Guest post by Kate Mende-Fridkis
Since I’ve gotten myself in the Hot Spot today, I thought I’d do my own take on a “how to” post. Annabel has this inspiring ability to seize an enormous topic, drag it onto dry land, cut it into little, manageable pieces, and serve it, fetchingly arranged and pleasingly accessible. That sounded a lot like sushi. So here’s my sushi of the day. Here’s something that I’ve learned about blogging: It’s all about the struggle.
Writing about your mistakes and your learning process not only helps you, it helps other people. And also, it’s art. One of my favorite things about art is that it transforms the mundane. When I have an unproductive, lazy, stupid day in which I forget embarrassingly simple things, take five minutes to calculate how much tip to leave, and trip on the doormat twice in a row, writing about it transforms the experience into something funny. It rescues my day from the closet of lost days, where it would’ve been thrown into a dusty pile and forgotten, and turns it into something sort of lovely. Like a snapshot of a flower. Like a painting. It isn’t just that the experience is made funny by writing an amusing piece about it, but the piece itself has worth. It has become its own entity.
Writing has always been an important part of my life, but I didn’t realize that it had the kind of freeing potential I’ve been describing until recently.
I didn’t go to school as a kid. Not even for one day. I didn’t take any tests, or have gym class, or a specific time that I was supposed to eat lunch every day. I was homeschooled (unschooled, technically). I wasn’t surrounded by other kids who were the same age. As a result, I had the sense, growing up, that I was very different from everyone else in the world, and also that I was very beautiful. After all, there was no clique of more popular, shiny-haired girls to teach me otherwise.
I didn’t make any effort to wear certain clothes because they were “cooler.” I was already cool. And so I wore plaid shorts and a shirt with big flowers on it and played in the woods and kissed homeschooled boys who were overwhelmed with joy and awe at me simultaneously being a girl and paying attention to them. And I wrote all the time. I wrote books, from the time I was twelve or so, about fantasy worlds. About mysteriously powerful girls who had to raise their slender arms dramatically and shoot magic out of their fingers in order to defeat the corrupt, red-robed High Council that had coldly controlled the political system of an ancient, lavishly forested world for millennia. These girls almost always had messy brown hair and a Jewish nose with a bump on it.
And then I went to college. Where it turned out that I was not quite as different or as beautiful as I’d always assumed I was (Jewish noses weren’t in, apparently). After that I moved to Manhattan for grad school, and there were models in the subway, and models jogging in Riverside Park, and models standing in front of me in line at the gelato place, ordering something non-fat and tiny, and about a million young, gorgeous, intensely accomplished people, running around with purposeful looks on their perfectly planed faces.
It’s taken some adjustment.
At which I am not always as adept as I’d like to be.
I had, by then, stopped writing fantasy novels. I didn’t have the time. I lived strings of ordinary days, in which any high elves that might hunt gracefully in the depths of Central Park stayed hidden, and my building’s super cornered me in the dingy basement and passionately accused me of mis-recycling. There was a chasm between my two worlds. The world of my childhood, where I’d been gorgeous and the promise of the fantastical was latent, lying dormant, everywhere I looked. And this bigger, louder, grown up world that so many people had met so long before me.
I started to write. About being a woman. About being a young woman in a strange world. And I realized that I didn’t want to write neat, well-plotted stories anymore. I wanted to write about the uneven, lumpy, awkwardness of daily life. Which doesn’t come with a perfect plotline. It comes in little bits, and in time broken into days, and in days that blend together. It comes in tiny epiphanies and lots of repetition. Writing can force you towards the epiphanies, and it can turn repetition into a pattern that can be analyzed. Regular blogging does this naturally. Like keeping a journal, but with feedback, and with the thought that goes into presenting something to someone else. Blogging nudges you towards thinking a little bit more carefully about what the things you do mean.
Some people say that you should make sure every post is a perfect, finished product. As in, it’s the best you can possibly do at the time. I’m on board with the whole “the fewer typos the better” school of thought, but I also believe that blogging is the ideal space for working through things at a rapid pace, and assisting other people by publicly investigating your own mistakes. I don’t necessarily mean the kind of mistakes that prevent certain family members from attending holiday gatherings, unless you’re comfortable with that (and have always hated holiday gatherings in any case). It doesn’t have to be that intimate. It just doesn’t have to be perfect.
Penelope Trunk talks about why perfectionism misses the point, and I agree, both because I haven’t done dishes in about two weeks, and because I can’t bring myself to feel very badly about it. Annabel shares the mistakes that she made when she first started this blog. Believe me, I’m learning from them constantly.
So how do you transform the mundane? By writing it.
I write because I’m frustrated. Because I don’t have the answers. And because, by writing, I actually do have some of the answers. For me, blogging is the result of Manhattan and models and adulthood on a girl who spent most of her life in a gentler world. It’s the evolution of my relationship with the ordinary, and with the things that continue to bother me. It’s a display case of my mistakes, where my mistakes, through being set out there, are transformed into something kind of beautiful.
Kate Mende-Fridkis lives in New York City. In addition to blogging at Eat the Damn Cake, she writes for the Huffington Post (check out her blogger profile here), has been repeatedly syndicated on Jezebel and Brazen Careerist, and makes really good grilled cheese sandwiches. Like, seriously good.