Your first book, I Belong Deeply to Myself, is available now. Can you tell us what it’s about?
The book began as journal entries I was writing to reflect on the things I was learning in therapy about myself, my emotions, my relationships, etc. In the past, I’ve had really difficult time being compassionate toward myself in moments of fear, anger, sadness, shame, and even love. The book begins with me learning how to treat myself like the people I love. I personify each of my emotions into characters who resemble people I care deeply for. This was an exercise in allowing myself to feel. The rest of the book is about finding beauty in feeling, in the humanity of emotion, failure, loss, and love. I think the themes at the center of this story are compassion, acceptance, courage, and accountability. I also talk a lot about the decade I’m currently in—my twenties—and how isolating, beautiful, lonely, wonderful, wild, and overwhelming they can be and how I try to embrace it.
Excerpt from I Belong Deeply to Myself
What was the most challenging part about writing a book?
Letting the art be what it was. When I started sharing it online, it was never really with the intention of writing a book. I had written prose in my journals for years and shared them with my friends who encouraged me to post my writing online. When I did, I was surprised to find it resonated with people, namely other young women, who were going through the same things I was. When I decided to put everything into a book, I originally envisioned it as essays. I felt like I had to fit my writing into a certain box, fill a certain number of pages, and niche down into a specific genre for it to be valuable and publishable. Then, writing, the thing I had originally done to decompress and process became really convoluted and contrived, because every time I tried to fit what I now realize are poems and prose into essays, it just didn’t work. I stopped writing altogether for about four months and I stopped worrying about what to post on social media or how much engagement my content was garnering. I stopped trying to be clever and relatable and I tried to remember what I had been doing when my writing originally started to feel good. I realized I had been living. I decided it was time I do more of that. I got ordained and went home to California to marry my best friend and her husband, played fairy godmother with my nieces and nephews, and went to Paris with my sister and best friend. I danced all night and swam in the Mediterranean, saw Taylor Swift live and I met someone great and kicked his ass at go-karts. We ate a lot of delicious Italian food and decided we were better as friends. I discovered I am an excellent baker and make a decent shrimp scampi. Then, my words showed up like they’d never left. In a really funny, round-about way, the hardest part of writing I Belong Deeply to Myself was deciding that it belonged to me before anyone else.
The Vicky Bag in all her glory
Who are some of your favorite writers?
I have a ton. In the last year, I’ve been really inspired by Warsan Shire. Her poem, “34 Excuses For Why We Failed At Love,” indirectly inspired my title. I started saying, “I Belong Deeply to Myself,” as an affirmation while I was learning about my own co-dependent tendencies and toxic patterns. I had seen it as a tattoo on Instagram and loved it. When I decided to make it the title of my book, I googled it and found Warsan Shire’s poem. I thought it was really beautiful that her poem was about falling out of love and my book was about falling back in love with myself. She’s absolutely brilliant and has worked on two of my absolute favorite pieces of art, Beyonce’s Lemonade and Black is King. The visuals, music, and poetry come together in both of those works incredibly. Beyond her, I love Taylor Swift. Always have. Her work is deeply informed and a lot of people don’t pick up on the historical, mythological, and deeply academic references in her music. Warsan Shire’s quote, “I belong deeply to myself,” appears as the epigraph in my book, and at the back, there is an index of Taylor Swift songs, called the Taylor of Contents, which outlines the songs that I listened to while writing each of the chapters. I think it’s important to have inspirations, but more important to credit them. Beyond them, Lyndsey Rush, Shell Silverstein, Roxanne Gay, the list could go on forever, but those are some I come back to over and over again.
What inspires you most?
The human connection, the beauty in humanity. I think you can tell a lot about people from the mess on their floors and the songs that make them cry. I like to write about the things I learn about myself and others when we aren’t pretending or poising ourselves—when we’re all being boldly and beautifully human. Those moments inspire me most.
What advice do you have for people who want to write a book?
Ask for help. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Be brave enough to start somewhere.
Know that you’re going to look back on the things you wrote a year ago and cringe a little (or a lot). That’s okay. Just because you don’t feel a certain way anymore or see things differently doesn’t mean the writing is bad. It just means you’ve grown! Don’t discard things because they no longer feel relevant to you. Every version of you came together to deliver the person you are now.
Making art is UNCOMFORTABLE sometimes. We have to acknowledge pieces of ourselves we’d rather not. I think good art is like good love. It’s a dichotomy between acceptance and encouragement. It should acknowledge where we’ve been and dream about where we want to go. Hold yourself accountable and sit with the feelings of discomfort, but also get good at comforting yourself through them.
ASK FOR HELP!!! I think a lot of times creative spaces can get really pretentious really fast. There’s this pressure to be cool and succeed without trying. If you’ve read my book, you know that I am a try hard. I am embarrassing, loud, clumsy, and I care a lot. The pretentious creative didn’t work for me. Creativity and competition never work together in my opinion. I prefer collaboration. My sister, Kate, shot all the visuals to accompany this book, but she also helped me organize and edit it. My cousin, Morgan, and roommate, Sydney served as the other two editors. One of my oldest friends, Nikki Gomez designed the cover. My friends agreed to post about the book when I asked. My friend, Déjà Rae, who is a brilliant author, answered every question I had about self publishing, data analytics, and the emotional weight that comes with sharing your most intimate thoughts with the whole world. When you take the competition out of creative and open it up to collaboration, when you give yourself the freedom to ask for help and humble yourself enough to receive it, that’s when you’ll see real progress.
What has been the best part about writing and publishing I Belong Deeply to Myself?
I started sharing this work when I was very lonely. I had been through a tough breakup. In the wake of that breakup, I decided to leave my hometown in Oceanside, CA, and move across the country to New York with my sister. I was away from my community, my home, and was frankly pretty scared. When I started sharing this book, I did it mostly to distract myself. I never imagined that I would eventually have thousands of girls messaging me about heartbreak, their twenties, hopes, fears, dreams, and everything in between. Undoubtedly the best part has been finding community with other women who want to love themselves and others well, who want to be honest about how their twenties are really going, and who want to laugh, cry, and live along the way. This book is very much a love letter to them—because I am them.
Where can we buy your book?
You can find it on my website here!