Hi! My name is Nerissa.
I’m a writer.

Thinking about RWD?

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So am I.

It started when I learned what “divorce” meant.

{I think.}

This tool we have, words. At some point I realized they could be used to express how I feel, say what I wanted. It took some time before I could build up the courage to ask. And even though it wouldn’t change the outcome (mommy said ‘no’), the affair with words had already started. Then it grew to music. I danced until I was told I wasn’t allowed to (didn’t take long). And I sang until was told to shut up (that didn’t take long either).

Here’s my theory on what happened: I spent my childhood using books and music to escape. Then I went to university and learned about analyzing shit and once I turned the lens on my childhood, depression hit. I didn’t sing at all for about ten years and wrote only out of necessity.

Having to choose between needing to pay rent and eat and taking my own life, I chose living small. Writing for a living wasn’t an option because it wasn’t small enough, so I took up shadow careers in PR, and spent my spare time ignoring my heart.

Somewhere along the way this happened.

My blog is about this stuff: going from a place of low vibration; feeling suicidal, depression, to wanting to live.

Then I blog about something that might be called “UX marketing”; my ideas about how to make the internet-world a better place for everyone.

I also write fiction.

This is the blog.

Yep, happened to me.

Not once, not twice, but thrice.

There was some irony there, in that the first person to do it was black. It was at a company activity / event (axe throwing), and we were kind of surrounded by people. Maybe others noticed, maybe they didn’t.

I ducked and swatted his hand away (probably good that I didn’t have an axe). Mumbled something like ‘Don’t touch my hair’ with my eyes to the ground and my face hot.

I didn’t know if other people saw, but I didn’t want any eyes on me regardless. The place was tiny – 50 or so people squeezed in a room that was probably more suited to 15. And I was still on probation at the job, so even though we hadn’t even started throwing axes I was already sweating.

He started to apologize, but I just wanted the thing over as quickly as possible.

The second and third time it happened was at another company outing (I eventually stopped going to those), the Christmas party. Number two was a member of the sales team. Number three was the company’s CEO / co-founder.

As much as I wished I had the chance to slap hands away, I didn’t see either coming. And for months afterwards, I was in a fog of “WAHT THE FUCK” as I started to think about the many stinky onion-like layers of privilege and power at play in the situation.

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If I had seen either hand coming at me, would I have had a chance to duck and swat? Looking at the circumstances, I could play devil’s advocate and think “ok, we’ve all been drinking and are getting chatty…”

But no.

I had been very careful about keeping a thick, heavy professional distance between myself and co-workers, and I was proud of that distance.

In short, if any of these men (I’ll get back to this) had asked me: “Hey! Can I touch your hair?” I would have said “Hell No, not now not never. You absolutely – in bold and italics – cannot touch my hair. It bears repeating…”, etc etc.

But these men thought this was okay. And the truth was (here it is, it came to me and I felt like throwing up) drunk or not, this idea that it would be ok to touch my hair was probably because I’m a woman, and because I was ‘underneath’: a worker, an employee, junior.

Then you’ve got the other things you need if you’re going to touch a co-workers hair: lack of respect. Lack of broughtupsey. Being overfamiliar and undereducated.

Also being black. Pretty sure they wouldn’t have touched my hair if I was white.

So what was I supposed to do with all this?

I could look through the university political science books I kept and find all the words to describe intersections of privilege, power and race, but where would that leave me?

Not in a position to leave the company, I had to come to some decisions about how to deal with these situations, at least in my mind if I couldn’t quit on the spot, because thinking about this was crazy-making behaviour.

Instead of doing more thinking about how wrong this shit was, I came up with some steps to move forward. I have not taken them, but based on advice from people / my experience, they make the most sense:

  1. Separate what happened from what you do. Until you find the next place you’re going to work, you need to keep your head together by putting what happened in it’s place and moving forward. The last thing you want is to start going crazy and have issues start showing up in your life and at work.
  2. Speak on it + write about it. Put it in your diary, tell your manager, vent with your friends, take it out in the gym. Explain to the people who touched your hair how you feel and what the issue is. Do whatever you can to get what’s going on in your mind out of your mind.
  3. Forget it. Unless you plan on writing a blog post about what happened, promptly remove it from your mind. If shit like that continues to happen, you will have a record (see step two) of what happened before and can plan your next move.

The truth is, there’s a limit to how much this affects me: I’m still the person I was before these things happened, and I’m still me now that it’s happened. The same thing goes for this or anything else that happens in life, for any person. And the limit isn’t determined by anything other than choice. I can choose to get real upset and discombobulated, or not.

I’m not bleeding out, I don’t have any broken bones, I’m not in need of some milk.

And I’m much more than hair and skin and everything else.

We have these ideas floating around, one’s we’re all familiar with but don’t really talk about. That we’re all spiritual beings having human experiences. That nothing that happens to our physical bodies can hurt or damage who we really are on a spiritual level. And that life is a dream, a play, and in our physical bodies we’re bouncing around, experiencing what it’s like here in the physical to experience the dream – to create new experiences from our ideas – and to play our parts or pick different parts to play and play with others. Play the daughter, then play the mother, then play the grandmother. Play the employee, the freelancer, the owner of the company; switch roles only to start it all over again.

If that’s true, we’re playing at privilege and power. We’ve made up the idea that a CEO touching an employee’s hair means something. I had to remember that I was playing at being in a position of not having power, and that what I was playing at wasn’t the real me.

So there it is: getting your hair touched by a coworker is fucked up bullshit, but there’s a way to deal without losing your head. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

A big shoutout to @YawBo for creating the awesome gif I featured on Twitter!

This has been my pattern over the last five or six years: get a new job, move, move again, get a new job. And although some people would say this is normal (expected, even recommended), it didn’t feel normal. It felt like I was running from something.

When I thought about “WHY?!”, the answer wasn’t clear for a long time.

All I knew was that I felt like this:

Pinky can translate feelings for me.

In trying to Iyanla-myself, I thought maybe it was a little bit of believing I didn’t deserve stability. And a little being afraid of staying in one spot. Then some general not-knowing-how-to-live.

Each apartment I had looked like a hotel room. A room in one of those hotels where each room is designed differently, but a hotel room nonetheless.

There was no personal in the personality. To most people, it would be obvious to put up pictures of loved ones, but it was something I had never done until I saw a post by Gala Darling that caught my attention. I can’t find which exact post inspired me, but I probably misread her tagline to read ‘Adorn Yourself, Adorn Your Life’ and went from there. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Now I sit in my apartment surrounded by pictures of the family and friends who’ve made a difference in my life. I used Canva, Pixlr and free images I could find online to make posters that meant something to me. And I made an effort to really make the place mine.

uncomfortable

My move to my parents house was an angry one: I had just started a business and it was a struggle to get rent together. I felt like I failed and all the stuff I had accumulated in years past now needed to be lifted and lugged. Reminding me of where I had gone wrong.

I didn’t know where I would land next (‘cause it wasn’t gonna be my parents place for long) and so I just got rid of everything. Threw the unusable stuff in garbage bags, gathered the stuff I still kind of wanted but couldn’t carry anymore, left it at the local Value Village and kept the essentials.

Fast forward to one weekend before the Christmas holidays. By this time I had a new, empty apartment and was eager with inspiration to make it a home, so I went to my local Ikea. Little did I know this trip would stir up a frustration that had never brewed within me before.

IKEA_MAN

Queue the drama. It started when I realized I was surrounded by couples and families:

“You’re the only person here by yourself.”

“Why are you buying shit you already had?”

“Am I just going to have to get rid of this — or move it — in a couple months?”

“This is why I can’t move forward – I’m busy doing shit I’ve already done.”

That last realization was a tough one, but necessary. It forced me to look at my life and see the pattern for what it is. It forced me to acknowledge that I was afraid I’d never be able to move forward, that I’d be stuck in this perpetual pattern forever: single, constantly needing to find a job, searching for a new apartment or moving.

My first instinct was to destroy the pattern with fire.

But thinking about what it would mean to break the patterns made me even more uncomfortable. If my pattern is to quit my job and move every time things get mildly uncomfortable, what did I need to do to break that pattern?

Nothing. Or more specifically, “nothing”.

My only option here, I realized, was to straighten my back, plant my feet on the ground underneath and look at the world that’s open to me, instead of the one left behind. To look at what I’ve created instead of getting frustrated that the things I want in life aren’t here, in front of me.

When it came to where I lived, I had to plant my own roots. That’s why the pictures and memories I put up all over the place are so meaningful. They remind me that I create home where I am.

I like to think I don’t have a problem being honest with what works and what doesn’t. Especially when it comes to my job. Hell, every time I didn’t like something, I would go back to school so I had an excuse to leave… or just leave. And while I can honour myself for that honesty, the way I was going about making the changes I wanted needed to… change.

Work is a process of calibrating, testing out new things, trying different industries, learning new skills. But being honest with myself meant admitting that my ‘get up a quit’ reaction wasn’t working either.

The problem was the feral cat-energy I was bringing to the situation (see Pinky above).

Staying still gives me the chance to check that cat. Its meant being honest when I feel:

  • fears I’m going backwards
  • anxious about making a change
  • lost, like I can just go back on “what I did before” and re-do old patterns

Now I know that unless I’m making a decision from a place of cool cat, it’s not the right one.

I love talking about this kind of stuff, so if you found this interesting or useful, please comment and / or share! Or tweet me. We’ll probably get into some kind of discussion about it ;).

Is it me? Or is everyone using those “SUBSCRIBE!” pop-ups on their blog?

You know the ones: you land on a blog page from Google and get ready to leave because it’s not what you’re looking for, but you get a subscribe pop-up? Or {worse.} you’ve just started reading the post and as soon as it might get interesting, you’re asked to SUBSCRIBE now for EXCLUSIVE OFFERS!?

Over the last couple years these pop-ups have exploded onlinealmost everyone said “they work!”. But in internet-years, a “few” is about 6.5 to 8 actual years, so do those “exit-intent”, pattern-interrupting pop-ups still work?

And maybe the better question is: do they work for everyone?

What we’ve got now, I think, is opt-in overload. From what I see, blogs have the opt-in pop-up set and whoever is managing doesn’t care / hasn’t looked at whether or not those pop-ups still work.

And then there’s the end-user. The one person who all this is for. They’re not the same as they were a year ago. They’re an internet-teenager: short attention span, moody, have a lot to say and so *over* those annoying pop-ups. But the pop-ups are now part of being on the internet so they’re automatically ignored.

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If I’m like most subscribers, I can assume the process of going from first-time visitor to subscriber happens something like this:

  1. Google something, like “oatmeal protein spirulina breakfast recipes work”.
  2. Sort through a bunch of results, find one that looks good.
  3. Ignore the “SUBSCRIBE!” pop-up that asks for my email address.
  4. If it’s good: save the post in Evernote to try.
  5. If I have time: Go back to the search results to find another result that looks good.
  6. Some time later, do another google search like “what to do after binge eating tortilla chips seven layer dip”.
  7. Open a post from one of the blogs from my previous search.
  8. Ignore the “SUBSCRIBE!” pop-up that asks for my email address.
  9. See another post from the blog that piques my interest, like “common twerking injuries”.
  10. And another, like “lazy lunches that last the whole work week”.
  11. Click around to find out more about the author.
  12. SUBSCRIBE!

Getting that first “SUBSCRIBE!” pop-up, interrupting me while I’m trying to read the first blog post I’ve landed on kind of feels like having a first date ask me to help paint their apartment.

Or it’s like asking for someone’s number before you even know their name. Without any “how are you, today?” or “come here often?”, not even a “do you like stuff?”.

Too. Soon.

An email address (not the fake ones used to get access to an e-book, but one that’s checked daily) is valuable. Like a phone number was in the 90s.

At least Darryl (pron. “Darrell”) gives a compliment before asking for the number. That’s a lot more than some blogs I know.

So {opinion} before asking someone reading your blog for those precious letters that make up their email address, you need to prove they’ll get some value from your updates {/opinion}.

End-users are more sophisticated now when it comes to why and when they give up the email address. So it’s time to get more sophisticated when it comes to building a subscriber list.

It might work if you have an ecommerce site, where you can offer someone a special discount if they’ve been browsing around for a while, but does it make sense if your bounce rate is over 90%? Or if your analytics show you don’t have any repeat visitors? Or if you haven’t published anything new in the last month?

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I don’t use those pop-ups or ask people to subscribe because a) I don’t publish often enough, and b) I don’t think as a group, the posts I’ve published provide enough value to a specific audience (which c) I haven’t clearly defined yet).

We’re at the stage of content marketing now where we can target repeat visitors, and we can define what those visitors are likely to do before subscribing, meaning if they go to another post, or visit an about page, or use the site search for something else.

I’m not suggesting the world stop using these types of calls-to-action, but I am suggesting that they be used with more consideration. Too many blogs / sites out there are aggressively asking for a sign-up before a first-time site visitor even knows if a repeat page visit is worth it. And that can / should be changed.

Personally, I think I have a lot of work to do on this blog before I get to the point where someone is ready to give me their email address.

Until then, I’ll keep working on what I have to offer.

Five things to consider before asking people to subscribe, using pop-ups or anything else:
  1. What are you offering? Don’t ask anyone to subscribe unless you have something to offer. This means discounts, free resources, more in-depth content. If you’re offering more personality have lots of it, like Wendy Williams. If you’re a Gabby Bernstein / Marie Forleo type, you’ve got to have a lot of well-designed, put-together content.
  2. Who are the people that visit your site (ie. your potential and current subscribers)? Are they sophisticated users who have probably been asked to subscribe 30 times that day already? So what are the chances your pop-up is probably going to be closed like all the others?
  3. Who are the people that visit your site (part 2)? Are they most likely repeat visitors who have already subscribed?
  4. Where do the people who land on your site come from? And what do they do after landing? If you have a high bounce rate when you’re trying to get people to spend more time on your site, that pop-up that displays when users reach for the back button isn’t going to help your cause. Maybe work on the bounce rate first.
  5. How are your current calls-to-action doing? Are more people using the subscribe boxes or less? Try testing out the subscribe pop-ups to see how they work, but don’t forget to check out the results after a few months and optimize if needed!

First, let’s be clear. In no way am I trying to devalue someone’s experience, or make it seem like one person’s story is better than another for any reason. The point of this post is to say: we need to hear more stories from people who have been. through. shit. Good. Glad we got that out of the way.

When I hear a “success story”, my bullshit meter goes crazy. Mainly because I’ve come across so many stories that my eyes can’t take anymore serious rolling, so I have to filter.

Like a recent story I heard {by accident} on a podcast I won’t name.

The story pretty much went like this:

  • person went to law school on their parents’ hard-earned (I’m assuming) dime {begin eye-roll}.
  • decided before they left they wanted to be a writer.
  • parents basically said “ok, great!” {ohhhh… kay?}.
  • they had a sister who was already a writer.
  • sister helped person become a writer.
  • they write about “being happy” {eye-roll complete}.

No offense, don’t take this the wrong way, but fuck these success stories from people who don’t seem to have ever been through anything really tough.

I don’t want to hear shit from these successful people who’ve had parents that coddled and co-signed their lives from day one.

What about someone who had to make their own way through school and then realized they didn’t want to practice law, or medicine, or whatever?

Or a person who had to deal with a lot of really tough shit in their younger years, and were still able to overcome / find success?

Or someone whose life was going on, pretty happy (or maybe not), and then they get hit with some kind of disaster and they’re able to come out from it a better person?

That’s the story I want to hear.

real_shit

But there are so many of these stories floating around from those *other* people who’ve basically been set up for success from a young age. It sends the wrong message.

For a while, I started to think that the ones like me, who have really struggled, we don’t get to be successful.

And then shit gets even more real when you look at those people who are talking, and you realize none of them are like you in some very specific ways: they’re all men, or they’re all white, or they’re all {enter other circumstance here}.

That sends another, very dangerous message.

There’s something about those people. The successful ones who’ve had nice, happy lives. They have a confidence that has never been challenged. I think if you’ve dealt with abuse of any kind, you sort of learn to shut yourself down.

The last thing you want to do is stand up and start sharing your story or talking to people. At least, this is how I see it.

If you’ve lived with someone who’s abusive, getting up and talking could get you hurt. So you’re more likely to live small.

Then if you have lived past it, got away, overcome, and had some success in your life, it might not occur to you that other people want to hear your story. That other people can draw strength from your strength, confidence from your confidence, learn from your lessons.

In my eye, the world is a scary place and I’m not sure if there’s someone else out there like the person I got away from. So if I get up and start sharing my story, my fear is that person will show up in my life again.

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I started listening to Unmistakable Creative a couple weeks ago. It was by pure accident. I had subscribed, but never listened until I saw the title “How to Live Well and Die Well with Greg Hartle – Part 2“.

It shook my world. I cried, downloaded both episodes on two different computers, put it on my iPod so I could listen to it anytime, played, paused, took notes, googled what it meant to find the ‘temporary structures’ Greg talked about, shared it with anyone I thought would be interested.

It was exactly the type of story I was looking for. So I spent the rest of the weekend stalking Greg Hartle to find out everything I could about him and his story.

Even though in the podcast he said he wasn’t in the public eye anymore because of health issues, I figured I could find more from him. More about his experience, more about his journey, just more.

I’m not just looking for more from Greg Hartle, I’m looking for more of these stories. And the search is what motivated me to write this post.

We need to hear more from people who have actually been through tough shit.

For Part 1 and 2 of Greg Hartle’s interview with Srini Rao on The Unmistakable Creative podcast, click the images below.

gh_part1 gh_part2

This is the fiction.

What I’m Selling

Writing + Everything About Writing.

I ♥ it all: research, content development, blogging, editorial planning and execution, distribution, SEO, metrics and tracking, repurposing, editing, rewriting.

With time, a few fiction novels.

I can help if you’re looking for a writer, or for someone to help with content for your site and social media marketing.