I’ve been counting my deep breaths lately. The ones that seem to reach beneath my lungs to an extra reserve I didn’t know was there. It’s become my unsubstantiated litmus test for determining whether my chest tightness is a symptom of coronavirus or anxiety (or hypochondria, although I’m no longer sure there’s a difference). Today I’ve had four.
Hi Haley, first of all I want to tell you I admire you, I admire your writing and the original and sharp point of view you're always able to share. I'm writing from Italy and I'm a freelance illustrator. I'm saying these things because when I say I understand what your fears are and how it feels to live in a country in lockdown, without a fixed salary, I really mean it. I read your long Twitter thread and this last newsletter and I agree with your subscriber who said "these are dark yet clarifying times". When Corona Virus hit Italy more than a month ago I had to change all the work plans I had for the upcoming months (events were cancelled, commissioned work postponed, clients disappeared and my side job as an English teacher - because as a freelance I do have a side job - suspended too). This situation paralyzed me. Then, maybe speaking with my therapist, maybe speaking with my boyfriend, maybe because I just took some time for myself, writing things down, trying to really understand what I could do in these weeks, something changed. As a freelance, I've been aware for quite a while that I can't rely on commissioned jobs. They're too uncertain, they depend on criteria I can't control (like you said in your thread), they disappear in hard times. I can count only on myself. Then if commissions come I'm happy to work on them, but my working life, my mental balance can't be based only on that. That's why I started working to empower my skills, to concentrate on what I like, to understand what I like and pursuing it. These weeks have, hence, turned into "clarifying times" for me. I've started working on my own projects, studying and seeing how I can make a living (and a real business) out of this personal work. Something has started moving and I now see a path for myself I hadn't noticed before. This is to tell you that this newsletter, all you feel like doing and feel it's useful to others because it fills a void in the communication/journalism market is worth doing. Don't let this darkness prevent you from creating your own opportunities. You are more than skilled to do it. I'll be supporting you on Patreon and can't wait to see all your upcoming projects. Sorry for the very long comment. Wish you all the best!
Please keep sharing your recommended reads!
I'm going to take the phrase "emotional kidney stone," with me everywhere I go
I feel you, Haley. Beautiful and articulate as always. Also that NY Times article... so good. Ironically, after reading it I spent way too long reading that twitter thread on Ellen DeGeneres, trying to figure out whether she is a mean ass lady or not!!
Sigh. I am so glad you are here. Reading your writing has always been clarifying for me -- a recognition, an "oh! Someone else's brain thinks like this too!" Especially now, my tendency is to think through and write metaphors and wrap things up in a beginning, middle, and end, and what this letter reminded me of is that I need to relish in the languishing (don't even know if that sentence makes sense, resisting the urge to Google - because here. we. are).
Hi Haley! I loved this read. So beautiful!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)
Can I just share that I cried--like, full on disgusting sobbing--after reading the paragraph about your career in writing because I haven't felt so seen in a very long time, and it was comforting to know that someone was going through the same thing. I'm not a "traditional" writer per se, I work in advertising--but there's always been pressure to have a ~career~ filled with stints in the most prestigious agencies, even though the big, award-winning places reduce your well-being and personal relationships to dust.
Late last year I made the move to a different department (from Creatives to Strategy) and a different, lesser-known agency. Before I moved I consulted with a former colleague, who warned me that I was committing career suicide. My former boss told me the same thing when I spoke to him about my resignation. I've been at the new job for a few months now, and things have been wonderful--but there's always this voice at the back of my head telling me that I made the wrong decision, giving up the glitterati and prestige of a "named" employer to move to a smaller outfit. I've been grappling with this wave of insecurity ever since.
You may not even see this or read it in its entirety--but thank you. Thank you for your words, which are helping so many of us out there (even across the world, where I am--hello from Asia!) deal with this difficult and anxiety-inducing time. I discovered your writing through the piece you wrote on Man Repeller about The Parent Trap (my favorite movie!) and I've admired your thoughtful, poignant, and resonant voice ever since. You've got a fan for life--I look forward to reading more of your words!
Hellllooooo Haley! I'm a college student in an art school but I love to write and would extra love to hear about how you have been forcing yourself to write during this time and how your "creative practice", as they say, was before and now?
P.S. Thank you for producing Maybe Baby and delivering such goodness straight to my inbox.
Hi Haley, I stumbled across your newsletter when scrolling through Substack. This is a wonderful piece, and I can relate to the running theme of zombie-like imaginary scenarios. I'm wondering a lot about how things will change after the pandemic subsides and am curious about your thoughts too. I've subscribed to this newsletter and am excited to see more of your writing!