January 2017: Back to the Blogging Basics

Dear whoever is reading this — hopefully more than just my mother (but because I know my mother will be reading this, I’ll just say it: “Hi, Mom. I love you”),

I hope you’re doing well since I last wrote, about a month ago. It’s a strange new year and if your January was anything like mine, it was a rough one. Wherever you are, I hope you are finding and practicing kindness, both with yourself and with whoever you know in this world is in need of it.

It seems that 2017 will be a roller coaster, and it’s tempting to for me to shut down with the fury toward this new “president” and the endemic imbalance of work and personal life. But writing has been my only form of accountability, and in addition to sharing a #dailymistake every day on social media, I am honoring my plan to write something publicly that’s more than a Facebook post’s length at least once a month. 

Cheers to checking the box on “January.” It’s the little things.

My blog, first “A Summer Crossing,” then “Boston Uncommons,” was started in 2012 on the premise of writing “the open letter” to anyone who wanted to know what was going on in my life. This year, I am taking my blogging back in that direction for the sake of fulfilling my writing dream of becoming publicly known as a writer. 

Over the last four-and-a-half years since I began blogging in earnest, my style changed from a weekly story of something that happened in my (then-new) life in Boston to a longer-form style, generally aimed at sharing something on the theme of personal growth and development. I very much like the direction my writing has taken and am quite proud of it. The more I nurture the writing, the more love and support I unlock from family and friends and sometimes strangers. However I generally can’t submit essays that have been previously published — even on personal blogs — to publications, unless I rework them to the point of being very different.

So I am working in the shadows on these longer-form pieces, not sharing them here unless they get categorically rejected and they can’t find a home somewhere other than erica-zendell.com. But if you ever what to know what I’m writing about outside of these update letters, just ping me. I can always use the brainstorming help. One piece I’m working on is about adopting an agile product management approach to life design, another on the role of cartoons — especially some anime — in my childhood, and the rest are largely about romance. There are plenty of product managers and anime-watchers in this world who would probably relate to the two former pieces, but my stories on dating and relationships tend to be the most entertaining and most relatable. I’m betting on those. If nothing else, it’ll be fun to have them documented for my grandchildren — or my friends’ grandchildren, since my more stable friends have decided to live vicariously through me — to read and enjoy one day.

While my memory is quite good, I’d be foolish to trust it with all the hilarious details even five years from now. My best okcupid stories from 2012 and Tinder stories from early 2015 have become crippled in time, reduced from their fifteen-minute scope to a witty tweet’s worth of content.

For example, my story about the yoga teacher who wasn’t a yoga teacher was epically told back when it happened in November 2014. Now, it’s encapsulated in a single scene: in a Downtown Crossing apartment on Temple Street, awkwardly cuddling after flaccid-then-failed coitus on a winter night. Turning on “Suits” of all things, and pulling me in closer with a compact-but-toned bicep (which was not the only compact thing about him since I had “intimidated him” into a flaccid state), he said, in accented English that had sadly ceased to be sexy, “Just pretend to be my girlfriend. Just for a little while.” Thankfully it was a Sunday night and I could use the excuse of work the next day to GET THE F — — OUT OF THERE. And I did. I BOOKED IT back to my old apartment in Boston’s hospital-land, the non-neighborhood of the West End.

Point being: who doesn’t love a good love story?

Anyway, because of this decision to reserve the more polished think pieces for other outlets, I will use this platform to be a little less groomed than I typically am when writing publicly. I won’t be so unpolished that a reader couldn’t follow, but turning off my tendency to self-edit will lead to me writing more frequently and vulnerably in the moment, instead of over-analyzing and reworking the writing about my emotional state until it’s “perfect” (it never is and never will be). It is this kind of self-editing that prevented me from writing something in the moment when all the events I describe in “Dear World” happened. Especially the election.

I’ll probably do a kindle book of these epistolary posts in the future if they turn out to be any good. It’s likely the things that come up in these letter-style posts will inspire what I write next for a long-form essay. But anyway, there’s a lot of joy in experimentation here, and after reading “Big Magic,” I grudgingly agree with the insufferable-but-sometimes-inspiring Elizabeth Gilbert, that this creative process must be a one of joy and light and mess and community — not darkness and isolation. Here’s to embracing it.

Wishing you strength and stamina for February,

Erica