Secrets from With/out Pretend: Quiet Promises & Gilmore Girls
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December 2018

Quiet Promises & Gilmore Girls

"The beauty of darkness is how it lets you see."

— Adrienne Rich, Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991 - 1995

This year, I saw a drag show in Key West and the night sky near Marfa and a long-dead bat in the Carlsbad Caverns. I quit my job. I launched a magazine (actually, two!) I was awarded a provincial grant for the first time. I worked with and learned from brilliant, compassionate women. I thought about making a podcast, but didn’t. I was a guest on other people’s podcasts. I painted and reorganized my home office. I kept several houseplants alive. I ate a lot of fresh bread. I wrote something that scared me. I took Unresolved Feelings to Montreal. I used approximately 65 Korean sheet masks. I read some of the books on my list. I cried a lot. I laughed, too. I was a good friend. Sometimes, I was an insensitive or absent friend. I looked at my love from across the room and felt in my heart that we might actually make it, for the long haul. I started watching Gilmore Girls again, from the beginning.

A pretty full year, even by a Sagittarius Sun’s standards.

And yet, as this year comes to an end, I’m feeling some resistance towards the next. I’m feeling a bit… tired. Because there truly aren’t enough hours in a day. And everyone else seems to have it figured out, how is that? And I’m not great at budgeting, or meeting deadlines, or saying no to things I should say no to. I am too ambitious, so very impractical, always in my head and never in the present. Too much, or not enough. What’s your plan, Erin? That nasty voice in my head snarls.

Stephanie Pellett, my friend and our Manager of Customer Experience at With/out Pretend, tells me I should spend more time reflecting on my accomplishments before moving onto the "next thing." She says I should start a "sunshine list" of nice things people say about me on the internet, good things that happen for the biz, and sweet messages I receive from readers when they relate to a book or passage (or newsletter, even). When she tells me this, I roll my eyes into the back of my head and groan out loud. She’s being nice — trying to convince me that I deserve the occasional pat on the back for my good work, but while I absolutely believe that self-compassion is a good practice for most people, I have personally never found it particularly useful.

Instead, I opt to keep a mental list of the ways I’ve fallen short and the things I have left to accomplish. I find this keeps me accountable to the quiet promises I’ve made to myself, the kinds of promises that become especially hard to keep when things get tough. When you feel… tired.

The Universe often gives us the gifts we need, but not always in the packages we expect.

Last year I asked my dad for a small loan so I could afford to send Happy If You Know It to the printer. I thought my pitch e-mail was pretty charming; I told my dad that his money would be paid back in full within a few months, and that he should see it as an investment not only in me, his only daughter, but also in the kind of important work we were doing. Of course, I was using the word "investment" liberally; I meant that humans can invest things other than money, like our time, energy, ideas, and hope, into the kinds of things we believe to be important.


My dad agreed to transfer the money into my account on the terms that I’d pay him back soon, but he didn’t miss the opportunity to explain in his reply that, no, lending his daughter money to independently publish a book about women’s experiences was not, technically speaking, a sound investment.

Over a year later, I still think about that exchange fairly often, but not because he hurt my feelings (he did) or because he was wrong (he wasn’t). I knew then and I know now that my dad was right. Publishing books and magazines is not a good financial investment. There is no golden ticket or winning business model, especially at the scale we’re producing work, and without a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and the dedication of the women who have found me, stood with me, taught me, and supported me, With/out Pretend wouldn’t continue to exist.

But here’s where I can give myself some credit too, pulled from my own bizzaro kind of sunshine list: it is my ambition, impracticality, too-in-my-head approach to projects, stubbornness, self-doubt, and blind enthusiasm that carries me to the next thing. My dad may be right, but that won’t stop me from trying to prove him wrong. At With/out Pretend we are intentionally investing ourselves in the stories that matter to us because it’s the kind of currency we value most of all. The return on invested capital (ROIC) will be measured by how we show up, who we support, and which quiet promises we keep.

Tonight I’m staying in with a sheet mask, some fresh bread, and season 2 of Gilmore Girls. Sometimes you will be excruciatingly tired — it’s bound to happen if you’re doing something worth doing. Just remember that under the right conditions, resistance can turn to vision. The beauty of darkness is how it lets you see.

xo Erin
Thank you for supporting our "vision" in 2018!
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Unruly Bodies II
In a world that works so hard to control, discipline, and punish the bodies of women, and especially trans women, femmes, BIPOC women, non-binary folks, and sick and disabled women, how can we begin to celebrate our unruly bodies?

After the success of our first Unruly Bodies event in July 2018, we're excited to host this event for a second time, featuring a new and wonderful line-up of storytellers.
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Recess is for _______
Written by Frankie Barnet, Illustration by Herikita
Frankie Barnet is the kind of fiction writer who will teach you things. Although they may not be the kinds of things you’d normally want to know, they are the kinds of things that once you know them, you’re glad you do.

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Image credits:
Ness LeeAngela Lewis
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