A Return.

Dear Blog,

You’ve seen me through so many changes in the past six and a half years. I was barely a college graduate when I started writing here. I was working two part-time jobs, as a hostess at a brunch restaurant and as a copywriter at my alma mater. I was completely in the dark about How To Be A Real Writer. I had no idea what a career might look like. I was terrified, because I had graduated in the middle of a national recession and didn’t even have internship experience. I don’t know how, but I survived that first year as a post-grad newly wed, living with my in-laws, working multiple part time jobs but still completely broke. I think, maybe, writing here was that flashlight that kept me walking through the darkness. It was a thing I could hold onto, something to light my way for the next few steps, and then the next few steps, and then the next few, just to keep me moving forward as a writer.

And then the next few years, it became a point of connection, a small but growing community of encouragement. I kept writing because it helped me find my people – the word nerds and faith seekers and fledgling feminists and creative dreamers like me. I had found full time work as a staff writer in a communications office, but this blog was my outlet, my safe space, to spread my creative wings. I was learning to write about my life, and that turned out to be a good thing, because when the storms came this blog was a life-raft. I was drowning in the grief of my mother’s death, but my blog people beckoned me back with comfort and encouragement.

I kept blogging, and it paved the way for new opportunities to share my words with other online communities. And in the years that followed, as I learned to cope with my new normal and articulate new hope for my future, the blog remained my constant source of motivation. It had brought me so far.

And then, slowly, I stopped writing here. At first it was about giving myself a chance to plant roots and build a new life in a new city. And then it was about hustling as hard as I could to make ends’ meet; the blog took a backseat to paying bills and buying groceries. And then it was about the fact that my site crashed, and it took several months (and a lot of help from my dear Sarah Joslyn) to recover my 6+ years of content. But even after we brought this blog back to life, there was something else holding me back. My silence was about being lost in a deep spiritual wilderness, where formulating words for a blog post felt impossible.

After years of writing about my life and my faith online, I reached a point where blogging a couple times a week through a faith crisis felt dishonest. I’ve always been that person that kept going when life was hard. I blogged through much of my mother’s illness; I was back online writing about her death merely two weeks after the fact. I was articulating my grief right in the raw midst of it. But three years later, I decided to stop trying so hard. To let myself be wordless in it. To let myself feel the unknown – the ineffable, unpredictable, unarticulated mystery of faith after trauma.

Did I even believe in God? Yes. No. Maybe. Yes. But I’m not sure how, or why, or what, or who.

I have felt that. And I have just as quickly felt that yes, I am a Christian, albeit an imperfect, indefinitely unchurched, perpetually exhausted one. A sweary, mad, cynical one.

Honestly, in my time away from blogging I have been a version of myself that I didn’t want to share online. Angry. Sad. Desperate. Defiant. Broke broke broke. Fresh out of fucks to give. Lonely. Depressed. Anxious. All the things I thought I was safe from becoming, when I was writing about grief three weeks after my mother’s death. Ashamed. I was ashamed. And then, eventually, I was relieved. Maybe even proud, for finally letting go. And I decided I didn’t owe anyone anything, so I could slip quietly offline, without having to explain.

I’m glad I did that. It felt like I finally gave up the illusion of being The Strong One, the Philosophical One, the Always Has Words to Say One.

My Aunt Beverly, the family therapist, always says, “You can be angry, just don’t build your house there.”

And she’s right. Of course, she’s right. I want to let myself feel all the real things, all the unbloggable things. But that’s not my home. I don’t need to dwell there forever. This blog, this is my home. My safe space. My flashlight, my way forward.

So I’m picking it up again. And while a lot of things have changed, it’s also true what they say: wherever you go, there you are. Six-almost-seven years later, I’m working two part time jobs. I’m still not sure How To Be A Real Writer. I’m still pretty broke. I make no promises to write consistently, or to write without the swears and scars and biting cynicism that are pretty characteristic of who I am.

But I’m home.

Hi, I’ve missed you.

Notice Anything Different?

I have a new header for my blog! I AM SO EXCITED I can hardly contain myself. I want to dance, sing, feast and hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for it. Over dramatic, you say? Not in the least. I’ve been dreaming up plans for new features on my blogs for awhile (months) and feature by feature, step by step, plan by plan, my dreams for this space are coming to fruition. This is what happens when you pursue your dreams, people. Excitement and inspiration cannot be contained.

The design was sketched by myself, and the swirls and “& Rights” pieces are in my own handwriting, but the full layout* was created courtesy of my dear friend Kat of Cheshire Kat. I’ll be creating a post about her and some of the other awesome things she’s created over the weekend, so stay tuned!

If I Look Like One, Maybe I’ll Be One.

I have an addiction. An addiction to blogs. And not just any blogs. Design blogs. Fashion blogs. It’s a wonderful thing to be addicted to – I can preoccupy myself by reviewing others who dress better, design better, than myself. They have the money and the means to wear all the things I can’t and drape their house in fabrics and furniture and prints that I can only dream of. And the blogs themselves – gorgeous!
I have visions of making my own blog easier on the eye than what I have at this moment. My hope is that before the end of the year, I’ll have a custom design for my blog to introduce to you. A friend is working on it for me, and I can’t wait until that day when my writing finally has a space that visually reflects the same quality.
However, like any addiction, my design-blog obsession has distracted me from what I really want, which is to delve deeper into the world of self-published writing. I’ve found a plethora of writing blogs, but I hardly ever read them because the designs are often nothing less than detestable. I don’t care if you’re the greatest writer to come along since Shakespeare. If you’ve posted your words in lime green over a cerulean background, I won’t get past the title before I click over to something more appealing. (Is there something wrong with taking the basic templates and messing with the color? Live a little, people.)
And so, I have this fear: if my blog isn’t visually appealing, it’s not worth reading no matter how well I write. Which means that my real problem boils down to this thought:
Maybe if I look like a writer, I’ll become one.
I hinge my success on how I appear to others. I may write well for my blog, but to be a successful blogger, I need to grab your attention, right?
Understandable. Proven fact with world wide web analytics. “Content is king” doesn’t matter if no one can read it.
But I can’t allow that to be my excuse not to write, right? Waiting for a better blog design is not a good reason to refrain from posting.
Once again, I find myself peeling back the layers of unnecessary negativity in my life in order to see what’s really there. Underneath it all, I have something good going for me and I need to unearth it. I need to let it out. I need to write. I need to create. I need to share it with others.
Here are some posts that have propelled me forward in my hope for my writing:
Jess Constable at Makeunder My Life has a fresh batch of wisdom every day – I can’t get enough. Read her post about why managing your business is like high school (no cringing necessary!)
Jon Acuff has some interesting things to say about selling out. What is your definition of a sell out? How do you impose that on others, and how do you allow others to impose their opinions on you?
bad review isn’t the end of the world, right?
I found this blog today – I need more poetry in my life. And maybe I should start posting photos from my idea journal… what do you think?
Tools for writers. Exactly what I need.

2011. Day 8, Post 1: Be Fearless.

Eight days into the new year, and I have a serious confession to make.

I am addicted to fear.

Not the kind that compels me to watch slasher-movies and visit haunted-houses and ride the biggest roller-coasters at a theme park. Those experiences are more nauseating than exhilarating by far.

I’m the kind of fear-aholic that feeds on my own insecurity. The big “what if” has been my constant companion for most of my life, always there to tell me the cold, hard truth about myself when my dreams start to get a little too lofty. I know I’m not alone in this, but let’s face it, there are people out there that are way better at handling it than me. That’s part honesty, part symptom of my addiction. Yes, there are better, braver writers out there. However, I’ve manipulated myself with those thoughts, to points where I don’t allow myself to believe that I’m capable of that level of success. Writer’s envy sets in. I want that life. The free-lancing, kick-ass blogging, work-from-an-amazing-loft-downtown kind of writing life.

But I fear being mediocre.
I fear that I will half-ass everything and that people will notice.
I fear that I will do my absolute best and people will still believe that I half-assed everything.
I fear that I am incapable of following through with anything.
I fear that there is a better way to spend my time than trying to “be a writer” and I just can’t see it.
I fear that I am committing to myself to too many things to be successful at even one.
I fear that if I deny one opportunity to focus on another, I will make the wrong choice.
I fear that time will go too fast for me to accomplish my goals for my career.
I fear that I will always long for parts of my past instead of being happy in the present and working towards new opportunities.
I fear that I’ll be too busy chasing the wrong opportunities to notice when the right ones have passed me by.

When I’m being honest with myself, I know that my writer’s envy and my fear are only there to consume me and steal my talent away from the capability that God gave me. I don’t want anyone else’s life, just my own. The restlessness and the fear and the self-judgment are what I’m going to purge in 2011. And in it’s place, I’m letting my dreams and passion have free reign.

I don’t know when exactly I finally came to this decision, but sometime in 2010 I finally began to articulate what it is I want to do. I want to be a storyteller. I want to tell amazing, true stories of people’s lives. Stories about people that have conquered illness, tragedy and their own fear. Stories of tremendously talented people that are casting out their insecurities and confronting their creativity.

2011 is the Year of the Blog for this writer. With the help of some talented friends of mine, you’ll begin to see some changes around here. And with the help of some of my other resolutions [being more organized and vigilant about my schedule] you’ll have a lot more to read.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a list of the most inspiring posts I read in 2010. These are the posts that helped me realize: I have nothing to fear but fear itself. The anecdote: Honesty. Sharing your story in order to encourage others.

Kendi Everyday:

Create a Working Closet: Part 3 – Organize

And my complete list of blog love, the ones I read OBSESSIVELY:

Making it Lovely
Kendi Everyday 
Better Off Wed
Stuff Christians Like
What I Wore 
Makeunder My Life
A Cup of Jo
To My Wife

Thank you to all of you bloggers and writers out there who continue to share your story and assure people like me, that yes, it’s possible.

“Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air.
They are where they should be.
Now put the foundations under them.”
– Henry David Thoreau