#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?

 

Introducing Eliana Mercedes, Blogger Child

 

A conversation with Eliana, my almost-six-year-old.

Me: Baby? What do you think of when I say the word "beauty?"

Eliana: Beast.

Me: I like it. But let's think of things you think are beautiful. What are the first five things you can think of?

Eliana (thinking): Flowers. And butterflies. And Princesses.

Me: Anything else?

Eliana: Yep. Love. And people's spirits. That makes them beautiful.

This will be my daughter's first transcribed post as a contributor to Holly Fulger's Speaking of Beauty blogging team. She talks. I type what she says. Or maybe vlog it. It all depends on if she's feeling like a rock star or a writer when it's time to work like Mama.
And this is the bio I wrote up for her.

 Eliana Mercedes is the daughter of The Husband and writer Pauline M. Campos. Up until now, she has been known online simply as Buttercup. But this homeschooling first-grader is now a blogger, which means Eliana Mercedes looks better in a byline. She has no idea what that means yet and only hopes it includes the chance to adopt a baby beluga and visit Disney World one day.

I'm kind of proud. Kind of scared. And maybe a little crazy. But keep in mind that this child does not watch TV with commercials and has no concept of the media trying to brainwash us all into a singular concept of beauty. That's exactly why I cannot wait to see what she has to say next.

 

Other People's Moments

Sometimes I forget. Maybe because it's easier to not think about the power each word can hold. When thought, when written, when shared with anyone who may read them. Maybe it's a defense mechanism. If I let myself concentrate on the fact that each time I write the moments that aren't designed to make you laugh but, rather, make you do anything but, I probably would have stopped writing long ago.

That's probably why I prefer to let myself believe that only faceless strangers read my words. I might know your twitter handle and talk to you on Facebook, but you don't know about the fact that, at six years old, I was terrified to go to sleep for fear of never waking up after attending my grandmother's funeral unless I tell you and not because you were actually there.

And therein lies the only sense of control I really need.

I choose what to reveal. I choose the tone. Will I strive for laughter or aim for angst-ridden tears? Will I share enough to be relatable or just enough to make you curious? I dunno...

It all depends on my mood.

That's not something I can control. Not when it comes to the pathways between my brain and my fingers, anyway. I might be cracking wise verbally and prepared for laughs when I sit down to write but that's not how it always happens. When my fingers connect with the keyboard something strange happens; my thoughts begin to sift through a sort of funnel that seems to be designed to only let through the ones that need to breathe because the rest can wait until another day. I write, sometimes not blinking until I've finished an essay or a blog post, all energy focused on telling whatever truth there is in the very moment I am trying to show you in the way it needs to be told.

I forget because I'm just doing what comes as naturally to me as breathing. I forget because that's how I write.

But then I read someone else's words and am brought into someone else's moment and that's when I remember.

***

This post was inspired by an essay submitted to an anthology I'm working on putting together. Want to know the definition of really good writing? When your words inspire the birth of more words. Thank you, Mercedes. For inspiring me.

Go Ahead...Guess What I've Been Reading Lately...

If you give a writer an idea, she'll probably ask for some inspiration to go with it. When you give her the inspiration, she might procrastinate on Twitter for a bit.

Making up new hashtags and ignoring auto DMS will make her lose track of time so you'll give her a well-intentioned Facebook threat to get back to writing which she will miss because she was on Google +.

When she finally sees your GET BACK TO WRITING status update, she'll decide you meant her blog. So she'll post there about how hard she's working on her book.

Then she will post her blog link on Twitter and Facebook and Google + and a random gas station bathroom wall and get sucked into talking about writing again, specifically, how much time it takes.

She'll eventually toggle back to her manuscript document and promise herself to dive in but the blinking cursor will scare her away again.

She'll decide she needs to go read a book instead.

First, she'll browse her e-book library.

Then she'll glance through her hard copy collection sitting on her nightstand.

She might even open one of them up and get lost in someone else's words.

After she reads, she'll want to interview her characters.When they start talking back, she'll smile bigger and hunch over her keyboard just a bit more intently.

When her favorite character reveals her love for four-inch stilettos, she'll want to go shoe shopping.

She'll want you to come, too.

It's research, and her accountant will wonder why he was crazy enough to accept a writer as a client.

You'll take her to Dress Barn because who just buys a new pair of shoes for that really big date with the main character's love interest? She'll update her Facebook status about how much she loves research. She mentally works the outfit into her chapter five and saves the receipts to piss off her accountant.

She'll want to head to Starbucks next. You'll order a Tall Skinny Half-Calf Mochaccino with soy milk, and she'll ask for a Venti Iced Green Tea with three honeys. You will both proceed to ignore each other in real life while tweeting each other online and pretend you don't notice chairs scraping the floor as other customers move just a bit further away from your table as you randomly break into seemingly uncharacteristically synchronized laughter.

This only makes you both laugh harder. At the same time. Then you'll sip your Mochaccino and she'll slurp on her Green Tea.

The Green Tea will remind her that the main character's love interest's mother loves a a squeeze of lemon in her own teacup. She'll ask you for a notebook.

First, she'll scribble a few notes. Then she'll give you back your notebook and tweet that her muse lives on Starbucks.

When Starbucks closes, you'll be the last to leave.

On the way home, she'll read you the funniest comments on her blog post about how hard writing her book is from her iPhone email app. Then she'll want to share her responses to the original comments.

When you get home, she'll ask for that notebook again. She might even find the page she scribbled her notes on.

Seeing the notes will remind her of the inspiration that got her going. She'll probably ask you to beta. And chances are,

if you give her any encouragement,

she'll get a new idea to go with it.

The Cathartic Chicken

I think I have blogger's block. Normally, I've got about a million ideas swimming through my head with roughly 95% of them earmarked for Blog Posts I Would Have Time to Write if I Hired a Nanny and by the time I sit down at night to get the ideas on the screen, I have to decide which idea gets to be born into words and off I am on my merry way. Lately, however, I've been struggling. Maybe it's lack of motivation. Maybe it's stress. Or maybe I most likely need to borrow some of HC Palmquist's Ambien or Robin O'Bryant's pet Leroy and see where those avenues take me for inspiration. I had originally been thinking of buying a huge metal chicken named Beyonce to be my muse, but looks like that's already been done. So instead I've been finding myself staring at an empty square on my screen waiting to hold my words while Add New Post kinda just stand there, mocking me.

A new post about what? Maybe it's just me, but I sometimes wonder if I need to filter my moods when deciding what to post. When it comes to blog hits, funny works. Introspective? Not so much. But that leads me to question why I am blogging anymore if my only desire is to see an upward trend in readership because if 'm not writing for myself first than who am I writing for?

I'm not going to take some bullshit high-road and tell you that I've reached nirvana and no longer care what you or anyone else thinks and will be happy to just share my words on a public forum that no one other than myself makes time to read. I'm not going to tell you that being authentic is more important than being popular, mainly because, even through I agree with the sentiment, the blatant overuse of the word when it comes to blogging makes me want to pull my hair out. And I'm certainly not going to tell you that while your writing needs to be for you before it's for anyone else, you had better damned well be thinking about your audience and your numbers and your popularity and your ability to network with other writers/bloggers/social media innovators to get your name out there for the sake of that Godforsaken platform because we're happy your authentic blog that you write for religiously and maintain just for you because the mere act of sharing your words even if no one else is reading them is cathartic in and of itself but really? Who told you all that shit didn't matter?

It's all very chicken and egg-like. It doesn't matter if our dream is to connect with others in the same place in life (shout out to all the Mommy Bloggers and a big WHAT UP to the Writer Mama's out there!), or if we are trying to keep our heads above water in an ever-rising sea of expectations regarding what we need to have accomplished to be deemed worthy of a book deal (Bump-its come to mind), or if we just want to prove to ourselves that after wrangling the kids all day and looking for that nerve you are pretty sure you just had, we can still string together a sentence for other adults that don't include the words "potty, nigh' night, or Dammit, how many times do I have to tell you not to flash strangers your Hello Kitty panties to strangers in the middle of Target?" A dream is a dream is a dream. It's just up to us to sift through the bullshit on the way, kick any and all irrelevant emotional baggage to the curb (being careful to store away the relevant emotional baggage for later use in the appropriate essays, articles, books, and or blog posts), and decide each and every time we sit down to send our words out into the universe what drew us to do so.

For me? This blog is my personal space which I publicly share. Sometimes I'm snarky, funny, offensive. Others I am introspective, reflective, and revealing. You might not like or appreciate the snark or maybe introspective isn't your thing. And that's okay. I'm not writing for you. I'm writing for me. And if something I say just happens to connect with someone who just happened to stop by on a particular day, that will be enough for me. I wore a mood ring as a child to let the world know without speaking the color of the thoughts I carried within my head. Now, there's an app for that.

So which came first, y'all?

The chicken or the egg? The inspiration to share or the inspiration to influence?