What makes a writer a writer? Does it matter if they are published? Is it possible to call yourself a writer if you aren’t? Are you a writer if you simply write everyday? Is there a requirement that one must write everyday to be a writer?
Sometimes I think artists of any craft are the hardest on themselves. Perhaps it is the way our brains are wired.
These are thoughts I have been pondering lately as I make a bolder mark on the world with my voice as a writer.
Whenever I feel lost in my determination, I think back to this particular quote by a writer named Adam Gnade, “Everyone’s a “writer” between the ages of 16 and 22 because everyone at that age is a romantic. This is okay. The key is to keep doing it after the rest of them quit.”
That quote comes from one of his short essay books entitled Do It Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big F**king Sad.
Part of me believes if you consider yourself a writer – then you are in fact a writer. Similarly to most things in life, don’t let other people try to label what you are.
If we learned anything from experiencing a pandemic it is that we were almost forced to get to know ourselves and what we want out of life. Or you just felt stuck with yourself and it was a really frightening experience. I’d like to note…one that we are all frankly still experiencing despite the overwhelming return back to a “new normal”.
What I found within myself during that time was a re-exploration of the writer in me. For years I called myself an aspiring writer, too shy to claim the sole title of writer itself. I recreated a website focusing on the things I love the most (MUSIC, MOVIES, TV, ALL THINGS GAY) and donned myself a writer.
There are still many times when I feel lost and I need to recenter myself. I either go for a walk and listen to Jim Croce or I return back to that Adam Gnade quote.
Whatever you decide your calling in life is, if you are already doing or creating – you are already on your way.
Let me know below in a comment what are some of the things that help you to recenter yourself.
There are many times I try to find ways to center myself through meditation or just listening to music. This week I learned a 4-7-8 breathing technique from my therapist that I found helpful in the moment.
First you inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold that breath in for 7 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. I repeated this about four times – and felt my anxiety sort of melt away. This isn’t a guaranteed fix and I am no expert – but when I learn things that I find helpful for me, I think it is important to share just in case it may help someone else along the way.
Watching sunsets or sunrises used to be my favorite calming activity that left me feeling a sense of relief and hope. I often miss seeing those sights in my old South Philly apartment and definitely miss the beauty of a Cape May sunset in my hometown.
Which is why I take so many sunset/sunrise photos and the reason behind the photo wall in my apartment. Looking back over those photographs gives me a sense of comfort, almost like I feel at home when looking at them.
Here are a few of my favorite sunset/sunrise photos I have captured with my commentary attached:
This photograph was taken the last time I went to see my Mom Mom before she got too sick. Looking back on this photo always gives me chills because it is one of my favorites for how exquisite the sky appears – but knowing what I know now it also feels like a reminder message to appreciate. This photo brings to mind a quote my Mom Mom used to say to me often, “Ya know those bumper stickers that say life’s a beach? Well they lied. Life’s a bitch, not a beach.”
Without a doubt, this right here is one of my favorite photographs I have ever taken during my time living in Philly. I used to walk all around this city and I captured this on my walk home from a restaurant shift. As a person that grew up in a beach town, I consider myself able to say this… Philadelphia has some of the best sunsets I have ever laid my eyes on. With that being said, most things Philly remind me of Grouplove – and at the point in my life when I took this photo I used to play this band so much it got on a lot of peoples nerves.
I really loved this apartment because of the sunset and sunrise views I got. After living in the same house for 23 years of my life, knowing I could never return because it was sold – I never knew if I would feel the same sense of home again. I felt that deeply when living in this city and viewing this skyline everyday. It gave me a lot of hope and reminds me of this quote by Mary Oliver, “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.“
My spontaneous 25th “treat yo self” birthday present …one of the best decisions I ever made. A city I often dreamed about moving to since I was 13 or 15. Andrea Gibson one of my favorite poets has said, “Commit to loving yourself completely. It’s the most radical thing you will do in your lifetime.” That is what that trip and that fiery sunset photograph remind me of – to love oneself.
I wasn’t kidding when I said this view delivered sunsets and sunrises to photograph nonstop. In my early to mid twenties living in Philly, I did feel lost and unsure of what the future held – but seeing those bursts of color in the sky made everything seem okay. Sometimes I’d ask myself in Talking Heads fashion though, “How did I get here?”
Oh to have a private outside space in the city! And with sunset views that look like a painting? My Dad used to send me this song (Fall in Philadelphia by Hall and Oates) all the time when I lived in Philly, so naturally it is bound to jog my memory when looking at these glorious Philly photographs.
First trip to Portland, ME was a solo trip and I fell in love with this town. So much so that I made sure that one of the first trips my partner and I went on was to come back to Portland. This sunrise was a resetting of sorts, and beginnings were right around the corner that I didn’t know were coming yet. Whenever I need a bit of hope, I often will play some Rilo Kiley – that resonates deeply with this photo. A sunrise bringing on many new horizons.
The first Christmas I spent with my partner in NYC and it was absolutely magical. There really is a sunset for every special moment in life. After this view we went to dinner and then spent the majority of Christmas Eve in Cubbyhole when Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” came on. That song tends to follow us around, and when I look at this photo I think of my partner and our moments with that song.
I grew up in Cape May, but my partner grew up going to Ocean City Maryland (which as someone from NJ that is not the Ocean City I knew). The sunrises we could see from the balcony were breathtaking. I remember during this time having lived in DC for about a year – really needing something to bring me back to myself. I didn’t appreciate sunrises or waking up early until I got a bit older. Truthfully I only ever get up early because of sunrises.
No, this isn’t a painting…although it definitely looks like one. I remember rolling out of bed this morning and seeing how exquisite the sunrise was. I sat there trying to capture the vibrant colors. Hands down my favorite sunrise photo I ever captured living in this apartment. The song that started to play in my mind when looking back at this photo was “New Slang” by The Shins…no clue why, but it seemed right.
Every now and again I would walk from South Philly up to the waterfront right around the time the sun would be setting. Growing up by the ocean I often feel compelled to seek out bodies of water as a sense of comfort or reminder that things flowing along in life as they should be. This sunset was one that brought me reassurance. In the words of Mary Oliver, “I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.”Although plot twist, the sights did change because I ended up in DC the following year.
Last, but not least and with a classic old Instagram frame added to it as well. This was taken during my first trip back visiting my hometown after my childhood home sold and I moved to Philly. I longboarded down to the beach front from my old work place where I was visiting some old friends just to capture this sunset. My love for sunsets all stem from where I was born and raised – it is often how I hold on to that piece of me as I exist in other places in the world. You’re welcome in advance for this old Al Alberts classic…I guess I love my lil ol’ hometown in NJ more than I like to admit sometimes.
*please contact me for permission to use any photographs or if you would like a print*
I think I ignore the fact that SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a thing because I deal with depression year around. So, when the sun comes out I experience this extra burst of energy and renewed sense of self – without acknowledging it’s probably because spring is right around the corner. Also I have a love/hate affection for winter, so I don’t like to believe the season brings me as deep down into hibernation as it actually does – I can’t be alone in that, right?
Enough about the sadness of the seasons…
I’ve gone from binge watching every true crime, thriller, and mystery show I could find to watching every mystery dubbed in english on Netflix (I know, I know, I am the worst…but my brain won’t let me concentrate on captions for more than 15 minutes…even though yes I still have the captions on at all times…)
My creativity has been at a stand-still and it has been a mood killer for me personally. Writing makes me feel at home – particularly when I feel a connection with the words I am writing. So, I’ve been trying to find ways to pull that out of me. I went in a deep dive of trying to find music over the past week and the few songs I discovered I’ve had on repeat lately.
Music that can center and ground me I find to be powerfully beautiful.
Here are a few of the songs I’ve had on repeat over the past week:
1. Silk Jam – Louis Futon
I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this song, but I am glad that I did. If I had to assign a sunny day a theme song it would be Silk Jam. There’s something about a song from a genre that I don’t normally listen to that makes it THAT much better when it wins me over. That’s this song for me.
2.Borderline – Tame Impala
Tame Impala was introduced to me awhile ago, but I hadn’t listened to any of their stuff in a long time. If you’re a fan of Broken Bells or Yeasayer – this will be music for you. This song is catchy, upbeat, and has a way of magically uplifting my mood. Music can either be a distraction for me, or help me focus – this song has me awkwardly bopping my head while getting the writing I’ve been procrastinating accomplished.
3.Butterfly – UMI
This is what I declare as a sad bop – the kind of music I am not usually into. A song that’s slow, smooth, and also has a groove that makes it a bop. But like. How beautiful is this song? Every time I listen to Butterfly by UMI it calms my soul.
4.On a Wave – Zilo (explicit)
Play this track….go ahead….press play ….were you instantly transported inside a car, with the windows rolled down, on a warm sunny day with no worries? I imagine in my own mind that this is where this song transports me. The days when I used to have a car – before I moved to the city and would drive around aimlessly listening to music on full blast. Anyway – this song will lift your spirits, trust me.
5.Mine – Alex Isley, Jack Dine
Another sad bop that I highly recommend – her voice is elegant and entrancing. Even if you don’t appreciate the genre, you have to appreciate how absolutely beautiful her voice is. There’s a delicate calming sense to this song, that helps me find my center.
6. I Hear The Day Has Come – Matt Maltese
I recently started watching the Netflix series Elite (yes that is one of the shows that was dubbed in english that I mentioned at the top). What does the show Elite have to do with this song? Well..I kept hearing it over and over throughout the episodes – finally by the season finale I needed to know what the song was. It had won me over after hearing it repeatedly. Times like these I am grateful for Google and the ability to discover a song just by knowing a piece of the lyric. I think his voice reminds me of a Nick Drake song – maybe I am way off base… it just pulls me in and feels as though his voice is singing a very sad poem, and yet, at the same time there’s bits of hope.
7.Green Eyes – Arlo Parks
Someone posted a Tik Tok on Instagram of a person recommending artists that people should be listening to – Arlo Park was highly recommended by this user. I’m the kind of person that will give any song or artist a listen – because there’s a chance I could fall in love with the music…or there’s a chance I’ll never listen to it again. Collapsed in Sunbeams is Arlo Park’s latest album and WOW …like WOW – the entire album is a true work of art. If you need music to relax to, get work done to, create art to – go put on Collapsed in Sunbeams.
8.Hex – Ark Patrol
This was another accidental discovery out of my usual music library and it’s been a nice ear candy break from all of the slow jams I’ve had on repeat. I had a couple of hours to paint over the weekend and this song came on it felt like it unlocked a piece of my creative mind that has been stunted lately. What gets me about the song is the rhythm and how it fills my body with anticipation for days filled with sunshine that are just on the horizon.
These songs have allowed me to fully connect with myself – when more often than not I have been feeling disconnected. I think since we’re coming to almost a year into when lockdown began I am feeling the feelings of disconnection intensely.
I long for the days that the future will bring, but in forcing myself to be in the present – I am seeking the kind of music that has the power these tracks had on me.
Through all of my feelings of disconnection these past few weeks, I have been searching for something to ground me. Better yet – inspire me to get back to writing.
So, what did I do? I decided to finally watch the Fran Lebowitz docuseries – Pretend It’s a City on Netflix. I’ve heard her name throughout my life, but never truly knew who she was. I should mention I’m only two episodes in, already I am hooked and completely fascinated.
Maybe it is because I see a lot of myself in Fran – she’s from NJ, she was horrible at math, she’s sarcastic, and she’s gay…I could go on but I feel like even she would make a joke that these similarities are more common than rare.
Anyway…. the episodes have put a fire under me to keep moving forward with writing.
Forcing myself to wonder what else should this writing space contain – or should I shift my focus back to writing my manuscript and just talk about the journey of writing that here.
The little kid in me who used to create newspapers filled with drawings and stories that I would sell to my neighbors is urging me to keep at the dream of being a published writer. Trying to figure out where I lost that spark of just creating because I wanted to and being certain others would enjoy my creation.
There is one other thing that struck me in the series thus far. In the second episode the documentary flashes to Marvin Gaye talking about a true artist has the intentions of impacting change in the world with their work (or something along the lines of that) and it really sparked something in me. That has always been my reasoning for sharing my words with the world – in hoping that it would make a difference in someone’s life – even a little bit.
I don’t have any answers this week or words of wisdom. I’m mentally hanging on by a thread. However, I do suggest checking out this docuseries if you haven’t already.
Until next time – now go call an old friend that you haven’t talked to in awhile.
Poetry has always held a special place in my heart.
Somewhere out there exists a notebook of poetry that I wrote in middle school. I’m pretty sure in one of those poems I compared the crush I had on my middle school boyfriend to having a vanilla ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles on a hot summer day (I was so deeply poetic then…).
Mary Oliver has always been one of my favorite poets and I think from the moment I first read her words, I felt some sort of connection to her (I’ve always loved when writers can somehow make their readers feel connected to them as if we’re long lost friends through their writings.).
2020 has me reading her poetry more and more – yearning to be inspired, but also to feel comfort. As I was searching through her words earlier this week, I stumbled upon these lines:
“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” – Mary Oliver
Those words did two things for me
Hit me like a ton of bricks
Forced me into deep thought and consideration that it is my duty to myself to keep pursuing writing. To keep striving for plan A, not settling for plan B.
The time is now, because life is happening NOW.
So, lately I’ve been trying to keep the fire of inspiration lit in a few different ways:
Weekly Goal Lists (sometimes I accomplish half, sometimes only a few – but it’s been holding me accountable)
Lighting candles that smell like my favorite wintery smells (pine trees, apple cinnamon, sugar cookie, etc…)
Stretching every morning (okay okay this is mostly to keep my back from collapsing completely…but it is helping my overall mood)
Reading more (I am a reader, even when I had loads of graduate homework – it was my favorite way to procrastinate. But, my to-read pile has been getting higher and higher. So, it’s been a nice reminder that reading can be beneficial in many ways.)
Cooking soup (this may sound odd, but I have been on a soup cooking spree lately. It’s been both delicious and inspirational – also the warmest of food hugs.)
This year has been one like any other, and it is hard to believe we are in December already. I just hope through all the muck, you are able to find a sense of inspiration in any which way that is a right fit for you.
As the famous Mary Oliver line goes, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”