On 31 Days of Writing: Big Questions

Day 11 of this challenge and I can already tell you that it’s been absolutely liberating, humbling and exhausting. I’m not even half way through yet.

The kindness and support I’ve gotten from everyone reading is truly amazing and I’m so grateful to all of you.

But I have to tell you, I still feel stifled.

I touched on this is my post introducing this challenge, that I need to work through some stuff to be able to get to the meat of what I want to say, but the discipline and the small steps make me feel crazy.

My head is constantly swimming with things I want to say or create. Sometimes it’s more like screaming, like the way anxiety sounds but this time the screaming is words and not just, well, noise.

As much as I’m lusting after these bigger truths, as much as I’m aching to get these heavy pieces out of my head, I’m also feeling more and more fear.

Even as my sweet friends tell me how much they are relating to what I’m writing, that they’re glad I’m doing this, I’m afraid to go further.

The way that we are all used to consuming content is pretty comfortable. We’re used to swallowing stuff that confirms our biases and makes us feel “normal.”

Some of that is really useful for important work like breaking down stigmas or educating people about topics that we would otherwise remain in the dark about.

My concern, as a writer in this day and age, is how far is too far? How do we wake ourselves up to more? Where do we all go from here?

For me, the pull is to go deeper. To go further. To double down.

Every time I write a piece for this blog, I think of five more things I want to say, each one more taboo than the next.

But I know that the way to get there is through the surface first. I have to break into these truths in phases. I understand that’s where I am in the process.

However, my fear comes back when I think about publishing. When I think about sharing this work. When I think about the line between self-publishing and pitching pieces to publications I respect.

 

Black Sheep

I’ll admit, I’m not particularly thrilled with the status quo of blogging and online content. It’s very rare that I find people online that seem to approach this work the way I do.

I see writing as a craft.

Content? Now, content is a trade. I’m happy to say I have a very intimate understanding of that trade and feel lucky to be working with people who want to create high quality work in that sphere.

But this, what I’m doing here and what I am desperately searching for more of, is writing as a craft. Call it blogging, if you want. Whatever. I just don’t see much work like mine out there.

This is where the questions come up again.

Why do I care if not many people are doing work the way I’m doing it?

Do I really need a peer group online to legitimize the personal work I’m doing?

Even if I am completely out of my lane and damn near out of my mind, what are the chances that anyone outside of my nearest and dearest are going to read or notice?

I know there must be some more people out there doing this kind of work than I have been able to find so far.

But with so few other voices in this type of work, utilizing this kind of platform in this way, it’s a constant question of how far is too far? Have I paid my dues? Who would I even pay my dues to?

 

An Invitation

I want more people to have the audacity to try this. I want my friends to abandon this idea of how to blog correctly, how to start a creative business, how to have good manners online.

I want you to just get started.

Because as we can figure this out together. I know we can.

There is a precedent of writers helping writers, artists helping artists, the creative circling of the wagons. It’s been happening for generations and generations before we all got domain names and Instagram handles.

(Here comes one of those risky truths.)

The odds of any of us making six figures from our personal blog is seriously fucking slim.

And really, no one who has a “six figure blog” really makes that just off of their blog posts alone. At least, not a single one that I have found. (If you know of a unicorn, please feel free to email me or comment.)

So why don’t we, instead, focus on doing the work and figuring out how to support each other in that work?

I’m so tired of the myths I’ve built up in my head that because I didn’t finish my degree or go to grad school that the writing life is not really mine to go after. Or that because I don’t write fiction or poetry, that my work isn’t meaningful or creative.

Frankly, I’m just sick and fucking tired of all the unspoken rules and I’m ready to break them.

I want to write the scary shit, I want to support other writers, I want us to legitimize the process and progress and product of our creative work.

How do we create a lucrative environment for us sustain ourselves? What does the next generation of writers look like? Where are going?

As you can probably guess, I have no answers for any of these big, hulking questions.

But I’m going to keep showing up and doing the work. I’m going to keep searching for connections and nurturing the ones I have.

I want to be here for you when you decide to start writing or doing your work.

You are welcome to join me and ask your questions and work your process. I’ll be around.

Permission to Opt-Out: Fashion and Make Up

Let me give you a visual of my current look:

I’m wearing a floral wrap dress that I’ve worn at least once a week since I bought it. I’m also wearing my black Aldo booties I bought 2 years ago when I realized I needed some “grown up” professional shoes for my office job.

My hair has finally grown out enough to force it into a tiny bun, which has lovingly been compared to a brussel sprout in size and shape. My bangs are in desperate need of a trim.

My makeup routine consists of the same brand of foundation I’ve used for 4 years now, with a drugstore eyebrow gel and mascara.

This is the most effort I’ve put into my appearance for over a week, at least since I attempted to take a quintessential fall selfie on the first of October, like everyone else on the internet.

I hate all of those photos I took of myself that day, even though I had on my favorite hat and dress, plus I threw on my heretofore unchristened vintage leather jacket.

Frankly, my lack of selfies in the past few months has me feeling panicky.

I know that probably sounds silly to some people, but I have gone through phases in my life where I felt so good about how I looked, so confident and hot, that I wanted to show off regularly.

Lately, that’s not been the case. But it’s not that I think I’m ugly, not really. I don’t think I’ve let myself go or anything.

I feel detached from the majority of my makeup and fashion habits in a way that’s really baffled me into avoiding selfies, getting “dressed up” and attending any kind of even that might require me to get dolled up.

Below the Surface

I have been shedding layers of what was my personal style faster than ever over the summer.

As I looked at my shoestring freelancer-between-invoices budget and sorted through my clothes after an unexpected move, I started to wonder what the point of all of this stuff was.

I had multiple types of liquid eyeliner in my makeup case, I had piles of vintage clothes and dresses that I had only worn once, I was following multiple lingerie companies on Instagram.

Am I really this susceptible to consumerism? Have I internalized a bunch of stories about my body type and face shape that I regularly augment my natural state with “flattering” clothes and makeup?

Well, yes, but I also have had to admit to myself that it goes a lot deeper than just social media and the fashion industry.

Wardrobes of Past Lives

As I was moving, I ended up with piles and piles of business casual clothes I bought when I was working at my corporate PR job.

I’m not naive enough to think we can all break free of the status quo of business casual in a traditional sense, but the particular office culture of where I worked was in total contrast with my natural inclinations.

Bold colors, structured skirts and dresses, heels, full makeup, “statement” jewelry.

All of these things were supposed to make us unique in our field and create a positive impact on clients and media contacts. It was an extension of the agency’s branding.

But that brand wasn’t me. I never fully bought into it and I knew that dressing according to someone else’s ideal of a powerful woman was not helping me succeed in my role.

Towards the end of my time there, I began to default to “unflattering” shift dresses that I could hide away in, wearing my hair in buns and clips, skipping makeup altogether. The look was more harried church mouse than PR rockstar.

Meanwhile, the other half of my discarded wardrobe consisted of worn out Goodwill finds and eccentric pieces that fluctuated from fairy princess to wannabe punk rocker.

Lots of those pieces were too small, worn with too much eyeliner and eternally smelled like a bar at closing time.

These were the things I would wear to bars and dates and house shows. They represented many variations of my Tallahassee social life that allowed me to blend in with the crowds or appeal to whatever man I was chasing after that season.

I would adjust and course correct based on the reactions of my friends and dates, but nothing I ever wore or no makeup trick I tried made much of a difference in my love or social life.

Then there were a few aspirational vintage pieces I bought, with great zeal, from female vintage shop owners.

Inspired by both an obsession with pinup girls and burlesque culture plus an earnest desire to support women in my community, I–quite literally–racked up a sizable collection of vintage pieces that I would wear once, maybe and then allow to languish in my closet.

This stuff was supposed to be “the look” for a girl like me. Hourglass shape, pale, dark hair–that’s the easiest shortcut to a pin-up look you can be born with.

But I never got the hang of curling my hair, I never figured out how to use concealer or lip liner and I certainly never was going to learn how to wear heels on the regular.

Simplifying (but not because minimalism is trendy)

I recently did a journaling exercise from Gala Darling that got me thinking more about what my Best Self™ actually looks like.

Here are some character notes I made:

  • Sunscreen, always
  • Healthy skin (like the kind you get by drinking tea and stay hydrated and using a modest night cream)
  • Cruelty-free brow gel, mascara, foundation. (I’m tired of crying over mismatched cat eye angles.)
  • Ethically, sustainably made OR vintage/secondhand everything
  • Linen, denim, leather, suede
  • Blacks, neutrals, jewel tones and floral prints
  • Boots. Always boots. Chacos, when needed. (No heels, I just really don’t care for them.)

This sounds like the beginning of a minimalism sermon, I know. I promise not to preach about a capsule wardrobe (at least not yet.)

I want to pivot my approach to style and personal adornment to something that supports and amplifies my personality and creative work, instead of trying to express myself through it directly.

Because when I try to project something through my style, I end up feeling disguised or costumed.

If I want to actually be something, I want to work to actual embody that in my life through actions and work.

Powerful, respectable, graceful, tough, elegant, sensual.

I don’t need a pencil skirt or red lipstick or high heels to convey any of that. I am not personally getting anything out of time spent in front of the mirror or my closet.

This is, of course, not to say that anyone who enjoys these things is somehow not actually being what their style is portraying. I’m actually wildly impressed by and in awe of other people’s creativity and dedication when it comes to style and fashion.

This is simply a note to self that I am allowed to opt out of prioritizing makeup and clothes, without letting myself go completely.

If I whittle my wardrobe down to a handful of truly beloved pieces and have no daytime/nighttime/special occasion shifts for my makeup and hair routines, it really won’t do affect anything but my time and decision fatigue.

I know I will eventually dig deeper into the phases of my style and how working in a place with such a rigorous “dress code” affected me, but for now I wanted to articulate this shift.

Has this happened to anyone else? Have you ever looked in your mirror or closet and suddenly realized you only like about 10% of what you own?

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.)