This week I decided to turn off paid subscriptions for the time being. I've been in a funky Fibro phase for months and it's feeling like too much pressure to be consistent and build an audience. The more pain I’m in the more withdrawn I become, which is a significant obstacle to producing quality content on some kind of consistent timeline.
I’m learning how to balance disability with writing as work and this was a useful experiment in that endeavor. I’ve always lived life as an experiment, so this doesn’t feel anything like a failure. I learned a lot from this 6 month experience in paid subscriptions, such as:
I have friends who believe in me and whatever writing magic comes out of my fingertips.
There are people who are willing to pay me to write. I have proof.
I experienced firsthand what it is to get caught up in the mercy of the algorithm and numbers and dopamine hits and decided that is not going to get me where I want to go right now. It’s ok that personal writing isn’t as popular as informational or persuasive writing on social media. I’ll find more of my audience when I get essays into publications.
I do not have the spoons to do more than one writing project at a time, especially when both projects require in-depth research. The safe relating project isn’t urgent, it can wait until I complete the work of my heart that’s been calling to me for years. This isn’t to say I will turn away from inspiration when it comes, but that's not where I’m going to dedicate my attention. I need to deepen my devotion to the Transgressive Woman project.
Over the past 7 years I’ve had a pattern of getting distracted from the memoir by other creative possibilities and then the Universe bombards me with messages that Transgressive Woman is my work right now. I'm getting those messages again.
Recently I've been inspired by memoirs from writers Melissa Febos (the lyricism of Girlhood is gorgeous) and Elissa Washuta (an Indigenous writer who plays with innovative forms) to reflect on the state of my draft essays. While my writing is good, it's not artful. There are still a few pieces of soul that I haven't reconnected to since the Great Dissociation of 2013 and it appears my creative voice is one of them.
When I began dreaming of writing a memoir in my 20s, I always imagined a nontraditional structure, transgressive in both form & story. I'm most moved by art & writing that is edgy, taboo, surreal, rule-breaking, and experimental, so I always assumed my work would be that way, too. Having a visual component to the book will be genre-bending in its way, but the writing itself needs to be an expression of my soul as well as my intellect.
Right now my essay drafts are all straightforward, like blog and social media posts, which were my primary form of writing for 21 years. They sufficiently tell my stories, but they don't express who I am as an artist. If I’m going to do this book right, I need to take some time to focus deeply on my development as a memoir writer - to find my voice, improve my craft, review a trunk full of journals and old blogs, read the shelf of books I've collected for research (books that shaped me when I was young, books about transgressive women, and books about my CPTSD brain), and write and revise-revise-revise the essays for my book until they're done (or at least ready for an editor).
Which brings me to some exciting news: paid subscribers, you made a dream come true! Because of the contributions I received, I was able to register for two writing workshops with the Corporeal Writing Center this summer. I’ve been coveting this possibility for a few years. The center was founded by one of my favorite writers, Lydia Yuknavitch, who has a unique writing style that I admire (she’s most widely known for her Misfit Manifesto TED talk which was made into a book a few years back). In July she’s offering the exact class I need to support finding my creative voice - Beyond Plot: The Heart and Guts of Memoir. The other workshop is with a sociologist and memoir writer, Kimberly Dark, and focuses on the relationship between our stories and culture.
The Substack will remain active. I’ll be posting here at least once a month, but it will primarily be personal writing on my project development process, responses to books I’m reading, memory pieces that won’t make it into the memoir, experiments in form, or whatever else suits my fancy because I’m letting go of the pressure to be anything specific. I suppose it may be more like a blog than a newsletter. If my personal writing isn't your jam, I totally understand and won't be bothered if you unsubscribe.