The news of the earthquake was a relief because it meant that for once, the room wasn’t shaking for just me.
I’ll just come right out and admit it; over the last few months, I have become a Lady Gaga fan, aka a “Little Monster” (along with some of my fellow bloggers *cough* Matt Chevy). If you’re unfamiliar with who Lady Gaga is, please come out from that rock you’re under. She’s become immensely popular, which for me is usually a sign that I would never enjoy her music. I’ve never been a real big fan of pop music, and didn’t much care for “Poker Face” when I first heard it. But I heard other songs by her, saw some of the extravagant outfits she wears, watched her perform on TV, and eventually saw an interview.
Wow. A truly genuine, truly original, truly hard working, truly devoted and strangely alluring artist. Emphasis on artist. I was quickly converted to a Little Monster.
After listening to her two albums, watching and reading many interviews, and seeing her live in Radio City Music Hall, I’ve learned some things I definitely didn’t expect to from someone who “wants your bad romance“
They can probably apply to you and some aspect of your life as well.
There’s really only one place to start: doing what you love. Gaga may have gained her massive popularity over the last year or so, but that success represents a lifetime of work. From a young age, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was passionate about music- so that’s what she did. Practicing piano from age 4, went to school to study music, and spent years playing at open mic nights and dive bars (you can read the full details of her back story here). Gaga spent her entire life working towards her goals, putting in the effort endlessly because she was doing what she loves. We all can’t be incredibly successful pop stars, but we can always follow what we love, and be true to ourselves, no matter our individual situation. You may not have your dream job, you may not be where you want to be quite yet, but don’t let your passions go. Start a blog about what you love, start a web comic, start writing more. Replace time spent watching TV with doing something you’re passionate about. Try it.
Everything Lady Gaga does is about individuality. Her most recent tour is called “The Monster Ball” tour. Gaga said, “I don’t care what people think about me, I care what they think about themselves.” The idea of the Monster Ball was to create a free environment where her fans could be themselves and release their inner freak, and not feel self-conscious. It worked. The show I went to one of the shows on this tour and saw some of the most unique “outfits” I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen l so much leather, sequins, duct tape, flashing lights, tin foil, confidence and charisma in one place.
Now translate this into your online/professional identity. Granted, you shouldn’t wear this to your next job interview or change you LinkedIn picture to something with lots of leather and glitter, but be authentic. Worry less about forging a bland personal brand, and spend more thought in developing your own unique style and skill set. Bring your own blend of flavors to whatever you do. We’re all individuals, so why work against what you’ve already got going for you that makes you stand out?
We’ve all heard some pretty extreme rumors about Lady Gaga. When asked how she deals with all the scrutiny, she responded “Only value the opinion of those that you respect.” Short and sweet.
Okay, maybe hate is a strong word; we all have to pay the bills and buy coffee now and again. During her show at Radio City Music Hall, Gaga said “Do you know what the 2nd thing is that I hate most? Money. I hate money.” In the beginning to her song Teeth, she says “Don’t want your money, (that shit’s ugly)” It was rumored that she spends all her money on her shows. When asked about it, she said “Yeah,” without hesitation. “Ask my manager,” she said chuckling. “I’d much rather have the biggest show on Earth than the best house..” An article in January estimates that the Monster Ball Tour “lost $4 million.” They say lost, I say cost; either way, Lady Gaga values what she loves over money. What’s the point of being rich if you’re not pursuing what you love?
The takeaway here is that many of us (myself included) loose sight of what they truly love in pursuit of money. Work a job making less money doing something you love, instead of a high paying job you hate going to every day.
Gaga did mention the thing she hates the most, even more than money: the truth.
In an interview with Fuse after being asked when she decided to fully become “Gaga” instead of Stephanie, she replied “It’s sort of like a mantra. You know, you repeat it to yourself every day: music is my life, music is my life, the fame is inside of me, I’m going to make a number one record, with number one hits. And it’s not yet; it’s a lie. You’re saying a lie over and over and over again. And then one day, the lie is true.” She announces at her shows, “People say Lady Gaga is a lie, and they are right. I am a lie. And every day I kill to make it true.” She’s also said “I operate from a place of delusion… I want people to walk around delusional about how great they can be – and then to fight so hard for it every day that the lie becomes the truth.”
Although this an extreme example of goal setting, it does stress the point that to accomplish your goals, you have to have a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve, and you have to be infinitely positive and confident about reaching that goal. This post will get 100 comments, this post will get 100 comments. One of them will be from Gaga.
The last few weeks have been good for me as a writer and a blogger. I talked three of my friends into starting blogs, and offered advice on where to start, what to write, why everyone can benefit from having a blog. I read a few new blogs, met a few new people, and had some thoughtful conversations through comments. I began reading Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg at the suggestion of a writer friend (who is the next person I’m going to convince to start a blog). The book talks about making your mind free to write, keeping your pen moving, and writing writing writing often. Upon reading and reflecting on my own writing/ blogging habits, I realized some things:
1) I realized that despite my reading blogs, getting friends to start them, and commenting, it’s been far too long since my last post.
2) I realize that I’ve had dry spells between posts before.
3) I realized why this happens.
The reason I stop posting for weeks at a time is not because I have a shortage of ideas, but just the opposite. I have a list of 5 or 6 things to post about, two of which are mostly written out already, but I haven’t posted any of them. Why? Because I’m picky. Too picky with what I post. Then I loose momentum. Then I spend weeks writing a post, little by little, to make sure it’s good to make up for the lack of posts.
Solution: stop being so damn picky with what I post and just post.
It’s the only way to keep my pen moving, to get more people reading this, to really get this blog where I want it to be. Plus I love to write, I love to post, I love it when my friends read and talk to me about posts, and I love even more when new people read and start a conversation. I’ve been brainstorming on how I want to combine and the long neglected Prestopedia Blog, what kinds of things to post, details details details. But this planning process also took the place of actually posting. This blog will be getting a face lift soon, a new name (possibly moving to a new address), a seriously awesome blog roll for seriously awesome blogs, and more frequent posts.
And now, my dear readers, I must ask you:
I’ll be honest, I’m one of those people who takes forever on deciding to buy or not buy something at the store. I waffle over even the smallest purchases, even if I can afford it, even if it’s something I need because I relentlessly interrogate myself with the same question: “Is there something better I could be spending this money on?” Yes, I could use that new coat, or I could save the money for a new phone, but I don’t need a new phone half as bad as I need a new computer.” And the it goes on and on and, unfortunately, usually kills the enjoyment of treating myself to something. But, if I get a new coat or something as a gift, I can fully enjoy it, guilt free. There’s no second guessing or regretting a choice I didn’t make. Now, let me tell you the other (bit more unusual) circumstance when I can release regret and get a similar feeling of warm fuzzies.
For you non-New Jerseyans who don’t know, NJ Transit is a hot mess. Late trains, conductors with extra loud North Joisey accents, and about a 1:3 drunk to sober passenger ration after 5pm. But riding the train is so soothing to me, therapeutic almost. When I’m on the train, I know I’m going to be on it for a set period of time, and I know that there’s only a few options as far as what I can do (anything productive is pretty much out) during this time. I can listen to music, relax, read, or write, which is actually how I finally got around to writing this post I’ve been meaning to get down for the past two weeks. I take a subtle comfort in the temporary surrender of control, and with it, the surrender of responsibility and self burden I put on myself to be productive. It goes back to the same question as in the store when I’m buy something: “Is there something else better I could be doing with my time?” I should write that blog post, but before I can do that I really should clean up my website, but I shouldn’t do any of that until I’ve cleaned up my apartment a bit. And in the calmness of the train ride, I feel like a child in a sandbox. Focus and creativity come more easily because my mind isn’t being pulled in dozens of directions about what I could/should be doing. The train gives me peace of mind or, at least, sets the circumstances for me to receive it. The calm combined with constantly passing scenery creates, for me at least, a unique writing environment (similar to my previous posts on the airport as a writing environment).
When you’re on the train, what you write is the conversation you would’ve had if you weren’t traveling alone.
I recently had a conversation with my girlfriend about what I wanted needed for Christmas. My unofficial New Years resolution is to cook more for myself, so I told her pots and pans was on my wish list. She said “Did you ever think as a kid, that you’d be asking for pots and pans for Christmas instead of toys?”
I paused for a second. “No I guess not,” I said to her. I said to myself “Does this make me a boring adult?”
Later that night I was getting ready for bed and the thought of pots and pans continued. I thought about how I bought the bed I was about to get in to, paid for rent on the apartment, for the light I was about to turn off, the electric bill that kept the light on, and the paint on walls. All the things around me were things that I had earned myself, and it felt good.
The next morning as I went through my usual ritual of checking email, tweets, blogs, etc, the thought of pots and pans continued to clank around in my head. This blog is starting to get a few regular readers, most of which I met online through one way or another. I’ve made some really great connections with folks on Twitter that I’ve never met. I have reading list of blogs I by people I’ve really come to know and admire through their writing. Hell, I even have a job doing what I love online because I put a lot of effort this time last year into building a website and making sure my online resume was up to par. The point I’m trying to make is that my online life/persona/personal brand/community/whatever you want to call it is the exact same as my room: made up of things I’ve earned for myself, one at a time.
Most people don’t think of their website or a blog being along the same lines as their bed. You work, you save up money, you buy a bed, and you sleep comfortably in it (how comfortably depends on the price, and essentially, how much you worked to earn the money). A blog you just create, most times for free. But you have to work and pour your time and effort into a blog to make it anything worthwhile (something I’m learning the more I read and grow this blog myself; the pillows still need some fluffing). The most comfortable, most rewarding things are the those that you put the most amount of time and, sometimes, discomfort into obtaining. Online and off.
What’s something (real or virtual) that you’ve put a lot of work into/towards that you’re proud to say you earned yourself? What’s something you own/enjoy that you shamelessly admit to getting without any effort? Would you enjoy it more if you got it yourself?
I can’t say that I take complete credit for the last post The Writer’s Block. Yes, I wrote it myself and yes, the ideas were all my own. But if it were not for the influence of several people all at the same time, the post wouldn’t have been written, let alone posted, and this blog would have remained without new posts as it has for too many weeks now. Let me start with the first influence that kick started me into the blog writing mindset.
Good stuff right? It was on his blog that I read a recent psot Write With Passion. The Rest Will Fall Into Place. It talks about his humble blogging beginnings (Xanga in the early 90’s. Don’t worry Matt, I had a LiveJournal. No shame), writing because you love to write, and not letting labels get in the way of your writing. Bam: hit my problem right on the nose. I do love to write, but I have two blogs, and I’m always trying to pigeonhole my ideas to fit into one or another, and end up not posting at all. I chewed on that idea for a few days before my next kick in the butt to get my blog writing started again. Also, there’s another blogger by the name of Carlos Miceli who write a post on his blog Owl Sparks titled To Hell With Personal Branding. After reading this post and also thinking about if for a few days, it reinforced the ideas that started with Matt’s post about just writing, being yourself, and the rest falling into place. Thanks guys.
I have another friend who isn’t a blogger, she’s a psychologist. She travels all over the United States, working suicide cases, interviewing families, and investigating causes and scenes. A somewhat morbidly serious job, but (to me at least) an interesting job and lifestyle to have. The places she travels to aren’t always big cities or places most people would travel to, and everywhere she went, there was an elaborate story and a vivid experience taking place. I eventually convinced her to make a blog about her own thoughts and emotions during her travels around the country (among other things), and after a few posts, she finally let me read it. I could hear her voice in the entries immediately, and loved all the details and well written episodes; each entry is candid, vivid, well written, and usually humorously cynical. She’s never been much of a blogger that I’ve know about, but she should be. Take a look at her blog, Square One, and see for yourself. And it made me realize I’d encouraged my friend to make a really great blog, while I sat on the sidelines, my own blogs gathering dust. While’s Matt’s post got me thinking about stripping the labels off, her posts got me thinking about my writing on a personal level that I missed. Another stepping stone forward.
This post is getting long. It might not be a post that gets a lot of comments, or that people pass along to friends, but… “write with passion and the rest will fall into place,” right? And I enjoy writing posts, and writing in general. Writing and good conversation get me thinking in ways I can’t think otherwise. Which brings me to my next nudge on my path back to blogging, the person I have amazing conversations with almost every night. That person is my closest friend and girlfriend Lauren. Even after over a year of dating and talking every day, we still constantly have intelligent conversations. Besides being a great listener and very supportive of all my endeavors, she’ll always bring up a point or offer a perspective on something I wouldn’t have thought of, and I love that. It makes me always wonder if there’s something I haven’t thought of and keeps me on my toes.
The last little nudge to writing that I got wasn’t directly from a specific person; it was music. Every once in a while, you just get into that groove or train of thought you can write about, and for me, that rarely happens without music. A lot of the time, it’s music via Groove Salad on Somafm or Groovera.com, but this time it was specifically the song Sleepyhead by Passion Pit. Just a funky personal side note that no writing session of mine is complete without.
Ah, there. I feel much better now that I’ve given credit where it’s due. And I’ll feel even better once I’ve solved my blogging identity issues and combined my two blogs into one. But until then, I’ll be posting here with a refreshed sense of purpose to write. Good feelings all around. I also have to give credit to my friend Cheri aka Nixon. I’ve watched her web comic Pictures of Crying Children go from a small blog, to a regularly updated, very well done web comic; a feat of persistence that comes from her love of what she does. She’s always supportive of my online projects, so once again, credit where credit is due.
If you’ve read through this whole, long, and probably overly detailed post, I’d love to hear from you. Even if it’s just “Hi, you long post is loong.” Or tell me about something you do, whether it be writing, art, etc, that wouldn’t be possible without some inspiration from the folks around you. How much do those people around you inspire/influence your creativity? (even if you don’t write a whole long post about it)
The true, worst kind of Writer’s Block isn’t what you think.
That big, white block, standing clearly in your way as you desperately search for ways around it, over it, through it, away from it. A fierce and persistent critic, cutting down your every idea, pleased with an ever growing pile of crumpled up pieces of paper and unfinished drafts. A thin, invisible film covering your fingers and brain, paralyzing everything you need to create. A massive military resistance, too vast to even begin to plan an attack against.
The real Writer’s Block is none of these things. It’s what you don’t think.
Writer’s Block is something so deadly and devastating, so stomach turning and persistent, so cold, that you don’t even know it’s there. It’s not a mountain of crumpled papers, but a neatly stacked pile, untouched. It’s end of the day, after a full day of work, and turning on Dancing With The Stars because you’re too tired to think. It’s on Thanksgiving, when you’re parents ask you, “So, what have you been up to lately?” and you respond with “Oh you know, the usual.” It’s not noticing you haven’t written anything in weeks. Months. Years. It’s reaching the end of your life as a working professional and realizing, you should have written a novel. It’s not an enemy, it’s apathy. A lack. Not concrete but conditional. Something you can’t fight because you’re not even aware that it’s there. Sapping you. Making you unable.
The only cure, is sudden Consciousness.