One Day in the Life of Rachel Charlene Lewis
I pretend that my work space is my desk, but my real work space is on this cushion I keep on the floor in the corner of my living room. I pretend that I write best on a laptop, but I write best on dry erase boards or in marker on my legs. I pretend that I write regularly, but my writing is sporadic and I often cry while I do it.
For me, being a writer is a lot about navigating the space between what I should be doing—getting an MFA, writing every day, publishing in fancy places—and what I actually want to be doing: sitting in a circle on the floor with other writers and talking about how we can better accomplish what we seek to accomplish, and not be miserable while doing it.
I write as a means of preventing my own destruction. It sounds dramatic and expected. I’m okay with that. I write nonfiction, but I really write these weird prose poem things that some people have published as nonfiction and other people have published as poetry. I don’t care about genre.
I edit, which I love. Reviewing submissions to Vagabond City gives me the same feeling as seeing a piece I worked really fucking hard on published. Publishing other people’s work, and watching them shine and soar and get published elsewhere—like, what the fuck, it feels so good. One of our writers, Sophia Terazawa, got a chapbook published by Essay Press and Sophia was SO excited and SO bubbly in the email she sent me, and I was like, alright. I’m down with this part of the professional side of writing.
I bought Vagabond City a domain name, and I’m like, this could be a ridiculous decision—I’m basically a scrambling freelancer, but I’m also really desperate to save money—but it also makes me feel so good to see that .com in a way that is probably bad and capitalist. But it makes me feel legit. And it makes my staff feel legit. So I feel good about it.
So, like, my writing life. I am always sending out work. I am always reading my friends work. We only communicate through sporadic Skype chats and sending each other poems and chapbooks, basically, at this point. The fact that I was basically looped into a writers collective as of, like, middle school, has undoubtedly shaped the way I write.
On a regular basis, I write something weird, upload it to my friend’s “Our Writing” Dropbox, check on submissions for Vagabond City, and begin scheduling pieces for The Fem.
Ah, The Fem. My feminist child. Me and Autumn Spriggs kicked it off a little over a year ago now, and somehow we have like 3,000 people who pay attention to it in a way that can be measured, and it’s baffling and magic and important. If you follow us on Twitter you’ll make my day, I swear to you.
For me, writing is very much about combatting pretentious bullshit and calling out writers who suck and supporting, deeply and truly, writers who are talented and just good people. I’m incapable and disinterested in separating “good writers” and “good people.” I will not support bad people. I’m not sure why that’s even a continual debate in the literary world.
I feel most comfortable in the small, weird writer spaces on Twitter. In workshops, I feel out of place all the time. I want to get into community workshop spaces, but I’m nervous. I’m young and people tend to talk down to me in ways I don’t like. I also hate explaining my experiences to people who think I should have to Google the old white dude writers they reference in their work, but won’t Google “queer.”
The most important thing (for me) I’ve written was a piece I got published in The Offing. It was my first recognition of my mental health and my own deterioration and I wrote the first version of it the day after I had my first major anxiety attack/breakdown. It was me acknowledging my own shit and just being in awful physical and mental pain. I was sitting on my bedroom floor and sobbing and my ribs hurt so bad and I’d just layered my face in this weird raw honey I bought online and was trying to find a way to do the self care thing and failing so hard. So I cried off my honey and wrote to myself.
I’m basically a young angry writer who doesn’t know what to do with herself. All of my identity has been built and solidified and validated by my own writing. That’s why I can’t stop, even when it sucks and makes me cry and write poems on my knees.
I seek community and a level of okay-ness that I’m still searching for. I just want to be okay.
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