Quinn Rose, Writer

I changed my Twitter bio. The first word is now “writer.”

Cut to my poor, neglected blog, and then zoom in on my imposter syndrome.

I write things, dammit. I’ve been writing my entire life, and am not completely hopeless at it. It’ll take me a long time before I’m as good as I want to be, but that’s true for everything I do, so we’ll leave that point aside for now. The real question is, why did I edit and upload a seven minute video in the time between starting this blog post and actually settling in to finish it?

For me, writing is the most vulnerable thing I produce, for two reasons. While I often don’t say things as concisely or poignantly as I wish while podcasting, I also don’t feel too much pressure to make my off-the-cuff words perfect. When I write, it’s only me and my words. I’m not protected by a co-host, background music, or a laugh. It’s hard for me not to feel like everything I publish needs to meet some arbitrary measure of quality, or it’s not worth putting out there in the world. As we all know, pretending that something needs to be perfect in order to be complete is a surefire strategy for Never Finishing Anything.

Videos are similar in that regard, and I also focus on much less personal topics on my YouTube channel than in my writing. I didn’t even fully realize this until I recorded my one year anniversary video, in which I did speak a little bit about personal difficulties, and it was so difficult to talk about on camera that I recorded for over 40 minutes to make a 12 minute video. Writing, on the other hand, is how I express everything that is most difficult for me to talk about. I have a journal set aside for the singular purpose of getting my thoughts out when I feel like my head is going to burst from whatever is ricocheting around it, whether that be pain, joy, or something I can’t figure out until I spill it onto the page.

While it’s easier to mask the intense vulnerability of writing when I’m working on fiction, the pressure for it to be great feels impossible. When I’m writing personal essays, the writing can be bad (and I’m sure it often is), but there are fewer balls in the air. In my fiction so many things can go wrong--are my characters one-dimensional? Does my plot make sense? Are my themes too obvious? Is my setting boring? Will they see the ending coming?

It is actually stressing me to write all those questions down.

In conclusion, I’m insecure about writing, and that insecurity makes me lazy about it.

I don’t believe that you have to publish anything in order identify as a writer. If you write, you are a writer, that’s simply the definition. However, the reasons I haven’t been publishing much are completely unsatisfactory to me. In my case, I know writing and publishing more frequently will improve my work and my own sense of myself.

So, I changed my Twitter bio. I’m back in front of my keyboard, determined to put things on the internet, even before I’m sure they’re any good. To be fair, that strategy has been working pretty well for me so far. I hope that soon, you’ll see my byline on other places on the web. For now, you can find me here.

Young

I’ve had several friends tell me that they don’t want people to know how old they are. Well, more accurately, they don’t want people to know how young they are.

It’s not that I can fault their logic-- sometimes, it can be difficult to be taken seriously as a young adult. We’re “millennials,” after all, and not even the kind with steady jobs yet. Am I even a millennial? I think I might be too young for that. I have another year or two before my generation becomes the one everyone likes to yell at.

However, I don’t see my age as a barrier to overcome. I may have fewer experiences than older people, but I have different experiences, and difference is valuable. For example, I literally do not remember a time when the internet was not easily accessible at home and at school. I got a Facebook when I was 12 years old (I wanted to get a Facebook desperately. Oh, how times have changed). I’m still young enough that signing up for for a form of social media is not a sign of the end of that medium (says the person who mostly just uses Twitter and Instagram. You whippersnapper, you).

You can make jokes about young people being addicted to their phones-- which people do, all the freaking time-- but we’re the ones who know these interfaces intuitively and can predict the success of technology with great success. If we don’t like it, it’s not going to work.

While I can make arguments that my age gives me a unique perspective, and that perspective is valuable, I actually don’t have to argue at all. The most important thing is this: my age does not devalue my work. My age does not devalue my work. Am I more likely to be worse at things because I’m inexperienced? Yes. Does that take away from when I make good things? No. If you can’t judge my work based on its quality and not the fact that I’m still a teenager, then I’m not the one with the problem here.

I might have this attitude because I’ve always worked with people older than me. I’m young for my grade in school and often befriended people in years above me, so I consistently had a friend group a year or two older than me (which is a big difference when you’re ten). In high school, I started competing in a club that was primarily populated by seniors when I was a sophomore. I’ve worked closely as the only teenager/student on groups of adults for years.

I also have always been salty about people looking down on me for my age. I have a distinct memory of watching a movie when I was twelve years old, and one of the characters said “how should I know? I’m twelve!” I was indignant. How could this movie insinuate that a twelve-year-old be so immature and ignorant?

For the record, here is a picture of me at twelve. So mature.

I’ve never had someone flat out tell me I couldn’t do something because I was too young, but I’ve had innumerable instances of people criticizing my youth in all sorts of uncreative ways. I say like too much, I upspeak, I don’t know any better, I spend too much time on my phone, I’ll understand when I’m older.

I am nineteen years old. If you devalue my work because of my age, it’s your problem, not mine. I’m just going to prove you wrong.

XOXO

One week ago, I left for my first, and possibly last, XOXO festival. If you’re not familiar with XOXO, you can read about it here, but I think it’s hard to really understand what it’s all about without attending. It’s defined on the website as an “experimental festival,” which I suppose is true. Every year, XOXO founders Andy Baio and Andy McMillan (who will be referred to as “the Andys” from here on in) make changes to the structure and content of the festival based on the previous year. I don’t know of any other conference that includes free drinks (including creative non-alcoholic cocktails, thank you so much, sincerely, an underage college student), dedicates larges amounts of time and space to socializing with other attendees, and curates an incredible lineup of not just speakers but games (both of the video and tabletop variety), films, and live shows.

The main focus on this blog post is going to be the talks and social experience of XOXO, but I need to take a moment for the food, because oh my god. I’m used to going to conventions where no matter how great the programming is, the food is terrible and overpriced. XOXO had a rotating lineup of specially curated food trucks that all served delicious, interesting, and reasonably priced food. Although it was all phenomenal, I have to give a special shout-out to Perierra Creparie from which I had three crepes in three days, and to Pip’s Doughnuts that were so delicious I am dreaming about them still.

Anyway! The conference started in the most XOXO way possible, which was a friend from Twitter picking me up from the airport and driving me to Revolution Hall. Shout out to Kathy Campbell for saving me the cost of a taxi and also not axe-murdering me and/or stealing all of my possessions.

From that moment until the very end, XOXO was spectacular. The talks were honestly more than I ever imagined. Listening to genuine, heartfelt talks until 5:00pm left me feeling emotionally drained at the end of each day in a way I hadn’t expected. I could write pages upon pages about each talk, but I wanted to focus on the main theme I noticed running through most of them: valuing yourself.

Several talks this year focused explicitly on making money as an independent creator. Gaby Dunn spoke about reading contracts and getting good deals as an artist, without giving away your work or ideas. David Rees broke down all the money he’s made in the past fifteen years and where it all came from. Lucy Bellwood, in one of my favorite talks of the weekend, confessed that amid all her fantastic creative success, her biggest achievement of the year was getting off food stamps.

Even more than the dollar amounts, however, these talks were about valuing yourself as a person and as a creator. What does it mean to be successful as an artist? Does it mean supporting yourself entirely from independent work? Does it mean getting rich off of your art? Does it mean being a “starving artist” and never “selling out?”

No speaker offered clear answers or solutions. Instead, they left me with the sense that it was okay to not know. It's okay to struggle or to make money, it's okay to accept money for art that you make, it's okay to need help. Independence is lonely. We can all help each other.

While the talks alone were excellent, what really made XOXO stand out above and beyond were the social components. The Andys maintain a Slack channel year-round with all past and present XOXO attendees who wish to take part. What this channel meant was that before I even arrived in Portland, there were people I wanted to connect with and meetups I wanted to attend. Over the course of XOXO, I met so many interesting people who, somehow, were all incredibly kind.

I also got to chance to properly talk to a lot of people whose work I followed for a long time. For example, take Myke Hurley. Over the course of XOXO, Myke went from someone I knew on Twitter whose work I admired to the person who I KNEW was the goddamn werewolf but noooo they chose to kill me instead so we all lost instead come ON

Ahem. Anyway.

How can I sum up what XOXO was? It was about independent creators. It was about financial, emotional, and mental insecurity. It was community and connections. It was recognizing how much our fears are alike. It was missing the entire film and animation lineup because I was too busy laughing my ass off, playing card games with new friends. It was feeling so emotional after the talks that I took a mile walk with a friend and only stopped when we found an amazing hill to roll down. It was being inspired and encouraged not in the typical “just follow your dreams!” way, but in the “I’m just a person. You’re just a person. We can do this and do it together” way.

XOXO isn't coming back next year. It might not come back at all. I know that whatever the Andys do in their lives, it'll be unique and wonderful, but I also can't help but to wish that XOXO will return someday.

Even if it never does, I’ll never forget the fundamental lesson of XOXO, the one that the Andys left us with on Sunday: we are not alone.

Thoughts on Vlogs

I filmed my first vlog last week. It was… Well, you can see how it was.

As you can definitely tell, I’m not very comfortable on camera. I think it ended up being unintentionally harsh to professional vloggers… I promise I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with them. I just felt so awkward that I was wondering what makes a person enjoy being on camera. I had filmed a “first vlog” in my dorm room several weeks ago, but it turned out terrible because I was uncomfortable and kept my voice so low the camera didn’t pick it up very well (I was worried about people in the hall hearing me). At least this time, I actually got a video out!

Beyond my general awkwardness, here are my thoughts on my first vlog.

1. What’s up with audio recording? I originally captured external audio on my Yeti microphone, which I use to record podcasts. However, when I put my audio and visual files together, the sound was completely off the picture by the end. I genuinely do not understand this. How could they be recording them differently?! Unfortunately, I will just have to figure that out later. To spare myself the headache this time, I just used the audio from my iPhone.

2. The lighting turned out surprisingly well, especially considering that I was using an iPhone. I sat directly in front of my windows and the natural light looked fantastic on my phone.

3. I didn’t want to use my room as a background because I just don’t think it looks very good on camera. Instead, I taped a sheet to my ceiling fan to make a background in front of my windows. I’m not kidding…

In a few weeks, I move into my summer housing, and I’m determined to unpack and decorate with appropriate video backgrounds in mind.

4. I’m looking forward to recording more videos. This is a weird medium, and having my face out there is weird on a level I don’t even understand yet, but it’s one more way to put content out in the world. I’m the happiest when I’m creating more than consuming. I don’t know if making videos will ever go anywhere, but I’m excited to go through this journey for as long as it lasts.