newsletter #27: life lately
thoughts for you.
Hello reader. How are you? From a personal perspective, I’ve been doing well. From a political, global, existential perspective? Not so much. Anyways, I’ve been busy lately, so below are some thoughts and items of note for you. I hope they are interesting and if not, maybe they will numb your mind for the five to ten minutes you’re reading, which I think is a gift in these times. Here you go.
For those of you who don’t already know, I left my job at a magazine a couple of months ago and decided to go freelance for a while. I’ve really enjoyed the freedom that being your “own boss” (whatever that means) affords. Among other things, I left nine to five employment because I was craving the ability to structure my life in a way that worked for me (making my own schedule, taking on the assignments that I wanted, etc.), and going freelance certainly gives me that luxury. And, like anything, it’s certainly not all blue skies, but so far it’s felt like the right choice for me and has given me the time to write about what I want, and where I want. More than anything, the ability to say, no, that’s not right for me at the moment, thank you, has been truly so lovely, and I’m grateful for the privilege to do so.
When I started letting people know I left my job I experienced an influx of work that I ravenously accepted, at first concerned (like many freelancers) that I wouldn’t have enough work, wouldn’t make enough for rent, bills, food, and all those other concerns that sustain life and the beating heart. This meant that, during my first month, I was saying yes to almost everything. As a consequence of my financial anxieties, I had a busy (albeit lucrative) first month or so, which left me with little time to focus on the activities for which I actually went freelance in the first place: to channel my energy into my own newsletter, into my personal needs and human desire for time outdoors, physical activities, a social life, hobbies, reading, more. This has better led me to the understanding, to a lesson I’ve learned time and time again, that I’m sure I’ll continue to learn: there’s always a price that is to be paid for your attention. I’m now reevaluating how much my mind, my time, can be bought and sold for, how much I’m willing to be paid at the expense of my human dignity and time for my creative pursuits. All that said, I realize I’m lucky to even have the space to be thinking about this, to even say no. These are good problems to have, to be clear.
In the past I’ve succumbed to the idea that I need to be “in the mood” to make shit, write, create, brainstorm ideas. The notion that I need to be in the mood to write or create has oftentimes caused a paralysis of sorts in my creative spirit—because when is one really ever in the mood to do anything? (The only thing I am ever immediately in the mood to do is watch Love Island, really.) So instead I force, I push, I birth my creativity out of my neurological womb, my psyche, focusing instead on quantity, not quality, that old foe. My focus on creating work of a certain quality—of publishable quality, to be sure—is often what keeps me stagnant in the first place. But quite obviously, telling yourself that perfection is to be expected upon the first attempt is surely the speediest road to disappointment. And so I have been writing and writing and reading and reading without forcing myself to be good, making myself just produce, no judgment, no constraints, and to see what comes out even if not in the perfect mood.
And so I have been doing activities that shove me “outside” (figuratively) into the creative universe: taking a fiction writing class, buying paint and canvas supplies at the art store, reading magazines, listening to beautiful music (live and sweaty or too loud on my decrepit Beats headphones), running. It doesn’t matter if I am good at any of these things, what matters to me right now is output, is developing the momentum, the habit. And all in all, to be honest, sometimes I just don’t have anything worth sharing. Sometimes I prefer to be ruminating in my little mind, a little bit depressed, consumed, thinking, being okay alone. Is that alright?
The last thing I will talk about here for the purpose of spilling my soul into the ether is that I have been talking to myself in the third person. Why? It is helping me process my feelings better, while also making me feel a little bit out of my mind. Ultimately, what I really mean is that I have found it necessary to talk to myself like a baby: come on, wake up. Time for breakfast. Go outside. Be social. Get your work done. Don’t be mean to people. Be nice. Drink water. Wear a hat. Wear a helmet. Leave on time. Not too much TV. No more news. Get off your phone. Drink more water. Time for bed. Brush your teeth. Floss. No really, it’s time for bed, I mean it.
You get the point. Pretending I am a small child is helping me get through the day at this point in my life. It’s also assisting me in putting my various anxieties into context: how would I advise a friend to think about this? If my sister told me she was anxious about going to the grocery store, about going on a plane, about picking up her prescription, what would I say? Would I dismiss these fears as an overreaction? Or would I deem them worthy of genuine concern? This is not to say I offer up unbiased, flawlessly objective opinions by any means, but rather that I recognize many of my own sources of anxiety have no basis in reality and this is, lately, one of the only helpful ways to dispelling my discomforts.
Another tactic that has always helped me, of course, is to get lost in the words, musings, thought processes, of others instead of spending too much time inside of my own mind, to remind myself that there are, of course, many ways in which a persona can look at the world, that I am not the sole sentient being. (Imagine that…!) The following are some words I’ve found interesting, insightful, intelligent, or entertaining, as of late.
“How The '5-Minute Face' Became The $5,000 Face” by Jessica DeFino for her newsletter The Unpublishable.
“The Bimbos Laugh” by Marlowe Granados for The Baffler
An interview with author Elif Batuman by Kristin Iversen for Lit Hub. (Batuman’s new novel Either/Or is so good.)
“Vibe, Mood, Energy” by Mitch Therieau for The Drift
“Untranslatability” a short story by James Yeh for The Drift
“Dreamers In Broad Daylight” by Leslie Jameson for Astra Magazine
This installment of Cat Cohen’s advice column for W Magazine
Okay babes, that’s all I’ve got for you today. Hope this was of use or intrigue to you and, as always, thoughts and comments are welcome. Until next time.