two hands rest on top of a vintage typewriter. two books hold up an illuminated light on the left. there's also another stack of books on the right.
Photo by Min An from Pexels

“What makes you rebellious?”

This is a question I’ve posed to dozens of Chicago’s best comedians for the Rebellious Magazine series, “Chi-Town Comedy Chats.” Their answers always inspire me. From Deanna Ortiz explaining how she rebels against being told what not to do to Elizabeth Gomez sharing how she fearlessly faces new experiences, each interview left me motivated. These talented stand-up comedians seemed more rebellious than I could ever be just by doing what they do; speaking truth to power and finding the funny in everyday life on stage in front of crowds of strangers.

So, “What makes me rebellious?”

When I first started freelancing over a decade ago, that felt like a big act of rebellion. Quitting a nine to five job, giving up health insurance and security to write about entertainment was a huge risk. Since then, I’ve grown to love the spontaneity of freelance writing with its ability to change month to month or even day by day.

Despite the flexibility of freelancing, I still find myself laying down my own rules. Interviews, reviews, photo essays, and show previews are to be completed on deadline, during traditional working hours, with a focus on readability and entertainment. Emails are to be answered in a timely manner and pitches are to be made at the start of each month. My number one rule – unspoken until now – is to never inject myself into any given piece. Celebrate the artists, tell readers what they can expect from a new album, ask good interview questions, but never make it personal.

Writing this essay right now feels like a true act of rebellion. I never, and I mean never, write in the first person let alone write about myself. It’s terrifying! What if I misspeak or sound stupid or reveal too much?

The truth is, despite rarely using the word “I” when writing, I do put a lot of myself into what I do. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I love sharing experiences with readers in a way that hopefully transports them into whatever setting I’m depicting. I have a blast interviewing comedians and musicians about their latest projects and I love spreading the word about new or under the radar talents. 

It’s scary to share your thoughts [Gah! I mean my thoughts see I’m doing it again] with the world. I’ve had panic attacks when fan forums have picked-up a review and debated its weaker points. I’ve had sleepless nights worrying about sounding unprepared or not cool enough for a big interview. This still happens to this day, but I refuse to let fear stop me from doing what I love. 

Writing this essay is an opportunity to develop new rules, ones that challenge my expectations for myself on the quest to become a better writer, to reject the status quo I’ve set-up for myself, and stop limiting my own potential for growth.

For me, being rebellious is playing by my own rules… and then breaking those too.

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Laurie Fanelli

Laurie Fanelli is a Chicago-based writer and photographer who specializes in live entertainment coverage. She is at home at major music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and, of course, Lollapalooza and...