Welcome to So Relatable, a bi-weekly newsletter featuring conversations about the creative process, suggestions for nourishing yourself, and inspiring links.
Exciting news: this week’s Relatable Reads are curated by Kelly Barrett, author of one my favorite newsletters, Om Weekly. I always learn something new from Kelly, and I’m excited to share her wisdom with you!
Last month I joined a brand new writing group. Despite spending years in various workshops, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Two of the other three women in the group were complete strangers, and I chose to share a chapter from my novel-in-progress, knowing that excerpts are much harder to critique. (Thanks to Emily, friend, subscriber, and fellow writer, for the invitation!)
As we settled in and introduced ourselves, I wondered what they would think about my work, how they might react. Would they care about the main character, a jaded and disillusioned millennial? Did the inciting incident occur early enough? (Only five pages in, but potentially an eternity.) If they saw my book in a store or at library and skimmed the first page, would they want to find out what happens next?
Lucky for me, the answer to most of my questions was yes. (Whew.) At one point, they were discussing a passage in which the narrator rants about her substantial debt, both literal and figurative. “That was the moment,” Emily said, “when I realized this is going to be a book about money. Which makes sense, because Chrissy writes a lot about money.”
Her observation—intimate and astute—left me feeling pleased (it IS a book about money) and also a little embarrassed. Talking about money is supposed to be gauche, yet here I am, writing a whole novel about it.
But I can’t deny the truth—money is always on my mind, for better and for worse. My occasional freelance tends to focus on personal finance, with bylines about cheap thrills, career woes, and grocery budgets. My favorite app of all time is YNAB (seriously, it will change your life). I work full time for a fintech company!
In my last newsletter I wrote about grocery stores, and how the contents of a person’s shopping cart can expose their values, their aspirations, their deepest, darkest secrets. A person’s bank account—what we spend, and where, and why—is even more revealing.
I’ve lived in and around many social classes, and lean way more socialist than capitalist. I don’t love money, but I am fascinated with how it rules our lives, often to our detriment. As a writer, money is also tied up in my ideas about art, and the profound chasm between cost and value.
When it comes to my own writing, the work I value most is the work I do for free. My short stories, which I give away to whatever literary journal will take them. My unpublished novels, which represent decades of unpaid labor. This newsletter, which I have no desire to monetize.
This is not to say I never get paid to write. It just means that for me, passion does not equal paycheck. I work in marketing, and while I like my job and am proud of my contributions, I also like my salary and benefits and work-life balance, the time I’m able to spend on my art. Each day I perform an on-going cost-benefit analysis: the more I get paid to write, the more writing I can do for free. It’s an unfair and inefficient system, one that surely prevents more art than it encourages. Using my work to explore rather than ignore that system is the least I can do.
PS: I’m not the only one writing and thinking about work and money and art. If you’re interested in reading more, I highly recommend everything Anne Helen Petersen writes (seriously, I will have to thank her in my eventual acknowledgements), as well as recent newsletters by Nisha Chittal and Katie Hawkins-Gaar.
Snack of the Week
Yesterday marked two weeks since my second dose of the vaccine (#ModSquad), which means I have officially achieved full immunity (for now). I celebrated my new-found freedom by drinking fancy champagne and baking the vegan chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting from I Can Cook Vegan. The recipe did not call for sprinkles, but they felt like an appropriate way to mark the end of a long, dark, grief-filled year. Cheers to science, and here’s to the beginning of something new. 🥂
Kelly’s Relatable Reads
Hi there! I'm Kelly, writer of Om Weekly, a newsletter that's all about self-exploration and how to live like a yogi in ~these modern times.~ It offers my experience transitioning from social media manager to yoga instructor/freelance writer, with practices for applying ancient philosophies into your daily life.
A few years back, I shared my own "hierarchy of self care" that ladders up to the peak: creating things! Today I thought I’d share more about these supportive practices that enable my creative work:
Sleep. I'm worthless as a creative being when I'm not well-rested. I love and get a lot of creative ideas through dream journaling and have learned a lot from Marci Moberg on that topic. When I don’t feel well-rested, I try to practice yoga nidra with audio recordings — often from my teacher, Aqeel.
Movement. This routine got a bit waffling during the pandemic but my one consistent thing is what I call my "Friday Flow" where I turn on a favorite album and listen from start to finish while moving and dancing. Otherwise, I'll do The Class or follow a Youtube workout (love Chloe Ting and Keaira LaShae). Music is really key!
Time in nature. I get some of my best ideas when I'm hiking, on an early meandering morning walk, or on a short afternoon walk squeezed in between work. When that happens, I'll either make a voice memo on my phone or jot it down in my Notion brainstorm board. I have also gotten really into watching birds, hummingbirds especially captivate me.
Nourishment. In no particular order some of my favorite things to make and bake lately: these black bean brownies, this "mac and cheese," this lemon basil yogurt cake, this simple but bomb kale salad, and all the smoothie bowls topped with nuts, seeds and coconut.
Reading. I am someone who would rather be writing than reading and I find the experience of Internet long-reading to be particularly distracting and often unpleasant. However, I know focused and intentional reading is critical to becoming a better writer. For this, I use Readup, which helps me stay focused and find really fascinating reads within a kind, non-echo-chamber community.
Boundaries. Seriously, creative/work-life boundaries have all but evaporated in the last year so you have to be extra intentional about this. I use The Writer's Hour about once a week just to have something on my calendar and accountability to show up. I also try to either long-form dump journal at least once each week, or spend a few minutes each day.
Laughter. Creative work can be a slog and we can get really in our head about it. When that happens to me, I take it light. Some oldies here but highly recommend watching Ronny Chieng's Netflix special, Hannah Gadsby's Nanette, Seth Myers' Lobby Baby and Tig Notaro's Happy To Be Here.
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