22 | Writing, revived

& learning to be inspired by myself

Hi everyone,

As someone who’s shared her life online since 1997 (ack), finding the ideal balance between openness and reticence is almost a constant thing. I think I have a pretty good handle on it now, but I still go through bouts where I suddenly want to delete everything, start from scratch, become unknowable. It’s the same impulse that led me to have dozens of Livejournal, etc accounts. For someone who’s quite routine- and comfort-based, I do love a fresh start. (Taurus sun, Sagittarius rising/signature, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you’re not, just consider the inside of my brain a hot mess and you’re good.)

Yet, sometimes I regret those fresh starts. I think about friends of mine who’d had a single Livejournal account for years, for example, and now and then I envy all those relationships they were able to maintain. I’m grateful for the people who’ve patiently joined me as I hopped from online account to online account over the years, but sometimes I wonder how different my life could be if I had just stayed rooted where I was.

Maybe it’s in that spirit that I recently republished a handful of blog posts that I’d unpublished a few years ago. I wasn’t ashamed of them or anything—quite the opposite, in fact. I suppose I was feeling a little exposed so soon after The Quiet is Loud had been published. Maybe I was bashful at the thought of total strangers hearing about my book, looking me up, and finding blog posts about my shitty attempts at making soufflé or my photos of peeling paint on brick walls.

But now I think: Who the fuck cares? Some of my favourite writers blog/Instagram about the most random shit and I love it. It’s interesting to see the world through their eyes. I like learning about their interests, what makes them tick. Plus, if I’m always longing for the late-nineties/early-aughts internet, I should embrace those human moments.

I’ve also been feeling weird about the way we communicate online now. The way we’re expected to, more correctly. Since my book was published I’ve been aware of how I can commodify myself, and the unspoken assumption that I should, in order to sell more books. I worked in marketing for years and I get that it’s necessary. I get that the world is changed, especially in publishing. I get that we’re plugged in all the time and it’s baked into the fabric of our society now. But it also makes me feel gross, honestly, sometimes. Here, too, finding a balance is important. I take days off social media sometimes and it’s great but I also feel … the only way I can describe it is “societally translucent.”

I actually don’t have a neat conclusion to that thought as I’m still working it out myself, but suffice it to say that I want to have more fun online, if I have to be here at all. It’s something I felt deeply in 2020 when I turned 40 (what I think of as my “fuck it, get weird” birthday), and it’s only increased since then.

So on that note, I’m happy to hit “Publish” on those old blog posts I had once deemed too unpolished for the masses. Today I want to share short excerpts from a few of my favourites, ranging from 2011 to 2017.

This is how the home page of my site looked in 2011. I still like how bare-bones it is!

Yesterday I also went on roller coasters for the first time in I think 13 years and I felt ridiculous and terrified and brave. Amazed at the strangers all there just screaming together at the shared experience that is so intense that nothing else will do. Screaming as a collective accepted action is so strange. I went on one ride that was essentially a massive swing, and four rows of people faced four other rows of people and one end of the swing went up in the air, the people screamed, then the other end went up in the air, and the other people screamed. It was almost conversational, personal. Like a call and response. Looking each other right in the eyes at the height of our terror.

I also didn’t anticipate how I would long for things I swore I’d never want again, once I grew up and out of my hometown. I didn’t anticipate the pleasure in contemplating the intersection of five simple things: grass, the lake, a bookstore, a porch, and slowness. Although, what’s actually surprising is how this was surprising to me.

Another highlight from yesterday: Sleeping in my old bed in my childhood home, waking up in the night to rain falling lightly on my face through the open window. Letting it happen.

To me, the most beautiful sound of all the sounds is the Finnish language. It sounds like a steady rain on a pile of firewood. It sounds like birch trees and the bluest lakes and wood fires in the snow and I want to be part of it so desperately. I want to create those beautiful sounds but when I open my mouth a dying hyena comes out instead and I swear it will never happen for me, even after all this time, all this trying.

And a couple that are hard to grab excerpts from but I think deserve mention:

At least I’m dependable / March 2015, in which I share text snippets of 2008 YouTube videos I made (!), talking about the kind of writing struggles that I seem to still experience.

Some girls wander by mistake / April 2017, positive nostalgia for the prickly, impatient, creative person I was in my early twenties, someone I’d had trouble feeling positive nostalgia for in 2017.

PS Where I’ve been

IRL: I’ve moved! If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen how excited I am about my sunny new desk space. I’ve been in the new place just over a week now and it feels good to be here. Still a little disorienting, but comfortable and chill and just … pleasant. It even felt this way when it was empty, the first time my husband and I ever looked at it, and every time we visited before moving in. A good sign, I hope.

Online: I’ve been interested lately in the creative concept of being inspired by yourself. It’s in that vein that I wrote my latest column at Open Book: “On Writing the Same Book Over and Over.” The one coming this month will be similar. Also in the same vein: I’m kind of fixated on figuring out a good title for my novella, and I’ve been keeping a master list of song lyrics I like that could work as titles. But more often I’ve been wondering why I don’t use something of my own, from some old poem or other creative writing. I hate titling things most of all, but why give so much importance to the words of other people? Why not take advantage of the work of past me, who knows myself better than anyone else?

Talk soon,

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