creativity

www. Wednesday

Blogger edition!! I’m suffering from major SAD, which is super quelling my writing. My solution has been a lot of reading, so I can cultivate ideas until the winter blues let up. These articles have also helped. Good luck, blogger fam! ❤

+ Chapter Friday’s advice on digging out of a blogging dip // finding motivation again.

+ TSC’s biz plan for those of you who are budding entrepreneurs like myself.

+ Hello Neverland’s recipe for creative productivity.

+ Queen of Jetlags speaks to my heart here with how to be an ORGANIZED blogger, probably the MOST vital key to succeeding. Organize first, then the writing will just come.

+ Couture Girl offers up some great advice about how to grow your audience positively.

+ Another Queen of Jetlags piece about how to invest in your blog without spending too much dough, something I need to learn because I will quickly drop money into this as it’s my passion. Learning to hold back will help.

+ Elle & Co. offers some quick advice on how to find your niche, which frankly, I still struggle with!

My advice? LOTS of french-pressed coffee!

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My Night with George and Neil

via The Unchained Tour (Seester is in this pic!)

Last year, I quit my job. I had been changing for months, as had the company. Those shifts made me unable to give what I should to a job that was no longer mine, nor to a great group of people who cared for me. Early in the morning of September 19, I gave my notice of resignation. It was scary, but necessary. It was freeing in the most exhilarating way, but also incredibly terrifying. What would I do? Where would I go? What did I want to be when I grew up?

I showered and tidied the house, trying to clean slate the whole of everything; of me and of my surroundings. I wanted to clear my head of the rough month I had just barely dragged myself through and the many months of political job shift. My brain felt defogged for the first time in months, and in that moment of clarity, my brain went straight to…. my sister?

My sister? Why was I thinking about my sister? There was static in my brain for a moment as it remembered how to think at all about something other than work and heartbreak warfare. And then, like a lightening bolt, it struck me: my sister was down off the mountain and in my town. I called her immediately.

“ARE YOU IN WINSTON?!”

She laughed and told me she was, that she was about to call me. She had been willingly taken by a traveling hoard of raconteurs on something called The Unchained Tour.

“Want to come? I can put you ON THE LIST!”

Not a girl to turn down a visit with her sister (or a VIP experience), I took up her offer. And not a girl to go anywhere uninformed, I looked up the tour.

It took me about 10 seconds to start squealing like a 14-year-old fangirl when I saw George Dawes Green’s name on the roster. THE CAVEMAN’S VALENTINE, IS LIKE, MY JAAAAAM!, I imagined myself saying to him. Nice. Poised. Eloquent. Rachel.

I didn’t know any of the other names until I got to Neil Gaiman, someone I admired for his stories adapted to screen, but also someone whose work I had never had the chance to read. I figured it wouldn’t matter, as the tour was a not-so-rag-tag rag tag group of storytellers, orally giving the audience a snippet of their lives and pieces of themselves along the way. My body started revving up in the anxious-excited way it does before something new and unexpected, so I decided to head over to the venue and bide my jitters and time ’til the performance.

Showing up to a full parking lot only aided to the anxcitement in my bones, but seeing my baby sis quelled the nerves. She was hard at work, but looked like she had been having the time of her life doing it. I left her to do her cd burning as I went to the auditorium to find an end seat. I always pick the end seats.

What ensued deserves pages and pages of descriptions, but I almost can’t bring myself to write it. The storytellers opened a vein and bled on the stage. They gave us the dark and the light, the heartwarming and the heartbreaking. They made us laugh ’til we cried or just cried. There were stories of love, sexuality, writing, fighting, life in general, and storytelling itself. The whole audience was just as engaged as I was. You could almost feel the room move together like a giant organism. I could have sworn I felt a calm heartbeat all around me. Trying to write about it is like trying to take a photo of a Pacific sunset: it will be beautiful, but no one will understand how it felt. You weren’t there, man! 

When I was done, I hung around and watched the people clamor to meet the storytellers, Neil in particular. It was moving in a way, how much they admired Neil, though I couldn’t help but wonder if if ever got daunting for him to deal with. I hung out at a table alone as my sister ran back and forth from the merch table. The documentary crew came over to film me, but my answer seemed lackluster for the director who soon moved on. Her assistant looked like a kid, then made a release form from a napkin and a marker, perfectly appropriate for the age I imagined him to be. I signed the hell out of it. That kid had moxie.

The room started to buzz less, and I barely had time to relish in it before I realized my sister bringing George around a group of people to meet me. I immediately broke into a sweat and threatened myself silently: DON’T YOU DARE TELL HIM THE CAVEMAN’S VALENTINE IS YOUR JAM, RACHEL! DON’T YOU DO IT!

I took the man in I had earlier seen on stage. He was lithe and handsome, dressed in a green velvet suit. I reached out my hand to shake his as I heard my sister introduce us, though she sounded trapped in a bubble.

“It’s nice to meet, you,” I said. Yes! I CAN DO THIS! “I’m just trying not to throw up on your shoes.” Oh, god dammit.

I thought he would laugh, but instead he asked me to repeat what I’d said. Ever the honest one, I did as he asked. His face was one I will never forget, somewhere between disgust and laughter. I think I awkwardly sat back down and tried to make some kind of intelligible conversation, but it wasn’t long before he slunk away from me. Strike one, Rachel. Strike one.

Sis eventually saved me from myself by introducing me to Neil. At that point, I was dripping in shame, so I had no more pride left. It worked to my advantage, as I managed to get out a couple of meaningful sentences that didn’t involve the words “vomit” or “jam.” He introduced me to his daughter before the two of them went off to gather their things.

That was about as far as I thought the night would go. I would say hello, shake some hands, have some family time, and go home. But then the crew started asking me where they should eat when they couldn’t quite remember the name of the place they had initially intended to go. I managed to sputter out a couple of suggestions before they started to leave. It was that awkward quick exit some people make out of a conversation that leaves you not exactly knowing what you’re supposed to do. I finally just turned around, and George was standing right behind me with my sister.

“You’re coming with us, right?!” he asked, smiling all the while.

“YES! Y…es.”

“Good! Let’s go!”

He cut right, and I just stared at my sister in awe. She did the signature giggle-shrug both her and my dad possess. We geared up – for some reason there was a lot of gear that night – and started walking around downtown with the crew. It was magical, not because some of them were renowned authors, but because the night was cool and the lighting was perfect. This group of amazingly talented people had first taken in my sister and now me with open arms, and they were wandering in my pretty little Southern city beside us. The crew and cast of the tour were seamlessly moving around one another, joking and laughing in the way a family would. It was clear the strangers and friends and strangers who had become friends had all become a fucked up little family, too… in the best way possible.

We wandered around in a noisy, rambunctious pack until we picked a table at the local microbrewery. It was mostly abandoned by that hour on a weeknight, so our party of 15+ was easily accommodated. My sister and I headed straight for the middle of the table so we could sit side by side, and George headed straight to the seat beside me. What ensued was an unbelievable late dinner full of Double IPAs and conversation with some of the coolest people I’ve ever met whose names I can’t remember.

I got to know the people who made up the team of storytellers, even those behind the scenes. They were all so high off the energy of one another, and relished bringing new people into the fold; a rare quality to find in one person, yet alone a group of them. I got to know Neil’s daughter, a fabulous young woman who just radiated happiness. I got to whisper with my sister about how surreal and stellar the night was. And to top it off, I got to share my own story, and the entire table listened. They all drank their libations and ate their pub food, but every one of them was staring at me and hearing every word I had to say. I hadn’t realized how much I needed someone to just pay attention.

After my story, George pulled my shoulder in a signal for me to turn around. He leaned on his elbow on the table, breathed out, and looked me square in the eye.

“Tell me about your writing,” he said.

I almost screamed in his face out of sheer disbelief. Luckily, the Double IPA packs a lot of alcohol, so I had enough liquid courage to play off the freak-out and come up with some sort of savvy reply about majoring in journalism and where I wanted to see this very blog end up. Even though I’m sure in the present that my savvy response of past was probably more bumbling than brilliant, he encouraged me with genuine kindness the entire time. He saved my life with that compassion; all of them did. I had been in a pit, and they had just thrown me my long-awaited rope.

The merrymaking was coming to a close as the bar was. As we signed off on our tabs, George jumped from table to table, telling everyone not to leave, for we had to race the buses! And oh, it would be no ordinary race: whoever’s bus reached the finish line last would win. That was the moment when I started to question whether or not I was living or dreaming, but the realization it was the former was almost overwhelming it was so exciting.

We practically ran back to the venue to prep the buses for race time. George was running like a sprite from each one, assigning roles and reinforcing rules. I watched as he got the two repurposed school buses in prime race position. Before I knew it, he had raised his arms and dropped them in a signal for the buses to start moving. Those of us watching started a chorus of laughter almost immediately; while required to actually move, the buses had no other speed requirements. George had already reached us across the parking lot at the finish line before they had barely moved four feet. I watched his face as he reveled in the idea he had thought of only minutes before come to life before his very eyes.

I turned to one of the storytellers. He, in fact, had been the MC of the show.

“I loved your stories the most, I think. I just quit my job, today, you know?”

He looked at me with kind eyes and smiled.

“Thank you! I heard. What are you going to do now?”

I thought I knew the answer, but I really didn’t. I had to steep in his question for a minute before I could respond.

“To do this. To focus on my writing, and really do something I love. I’m tired of doing things I hate just because I’m supposed to.”

He nodded.

“It’s just… crazy. Today I quit my job, and 12 hours later, here I am with all of you.”

“It’s so cool how that works. It’s definitely fate,” he said.

I nodded and smiled, but had to turn. My eyes were filled with grateful tears. I looked around: at the cast, the crew, my sister, the slow moving buses. All of it was moving beyond measure, and it really was fate. It was fate that I should meet such an inspiring group of strangers. It was fate that I should have people listen to, support, and believe in my dreams. It was fate that I met them that day at that time because it all led me to where I am now, which is on the path to making those dreams come true.

Those buses finally crossed the finish line to the cheers of many. I will cross my own finish line the same way, and I hope when I get there, George and Neil and my darling sister and every single one of those traveling artists know how much of my finish I owe to that night and to them.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

… And Now for Something Completely Different

 

As erratic of a blogger as I can be, this is what I love to do. I love to write, and I find myself struggling over why I’m not doing more of it. I’m struggling to find out why I’m not making a living out of it when frankly, it’s the only thing I have worth giving to a company or a consumer. I’m a jack of all trades in other veins, but I am only a master of one: the written word. I’m tired of pretending I’m not. I’ve got to surrender to the letters, darlings.

I am doing the best I can by creating relevant social media accounts for the duality of this blog, the spicy (Gonna Girl) and the sweet (Southern Sheek). I update Facebook frequently, I tweet when I find something particularly fun, and I pin my heart out when I find the best of the best photos, crafts, and fashions. I spread my blog by word of mouth, though admittedly, some business cards would help the lengthy domain name stay with peeps a little longer.

Candidly? I just can’t do it alone any more. I’m not getting the response I want, the response I’ve come to find I need to take a real shot at this thing.

This means that while I want to keep my site as personal and interactive as possible, I need the help of all of you to spread the word about my blog. That’s right, you! You lovely folks can help me without much effort at all. And did I mention I’d be appreciative beyond compare? I would consider turning you into an item of worship. Oh, and probably find a way to set up some awesome giveaways when we all meet our goals. Eee! I love teamwork.

Ways My Readers, Far and Wide, Can Help My Dream Actualize
 
1. Talk to me. Tell me what you love, what you hate. Tell me things on other sites and blogs you love that you would really enjoy seeing here. Tell me everything! I have a tab dedicated to Contact Info, and have included a link to my email address in the first sentence of this numerical bullet.
 
2. Spread the word to FIVE of your friends, family, pets, frenemies, etc. If you just send them a text or an email, or jot down my web address on the back of their Walgreens receipt, we can make this happen. (Don’t forget to tell them to pass the word along if they like what they see!) I’ve even taken a moment to write a very basic template of what your emails could say if you’re lost on words:

“Hey there, friends! I know some of us talk everyday. Others of us are catching up! Whatever our status, I’d really appreciate it if you checked out my friend Rachel’s blog. I enjoy reading it because [insert your opinions]. You will too! I’ve included the link below:
The “I’m Gonna Do That” Girl [and/or] Southern Sheek
Thanks for your time and spread the word if you like what you see!
xoxo, [insert your name here]”

3. Promote the blogs if you wish, but no obligation.
 
4. If you do want to promote my blogs, please make sure people understand the kind of language I use and the topics I cover. While you all know most of what I say is from a place of humor or passion, some might not understand without a warning first. If you don’t want to bog down your friends with all of this info, just tell them to check out the About page when they first arrive. That’s what it’s there for!
 
5. Submit, submit, submit! I love to share the words, photos, jokes, advice, etc. of others. You can do that at the Submit page.
 
6. Let you blogger pals know that I promote my friends/reads in a lovely area called More Words You’ll Love.
==
 
I promise if you work with me a little, we will all feel a great return. I will feel indebted to my readers, which means I’ll hook you guys up with some pretty sweet blog features and giveaways. You will get more entries out of me with better material since I will be able to dedicate the amount of time to these partner blogs the way I have been longing to. Together, you, me, and the new arrivals, will create a great, interactive community where we can all support one another in our vast array of creative endeavors.
 
So please, take the time to help out your friend, the writer of this blog you keep returning to day after day. If you guys love it, there could be more souls out there who are missing it. I can’t stand that thought.
 
I’m kicking off this May with a feature on my Twitter, Photo A Day May by Fat Mum Slim. Follow the experience on my Twitter, and check it out for yourself if you’d like to participate.
 
Expect many more great things to come.
I know we can all do this. I’m rooting for us!

In No Particular Order

I have to remind myself that my best entries are the honest ones. It’s not that I don’t know this innately and through years of professors pounding it in my head. It’s not that I don’t notice better feedback when I open up and get down to the nitty gritty. It’s all duly noted, and I wish it were easier said than done.

It’s just that there’s this part of me that doesn’t want to let go of the privacy I find in my own head. I don’t want to overwhelm people with honesty and make them think I’m this self-absorbed vagina who can’t pull her head out of her ass and relate. I don’t like those kinds of bitches, and I think it’s safe to say that most of you don’t either.

At the same time, if I don’t let my readers in, I’m losing out. I lose out because y’all are the best readers in the world. If I’m going to let anyone read my inner-most, wouldn’t I want it to be your eyes doing so? Most of all, I lose out because I’m not honest with my writing or myself.

So welcome back in, guys. I didn’t realize I’d put up this wall until I began my journey back toward creativity. It hasn’t been a lengthy one yet, but it has certainly been doing its job of slapping me in the face and saying “You can’t give up now, girl! Here, drink this ice water and walk with me to Connecticut!” Did I mention my creativity vision-quest spirit guide is Katharine Hepburn?

I’ve been pondering what my next step should be in life now that my contracted stint with a great company is over. In no particular order, here they are:

  • Med school. No, not because I’ve recently and sporadically begun watching House, but because I’ve been beaten up like a skinny kid at a fat camp by the medical system, and I’m tired of it. I have also spent far too many hours on WebMD and have too many medical dictionaries than I’d like to admit. I also self-diagnosed myself with Scarlet Fever once, so there’s that.
  • Teach women in prison how to read, write, etc. I really think they get the shaft on most of their charges and they especially get the shaft when they come back out in society. The problem with the world today is that no one thinks reading is important, but if you can read, you can teach yourself to do anything. I want to give them a fresh start.
  • Start my own business. Not that anyone in their right mind would give me a loan with my lack of credit, but this seems to be the idea that I keep coming back to most. I have a blog as the basis for it, I have an outline, and within the week I’ll be finishing my business plan.
  • Nab my teaching license because let’s be honest, I’m lazy, and the thought of getting summers and Christmas breaks forever seems really amazing. P.S. As long as I don’t have to teach… ugh, children.
  • Apply for the (very) few jobs in my field and take one (or two) that will make me happy, even if they have shit for pay and are only part time.
  • Drop everything, drag my boyfriend and pups to New York, and become a world famous actress, comedian, singer, and all-around awesome person.
Thanks for tuning in to this edition of “What’s Been Keeping Me Up at Night.” Stick around for more after the commercial break.

How the Real World Killed My Creativity

Even now as I try to write this blog, things keep pulling me away. Articles, stupid and informative. Noises, loud and soft. Issues, big and small.

I’ve been programmed to keep my eye on a prize that I don’t want. Thanks to that programming, I have some mutant form of adult ADHD, brought on by years of procrastination, overstimulation, and worst of all, keep-what-you-love-on-the-back-burner-while-you-take-care-of-what-you-need’ism.

Now that I’ve gotten the requisite education and some experience under my belt, I’m trying to unleash my long-abandoned creativity into outlets that will do something for someone somewhere. Unfortunately, thanks to those multiple years of different “You have to be responsible!” messages shoved down my throat, I’ve kind of lost the art of making the internal external. I’ve actually forgotten how to do the only things I’m good at doing.

I am not good at selling things because I can’t fake my way into believing in mediocre, half-functioning products. I am not good at talking to strangers who don’t automatically understand things. I am not good at kissing ass, pedaling junk, or sitting inside a claustrophobia-inducing cubicle in front of a computer, overusing that devil contraption called the telephone.

I am good at writing… most days. I am good at memorizing useless facts. I am good at creating weird little crafts. I am good at planning things that are fun, organizing items before they are a mess, and endless other “non-important” tasks. However, I live in a world that doesn’t grant those things merit. In fact, this world stifles them.

I won’t say that it’s not fair, but it is certainly counterproductive to live in a society where we scold people for wanting to do things outside the box. Sure, we award that pesky 1% for their films, television shows, music, clothing lines, etc., but the rest of us are expected to fall in line and work ourselves to death in an impossibly dull job. Even worse off are the people in countries who have two equally dire options and will never know the joy of doing something they love, not even for a fleeting moment.

This has to change. We have to fight against the powers who dictate our happiness. We have to let it be known that we aren’t okay doing what we’ve been assigned. We have to remind them that we’re individuals who long to simply be.

So I’ll begin my part of that great journey. I’ll start the long and arduous process of retraining myself to think how I was literally born how to think. Because I find myself in this time of unjust prejudice against art, at least as a serious subject, I have to push myself harder than I ever have before to reclaim the mind in my own head.

It sounds like a paradox. If I’m already me, it should be easy to stay me, right? No. It’s going to be insanely difficult to reattain the creative programming that I was lucky enough to have at birth. It’s been so stifled by so many that the hours I spend relearning my own brainwaves will be endless. I will have to structure my life rigidly around retraining my brain not to be a boring corporate asshole.

And you know what? I’ve never been more excited about a new job in my whole life. Me, meet me. I’ll be here forever.