As a lot of you know, one of my goals this year was to push myself more with my writing. You’ve seen the work I’ve been doing around the web…and you may have noticed how much less writing I’m doing here.
There are several reasons for my lack of blog posts. The first is simply a lack of time. I’ve been putting a lot on my plate, and my blog has been pushed to the back burner as a result. While I’m not happy about that, I’ve been putting the bulk of my time into writing assignments that are worthwhile, so I know it’s been the right thing to do. I’ve also been in this tricky place wherein I have to choose whether to pitch a good piece I was working on to other media outlets, or keep it here for my blog. A good problem to have, for sure, but it’s definitely cut down on the blog posts I run here. I only have so much time and creative energy, and good ideas and stories are hard to come by; I’m trying to get the best placement for each one.
Then there’s the quality issue. When I made the goal to write better content, and I knew that would mean publishing less content. I’ve been writing a ton of drafts for my blog, but I’ve been picky about what I choose to actually publish. Still, that probably wouldn’t have had that big of an effect it weren’t for the fact that the best material I have is simply in the no-write zone.
When I started blogging in college, nothing was off-limits. Unfortunately (I suppose), that’s just not the case anymore. Now, my no-write zone is sizable. The biggest thing that is off-limits is my job. I have learned so many lessons at my job in the past 18 months and I feel like this has had a lot to do with how much I’ve grown up and changed; as much as I’d love to tell all those stories here, it just wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do so. It’s a bummer, and I’m sure the fact that this huge part of my life is seemingly missing from my blog makes me look like a total flake, but there’s not much I can do about it. Then there are my friendships and my relationship, two topics that involve other people who deserve their privacy. Also, when it comes to writing about my relationship, I’ve been trying to give myself a bit of a buffer zone between when things actually happen and when I write about them, just to allow myself time to sort of process what the experience was like and what I want to say; this has also led to less material. People expect blogs to be written in real time, but (for me anyway), rushing means the writing suffers.
So…you can see why my blog has been rather quiet as of late.
As I was lamenting the way my blog’s well was running dry, I was noticing that in real life, I had a lot to say. About women. And men. And the War on Women. And race. And the media. And allllllllll the motherfucking bullshit. I was spending so much time every day talking to my coworkers, friends, and Eric about these topics and I always felt energized, smart, and like I was on top of my game afterward. Writing about these topics is probably my biggest strength as a writer, but for reasons I can’t fully understand (I suspect a lack of time and fear are to blame), I struggled to work that material into my blog.
Meanwhile, I’ve been exploring my character in Beckinfield more at work, and realizing how much fun it is to create stories for someone who isn’t me. I’ve never wanted to write fiction or considered it a strength of mine, but over the course of this year, I’ve been taking note of how, exactly, writing fiction can be kind of awesome. Through my character, I could say things way more effectively than I could say them at myself. I could tell better stories because I didn’t have to worry about crossing a line between public life and private life or about being truthful and authentic. And I didn’t have to do quite as much navel-gazing as I did on my blog, which, to be honest, leaves me feeling a bit gross. So I started to think about what I might do with this newfound love for writing a character’s life story instead of my own.
Then came the post heard ’round the Internet: Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, Anne-Marie Slaughter’s cover story in the July/August issue of The Atlantic. Suddenly, this vague idea I’d had for a few months began to come into focus. With Slaughter’s article, and the ensuing conversations taking place everywhere I turned, I realized that there are so many messages coming at women every day from major media outlets, women’s media, blogs, advertisements, other women, men, and complete strangers; each message seems to be determined to show women how to have everything they never knew they always wanted. So I started thinking, What if took my character out of Beckinfield and put her in the real world, reworked her quite a bit, and turned her into the everywoman who is on the receiving end of these messages…the woman who takes every single one of them at face value? I thought about some of the posts that I’d written over the past few years, like my open letter to Hillary Clinton one, my video on getting in shape in the fall, my response to the “Don’t Bring Her to the Gym” article, and my post on why I read “Cosmo” and I thought…perhaps I could write a whole blog like this. I could create a character who sort of absorbed the experiences of myself, my friends, and the other women I interact with regularly, observe what was going on around me as this fictional character, and then sort of take myself out of it as I present the character’s reactions rather than my own.
The opportunity for both creative freedom and new creative challenges involved in trying something like this was super attractive. And while it was scary to think of starting something new and different, I just felt like I really needed to write this blog. Right after the article in The Atlantic hit, Nora Ephron died, and, as read about her life (and read the commencement speech she gave at Wellesley in 1996) I felt inspired to just…do better, I guess? Reading Caitlin Moran’s fantastic How to Be a Woman last week had a similar effect.
So today, I’m turning 27 and launching a blog told from the POV of Elena, a woman who is just trying to do what everyone is telling her to: Elena Has It All. You can read her first post here, and the first seven posts that are up on the blog now. I’m still finding her voice , figuring out the content, and writing the character’s backstory. It’s rather unnerving to start from scratch like this, but it’s also a really good thing. Right now, it feels less like a blog and more like…an experiment. A project. A “Well, fuck it, why not?” I have no idea where Elena’s story is going to go, but I’m excited to find out.
As for this blog, it will still be business as usual. It’s still my home base for my work, and I have no intention of doing away with it; that said, I’m simply more excited to work on Elena Has It All right now. I hope that those of you who have made the amazing discussions that have been happened in the comments on this blog over the past few years will start reading Elena’s blog and weigh in on those posts, because the material is just totally ripe for that kind of discussion. Right now, the new blog feels oddly quiet, just waiting for the comments and discussion to bring it to life. My plan is to join in the comments as myself, to take a step back from the character and discuss her point, and I really hope you’ll join me there!
As Tobias Funke says: Let the great experiment begin!