How to Transform Mundane into Extraordinary
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.[tweetmeme]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.[tweetmeme]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.
Many thanks to Kate for sharing her excellent writing with us here. I love her stories and writing, please do check out her blog for more great stories and don’t forget to subscribe.
Thanks for having me, Annabel! So excited to be here!
Kate, I completely agree with your view on how just writing helps you sort through so many things. I edit my blog and then edit again, but it’s the content that really matters. To that end I continue to work at making it credible and something others can relate to.
BTW, you are beautiful, and obviously quite intelligent!
Thanks for posting!
Hi Barbara, I agree, I edit and edit and edit. Bit obsessive really but getting better. Writing does get better the more you do so blogging’s great for that. So many smart, gorgeous chicks round here:)
Hi Kate and Annabel,
Annabel, thanks for having Kate as a guest writer. It was fun and touching to read her story.
Kate, thanks for sharing your story with us. It sounds as though the transition to the so-called “real world” has been a bit bumpy–and you are handling it with so much grace. Writing is indeed a great way to make sense of and transform our world. You may be surrounded by fashion models (who probably don’t think they’re perfect and probably aren’t when they first get up in the morning), but you are a great model for showing other young women who are just getting out in the world that it’s okay to not do it perfectly, and that we all learn through our mistakes. In some ways you are very lucky to have been brought up and “unschooled” in a kinder, gentler environment–it has probably given you more inner strength and confidence and compassion for yourself
As for the grilled cheese sandwiches, my favourite kind is aged cheddar with apple and a little bit of mixed fruit chutney.
Cheers and best wishes for a bright and gentle future.
Hi Sue, great to see you here. Mmmm, that sounds yum! I think I’ll have to make one for lunch!
Hi Sue! I haven’t tried fruit chutney in a grilled cheese yet. Love the idea! I’m always up for aged cheddar :)
Thank you for the response to my post! And for the encouraging words. You’re sweet!
“So how do you transform the mundane? By writing it.”
LOVE THIS – my new mantra :-)
It’s true isn’t it?! Loving it as well. Thanks Connie:)
Thanks for the story. Great to know you were unschooled while I think about unschooling my little girl. For the moment I think unschooling or any kind of alternative education is better than going to a regular school.
Hi Marilia, yes, I like the homeschool part too. I think as long as the kids and parents are happy that’s the most important part:)
Please let me know if you want to talk about this decision at all! I’m always happy to discuss it!
Fantastic post, Kate! I completely resonate with your approach to blogging. It’s refreshing to see someone simply being real. I get turned off by all the hype in the blogging world about getting a million follows, being in a special blogging club, and making a fortune online. Sometimes it seems so many people are just trying to follow the “formula.” I’m so much more touched by a genuine and thoughtful approach such as yours.
Annabel, that’s why I like your blog too – it has a genuine, personable feel. I really like that you have the guts to share articles like this that aren’t part of the standard marketing formula. Thanks so much!
Hi Sandra, got you in my little widget for top commenters! Thank you. Hehe, it looks as if we’re forming our own “tribe” Lol, just kidding! Thanks so much for the feedback, it’s great and true!
Thanks Kate-I really enjoyed your post. The bumpy bits are the most interesting part of life.
Hi Heather, yes, in a nice reversal of the road sign – never mind the bumps:) Thanks Heather!
Great post Kate! I love the bit about the gap between your two worlds, I think blogging is a great way to help the two come together in some way, or help adjust to the world you’re living in now, really lovely.
Annabel, I’m so happy to find this blog, amazing stuff and lots of generous info., can’t wait to read more!
Hi Justine, thanks for visiting and leaving your lovely mark:) Have you been to London? On the subway (underground we call it) they always say “Mind the gap”. Here we find a better way – a way of bridging it!
“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.”
The funny thing, I think, is that writing about real life isn’t so different from those exotic fantasy stories after all. I’ve had some things come my way in the real world that would only be believable in fiction, and I’m sure you’ve had your fill of oddities as you chronicle daily life. :)
Great post, Kate! You may never have to strike down the High Council for its tyrannical ways, but I hope the twists and turn life throws at you continue to inspire you for years to come. :)
Hi Matt, I want to write about the neat stuff! But it doesn’t happen – not I just need to be as brave as Kate about sharing the bumpy bits more:)n Thanks Matt!
What a lovely, inspiring piece of writing. And I like the sushi analogy.
Hi Sandrine, I know! Kate’s writing is fantabulous! Lovely to see you here again:)
for being YOU! YOu are so awesome…its not even funny. I can just imagine how great your grilled sandwiches must be :)
As for your approach to blogging…I’m so happy you are real. Real as can be..cause seriously if we wanted snooty, pretentious and perfect…they are everywhere and oh so boring.
You and me and everyone else should be happily imperfect :) It sure makes for fun and interesting living…what say…;) Beautiful post!
Hey Anna, Lovely guest post. I am all on a mission to be a top commenter on that new widget you have up…give me 48 hours…I’m gonna get there ;)
psst…have space for a guest post by me?? I would really really love to write n your super awesome blog.
Lots of love to both you lovely Ladies,
Hi Zeenat, great to see you here again and look at that! Coming in at number 2 on the new widget. Thanks for noticing and my blog looks all the lovelier with your face there:) Guest post here. Why of course, I’d be honored. I’ve got a little link at the bottom called write for with some boring but necessary details:) Thank you!
Silly me didnt see that ‘write for’ page before. But have now..and will be emailing you shortly. …and wow..I’m already number 2…how cool! I love this new widget..makes me a celebrity on your blog ;)
A beautifully written piece. I paused and re-read and re-read the words about blogging being all about the struggle. They really resonated with me.
PS. Clearly it is time for me to go to bed because it took me a while to click that this was a guest post, and I therefore spent the first few paragraphs musing over why Annabel would be referring to herself in the third person. HA!
Thank you, Emma! Often when I re-read my work, I suddenly see all the typos, so I’m glad it was OK the second time around, too!
And yes, I am Annabel’s alter-ego. :) That’d be pretty fun, actually!
Hi Emma, great to see you here and thanks for commenting. Trust me, as a mother I can relate to your tiredness:)
Kate – Lol. Maybe we could do a life swap like bewitched… i that the name of the movie… I could do with being a young, gorgeous New Yorker – but probably only for a day or two:)
Lovely post! Me too. I love that on my blog- in the action of writing for my blog, I have to become more myself. Which is my journey in a nutshell. My childhood was the opposite of yours- so I came into my adulthood not really knowing myself. I’m a very late bloomer. But, it’s a gift to come to yourself, whenever it happens. Thanks for this.
Kate, this is brilliant, funny and utterly engaging. I was there with you the whole way from plaid shorts to models in subways. “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.” I love this and I think it’s why I write too. Terrific guest post.
Loved it! One of my favourite things is to be reminded that we all trip on the rug ungracefully twice a day sometimes. I have noticed recently how I talk to myself…not good! And, hearing that other people have had their fantasy world ‘adjusted’ slightly and we are all trying to be the best we can just makes me feel a little more normal and relaxed :) Thanks for writing xx
Hi Teresa, thanks so much for you latest comment. Surely talking to yourself is not bad?! I do it all the time and have some very interesting converstations – finally someone who really listens and understands me! Lol:)
What a great post! I love good writing, and this is REALLY good writing. Kate – I enjoyed not only how you shared your heart so engagingly, but the heart itself.
And…the truth is people connect with stories. So when you’re being real and telling about your suck-y day, people can relate.
I actually love this idea of using a messed-up day to create “something lovely.” Your “closet of lost days” – what a fantastic metaphor. I am definitely going to start using my lost days to formulate some posts.
BTW, I am a home-schooling mom…for twenty years now. Have graduated two children (one has a Master’s degree; the other a Bachelor’s degree in business which he got when he was 20). I am still home-schooling my 16-year old and 8-year old. I also launched a home-school website in May.
Awesome! Hooray for homeschooling moms– some of the most creative, brave, and enterprising people out there. I’m rushing over to check out your website now.
This was an amazing post! I have to agree: there is something super therapeutic about blogging out one’s frustrations.
Kate, One of the best blogs I’ve read – almost poetic in parts. I related with you writing fantasy books from the time you were twelve as I did the same, and to your gentle upbringing, and rude awakening in New York. Your message, blogging about our mistakes and the learning process is invaluable and motivational. I certainly know what to do next.
Thank you!! That’s very kind. And now I’m curious about your fantasy writing! Tell me more sometime, please.
It is a great post. I do like the “just write through whatever place you happen to be in your life”concept. That’s where the realness is, that is where you find your voice, that is where your credibility lies….
The most admired bloggers are genuine and transparent. Thanks
Thanks for sharing Kate – quite an interesting read. You sure travelled a unique road.
Well I’m in good company then, my nose is also ‘generous’