Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

30 August 2017

Creative Constraints

Someone lamented last week that she can't write because inspiration strikes so rarely. How, she wondered, does one keep inspiration full and burning?

I suffer from this problem with my personal projects, but I also write for a living and have rarely missed a deadline. I've written double-digit amounts of blog posts in a day, spent years contributing regularly to various columns, and live on deadlines that expect a certain number of stories daily, weekly, monthly.

I am not always inspired. Sometimes I have to stare at something for a long time to find my way into a topic. Often I'm not happy with the door I found, but have to pound on anyway, because a deadline is a deadline. And even if a deadline is a deadline, it still has to engage both the buyer and the audience. You can't just call this stuff in.

Successful writing isn't the sole domain of geniuses or virtuosos, so blessed with inspiration that the cups of their sanity run over, transforming them into the tragic figures we like to fantasise about. Successful writing is as gristy as a day job: You show up, bleary-eyed, and sometimes hate what you're doing. But your job is simple: You find your way in. When you are paid to write, you have no choice.

But like I said, I suffer from that same whingey inspiration complaint with my personal projects. No one is paying me for those or expecting me to show up. If I never find the time to do them, if I'd rather binge watch all of GoT instead, no one will ever know. The world won't languish at its loss.

So I was thinking maybe the key is not waiting for inspiration but imposing your own constraints on stuff you're passionate about. Maybe it can't be money, not at outset, but there are more compelling levers than money: A writing group you respect and that you want to perform for. A promise to yourself to meet a word count daily, monthly, yearly, no matter what, no excuses. Finally beating NaNoWriMo.

This model has served me pretty well in knitting: All my friends are having babies and I've committed to knitting them all stuff. They're probably not always thrilled with the results (well, I hope they are—that's my blood, sweat and tears, man) but it's something they've come to expect, and the deadlines of births have become as much a driving force as money.

It's also a model that served Bill, Darryl and me well when we wrote Generation Creation. Every week we had a Skype call. Every week we were expected to show up and do our little part to avoid letting everyone else down. We had a book in a year.

If I can do the same thing with my personal writing, I won't be in a bad place. I just need to find my lever.

Seen from this perspective—just a matter of finding the right lever—there's very little that seems difficult. Inspiration is a pipe dream. It comes if it comes, but it's an unfaithful lover: Appreciate it when it's there, but don't, like, try building your life on top of it.

28 August 2017

Revolutions

I started this blog in 2005 with a secret plan, the kind you hatch in college when everything is possible and all the world is new: I'd curate some cool advertising and marketing-related stuff happening on big sites already doing that, then punt myself to editors and ask them to hire me.

Ad blogs were plentiful, growing fat at that stage where they're rapidly commodifying and there are plenty of big players, but shakeout and consolidation hasn't happened yet. I still had a personal Xanga, back when private blogs for just a few people were still something that existed.

My plan worked: I became a writer, then, in due course, an editor, and I dedicated my pen to the places that paid me, leaving Live and Uncensored to languish. With time this site evolved again—mostly into a place where I curated cool ad stuff and talked about my movements.

Then the sector changed, as sectors do. The aforementioned shakeout happened and I was laid off, right as I'd arrived in Paris, convinced I was stable enough to unhook from my built-in ecosystem and try making a whole new life from scratch. Ha! the universe said. I see you testing the ocean, you silly small-town fish. Meet the fucking sharks.

"You're still young; you can always move back in with your parents," an editor told me as he dropped the axe and I watched the sun set through the window of my 500 square-foot Paris apartment. I hadn't even emptied the boxes yet.

When Adrants and MarketingVOX cut me loose, I didn't know it then but the timing was right. On the MarketingVOX side I'd been asked to get rid of all my journalists and found myself alone, writing up to 16 articles a day, with few vacations and little downtime. Every time I asked, I got the same answer: "Lots of writers want your job." They weren't wrong, but I was also too young to understand the extent of what was being asked of me. I was too young not to fear my obsolescence.

So when the blog universe collapsed in the wake of the subprime crisis, I was so tired that I didn't ever want to write again, and I got lucky: In France, Adrants and MarketingVOX had pretty good brand equity. Contagious, and all the cooler publications that would follow, were still young and new. So French publications, ad agencies and startups reached out and said, "Hey, we feel like we know you; let us help."

Our sector, which is historically fickle, saved me and I will never forget it.

I went into strategy and still wrote, but less—maybe a handful of articles a week, for a smattering of advertising and tech publications for French brands putting feelers out to the English-speaking market.

Live and Uncensored slid into stasis.

At the same time all this was happening, personal blogging also underwent an evolution. Xanga fell apart, and even Blogger—where this blog still lives—lost equity to sites like Posterous and Tumblr. Medium rose up with its cool-hunter cachet, and suddenly there didn't seem to be a point in blogging about one's life unless it was in the interest of advancing the narrow themes of your Personal Brand.

I wrote less and less and less here, finding occasional solace in a minor concept called Inklust, which I made just because I wanted to be able to share quotes from books I was reading.

As websites slid out of style, aggregator sites where you could store all your social and work links in a sassy format—like flavors.me and the about.me—rose to glory, and I redirected angelanatividad.com from here to a flavors.me page. There it remained for at least a handful of years, driving people to a short bio where they could quickly jump to my Facebook, my LinkedIn, my articles, whatever they wanted.

In the meantime, Live and Uncensored got its own URL, where it remained in the quiet, gathering random hits from hopeful porn-seekers. I'd come back a few times a year, when I had a quote to share or something new to say (usually related to some world tragedy currently in progress).

Much has happened since. I started writing for Adweek and launched my own agency, Hurrah. I wrote a book, Generation Creation, with two of my best friends in the world. I began applying for naturalisation in France. I learned how to make pancakes. I quit smoking for a week.

Last week I went away on a writers retreat and the world changed again: Flavors.me is shuttering, and About.me probably isn't far behind. It turns out we are as interested in aggregator sites as we are in websites.

So I've redirected angelanatividad.com back here, where it belongs and where perhaps it should have been pointing all along. More than a decade of my life passed and this little corner of the internet has been the only place I could return to. It bore witness as we reinvented ourselves with each new morning in the arms race of social relevance. And while I went off and tried setting roots elsewhere, at places that became other things, Live and Uncensored remains—the site of my crash-landings and rebirths.

I'd like to promise to write more consistently here, as I've done many times in 12 or so years, but experience says that isn't likely. What I do know is that I'll keep coming back.

In the face of relentless change, that's something, isn't it?

17 August 2017

Just a minute

There is a strange grief that accompanies watching your country succumb to its demons from a distance. It cannot be shared, set aside or forgotten. It never fully coalesces into visible alarm.

Instead it presses down—on your hands as you buy bread, and on your lungs as you discuss mundanities. It colours your dreams. Sleep becomes thin. This grief possesses its own gravity.

My heart is broken ... not because I did not believe this wolf existed, but because I had hoped, armed with our many proofs of history, that we would not so readily, so gleefully, feed it.

I used to joke that if I could convey something to a future people about this moment now, it would be "It isn't what it looks like." But it is, isn't it? We are breaking ourselves in half over pigment, tribal claims and delusions of supremacy. We have unbridled our monsters.

It is important to fight. We have never had a choice. The call to arms beckoned at every right lost and every innocent person felled, sullied and undefended. We should have been more vigilant, should have recognised that freedoms are not abstractions but progressive, tangible conditions that must be guarded.

So we will fight, and now we will bleed, and certain alternate futures—once very close—will slide again out of reach, because that is what it costs to wait.

But, because I am tired and there is so much noise, I wanted to grieve. Just here, for a minute.

23 April 2017

Inklust #23: Attic of Boredom



How often have I wished for the attic of my boredom when the complications of life made me lose the very germ of all freedom!
The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard


I've been thinking a lot about boredom and how we don't have to do it anymore. From a single device that fits in my pocket I can manifest music or a story, lovingly recounted; read thousands of books; scope trends or talk to people I already know. I never have to be alone again—or reach earnestly outside myself, seeking stimulation or solace.

More and more lately, I miss the grasping boredom of childhood that made time stretch and forced games out of dirt. So my latest project has been cultivating boredom, forcing myself to switch off and let my gaze wander.

I'm loath to report any benefits of this, because I think we're all a little too focused on silver bullets for productivity. I don't want everything in my life to amount to a better way to work. But I think it's given me a better way to be. To be continued.

Photo Credit: april-mo Flickr via Compfight cc 

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What is "Inklust"? Boy am I glad you asked. Here's the manifesto: part I and part II.

02 March 2017

Two Strange Stories About Stones


  1. The curse of the ownerless, secured Bahia Emerald, which is apparently the size of a mini-fridge.
  2. Scientists turned hydrogen into a metal, whose implications range wide for humanity ... then lost the only sample.

If you've never read Stoned, a witty and wonderful book about rocks we consider precious and why, do. And if you're not subscribed to Next Draft, pretty much one of three newsletters in all of life worth reading—and the curator source for these two particular stories—I hope you do that, too.

30 January 2017

How to Be a Superhero in Ugly Times

A lot of people feel helpless right now because Rome is burning, etc. Many of us are looking for things to do. Here are a few I've managed to drum up.

This list isn't so different from many you've probably seen circulating the 'net, but mine is specific to what feels feasible for me and people like me—media-oriented folks who are fairly active on social and can make somewhat liberal decisions about how they spend their time. Maybe something will resonate with you. (Also, please consider this a supplement to calling your congresspeople and voting, which I hope you're doing already, if you're able.)

Also, this was inspired by Michael Miraflor, who asked his Facebook followers how media/ad folks can be useful.

DONATE

If donating is all you're able to do right now, here's a list of nine organisations that help refugees, and Arabs or Muslims that the administration is Hitlering. This includes the ACLU, which filed a petition for habeas corpus that empowered a federal judge to issue a stay on that one guy's executive order, barring people from certain countries—including green card holders and veterans—from entering or re-entering the country for the immediate future.

That stay didn't hold long. But at least they're working on the problem.

I also advocate for brands to demonstrate their dissent—not just by saying stuff, but also by putting money where it matters, like Lyft just did for the ACLU. It's proof of values, and anybody in a position of power can bend the world by using it to support systems for good.

Lastly, I recommend donating to reputable news sites, like The Guardian, PBS or NPR. We need them now more than ever. The latter two are especially endangered as they benefit from the federal cultural program budget—which makes up 0.02% of federal spending, and which the regime wants to cut.

Also, you might get a tote bag! Hurray for tote bags.

FOLLOW

Rogue government accounts. US government agencies and workers will now have a harder time relaying actual facts to constituents. These include NOAA, NASA, the CDC, and even the bloody National Park Service. Scientists and other dissenters have, as a result, mounted rogue Twitter accounts to go on enforcing their duties to Americans and the world at large.

HELP DEFUND LIES

Alternate facts and fake news are euphemisms for, well, lies. If you want to politicise it, call it propaganda. One of the biggest tools that helped organise and fuel the Alt Right are sites that slant truth to stoke fear, suspicion and the desire to retaliate against people who are generally just pursuing the right to wake up in the morning without fear of reprisal, deportation or getting groped on public transport.

An organisation called Sleeping Giants is encouraging people to screenshot ads that appear alongside content from Breitbart, then tweet them to companies so they'll cut them out of their programmatic ad buys. It's not an all-encompassing solution, but it hurts Steve Bannon's misery vehicle and puts mass pressure on companies to take ownership of where their content appears (and what it endorses by proximity).


CURATE CONSCIOUSLY

A lot of us have gotten caught up in the whirling dervish of sharing stuff we think is important via Facebook and Twitter. I know it's an act that's easy to write off, but it's perfectly valid dissent. Why? Because I'm a Game of Thrones fan.

Why that matters: I didn't care about GoT. I was totally impermeable to its marketing and story. Never read the books. But the fact that I heard it, saw reactions to it and was accosted by an unending array of memes about it throughout my social life (online and offline) made it feel important by proximity. Never underestimate the power of FOMO.

You might think you're preaching to the choir, but you really don't know who sees what you're doing. (And considering that the Gov is now considering asking visitors for their social media handles, your views could even have consequences. Don't think they won't start poking into what Americans are doing.)

To curate effectively, work out what kind of news sources you can trust to pass along. This image is a fair step in the right direction, but don't forget to vet data yourself. If something sparks an immediate, angry emotion, look for a source. Check the source to see if something small was taken out of context to spark a big feeling. 

It costs nothing but a minute or two, and it makes everyone smarter. Including you.



DO PRO-BONO

Many of us aren't strangers to freelancing. And while we're all pressed for time, it's worth picking a cause, an organisation that supports it, and offering services. Make your capacities clear so they know what to tap you for. This can include copywriting, graphic design, coding, whatever. 

Orgs need hands. They'll be glad to use yours, however much you can give. (Hadji Williams does this, and suggested it on Michael's stream. Thanks, Hadji.)

In this vein (and again, found on that same stream), check out:


  • Project Hive, a millennial-focused project run by the UN refugee committee that's looking for ways to raise awareness via digital. 
  • CreateAthon, which organises pro-bono marketing campaigns for nonprofits.
  • Datakind, a company that works on projects based on whether they're using "data for good." Alongside Microsoft's Civic Tech department, they also hold monthly lectures on the subject. Chapters are open in lots of places.
  • The Taproot Foundation, which lets you post your pro-bono skills online so somebody who needs you can find you.

For all of the above, a hat-tip goes to Deborah Debroschka—and of course Michael, because, well, his stream and all.

LIVING IN NEW YORK? PICK YOUR CAUSE

Another jewel from Michael's stream: We Are New York Values, which makes local volunteering as easy as a click. Is beating Islamophobia your jam? What about gun violence, or providing legal assistance? Find your box, click and get ready to rumble. (H/T Anthony Tshering)

START A SYRIAN SUPPER CLUB

This is something I'm looking to kick off in Paris. Syrian Supper Clubs take many forms, but the idea is pretty much the same: Somebody cooks Syrian food, people pay for a seat at the table, and the money either goes to a non-profit org or a Syrian family. I really like this variation—where you tap a Syrian refugee to cook, invite others to eat and mix with your buddies, and the money goes to the cook and his/her fam. But the main SSC link has a toolkit, which is handy.

You don't have to organise one alone. Do it with friends, in a park, or talk your company or agency into hosting one. (Image credit: Matt Katz/WNYC.)


KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN FOR OPPORTUNITIES

Help takes shape in all kinds of ways. Your desire to help—to talk about things, to pore over what's possible—already makes a difference, and your contribution may take none of the forms I mentioned. Maybe it's just putting two people together who catalyse something important. 

Don't take anything you could possibly do for granted, but don't let yourself get overwhelmed by the enormity of this task, either. Offering someone your seat on the bus, being kind, sticking up for a person who needs help, and expressing interest in people who are different from you are worth a world already.

It's trickles that break dams.