Listen, you’ve read the title and you know what’s up; this is my last official post for College Fashion.
I started writing for CF in 2014, when I was a bright-eyed, terrified 22-year-old, hoping to guide the next generation of college students through their most tumultuous and formative years. Now, I’m almost 28, (still terrified, if you were wondering) it’s going to be a new decade, and there’s a full 10 years between the youngest college students and me, and I still have no idea how TikTok works, so it’s time. It’s time, my friends.
I wanted firstly to say thank you – thank you for reading and sharing and commenting over the years, for putting my Sephora fund money in my pocket, for giving me a safe and fun community to share my voice and hone my craft. Thank you to the other CF writers who supported me in the beginning, and to the writers doing the do now – I’m eternally astounded by your creativity, your vision, your writing. And finally, thank you Zephyr for taking a chance on me and handing me a megaphone, and then a blank check to write whatever the hell I wanted. What you’ve built is beautiful, and I’m proud to have been a part of it.
Writing for College Fashion anchored my adult years, and I learned so much about myself and working and writing over that time that I would be remiss not to share it. Here’s what I learned about life and work writing for CF.
Eff the Fear
When I applied for CF in the spring of 2014, it felt like a total long shot.
I worked for two summers in a field I wasn’t going to return to, I had absolutely no fashion writing experience, and it seemed like every other writer was from Columbia or RISD, or they’d interned for every fashion pub under the sun. Still, I was graduating without a job, getting married in two months, and sinking into another depressive episode; I knew I would need to do something to keep me from going completely dark that summer.
I’d read CF since I was, y’know, preparing for college in the summer of 2010. I knew the voice, the vibe, I had the English degree. The only thing holding me back was comparison, expectation, the darkness. The fear.
So I shot the shot, despite my fears; I pulled together some probably atrocious outfit sets, and wrote a (passable?) potential article. The worst that could happen was that Zephyr would get a really good laugh on the other end of the country, and all I would hear of it was silence. No would not end the world. Except I got the reply back. The universe didn’t give me no. It gave me yes.
Take the chance. Shoot the shot. Eff the fear. If it’s not in the stars, well. At least you consulted them.
Meet your deadlines. If you are doing anything that involves writing, missing a deadline with communicating it upfront means a world of hurt for your publication, your team, your business.
Communicate if ish goes sideways. Check your email, and answer promptly. Have a sense of humor if you make mistakes. Be humble. Edit your own work before you send it in. Do your research. Try to be better each time. Check in with yourself when it starts to feel routine. Mix it up. Ask for feedback. Listen.
I didn’t always do all of these things, but I’ve learned that if you make it a priority to be reliable and consistent in your work, it becomes much easier for your boss to overlook the little ish that comes up.
Of course, your work (and you) are not a zero-sum game, but showing people that you are serious about your work and your future will make them more serious about you, too.
Creativity is a Life-Death-Life Cycle
Anyone who writes (or creates in any capacity) will tell you it’s this weird death of the soul to identify as an artist/writer/creator when you’re not arting/writing/creating.
For nearly 3 years after I graduated from two intensely creative majors, spending most of my time writing poetry and making art, I wasn’t writing any poetry or making any art. The stuff that I did squeak out felt paltry and meaningless – it felt like torture to finish anything. (Another wonderful side-effect of depression, btw.) And yet – I was writing for CF.
I’m not saying that everything I wrote in those first years was bursting with creativity, but I was engaging with an audience, researching, writing, making. When I could barely drag myself out of bed to go to work, I was sitting down at the computer meeting deadlines and enjoying the process. And oddly, It wasn’t even ‘writing’ to me…until my therapist pointed out that I was writing for the blog when I lamented that I wasn’t creating enough.
The point here is, if you’re a creative type, it can sometimes feel like the creative well runs dry, when really you’re just…switching to another crop and replenishing your soil. Or you’re letting your soil be fallow for a hot second. This is normal, and very healthy for you as a creative individual, depressed or not.
And truthfully – having multiple creative practices will help you hone thoughts and connect ideas across mediums, which leads to more creative ideas.
Your Voice Matters (Or, Someone Is Reading)
There was a time, about one to two years in, where I switched from writing the Inspired by Art column to practically whatever I wanted, where I saw my comments and views dip.
First of all, chasing likes and views is a losing game and don’t do it. But, I found myself obsessing over the comments I was getting, the number of shares. I would tweak and tailor my content, pay attention to what others were writing, steal bits and bobs from them. There were days where I wondered why I did it at all; it felt like I was pouring my pearls into the ground, screaming into the void.
My therapist and I talked about this, and she asked me why I didn’t just quit if it felt pointless. I had to think about my answer; finally, I responded that I felt like I had something to say, to share (I know, I’m writing fashion tips and skincare recs mostly, fight me). If it helped someone, then it was worth it.
My therapist responded with, “Okay. Imagine Someone on the other end, then. If you can’t always write for you, write for them.”
Someone became this almost-persona, a person that I would have animated conversations with about skincare or 13 Reasons Why or Caroline Polachek’s new album or how to build your work posse. That really helped me tighten my voice, but also focus on what kind of articles I wanted to write. Practical advice provided in a fun but sensitive way, like talking to a slightly older friend or a cool auntie. It also really helped me hone my mentorship style at work, as a bonus.
When I wrote in this voice, I stopped caring so much about the engagement; I was writing stuff I was happy signing my name on. But of course, the numbers came with that voice. Authenticity drew someone in. Someone was listening, after all.
Vulnerability Is Rewarding
Part of being a writer is learning which stories to tell, and when, and how, and to whom. In that first year or so, I was very buttoned up and ‘professional’ – my writing was about the fashion, about the art. I was writing for a blog, not for me. As I wrote more and more, I found myself giving little bits and bobs of myself to you.
I was an art major, and English major, and I struggled to write. The transitions of married life knocked me flat, and I struggled with the transitions of working full time. I was fat, and had been most of my life. My mental health demanded my immediate attention, and I got diagnosed, finally, with depression and anxiety. I came out as bisexual.
When we first start to work, it can be really tempting to create a separate persona for your professional life, where the personal and the professional never overlap, never influence each other.
There are benefits to this: you are protected, in some ways, from bias. You can discover your professional style without the influence of your personal style. Both fashion-wise and in the way you work and interact with the people you work with. And, for some, it makes it easier to leave work at work, with your work persona.
But I’ve found over time, working at CF and working out in the real world, that honesty, vulnerability, and authenticity make it much, much easier to do your work. When you’re able to be your whole self at all times, and to feel safe doing so, it is much easier to make the personal connections that make your work worth the effort you put into it.
To be seen by others is a gift and a curse, but it is more often a gift. I cannot recommend it enough.
What do you think?
Thank you again for reading my articles over the years, and for all the support. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below — I would love to hear from you.