#ChingonaFest: More than We Are

An Artist Trading Card of mine. Make your dreams a reality. I'm not new here. In fact, I'm what some of you may refer to as a veteran blogger (but I'm not really. I know a few who've been doing this way longer). But before I was a blogger with a column in one of my favorite magazines, I was a writer with a dream.

It was a simple dream, really. I was eight when I decided I was going to write books one day and maybe 10 when I dug my (obviously clueless) heels in and selected Canadian middle-grade author Gordon Kormon as my basis for having my own books on the shelves by the time I was 13. That's how he did it and it seemed simple enough. Write a full-length middle grade novel for an English assignment and blow the socks off my teacher who would then prep the manuscript for me to send to publishing houses and wait for the offers to start rolling in.

Seemed easy enough, right? Seemed would be the key word here.

An original Ink Drawing: Show of Strength

I could lie and say I totally rocked my pie in the sky three-Year- Plan but it wouldn't even be a good lie. And to be honest, I'm pretty sure the chocolate-flavored angst that followed the year I turned 13 and realized I had failed at life, consequently sending me spiraling into my first midlife-crisis, is the kind of angst every good writer needs tucked up inside. This is the kind of inner-artistic-creative-crazy IAMTHEBESTWRITEREVER tempered, naturally with Doubt (IAMTHEWORSTWRITEREVER) and a smidgen of necessary self-righteousness (thoseASSHOLESdon'tknowTALENTDammit!), that I think most writers would refer to as our inner drive. It's the source of our creativity and the reason we keep going when agents tell us our platform sucks because a platform that doesn't exist usually does. As do the platforms that aren't big enough to guarantee 10,000 copies sold if a publisher were to bite.

Sleepy Moon Series: Moon # 4 of 15.

Honestly, it's pure ego that keeps those of us with vision boards and high school classmates to impress at the next reunion from just saying Fuck It and changing our name to Snooki before querying again because platforms mean name recognition and publicity, not innate writing ability and Stop Looking at me Like That. I didn't  say I think Snooki can't write or ask the Gods of all Things Literary why agents don't just stop telling us that we need anything other than a reality show, a bump it, and a good spray tan because Really? No, my friends. I didn't say anything of the sort.

That would be unprofessional.

*Nods head solemnly*

Another ATC/ACEO card. I love making these and using bits of Kathy Murillo's paper from her Michael's line in my work.

What I said was that I didn't get a book deal the first time out the gate 'cuz I was 13 and nowhere near ready to be published. What I did get was secure in my identity as a writer. I called my friends at 11 p.m. at night on school days with my newest essay on Life and All Things Hormonal, freshly typed out on my new typewriter, and read to them the words that formed the path I was (and still am) dead-set on following. That's all well and good, except that in telling myself I was a writer, I inadvertently also told myself that I was only a writer.

Imagine my surprise when I sat down just last year to hand draw a set of animal note cards for a homeschool lesson and The Husband -- all sweet and surprised-like -- told me that my drawing didn't suck. High praise, you guys. High praise.

But it was enough to send me into an entirely new direction, complete with watercolor pencils and acid-free drawing paper and an etsy shop in which I sometimes remember to post my latest little creation. Even with art being commissioned by friends and strangers alike and the occasional sale from the artsy things I did manage to post, I still had a really hard time referring to myself as an artist. And don't even get me started on the inner-struggle I wasted five minutes on regarding the Being a Photographer thing. I am a writer, remember? I couldn't possibly be more than that because that's all I had ever allowed myself to be. Until, at least, I accidentally remembered I wasn't too shabby at this drawing and painting and mixed media thing and stopped telling myself I couldn't be more than I thought I was.

Original Mixed Media: Autobiography by Pauline Campos

We can all be more than we are because we already are more than we realize, usually. All we need to do is own our own potential.

And if that doesn't work, I suggest talking to yourself like you would your crazy talented and inspiring BFFs who you swear to God you are going to bitch-slap if they don't stop minimizing themselves and their talents and just say Thank You for once because Dammit, that's what you do when someone pays you a compliment, already. Honestly, it's like we can't create enough variations on the "I look good? But look at this ASS! No way, Bestie, YOU LOOK GOOD!' 'Really? BUT THIS TUMMY FLAB!'" bullshit we seamlessly fall into when trying to compliment our Best Amigas. Why can't we just learn to shut up and take a fucking compliment?

Good Hair Day. Photo by Pauline Campos

We can pay them forward all day long and we mean them when we say them to the women we care about. Which makes me think I had the "Stop Defining Yourself Through Other People's Eyes" thing wrong. Maybe we need to do the exact opposite, if the Other People are the ones telling us that we are Beautiful, Smart, Important, Talented, Funny, Inspiring, and Chingona to the hilt, that is. Maybe it's the perspective change that we need because we've been brainwashed to always see ourselves as Less Than because Celebrating Ourselves is seen as improper and stuck up  --  which is complete and utter bullshit, y'all.

Bull...

Shit.

So maybe the trick is to start with changing the inner dialogue and swapping our own internal Critical Tia for that of a good friend. Look in the mirror and let HER tell YOU why you are All Things Fabulous. You'll know you're doing it wrong if you suck at being a friend and tell your besties that they suck at that thing that they secretly think they might be sort of good at. If that's the case, I'm betting your friendship circle totally gets bigger if you give my way a try. You can thank me later.

A Mile in Her Shoes. Photo by Pauline Campos

Obviously, I eventually got over myself -- at least in this particular case -- and that was a good thing. I'm still a writer. But now, I'm more. And I like it that way.

Now it's your turn. I don't often ask for comments on my writing here, but the point of this Aha! Moment of mine is that we all could use a reminder here and there to swing our hips a bit more confidentially and to stop playing the Humble Card because Self-Pride is entirely underrated. Whether you are a proud member of the #ChingonaFest community or a writer, blogger, or fledgling underwater basket weaver, you are always more and capable of so much more than which you give yourself credit. Always Celebrate Who You Are. No One Else is Going to Do It For You. That's one of my most popular Chingonafest quotes, and for good reason. We are too often told that , as women and, for many of us, as women of color, that we aren't supposed to be anything but humble and unsure of ourselves outside of cultural and societal dictates.

I'm a writer. An Artist. A Mother. Wife. Sister. Daughter. Photographer. Friend.

I'm creative, driven, bull-headed, caring, bitchy, sarcastic, and sassy.

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I'm that and I'm more and I'm ready to be open to the possibilities of what and who I may become tomorrow and proud of who I was yesterday, just as I am of myself and my capabilities today. And this is where I leave the ball in your court.

Tell me, amigas...

Who are YOU?