Over the last sixteen months, I’ve been working with a great group of people to build and nurture a new project: the Genderplayful Marketplace. This online marketplace celebrates diversity in gender presentation and body types. It rallies a community to work collectively on the question, “How can we build wardrobes we love that fit our bodies well?”, and it offers extra encouraging support for trans, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming folks (an identity set that we define very broadly). The project was inspired by what we’ve learned in our work at Genderfork.com.

The Process

The Genderplayful homepage, in private beta

It started with a fundraiser last year. I promised that we would build the marketplace if we raised $5,000, and we received such a strong show of support that our final total was $8,000. Since then, we’ve just been chugging along, step by step, trying to stay focused on the goal and not get discouraged by the sheer size of it (and all of those damned possibilities that would make it so much better except when they really just make it feel more daunting).

For the first six months, we focused on the tech foundation — WordPress Multi-Site, Buddypress, and Marketpress, coupled with Linode and Springloops — and we worked with designers to build our visual experience. Then we pulled in a bigger volunteer staff to jumpstart our social media presence (meet our Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook accounts — each building their own collage of creativity, curiosity, and community style). We also assigned volunteers to help get our forums going, set our first vendors up with storefronts, develop a community blog, curate some featured content, keep the tech development moving forward, and keep our newfound team happy and healthy.

On January 15th of this year — one year after we finished our fundraiser — we opened our creaky doors to community members who’d supported us along the way for a Private Beta. And now we’re cleaning up, tweaking settings, building missing features, helping vendors settle in, and populating the site with the kind of culture we believe in.

Slowly, but surely. But slowly. Sure.

The Laws of Volunteerism

Featured sellers, community blogging

Eight grand is enough money to deal with legal and financial requirements, to cover tech account costs, and to hire the few services that you can’t easily request from volunteers. (It also buys t-shirts, which were part of the deal for getting community funds in the first place.)

It is not, however, enough money to also hire a staff or fund a professional web development job. And that’s fine — we didn’t ask for that level of support to begin with — but it does mean that everything we do is subject to the Laws of Volunteerism.

These laws, as far as I can tell, are as follows:

Law #1: Our predicted involvement will be bigger than our actual involvement. The energy and excitement that we have at the beginning of a project is rarely sustainable at its peak levels, and the actual time we can invest in a project over the long-term needs to have a realistic bare minimum.

Law #2: We will mostly do things that are either urgent or methodical. Give us a fire to put out, and we’ll jump on it. Give us task to repeat every week, and we’ll turn it into a habit. But ask us to think about something new every day without attaching a major deadline to it?  Yeah, sorry, we’d love to, but maybe you can find someone else to jump in…

Law #3: We need to see that our work is helping others in order to keep doing it. I think the single biggest mistake we made in the first year of Genderplayful was not creating a smaller version of the marketplace that we could release much sooner. As volunteers, we are fueled by the positive impact we have on others, and we lose momentum when that’s harder to see.

Law #4: Real life will get in the way. Job stress, moving, breakups, illness, overwhelm, family issues, school, travel, projects, personal transitions, and other forms of Real Life don’t stop knocking. Ever. Volunteering is a commitment, but it’s a rather secondary commitment to, say, staying alive and healthy, and we have to remain flexible as our own availabilities change.

All of these things have happened to all of us on the project, and they hit our tech team and our organizing/leadership energy the hardest. Which leads me to…

SHAMELESS PLUG! If anyone would like to offer their reinforcements in these areas, please first consider the Laws listed above, and then fill out our “SEND IN THE REINFORCEMENTS!” form with how you’d like to help.

Dreaming vs. Doing

When it comes down to it, we’re still walking and still building, even if it’s messy, slow, and quiet in the darkness some nights.

Ideas are fun and cheap, and Great Ideas are worth doing. Doing, however, requires pushing through every form of resistance your brain can come up with, withstanding the stretch of real timelines, and ignoring all those new fun cheap ideas that show up every morning and tempt you to do something new. Doing a Great Idea (as opposed to just any old idea) helps with that last part, but it still takes force, conviction, and faith to get to the finish line.

And we’re getting there. Soon*, you’ll be able to see and experience all the wonders (or at least the highest priority ones) that we’ve been imagining all along the way.

* “Soon” implies no specific timeline. (We know better than that by now.)

My longest romantic relationship is not the three-year partnership I just ended. (Though I prefer to say it’s been “rearranged”, because we’re grownups now, and it’s our turn to decide what that means.)

My longest romantic relationship is with the Internet.

(And I have written it so. many. love letters.)

Something about the way it swept me off my feet and carried me into adulthood, the way it told me I was beautiful and valuable when I’d always been a misfit, and the way it provided me with resources and answers whenever I felt sure that I was completely on my own… the Internet has always been more than just access to other people. It’s been my home, my nourishment, my partner… the thing that showed me understanding and gave me an identity when I was so far away from society’s standards that my own sanity was in question… the thing that gave me what I needed when what I needed didn’t seem to exist.

I realize I am now speaking for the next generation of Crazy Cat Ladies — we are the Crazy Internet People — who rely on non-human replacements for human relationships. I could justify it by saying that the Internet really is all about the People, but it’s not. They’re part of it, sure, but they were always there. The Internet added something to make them better.

The Internet is about the access.

It’s about being able to shout a question to the sky and actually get an answer. It’s about being able to shape our own secret stories so they can be heard and felt by that stranger on the other side of the world who desperately needs to know they’re not alone. It’s about being able to create complete crap and fling it out into a field knowing that no one will care, unless you happened to be wrong about it being crap. It’s about building a brilliant wall of mixed sensory input that feeds you exactly what you asked for, along with everything you didn’t know you needed but it thought you should have anyway.

It’s not perfect. Like any lover, it comes with more baggage than a cross-country flight on Christmas Eve. It has daddy issues, it has a temper, it has weird fetishes that you’re not interested in, and it wakes you up at 3am to say things like, “We need to talk.”

Maybe that’s what makes it okay for us to be messy humans right back at it.

I knew this year would have me nose-to-the-grindstone building and rebuilding my foundations. It was time to stop thinking about what I wanted to do, and to just push myself to get it done. A new full-time contract. A new startup. The closure of six years worth of freelance clients. A relationship breaking down. Mix in two speaking engagements at universities on the East Coast and a meeting in Canada, and yeah, that’s a full plate.

No one would fault me for shutting up, disengaging from Facebook and Twitter except for basic updates, and not blogging for awhile.

But I do.

Not just because its professionally important for me to keep building a community, an audience, a constituency, a position in the greater conversation, and (ugh) a personal brand. Yeah, I’m a social media kid, and those things are all my life blood. And when I’m not blogging, I’m not keeping it up. (Actually, I decided that none of that mattered this year. I’ve already got all the fuel I need to build what’s next, and what’s next is for my people, so it’ll all work out in the end.)

I’m kicking myself for being quiet because I am less happy when I’m not interacting with the Internet. I could go on a long anthropomorphizing rant about how you’d be unhappy, too, if you weren’t talking to your lover of 14 years. Or I could just quote gapingvoid and make it simple:

“Sharing makes us happy. Not sharing makes us unhappy. Like I said, [it’s] a fundamental human drive.” –Hugh MacLeod

Or, to expand: The Internet is about access, and access matters because it allows us to bear witness.

That’s it. That’s what we’re showing up for.

Tonight I’m listening to Lady Gaga’s latest album, Born This Way, in which she sings her heart out, making direct eye contact with every young person who’s ever felt like they didn’t belong. And it doesn’t matter that I don’t like her style of dance mixes, or that I think her bridges are trite. She’s singing, and she’s connecting, and she’s telling people they’re not alone, and I love her madly for it. Tonight, she is my Internet. She’s standing up in that role that I treasure — the one that saved me, and the one I stand in whenever I can handle the weight of it because it matters so damn much. The one where we reach out to sad strangers and say, “It’s okay, I’ll hold your hand. Now walk.

I have no conclusion. I’m just hitting publish because that’s better than not. And because if we censor our impulses out of fear of what future opportunities might think, we’re as good as having forgotten our dreams.

(And also because I promised myself no sex until I started blogging again.)

So what do you say. Does this count as showing up for you, Internet?

Can I get a witness?

I am building.

I am waking up early on weekdays and going into an office and doing a job I love — community management for a company that makes free, open websites for whoever on the planet wants to write and build and share.

I am taking hour-long lunches on a giant beanbag at the back of the office with my laptop, building a little at a time and answering emails from my other projects. And then I am closing down that mail program and not looking at it for the rest of the day while I go back to work.

I am blogging and thinking and maintaining and helping. I am learning.

I am working 40 hours a week.

I am scheming ideas on the train. I am brainstorming while I walk through Yerba Buena Park every morning. I am listening to audiobooks on management, on creativity, on mindfulness, and on how to be a ten year-old boy. I am dancing through the Martin Luther King memorial fountain in the rain on my walk home.

Once a week, I have a meeting at 7am with one of my organizing counterparts to plan more building.

I am spending evenings resting and playing and seeing people. I thought I would spend them building, but I was wrong. I am healthier this time around, and my body needs time to not build.

I am also getting eight hours of sleep a night. Usually. (Okay, seven.) And I eat breakfast every day.

I am building on weekends.

I am writing all over my whiteboard. I am writing all over my shower. I am writing on post-its and notebooks and the backs of envelopes all over my desk. There are wireframe sketches and lists everywhere.

I am forgetting to do my dishes.

I am tackling features and software and code. I am finding bugs and squishing them. I am testing things and researching and talking to myself out loud.

I am working 60 hours a week.

I am untangling the knot of how to build a sustainable community project on only lunchbreaks and weekends. I am cracking the nut of how to build a happy staff without revenue or major investment. I know these things are possible because I’ve done this before.

Twice.

And this time around, I am healthier. I am in love with my entire day, every day. This is what I spent last year preparing for and making possible. It’s here. This is it. I get to build.

It won’t be done next week, but it’s happening.

The Genderplayful Marketplace is on its way.

Update! The fundraiser is live and we’re over here now: http://genderplayful.tumblr.com

~ ~ ~

Update 12/4/10: I made a video for ya. (Well, it was originally for Genderfork, but it’s for you, too.)
Also: I’m naked in it.

This is the week of shaking trees. Two days ago, I put out a call for stable employment (for the first time in six years). My consulting work has gotten thin and bumpy, and it’s time for something to change.

There’s another idea that’s been on the table for awhile now, though, and I think it’s time I told you about it.

I want to build an online marketplace for gender-variant clothing solutions.

Not a store where I sell to you, but a service like Etsy and Ebay where we sell to each other, in a focused, supportive community. And while we’re at it, we also trade all sorts of tips and inspirations on how best to look the way we want, gender-be-damned.

You know what I’m talking about. Tuxes for hips and breasts. Size 16 extra-wide high heels. Custom alterations, custom orders, custom tailoring. Hot unisex indie designer labels. Hand-made t-shirts. That awesome skirt from your closet that doesn’t fit you anymore. A good chest binder. That amazing jacket you found at a thrift store for $5 that you want to resell. And while we’re at it, let’s bring in styles from every subculture that celebrates androgyny, which is pretty much all of them.

I’ve been thinking about this for a year.

I talked to the staff at Genderfork last winter, and we agreed it should be a separate-but-friendly project (Genderfork is run like activism; this would be run like a business).

I did a bunch of research on software options, and had to table the idea for awhile because a good multi-seller marketplace solution didn’t exist. But I’ve got one now. It came out in September. We can do this.

I have the web development, the project management, and the community organizing skills to make this happen. And I love the people this will serve. Relentlessly.

All I need is time and money.

You know. That stuff.

I’m in talks with a family member who can give me a loan, but they need to know that there’s enough support for the project to warrant the risk. Also? Loans are stressful. It would be awesome if we could offset it with some community support. So…

I would like to launch a Kickstarter campaign.

Kickstarter is a service that lets community members donate to projects (and receive thank-you gifts based on their donation amount), to meet funding goals. The goal and timeline are set in advance. If the goal is met, the donations go through and the project happens. If the goal isn’t met, the donations don’t happen, and we consider it closed.

This is a test.

If we can rally a ton of community support, I will go all in on this plan and make it happen as quickly as is humanly possible. If we get only moderate support, I will take a day job and build this project slowly, in my off-hours. If support seems slim, I’ll consider it closed.

**How You Can Help Without Giving Me Money**

Do you want this to happen? Help me convince the world that it matters, that we need these clothing solutions, and that the best way to get them is to come together and create them collaboratively.

Here’s how you can do that. I want you to make a video of yourself explaining why this is important to you. Use your phone, your webcam, or whatever you have nearby. Don’t make it fancy; just make it real. Tell us what matters to you, what you need, or what you have to give.

I will collect these videos and edit them together to make a promotional video for the kickstarter campaign. Or maybe multiple videos, if you send me lots of great stuff.

The more faces we can show, the better.

Your voice will help me convince others that this project deserves their support. That it needs to happen.

How to get your video to me…

Chances are your video will be bigger than the average reasonable email size. So here are some options (just pick one):

A) Use Google Docs to upload the file. Then share it with genderplayful@gmail.com

B) Get a Dropbox account, put it in the public folder, and email genderplayful@gmail.com the URL to that file.

C) Post it as a video reply to my YouTube video.

A Note on Privacy: I plan to use your face and your voice, but not your name, unless (maybe) you say it in the video.

Deadline: This Tuesday.  As Soon As You Can.  I’m going to start pushing things out to the world this week, so the faster the better, but I’ll continue to make use of material that comes in later, too. It all makes a difference.

This will matter.

Make a video. Do it for everyone who needs this marketplace, but isn’t ready to say so out loud. Do it this weekend. This is your art project. Go.

Love,
Sarah

Update: If making a video really isn’t your cup of tea, another thing you can do is write a paragraph explaining why this is important to you. You can leave that in a comment below or email me at genderplayful@gmail.com, and it will find the right audience. Thank you so much!

~ ~ ~

Update! The fundraiser is live and we’re over here now: http://genderplayful.tumblr.com

It’s been a rollercoaster around here and I’ve kept my game face on, but there are things that need saying.  Things about what matters, and why, and how keeping a Pollyanna attitude is no more naïve and no less radical than a scowl.

I don’t presume to take goodness at face value, and no, I don’t believe that all we need is love, or that tragedy and injustice aren’t happening every minute in every town the world. I get that. I do. But I also believe in the power of slicing through that grim nightmare with a sharp and unflinching force of forgiveness, kindness, and grace.

I believe in putting all that noise on MUTE and working tirelessly to build haven after haven from the rain.

I believe in disrupting expectations by giving someone a second chance.

I believe in putting white-knuckle fists to the steering wheel and getting the hell out of dodge — even just for a night — when anything is stuck, or broken, or stagnant. And I believe in ending up the next morning with your feet hanging off a cliff, staring at the ocean, the grand canyon, a cityscape, a mountain range, a cornfield, a playground, or even an empty Walmart parking lot if you have to — just as long as the sun is rising and you’re paying attention and you feel free. I believe in bringing that feeling home with you and pouring it into your work, your home, your loves, and your willingness to fight for another person’s moment of relief.

And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I still believe in the Internet. Like I did in 1999, when my secret and hand-coded log/journal/diary thing that didn’t have a genre name yet was an oasis for people digging through Alta Vista and HotBot late at night for someone who was being honest and telling a story. It didn’t matter what story was being told as long as it sounded like secrets being whispered in the dark. Because that was the sound of not being alone.

I still believe in the Internet like I did before everything was archived and cross-referenced in the Wayback Machine and Google’s public caches.  Like I did when still I believed in anonymity.

And some days it’s harder to stay focused on what matters, but I do still believe in the Internet like I did before SEO was a competitive sport. Before businesses started dropping vowels in order to score a good domain name. Before plastic and aluminum grade disposable ads, widgets, and apps littered every square inch of the Internet’s surface like empty Coke bottles after a high school football game.

I believe that sincerity and excitement are critical ingredients for anything to matter, and that that is why the Internet is winning. I believe that everyone who tries to fake those ingredients will either fail or have a house dropped on their heads during a tornado as punishment for their lies and their laziness. But I also believe it’s now commonplace for people to see Internet marketing as a set of cold strategic formulas void of genuine connection, and that this is morally wrong.

It’s not the large companies and marketing agencies that bother me (this has been part of their game forever). It’s the individuals — the folks who are just trying to carve a reasonable space for themselves in the Digital Land of Opportunity — who’ve been taught that analyzing social media profiles and then contacting large groups of strangers with canned and solely self-promotional messages counts as “making connections.”  That it’s not spam. That this is how they’re supposed to do it. That this is what it means to contribute to a community. That’s the part that breaks my heart.

And yet.

And yet, on the same Internet, regular people collaborate with strangers to build free software that makes our lives better. Building a decent website without technical skills is possible.  Designers hand out attractive site designs for free, just to make the Internet a more beautiful place. Photographers give strangers permission to use their photos. Musicians offer their tunes up freely for remixing into podcasts and other creative projects. Artists can raise funds for new projects by getting friends excited about them. Anyone can start a community discussion space. Committed members are happy to volunteer.

While I sometimes miss the days when the Internet didn’t feel like a sensory and information overload bomb, I don’t think I’d go back to them. Our tools, creativity, and commitment to each other have come so far. We’re real people now; not anonymous screen-names looking for fantasy cybersex on AOL chatrooms. Our online and offline lives are so tightly woven together that we get to grapple with one another on questions like “How and when should I keep my social circles compartmentalized?”. My mom is on Facebook, and my she has the power to hide my feed because I talk too much. AND we’ve all stopped using <blink> tags. That’s progress.

Last week, the feature for Queer Open Mic (an event I co-organize) opened with a poem that stunned and rocked me back into place. It started with…

She said to me that most trailblazers
may never see the trail.
May never see the path they cut into the earth,
or the feet that come behind them.

Most days, she said, the act of walking
without a set route probably won’t feel like revolution.
There are too many goddamned branches in your face,
Too much to hack through, dulling the machete
and making your muscles scream for the kind of comfort
your mind can’t hope to welcome.

And it ended with…

She told me it was all impossible, and still
she said, “Go.”
She said, “Leave, and scare the shit out of yourself.
You’ll be glad you did.”

— excerpt from She said, “Go” by Tatyana Brown

We’re pushing paths into this Internet together. I believe the tools and opportunities we want to see are worth fighting for — that these branches are absolutely worth hacking through — but only with our feet firmly planted in the what we care about and love.

Good morning.

In a couple of hours, I’m going to a wedding in Dolores Park, at which all of the attendees will be dressed in white, preferably bridal gowns. It will look a whole lot like a Brides of March flash mob, except in september, and with a real wedding involved.

Last night, I hosted the six-year anniversary Queer Open Mic with my co-organizer, Baruch, who is an unstoppable force of creativity and community passion. Last night was one of the first nights in a long time that we ran out of time before we ran out of “if we have extra time” performers.  It sucks to have to turn people away from a microphone, but my head was still buzzing from all the art for hours afterward.

The night before that, I went to the unofficial BlogHer Debriefing dinner (reflecting on a conference I actually played hookie from this year, but have a long-standing relationship to). I walked out with a belly full of enchiladas, two work requests, and the firm encouragement from Shannon Rosa and Jennifer Byde Myers still rattling in my head, telling me I can do this. All of this. Telling me I’m doing better than I think I am.

On Tuesday, I’ll fly to New England for a week of rest, work, family, and foliage. (Mostly foliage.) I haven’t seen New England peak autumn foliage since I moved to California 6 years ago, and I know that emptiness has been getting to me because I painted my apartment red, yellow, and orange.  (BTW, if you’re in New England, the best way to see me on this trip is to be willing to come to me. I’ll probably be somewhere in New Hampshire, excepting a few stopovers in Massachusetts.)

Oh, and I got a laptop last week. I’m no longer tethered to the desktop in my studio apartment, working entirely from home. I can co-work now. I can build websites from hotel rooms. I can make the city my office. (I just have to learn to use a PC again is all.)

And this is all a long-winded way of telling you that I feel awake again.

There’s a poster in my kitchen that Hugh MacLeod drew on for me at at last year’s CrunchUp party. (That’s how he signs those posters. By drawing on them.) I told him, I feel stuck and stagnant and I don’t want to get up in the morning. Draw something that makes me feel awake. He drew this:

It took a year, but I’m feeling it now. I like getting up in the morning again. There’s stuff to do.  I have a team. I like my work. I have a new baby to feed, and it still has a long way to grow, but it already embodies everything I spent the last year trying to articulate.  I have a path now, and it’s not based on what people told me I should do. It’s what I found when I went looking for the things I care about.  And as far as I can tell, this direction didn’t even exist before (at least, not the way I want to do it). I made it up. That’s how I know it’s right.

And something completely freaking spectacular is happening to me because of this shift: I want to meet people again. For the first time in years, I’m interested in being social. I want to dance with everyone, to find more people to be close to, to listen to stories, to connect ideas, to engage.

When I felt lost, I disengaged from others quite a bit. On purpose. I couldn’t afford to fall into someone else’s agenda.

But now I feel unshakeable, and I want to keep walking.

See you soon.

Love,
Sarah

As luck would have it, the two books I contributed to this year are being launched in the same week.  This is actually quite lucky because it means I can confuse everyone with it, and distract them from looking at one book with the other.

Here they are…

1) Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation

Edited by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman. (Get it.)

genderoutlaw This is a very powerful and important book, and you should buy it.  I say this not as a contributor, but as someone who’s been holding space in the gender-variance advocacy world, who knows that most of you are craving more exposure and information, and don’t know how to get it without coming across as clumsy.  THIS IS A GOOD BOOK.  It’s a patchwork collage of 52 voices, many of whom are hidden in daily life, but all of whom are well-spoken and have something powerful to say.

I’m honored to add that my piece is the End Note. It’s a brief meditation at the back of the book about where I see us, and where I think we’re going.  An excerpt:

We are five years old. Eighteen. Thirty-seven. Sixty. We are starting grad school, starting companies, starting families, and starting trends. We are serving coffee and signing paychecks, nursing the sick and teaching children, building technology, growing food, producing masterpieces, and changing laws. We are woven into this culture and we are finding each other. We are sharing our notes, strengthening our stories, reaching out for one another, and welcoming everyone in.

And when we wake up in five, ten, twenty-five years, we’ll find that the queer issues we’re fighting so hard for today have been trumped by an understanding of the fluidity of gender. We’ll have learned that masculinity and femininity are not mutually exclusive, and how satisfying it can feel to represent both at once, or neither…

Buy the book to read the rest, and the REST! ALL of the incredible essays, stories, poems, naked pictures (yes, naked pictures), cartoons, and conversations. I’m serious. You want this one. Go get it.

2) Coming & Crying

Edited by Melissa Gira Grant and Meaghan O’Connell. (Don’t get it.)

comingandcryingThis is the other book I’m in. You don’t need to read it.

The project itself, from a purely observational standpoint, is fascinating. Melissa Gira Grant and Meaghan O’Connell decided they wanted to have an intervention into publishing — especially published sex writing — and to bring more of the rich, raw, honest writing style that was surfacing on the internet (about sex) to the printed page. They used a service called Kickstarter to raise some money from the community before they gathered the writing, so they could self-publish it properly. Their goal was to raise $3,000. They raised $17,000. And now they’re starting their own media label.

(But just because the project is fascinating does not mean you have to buy the book.)

The book is erotica-meets-drama. It’s a book of sex stories with all the messy awkwardness and overanalysis left in. I wrote a story for it. It’s under my real name. It’s a very personal story. Let’s just accept right now that I’m never going to run for Senate.

If you are a member of my family, I strongly recommend that you (please) do not buy this book. If you have a purely professional relationship with me and would rather not feel weird the next time you see me, I also really don’t think you should buy it.

And if you’re anyone else, you know what? We’re in a recession. You need to buy groceries. Look! Shiny things! I think your grandmother is on fire. Don’t look at the book.

Also? It was a limited print run. They’re gonna sell out soon anyway. And who knows — they might not print any more. So you probably can’t get the book anyway. It wasn’t meant to be. No, you can’t see an excerpt. You never heard about this. Enjoy your day.

(Don’t get it.)

Love,
Sarah

Two different people just asked me about this in the last five minutes, so it seems worth writing out.  And then I can link to this post in my GChat status message! Shortcut!

Here’s the scenario: Through the luck of the emailing, you’ve scored my secret gmail address, and I’m showing up in your chat list.  You’ve already noticed two things:

  1. I seem to be there all the time. Like, 24/7. Like, why the heck doesn’t this Dopp ever sleep?
  2. I am always, always, without exception marked Busy. Red. Unavailable. “Warning warning, saying hi is rude right now!”  Etc. Never green.

There are good explanations for this.

Why are you always there?

I have a Google Android-based cell phone that gets Gtalk.  So as long as my cellphone is on, I’m pokeable.  (Note that if you send me a chat message when my computer is off, I’ll get it on my phone, it will feel like a text message to me. Our communication paradigm will have shifted, and you won’t have any way of knowing. *cue scary music*)

Why are you always busy?

BECAUSE I’M ALWAYS BUSY!  I usually have at least 10 projects going at once, and if I’m at my computer, I’m probably working on one of them. The Internet is my office, and my business hours are Whenever I’m Awake. If you want to hang out with me when I’m taking a break, you need to come meet me at Dolores Park in San Francisco. I’ll be the one stretching, wandering around, enjoying the sun, and not looking at my phone or computer.

So… can I gchat with you?

Sure!  (Maybe.)  Here’s what I’d love:

If you’re working with me on something, you can always send me a message. It’s a good way to get a quick answer from me. If I’m there, I’ll respond.  If I don’t respond, please send me an email.  (Gchat messages are known for getting lost.)

If you’re not working with me on something, please don’t open with “hi” or “hey” or “what’s up?” and wait for me to respond. I probably won’t. Just start with the thing you want to talk about. (And if I don’t respond, follow up over email.)

If you don’t have anything in particular you want to talk about, but you want to talk to me, please ask me if we can get coffee sometime.  Don’t try to catch up with me over gchat.

If you have something funny or interesting you want to send me, go ahead and just gchat me the link.  I may or may not be able to look at it, and I probably won’t have much time to talk about it, but I’ll appreciate the thought.

I know, I know, this is me being weird again.  First I don’t answer my phone, and now this.

But think of it this way: at least I’m reachable.  Remember when I shut down IM completely for four years?  You hated that.  This is my compromise.

Love you,
Sarah

It’s here — the holiday of all holidays — Geek New Year.  The intersection of the end of SXSW Interactive and St. Patrick’s Day, when everyone who made the annual pilgrimage to Austin, TX is wandering home, rubbing their eyes and thinking a thousand new thoughts about how the coming year will be. And drinking.

I skipped SXSW this year, and didn’t miss it much.  But apparently, 2009 Me took some steps to keep 2010 Me in the loop just so I wouldn’t feel left out.  I woke up this morning to an email I’d sent myself a year ago using FutureMe.org. The subject line read, “listenupmotherfucker.” (And I’m such a nice person to everyone else…)

If you’ve watched me twitter on New Years, you know I make a grandiose attempt to discourage everyone in the world from making resolutions.  Resolutions are often about picking something really hard that you feel guilty about, and throwing yourself at it drunkenly with all your might, only to fail in about a month. What does that really do, besides pull a few muscles and prove your incompetence?  We need better traditions.

Mine is writing a letter to myself a year in the future.  I include reminders, predictions, ideas, requests, and stories I want to carry forward.  It’s me having an ongoing, ritualized conversation between the past, the present, and the future, and I love it. I love watching my own story unfold in a correspondence with myself over time.

Except last year I fucked it up.

Last year I forgot to write myself a letter on New Years, and it bugged me for months.  So on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day and the end of SXSWi, after two weeks of traveling, I decided that despite being too wrecked to move, I could see the whole timeline of my life Very Clearly and had a LOT to say about it.

Here’s the letter I received this morning (with a few light revisions to make it more bloggable):

From: Sarah Dopp
To: Sarah Dopp
Date: March 17, 2010
Subj: From me to me, listenupmotherfucker.

Dear FutureMe,

It’s the last night of SXSW and I’m a fucking zombie. I’ve been traveling for two weeks — first a week in Portland and now this. Roomed with Melissa, Boffery’s a madman of vision, and Genderfork is exploding with passion. I want my Dopp Juice voice back. Queer Open Mic is getting its sea legs again, and occasionally I think about book deals and self-publishing. I’m speaking soon on gender and sexuality ambiguities, and in general, my life’s pretty fucking cool.

So why am I so stoned on exhaustion that I can’t even pack my fucking suitcase?

Okay, listen up. I skipped the letter from New Years so this one’s a few months late. Here’s the deal. You’re reading this in 2010, right? Shut up and keep talking. That’s my brilliant plan. Just do that, and you’ll be fine.

No, seriously, though. Here’s what you need to know:

1) Stop calling yourself an entrepreneur. It’s bullshit.

2) Don’t go back to school, even if you know you can. It’s bullshit, and you have better ways to spend your time.

3) If you forget the different between following your heart and doing what seems right, go read XKCD’s Fuck That Shit again.

4) If you get stuck, go read the Cult of Done Manifesto again.

5) Genderfork Book. Build the community. Meetups, volunteers, whatever.

6) Go talk to [redacted] about representing a community that you don’t see yourself as a complete representative of.

7) You can do this. You have to. You don’t know how not to.

Stay alive. I love you.

Sarah

p.s. I really like The Squeeze right now.

I must have been very tired, because I have absolutely no recollection of writing this.

I’m particularly fond of the line, “Shut up and keep talking. That’s my brilliant plan. Just do that, and you’ll be fine.”

And aside from that… yeah… this is how I talk to myself.

Go write your letter now.  It’s a new New Year.

Sometimes I email people.

Like, a lot of people at once. I do the “bcc” thing, and I hand pick the people who I think want to hear about something, and then I remember after I sent the email that I forgot a bunch of people. But it works well enough.  Sometimes an email to a lot of people is the right medium for what we’re doing.

Then again, sometimes blog posts are the right medium. Or tweets. Or personal emails. Or facebook wall posts. Or text messages. Or (gasp!) a phone call (but let’s not talk about that). I try to stick to whatever medium is right (except when it’s a phone call, and then I’ll try to come up with something else, anything else, that will substitute. But again, let’s not talk about that).

When I send out a big email, it’s usually because:

  • Someone sent me a really cool job or gig that doesn’t fit me very well, and I want to pass it on to other good people.
  • I want to hire assistance for something, but I don’t really want the whole world to know about it.
  • I want to tell people what’s changed recently in my consulting work, so they know what I’m a good fit for and what I’m not interested in.
  • I want to tell the story of my consulting work — what I’m learning and doing and accomplishing and messing up along the way — without feeling totally public and naked about it.
  • I want to talk about a new personal project I’m working on (usually relating to gender or sexuality or queer culture, or maybe creative writing) and see what people think before I make it public.
  • I want to announce something I’m doing or hosting or organizing or traveling to (or whatever) to people I care about.
  • I want to pass on information about something amazing that I care a lot about.

And… as you can probably tell from that list, these emails are starting to feel a little bit like having a newsletter… just, minus the “consent” part.

So let’s get consensual about this.

If you would like to be part of my inner circle of advisors, or if you want to hang out within catching range of the job/gig leads that I pass on, or if you find the neurotic journey of a consultant interesting, or if you think the stuff I do for the queer world is making a difference and you want to know about my next big thing before it happens, or if you’re just my friend who never gets to spend time with me and is looking for some insight into why I won’t answer my phone…

You can sign up to get emails from me here:

Google Groups
Subscribe to Sarah Dopp’s Brain
Email:
Visit this group

After you hit “Submit” above, Google will probably email you to make sure you really meant to do that. Just tell Google, “Yeah, I did,” and then you’ll be done with it. (And if you have any problems, tell me.)

In exchange for your consent, interest, and trust, I vow to:

  • …not send you things that feel impersonal or spammy.  If I’m sending you something, it’s because I think it really, really matters, and I will tell you exactly why.
  • …never ever ever sell/trade/share your email with others, or let anyone else hijack my list to use it for their own agenda.
  • …not email you more often than I think is respectful. That’s subjective, I know. In reality, it will probably only once a month or so — maybe less.  I’m not setting a schedule.  If it starts getting more frequent than that, I’ll be extra careful.
  • …keep it a one-way announcement list.  This isn’t a big huge discussion group. If you respond, you’ll be writing directly to me, not to everybody.
  • …never take it personally if you want to unsubscribe.  In fact, I probably won’t even know.  I don’t keep track of that stuff.

Past and current clients, friends, family members, genderfork fans, queer open mic regulars, conference acquaintances, former lovers, co-conspirators, and total strangers are all welcome.  Just remember: this is me talking about what I care about.  If you don’t share the same interests, you might not find this very exciting.

But if you do, you probably already think this is awesome.

(Sweet. Me too.)

Love,
Sarah