for the Quiet ones Archives - Kristen Kalp

Posts in "for the Quiet ones" Category

On silence: an urgent missive for your heart.

I’ve been crying and dismayed and despairing this week. Partly about the latest news, but partly because all those memes going around about silence finally got to me. You know the ones.

How your silence makes you complicit in X horror — where X = xenophobia, racism, sexism, police brutality, and/or the systematic destruction of endangered species, to name a few. How your silence means you agree with the atrocity of the week. How your silence means you’re bad/evil/standing on the wrong side of history/etc…

The introvert in me is appalled at the thought that my silence makes me a kind of monster.

My silence is many things, but it’s not monstrous, and my sense is that your silence is complicated, too.

My silence is trying to process vast volumes of information and sort the wheat from the chaff.

My silence is a conscious effort to keep from adding to the noise.

My silence is a result of trying to sort my knee-jerk reactions and emotions (ALL THE RAGE!) from my ability to find an action I can take, and then taking it. (No words necessary.)


Action can be completely silent.

For example: my donations and budget redirects are a few clicks a month and don’t use a single word. There’s no reason for me to tell you about them except to make a point right here, because your believing that you’re wrong/bad/useless/monster-y for being quiet hurts my heart and makes me cry as I’m typing right now.

— I’m heartbroken about the proposed budget cuts to the arts (issue). Also, I’m a member of the National Academy of Poets and will continue to throw money at them should the budget go through in the U.S. as proposed, which would lead to a 100%-ish drop in funding (silent action).

— I’m devastated by all the ways the new administration is trying to stop average people from accessing basic rights (issue). Also, I’m a member of the ACLU and make regular booster donations (silent action).

— I’m committed to giving more money to journalists and to the protection of the first amendment (issue), so I cancelled cable TV and signed up for 3 new magazine subscriptions and 3 newspapers instead (silent action).

I’m not broadcasting this stuff all over social media and using endless hashtags to promote my causes, but I’m still taking action.

Let’s not mistake silence on the internet for silence, period. And let’s not conflate silence with lack of action.

Entering into conversation in real life with those who do not agree with you (silence on the internet) is far harder than sharing a meme on the interwebs and going about your day (thus meeting your socially pressured ‘speaking out’ quotient).

I’m doing my best to sit calmly with the wild feelings of discomfort that come of trying to understand the viewpoints of the opposing side. I’m talking with people about sticky, uncomfortable topics laden with fear and rage, intertwined with religious belief and the thousands of assumptions that live within each of us, many of which we discover are tender only when they’re pressed. That’s slow, hard work for all of us.

Let’s not make up one more reason to shame ourselves because we aren’t doing enough, trying hard enough, or caring enough.

If you’re having conversations about issues you care about that make you uncomfortable; if you’re paying attention and doing your best to keep fear and rage out of circulation in the articles you pass along; if you’re rethinking your budget to pay for more of what you wish to see in the world and less of what you don’t; if you’re squeezing your spare cash into supporting the arts in literally any way, shape, or form; if you’re actively seeking a cause or causes to support, volunteer with, or help; then relax.

You’re not being the dangerous sort of doesn’t-give-a-shit silent. You’re not complicit in the take-down of humanity. You’re not doing it wrong.

You’re just not doing your work at TOP 10 LEVEL SCREAMING VOLUME. That’s okay. Volume is not an accurate measure of effectiveness.

If you’re a person who gets loud and screams from rooftops to bring about change, do that! I’m not into shaming of any kind, here — I’m just reminding the Quiet among us that Quiet does not in any way equal Monstrous.

It’s okay to take action in the ways best suited to your humanity.

Don’t stop. Don’t give up. Don’t fall into thinking that doing your part, however small or tedious or monotonous, doesn’t matter. Don’t start thinking that you have to start issuing rants and using at least 14 hashtags for your message to ‘count’ or to be heard.

Please don’t fall into believing that there’s a single, ‘right’ way to make a better world. We’re all making it together.

You are not required to share articles or memes or lectures or hashtags with the world in order to be heard. You can enter into conversation with those you love about issues on which you disagree, or make donations to causes you adore, or volunteer with an organization you dig, or reach quietly into your own soul and listen to what it asks you to do in the name of bringing all of us to a better world. And you can count that as enough.

…and if you’re so overwhelmed that you haven’t done a thing yet? Overwhelm is a terrible and insidious foe. Is there a single, small action you can begin to take today? Here are small, free places to begin.

+ Resist bot will send faxes to your U.S. Senators and Representative when you text it some basic information with a few sentences about what you want to say. You can text it daily with the issue of the moment, et voila! Tiny daily action!

+ This Rebecca Solnit essay will help you draw the line between optimism, pessimism, and hope, in ways you might not have considered before.

+ This blog helps you keep up-to-date on daily political goings-on without descending into a rabbit hole of utter despair and without rant-y political comments at the end.

+ The Small Victories newsletter updates you with good news, wins for the resistance, and a next-level GIF game once a week.

+ This podcast episode will help you reset yourself amidst all the ick and blah and gross! of the news in general.  or

+ Diversifying the voices you listen to can be massively helpful in shifting your perspective in secret, with podcasts and Instagram and books, and from the privacy of your own home.  That means Christians listening to Jewish podcasts and white people listening to black voices and males listening to female voices and on and on and on…you know where you block voices, and therefore you know where to begin listening. 😉  Or reading.  Or both.

Your quiet, your stillness, your thoughtful consideration, and your actions are needed. Please don’t let yourself believe otherwise.

With all my love –

P.S. Leaving the school of judgement is a process.  Also Introverts at Work is a fantastic book for aligning your Quiet self with your business-owning self.  Just sayin.’

What do you want to want?

We’re weaving through traffic, past abandoned warehouses, filthy streets, and barbed wire fences that are guarding graveyards, seeing all Philly’s least savory bits in quick succession. We bang a left and it appears: the building where I got Hermione D. Granger 5-ish years ago.

We’ve come to the shelter to adopt a kitten. SURPRISE!

I prop up a smile and grab his hand. I wander into the facility and fight tears. I’m not ready for another cat, even though this is a lovely and thoughtful holiday surprise. I’m not ready to commit to caring for another living thing, no matter how darling or charming or in need of a home that creature might be at the moment. My bandwidth currently holds a giant ghostwriting project, my own smaller writing projects, a host of personal issues, a boyfriend, one cat, one dog, and one flourishing houseplant.

I want to want it.

I want to want to walk through the aisles and choose a little fluff ball to bring home and love forever.

I want to want another animal to take the place of Big Kitty, who passed on a few weeks ago.

But I most definitely don’t want it.

I look into his eyes and ask to leave without looking at puppies (because who can stand the torture of all those sweet homeless faces, and I DEFINITELY ALWAYS want another puppy but don’t have the bandwidth for that, either), and we drive home. Quietly, holding hands, a little deflated.

Turns out, there are plenty of things I want to want.

I suspect you want to want ’em, too, if you’re over the age of 25 and you have internet access and/or a business:

I want to want to be famous. But I don’t. I don’t long for an e-mail list containing hundreds of thousands of people or dream about looking into the faces of millions of my adoring fans.

I almost didn’t go on my first date with my now-love because his roommate was a Brand Camp fan and I didn’t want to go sneaking around their house with him because…weird, right? (Spoiler alert: I got over it. Best first date EVER.)

I want to want a multi-million dollar business. But I don’t. I like being me, myself, and I — the leanest business model on the planet — hiring peeps to help out as I need ’em. I don’t want the multi-million dollar business bonanza because there’s a strong possibility that with it would come a team, and people management, and the knowledge that ten or twelve or twenty or three hundred people rely on me for their paychecks. I would crumple under the pressure, feel trapped by those financial constraints, and promptly self-implode.

I want to want to sell a big-giant-scalable program that costs somewhere between two and thirty thousand dollars. But I don’t. I really get off on writing and human connection, and can’t easily find the joy of human connection in large groups of people I don’t know really well. This isn’t to say that those programs don’t work for others or that I haven’t benefited from taking part in them: simply that I want to want to host one myself. But “NOPE” is the answer, louder and clearer than ever before.  Big and huge and vast are awesome pursuits, they’re just not my focus.

I want to want to own a home. But I don’t. I like calling my landlord and dumping issues in her lap without having to deal with them myself. It’s easier, it’s less stressful, it’s less costly, and it means I don’t have to learn to clean gutters or refinish floors or fix dryers or maintain heaters or handle any of those real-world, real-life Adulting issues related to home ownership.

I want to want babies. But I don’t. When women say they have baby fever or their “ovaries hurt” (don’t look oddly at me, guys, I’M QUOTING) when they hold babies, I have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. I see cooing and lovely, tiny creatures and make silly faces at them and am never, ever tempted to make one of my own.  My open letter to moms is still very true.

I want to want to go to parties. But I don’t. Like most introverts, I want to hear about a party and think, OH HOLY SHIT I MUST ATTEND. But I never, ever do. I’m a fairly quiet homebody whose idea of a party is having a few people over for sparklers and a white elephant gift exchange on New Year’s Eve. We’ll fill out blank Cards Against Humanity cards if we wanna get crazy. 😉

So, reader-friend…

What do you want to want?

What do you, if you’re deep down honest with yourself, feel like you should want but not actually fucking want?

Because it’s okay. It’s okay to not want a seven-figure business, or a legion of adoring fans, or to hit X benchmark that everyone agrees is important. If it’s not important to you, it’s not actually important.

You don’t have to own a home or birth a child or have a seven-figure business or launch a giant-ass program or hire a team or book out your client roster a year in advance. You don’t have to adopt another kitten or dog or child or houseplant or to-do list task. You don’t have to answer all your e-mails in 20 minutes or 20 hours or even 20 days, if you find a creative way around it. You don’t have to start a Facebook group. You don’t have to found a community or try to develop passive income or buy fresh peonies for your table every Tuesday in order to be a decent human being.

Take a careful inventory of the shit you want to want — it’s an odd sort of painful, the wanting to want — and then say ’em out loud.

These things you don’t actually want lose their power when you call ’em out.

I don’t want a kitten. I don’t want to buy a house. I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want a multi-million dollar business or head up a team. I don’t want to birth a child. And I don’t want to go to parties. Not ever, not once, unless it’s a wedding, because that’s a damn good excuse for loving the shit out of people and getting dressed up.

I don’t want ___________ or _______________ and most especially not _____________, even though ________ says I should.

I don’t want my life to look like ____________’s or ____________’s or his or hers or my __________’s, either.

I don’t want to ______________. Or _____________.

I have never wanted _____________________.

I still don’t want __________________________. (Not even a little.)

Being clear about the desires you don’t have makes more space for the shit you really want.

I want a shelf full of books I’ve written. I want to work with people one-on-one. I want to learn to be a better stepmom/stepgirlfriend/stepawkwardtitle. I want to travel at the drop of a hat. I want to have the option of going to sleep and watching only shitty romantic comedies when the weather is grey and rainy in the middle of winter. I want to have enough time to surprise my friends at work with lunch. I want to have enough money to make a life and inspire others to do the same. I want to teach people that business at its best is a vehicle for bringing your greatest gifts to light. I want to remind everyone who reads my blog that there’s nothing wrong with you.

It’s okay to want what you want.

More importantly, today, it’s okay to not want what you don’t want.

P.S.  As long as you’re getting rid of pseudo-desires, you might as well check out Konmari that doesn’t suck for your business.

How to write a book

I believe in the sanctity of the kitchen table.

I believe in writing as often as possible, for as long as possible, until you’ve wrung your brain dry of its contents and you’ve got nothing but the capacity for physical tasks left within you.

I believe in circling back to the table each morning, wearing pants or not, showered or not, ready to write or not, and scrawling your whole fucking heart down the length of the whole fucking page.

Whether your writing is interesting isn’t your concern.

The kitchen table is about telling the truth. All of it, even when you’re complaining about being a female and how that means you’re expected to cook meals of dinosaur chicken nuggets over and over without complaint because the kids are picky, and how men send up stunned and panicked alert flares when they are forced to cook perfect grilled cheese sandwiches on demand, slowly realizing the extent to which their children do not in any way appreciate the act of being fed at their leisure. (A stranger will overhear this conversation and call the show you should be writing, ‘Welcome to Having a Vagina.’ This will strike you as accurate and perfect.)

Your writing doesn’t have to be breathtaking.

You don’t have to scale Everest or defeat stage four cancer or earn a billion dollars in order to string words into sentences; glory is easy.

It’s much harder to capture the nuance of the everyday: all the burdens we cannot name. The strain of being constantly plugged in, tuned in, and generally aware of the events going on across the room, the state, the country, the planet. The pain of comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet. The strange sorrow that comes of knowing we can’t possibly have it all, consume it all, or even read it all in this lifetime.

The constant, curious knowledge that every passing minute narrows our life choices by 60 tiny clicks — and sometimes in those clicks, we can only hear, “This isn’t what I want” chanted over and over again.

Your writing doesn’t have to be original.

Sentences follow rules for damn good reasons. You don’t have to improvise a new sentence structure like some kind of crazy-ass letter jazz. You only have to get closer and closer to saying what you mean to say.

Your writing doesn’t have to mean a damn thing to anyone else.

Coming to the kitchen table doesn’t mean other people care about what you’re saying; it means you care about what you’re saying. Writing means you’re willing to set a place for yourself at the table, to feed your deepest and darkest and most interesting bits the steady diet of a listening ear and a few minutes of your time.

Publishing your work doesn’t mean a damn thing except that you have internet access.

The kitchen table is a sacred pact between you and your own life: your ability to show up, to get the pieces down, to lay the foundation for a life of listening to your voice and then fashioning the scraps into something you find interesting.

Something you.

Find interesting.

Other people’s interest is a bonus, but by no means required.

Your poems do not have to be shown to another soul.

Same goes for your essays, stories, novels, tales: entirely yours.

Your kitchen table time, your writing time, is a respite from the constant demands of consumerism.

Each word is a tiny banner flapping “I make, I make, I make” in the face of the prevailing societal winds busy screaming “Consume, consume, consume.”

Writing affords you the surety of knowing you’ve turned up on your own behalf; acted as your own counsel; listened to your own voice long enough to discern your thoughts from the general rumpus; and found a way to express those thoughts when it would be easier to do anything else.

The kitchen table is there, waiting, inviting you not to plan a better or different or more acclaimed writing life.

The table is there, waiting for you to write.

Writing a book (whether short story collection or memoir or novel or poetry collection or epic or how-to) is the act of showing up to the kitchen table, over and over again, until the work is done.

May you choose the completely common miracle of the kitchen table, over and over again.

May you someday bear witness to all those words flapping their banners in the wind, proclaiming the steady truth of your work as you enter the castle you’ve been building, all this time, letter by letter and line by line.