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Creator Habits Podcast: Cultivating Writing as A Life Practice with Sara Campbell, Tiny Revolutions (Part 1)
This week's episode features writer Sara Campbell of Tiny Revolutions talking about writing as a mental health practice, her writing habits and practices, cultivating a writing community, and more.
Every other week we feature highlights from our podcast, which covers more tactical insights on setting up your habits as a creator.
This week’s podcast episode features Sara Campbell, Creator of the Tiny Revolutions newsletter. Started in 2018, Tiny Revolutions is an email newsletter about becoming who you are. Rooted in her practice of Zen Buddhism, it’s a personal exploration of how to be more awake, alive, and connected to the truth of your life — and to the world around you. Her writing has appeared in diverse outlets including Every, The RS 500, Barrelhouse, The Oxford American, The Hairpin, The Rumpus, and Salon.com. She lives in Los Angeles but does a lot of things on the Internet to pay the bills.
In this episode, Sara discusses how to use writing as a way of understanding your inner and outer world, and as part of a set of practices to manage mental health. She also dives into what it means to create an exploratory newsletter in a world of tactical content and shares her own journey getting better at the craft of writing and finding communities to do so in. If you think of writing as a lifelong, exploratory practice, this episode is for you.
To listen to the full episode:
The following includes some short excerpts from the full interview:
Your newsletter touches on deeply personal and vulnerable topics like mental health. How do you show up to write about really hard things? When you started, you had a quote:
I’m scared as I write this. Scared I won’t write regularly. Scared of being seen. Scared of not being seen. Scared I’ll glaze over hard truths. Scared I’ll chicken out.
Have your feelings about publishing this kind of vulnerable content changed over the years?
I still feel that way. I mean, I'm almost four years in and that doesn't go away. And I think that's part of the message. It was one of the reasons I started writing the newsletter. You know, I'm not in my early twenties, I'm in my mid forties and I've been around lots of different creative projects. I've had my own, I've seen lots of other creators. I've seen lots of entrepreneurs and people doing various things that require just a lot of bravery.
These things don't go away. You just do them anyway. And the vulnerability is ultimately what helps people connect to you because you're (you know, we've all read Brene Brown at this point), but you're telling truth. It's a lot harder to put that in practice than to know it from reading a book or whatever, but I will say that I think the way that I was able to get this project off the ground is that I was just like, what's the point in not doing it?
It really became for me a real act of service in a way. There's definitely a selfish aspect to this endeavor, but also I was like, other people are doing or going through this. [I started this newsletter in the wake of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade’s deaths]. I was like, these are creative genius. And people that wrestle with really difficult and dark aspects of their life and personality.
And so, we're all pretending like this isn't happening on some level. And so I felt this exasperation where I was like, this has to end, we have to have more of a conversation about [mental health].
What were some of the challenges you faced starting to write this?
If you want to make good work, it's because you have good taste and you see things that you admire. But really part of the challenge is just getting okay and comfortable with the fact that you're always learning and getting better and it takes a while to develop mastery. You have to have patience with yourself throughout the process.
There’s a narrative that, you know, talented people are talented people. That's true. They are talented, but more than that, they have cultivated a mindset that allows them to keep going.
When we talk about practice, whatever your various practices that you do are, a lot of mine are just keeping myself in that space of “it's okay to do this”. And you know, “you can do this.”
What are the kinds of practices that keep you in this headspace of practice and possibility in your writing?
A lot of us struggle with just trying to achieve perfection. And so for me, why practice is so important, is that you have to keep yourself fresh and cut away those weeds that get in the way, the self criticisms you have. Really I've found that, before even meditation, just exercise and walking movement, any type of movement is helpful.
If you're in a really terrible mood, like take a walk. Turn on some music, do a dance, do whatever you can to just get in your body and out of your head.
Another way I started to mentally clear the weeds is Zen practice. There's a practice style called Za Zen, where you basically just sit in on a cushion and you look at the wall and you just try and stay present with whatever's going on.
You're not trying to block out reality, but it's just kind of seeing everything, the good, bad, and the ugly that goes through your head.
How do you get better as a writer?
I do really think that if you are making any sort of creative work, it's really helpful to be in community with other people that are doing the same thing, because you can identify with each other, you can get tips from each other and there's a little bit of healthy competition.