Writing has always been a love of mine, but it goes further than that, it feels ingrained in me, like without it who would I be? Would I be me? Unfortunately, writing is also that thing (we all have them) that I put down time and time again because of an endless litany of excuses I won’t bore you with other than to say, none of them are legitimate and all of them take me further and further away from a passion I’ve had since I was 10 years old and discovered that the books on the library shelves were made by people just like me and one day, I too could do that which seemed so elusive to me, a gawky girl, with bushy brown curls, and a love, no, a deep passion for, words. Why then has this blog remained mute for the past few weeks, untouched except for the new reader who stumbles upon this, a collection of words that make up the last two years of my life’s work?
There was a time when I felt desperate to supersede those in a similar line of work, with a similar passion. They talked about newsletters and statistics, the number of readers who visited their site, and the content they produced. I tried to fit in. I really did. I started a newsletter that I would send out weekly, I produced weekly “content,” even beginning an interview series, an ode to the days of my fashion blog where all I really did was interview. But it didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t stick. And, much like my periods of sobriety, I soon gave it up. This morning while walking to get coffee in the pouring down rain, it hit me, why all these previous projects (blogs, lists, newsletters, even sobriety to an extent) have failed to stick: I’m not building a brand, I’m building a life.
I’m not building a brand. I’m building a life.
The number of people who read my work won’t really matter if I stop writing, a newsletter is really insignificant if I have nothing to really promote, and my platform isn’t going anywhere, unless I continue to produce content. Content that is meaningful to me is the only way I’ll continue to show-up day after day. A writer’s life can oft be lonely and uncomfortable (depending on the material you choose to delve into). I’ve never been good at holding things back, I studied nonfiction creative writing in school, because I knew that my story, your story, is the only thing we really have at the end of the day. I admit, I got distracted by my peers. Social media feeds the sleeping beast in me who just wants to keep up with the crowd. I let other people’s success define who I am and in the process I lose myself and most importantly, I stop producing my own work. I don’t want to produce a newsletter weekly or build a brand. I don’t want to start a series, or a podcast. I don’t truly give a shit who reads my work or not.
What I care about, is writing. Daily. Words filling a blank page, straight from my heart to my fingertips, to you. I care about the power of a few words, the journey of a story, the kingship one feels when they see themselves in you. Those things are meaningful to me, the ties that I have to the page and beyond, the way that I feel when I get into a certain flow, and I can hardly keep up with myself. Exploding on the page is really what I live for regardless of who else shows up. Writing, is not for everyone, I’ve talked to people who look at me in true awe, they ask why I studied something that demands so much work on my end and seems to produce so little in return. I’d say that there is some truth in that, writing will never pat me on the shoulder and tell me I had a good quarter. Writing is not a 9-5 kind of gig. But, writing gives me so much.
When I first started to write, write seriously, outside of the confines of a 5-paragraph high school essay, I discovered a certain freedom in the anonymity of the blank page. I free wrote with my tutor before starting homework. I applied to countless poetry contests, even reading my work at a few Housing Work Bookstore kid night’s. I was a fan of Patti Smith and Charles Bukowski, in both writers I recognized a transference of pain to the page. I wanted to do that. I needed to do that. Late at night I moved words around in papers I wrote for english class, outside of the confines of the theme, but so heavy with descriptions and leaden with time, my teacher encouraged them. I am grateful I had teachers who saw talent in my early on. I needed their encouragement, and as I got older I learned to rely on the conversations I had with those who read my work, to help me evolve and strengthen both my writing and myself.
I quit my job five weeks ago to write. I quit because the work I was doing wasn’t feeding me creatively. But, then I didn’t write. I poured my heart into my relationship and my dog, and honed a new skill (for me) of successfully outfitting myself in thrifted finds, taking pride in wearing bold colors and patterns, but I didn’t write. Until I did. In part, I started writing again after reading, my sober peers, Holly and Laura’s words on why they are ending HOME Podcast (their podcast which has been a fundamental tool for many grapsing onto and living a sober life). Their decision seems wrought with the pain that only big changes can bring. Reading their words reminded me of my own abandoned craft. I’d stopped fighting for writing, so it had stopped fighting for me. This morning, Laura wrote: “Go out and do things.” This is me, going out and doing things. Me sharing my story, bits and pieces of it at a time, with you regardless how high my readership is or what my brand looks like. Hat’s off to everyone who works tirelessly to build their brand(s), we need you, I am in awe of you, but I am not you and your work is not mine. This separation feels almost painful. I’ve found myself somehow mourning the loss of the teachers I’ve chosen to follow for years. But, I think it’s time for me to break away, to do things that are meaningful to me. Writing is one. Sharing bits and pieces of my life through Instagram is another.
Writing is a way for me to communicate with the parts of myself I feel have been quieted down by so many people, places, and things. I try to write honestly, even if that honesty is ugly. Even, and especially, if I feel myself judging myself as I put the words down on the page. It is a powerful thing to have the tools to tell your story, the wherewithal to show-up for something that doesn’t give much back. It is powerful to know when it is your time to break away from the pack and do so only with the best of intentions, both for you and for them. I am a writer, a teacher, a student. I am here to communicate what I’ve been through, to share it with you, and to in turn learn from you. Listening is a vital part of my writing practice and my living practice. Listening is easy to do when you’re invested, yet harder to do when you’re struggling, feeling lost, unsure, and/or uncomfortable.
Today, I listened to the little voice inside me that said: write. It doesn’t matter that currently our friend is over, and that my girlfriend and her are indulging in brunch, or that my sandwich is getting cold, or that this seat hurts my butt and their conversation plus the music in the background is something I feel myself fighting through. All I care about are these words. Writing demands that you be selfish. You need to show-up for it. You need to be prepared to be a little rude, eat cold sandwiches, and learn to ignore the noise.
I’ve had many moments in my life where I’ve recommitted myself to the page, I’ve also had many moments where I recommit to living a sober lifestyle, sans alcohol. I’ve called my process and myself many things over the years. I’ve struggled to find a title or two that truly seemed to fit. Alcoholic. Blogger. Memoirist. Heavy drinker. Teetotaler. I’ve shrugged them off, like an ill-fitting cardigan, they were itchy, confining, and ultimately not mine. Writing with abandon is like tasting the air right before it turns to fall. Like the way the sky turns a brazen pink, peeking up between the buildings. The way a kiss feels everywhere, the electricity, the butterflies, the blushes. Writing is in my bones, it’s deep and it’s wide. It’s what I have always had and never lost. It is wholly mine if I make it so. I have read Stephen King’s On Writing twice. Each time I’ve taken small nuggets away, but I’m feeling like it’s time to return to it with a blank-slate, asking it to be my teacher, and myself to be its student. These are the words ringing in my ears as I shutdown my laptop and go to join the world for the rest of the day:
“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”