What’s My Niche?

niche simple

Most of the time, I feel motivated to write. Sometimes, the thought of writing doesn’t thrill me in the least. I created this blog to have some sort of outlet for those everyday, in between topics I want to write about and share.

This blog has been about life in general, but with something so vague and broad, I find it tough to know what to write about. I find it tough to muster up the energy to pour into a piece of writing.

A lot of things I do write about stays as a draft because honestly, I may as well make it an Instagram post or a tweet since it’s about something of only a passing interest. Where’s the meat in it? Where’s the meaning?

I would say the majority of blogs are basically public diaries. There’s nothing wrong with that but if one is wanting to build an audience, I don’t think talking at people about mundane things is a way to do it. (Which is what I feel I do.)

I often build a personal post around a period of my life to say, hey this is what I went through, maybe you can identify with it. Yet, I don’t invite the reader to interact with my words. I’m not asking questions. I’m not offering much advice.

Blog writers who gain a large audience are writing about a certain topic. They may have personal stories to share but they largely address a wider problem which affects thousands or millions of people. They are interactive. They ask questions and/or provide answers. They write in a way which makes the post about others and not only about themselves.

I have brainstormed over topics that interests me. Topics that I have direct experience with, I’ve read about, and researched. Topics I theorize and of course, write about.

The obstacle is, what do I focus on? I have a variety of topics and not all of them line up with one another. My experience and/or interests are childhood development, child abuse, psychology, boundaries, toxic relationships, divorce, relationships, education, social issues, mental and personality disorders, therapy, minimalism, stoicism, anthropology, evolution, early human history, general history, road trips/travel, poverty, writing, and even down to pop culture. Phew!

So, how do I find a cohesive theme among all that debris? How do I unite this blog and make it something people will find value in? I don’t want to only talk at people but I want to foster communication. What is a great need among society? What suggestions can I offer to fulfill that need? Out of those interests listed above, which is most imperative I need to write about?

My next task to tackle (concerning this blog) is figuring out what I want to write about the most. What topic of interest am I more likely to stick with, focus on, and thereby create a niche and build an audience of engaged readers?

Readers, have you had this dilemma before? If you have a blog, what’s your main objective when you sit down and write?

 

Advertisements

The Magic of Minimalism

pexels-photo-268533.jpeg

I have never been one to hold onto things especially due to sentimentality. Or so I believed. See, most of my family are hoarders to varying degrees and I’ve always strove to not be anything like them.

During my separation and divorce, there was a lot of dividing going on and, in the process, I got rid of a lot of stuff.

The majority stayed in boxes and totes while I lived with my sister. When I moved in with Ian, however, I was overwhelmed by the number of things I still owned.

It took me an exhausting week straight to put everything away. I felt frustrated to have so much stuff and nowhere to put it. I reasoned that the apartment was just too small.

In January of 2017, I watched the documentary, “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things”, by The Minimalists. It inspired me to do a general sweep of my things and get rid of what I no longer needed. I ended up with a bag full and felt pretty proud of myself but shortly after, I still felt I had too much clutter.

The following month I came across this blog post. The writer had read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo and documented her journey following the KonMari Method.

The KonMari Method groups all of one’s belongings by category. Then the person touches each item, keeping only those that spark joy and then designating a home for those items.

After learning about this book, I checked it out from my local library. I devoured it in less than a week. (You’re supposed to follow the KonMari method while reading it, but it is in such high demand that I couldn’t keep it for very long.)

The book stoked a fire in me and I decided to try her method. I wrote down the cliff notes, returned the book, and started with the first category which is clothing and worked my way through the rest over the course of a month and a half. Ian joined me in the categories he owned things in which were only clothing, old school related papers, and DVDs.

Most of it was easy to do, a lot of it were things I wanted to get rid of for a long time. I went through photos surprisingly well. I saved cards and letters for later which when it came time for them, was easy as well. The more I got rid of (especially so-called sentimental items) the easier it was to get rid of other things that invoked a stronger emotional response.

I found it especially liberating while ridding myself of things I was holding onto due to fear, guilt, and obligation. It’s as if the book gave me permission to let go of things.
While I was on my KonMari journey, I told Ian stories behind objects. Some inspired tears and anger.

There were so many “gifts” I had gotten over the years that weren’t gifts at all. They all came with some sort of clause attached. Some demand. Some form of control. Gifts that should have been given freely and with love and no demand to have them back if I didn’t want them or instructions on how I use them or feel about them.

I had so many things, that when I touched them and waited, there was no spark of joy. Only a deep well of anger, repression, and resentment.

What awakened a visceral emotional response the most was going through all of my Hanson memorabilia.

It wasn’t because of the band but everything that happened during my 20 years of being a fan. All those memories behind the posters, magazines, albums, concert souvenirs, and t-shirts released a torrent of tears.

My sisters were Hanson fans too, so it was something we could share. My sister, Melissa, (who is closer in age) and I weren’t always close, and this helped us slowly to do so. We also travelled to a lot of other states to attend concerts.

Growing up, I had stayed within a 200-mile radius of southeast Kentucky, only going into Virginia and Tennessee, which isn’t hard to do since those two states border the county I lived in. Traveling as a teenager helped open my eyes to life outside of my small Appalachian town.

When Hanson broke onto the music scene in 1997, I was only 13. It was such a pivotal time in my life. It was my coming of age. I was a teenager getting to know myself. And I thought of the girl I was, what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be. Wondering if any part of me was still that girl. Wondering if I had ever wanted to be that girl.

But now I was at another pivotal point in my life. I was somewhere in life where I was truly moving on. All those old things had only weighed me down. For too long, I was surrounded by things which sparked many painful memories. Even the ones which reminded me of happy, fun moments still had painful ones interwoven into them.

I was more than ready to let go. I was starting anew with a clean slate. Without all the stuff, it was just me, stripped down and bare boned. It’s freeing but boy is it terrifying.

It leaves a wide-open space to ask the really important questions: Who do I want to be? What kind of life do I want to have? What are my values and priorities now that I don’t have to focus only on making money to buy things I think I need?

I was able to take a job I really wanted even though it paid less. Both Ian and I realized we didn’t want to be so close to Nashville. I took a job in Gallatin and that’s where we moved to. It’s calmer and quieter. There are still rolling hills and some farmland left.

The biggest impact for me was realizing how long I had bought into consumerism. Always pining for the latest and greatest. Envying those who seem to always have the perfect home, the perfect wardrobe, seemingly the perfect life.

But in reality, at my core, I didn’t even want all those things, yet I had allowed myself to believe that I needed them. Either as a badge of success and happiness or to solidify my position as what we’re told an adult is supposed to be and look like.

I don’t give a shit if I don’t have the latest iPhone or those boots that everyone else is wearing or having my home look as if Joanna Gaines decorated it.

For me, having a lot of things is meaningless. There are so many gadgets and gizmos and knick-knacks in homes right now that we do not need. It’s only getting in the way. And it’s this idea that if we have less than our neighbor, we are somehow less than, less rich, less popular, less happy, and therefore less worthy.

I only have to live by my own standards and those can be anything I choose. Whether I’m bucking trends or choose to follow some, what really matters is if I’m happy, not going into debt or tying my worth to empty objects, and I don’t feel like I’m only trying to impress others.

Starting in February and into early April 2017, I donated and sold about 80% of my things. After moving into a new apartment and over the course of an additional 6 months or so, I got rid of even more things.

Eliminating clutter gave me room to focus on what is important and narrowed down how I want to spend my time. Now, when I purchase something, I do so mindfully. I choose quality of quantity and things which will make my life easier. Ridding my life of so much stuff is freeing in a way I have never encountered before. Not only do I have more physical space but mental, emotional, and spiritual space as well.

I recommend others to take a look around. Are there things which do not bring you joy? Are you better off without them? Tune out the rest of the world and ask yourself: What do I like? What do I want? What do I need? And then ask yourself if all the stuff in your home is helping or hindering you in finding out.

 

Blip

I have been working on a post for weeks now. I have the rough draft and have printed it off several times, marked through it with red ink. But it still seems so…blah. I don’t think it’s the article, though, it’s me.

So, I had to take a little break from that article and rant a little today. *Ahem*

I love my job. It’s the best one I’ve had yet. But our in season is starting and people are crawling out of their caves and sweaters to come here. A park is for people. I get it. But it’s usually those people who only step out into nature when the conditions are just right that are literally the worst.

They do and say things which remind me of how stupid people really are. People who try to tell you how to do your job when you know the ins and outs of it. Such as what your park policies are. What discounts you give.

Everything in me is screaming, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to work another summer here.

I don’t like people. People are stupid. People are rude. Sure it gives me plenty of opportunity to practice Stoicism but I am not a people person. I would be more than happy to live in seclusion.

This is my daily struggle. Pushing myself to be around people. To be in a relationship. To try and socialize. To live among people and eventually make people of my own.

All of that versus wanting to be completely and totally alone. Living in a cabin in the middle of nowhere.

It’s tough for me to stay present in order to experience the every day in between. The 8-4. The traffic. The bills. Saving for a house. Planning marriage and kids. Trying to fit my writing in there somewhere. Feeling drained and exhausted almost every day.

Being an introvert with a heavy contempt for other humans is a frustrating life to navigate through. I hold on because I know the day or days will come where the contempt slackens, the frustration eases, I will marginally enjoy other people’s company, and I’ll get excited about a perceived stable future. But I also know the yearning of wanting to isolate myself will never fully go away either.

This is a tight rope walked daily. But taking a breath and taking one day at a time is the only thing which keeps me walking it.

 

 

To All The Kristins I Have Been: Thank You

light-sign-typography-lighting.jpgIn this special birthday post, I need to acknowledge a few people.
This post is to all the Kristins that I have been.
To the 4-year-old girl that climbed up on the bathroom sink to look at herself in the mirror and was disappointed in what she saw.
To the 7-year-old who had her first suicidal thoughts and was shamed for it after expressing them.
To the little girl in elementary school who was a bully because she was so angry.
To the chubby 10-year-old.
To the bulimic 14-year-old.
To the 17-year-old with the awkward haircut and who felt ugly inside and out.
To the 19-year-old who felt achingly alone.
To the 22-year-old who settled and mostly got married because she was shamed by family and religion.
To the 27-year-old alcoholic with crippling depression and body dysmorphia.
To the 28-year-old who took anti-depressants and struggled retaining her short-term memory for two years.
To the newly divorced and complete train wreck 31-year-old.
And now to the 34-year-old today who has grieved and forgave. To the me who accepts that I am worthy and won’t settle and have learned to love again and most importantly, learned to love herself.
To all the Kristins I have been: I love you and thank you for being you.

Limits

freeimage-2252862-webIf you read my last post, you’d know that from April to October of 2017, I struggled with depression.

In addition to what I talked about in that post, I had also started a new job at a state park, Ian and I moved further away from Nashville, and Kill Me Now, a web series I made with my older sister had wrapped and was being edited by Ian. 

Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with all those changes. My life didn’t really feel like mine for awhile. My time and energy was being dedicated to my relationships and filming. I felt stuck in my path and by wanting and trying to do everything, I wasn’t doing much of anything.

Everything I was feeling, manifested in physically debilitating ways. I had been on high alert, on edge, and on guard for 30 some odd years anyway, but my body was going into overload and rebelling. I was so tense at times that it was difficult to turn my head to the side.  I started seeing a chiropractor. I read a lot about toxic stress and how to subdue it. I was relearning how to breathe correctly. I started paying attention to my triggers and responses. I still have to tell myself to put my shoulders down every two minutes.

I made the decision to focus solely on healing myself emotionally and physically. So, I gave up everything I had been wanting, wishing for, doing, and suppose to be doing. I didn’t write except when I needed to journal to clear my head. My sister took over promoting Kill Me Now.  I donated the majority of my art supplies. I wasn’t looking into submission deadlines or upcoming writing classes or acting workshops.

For a few months, I was fine, but having no goals or to-do lists, the question of my self-worth gnawed at my psyche and will to live.  This caused a lot of second guessing. I didn’t know what I believed in, what I wanted to do with my life, or who I wanted to be with.

I was overwhelmed with maybes and what ifs and it left me searching for answers.

In October, needing space, I went camping alone. I had to challenge my attachment to Ian and all of my fears. I laid awake in my tent for a long time. I cried. I wrote in my journal. I wrestled.  I knew I had to start being fully accountable for myself. I had to grow up and let go.

A lot of my misery was due to me chasing too many damn things. I’ve always had an interest in a variety of things. I would passionately pursue an interest but then lose focus it. Then I would turn to another interest, only to do the same. Having too many “choices” left me with an inability to choose something and actually do it. I couldn’t commit to anything since I was chasing twenty different things.

Out of all the shit I thought I was suppose to do and wanted to do and felt obligated to do, what did I really want and need to do?

I knew I had to cut back on interests and passions and whittle it down until I didn’t feel overwhelmed anymore. So, I focused on three major areas in my life (Relationship, Career, Personal Philosophy) and narrowed it down until I only had one choice in each area.

So, what did I decide?

Relationship: Ian

I want to marry Ian. He is a great partner and wonderful companion. He has challenged me in so many ways. Ian stays accountable and keeps me accountable, as well. He is always willing to try, to change, and work on issues.

No one is going to be perfect. Anyone I date will have flaws. But Ian is someone I can trust to have children with. He is someone I can share my life with, growing along the way.

Career: Writer

Writing is the only thing I’ve done consistently throughout my life. I know I’m good at it. I know it’s a craft that must be practiced everyday. It is the only thing that gives me hope, excites me, and creates contentment.

I had to say goodbye to becoming an actress, a director, an archaeologist, a counselor, painter, graphic novel artist, travel guide, park ranger, whatever. I can’t live all those lives, but I can create characters who do.

Personal Philosophy: Stoicism

In August, I stumbled across the ancient philosophy of Stoicism and it just clicked. Stoicism is practical wisdom. Stoicism is about self responsibility, accountability, reflection, maintaining emotions, and taking action. It is a tangible philosophy to practice every day of one’s life.

I came away from that camping trip and long battle with depression a changed person. Of course, things didn’t magically fall into place right away but over time, I have flourished all areas.

A person can’t just make a decision or write a list or make a resolution and then do nothing. What matters to you and what you want for the rest of your life must become a life long practice. You must cultivate it every day before it will grow.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by too many options, focus only on the major areas of your life. Be honest with yourself and cut the shit. By this process of elimination, you will be free to choose what truly matters to you. And you’ll be a hell of  a lot happier and content when you do.

Enough

pexels-photo-618545.jpegI’ve done a little updating recently. I changed the name of this blog from Kristin Growing Up to simply, Kristin Cox. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still growing as a person but I’m hoping to do more with this oft neglected site. I still don’t know what my niche is but I think for now, it is about life and what I think and feel about it.

I have wrestled with many of the same issues over and over and it’s been a long (and still ongoing) process of weeding through them all. But one thing remained true throughout is a need to write.

For the majority of my life, my mindset has been that I had to do everything and be perfect at it. While reading over my old posts (some I’ve kept, some I’ve deleted), it was a running theme. Especially this one.

You’re a Grownup Baby, Now What? was written back in 2013, before intensive therapy. Since that post, I’ve had over 4 years worth of reading hundreds of self-help books and articles, navigated new relationships and jobs, and a shit ton of trial and error.

I like reading that post in particular because it reminds me of how far I’ve come. I know why I wasn’t trying or why I was falling short: I was scared to death.

I believed that I was suppose to do it all. Be it all. That I was suppose to be a master of something right out of the gate. I didn’t know it was okay to mess up and make mistakes.

My parents told me I could do anything, acting like I was the last savior of the family. The hope rested on my shoulders to carry everyone out of poverty. One can only imagine the crushing burden it had on me.

During the same time, I was constantly shamed, ridiculed, and made fun of. Anything I did was criticized, either outright or subtly.

My dad always pointed out weaknesses in my drawings, never including any strengths. My dad is also the master of backhanded compliments.

Once when I was 15, I wanted to try cooking oats for myself but keep them chunky. My mother always cooked everything to death and liked her oatmeal kind of soupy and gelatinous. She deemed my oatmeal a failure and the entire potful was thrown out in a rage.

I vacuumed wrong. My tone and volume of voice was too loud or too low. My hair wasn’t the right length. I wore too much makeup sometimes and not enough other times. I came to believe, wholeheartedly, that there was something inherently wrong with me.

When it came to writing a story, I assumed I had to write it linearly and have everything sound perfect the first time through. Getting stuck or not knowing some scenes or writing weak sentences meant I was no good and there was no hope. (I also believed everyone else in the world could mess up or not be very good at something at first, just not me.)

I didn’t know I could write a draft over and over. I didn’t know I could write shitty sentences then go back and make them not shitty. I didn’t know that I could make mistakes and go back to correct them.

I rarely read books on writing. I thought I didn’t need to. Well, SHOULDN’T need to. In the past couple of months, though, I have been reading them. And what a revelation they have been! Published authors write badly when first starting out or they write badly still but they know they can go back and fix it.

I have gained so much from reading about the fears and apprehensions they experience. I have also found that how authors approach ideas and the writing process is similar to my own. (I just thought I was doing it wrong since it was me.) It turns out, I’m human like the rest of them.

There has been this life long blockage that seems to have finally been freed. I did a lot of soul searching and asked a lot of questions and had more healing in 2017. I went into 2018 knowing that I want to write. I NEED to write. I MUST write.

And it’s okay to mess up. Or I have to rewrite a story 10 times or more. Or I can let myself write and not judge myself to death. I’ve been trying to be perfect at everything for so long, all the while not believing I was worthy enough for any of it. I’ve expected everything to be perfect upon first attempt and you know what happened? Nothing. I did nothing substantial I cared about for a long time. A lot of years spent too afraid to really try on my own.

But I know better now. I don’t have to be afraid. I can be me and that is good enough.