just be : why i’m taking a social media break

….Does anyone else feel like there’s just too much damn stuff to do?

Like, it’s not enough anymore to have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You need to do live videos and stories and screenshot and direct message. You need to be alert to every incoming text, email, update, and trend. Use hashtags – but not too many. And be unique when you do – but not so unique that you’ll never be found. Because wouldn’t that be a tragedy?

It’s even more fun when you live in an area with bad service and you can’t respond to many of these messages with regularity, so people begin think you’re mad – or ignoring them – or perhaps even dead.

All of these things that were once fun and exciting have become tools and measures of our personal worth and success. We allow them to “fuel” us, to validate us, and to give us purpose.

Do you remember when your “brand” used to only be a passion or a hobby?

Now, it feels like it’s not enough to just write. One must PROVE that they’re writing or else who would believe it?

And then you need a blog. And that blog needs all it’s own social media. (Because if you’re not running at least 2 or 3 social accounts on every platform, what are you even doing with your life, right?)

And that social media can’t just be a normal page – oh NO. It needs to be a business account with a link tree, a shopify account, or whatever else is supposedly the latest and greatest mechanism to compete with everyone who wants to “sell” the same thing as you.

You must link to your content – in one of a hundred different ways – and take great pictures, and filter them with purchased presets and emojis.

You must respond to every like and love in a timely manner. (Again, you could be dead.)

You must constantly self-promote in new and exciting cohesive ways.

And God forbid you have the time to work on something that’s just for you – because who will ever know who you are if you don’t document every detail?

Or what when you have good intentions but forget to share because you were so busy trying to dream up the perfect caption? The moment is seemingly lost forever and there’s no use going back because things are changing every day.

Does that ever happen to you?

Because it happens to me all the time. And you know what? I’m finally sick of it.

Sometimes we need to just be. Sometimes we need to stop listening to all the shoulds and coulds and just focus on our real lives. Sometimes we need to do the things that are highly unimpressive, like getting the laundry done and keeping our sink clean – the things that will leave us so pleasantly and exquisitely happy with ourselves, because we finally managed to accomplish something in the privacy of our own minds.

It’s not so much that anyone is pressuring me to do all the things. It’s more like I’m finally realizing how I’ve allowed myself to be immersed in all of it on a daily basis and therefore set myself up with the mindset that I’m not doing enough. “Enough”. What a trigger word that is.

So aside from work-related duties, I’ve decided to take a much-needed break. I’m looking away. I’m going social media dark. I’m going to relish in the beginning of this holiday season, taking my time, finding joy in the little things, and not worrying about what I’m neglecting to share online. I’m quitting the mindless scrolling. I’m quitting the self-promotion. And I’m doing my best to quit the comparison game.

I don’t see this as giving up. I don’t see it as being lazy. I see it as a refresh, a new page turned, an opportunity to be in true static silence and observe what I want for myself, my writing, and my life.

At least until I feel like I have something really good to say – which could be next week, or sometime in January, for all I know.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on hands-on crafts, decorating my house for Christmas, and working on my secret novel.

Because sometimes life isn’t about being “on” all the time – being a #girlboss, a multi-passionate entrepreneur, or even a wild woman. Sometimes life is just about being: in the moment, in ourselves, and in our own physical piece of this world.

what i’ve learned from calling myself a WRITER this year

This month, I’m clumsily attempting another go at NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. The goal is 50,000 new words in November. But in just seven days, I’ve already become quite privy to the fact that it’s not easy to write over 1,600 words in a day – and it’s even more difficult to sit down and try. And that’s the true challenge: trying.

But with that also comes believing. Believing in myself, believing in my ability, and believing that – even if I fall short in the end – a little progress is still way better than nothing. Because I am a writer. And writers gotta write, yo.

In other news, Rockvale Writers’ Colony is about to hit the first anniversary of our very first writing retreat. Last December not only marked the first time I’d helped teach a retreat – but was also the first time I’d attended one! And it was one of the first times I’d ever truly shared my writing in person with other writers.

I remember being so nervous – truth be told, I still am, today – and in that nervousness, I realized it felt necessary to downplay myself: to apologize for imperfection, to introduce my work by saying it’s “not very good,” and making it seem like a scary endeavor when, in fact, I was supposed to be setting an example of confidence.

But after I shared my work, I felt proud. I’d done it! Until I was met with a lecture – not on my words, but on my presentation.

Because one of the most important facets of being the Assistant Director of a Writers’ Colony is leading by example – believing that you’re a writer and owning that affirmation, whether you think you’ve “earned it” or not.

I’ve felt different about myself since I was told (and began teaching) the importance of affirming ourselves as writers. In fact, I’ve felt kind of wild. I’ve felt like an artist, a struggling creative, and a soul seeker, eventually settling on some tiny wisdoms which I would like to pass along if you, too, are feeling unsure about giving yourself this title:

You have to claim it – you have to call yourself a writer.

Even if you don’t work in the “writing industry” – if you’re a writer, you have to claim it, no matter what. For yourself. You have to tell others, without excuse or humility, that you are a writer. You have to give what you do a name – make it an innate piece of who you are – not just something that you do on occasion.

Once you do that, you’ll feel justified in attempting NaNoWriMo. You’ll find yourself among comrades at writing events. And you’ll find yourself paying more attention to your habits, your rituals, and your commitment towards being a successful writer.

Just like getting out of bed in the morning, all you have to do is start.

The other day, I found myself with “nothing” to do. I looked at the calendar and realized it was November 1st, the kickoff day for NaNoWriMo. I hadn’t planned on participating this year, but I’m already about 5,000 words into a story I’m pretty excited about. So I figured – why not? And before I knew it, I’d kicked off the month with over 3,000 new words. Of course, not every day is like this, but sometimes if you just say “Yes,” you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish.

You’ll feel a lot of pressure to be a certain way. Don’t let it get to you.

Since working at a writers’ colony, I’ve met so many amazing and inspiring writers. I’ve read a lot about writing, learned about submissions, and even taken the risk to get rejected. But some days I feel like I’m doing it all wrong – like I’m not smart enough, educated enough, or deep enough to be doing this. Maybe I’m simple – or maybe (gasp!) I’m just basic. But then I hear feedback from some of you and I realize that what I’m creating has value, simply because it’s uniquely mine. Whatever you’re creating has value, too, so don’t forget that. And don’t you dare let it take you down.

Be willing to share. Be humble, but not too humble. Don’t discount yourself.

If you went to see a new artist in concert, and they opened their set with, “So this is new and I don’t feel like it’s ready and it could be better but I hope you like it,” you wouldn’t feel very confident in that song, would you? In fact, you’d probably hear it through a more critical filter, searching for improvements.

The same goes for your writing. Even if you think it’s shit, sell it with confidence. Share it, get feedback, and know that there’s always time to make it better later.

You don’t have to be published, but submitting is important. Rejection is important.

Being a published writer is just another part of the game. But you don’t have to be published to be good, just like you don’t have to be good to be published. We all start somewhere – and then, when we’re ready to share it, submitting to journals is a solid place to start. Just know that you will get rejected, and make peace with it before it even happens. It hurts, but it’s not a reflection on your worth, trust me.

There is no wrong way to be a writer.

Whether you blog, translate, research, theorize, fictionalize, or document – if you write, you’re a writer. And chances are you’ve chosen a format that works best for you – even if it’s one you had to create yourself.

Sometimes you have to try something new.

When I first started writing, I realized I was always trying to tell the same story. I was telling it because I still didn’t feel like I’d done it “right”. Lately, I’ve been playing with different ways of telling that story – and now I’m branching into fiction, which has given me the freedom to play with the details in a limitless fashion. Plus, the fresh perspective challenges me and makes my writing better than it was when it was the way I did it before.

Whatever you’re passionate about, there’s an audience there. It will be hard to find them. Keep pushing forward.

If I wanted to make money at this, there are things I could do. I could follow a formula, make all the right connections, hire a web designer, and take photos with an iPhone 11 (that’s the good one, right?). But that’s not what I’m about. It just doesn’t work for me. I enjoy ranting and raving about my passions, and finding new ways to share them. But my passions are very multi-faceted, which means my audience often is, too. Whatever it is you want to write about – sharks, chemistry, fashion, politics – there’s someone out there who will enjoy it. Just know that if you don’t write it, they’ll never find you.

6 things I know about magic

Can I interest any of you in a little…Hocus Pocus? Below is a list of 6 things I’m claiming to know about magic this Halloween. I’m not talking about spells and cauldrons, but simply an idea of the amazing way our world works within itself and within us to create something that feels akin to something greater than the cut and dry expectations of reality. Something that, for lack of a better term, I choose to believe in as MAGIC.

So here’s what I think:

It just comes natural.

Look up at the stars – because they’re magic. How can they not be? The feel of summer grass between your toes, the way the leaves change overnight, the effect on the sounds of the world when the sun rises and falls. Yes, it’s “just nature”. Yes, it’s all part of a series of scientific occurrences that interact with one another to make things grow and flourish and shed and be reborn. But the root of it, I believe, is some kind of magic.

Over the last week, I’ve seen some fantastical things – dark clouds that can’t be discerned from the mountains around them, vibrant sunsets after raining downpours, and leaves whirling in circles that are loud enough to keep you up at night. And maybe I’m more sensitive because it’s October and I want to see something that blows my mind. But whether we believe it or not, nature has always been a key force in magic. Isn’t that why witches always call on the winds?

It’s only as real as you make it.

I heard once that any stone or rock can serve as a crystal if you only imbue the right power into it. Yes, this could also be the perfect argument for a placebo effect. But isn’t it nicer to think that certain things – things of the earth – can alter our moods and spirits, can offer us comfort and hope, can make us feel secure and grounded? And if it works for you, then why not?

It shouldn’t have to contradict Christianity.

In fact, it should complement it. I’ll be honest, I’m not really a church-going Christian. I prefer not to associate with religious institutions and traditional practices of The Church. But I do believe in God. And with that, I believe in taking in every ounce of creation and attributing it to a certain moment in our history in which everything simply appeared and learned to grow and procreate and flourish. Some, again, might just call that the scientific theory of evolution. But sometimes it feels better not to know, exactly.

Sometimes it feels better to believe in fate – to look up at the constellations standing out against a dark country sky and wonder about our own stories, how we got here and where we might be going. And, to me, fate – despised as it may be for its fantastical, overly romantic sensibilities – is both Godly and magical. Because we never know where life will take us, but we must trust that it’s all for the best – that there’s some sort of plan, purpose, and intention behind it. Plus, Jesus performed some miracles, ammiright?

The definition (and its acceptance) has changed over time.

Approaching this Halloween season, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the Salem Witch Trials. It blows my mind how people who purported themselves to be good and godly could so eagerly deny another human their life simply because their way of being didn’t measure up to the status quo.

As I’ve leaned into learning more about these practices of “witchcraft” and grown even more interested in what defines a witch and why someone might claim that title, I’ve realized how quickly we put demonized labels on innocent things: Herbalism, Astrology, Crystals – Essential Oils, even – are all looped into books about modern witchery and spells. Yet, today we accept these things as New Age, Spiritual, Healthy, Trendy, and Natural. So where is the line drawn? And at what point does it become acceptable to keep a book of “spells” on your coffee table?

It only appears when we tune in to our deepest selves.

Have you ever felt an inexplicable lightness? A sensation of pure happiness or oneness with the world? I felt this last week as I left a really good yoga class. My body felt strong, my mind felt open, my spirits were up, and everything I saw around me felt special – like I really needed to soak up every moment of my commute home and treasure it for all it was worth. When we breathe deep, and when we connect with our thoughts in silence and banish all the worries, we can light up magic within ourselves. Call it zen, call it peace, call it bullshit – but aside from the plastic masks and the cheap pointy black hats – I think magic truly exists within this deeper connection to ourselves.

It’s necessary.

However we choose to define magic – whether it’s a Vegas performance, a vengeful curse, the way a blossom appears in the crack of the sidewalk, or a sacred self-care ritual we perform within the walls of our own home – we need it in our lives. We need things that make us laugh, that amaze us, that keep us happy and optimistic and hopeful for the future. And we should call those things what they are – magic. Whether you watch for it in your favorite childhood movie or depend on it for a change in our political climate over the next year, choose to believe – at least just a little bit – in the reality of magic. Somewhere, you might find it.

And maybe, just maybe, it will find a way to change you.

Happy Halloween, y’all. It’s November tomorrow!

the important difference between simplicity & complacency

….and why worrying too much about either one only gives you anxiety.

When I entered my first serious relationship, everything was exciting. There was the first date, the first kiss, the first “I Love You,” the first too-late night, the first anniversary, and the moving-in. There were the first discussions about where things would go and how we would decorate, the first time we referred to the house as “ours,” and the first time we hosted friends.

But eventually, we gravitated towards a routine. Things were comfortable. Things were expected. Bills had to be paid. Work came first, then dinner, then Netflix. And for a minute, I started to get scared. Was this how things were supposed to be? Were we getting boring? Or worse – were we getting bored with one another?

After coming to terms with this, I realized we weren’t in trouble. In fact, we were probably stronger than we’d ever been – because we’d discovered the joy in simplicity with one another. We still had adventures, we still had “firsts,” and we knew we still had more firsts to come. There was nothing wrong with being settled, so long as we were still moving forward.

What mattered was that we were not, as I feared, being complacent.

Because complacency is giving in to a situation even when it doesn’t serve you. Complacency is saying “ok” when it’s not okay. Complacency is making excuses about the way things are and allowing them to stay ‘as is’ for far too long.

Complacency is the act of appearing like you’re moving forward when, in fact, you’re just stuck.

So why does this matter? Because, I think , deep down it’s easy to confuse a good kind of simplicity with a bad kind of complacency. And that’s a dangerous thing.

This all started with a discussion I had the other day with an inspiring woman who left her job, her fiance, and her home for a year to do something that she truly loved. When she cited the reason for leaving all of these things behind, I was a little shocked – because it wasn’t what I expected. And it was something I had just listed in a previous post as a means of finding what I called simplicity : gratitude.

And she had a point.

According to her, the ritualistic practice of gratitude is something that has ample opportunity to do more harm than good. It teaches us to be happy with what we have, even if it doesn’t truly make us happy. It holds us back, she seemed to say. Being grateful doesn’t encourage us to fight for more: personally, spiritually, or professionally.

My original intent in encouraging gratitude lies in my belief that if we’re grateful for what we have, we won’t seek more “stuff”. We’ll be happy in the moment – not wracking our brains for costly ways to make our lives better. But when I said this, I never thought about feigning gratitude for something that is actually “not good.” And that, I see now, is potentially very harmful to those of us who need to get out of a bad situation.

That’s complacency.

So if you’re in a relationship or a situation that doesn’t serve you, then you shouldn’t force yourself to be grateful for it. You should be grateful to be alive, or in good health, or in a stable financial situation – but you shouldn’t make excuses that hold you back. You should always set your sights on your potential, and strive for what makes you happy.

What I needed to hear when I wrote last week’s post was that there are ways to fulfill your life, your hopes, and your dreams without being on the go all the time or spending money to get the next best thing. But of course, if you’re unhappy in your life – even if you have a lot to be grateful for – then there are important steps you should take towards making things better and not being complacently grateful for that which doesn’t serve you.

You see, I’m grateful for my “boring”, somewhat-predictable relationship – but that doesn’t justify sitting on the couch and watching Netflix every day for the rest of my life. We like simple things, sure, but that doesn’t mean we’re settling for less. And if your “gratitude” makes you feel like you’re settling, then it’s high time you take a new look at your life and figure out what you need – just like my friend did when she upended her entire life for something that now makes her smile everyday.