Let’s just start…

Is June too late for a new year’s resolution?

I am tired. Tired of not writing, tired of being blocked. Tired of flagellating myself and living up to an imaginary standard. Tired of imposing writing rules on myself about length, genre and content of my writing. So, fuck it. You know what’s worse than writing something bad?

Not writing anything at all.

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Ode to 2013 and some thoughts for 2014

(Not resolutions! I’m not writing my motherfucking resolutions! That’s just a recipe for disaster…) 

Happy 2014 readers! How on earth did that happen? You know you’re old when you start the new year by telling your partner “I’m looking forward to spending 2012 with you.” In my head, I’m still 29 (man, that makes me sound old).

So, I know, I know, it’s been ages since I blogged regularly. I’m surprised most of you haven’t given up on me. Ever since I moved to Toronto a little over a year ago, I’ve been overwhelmed by life. My depression has recurred, I’ve been working full-time, commuting two hours every day and started a serious relationship.

All this has got me wondering, how on earth do people who work full-time find the time to blog?! I swear many productive bloggers must have day jobs but I don’t know how they do it. They must not sleep, or BE MAGIC.

You know what else is magic? Sherlock.
You know what else is magic? Sherlock.

This year, I’m going to do my best to balance it all. Write, love, work, somehow get status in Canada and apply for a PhD. All this in one year? HELL YEAH. 2014 is going to be the year of productivity. Just make sure they don’t release another Sherlock season, because that’s going to fuck it all up. I waste way too much time watching Benedict Cumberbatch gifs on Tumblr.

Like this one.
Like this one.

Goodbye 2013. You were a tough year. You gave and you took away so much:

You were generous:

Getting a full-time job with the miracle qualities of working for a company I actually care about and using some of my skills. Having been underemployed for the previous 3 years, I know how not being employed can weigh on your self-esteem. In a culture where the first question people ask you is “What do you do?”, being underemployed feels like confessing, every time you meet someone new, to what a failure you are.

You taught me how to love:

As of tomorrow, I’m going to have been in a long-term relationship for a WHOLE YEAR (I’m going to freak out and revert to 16 now I’ve written that). Being with my partner has taught me a lot about myself, my use of time, how to be intimate with someone. I feel blessed to have him in my life. He’s been my rock.

You were a bitch:

Even though I appreciate aspects of having a full-time job, this working full-time for the first time in years has me as convinced as ever that the working week is designed to keep you as exhausted as possible. ‘Keep the peasants tired and they won’t have time to rebel.’ Working 37.5 hours a week and commuting two hours every days leave me little me time. I’ve fantasized a lot this year about being rich, and isn’t that telling? The fantasy of being rich keeps us all dreaming rather than criticizing the system that only allows a few to earn their freedom.

You weren’t very creative…

Even though I started off this year with the best of intentions, they were soon buried under the search for employment and demands of actual employment, a relationship, commuting and moving house.

I knew that moving back to Canada would be damaging to my writing career. It would take me away from the group of readers I had built up in Berlin and would leave me, unemployed, in the middle of new city and country, having to start all over again. “Better sooner than later,” I thought and packed my bags.

Although I have struggled to find the time to write this year, that hasn’t been the only reason my blog has suffered. I’ve been afraid of success, of failure, of finding things out about myself I don’t want to know. The usual reasons artists are blocked.

Even when I was offered opportunities to develop my writing – such as posting my blog on Rabble; writing articles for the Shameless blog; or creating an article for Existere, York University’s creative writing journal – these opportunities compounded my fear of success and blocked me even more.

I was even blessed to have asexual folk from all over the internet submit their thoughts and feelings about being asexual to me so that I could write a representative article on their sexual orientation for Shameless. I never wrote that article. I feel that I have let a lot of people down, and myself most of all.

…in fact, you were the year of procrastination

I saw this marvellous quote on Tumblr about how perfectionists are also procrastinators because they feel like they can’t work until they all the information they need. Which I felt summed me up pretty well, so I just spent an hour trying to find it in my feed. I was like, “I can’t carry on without this vital piece of information!” Until I realized that I just proved my own point, and decided to let it go.

Writing as a perfectionist is hard. Because you expect everything that comes out of your mouth to be fucking fantastic. So I’m going to try and get over that worry because, more often than not, when I reread something I wrote that I thought was terrible the next day I’m like “that’s actually quite good!”

[^^ The syntax in that sentence is fucked up]

 

So, in 2014, I’m going to give myself permission to write bad things. Because sometimes you just have to wade through the shit in order to get to the good. I’m going to spend more me time, because I need that in order to survive. And I’m going to apply to do a PhD to get me out of the office job. Because it just doesn’t suit me.

Happy 2014 guys! I hope yours is wonderful.

Gratuitous Sherlock gif
Gratuitous Sherlock gif

Top 3 things that have happened this summer:

I know. I’ve been absent for, like, a gazillion years. That’s what moving country, falling in love and getting a full-time job all at the same time will do to ya. Plus, of course, a resurgence of the good ole writer’s block à la earlier this year. But not to worry, there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes here at Diary of a Lipstick Terrorist.

Here’s a rundown of the top 3 blog-related things that have happened this summer:

3. My zine, Dressed Like That: Feminine Voices on Sexism in the Queer Communityand I were invited by the Lithuanian Gay League to Baltic Pride! Sadly, being all the way here in Canada and the land of the living, I couldn’t attend personally. But I did attend in spiritvia a one-off English-only edition of Dressed Like That. Thanks LGL!

2. My article Is ‘cupcake feminism’ all empty calories?’was featured in an art exhibition on cupcake feminism and craft  in San Francisco. This article formed part of the reading stall in the art exhibition, and was also quoted in Artlines, a journal published by the Women’s Caucus for Art.  I’m proud to be part of the small critical dialogue on this phenomenon.

Image courtesy www.WhatDykeLooksLike.com
Image courtesy http://www.WhatDykeLooksLike.com

1. Last, but not least, I have been invited to be a featured blogger on Rabble.ca!I’m so happy to be part of this progressive community, and hope I make worthy contributions to the conversation. I will be writing exclusive content for both Rabble.ca and Diary of a Lipstick Terrorist, so keep your eyes peeled on both sites!

How to get and un-get (yes, that’s a word) Writer’s Block

Part two of two on blocked creativity and learning to self-care. In which I share some of the skills I have learnt to combat writer’s block and forming good creative habits.

After living in Berlin for 2 years, it has been hard to move to such an expensive, capitalist city as Toronto. With the low cost of living in Berlin, I was able to just about survive working seasonally in summer camps and doing the occasional editing job. Each day I had the option of how to spend my time.

Granted, then, as now, I often misspent my time. Too afraid of my own power to spend each moment alive and listening. But I feel like I did a lot more listening (and, as a result, creating) then than I do now. This is OK I guess. It’s not OK that I am sad, frustrated with and hating on myself right now. But it’s OK because I know that, any moment, this situation can change. I can sit down, as I am now, and listen. This makes it OK because right now I am listening. Right now I am creating. And now is, of course, where we all live.

It’s amazing how much calmer I feel just writing this. How much more in control of my life I am. It’s this feeling that I am running from. Being present makes me realise I can take control. And if I control things, then I have the ultimate responsibility for my actions. I become responsible for the way I treat others and myself, how I spend my time. A fulfilling job, healthy relationships, a creative life. All of these things become – are – attainable.

This is how Toronto makes me feel. It used to be an ad in British Columbia before it was pulled. Thanks M.M. McGlynn
This is how Toronto makes me feel. It used to be an ad in British Columbia before it was pulled. Thanks M.M. McGlynn

The question of time and money becomes even more urgent in an expensive, capitalist city like Toronto. Like London, the struggle to pay rent, buy food – to survive – feels far more urgent than it did in Berlin. When my minimum income doesn’t cover my expenses, I easily stress out. Having low self-esteem when it comes to employment, I spend a lot of time panicking and very little applying to jobs. I feel like I deserve a good job and fair pay, yet find it hard to believe anyone in the media industry will ever see that potential in me unless I sell myself very aggressively. I put a lot of pressure on myself to work hard, which results in me freaking out and running away from my desires and responsibilities – in short, from myself.

I don’t like selling my skills. I do believe that I have a lot of talent, yet my experience in the middle-class world of media has scarred me. Afraid that employers will be scared off by my politics, I undermine myself at the same time as believing I am better than everyone else. It’s this toxic mixture of arrogance and insecurity that leads to a feeling of hopelessness.

In situations like these, where I feel the pressure of survival, being present becomes my most important task. And because of this immense pressure I put on myself, it is also the thing I find hardest to allow myself to do.

When I moved to Berlin in 2010 I was extremely depressed. I was suicidal, on-and-off, that whole year and leaving London felt like my only chance of escape. In London, I felt no opportunity to get better, to carve out a life for myself. Between the 2 rush hours it took me to get to work everyday, the expense of rent and transportation, and no time and money left over to do anything fun, I felt there was no space for me. London invaded all of me. I was lost in an unfriendly sea.

Berlin was never enticing for itself. Berlin was appealing because it was an escape. It was the place I learnt some essential survival techniques and finally began to confront myself.

In Berlin, I learnt that time spent by myself – in silence, nature and adventuring – is the most self-loving, scary and productive gift I can give myself. I learnt that I am infinitely creative – I love drawing, dancing, singing, photography – and I enjoy exploring that. I also learnt that I am, above all, committed to the art of writing. Writing is where I can truly realise my potential. Writing is where I belong.

Comic by Ben Claasen. Source: WashingtonCityPaper.com
Comic by Ben Claasen. Source: WashingtonCityPaper.com

Two years ago, I followed The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and started writing every morning for half an hour. This stream of consciousness helps me vent and gain perspective for the day. I also learnt the self-love that comes from taking myself on a date once a week. These two tools finally allowed me to start writing on a regular basis, for the first time in my life. It also led me to create a successful blog, zine and write controversial articles for online magazines. Heck, I even wrote some poetry!

Now, living in Toronto, I am once again resisting the revelations (revolution!) that come from using these self-love skills. I use dating and unemployment as an excuse for spending my days freaking out over nothing in particular, rather than engaging in the daily drudge and acute concentration that would actually lead me somewhere – to write, send articles out, submit job applications.

I am wary of making commitments to stop or start doing something forever. If I promise myself I will never binge eat again, the next time I do, I’ll just beat myself up even more. I really don’t need any more self-loathing in my life. So, for now, I’m not going to say I’m going to write my morning pages every day and do my artist’s date once a week. I’m not going to say I’m going to work on my creative writing for 2 hours every morning, or post on this blog once a week. Because I know that if I don’t keep that promise to myself, I’ll end up hating and blocking myself even more. Sometimes self-care is just letting myself be.

A good friend once said to me she had stopped promising herself she would never self-harm again. Because then, when she did self-harm, the compounded disappointment and guilt made her feel even worse about herself. Every night, when I go to sleep, I don’t say I will always be OK. I say, right now, in this moment, I am breathing, I am alive and I am OK.

Independent Woman, 2013 Edition

Hello 2013! Hello dear readers! It’s so lovely to see you again this side of 30. As you have probably noticed, I just took an unintentionally long break from posting. I guess this is a symptom that things are not 100% alright with me and I have, once again, been putting my creativity on the back burner. This is definitely an unhealthy behaviour, so I am making myself get back on the creative hobby horse, as it were.

A lot has happened in the past month. Not only have I walked into a new year with my head held high and a bunch of work to do, I have also started dating again. This is a major event for me and I have found it distracting, sexy and painful. Oh, the excitement of dyke drama. The seduction of losing myself in another. Forgetting myself has always been dangerously seductive for me. I call it the Disney complex. The dream that another person can rescue me from myself, without me having to do any of the work.

I have to constantly remind myself that this dream is a mirage. We all know, these days, that princesses have to rescue ourselves. We have to get down and dirty with our pick axes and our shovels. We have to hike up our skirts and create our own adventures. This is something that I know, but also that I have to teach myself again and again. No matter how wonderful another person is, they can’t fully entertain me. They can’t exercise my brain in the same way that I can. They can’t write for me. They can’t live my life for me.

So, this is my trying to be healthy. I am, in fact, insisting to myself that I must be healthy and put my nose back to the grindstone. I’ve thrown my petticoat over my shoulder and I’ve started hacking into the dirt. Who knows what I’ll find down there? Some rusty reminders of a former time. Fossilised tins of food. An undetonated grenade. And perhaps, underneath the rubbish, some clean, fertile soil.

If you don't know why this is funny, then you need to go to http://downtonabbeyonce.tumblr.com/ Original picture ©Sara Svärtan Persson
If you don’t know why this is funny, then you need to go to http://downtonabbeyonce.tumblr.com/ Original picture ©Sara Svärtan Persson

Queer Zine Fest London 2012

This Saturday is Queer Zine Fest London, the best place to get queer zines in, like, London (and the UK). So attention all you UK fans, not only is this your opportunity to check out some hot people and eat something vegan, it’s also a way to get your mitts on the new pink edition of Dressed Like That, my community zine. My wonderful friend ‘riotmade with love’ with be hawking copies at their stall, so make sure you get there early to get yours.

The deets:

Queer Zine Fest London 2012

Saturday 8th December

373 Kennington road

London SE11 4PS

Excerpt from zine: street art photographed by riotmade with love
Excerpt from zine: street art photographed by riotmade with love

Who Said That Girls Can’t Do Economics? Discordia, a review

OK, so it’s not Thursday, it’s Friday. But you know what? It’s 5 hours behind Europe in Canada.  And it’s been Daylight Savings Time, which is totally an excuse. Anyway, it’s my blog, so quit your complaining! Here’s another review, this time of a beautiful new ebook. Do read on:

Discordia is a direct challenge to the British media’s conservative coverage of anti-austerity protests in Greece. Political commentator Laurie Penny and illustrator Molly Crabapple take us to the streets of Athens and show how the Greek people are affected by the cuts largely condoned by Britain.

In Spring 2012, British commentator Laurie Penny and New York artist Molly Crabapple set off on a 6-day journey of journalistic discovery. Their mission: to discover what the hell is happening in Athens and to experience the anti-austerity activism first-hand. What came out of that adventure is Discordia, an ebook that mixes personal experience with astute political commentary. The stories of Athens’ locals emerge alongside Penny’s convincing characterisation of a depressed Britain. The crisis of one nation reveals the hidden attitudes of another. All of this is washed over with Crabapple’s gothic sketches depicting the harrowing and uplifting beauty of Greece in crisis. Discordia tells a distressing tale that is also an energizing call to action.

Apathy, that feeling of powerlessness; a feeling so pervasive in Britain it hangs over London like a fog. It keeps our eyes on station floors, brown bleeding between the tiles like stale urine in public toilets. It forces our brains shut on the tube and glazes our eyes in front of our computer screens. ‘Eurozone unemployment jumps to new high,’ ‘Greece sees suicide surge,’ ‘Greek society sees free fall.’ Information washes over our heads. We see only our feet trudging along the wet concrete as we walk to the bus. This is pretty much the definition of apathy. The feeling that what you learn is exactly the same as what you expected and it’s awful. So you don’t do anything about it. It won’t change anything, so what’s the point?

In a digital world in which the glut of information leaves us heavy with despair, Laurie Penny’s writing is a refreshing call to action. She wants you to care, to join in her fight. For her, journalism has a political role. She argues that, what she calls the ‘mainstream media,’ “are complicit in creating that special blend of anxiety and inertia that has calcified dissent across Europe and America since the first uprisings in 2011.” London, New York, Egypt, Greece. Wednesday’s anti-austerity strikes in Madrid, Lisbon and Rome. Rebellions against governmental economic mismanagement are happening all over the world. And, still, we feel powerless.

“The depression has left the British middle class with an identity crisis”

Discordia questions the role the rest of Europe and the US have to play in the Greek crisis.It tries to do what Penny argues mainstream media doesn’t and hold the powers-that-be “to account.” Released as an e-book on Amazon and Google Books, Penny and Crabapple’s tome is part of the new generation of publishing. Penny came to fame through her personal blog into the world of Twitter, Facebook and a million-and-one blogs like mine. The new media aren’t inherently left-wing or anti-authoritarian, but their potential for spreading diverse content quickly, cheaply and easily provides them with a lot of political potential. Now, I’m not going to go all utopian on your asses. I do question how much of a new audience this media reaches versus how much it preaches to the young, lefty choir. But the potential for different messages to be heard is encouraging. As Penny writes, “in the hands of anyone on the other side of a protest line, a camera phone is a weapon as powerful as any club.” New and social media can, sometimes, be used to emphasise social responsibility.

An anti-fascist rally sees racist violence

British reportage of Greece’s crisis speaks to a fear that we, the Brits, will have to pay for another’s mess. Discordia argues that the use of moralising rhetoric to depict Greece’s crisis places unfair blame on Europe’s poorer citizens; an ‘It’s Greece’s crisis and Greece has to pay’ mentality. As Penny writes, “Greece is the beggar of Europe, and these days, beggars have to be made examples of.” This moral rhetoric ignores that it’s not Greece’s mismanaging bigwigs who will pick up this debt. It’s the country’s working and middle class.

Penny links middle-class disappointment to British political apathy. Our feeling that the future’s gone to shit and there’s nothing we can do about it. “The crisis is affecting us, affecting people of the middle class, like me. It’s not only an economic crisis, it’s also a political crisis, a crisis in all parts of life.” The depression is, well, depressing and it’s left the British middle class with an identity crisis. Middle-class Brits in our twenties and early thirties, like me, were told we could have everything and we feel like we have ended up with nothing. Britain’s political conservatism can, in part, be attributed to the shock the recession has given our national self-confidence. Too depressed to extend a helping hand to others, it feels like the anti-cut activism of the past couple of years has died down into grudging acceptance of a bad lot.

The shock of being unemployed. The disappointment of a generation. As a middle-class, educated woman, unemployment is news to me. My artistic deviance from my destiny as a doctor or lawyer was supposed to be channelled into publishing or the media. I wasn’t supposed to be underemployed for 3 years, on anti-depressants and struggling to make my way in a world suddenly hostile to middle-class youth, with all our expectations. Between the time my friends graduated in 2004 and I finished my MA in 2009, the world had changed radically. Now, to have good prospects, you need a degree from Oxbridge or an influential contact. Anyone who’s not one of the lucky few is fucked. For working-class people, this harsh reality might not be news. Maybe it’s something they expected. But for people of my class and age, it is new. Because we were told we could have everything and that has turned out to be a lie.

A stray dog on Athens’ central Syntagma Square, where protests are often held

It’s no wonder that we have come to expect disappointment. Instead of protesting the police brutality in Greece, we watch it unfold with a numb sense of inevitability. We frown, sigh and scroll down. Get off the tube and hurry home to watch the telly. “Now they don’t wait to go inside to hit you, because they have nothing to hide from the world outside Greece.” A Greek protestor describes police brutality.

“Greece is the beggar of Europe, and these days, beggars have to be made examples of.” – Laurie Penny

The fascist party, Golden Dawn, is gaining considerable power in Greece. It’s estimated that 50% of the Greek police force voted for the party. The daily murders of immigrants in Athens are continuing unchallenged by the police. At an anti-fascist rally Penny describes a young Pakistani man who has been bludgeoned by a group of Golden Dawn members. She films as he lies bleeding on the cobblestones, his friends pressing cloth to his head, trying to stop the flow of blood. Such examples of violence show what the ethnic minorities of Greece have to lose. What people fear, even in England, will happen to them at the hands of the police if they make a fuss. But the ethnic minorities of Greece don’t have a choice. Their quality of life has already been threatened. They have to protest the daily murders. We don’t. The lack of political energy in Britain smacks of the awful dead apathy of having given up.

Happier times in Athens: Crabapple and Penny in a local bar

Penny’s compelling words are brought to life by Molly Crabapple’s rich illustrations. Crabapple’s sketches bring out the beauty that is always present, even in the poorest, most desperate places. The intricate richness of her Victorian-inspired sketches make me think of Dickens’ London, covered in grime and fog. Grey and stinking and full of despair. She transports this Anglophile atmosphere to the streets of recession Athens and breathes life into Penny’s words. The effect of their combined art is, surprisingly, hopeful as well as dark.

You could, if you really wanted, dismiss this review and Discordia itself as the whingeing last cry of a disillusioned class as we fall off the perch of entitlement and land smack on our asses in the middle of a depression. But that would be too simple. It would ignore the fact that this apathy pervades all of British society, not just the middle-class. It would also ignore the fact that political apathy is deliberately cultivated by the powers-that-be to keep us uppity, left-wing intellectuals in our (silenced) place. Penny and Crabapple’s ebook depicts the disappointment and anger of Generation Y’s middle class and creates a compelling call to action. After all, who knows what would happen if we were all like Laurie Penny and Molly Crabapple?