My daily level of real life social interaction has plummeted to alarmingly low rates. Some days, I don't see anyone in person beside my husband or the mail man (who, these days, is wary of me, thanks to the time he had to shake one of tiny my dogs off his leg). Multiple days go by when I don't use my car, or really even leave the house, aside from my daily run and dog-walking.
Plenty of interviews are done over the phone, and many writing assignments have no need for venturing outside. I do relish in-person chats with the subjects of my stories, but these are often irregular and feel like tasty morsels in my week, not my daily routine cud.
OK, so I wave at neighbors when I walk the dogs, and sometimes stop to chat with them about the weather or what not. The local co-opp folks know me. On errands, I usually run into multiple people I know. Hugs are given and received, news is exchanged. I do schedule coffee dates. But, for the most part, during weekly "nine-to-five working hours," it's just me. Drinking cup after cup of coffee. Typing. Thinking. Mulling it over. Eating a snack. Deleting. Writing some more. Eating another snack....Revising. Re-revising. Realizing--suddenly, in a panic--I have to clean the airbnb because a guest from Canada is literally about to arrive at my front door. And..oh no! Have I brushed my teeth?
Yep. This is the reality of being a freelance writer working from home, which I've done for the past five years (since 2013). It's changed me in crazy ways, both good and bad. I am afraid to say that all the cliches are true. I sometimes write in my underwear (OK, 80 percent of the time, although yoga pants make up the rest of that number). I go on hikes when I want to, but worry I might get killed by some wacko on the trail because no one else is around. There are days I do not brush my teeth till far past noon, because--well, writing doesn't require me to do that, and when the rush of ideas hit, I am slave to it.
I've written in coffee shops and cafes, but not so much in the backyard or on the beach, even though I totally could. I interact with my dogs and commune with my chickens and vegetable garden daily. I have conversations with myself and often start the first few sentences of my next assignment while doing something else besides writing.
On the "off" hours, it's a different story: making art, going to shows, playing gigs, recording videos, touring, traveling, having my friends over for dinner, going on wild adventures in the van, songwriting, heading to an art event, catching up with family, wearing lipstick...This is the part people actually get to see, but it is not all of me. It's actually an extremely small percentage of my persona. You--and the internet--don't see the no makeup-ball cap wearing-sweaty-from-working-out-banging-on-the-keyboard-hour-before-deadline-Hayley. Or the making-a-podcast-that-I'm-sure-no-one-will-listen-to Hayley. The part of me that cringes, thinking thousands of people will read something I wrote, and knowing, too late, that I got it wrong. Instead, most people see the made up version--the one who wields a shiny guitar and looks about as perky as Dolly Parton in a wig shop.
As much as I hate to admit it, the internet provides me a crucial portal to the outside world. Not just the world outside my front door, or my town of San Luis Obispo, CA, but to everyone and everything else, period. It's a lot to take in, and I both love and loath it. I am proud to be active online. I have come to terms with it. Back in the late 90s, it was about finding a foothold out of a small town--a window into new subcultures and ways of living; it was about hope and necessity. Now, there is so much choice. What do I want to post? What do I want to build? Lately I have been into building and inspiring and activating my tribe, wherever those tribespeople may reside.
More often than not, "my people" aren't just local, or even people I spend time with on a regular basis. They are all over the country and the world. This gives me so much pleasure - knowing they are out there. It truly comforts me. I get a lot of emails, as we all do. That's nothing to brag about. I get emails for freelance writing work, advertising work, booking for my band, and just my personal correspondences, which also stretch into handful of beloved snail mail pen pals.
As I said in a previous blog post, the web doesn't have to be shitty. So often, we let it bog us down. We give up and throw up our hands and say, "Take me back to the old days! I can't keep up!"
This is a losing game and a negative story that needs to be rewritten. I reject it. The internet truly is magic, and not because it can show us thousands of baby hippo pictures with a single click. It is magic because WE are magic. The internet has not changed us. It has amplified us (both our strengths and our flaws).
We have more choice than we know what to do with. But we are in control. Like a radio station, you get to choose which channels to tune into and which to tune out. You get to choose what radio story you broadcast out over the airwaves.
W O M B Y I N
W O M B [ woom ]
THE PLACE IN WHICH ANYTHING IS FORMED OR PRODUCED: THE WOMB OF TIME; THE INTERIOR OF ANYTHING. A CELEBRATION OF LIFE
Y I N [ yin ]
THE FEMALE PRINCIPLE OF THE UNIVERSE ASSOCIATED WITH EARTH; FEMALE, NIGHT, MOON, LUNAR
M I S S I O N
INSPIRING ALL WOMEN THROUGHOUT ALL COMMUNITIES + IN THE ARTS TO EMPOWER THEMSELVES + EACH OTHER
V I S I O N
A COLLECTIVE COLLABORATIVE OF MUSIC, ART, + PHOTOGRAPHY BY + FOR THE WONDER OF ALL WOMEN
I remember the day I got an email from a group called WOMBYIN. At first, I was skeptical. Who was this group with the weird name--didn't women's studies majors spell women "womxn" back in the riot grrrl days? That brand of feminism is dusty, if not historically important. Were these two humorless hippie ladies looking for me to buy an eBook?
See, that is the standard internet response now. Negativity. Back in the early days, it was "OMG! I GOT MAIL!" now it's just this vague sense of dread, as if the mail is the dirt being poured over our coffin, and we're being buried alive. We are too quick to think: Is this another annoying email list I have been put on, just because I bought soap from that place/backed that kickstarter/went to that yoga class? Or... Is this a bill or an invite to my old elementary school friend's Facebook event, which is taking place halfway around the world? Is it just spam, the dreaded stuff that gunks up the gears?
It takes a lot of strength to be open to good news and good vibes. The past few years, it's the main thing I concentrate on: being open to receiving. Giving freely without expectation. Letting life breathe a little, but being deliberate in all things. OK, IM FUCKING TRYING, ALL RIGHT?
Well, this email turned out to be pure gold, not some horrific diet pill spam. In fact, (weirdly) it was an email from two women who had come to me with EXACTLY the kind of energy I have been putting out into the world. The kind of energy I want, desperately, to see MORE of. Weird how that happens, right? An Aside: Since tiny hands was elected, I have felt this "coming together" unity power more than ever among women I meet, online or otherwise and I think it is partially because, finally, we are OPEN to it.. For all its horribleness, this chain of events has activated a new, white hot feminist charge, and it's finally being validated and passed around. Granted, the charge has always been there, since forever...but it is more fiery and explosive. Don't you agree? Instead of circling each other with hackles raised, we're forming circles.
I have been riding that lightning bolt of power, just as so many of my friends have. I salute you all. That inspiration had kept me going, and I know it has empowered you, too. I have been chugging away at my shoe-string podcast, Sparkle and Destroy (subscribe on iTunes here), attending marches, speaking out, and generally trying to create community around strong, vocal women who have HAD ENOUGH (or as I like to call them, noisy nasty vibrant women you don't want to fuck with).
When you get an email filled with such explosive power and lovely, positive juices, one that wants to include you, and your music (and your voice) in a new collective of powerful female voices, there is only one response.
Joy! Happy happy! Joy joy joy! Thank you WOMBYIN for making the internet a little more MAGIC!
What do I mean by that?
Doing stuff on the internet these days is like throwing a stone off a cliff and praying it will somehow be thrown back at you. It nearly defies the laws of gravity. You have to stay true to yourself and think about the long game. You have to be intentional. Silence, or lack of likes, is not about the quality of your conversation. It really says more about the chatter happening everywhere else.
In a single email, I had found two new tribeswomen (or should I say tribeswombyin). Their names are Jessie Covets and Dina Lockridge of Los Angeles. They are bad asses. Aside from worshiping the moon and encouraging female artists in their own neck of the woods, they are on a mission to empower creative souls and artists from across the globe. HOW'S THAT FOR A NEW YEAR RESOLUTION?
Jessie has a soulful voice, disarming humor, and equally soulful band, True Violet. Dina, a brainy photographer and multi-talented artist, reminds me of Madonna, in the sense that she is extremely well spoken, a deep thinker, and so acutely empathic that you wonder if she might really be a witch. The latter part of our conversation turned into an impromptu reading, in which she imparted insanely valuable wisdom to me (She also has the same hard-to-place "world accent" that Madge has taken up over the past decade or so). In less words: These two should have their own show, or at least Youtube channel. If you agree, I encourage you to tell them so, too. They hang out a lot on Instagram.
Skyping these women, and recording our conversation, marked a first for me. I'd never used Skype for a podcast interview. Yes, it marked the beginning of new and improved sound quality for the podcast, but it also changed something in me. It also made me realize that--to my amazement--it doesn't matter how small or seemingly feeble your "personal brand" or "personal media outlet" may be. If you resonate with another human being, and that energy is passed back and forth, magic can happen. It spreads!
The thoughts and ideas shared in this episode are some of my favorite, and not just because they touch upon practical ideas of reaching out to "your tribe," which is my current obsession. I like the banter, the giggles, even the garbage truck that drove right through our conversation. I just like these ladies. My life is a little more magic because I met them. Together, we can and will take back the internet. Who's with me?!
Let me know what you think of this episode. Email me or send me a note on Insta. This episode also features a new song by True Violet, so stay tuned through the end!
That's all for now!
With a dog on my lap.
And maybe no pants.
And coffee breath for days.