Creator Spotlight: RJ
"My goal is to add value to others, whether it's entertainment or guidance I want to put more good into the world." -RJ
Raven Jantara, or RJ, is a bright 21-year-old writer and artist based out of Portland, Oregon. RJ is a Vocal+ Founding Member, which means she's been gracing our creator-driven platform with her articulate, multi-community content for a very long time. How long exactly? Well, long enough to have published over 60 stories and either win or place in a whopping six challenges.
Of the six, the seasoned Vocal+ Creator has claimed the gold in three challenges, including the "Mindful Gifting" challenge with her piece "Making a Case for Homemade Gifts;" the "Workout Playlist" challenge with her piece "Your Workout Playlist: Designed by Top Performing Athletes;" and the "Best Friends" challenge with her piece "Dear Etta: Read When you Need a Reminder of my Love".
Be sure to check out RJ's decorated author page and read her other challenge-winning submissions! We're overjoyed to highlight RJ in this #VocalSpotlight. Enjoy!
On Her Background and Purpose:
My first name is Raven, and my middle name is Jantara, making RJ. I grew up in Oklahoma City with my mom and siblings as the eldest, making me pretty independent and laid back.
I’m a daydreamer who loves to sit and think, or talk for hours. I love people and can become fascinated with learning how someone ticks. I’m soft and sentimental but I also love sports and don’t mind getting dirty.
I like to wander, I’ve always loved playing outside and exploring nature. I feel the most at home in a forest, or on road trips looking out the window.
I work hard but believe humanity doesn’t have enough fun. I want to experience all that life has to offer, and live until I die. But my goal is to add value to others, whether it’s entertainment or guidance I want to put more good into the world.
On Her Relationship with Writing:
I always enjoyed being told a story. My aunt would give me a full synopsis of movies or books she’d read and I would become engrossed in what she was saying—listening silently for hours. I loved movies, and gravitated toward music that told a story.
I couldn’t read until I was seven, but once I found books, writing took hold of me. The more I read the more ideas would pop into my head, and I had to put them on paper. It was an intense compulsion, after a full day of fourth grade I would sit at the dining room table and write for hours.
I took my stories to school and formed groups where each of us would take turns taking the journal home and adding to the piece. I had no understanding of grammar or sentence construction but something was compelling me to write. I wanted to write so I could read it to my family and friends.
So I guess I didn’t decide to start, I never considered not writing, it seemed necessary. I’m really thankful to have found my purpose so early in my life.
On Her Presence on Vocal:
I would describe my presence as sporadic. I’ve tried lots of genres and continue to stretch my content for challenge pieces. I like to write about areas of mystery, for example, habit change, and lifestyle design, or the human experience.
I’m fascinated by all things human and try to learn more everyday. I admire others who can bottle up life and deliver it to the masses in ways we can all understand.
On What/Who Inspires Her to Create:
It’s a compulsion; there are days when I want to give up, but I can’t because soon that energy will build and I won’t be able to help composing the story. I write even if I make nothing, I write in my journal, I write little things in my iPhone notes. It’s an internal force that grabs me and necessitates writing.
Kurt Vonnegut inspires me as a wordsmith. His ability to lace humor in the darkness is so beautiful. I find a lot of life wisdom in his writing. He writes in such simple and clear sentences but there is so much packed in for thought.
Tara Westover, the author of “Educated” inspires me in all areas. Her memoir is life changing and one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure to read. I relate to her, both coming from religious extremist backgrounds.
Lastly I would like to highlight a fellow Vocal creator, Samantha Kaszas. I’ve interacted with her on facebook and read her work. She has that special quality of seeming so kind and comfortable. When I read her work it’s like talking to a friend. I think the majority of our job as a writer is to simply communicate clearly, and Samantha is a master communicator.
On Her Goals as a Writer:
Short term I’d like to continue fostering an audience and moving toward stability with writing.
Long term I’d like to make a course for those interested in getting involved in this field. I love to talk about writing almost as much as I love to write. I feel really passionate about helping other writers and I’d like to pursue that after solidifying my own career.
I chose that handle for myself because I believe creatives are multifaceted. It’s not necessarily that I’m a writer who also draws but it’s more about how we all have multiple avenues of creativity that we’re interested in.
I like to doodle, I think doodling is one of the best ways to get out my creativity and observe some of my thoughts. I love all things art, I’m just only “good” at writing. But I would absolutely love to get into making music, or movies (or both).
On Her Evolving Audience and Growth on Vocal:
When I first started on Vocal there were only communities to submit to and the front page feature. Thousands of readers and writers alike have flooded the platform with each new addition to the site. I’ve noticed an increase in reads per article and a more engaged community of readers.
In part I'm sure from consistent writing and content quality, but I have to tip my hat to the hard working people at Vocal for bringing in the audience for us to speak to. I don’t think any other platform works as hard for their creators as Vocal does.
I do not have a niche and it’s honestly the reason I keep Vocal as my primary platform. I like to submit to the different communities and I love that I can speak to different audiences without hurting my following. I like the ability to follow wherever inspiration takes me.
I don’t think you need a niche to succeed on Vocal, in fact I advocate you don’t at first and try everything. See what you like.
Join RJ and Become a Vocal+ Member Today
On Her Experience With Vocal Challenges:
I see creators who bare their soul in their work and see nothing from it. While others lean into what’s trendy and easy to gain reads on. If they love to write about the current trends then I’m not knocking them. I didn’t want to write about something I didn’t love for the reads and fame.
Before winning a challenge I thought chasing reads through SEO tactics was the absolute only way to make it. Moreover, I thought no one would care to read a well written article unless it was in the Times. Winning a challenge has given me the confidence and peace of mind to pursue other art.
On What Writing About Music Means to Her:
I like to write about music in a holistic sense. How does it affect the mind? Or the body? What are the health benefits? What are the health hindrances?
To me, music is one of the best vehicles for emotion. It adds another immersive element to writing. I like the ability to include a deeper interpretation of the songs and artists themselves. I love the album art, some artists' names, the way they dress, the way they speak. There is so much to consider and so many angles to tackle any topic.
I attribute most of my success (on Vocal playlist challenges) to my narrative of the music I choose. I really want to paint a picture of why I chose the songs I did. I want to attach them to nostalgia or cultural references. I really try to strike a chord of some sort with every music article and there are so many opportunities with long form music content.
On Cannabis and Her Favorite Strain:
My favorites are sort of cliche, but it’s either Pineapple Express or Sour Diesel. I love the euphoria that comes along with these two strains. They make you laugh and lift you up. You feel light and weightless, buzzing with a warm happy feeling.
I’m a very anxious person, constantly worried about all there is to worry about. Cannabis helps me get out of my own head. Just a little and my shoulders relax, and my mind comes alive. It helps me make space in my mind for more positive patterns of thinking.
On What's Keeping Her Sane During These Crazy Times:
I am a strong advocate for a morning walk. Since I started adding this into the mix of my daily routine I’ve seen an increase in my mental health. It gets me outside, and away from screens for a guaranteed amount of time.
Sometimes it’s hard to make more quiet space in our lives. But when I make that time I notice my creativity becomes more streamlined. Ideas can find their way in and I can flesh them out with my extra brain power.
This time has changed my outlook on everything. Remote work before was seen as a chore while now it’s a luxury. COVID has shown me that it doesn’t really matter where I’m physically located, and that opens a lot of opportunities for travel and experiences.
On Her Favorite Story She's Published on Vocal:
I wrote this article to address homelessness in Portland.
I had to get out of my comfort zone and approach strangers, hoping to get someone to share their experience. While I was out interviewing, many people thanked me for telling their story. I got a good understanding of what life on the street was like. I was extremely humbled and my perspective is forever changed.
With this article I created something that will help others, and that’s all I ever set out to do as a writer. My article is a marker in history forever of what Portlanders had/have to endure.
Don’t think about it—first thing that comes to mind:
What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
Connection with others, I get a lot of my energy for life from others experiences
Favorite Musical Artist at the moment?
Cats or dogs?
Cats (I have two so I’m biased)
Favorite travel destination?
I’m shamelessly not well traveled, but I really really hope to see Europe this year.
Day or Night?
Day for most things, Night for conversation
What’s your go-to late night snack?
French Fries. I’m a salt over sweet person.
What are you currently binge watching?
Married at First Sight
Favorite story you read on Vocal by another creator?
I think Dan Pittman is incredibly talented. I loved reading his thoughts on fatherhood.
Thanks for chatting with us, RJ! Being a creator with such a high volume of quality submissions, it's interesting to learn your perspective on our communities and your approach to fostering an audience. With an increasingly shimmering trophy case like yours, we think it's safe to say you've found the secret formula.
Thanks for sticking with us all this time—if there's anything we're sure of, it's that we're just getting started.
Thanks again, RJ!