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.)

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!

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.