutes and scroll around on my phone
  • Check my bank account and get a nice reality check
  • Then I finally journal and pull a card (Right now that’s from an oracle deck called Moon Angels)
  • Sometimes I meditate (I do love Lacy Young’s meditations and will happily do them when I’m feeling particularly evolved and mature)

After that, I head downstairs and try to write before I get started on my “work” for the day.

As one of my favorite writers and teachers, Sarah Von Bargen, finally got through my head in her Make It Stick Habit School: You can really only establish one good habit at a time.

Something that I’ve noticed is that journaling is really the thing for me. It’s the closest I can get to therapy without getting my eyes wet and it’s way cheaper–about the cost of one Moleskine notebook every 90 days because it’s one thing I get to be picky about.

I know you’re probably so thrilled to hear the nitty gritty details of my morning routine, but I know you’re here for the goods so let’s talk about journaling.

How to start a journaling habit

Pick tools you actually like.

This is honestly the key for me. Once I found a pen and notebook I really loved, I started genuinely looking forward to sitting down at my desk every morning.

I’ve since switched notebooks and now am partial to Moleskines because they really are just my favorite for writing, but even the little notebook that was a very sweet souvenir from a good friend’s trip to Paris had its own unique personality.

Also, pens are important. I’m currently experimenting with a fountain pen, but I’m partial to a Pilot G2 or a Bic Atlantis if I’m really honest.

 

Make it fancy.

All I mean by this is do a little something special to your space or time to ritualize journaling. It’s like a preemptive reward for sitting down to journal on the days when you don’t really feel like it.

I have a candle I only light when I’m journaling and I let myself indulge in my very typical Bon Iver/Iron & Wine playlist until I actually open up my laptop.

You could have a special mug or wear fancy slippers or stay in bed a few extra minutes if that’s what butters your biscuit. Whatever makes you feel a little indulgent and selfish is a good choice.

 

Pick a goal.

For me, the first goal that really worked was to commit to filling up an entire journal.

It was that journal I mentioned earlier, one that I really loved that I bought at the Denver Botanical Gardens that I decided I was not going to squander by only writing in a few pages and then abandoning it.

When I did that, I moved on to the Paris notebook, then I allowed myself to buy a new Moleskine because I didn’t have any other blank notebooks waiting in the wings.

I’ve tried writing three pages every morning, but I’ve found that as long as I write every day, the length will naturally fluctuate depending on what I need to write about.

 

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Seriously, sometimes journaling seems stupid and you’ll be writing “I just really don’t feel like writing because I’m hungover/bored/busy/content.” over and over until you think of one thing you did want to write about that maybe you thought of in the shower yesterday or something.

It’s not supposed to be poetic or prophetic. It’s easy to hope that your journals will be witty and devastatingly authentic so that someone will just have to publish them posthumously. Chances are it’s not ever going to be like that consistently.

Sometimes it’s drudgery and sometimes it’s personal revelations that unlock big things for yourself. That’s just how it is.

Like I said, this is a cheap and private alternative to therapy. Not every session is going to be a breakthrough.

 

Don’t censor yourself.

This is something I worry about. I even went through a phase in high school after a fight with my high school sweetheart when I was certain the One for me was still out there and not that guy that I started a notebook as a series of letters to my future husband.

That lasted all of four days.

Spoiler alert, the high school sweetheart was not the One for me and the jury is still out for my future husband, but I do not write to anyone anymore.

Sometimes I think about what I will want to have access to when I’m old or when I need to remember what it was like as a 20-something because my future daughter is doing something that’s driving me crazy or got me worried sick (sorry mom.)

But if you write with an audience in mind, you keep the good stuff locked up. You keep the bad stuff locked up too, and the selfish stuff and the creepy stuff and the fucked up stuff.

The only thing that comes out when you start writing with any audience or dream of future publication is just hifalutin nonsense that won’t do anyone any good.

(Sometimes you’ll write hifalutin nonsense anyways, but it will be good for you specifically when you catch yourself doing that and can dial it back to what’s really going on for you. Again, therapy.)

 

Allow for lapses.

Sometimes you’ll go a few weeks without writing in your journal and start to feel foggy and jumbled. When you notice you haven’t been keeping up with your journal, you’ll be able to go back to it.

The journal will not judge you or charge you for missed sessions. It does not ask you where you’ve been. It’s just there when you need it, which is more often than you think.

 

Try it out.

If you’ve thought about journaling but are freaked out by former attempts or think you don’t have time, I’m going to challenge you to do one page a day for a week and see how you feel.

You might still hate it or be stressed out by it, in which case, forget it. You are not going to be less successful or interesting if you don’t keep a journal.

Chances are, you’re doing something else in your life that is giving you the documentation you need to keep tabs on your own mind and that’s great. Stick to what works for you.

But if you do find your mind is less crowded and you’re uncovering stuff to work on through your writing, pick a goal and go with it.

Don’t get caught up in any rules or standards, just show up when you need to and remember that you can’t fail at this habit. You really can’t.

That’s the beauty of journaling for me, unlike other habits. Journaling is not a compound effect. You can’t get better at it, you can’t lose it if you get too busy or lazy for a few weeks.

Is there potential for journaling to improve other areas of your life if you do it regularly? Absolutely. I know my writing and anxiety have both been positively affected by journaling regularly.

So, give it a shot.

If you do decide to give it a try, feel free to tag me on instagram or shoot me an email if you want to share your experiences. I’m happy to talk about routines, notebooks, prompts, whatever! Good luck, y’all.

Moving: An Announcement

My freshman year of high school, I ripped a two page spread from an art room collage pile issue of Southern Living magazine. It’s a photo of a small cottage, with a screened in porch and a wildly joyful garden. It’s now framed in my bedroom.

I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to cabins and cottages, small spaces with cozy interiors in rustic settings.

That’s always been the dream.

However, not much else about that dream has been clear. Am I alone in the house or do I have a partner? Is it in the Blue Ridge Mountains or the Rockies? Maybe on the border of a sleepy southern town?

The house was the one thing I knew I wanted. Tucked into some quiet corner where I became part of the landscape instead of part of a city.

But it was always a reward, a sighing, “someday” kind of dream.

I thought I had to earn it, deserve that dream. That I would know when I had made it because I’d be writing in the woods somewhere and sipping on coffee while the sun was rising.

That’s not the sort of thing you’re just allowed to have out of the blue. Right?

Dreams Come True Even When You’re Not Waiting for Them To

I had a plan, which of course means that my plan has gone totally out the window in the space of about two weeks.

After a pretty chaotic year, I laid out for myself (and to anyone who would listen) my plan for the rest of 2017:

  • Focus on growing my business
  • Save some serious cash
  • Travel to a select few cities to scope out potential next homes
  • Announce a move to my chosen destination on New Year’s Eve

This plan happened in my current house, a little duplex in Midtown, perfectly adequate for my needs.

Then I was informed, rather suddenly, that my landlord would be giving my unit to her nephew who would be moving to Tallahassee to attend college and I needed to be out by mid-August.

Not only was this something I had not planned for, not even remotely, it was already July!

Anyone who knows the Tallahassee rental market knows you need to start making moves in early summer to find a decent spot for August move-in because–duh, we’re a college town.

With little to no optimism, I started combing listings on every rental site, making peace with the fact that my current rent was not going to translate to a lateral move.

I had some guidelines:

  • No roommates
  • No apartment complexes
  • Some semblance of an outdoor space (even if that was just a stoop big enough to perch a coffee mug on)
  • Not on a busy road (I currently live on a major intersection, the only constant in my life is road noise.)
  • Must allow cats

With my very unusual rental history, I knew working with a property management company would be tricky at best, so I was also trying avoiding any kind of middleman.

In Tallahassee, this is a tall order in a short time frame.

But after only a few days of searching, I found a place that seemed unreal. Like so perfect that I was positive it was a scam. The best looking listing always are, it seems.

This place was seriously the dream.

At the end of the prettiest canopy road in town (in my humble opinion), part of an intentional living community, on two acres of land, plus–it even had a Jacuzzi tub.

After much hemming and hawing, a visit to a dreary rental in Midtown and a bit of prodding (and some inspired rental website maneuvering) from one of my dear friends, I snagged a tour.

I was nervous about meeting the owners that I can only compare it to a job interview.

But to make a long story short, they loved me, I loved the house, I applied and got the house.

THE HOUSE. THE DREAM HOUSE.

Blooming Where You’re Planted

Obviously, this move is having quite the effect on that plan I mentioned earlier. Even though it’s only a six month lease, it’s a longer commitment to Tallahassee than I had originally planned to make–if even just by a few months.

While I had other options, to move home to Pensacola or trade in my guidelines for some other temporary fix, I took the risk and the subsequent plunge for a few reasons that I think are important to consider when you’re staring down the barrel of an unplanned life change.

  1. What do you really want?

Chances are, your plans have an end goal. I thought moving away from Tallahassee would be my ticket to an experimental “reset” on my identity, shake me out of the stupor that living in one town for more than 6 years has given me.

I thought it would give me a new perspective to write from, somewhere new to explore and dig my heels into.

It would challenge me to make new friends and connections, be even more independent than I’ve been thus far in my adult life.

It would prove I can do whatever I put my mind to.

And honestly–a move would still do all of those things. It’s not something I’ve totally ruled out within the next year.

But what I wanted: distance, novelty, nature, motivation, new community. This in-town move still allows for all of that.

2. What are you willing to do to get what you want?

My new place is more expensive than my current one and I know that increasing your living expenses in the first year of working for yourself is a huge risk. Pretty much everyone tells you not to even think about it.

But, in this space, I know I could happily do the extra work that I’ll need to do to adjust for the cost of the privilege of living where I want to.

I’ve also had to be willing to take sole responsibility for my life from here on out.

My mom suggested I move home, let my family circle the wagons around me. That offer was tempting (and I seriously love my family for being that kind of crew), but I knew I would agonize over the “what if” of sticking it out on my own because I haven’t failed, hit rock bottom or intentionally chosen to move home because I was excited to.

Everyone has also pointed out: “But it’s such a drive, how will you drive that distance all the time?” (Spoiler alert, I won’t, but we’ll get to that.)

So the reality looks like: longer hours, more work, less disposable income, still not within a stone’s throw of my family and a good drive from my normal social safety nets in town.

3. Are you willing to embrace the reality of your dream?

Whether it was in Tallahassee or Tennessee, my dream house was always going to be a good bit from town.

It was always going to require an idealistic, pioneer-woman type independence–with a good dash of Puritan self-discipline.

Realistically though, having to be mindful about my trips into town to run errands, socialize, network? Having more dinner parties instead of nights at the bar? Spending more time reading books and taking long walks?

I wanted to be doing these kinds of things, um, forever ago?

But I always made excuses. It’s a pretty serious departure from the way I have lived my life the past few years. In fact, I’ve never lived my life like that.

The reality of my dream is that I’m going to have to be mature, responsible and mindful to make this work. I accept that.

Wherever you go, there you are

The answers to all of those questions doesn’t change based on where you go, no matter what it is that you want. A job in New York, a romantic partner on the West Coast, an “Eat, Pray, Love” experience abroad?

Great, go for it, but be ready to accept the terms and conditions of your dreams.

The only thing I have learned since leaving my hometown is that we are all who we are no matter where we go, where we live, what we do for work.

Lots of stuff sounds great in theory, but the reality is always going to be a little grittier and it’s always going to take more work than you originally planned.

You have to continue to live with yourself throughout all of it.

So what’s next?

For me and this move, this here project was a big motivator in my decision to take the plunge. If I wanted motivation and inspiration, this is going to be where I got it.

I’m really looking forward to sharing the move with all of you, plus all of the stuff I’m going to tackle while living out in the woods.

Here are some things I’d love if you did:

  • Ask yourself what dream it is you’re telling yourself is a “someday” dream and how you can get it as soon as a possible instead
  • Get over to Instagram and tell me about your dream that you want to head towards (gimme a follow so I can give you a follow, please and thanks)
  • Sign up for my brand spanking new mailing list so that I can send you notes about the moving process and share playlists with you because, yeah. (Form is below!)

Thanks for reading, love y’all!

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.