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Subject: #200, aspirations 2024

By Hannah MoorePublished 4 months ago 10 min read

Dear Vocal

Thank you for your challenge regarding 2024 aspirations (reference #200). I believe, by now, that I have built a reputation for honesty in this community, and I will attempt to be honest in my response.

Honest in my response? In that tone? No no no, that’s the tone I use to tell human resources they’ve screwed up my tax code, or complain to a service provider that I paid for something they didn’t provide. Honest, I suppose, but authentic? We can use language to mask and unmask equally effectively don’t you think?

I would say that in this monologue, I want you to see my face, but you know what I am not going to do? I’m not going to stick a frank, unimpeded, passport worthy picture of it atop these words. See me, please, but don’t see me. It’s a game a lot of us play. See me shine, my pain finessed, my humanity curated, but please don’t recognise me in the supermarket stumbling over my choice of sanitary wear. We are, after all, transcendent every time we write. Is this always helpful? The process of construal and construction are barely discernible when we wield language to tell our tales.

Stories are powerful. I state this as fact, not opinion, because there are few things I believe more unwaveringly. And I believe I may have been telling myself unhelpful ones about Vocal, which in turn have been sculpted from the excess clay of other stories in my life. Let me tell you about it.

It’s Monday afternoon. I don’t work on Mondays, though often I do, catching up on paper work, preparing for things so that I don’t let anyone down. Today, I am not undertaking paid work. Actually, today, I made some plans for myself. Genuinely, for myself. Nice plans, soothing plans. Plans that did not involving hunting down trousers for my son, or food shopping, or floor mopping, or changing beds or laboriously planning a family trip. Yes, soothing plans. Which is why I am here. 45 minutes before I need to pick the children up for school. Frantically soothing myself after doing all those other things.

Vocal is for me. And let’s be honest, the vast majority of us are here for ourselves. This is my “me time”, my hobby, my indulgence in a world of demands. And it has been great. I’ve been on Vocal for over 18 months now, and I have, in that time, written more than I had written in the preceding 18 years. I’ve enjoyed it, almost all of it, and I think I am getting better. (As an aside here, I just observed myself place a question mark at the end of that sentence. I have removed it.) But I have still failed to put myself at the centre of my me time.

It’s tempting, isn’t it, to think we can have it all. I know, I know, you can’t have it all. I mean, you’re only human. One person. It would be unrealistic to expect yourself to excel in every arena, to thrive in every facet of life. But me? Well, I’m special, aren’t I? I really SHOULD be able to just push a little harder, work a little smarter, be more, to more people, more of the time. No?

When we all received our Vocal Reverbs recently, I was… unaroused. Vocal is a business, we all know this, we paid in, bought a product, and on the whole, I’m not displeased with it. Today, I am wearing pleasing underpants. They are comfortable, wash well, and don’t pinch anywhere. On the other hand, there is a slight VPL under fitted clothes, and I’m seducing no one who wasn’t already all in in these smalls. This, for reasons which I cannot fathom, was the analogy that came to mind when contemplating my relationship with the Vocal platform. I like it. It works for me. Occasionally I wish I could turn a few more heads. But it is a business, and as a business, it is in the business of keeping me hooked and paying up. This is achieved in two ways. Firstly, there is the dangling of a steady stream of carrots. Long ones, short ones, orange ones and white ones and curiosity jingling purple ones, Vocal lays a trail like the child catcher waving candy. In fact, we’re so hungry for them, we started to grow our own.

Which brings me to the second lure. You. Vocal lit the camp fire and provided toasting forks, and we straggled in with the goods, sat down and passed victuals and stories between us, forging the relationships which keep us coming back to the fire. It’s not a bad business model. Do I mind that I am being baited and hooked? Seduced to stay? Would I mind being seduced by Poldark (BBC 2015 adaptation, season one, before it was fully evident he was a twat)? I want it, I tell you.

But around any campfire, between the laughter at a tale well told, the cheers of encouragement for a yarn of pluck and conquest and the wide-eyed, barely perceivable drawing together of a scary story, between every huddle of souls sharing cup, there is a lone newcomer, cold in the gloom beyond the circle, there is a quiet voice unheard in the melee, there is someone who does not know the way to the fire, or whether they have the right to sit by it. That was me. That was a lot of us. I came onto this platform without really understanding how it functions, and I churned out stories and nobody read them, and I was discouraged. I could see the fire was there, but there was no discernible route through the undergrowth.

And then someone got up from their nice warm spot to search for stragglers. She brought me in and said my name out loud, and others shook me by the hand and offered me nourishment, and now, here I sit, catching enough warmth to keep me near the fire, hailing familiar faces as they pass, sharing some heady concoction with weirdly addictive qualities with companions I am glad to have met.

Now, when this first happened, I remembered that there were other stragglers out there, and the service given to me by another, and I forayed daily for them. It was a quick journey out past the bushes after all. Gradually, though, I met more and more people around the fire. People who like to tell a tale so much they talk over one another frequently. Today, I sit on my spot, and before I can get up, I listen to five or six stories. When there is a pause, I move off towards the periphery, but I don’t get far without meeting a familiar face, and another, and another, all with tales to tell. Most days, now, I go to bed without ever hearing a new voice. Or my own.

And this is the story I have been telling myself. I was gifted a spot where the light reaches me. Not front row, sure, but I get a little warmth. But there is a levy to pay to keep it, I don’t sit here on my own merit. I owe rent. And I think I’ve been robbing the poor to pay the rich.

Vocal’s reverb gave me some information. How many stories I had written, how many words that amounted to. We like numbers, don’t we? Ooh those juicy quantifiables. The tangible toeholds of constant striving. It told me what my most popular story was, too. More on that later. It told me what I had done for myself on Vocal. We are, after all, mostly here for ourselves. But are these the most interesting metrics? How many stories did I READ this year? It’s a lot. In those early months I subscribed to many people, and I understood the contract to be that if I subscribe to you, I read you. I saw someone saying they read around 15 stories a week. I can read 15 stories before breakfast if I wake up to 15 notifications. I have a regular slot on the leaderboard for leaving most comments in a week. This is not by design. This is because I told myself that I must not let anyone down. But I cannot have it all, and I fear I have been letting the wrong people down.

So to the first of my aspirations for this year. I’m going to read less on Vocal. Not only am I going to read less, but I am going to reprioritise my reading so that I value it more. I want to sit around a fire of reciprocity. I want to hear your story, but I want space to tell mine too. There are evenings I sit down to write, and by the time I have finished reading, I have no time left to do it. And if you want to talk but never listen, I’m going to move along, no hard feelings, we can’t please all of the people. This, I hope, will allow me something else important – to make it into the outer reaches again. Armed now (thank you to whoever it was that shared it) with an AI detector, I’m going to spend more time on the periphery, listening to fresh accents. And, this I pledge to my family, I am going to spend less time at the fire, and more in the tent. I hope I am going to spend more time in privacy too, reading the books stacking high and dusty on my bedside table.

In terms of my own writing, my most “popular” story, which placed second in a challenge, has been read 212 times. 35 people like it. 17%. A lot of contact, not a lot of love. Little Witch and Nesting have an 85% love rating. Cabin Pressure, 88%, Corrupted Youth at 90%, Hypsacremia 95%, The Introvert, Ascending and a Drop in The Ocean, 100%. By some witchcraft of faulty accounting, The Writing Circle is on 108%, Getting Serious 111%, Border Force 133%, Marrakesh 145% , Communal Effort 150%, and Just right 166%! And how many of those were winners? (Zero, the answer is zero, pending tomorrow's results). But let’s not hang our hats on these statistics either. My contents page is at 88%. What these statistics show me is this – write what the fuck you want, you’re not in charge of what people warm to. Art is subjective, and writing is art. And I want to keep writing. I want to keep writing when time allows, and not neglecting the things that matter more when it doesn’t (it is now Wednesday by the way, and I have sat down to finish what I started). I want to keep trying my hand, I want to keep writing in that hinterland between “I can” and “can I?” which the Vocal challenges, official and community, have been so magnificent at providing access too. I’m hungry to try it all. New challenges, new communities, new collaborations, new critique. I have noticed, in my life in general, that I shy away from any form of leadership, and perhaps here on Vocal is where I might try leading my own challenge. I thought of one, some months ago, and since then I am aware another has had the same idea. Perhaps I will reach out.

My goals for my writing this year are hard to quantify. My aim is not a higher word count or a higher story count, it’s not a daily habit or a biweekly offering. But I would like to get better. Most of us here have had the fantasy of writing a novel, and I am no different in this. I am going to own the fact that I think I write goodly enough. My sentences is largely nice. Always room to get betterer and I want to go on betterating. But if my sentences are generally acceptable, my story telling is weaker. I get away with it in short stories, most of them form organically as I go, but this year, I want to give some time over to developing my story telling so that it can sustain longer forms. This may involve seeking some outside guidance. A book, or a workshop perhaps. An investment I have never before made in my writing, giving time to learning, even if that means writing less overall. I cannot, you see, do it all.

Mostly, I want to write for me. Shortly before New Year, I reached the milestone of 2000 total reads, and I am pleased with it. It pales next to some of the figures I have seen flying about. I tell myself more stories about that – Well, I don’t spend time on Facebook, I haven’t learnt to use Discord – and steer myself away from the tale of the terrible writer and straight into the arms of the chronical of the chronically unpopular. How do we even measure merit here? Vocal has never been a meritocracy, and I need to stop expecting it to be. By not expecting it to be, I give myself the privilege of defining what I view to be meritorious. Who I want to be here. I get to take my story in a new direction, to construct this experience more mindfully. This is where it starts, but I already have my ending.

I want, at the end of 2024, someone else to be able to tell this story about me, the one I would like to tell about myself:

“She really helped me and actually it's been great to be able to support each other. She’s very good, you know, she can turn her hand to anything. I would like to think we would be friends in real life too.”

And that last bit? We may never know, but let's tell it that way, all the same.


About the Creator

Hannah Moore

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Comments (20)

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  • The Dani Writer4 months ago

    Goodness gracious, LADY!!! I. Am. Wowed! Genuinely writer's tongue hanging out my mouth WOWED! Where could I even start and end??? Your engaging writer's voice hooked me from the first line even though I find it difficult to read long blocks of text and would ordinarily struggle to get through an 11-minute read. Or the relatability you delved into talking 'bout that balance between reading the work of others and writing for self as a matter of necessity. (Psst! My way of coping—don't judge me—is by NOT subscribing because then I have a bucketload of notifications and I feel defeated at being unable to read through them all as most churn out MEGA content. I check profiles and the latest stories when I have a block of time and use other similar strategies to read and support others.) When you said,"Write what the fuck you want." Call me sacrilegious but I heard angels sing then. Your use of analogies is EPIC! I am so grateful that you are here on Vocal sharing your mojo. Congratulations on being recognised on the Leaderboard! I will be watching out for you 😊 And hey...woot-WOOOOOOT!!!

  • Brin J.4 months ago

    You know what I've realized about this challenge? Every #200 submission I've read is authentic. I haven't seen a single one that sounds cheap or people-pleasing. Yet 👀. Everyone has reflected and voiced their genuine thoughts about how they want to proceed with Vocal this year. People are being sincere, not just with themselves, but with the entire platform, setting realistic expectations for themselves and being serious about these goals. I absolutely love it. I feel like I'm connecting with other creators in a way I never had before. I'm getting the real version of everyone, and I have to say, I absolutely love it <3.

  • Jazzy 4 months ago

    Your voice is SO strong in this. All I could think was, damn, let's get some coffee (and pour something more substantial!) and just have a chat. You have been wonderfully kind to me, and I thank you! I loved every word of this. The way you laid down a boundary for yourself was so inspiring. You deserve that space to be heard, too, and I'm glad you are taking it. We would be friends in real life.

  • Novel Allen4 months ago

    I go on Vocal according to my mood. Sometimes it is read, mostly it is write. So I take whatever comes to me, and joke about what does not. We all should o what is best for us at a particular time. I must say I miss your voice, today, I was like , where is Hannah? The universe sent me a soul message from you. Enjoy the you, all the best on your new objectives,

  • Caroline Jane4 months ago

    I adore your energy! You write and I can see the life force of you spilling onto the page. It is wonderful. As for that last part... I think I could say almost all of that about you now (the part I play... that role needs work. Bring on 2024!).

  • You have such a beautiful narrative voice. It drew me in right away with the cheeky snarkiness and clever insights. I enjoyed every sentence. Well done!

  • I always tell everyone to only write for themselves because we just cannot possibly make everyone else happy all the time. I'm so glad you're gonna do that too. As for reading less, I totally understand that and it's definitely crucial for you to take some time for yourself. You go girl! I wish you all the best!

  • Kenny Penn4 months ago

    So very relatable Hannah, and with your gift for words also entertaining. I think a benefit to pulling back on how much you read, other than finding time to write, is being able to take your time to appreciate a good read, such as this one.

  • Cathy holmes4 months ago

    There's much to.love about this. I think we all have come to appreciate the community and the kinship we've become part of. Truth be told though, every one of us joined this platform to write. Don't take that time away from yourself. Love the section with the intentionally misspelled words. Gave me a few giggles. Also, as for having more hearts than reads, I have quite a few of those myself. This was a wonderful read. Good luck in 2024.

  • Caroline Craven4 months ago

    This is fab. I love the bit about sitting around the fire and being welcomed in. Great. Good luck with your writing this year.

  • L.C. Schäfer4 months ago

    You hit the nail on the head here. I think balance is an ongoing project for us all in all areas. Commenting is always second to writing a story, for me. I'm not paying to leave comments. I can do that on Facey for free 😁

  • Well said, Hannah. My favorite paragraph included "betterer"--until I got to your closing. Well said, Hannah.

  • Thanks for this, Hannah. "Vocal is where I might try leading my own challenge."... please do it! I'm not sure I will be able to do it justice, but I'd sure like to give it a go. Thanks for all your generous encouragement that you've shown to me!

  • Rachel Deeming4 months ago

    I want to sit down and have a chat with you as I think that we could have a good old yarn. Concentrate on your writing.You should. I dip into others on here that are off the beaten track and usually find it more rewarding. Road less travelled? Maybe. It's not true all of the time. I'll always read whatever you write. I like your voice. It is familiar to me, like John Boyne or William Boyd. I like its sound. I'd like to hear it more. I think it can resound, does resound on here and so, get your work lengthened and strengthened and see where it reaches.

  • John Cox4 months ago

    Hannah, you are an amazing writer. Even though you explored your feelings and thoughts in such a freewheeling manner as you have in this commentary, you still wrote a focused and well argued case for your 2024 goals. I also admire your willingness to move away from the fire to find unheard voices. As you wrote, Stories are powerful. I look forward to continuing to read yours.

  • Paul Stewart4 months ago

    Aw pal. This was gold. 100% Hannah and I was here for it. I loved every single bit of your monlogue. It's funny...we are at polar opposites...I churn out stuff and don't read half as much as I'd like to whereas you do or have prioritised reading. I just loved how honest you are, as always. It's always been a think we share in our writing...or at least try to? And I agree with Celia...I'm excited that you're going to concentrate on your writing more...cos it's your gift to us. So...yeah...I look forward to more toing and froing with you too...but this was a gem of an entry and potentially a winner. Don't hold me to that...but if you win...remember me? Right...remember I said it here and right here!

  • D. J. Reddall4 months ago

    This is a splendid story in itself, and I can attest to your ability, through small but consistent interventions, to keep others inspired. You have certainly made the campfire warmer and brighter for me, and I look forward to keeping that conversation with you alive.

  • Test4 months ago

    So much to unpack here but I think you are am incredible talent and if taking more time to work on that, then that can only be a good thing. Workshop too but I think you could very eaily run one of your own 🤍

  • D.K. Shepard4 months ago

    Thank you for writing this vulnerable and honest piece! Not being able to do it all is very much our reality! Enjoy your time in the tent, undoubtedly it will be time well spent! And good luck on your journey to keep betterating!

  • Test4 months ago


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