Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

09 October 2017

A thing about meaning

Around the table at dinner, chatting in a corner with two Polish Dominikas, too many languages and I'm so tired and the pad thai was so heavy, it occurs to me: I don't think we're supposed to know what our meaning is.

I mean, it's cool if we do, but our meaning is different for everyone we encounter. Possibly the biggest lie our culture has asked us to swallow is that our lives should be about the pursuit of One Meaning, the Thing that will make work feel like passion and transform sleeplessness into virtue. When we find it, we will know, we will give everything to it and the world will reward us and we will be Fulfilled.

But I keep thinking about Van Gogh, surrounded by paintings no one wanted, my age when he shot himself. He means something. His work means something. He worked so hard to realise his value, to be someone, to matter somewhere, and he does. He will as long as there are humans who exist that appreciate art.

It's just that the value didn't manifest within his lifetime.

We spend so much time trying to make something of ourselves, overworking, letting stress infect our bodies and addle our minds, groping for the Thing that Clicks and Makes it All Matter, wondering what we're doing wrong. We can't even sit still and be calm because what could I be doing instead right now in my ongoing pursuit of purpose?

It's a fucking mill-grinding tragedy. And it's short-sighted, this assumption that your existence requires a market in the passing wink of time that constitutes your life.

Meaning happens in fragments. It's kaleidoscopic: What I mean to my friends, my mother, my business partner, my employees and my dude are all different things, often unrelated. I can't begin to understand the granularities of my value to them—the variables shift as our relationships evolve, and in every passing interaction.

And they should not be expected to have to quantify my value for me; you know when you are nourishing a relationship, you don't need KPIs for that.

How were we bamboozled into believing our meaning is singular, and that we must define it, the better to market it?

Maybe there is a gift in not knowing, in understanding that all that matters, really, is what we do with this moment right now. Sometimes that can mean self-care; we, like the planet, are finite resources. Sometimes that can mean being a good sister. Sometimes that can mean driving people to be better, conveying a message, giving someone a lecture about the importance of recycling, listening. Maybe it's enough to just be here—present, paying attention, seeing somebody.

It is so narrow, such myopic capitalist bullshit, to insist your existence should culminate in some kind of point that, properly realised, results specifically only in material gain for yourself.

You get that, right?

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.