contentment: the ultimate writer’s block

You know how people tend to gain weight once they’re in a happy relationship? Or how Ryan Adams made bad music after he got sober?

Well, being content made me a neglectful writer.

I’ve wondered about this before. Do artists need to be depressed/angry/sad/hurt/high to make good art? I don’t think of my blog as being in the same category as your favorite album, favorite Impressionist painting, favorite novel. But, like so many artists, I do find that being in a particular mindset motivates me to write.

I want to approach my blog like work, so that I will be more disciplined and consistent, but I also want to give myself freedom. Because I do write for a living. It’s vastly different than what I write here, but it’s still writing. And writing is hard.

Recently, I was talking with a friend, who is a vastly better writer than I am, about writing and how I didn’t want to approach my blog like it’s a LiveJournal from 9th grade. But he argued for the diary approach to blogging and reminded me not to undervalue my experiences. He told me there will always be at least one person who relates to your story.

Then I listened to “Spill Your Guts”, an episode from The Allusionist, which is a podcast that I’m convinced was specifically designed for me to nerd out over grammar history lessons. The episode featured the guys from Mortified, and was about writing diary entries. They talked about the historical impact of diaries, as well as the funny patterns they’ve discovered: teenagers using LOL in their diaries, people assigning gender to their diaries, or addressing them with only Russian names. But also the importance of a diary as personal memoir.

So, why am I rambling about diaries and art and how writing is hard (boo hoo)? I’m getting there.

journal

If we aren’t real-life friends, or just haven’t spoken in the past year, you are probably wondering what led to the contented non-writing phase. And the main thing is I’m in this awesome, healthy relationship. That’s definitely not the only thing (because you don’t have to be in a relationship to be happy). I’m also excelling at my good (but boring) job, get to see my family more, have awesome friends, love living alone, and have a cat who stopped shitting on all my stuff (mostly).

But that relationship thing. When people ask how it’s going, I tell them, “I never knew what it was like to be in a relationship that didn’t feel like work most of the time. That was easy and loving and fun and meaningful.” This man is kind and lovable and he plays the fucking banjo. He doesn’t critique me or judge me. And when, early in our relationship, he asked if I wanted to come over and just read together, I thought, “THIS IS ALL I’VE EVER WANTED.”

He also encourages me to write.

So, I’m going to give myself the freedom to write some LiveJournaly posts, but will also commit to being more disciplined. In an effort to be more consistent, here are a few new “columns” I’m going to try:

  • Rank City, in which I rank whatever the fuck I want, such as stray cats
  • Beer/brewery reviews
  • Food/restaurant reviews (because I cannot keep reading the awful shit on Columbus Underground)
  • Book Reports, in which I write you a book report

And I will return to the music and feminist topics that weigh on my chest, making their presence known, much like Boo does after a long weekend away.

boo

music mondays: record store day

I will begin this post with an assessment (fine, judgment, whatever) of The types of buyers you may observe on Record Store Day:

Old dudes who are still kinda cool.
Probably bought: Phish New Years Eve 1995

Old dudes who live in basements and are hella creepy.
Probably bought: Metallica

Scene kids.
Probably bought: The White Stripes and secretly bought that Twenty Pilots album shaped like Ohio.

Clueless girl.
Probably Definitely bought: T Swift 1989 (I wanted to grab this from her hands and just say “NO. GO HOME.”)

Mid 30s single friends who are mostly concerned with where brunch will be later.
Probably bought: Built to Spill. The hip friend may have picked up Run The Jewels. The non-hip friend secretly bought Mumford and Sons.

Late 20s girl who came alone and is trying to discreetly eat a donut in line (AKA me)
Definitely bought: Otis Redding’s 50th Anniversary edition of Otis Blue, Ryan Adams 7 inch, and in a last minute decision, Dolly Parton’s bluegrass album.

rsdI’ve participated in Record Store Day in the past, but this was the first year I ended up waiting in a line, unexpectedly. I wanted Otis Blue and had plans at 10am, so decided I’d go to Spoonful Records in downtown Columbus before that. I knew Spoonful was having a food truck and giving away some stuff, but honestly, I didn’t expect the line around the corner that I found myself in at 9am. I (correctly) assumed they wouldn’t have many copies of Otis Blue (3, I think) and wanted to make sure I got one. Most likely, the three records I did buy would have been there on Sunday, but, it’s about the day, right?

The RSD anniversary edition of Otis Blue includes both mono and stereo LPs, and a replica-style 45 featuring “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “I’m Depending on You.” It rang in at $45, but because Otis and I have history, I shelled out. And I have no regrets. I heard the opening brass on “Ole Man Trouble” and knew I’d bought something special.

I don’t think I was born in the wrong decade in terms of musical taste. Because, while I love soul and Motown, I also love synth pop and hip hop, and in 2015, I get to have it all. But, what Record Store Day often does is give me a glimpse into what it was like to anticipate a new LP coming out–going down to your local record store and hoping they hadn’t sold out already. MP3s make everything instant, and we lose some of the magic when we don’t have to break the plastic seal on a new record. Vinyl might be a trend for some, but for the rest of us, it’s classic, and we’ll keep buying if you keep pressing.

breaking the cycle: thoughts on NYT “medicating women’s feelings” article

At the end of February, an op-ed came out in the New York Times called “Medicating Women’s Feelings.” You’ll probably want to read the article before continuing on. I’ll wait.

I’m so thankful for this article. Americans are scared to talk about mental health. I think many are also scared of women, especially “emotional” women, and I’m going to keep calling bullshit on that, as Julie Holland did.

“Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power. But we are under constant pressure to restrain our emotional lives.”

Women are told not to be so sensitive, then not to be so bubbly. At work, have original ideas but don’t be aggressive about them. It’s confusing. As for many women, learning to understand my emotions and the way the world thinks of them has been a journey. For a long time, I was terrible at thinking through the levels of my emotions and expressing them to the people around me. Honestly, I’m still not great at it sometimes *cue side-eye* but I’m learning that my emotions have value.

2011 was a difficult year for me. Through family moves, deaths, a breakup, and a job ending, I felt everything dear was being violently ripped away from me. I was left in a very dark place, where I was quick to snuff out any light, content to sit in the cage of sadness I had built for myself. Then, in 2012, after talking with my parents, friends, doctor, and counselor, I decided to begin a low-dose antidepressant in conjunction with counseling.

I didn’t tell too many people, even close friends, when I started taking an antidepressant. But, I’ve realized since then that it’s not something I want to keep in the dark. The dark is where shame lives and grows, and I am not ashamed of who I am or the steps I chose to take to become who I am.

In her article, Holland says that more women than men are prescribed “psychiatric medication” and “are nearly twice as likely to receive a diagnosis of depression or anxiety disorder than men are.” I hate that those statements are true, that too many women are being numbed by over-medication, labeled with a misdiagnosis, and separated from society in yet another way. And, at the same time, many women and men with mental health issues go un-diagnosed.

Medication isn’t always bad. I was happy with my decision to take an antidepressant; I believe it helped me function and made it easier to sort through all the emotions I had, instead of being weighed down by only feeling sadness. After a year, I began to wean off the antidepressant, and let me tell you, it’s hard to come off. But I wanted to be back in the world fully. I felt I had to re-train the parts of my brain that had been numbed for so long. I had to remember that extremes don’t have to be bad and that feeling deeply is one of the most human things about us.

“We need to stop labeling our sadness and anxiety as uncomfortable symptoms, and to appreciate them as a healthy, adaptive part of our biology.”

I believe Holland when she writes this. For me, medication was part of my journey to accepting my emotions, but it doesn’t have to be part of everyone’s experience. As women, we are emotional and sensitive beings, and it is a strength. Feeling is not weakness. Emotional responses are not weakness. They are human. They are vital.