The Second You Start to Take Something Seriously...

6.27.2014


...it loses all of its magic. 

It's been a while since Californication was worth quoting, but as I sat there loyally suffering through the last few episodes of its final season this past weekend, this line stood out. Hank asks his boss why he doesn't pursue his music outside of a hobby and this is Rath's rationale: "The second you start to take something seriously, it loses all of its magic."

I've battled with my creative energy my entire life. It can be all-consuming at times and during those times I begin to resent it because my need and desire to engage in creative endeavors feels like unproductive activity. And I'm a stress-addicted Millennial with 1.5 Master's Degrees and a guilt complex around wasting my time doing anything that doesn't produce "success" in some way for me.

I know, I know, first world problems, right?

Anyway, eventually, without fail, I try to monetize my hobbies. I enjoyed sewing so I started an Etsy store for tote bags that I made. I enjoyed writing so I went to Hunter to try and meet the right people and get noticed by an agent and make connections for a literary career. I enjoyed going to concerts and reading, so I started doing freelance music and book reviews.

Unfortunately, each time that I try to monetize something or "take it seriously," I become very overwhelmed by it. I get intimidated by all of the people who have been doing it better or longer than me. I take rejections harder, the hobby starts to become a chore. It usually ends with me giving up the hobby altogether because it stresses me out too much.

Over the past couple of months, I started to do this with this blog. A few opportunities came my way and I was able to make some money. And then more started piling up and I started getting very serious and equally stressed out about it. And then my best friend texted me and made a casual comment about how there had been so many sponsored posts and it hit me.

This blog had turned into a part-time job.

I didn't just write when or what I wanted to anymore... I had an editorial schedule with a purpose. Instead of using Motivation Monday posts as a vehicle for accountability for me and inspiration for my readers, I had to schedule them around fitness sponsors. Then I even stopped working out altogether and just posed in the clothes they sent me. I didn't have time to work out... I had to go to this networking event or that grand opening party. I had drafts of fun posts, like cheesy DIY projects I'd done, that I kept pushing out because I had paid posts to get up. I felt fake and stressed out and guilty.

Boo hoo. I'm making a small profit, partying and I get free stuff. It's dumb to complain about. But then something worse happened.

I went to a blogger's book release party and met all of these gorgeous, profitable bloggers and the MBA student in me kicked in: how do I get there? I have the content and the voice and this beautiful backdrop of a city. Not to mention, I'm an actual writer, not just a blogger. So why are they more popular? What's the difference?

I decided the answer was the same as it was in high school: looks. Perfect teeth, skin, hair, body. Killer wardrobe. Knowing how to pose for the camera. In business school, you're taught the benefits of investing in your business and your branding. So I decided I would do something I couldn't afford to do in high school: I would invest in my appearance.

It was slow at first, a fairly normal descent into making an honest, well-intentioned effort to improve my looks. First I went to Sephora and dumped a couple of hundred bucks on makeup and a tutorial application session. Then I hired a personal trainer. I considered hiring a stylist, maybe just doing Stitchfix, but in the meantime, I started spending tons of money on clothes. Money, might I add, that was supposed to go towards a major student loan payment. Instead, I put out inquiries to get professional photos taken. I had ugly moles removed. And then I went to see a man about a horse.

The horse being me and my smile.

I'll spare you the details but seeing one specialist turned into seeing three and then a downward spiral which had me up most nights at 2, 3, 4am, with my back turned to Ryan to hide the glow of my iPhone, obsessively Googling various plastic and dental surgeries that could enhance my appearance. I very seriously considered going one route which involved a $45,000 corrective jaw surgery and two years of braces. Not for the medical reasons that would drive a normal person to look into it, because I don't have any. I wanted it because it would make my face more symmetrical.

Rock bottom was booking a consultation with a sketchy cosmetic dentist in Beverly Hills for a $10,000 lip lowering operation that promised to reduce my gummy smile.

Meanwhile, when Ryan and I were having a few arguments about unrelated relationship growing pains, this obsession took on a whole new purpose. It wasn't just about building my blog brand anymore. Maybe these ugly things about my appearance that I was finally noticing, these differences between me and those other bloggers, had actually been driving away my boyfriend. Instead of considering the facts, that these basic arguments about communication and our social life were actually just part of entering our late twenties, I secretly decided that they were stemming from his subconscious dismay with my looks.

Yeah.

Oh it's ok, you are totally justified in thinking this is all completely insane. It is. Completely.

It took several of my closest friends asking me where the hell this was coming from to make me realize that something was up. And the more I explored it, the more I realized that it started with trying to monetize this blog and morphed into trying to keep up with an imagined blogger standard that is upheld by girls whose blogs I don't even read! I can't stand to read fashion blogs and blogs that can't even be bothered to use spell check.

I like reading blogs by girls who are real, whose main goal in blogging is not to make a profit or get free stuff, but to have an outlet for their writing. To inspire, to connect, and yeah, to humblebrag from time to time, if that's what you call being excited about the things in your life.

I like bloggers that are deep thinkers and great writers like Devon, or chicks I wish I could drink wine and listen to music with like the Mucho Mucho Bueno Bueno girls. I like bloggers who write hilarious reflections on running and life like Sarah and girls who are not afraid to travel or poke fun at themselves like Mish. I like bloggers who post things that make me smile and feel inspired like Rebekah. And of course my ultimate life, writing, blogging and creative idol / fellow San Diegan, Tristan, who just blows me away with her realness, love, honesty and positive outlook.

The point is: I gave up blogging for a month and now I'm back because I've realized I want to go back to blogging as a hobby.

This post is long enough, but I have so much more to say about all of it. About self-image and health and insecurities and creative energy and monetizing hobbies and relationships and being in my late 20s and the weird dark side of blogging that I somehow got lost in and these other ladies who inspire me every day, but that's the point isn't it? That's what this is for, to be able to write about that stuff whenever I want.

But in order to do that, today I need to make a promise to myself and anyone who reads this thing, that I won't get caught up in all that crazy bullshit again. I really do love writing and I loved this blog and the fun stuff it brought into my life before I took it too seriously. So it's time to go back to that.

Here's to bringing back the magic.
Robbin Watson said...

Brianna,

Thank you so much for writing this post. It made me look at myself and my own content & realized how fake I've become in my own writing for my blog. I applaud you for being so open with your friends & readers through San Briego and wish I had the same courage to write about my own insecurities.

-Robbin

Rachel Richards said...

Wow! That is quite a journey , thank you for sharing it! I am sure many other bloggers feel intimidated by these successful monetized ones and really a blog should be written for the person writing it. Looking forward to more posts!

Avery Johnson said...

So honest, and raw, and heartfelt. Thank you Bri, for posting this because as much as we bloggers don't want to admit it, these thoughts can and DO happen. I think it is so smart to step back and realize your purpose and intention before it runs away from you.

Cheers to you, my friend, for putting yourself out there and dialing back. I'm looking forward to the magic to come!

Kunal Chatkara said...

I found your post after Googling and wanting to dive deeper into that peculiar ever so relatable phenomenon brought to light in Rath's quote. This is the first post I've read of yours Brianna, & though I won't dare to call myself a writer, without the experience or qualifications you present, I will take the leap to tell you that your sobering honesty has inspired me to bring life to that neglected undeveloped part of myself. & I think you tapped back into that magic with this post.

(There's an intriguing book called Drive by Steven Pinker. goes into intrinsic motivation and the differences in creative processes with and without a goal enforced. Decent read.)

Just bookmarked your blog.

Thank you,
from a fellow San Diegan,
Kunal Chatkara

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