I have never met Katie West, but I feel intimately connected to her through her writing and photography. Time and again her work reminds me why we need to do this project. It reminds me that there are people out there doing this, people out there being brave, reporting back as they fumble through life, just like the rest of us. I interviewed her on Gchat because this is the Internet and this is what we do.
meaghan: So you are so far our only photographer AND writer contributor. I think I found you through your photography, but then soon found your writing, and loved that, too.
katiewest: i am multitalented. this is true.
meaghan: I think what’s pretty interesting, or amazing really, is that it’s sort of the same, whether writing or photography, it’s the same You, I tend to be affected similarly. I feel like I am encountering the same Self; a similar vulnerability.
katiewest: Yeah, I think because I use both as a sort of self expression. Though I’ve always liked writing more, but photography is easier.
meaghan: Do you feel that way, that it’s your same Self coming though? I guess it makes sense when you are being very honest in your work, when it’s more than a persona.
katiewest: I think I find writing to be more personal, for some reason. Even though I can tell and show just as much in writing as I can in a photo, it just seems more valuable to me.
meaghan: What scares you more? does anything scare you? When you hit publish do you close your eyes sometimes?
katiewest: Oh my god yes.
meaghan: hahaha ME TOO
katiewest: I keep things in my Draft folder for WEEKS sometimes before i hit publish
meaghan: What do you say to yourself before you hit post or publish or whatever it is? What keeps you going, what’s the pep talk?
katiewest: Well, usually I’ve been looking at it for weeks, changing things, rearranging things. And when I finally realize that the last couple times I’ve looked at it, I haven’t changed anything, I convince myself that it’s okay to hit publish. That maybe someone else might like it. Maybe. But I like it, and I wrote it to be shared so I should just hit publish…..*silence* Okay. Fine. *hits publish*
meaghan: i think people might be surprised to think that we DO sometimes have drafts online
katiewest: yeah, the internet is supposed to be all instant posting, no thinking, no drafts
meaghan: Yea! and as much as the internet allows for that, people certainly respond when we put a little more time, a little more of ourselves, into things. I know I am very thankful when you post a longer story. Ya know? I get excited to see that in my dashboard.
katiewest: The internet responds very intensely to people who put themselves out there onto the internet. You could be generating amazing content on the internet, but when it’s devoid of any information about the creator and of some sort of SELF then people don’t like it as much. It seems….
meaghan: They really do. Yes, I mean what’s the point of this whole democratizing of who gets to share their voice if you don’t take risks with it? and as distant and posturing and ‘clever’ a lot of internet writing can be, I think we have found that people are hungry for those risks. So, do you ever regret stuff— want to take stuff down? I know I have a few times.
katiewest: um, sometimes i’ll think about it if something is really personal and i think the person i wrote it about will realize it’s about them.
meaghan: Hahaha yeaaah.
katiewest: ha, and then i’ll usually email them and say, “hey i know that thing i just wrote seems like it’s about you. but it’s not, okay?”
meaghan: I’m sure they usually know. Haha sometimes I title things, “This is Not About You.” I kind of want to title everything i write that.
katiewest: ha, i know! Because it also happens that i’ll write something, or title a photo something and i get 5 emails asking me if that was about them, and it wasn’t about ANYONE.
meaghan: Ha. Do you ever feel like, “Okay. Here goes. I am choosing my art over this relationship.” Sometimes when i write about someone part of me feels like i am putting the nail in the coffin. Like ol’ Joan Didion said, ‘Writers are always selling somebody out.’ How do you work through that in your head?
katiewest: Ah, yes, i often feel like i’m selling the people i write about out. i’ll try to hide them, mix them up with other people, so no one can find themselves in my work, but everyone can find themselves in my work.
meaghan: But also, everyone can recognize themselves in your work, in that universal way that we are always aiming for. I reconcile that way a lot— that that somehow is worth more. But is it? I am unsure.
katiewest: But i mean, that’s what i want to write about. I want to write about things that affected me. about instances that wore me out, and broke me and that made me feel really fucking horny.
meaghan: I am very glad you want to write about that, and do. Because i think those are the things, the times when people feel most isolated—- The Things We Don’t Usually Talk About. I try to hope, or at least pretend, that they agree, that they think it’s Worth It. And when I know they won’t approve, I remind myself that my writing will always be there for me and that I can’t get that guarantee from them.
katiewest: That’s a good point. i guess it depends on who the person is and how they are. some people i know like it a lot. other people, pretend not to, but do. other people really don’t, but can still appreciate it. And look at how well people respond to Things We Don’t Usually Talk About!
meaghan: Some people like it too much, too. Ha. I had someone recently tell me he wanted to sleep with me so i would write beautifully about it. i told him that was immoral.
katiewest: ha! are you sure?
meaghan: Yes! hahahahahahaa.
katiewest: though sometimes i want to have horrible relationships just so i can write beautifully about them, so…
meaghan: Eep. I think it’s that sometimes i willingly go into things comforting myself with the idea that, even if this is hard, i want to Know. I want to explore this, because i want to know about people and the world.
katiewest: yeah, i know what you mean. i know when i’m making mistakes, but sometimes do it anyway, just because i want to be there, want to be that girl, want to know if i can. then what do i make of myself?
meaghan: Writing’s our consolation? I guess that’s reductive.
katiewest: hmm…writing’s our no, no i don’t think it’s consolation i think writing’s our i don’t know. i want to say gift, but that sounds not right. It’s how we offer ourselves up to others. It’s how we get through ourselves and connect. We’re a bit fucked up maybe? Communicating with sex and broken hearted mumblings. Because i want to connect. I don’t want to feel alone. i want people to email me after i post something and say yes, that. i know exactly what that feels like. and i sigh and say, look at us! not alone here!
meaghan: I think that’s why writing about sex is so tied up in that, why I feel compelled to report back from the front lines so to speak. because it’s like- guys, world, look, we’re trying, and failing, and also connecting in amazing, transcendent ways, and sometimes not, and sometimes laughing and sometimes not. but we all are! I try to remind myself every time when I am trying to be brave, to remember the deeper you go, the more recognition, the chance at someone saying, Ah! Yes!
katiewest: do people email you and say, “Your work is so…so…human.”
katiewest: i always liked that. that somehow being human was really hard, and brave, and courageous and took balls.
meaghan: Hah it’s a sad state of affairs when “HUMAN” is this great elusive thing
katiewest: right? but so now being human is being honest and vulnerable and open? letting people reach you?
meaghan: That’s why it’s funny when people make this big thing about talking about sex, about it being so taboo, and i just want to say, THAT IS WHY WE ARE HERE. THIS IS THE DRIVING FORCE OF LIFE. The question isn’t how can we talk about it so openly, it’s how can other people not?!
katiewest: it’s the original SIN, Meaghan. we’re going to HELL. and we’re LADIES.
meaghan: Sometimes when i cringe or second guess myself i just remember, I AM A PERSON. I WILL AFFRONT YOU WITH MY PERSONHOOD. My ‘humanity’ haha
katiewest: we can’t get excited about a cock and describe how it feels when it fills us.
meaghan: Eep! But yeah, people have been getting filled with cocks for millennia.
katiewest: but! you know what we do is different than just describing that, exactly, you know?
meaghan: there should be a DIALOGUE
katiewest: MORE THAN COCK
meaghan: right. it’s the cock, but it’s how you got there and what went through your mind and how you felt after
katiewest: right, like what you wrote the other day about what you were thinking about while he was on top of you, and you were looking at him, squinting wondering if you still knew him, or if you ever did. I loved that.
meaghan: *hopes he isn’t reading this* ahahaaa
katiewest: oh yeah..uhhhhh…
me: So! We have been talking about this whole Coming&Crying thing probably since our first few conversations. We both know this whole, idea of sharing yourself like that, not skipping the good parts, or the scary parts, is important, and I know you are always working to that, towards that, and in that spirit, but why do you think it should be a book?
katiewest: I think for many reasons, not all of them exactly justifiable. But it legitimizes it. Having it in print, even if we do it ourselves, proves we were right somehow. In my brain it does anyway. And I think people like print, the people who need this book like print. They like libraries and look at pictures of bookshelves on their tumblrs and long to have more themselves.
meaghan: Yeah, something about it says, hey! this is real!
katiewest: And I think it has to do with what it’s all about; it’s a way to connect. It’s a very intimate way to connect. Reading a good book on the subway feels very intimate to me. You do it alone, you do it in your own head, but you’re still connecting with something complicated and involved and possibly, possibly life-changing.