She might only be 21, but Tavi Gevinson has learned a thing or two about love and life in her time on this planet. After stepping into the spotlight at age 12 thanks to her blog Style Rookie, she founded and became the editor-in-chief of the online magazine Rookie. Adding to her enviable list of accomplishments, she’s now edited and released an anthology for the magazine on the topic of the simplest, most enduring, yet most labyrinthine of human emotions: love.
Titled Rookie on Love, the book dropped on January 2. After making our way through this collection of heart-warming and -wrenching essays, poems, stories, and interviews, we got to speak to the editor (and contributor) herself about the subject and the book — and boy, did she have some gems to share with us.
Brit + Co: We really appreciate the way you included self-love in this anthology. Are there any steps you practice or lessons you had to learn on the path to self-love?
Tavi Gevinson: I’m learning about it all the time! But it helped me to establish to those I see regularly that I need a lot of time alone, and that I have to treat that time with as much importance as I do plans with friends, appointments, meetings, etc. It’s easy to put yourself last, so I’m learning to stick to it when I carve out time to write, read, or do nothing. Also, someone once told me not to date anyone you wouldn’t be friends with. Also, someone else once told me not to date anyone you wouldn’t let your friend date. Actually, trying to be as generous with myself as I would be to a friend has helped a lot. Not that it’s easy to remember to do so!
B+C: How do you think one’s relationship with love (romantic, platonic, self) changes as they age and grow?
TG: I can only speak for myself, but I was a really surly, self-sufficient teenager who could kind of make anything okay by going home and journaling about it and feeling in control of whatever I was upset about on a given day. I could deal with my feelings on my own but not confront people. Moving to New York out of high school and starting to work in media and entertainment right away made me see, very quickly, how important it is to protect one’s relationships — of all kinds. Also, Sarah Manguso has a piece in the book about self-acceptance and how having a baby helped her to see how people don’t get a lot of choice in what their own needs are, and that helped her to be easier on herself and others. I hope to get better at that. I feel lucky that a lot of my job is to understand people — to understand what our readers need, or to ask a writer the question that could make an essay a little more self-reflective, or, with acting, understanding a character… collaborating with people in everything I do besides my own writing requires patience, and I think I’m better for it.
B+C: Do you have any advice for young women who suddenly find themselves in the absence of love — whether in a breakup or in a moment of self-doubt (oftentimes one and the same)?
TG: Everyone has to go through it their own way. It’s important to feel it all and get it all out of your system, but I know that I, for example, can take that to an extreme, to the point that I’m just creating more pain for myself by stewing. I guess what I’d say to younger me is: Take better care of yourself and don’t do things that you pretty much know will make you feel worse. Looking at Instagram will probably end badly. Looking at old emails will probably end badly. Tomorrow will suck even more if you’re also hungover. Depressants amplify the worst parts of what you’re already feeling.
B+C: Who and what never fail to elicit in you that emotion you describe in your introduction, of “I can’t believe that I’m not only not depressed out of my mind, but that I actually feel… in love with the world around me?!!!?!”
TG: Wow, so many people and places and things! I will say first of all that part of what makes depression depression is that you can be surrounded by great things and loving people and still feel immovably depressed. Also, places and things can’t fix you, and no one can save you, etc. BUT being really good at choosing the people/places/things that make it most possible for you to feel… not always whole, but yeah, not depressed out of your mind, can change a lot.
Seeing a movie in theaters and being transported and immersed in another person’s experience does wonders for me. So does seeing a play and trying to be a supportive audience member, because the actors are doing something so vulnerable and generous. Also, walking around parts of my city, particularly less familiar ones, and people-watching, and DOG-watching, makes me feel very in love with the world. And of course, a really good conversation with a friend that cracks my brain open and makes me see something differently, or is purely affirming and supportive.
B+C: How did you select the piece you wrote, “Before I Started Writing These Directly to You,” for the collection?
TG: I realized that most of my love-related work for Rookie had been about breakups or not connecting with someone. Which is weird, because it’s not like I’ve experienced that much despair in my life, but I’ve gotten a lot of mileage, writing-wise, out of what I have. I delight in examining those missed connections instead of letting them just be sad, deflated things. We see breakups or bad dates as failures, when it’s actually worth celebrating two people trying to connect.
In any case, I had just started dating my boyfriend, and I had written some friends an email about him that seemed to get at enough ideas about love itself that it didn’t hinge on readers actually knowing the subject of the piece. It deals with that same fascination around how hard it is to connect and to communicate, but finally from an angle of levity and joy and hope.
B+C: What do you think the theme of the next anthology will be about, and why?
TG: We’re still working that out! We get a lot of questions about art and fear, and I’m interested in how self-expression can be therapeutic and how much more necessary it’s becoming as an antidote to the debilitating effects of social media, particularly on a younger, more vulnerable audience. I like the challenge of showing that self-expression isn’t just for people who see themselves as artists, and the challenge of demystifying it for people at a time when it’s hard to imagine doing anything if not to share it for some kind of validation. Also, we get a lot of questions around friendship. On Love celebrated friendship, but it’d be fun to get into the nuances of all different kinds of friendships, at all different stages.
B+C: What are you working on right now?
TG: I’m gearing up for our tour next week and for plans for Rookie later this year. I’m in the middle of a couple writing projects and at the beginning of the stage of acceptance around how long they are taking.
B+C: We see you love to foster the voices of emerging writers. Do you have any words of encouragement for other aspiring writers who might hope to see their work in your next Rookie anthology?
TG: Well, since we’re talking about fear, I think that it’s important to not get stuck and to keep going — I don’t mean in life (that too), but in the moment that you’re writing, or trying to, and feel totally hopeless and even anxious. Do whatever you need to do to make yourself sit up. It’s supposed to be you entertaining yourself. That could mean jumping ahead, or starting at the end, or thinking outside of the confines of outlines or structure or whatever techniques can be useful only when they’re not presented as rules. Google “artist habits,” and you’ll see that everyone’s different, and there’s no right way, and, in the immortal words of the screenwriter William Goldman, “Nobody knows anything.”
What book do you think is most insightful about love? Share your thoughts with us @BritandCo!
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