Does anyone else look back at their past five months of socially distanced and quarantined life and feel a slight pang of sadness for what could have been a time of significant growth and self-improvement? Has anyone looked in their bookmarked websites and saved social media content to find the 46 Pinterest recipes for sourdough bread and vegan dog treats, the 500-Rep Ab Challenges, the knitting patterns and the long list of “Must-Read” titles? Was anyone going to break out the hot glue gun and make DIY centerpieces and paperweights out of fake succulents? Was there fabric, elastic and sewing kits sitting in anyone else’s Amazon Prime carts, each awaiting their fate as components of many a homemade mask for distribution to family and friends?
It occurred to me recently that one of the most inspiring things I have accomplished over the course of my last 5 months was my fervent denouncement and complete avoidance of Tik Tok. Now, I wish I could say I just really enjoy the view from the moral high ground of composed adulthood and didn’t desire an account like I would have if I were still 16. In reality, I just can’t think of anything more terrifying or humiliating than setting up a self-timer camera and trying to imitate the imitations of other people while mouthing the words they’re also mouthing. Actually, I managed to convince myself that my rejection of Tik Tok was simply an act of cowardice instead of a feat of Millenial-Gen Z cusper excellence.
Maybe it was the fact that the coronavirus-wary lifestyle hit my friends and I while we were in the throes of our spring semester in Missoula. Getting a master’s degree in journalism becomes complicated when you can’t actually do journalism in person. Phone calls and emails hit a little differently than face-to-face interviews, but on-the-ground coverage of stories became a threat to the health of our story subjects as well as our own.
Luckily, I’m just a lowly writer who has yet to emerge from the cave and dive into the fiery flames of multimedia journalism. To all my audio/visual/broadcast peers out there, I bow down to you. I don’t know how you managed to stay motivated in your education and careers with the roadblocks that have faced your various media of choice. Maybe you all actually baked the sourdough bread and the vegan dog treats and made the succulent centerpieces with your hot glue guns too. You all must be the make-doers that I envy.
But back in March, being a lowly writer had me thinking that I had absolutely no excuse to not continue forward with some form of my work after the semester ended. I could make as many inquiring phone calls to press contacts and story sources as the crappy service in my childhood bedroom would allow me. I could email story pitches to editors for hours on end. I could send 17 tweaked versions of the same graduate thesis proposal to my poor program advisor. I had no reason to not be making strides in my education, my career path and my ability as a writer and reporter. And if I wasn’t doing some variation of all of the above every single day, I was somehow failing. Not as a student, not as a young journalist, but as one of the billions of people dealing with a COVID-restricted lifestyle. I felt like I was failing as a human being living on Planet Earth: because being a human being living on Planet Earth meant that I was automatically dealing with the same “unprecedented times” and “strange circumstances” that everyone else was, and everyone else was carrying on, so why couldn’t I?
I also told myself in March that part of my “new normal” was going to include revamping my blog into something worthy of attention from other people who aren’t my parents. This stinking blog has acted as an outlet for my extraneous writer’s energy since I created it in 2016. It’s been a fallback plan. I only seem to pay attention to it when I look around and realize that I’m barely accomplishing anything, that I’m barely moving forward as a degreed written communicator. At one point, I was so down on myself after graduating from college that I ordered “Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost” business cards – I even paid the up-charge for a matte pearly finish and rounded corners. There is this sharp inverse relationship between my self-esteem as a writer and my presence on this blogging platform.
Why is that? Why is it so difficult for me to motivate myself to write a little bit here and there during my busier times, and why do I cling to this blog as one of my only accomplishments like a security blanket during times of slow boredom?
And why has it taken me five months to crack it back open again, during what has ostensibly been one of slowest stretches of time I will ever live through?
Blogging gurus (don’t ask me for names, these are the proverbial blogging gurus of the heavenly absolute and yes they are totally reliable sources of information) all say the key to creating a successful blog is consistency. It doesn’t matter how long or how good the content is; maintain consistency and you will maintain an audience. Everyone knows this: you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar, but you attract more page views and clicks with musings about how both substances stained your white t-shirt this morning.
I hate this premise. I find it so frustrating how the industry norm tells us that getting someone to read our work, to find it valuable or shareable or even just worth a mindless scroll while sitting on the toilet or drinking coffee in the morning, requires that it come from a bottomless stream-of-consciousness fountain. Whatever we come up with, it better promise readers more to come tomorrow and it has to insist that readers check out what was written the day before.
Because by that definition, this blog has been a failure stretched out over the past four years of my life.
It has been anything but consistent to the outward eye. I went dark for a year, surged back with a collection of posts towards the end of 2018, went dark for another two years, and now five months into global COVID-19 shutdown, I am more than halfway through receiving a master’s degree in journalism, and I can’t keep a consistent blogging presence or maintain any of its accessory social media accounts to save my life.
So I say contraire, nameless faceless blogging gurus. This blog has been exactly what I needed it to be, exactly when I needed it to be it. And in that sense, this blog has been a microcosm of the past five months of my life. What it has lacked in consistency, it has more than made up for with momentary bliss and flash-in-the-pan successes. My approach to Girl’s Guide is absolutely unstructured and unpredictable. And if I had pushed through writer’s block and lapses in inspiration, it would be chock full of content that really doesn’t say much.
If I had forced myself to march forward with my education and freelance career without stumbling, taking a break or accepting these strange circumstances and unprecedented times – that I SOMEHOW manage to mention in every. single. email I write – the blissful moments of the past five months wouldn’t stand out as major wins amongst the many days of mundanity, boredom and reconsideration of law school or the CPA exam in lieu of a career in journalism.
And if we HAD been baking bread and doing ab challenges and knitting dog sweaters every day for the past five months, if we had read all the books we were drooling over, if we had learned conversational French and solved world hunger and written the sequel to the Magna Carta, what on earth would our plans for the next five months of “new normal” look like?
We’re headed into the fall here, and fall turns into winter quickly. I want to breath new life into Girl’s Guide as the days get shorter and cold starts knocking on our doors. But I want to do so because it’s good for me, not because it’s going to cause traction and get page views. And in case you were wondering, no, five months is not too long to wait before hitting your stride on all that self-improvement you planned for yourself in March. Bake the bread, knit the sweaters, learn the French, start the blog, re-start the blog. Be as inconsistent with your self-improvement as you please, and get comfortable with that inconsistency, because we could be socially distanced, working remote and stuck in our houses and apartments for a while longer. This is a marathon, and nothing is more important right now than keeping some motivation and energy in the tank for the stretch ahead, the distance and severity of which we do not know.
So welcome back, readers of Girl’s Guide. I hope this doesn’t come across as rude, but I’m not really sorry I haven’t written anything recently. I might write more tomorrow. I might not. But I certainly won’t be seeing any of you on Tik Tok.