Tagged: writing

I hate Q&A style interviews

- by Alyson Shane


I find them meandering and too long and just a bore to read.

One of the habits I've picked up from reading Hemingway and dealing with clients from NYC is brevity.

I used to be verbose af but these days I can't handle articles that tell me they have facts in them but make me dig through a bunch of "Oh, so you think..." questions and long, meandering answers that circle around the actual answer.

Ugh.

I'm sitting a Barn Hammer on my second beer (Coffee Black Rye Pale Ale) and I just finished putting together questionnaires for this year's TEDxWinnipeg speakers.

One of my jobs as a volunteer on the Social Committee is to coordinate doing these Q&A's with our speakers and as I was sending them out I realized I couldn't remember the opposite of a "Q&A style interview" and remembered that back in the day when I wrote for Spill Magazine I had to do an interview with a local band that I really, really struggled with.

So I looked up the email thread from 2014 and remembered that "narrative style interview" is the name of the interview style that I prefer these days.

I also realized that when I wrote the article I hated narrative-style interviews because I still wasn't confident in my abilities as a writer.

At the time I pushed back at my editor, Stephen, who is a magnificent human being, and said that I was really struggling with doing an interview where I didn't just transcribe what the musicians had said verbatim during our chat.

He told me:

Alyson, you're selling yourself short. You are a great writer and what you put together makes for great music journalism. All I ask is that you don’t close this door on yourself just yet.

Which blew me away because the part I remember is how anxious the exchange made me feel, not what his response to my anxiety was.

(Ain't that always the way?)

I wrote for The Spill for several more years and did heaps of album reviews and interviews, including the time I interviewed Thomas Dolby from his houseboat The Nutmeg of Consolation where I was so nervous that I thought I would swallow my tongue during the interview.

It taught me that when you know good people who push you and support you, eventually you start to realize that you can do anything you put yr mind to.

And with some luck you, too, can be as concise as Hemingway.

Or at least you can give it the 'ol college try.


 

How to Pull Yourself Out of a Creative Slump

- by Alyson Shane

Let's face it: even those of us who run our own businesses doing what we love for a living there are days where we feel more lukewarm than red-hot about it. It's normal! Not every day has to result in bubbly feelings, 110% productivity, and heaps of creative new ideas to jot down.

But what do you do when that dip in productivity becomes a lull... and then the norm?

This totally happened to me recently.

Don't get me wrong: my dedication to my clients hadn't faded, but my creative side - the side that feels like it shows when I write, for example - seemed to be taking a backseat to everything else that was going on in my life.

This is totally normal. It's normal for creative people to go through a dip in productivity, or a drought, but when you depend on your creativity to make a living there's a unique sort of pressure to get yourself together and get producing again.

With that in mind I wanted to share some of the steps I've taken to "get my groove back" so to speak, because you never know when a creative dry spell may occur:


1. Acknowledge there's an issue

This is the worst. When you're in a creative slump it's easy to brush it off and say "I just don't feel like it right now!" or "I'll just get to it later" but you've got to be honest with yourself or you'll never snap out of it. You need to take a long, hard look at your screen (or canvas, or whatever) and admit: I haven't been working as hard at my craft as I usually do, and I need to snap out of it.

It's normal to feel guilty here; just let yourself feel bad for a few minutes... then let it go! The easiest way to make those guilty feelings go away is to do the thing that's making you feel bad, right?

2. Do it even if it sucks

The biggest hurdle to overcoming your creative slump is just sitting down to do the damn thing and not getting overwhelmed to the point where you're too in your head to produce anything of value. So what should you do instead? Sit down and create something of no value.

If you're a writer like me, do some free writing and experiment with different ideas, word combinations, and see what emerges; if you paint, just paint some stuff and let go of the expectation that it has to be your next masterpiece; you get the idea. Getting back into the habit of doing your craft will help you get back to feeling comfortable with it instead of intimidated and anxious.

3. Get active

When my anxiety flares up or I get super busy I'm the worst for letting my trips to the gym fall by the wayside. I try to go 2-3 times a week and I notice a definite slump in my mood, sleep, and creativity levels when I'm not exercising regularly. Recently I "scheduled" GAINZ time into my calendar Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings; that way it's just scheduled into my workday.

On days when I can't make it in the morning I try to go in the afternoon, but if all else fails I make a point to go for a walk, ride my bike somewhere, or do yoga at home (I'v also started doing this 10-minute yoga flow video in the afternoons to clear my head - it works, I swear!)

4. Read

Like I said, I've been struggling with a creative slump recently and when I sat down at my laptop today I hadn't intended to write blog post. I've been struggling to write consistently recently, but I still spend a lot of time online reading articles about a wide variety of topics because 1. I'm a voracious reader and 2. I have to in order to stay on top of my game professionally.

In any case, a few days ago John showed me a terrific series of posts on Derek Sivers' blog, one of which is called How to Be Useful to Others. One of the points goes as follows:

3. Share strong opinions.
Strong opinions are very useful to others.
Those who were undecided or ambivalent can just adopt your stance.
But those who disagree can solidify their stance by arguing against yours.
Even if you invent an opinion for the sole sake of argument, boldly sharing a strong opinion is very useful to others.

While it didn't really strike me at the time, those statements have been gnawing at me for a few days and were one of the things that inspired me to sit down and start trying to work past my writer's block. However, you can read whatever inspires you in order to get your spark back: novels, autobiographies of people you admire, or even some articles on Hacker News - whatever leaves you feeling inspred is stuff you should actively be seeking out and reading (or re-reading).

5. Write it out

Sometimes when I find myself struggling to put my thoughts to paper I do "free writing" session. Free writing is a technique where you literally just write whatever comes to mind without stopping to correct spelling, grammar, or focusing on a specific topic.

After reading the aforementioned Derek Sivers article I started typing... and oddly enough the bare bones for this post started to emerge. I wrote about feeling anxious about not writing as much, and as the words appeared on my screen I realized that I was stuck in a cycle of guilt over not creating which was actually stopping me from doing it.

I find this technique is especially helpful before I start writing something a bit more technical (like one of these blog posts) because it really clears out whatever's floating around in your head. Often whenever I find that I'm stuck on an idea or problem a little free writing clears out that mental clutter in no time!


6. Watch & be inspired

I don't usually work with the TV on, but sometimes when I need a little creative background noise (like right now) I'll pop the TV on in the background and half-watch while I work on something. I find that it's best to put on something a bit soothing or slower-paced because watching stuff like action movies can be distracting (hint: don't try to focus on your craft while watching Deadpool).

One of my favourite shows is Chef's Table (it's available on Netflix - go binge-watch it when you're done reading this post!) because not only is it beautifully framed and shot, it also interviews highly creative people who have completely dedicated themselves to their craft and it's pretty impossible to not feel inspired while watching it.

Do you have any tips for getting that creative spark back? Tweet at me or tell me in the comments!


 

Why I Haven't Been Around

- by Alyson Shane

Things have been difficult lately.

Not life; life overall has been incredible. In the past few months I've had amazing opportunities fall into my lap, made new connections and friends, and started to take some serious action in terms of my own personal growth.

My mind has been difficult lately, though, which is why you haven't seen much of the "real" (non-professional) me on this blog recently. It's easy to crutch on my Crowdfunding Crash Course project, or to whip an article about content marketing together because it's knowledge that I can easily make sense of and put into words.

Anxiety doesn't work that way. It makes you mute. It makes you hole up inside yourself and just dig deeper and deeper, and you don't even realize you're doing it until someone points it out.

The other day, after a full-blown anxiety attack John said to me "have you been doing any writing therapy lately? You used to write all the time - when was the last time you wrote about things?" and I realized that I haven't. Going back through my posts, the last time I wrote something "personal" was March 5th, when I wrote "To My Family, Who Read This Blog."

It occurred to me, then, that that's what has been eating at me: since my family cut me out I've been allowing my anxiety to build inside of me because it's always in the back of my mind. It's hard to land speaking opportunities, new clients, meet new people and not be able to call my dad and say

"Hey Dad, guess what just happened!"

It's even harder not to be able to call and say

"Hey Dad, how are you? I love you, and I really miss you, and I wish that you were able to have the kind of relationship with me that I'd like us to have."

It eats at me some days.

I think about my brothers a lot. I think about how they're younger than I am, and how they grew up with this idea that I'm this weird black sheep who just can't conform to what my parent's expectations are. I worry that they think that I'm a bad person because I'm not around to show them otherwise, because I know that that's the narrative that they're hearing: that I'm selfish. That I'm blaming everyone except myself. That I should just "suck it up."

I think about my mom a lot. My mom who refused to speak to me after I reached out to her; who stepped away from me and cast me out because I finally stood up for myself. My mom, who taught me so many negative behaviours and who has been the cause of so much of my stress, anxiety, and unhappiness. It's hard to disentangle myself from her influence, especially when she holds the keys to the cage in which the rest of my family resides, and manipulates everyone within it.

I think about my dad a lot, especially. I think about my dad every single day. I try to be objective and realize that, ultimately, the decision to not speak to me was, and continues to be, his own. But he's my dad. I'm his only daughter and I always assumed that, no matter what, he would be there for me. However he's also a person, one with flaws and issues just like everyone else, and it's unfair of me to put him up on a pedestal just because he's my father. Honestly though, that's been the hardest part so far.

The problem with thinking, and anxiety, is that it gets you caught up in these negative thought loops - your thoughts spiral downward and you get stuck running over the same comment or situation over and over. Everything suddenly becomes a really big deal.

Which explains why every small issue that's come up in my life has also become a really big deal: because I have this huge issue looming over my life constantly which amplifies everything else. Every good thing is really, really good, and every bad thing is really, really, tremendously bad.

Which leads me to this post. These words, on this page, the over-sharing and stream of consciousness writing that, as I type these words on the screen helps lift that giant weight up off my chest. I need to remember that writing is therapy, and that I have a safe place, here on my blog, where I can write as much and as often as I need. That it's okay to be going through this and talking about it openly.

Thank you for being here, and for listening.


 

Why I Blog

- by Alyson Shane

Chris Brogan wrote a post the other day about not quitting blogging, which I loved. 

He didn't mention older blogging platforms like GeoCities and Livejournal, likely because he didn't used them but it made me think back to my early "web logging" days and discovering that I could chronicle my life online.

I purged my Livejournal years ago, thankfully, but a quick google search brought me back to many of my old high school friend's still-intact LiveJournals. 

It was weird, seeing those memories from over a decade ago all in one place. Now we have a plethora of ways that we share information: Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, LinkedIn, SnapChat... to name just a few. Now we're scattered all over the internet.

The best way that we had to share information at that time was huge, text-heavy posts or quizzes. 

(Remember quizzes?)

It was weird, going back through people's memories and noticing that they all started to drop off around the same time (2007-2008). Except me. I kept blogging, largely fueled by my friend Kira and my recent discovery of the best blog of all time, the busblog

Back then, though, my blogging sucked.

I had no voice and no way to distinguish myself from blogging powerhouses whose lifestyle blogs I creeped to no end other than I hadn't yet figured out how to do what they did, yet.

But I kept at it because a writer will write even when nobody reads - and for a long time (longer than I'd care to admit) nobody wrote a damn word.

But part of the secret to blogging success is to not give up. I've had comment dry spells, I've been trolled to no end, I've written trash and masterpieces and been called out and praised for all of it. It's been a magnificent ride.

Andrew Sullivan said in one of my favourite pieces from The Atlantic that the blogosphere is a giant conversation, which is true, though I'd argue that everyone posting anything online these days is a participant - this isn't exclusive to the blogging community.

We're all shouting out into the void, linking and commenting and sharing in an attempt to make our own voices heard. He also said:

"[to blog] is to let go of your writing in a way, to hold it at arm’s length, open it to scrutiny, allow it to float in the ether for a while, and to let others... pivot you toward relative truth."

Yet, just last week, Andrew Sullivan stopped blogging

One of the biggest proponents of blogging shuttered his blog and gave up.

Which left me wondering: if Andrew Sullvian quit, if all my old friends quit, if blogs die and are left abandoned every day... why do I keep doing it?

Because, as Tony said in a recent post: this is the best time to blog.

The fakers, the half-assers are dropping like flies and the ones of us who are here for the substance and the experience of sharing get to reap the benefits of an audience who are more interested, more engaged, who and will quite happily pivot us towards that relative truth that we all seek.

Blogging is scary. Blogging is beautiful. Blogging is how writers, like me, explore ourselves.

Before the internet we had to scribble in diaries or publish 'zines or write in to newspapers or journals or magazines or publish books hoping that someone somewhere would find them and fall in love with our words and our hearts, which we poured out through pens just as much as I type them out to you, now.

I was lucky enough to be born into a time when my words can exist digitally. 

My digital words, like those of my old friends, like those of Andrew Sullivan, can reach untold numbers of people. We can shape each other's realities through what we say online with words that never fade, never get lost, and that's amazing.

How could I ever stop, knowing that truth?

I can't.


 

Our Digital Selves

- by Alyson Shane

I'm watching Serial Experiments Lain which according to Wikipedia is an avant-garde anime from the 90's that explores ideas like identity, consciousness, reality and communication. 

I started watching it over a decade ago with my friend Eric, who also introduced me to Star Trek and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and the film The Thing and the Fallout video game series. 

This was also around the time that I started blogging, back in the days of GeoCities and eventually LiveJournal and (sigh) DeadJournal which was about as emo as you can get. After that I moved onto Blogger where I stayed for several years and iterations of my blog and also of myself, and then to Wordpress, and now to the blog you see before you.

I've been living my life online for more than half of the time I've been alive, which is both fascinating and slightly terrifying.

It's weird to think that there are snippets of ourselves scattered around the internet, these little scraps of ourselves that we leave littered in comments or status updates or blog posts. 

Like a trail of breadcrumbs leading from our past to future selves. 

In an email the other day my aunt, bless her heart, said "I hope you aren't too personal online because it could come back and bite you in the future" which is true but there's also a level of curated-ness that goes into who we are online, at least most of the time.

We have to be careful of how we represent ourselves and what we say because those words stay with us forever. The internet never forgets. 

On the other hand we've been handed this near-limitless tool to share and communicate and store memories, which is what a blog is when you get right down to it.

"Weblog" - remember that word? I barely do. 

So we walk this weird tightrope using these various tools which allow us to we curate these finely-tuned versions of ourselves, masquerading as "authentic" and, for people like me, attempting to do so without over-sharing too many personal details that could damage us or those around us.

Because we still have secrets from the internet. At least, for now.

But will we be able to, in the future?

In Serial Experiments Lain a girl kills herself and claims that she is able to live on in the Wired, which is the show's version of the internet, because she uploaded her consciousness prior to her death. I remember thinking about that while reading an article a few years back that discussed a statement made by Google's Ray Kurzweil, who made the claim that we will be uploading our minds and essentially becoming digitally immortal. 

There's something about that idea that terrifies me and I don't know what.

Maybe it's the idea of losing my physical body.

Maybe it's the idea of bearing all of my consciousness to the digital world.

Maybe I'm just too attached to my analog existence

at least for the moment.


 

An Ode to the Playground of my Youth

- by Alyson Shane

The Red River Community Centre
down the street from my house, a few short blocks away
on the corner of Murray Avenue and Donan Street
surrounded by ditches, a baseball field
hockey arenas lay empty and stinking of piss and sex in the summer.

Made with wooden beams and pillars
rough to the touch, watch out for splinters
picking them out of hands, feet, knees,
until there were too many and ignoring them became easier
than pausing a game to squeeze them out.

The slide that was removed before I can clearly remember
the empty wooden tower where it used to be
where I vaguely recall hot, silver metal glinting in the sunlight
the burn of it on my bare legs
sliding down towards welcoming, outstretched arms.

Sand instead of little pebbles
which got in your eyes when you fell down
or got kicked up during a game of Grounders
while scrambling to get from one surface to another.

The big, fat tire swing that was the beacon of summer
suspended by three thick chains in a plastic coating
sticky and black from hands and sweat by mid-June.

Under-ducks and spinning until we were nearly sick
almost hitting our heads on the overhead beams
grabbing on and spinning, suspended in the air
that time my brother kicked someone in the mouth.
Thank goodness they were all baby teeth. 

Monkey bars, hot to the touch in the afternoon light
seeing who could jump the farthest
past the first, second, third bar
each summer we got farther until we were too tall to jump
and could walk from one side to the other.

Riding our bikes in circles around the parking lot with no lines
just gravel and broken glass and prickly weeds
the occasional car with frisky teenagers in the back parked at the far end
tucked away from us and our raucous noise
exploring new landscapes with the windows half rolled down.

The community centre, barely a shadow of a building
made of white brick and smelling like used sports equipment
the crowded area where I would lace up my skates
and drink cheap, watery hot chocolate with my dad for .50 cents.

One year my parents signed me up for daytime summer camp
where we played sports and did arts and crafts
went on weekly trips to Kildonan Park or Fun Mountain or Oak Hammock Marsh
and I spent a furious afternoon trying to cut through a recycled paper plate
carving it into a snake which I decorated with markers and sequins
and lost while chasing frogs on the way home.

The park, like most of my childhood haunts, is gone
replaced by a monstrosity of steel and glass
which encompasses almost all of the green space where I roamed,
a skate park where the soccer fields and their empty metal nets used to be
fake palm trees where I laced up my first pair of cleats. 

I mourn for these places, now.
I wish that I had understood the humble, fleeting magnificence
of the happy, blissful, sun-drench days I spent there
eating gummy candies acquired from the gas station up the road
shaped like blue feet, kissing lips, fuzzy peaches
worrying about nothing except how late it was getting
and when I would be able to make my way back tomorrow. 


 

The Suburbs

- by Alyson Shane


The place where I lived my childhood is gone.

The street is still there, but the deep ditches where I used to watch tadpoles and, later in the season, scoop frogs into my tiny hands, are gone.

The bridges that extended over them where I spent hours on my tummy, watching the water rush through the long grass with my friends, have been dismantled and taken away.

The fields on either side of my street, which connects Main Street to McPhillips Avenue, have been swallowed up by cheap particleboard, concrete driveways, and houses in pale, inoffensive shades of beige and grey stucco.

In the spring we would put on our too-big rubber boots and wade through the flooded plain, chasing each other through the tall green and orange plants. We used to pull bulrushes, fat and bulbous, apart above our heads, showering everything in their soft wool and watching it drift away in the wind.

We spent our summer afternoons climbing around an old, small hill covered in trees at the end of a dirt road that ran parallel to a ditch which ran parallel to the train tracks. There were old, large pieces of concrete that we, using all of our collective strength, pushed into "couches" and "chairs" to sit on in place of the long grass, which had spiders hiding in it.

There were small burned-out areas where older kids tried to start fires every summer, and the black, charred remains of the trees fascinated us. Especially when, against all odds, they would begin to bloom again in the following year.

The city would come and re-tar our back lane in the middle of the summer and our naked feet would get sticky-black as we chased each other on bikes or on foot over the newly-filled potholes.

One summer we had mice in our attic. I remember my dad pulling one, stiff with rigor mortis, out of a trap that he had set and saying to my mother, who was delirious with anxiety "we live next to train tracks and have fields on both sides of the street. What did you expect?"

In the winter more City workers came in huge plows to clear the back lane, pushing aside the snow to form a jagged, uneven wall along the lane that we would climb over in our thick snow pants. At night we would toboggan in the glow of the streetlights.

I would to fall asleep to the sound of the trains going by. The sound still soothes me.

I used to look out from my parents' bedroom window, over the lane and over the field behind our house. Before I was born you could see right to the Perimeter Highway, but slowly newer developments began popping up and creeping ever-closer.

We moved when I was ten, before the suburbs crept nearer and took over. There had been talk of a wall to divide the new subdivision with my old back lane; now there is a tastefully-high fence that runs along the outer edge of the yards. 

My old street runs like a vein between two new subdivisions, which flattened the hill and cast big, imposing shadows over the little houses on Murray Avenue. It once felt worlds apart from the suburbs, but in recent years has become consumed by it.

I've heard people talk about having to drive up my old street to get to their identical, perfectly-paved streets which lead to their identical stucco houses with their identical yards with a single tree in front.

They talk about the old, dated duplexes with brown wood features and chain-link yards; the useless, weird, vacant space in front of their property where the ditches used to be; the back lanes that spoil their view.

They can't see it for the beautiful place that it was because the suburbs have consumed what made it so magical. 

On the surface it feels like I've lost that place forever. That it was surrendered to the inevitable march of progress, to urban sprawl,  to hastily-constructed homes with no soul. 

But Murray Avenue still has a heart. You just have to know where to look.

Come with me, sometime. I'll show you.


 

The Illusion of Being Busy

- by Alyson Shane

Last Friday night I found myself alone. 

John was with the Campers at the screening of the Innovation Alley movie, my plans had fallen through, and I had a few hours to spend however I wanted. 

Sitting in Second Cup in Osborne Village, plucking away at my laptop and sipping my London Fog, I got to thinking about how busy we all "appear" to be all the time - always going places, seeing people, sharing pictures and thoughts and experiences. 

It started to feel a bit overwhelming, to be honest.

Since I've started my #Project365 Instagram project I've tried to make a point to go out and have an experience, or find something interesting worth photographing every day.

It's not that I lead a boring life - far from it, I'm actually quite busy day-to-day, but a lot of that revolves around my 9-5 and being on my laptop doing freelance work.

Not exactly glamorous, and I'm pretty sure that if I Instagrammed my computer screen as often as I find myself parked in front of it, working, I'd have zero followers pretty freakin' fast.

So I started thinking about the idea of "looking busy" and figured I'd ask you guys what you thought, and if you feel social pressure to "look/be busy," through what you post online.

Some of my favourite answers are below & honestly really surprised me:

Not busy, no...I think everyone knows I'm busy! I make an effort to look thoughtful in what I share. No junk.
Kendra Jones

"I'm always busy. Sometimes that's just busy laying down on YouTube, sometimes it's work. I'm busy with my time and that's fine."
Brett Enquist

Busy is a choice, but some do see it as a badge of honour.
Claudine G

Nope. I live for me not others. Took a while to learn that though.
Terri F

Everyone (or almost everyone) has a day job that keep them occupied. I'm more interested in how people spend their non-work hours, whether it's going on vacation, reading a great book, cooking or playing outside.
Shel Zolkewich

Hell no. I'm as busy as I wanna be. And you can quote me on that.
Jeope Wolfe

No. I am busy a lot, but if I'm not, I'm not gonna lie about. That would be dumb. #TrimbleDoesntConform
Adrian Trimble

What about you? Do you ever feel pressured to "look busy"?



 

What Doesn't Seem Like Work?

- by Alyson Shane

While out for coffee I read a great article by one of my favourite writers, Paul Graham, called "What Doesn't Seem Like Work?

In it he talks about how his father knew at 12 what he wanted to be which he admits is unusual and is something that I can't relate to at all because at 12 I don't think I was thinking much farther than the test at the end of the week or when the next Zelda title was coming out.

Anyway, Paul Graham's dad wanted to do something involving maths (he is a mathematician) and he said that he used to consider the quizzes at the end of textbook chapters as rewards, and that the text was just advice on how to solve them. 

Which is just... crazy. That sounds like the exact opposite of anything I want to do, ever.

Which is exactly the point.

"The stranger your tastes seem to other people, the stronger evidence they probably are of what you should do."

Most people that I talk to dislike writing. Or they tolerate it as something that they have to do, maybe for work or a project, but by and large most people that I know don't want to spend hours writing posts, monologues, rants, poems etc and honing their "voice" as a writer. 

I've always been a passionate reader and writer but it took me a long time to figure out that writing should be a big part of how I make my living, largely because I grew up thinking that the only options for a writer were publish a book or become a journalist, but that's a post for another time.

I love writing and would happily do it all day. It's what I live and breathe, even though to a lot of people it seems like a boring, uninteresting task.

Which is what sets me apart from other people, and what makes me so good at it.

But it's taken me a long time to figure that out.

What's something that you love to do that other people hate doing? Have you made it a part of your professional life?


 

2014

- by Alyson Shane

It's 2015.

I should probably write something profound. That's what people do in the New Year, right?

Here's my best shot at it. Fuelled by rum and gin and crepes:

2014 was the year I left my safe-yet-unhealthy 4+ year relationship.

It destroyed me. It still destroys me.

Last night I deleted the only video of him that I still had on my phone. I hadn't watched it in months, and seeing that face, hearing that voice tore me apart on the inside. I took it on the last "good weekend" we had before things started to really unravel and seeing and hearing, seeing that face, that voice using our silly couple-language, tore me apart.

But it was time to let go.

It was time to let go of my idea of that person. It was time to let go of the idea of the man that I was with, the idea of the man that I wanted him to be.

But that's how I want to remember him. I don't want to remember him as the person that he is, now. 

The person who couldn't handle the breakup; the person who made people choose between he and I; the person who slandered me to anyone who would listen; the person who harassed me for months.

I saw an awful, dirty side of him that I wish I could forget.

Breaking up is a dirty business and I don't recommend it to anyone.

But sometimes it has to be done.

Last night I decided to start letting go of the idea of the person that I once loved. It was tragic and awful and I could only do it with an empty glass in my hand because sometimes we need that push to do what's right.

It was right and it was hard and it was terrible.

2014 was the year I got fired from my first out-of-university job.

I was hired after a summer of floundering around trying to find work and I loved it. It was amazing, interesting, exciting, and stressful as hell. I used to have dreams about work. I dreamt about writing reports, pricing out items, walking around the giant building that they rent in The Exchange District.

But I wasn't trained properly.

I had a manager who was largely absent. I was the 4th person to hold that position in a year and a half, which speaks volumes.

When I was let go, it was without any notice and without any feedback.

It devastated me. I didn't know what to do with myself.

But I moved on. 

I found promise in a new job and, more importantly, in freelance work that has taught me more than being a "go-fer" at a larger company could ever have.

I started to look at my career path as something that I can shape to what I want, and not just climbing a corporate ladder somewhere.

It was liberating. It was terrifying. It was... amazing.

2014 was the year when I stopped partying so damn much.

Weekends wasted, talking about nothing of importance with people who forgot my words because they were equally as out of it and equally as uninvested in our conversation.

I guess everyone goes through a phase where they party, but I'm glad to be out of mine.

At least of the two-day-extravaganza variety.

Whew.

2014 was the year I fell in love, again.

But not that shitty half-assed love.

The kind of love that consumes you and eats you up and spits you out.

The kind where you wake up and think "holy shit I get to wake up next to and hold and talk to and fuck this person right here"

And you do. And every day is amazing. Even the shitty, awful, retched ones where you can't agree and cast dark glances over the top of yr keyboard. even those days.

I've never had that before.

I've never been consumed by something this way and I'm at the point where I'm honestly scared to talk about these things online, even, because aren't you not supposed to? Aren't writers only supposed to talk about heartbreak and meaningless sex and failed love?

Maybe, but then that doesn't make me much of a writer, does it?

Which brings me to my next point:

2014 was the year I wrote.

I scribble ideas everywhere.

I write poems, haikus, letters, blog posts, everything.

The words fall out of me and I can't stop them. I've never felt so overwhelmed with words and thoughts and messy, outrageous ideas.

This is the year that I've accepted myself as a writer. I used to be scared of my words. Of their permanence, that they might expose something of myself that I might one day want to forget.

But I'm not afraid of it anymore. It sounds crazy, but it's true.

Words define us. They make us who we are and, if we let them, expose the deepest depths of our souls. 

I don't want to run from that anymore.

I'm not scared of who I am.

So that's my 2014.

I could go into more detail. I gardened, I attended festivals, I met new people, formed new friendships, and learned so much. 

But these are the few points that I think really matter.

To me, and maybe to you.

Here's to last year: the totally transformative 2014. 

Here's to next year: may be it beautiful, bombastic, and may it move you and teach you things about yourself that you never knew. 

xo

yr girl Shaner


 

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