{getting it} The 27th Year

by Rachel on August 7, 2012

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.

But!

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 onemy video on getting in shape in the fallmy 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!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katrina August 7, 2012 at 10:48 am

Love this on so many levels. Congrats on your 27th birthday and the launch of the new blog. I think blending social/cultural issues with fiction, but also with experiences from your own life is brilliant. Can’t wait to read more.

Reply

2 Rachel August 7, 2012 at 11:22 am

Thank you! :)

Reply

3 kate August 7, 2012 at 11:02 am

I love it. I’m making my first comment now! I hope to see a bit more of you on this blog though, I miss it. Maybe a bit of micro-blogging to hold us over?

Reply

4 Rachel August 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

Yay, thanks, Kate!

I honestly think that writing this other blog will give me the creative jump start I need to write more here, more often. I HOPE it does! I miss it too!

Reply

5 Kendall August 7, 2012 at 11:18 am

This is one of those “why didn’t I think of that” moments for me. The Elena blog is a great idea, and I’m exciting to read more about her.

Reply

6 Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie August 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

Happy birthday & congrats on all your writing pieces this year and your new blog. Can’t wait to catch up on Elena!

Reply

7 Mel August 7, 2012 at 11:48 am

Happy Birthday Rachel! If there’s one thing I know about you it’s that you are never short on good ideas — or good discussions.

Reply

8 Rachel August 7, 2012 at 11:50 am

Thanks! (PS When I was writing this post, I was seriously thinking, “I really hope Mel will be into this idea.”)

Reply

9 julie @ peanut butter fingers August 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm

excited to follow elena’s journey! very cool idea, rachel. happy birthday!

Reply

10 Jessica August 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm

This is a BRILLIANT idea! I can’t wait to follow the new blog. And happy birthday!

Reply

11 Savannah August 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Happy Birthday Rachel! I think that Elena’s blog is a kickass idea. I can’t wait to read more.

Reply

12 Caitlin August 7, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Love it! I’m so excited to see where this goes! What a great way to celebrate your birthday; I hope it was a great one :)

Reply

13 Nikki August 7, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I have been a lurker for SO long now, and I have loved reading every SINGLE post. When I started reading this one, I was so fearful that the end was going to be you saying you were ending or taking a hiatus from the blog and I was so so so sad, but now I’m happy! More of your writing! Keep up the great work, and happy birthday!

Reply

14 Rachel August 8, 2012 at 6:54 am

Awwww this comment put a huge smile on my face!

Reply

15 Emily Hassman August 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm

I’m excited to see where Elena goes! I did everything I was supposed to do, and it landed me divorced, jobless, and without a home at 23 years old. Then I had to figure it all out on my own. Figuring out which things I wanted, and which things I’d only been told to want, was a giant mindfuck.

So, to say that I like this idea would be an enormous understatement. Poor Elena… I imagine she’s going to have a rough time.

Just read the Slaughter article too. It’s going to take me a bit to process that one!

Reply

16 Amanda @ Click. The Good News August 8, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Happy Birthday- I love seeing the evolution of you and your writing. I enjoyed the new blog & look forward to much more fabulous creativity and opinions from you

Reply

17 francine August 8, 2012 at 8:48 pm

happy happy birthday!!! i hope you’re in the midst of a very fun day!!

Reply

18 Lori August 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Happy Birthday! And good for you for spreading out your wings and trying something new. I’m trying out an interactive writing blog myself!

Good luck to you and “Elena”!

Reply

19 Allie August 10, 2012 at 10:15 am

HaPpY {belated} bIrThDaY.
I am really enjoying Elena’s perspective. It is inspiring to read the evolution of your writing. I’ve been wanting/trying to push myself in that area as well. You inspire me to start submitting…thank you.

Reply

20 Emily @ Relishments August 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Congratulations on your birthday and the new blog! As much as I’d love to see more hear, it’s been fun to see all the other places you’re writing for. And I completely hear you on growing up and maneuvering through what’s appropriate to post and what isn’t.

Reply

21 Rain August 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Happy bday….I will check out your Elena blog in a few minutes.
I am so happy that you have had so many writing oppurtunities in the last year! I think it’s great, just don’t give up on us here! I really like the things you post here, and I like to hear your point of view!

Reply

22 AshinMT August 17, 2012 at 10:22 am

Did i miss where it is username/password protected @ the Elena blog? I just tried with no luck to get there. It is Friday after all so this could possibly be operator error…

Reply

23 Rachel August 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I’m having the same problem with Elena Has It All – I read the first post previously, so I’m wondering if something’s changed since! Thanks!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: