YOU SHOULD BE WRITING

The greatest challenge of moving to Toronto has been keeping true to myself. Part one of two on underemployment, self-care and learning to create.

I have had the hardest time recently keeping on top of things. As you’ve probably noticed, this blog has been seriously affected. It’s been such a struggle to move to a new city and try to build a new life, find employment. As always, getting a job has been the hardest challenge. I have such low self-esteem when it comes to employment. I’ve never had a job that I both enjoyed and that paid me a fair, living wage. Some of my most fulfilling ‘jobs’ have been volunteer positions and I have only ever been paid a fair wage for the drudge of administration. In every other situation, I feel that I have been taken advantage of. And, of course, I co-operate in that.

Neeeiill! Stop looking at me like that! Source: mobiuskleinstein.tumblr.com
NEIIIIL! DON’T KILL ME! Source: mobiuskleinstein.tumblr.com

Recently, dating someone new has given me the perfect excuse to ignore myself. I thought that 2013 would be so easy. Now I’m 30 I will be so mature and sorted. I will approach every situation with diligence and a balanced mind. Turns out, keeping perspective has been the hardest challenge of the past 2 months.

I have a tendency to prioritise others over myself; the classic habit of a blocked artist. These days, I try to put myself first. The balance of doing this while acting responsibly towards others in my life is something I am constantly thinking about. Refusing to put myself second place, recently, hurt someone else who was vulnerable at the time.

In other ways I, every day, put myself second. I distract myself by messaging my lover instead of writing. I spend time with them outside of our allotted dates instead of job hunting. This leaves me feeling frustrated and angry with myself. I know I am using them as an excuse and that is neither fair to them nor me.  This is something I struggle with every time I date someone. I would really like to develop healthy relationships that support rather than undermine my creativity.

Writers Block
Inspired by http://revaxmedia.co.uk/20-ways-to-help-writer-s-block

My lover asked me recently if we could stop freaking out now and just spend time enjoying each other. And I was, like, I don’t know! Maybe I like the drama too much. I know I am using the drama as a distraction from myself; where would I be without it? Oh yeah, a responsible, calm adult; living (working and playing) in the present.

I am afraid of silence. I am afraid that if I sit, in silence, even for 15 minutes, all my pain will come bubbling up and I will have to act on it. What will this mean for me? Does it mean I will realise I need to be by myself more? Does it mean I’ll need to change a relationship, end a friendship? Responsibility to myself entails change.

Source: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com
Source: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron notes that some blocked artists are afraid to create because they are afraid they’ll be forced to undergo radical change. If gay, they’re afraid they’ll be struck straight; if straight, they’re afraid they’ll realise they’re gay. I also have this overwhelming fear. What will I be forced to realise when I sit, just for 15 minutes, by myself every day and listen to the sound of my heart?

Oh yeah, and my lover’s idea for a new Tumblr: ‘Now That I’m 30’ and all the ridiculous things I feel that I should do now I’m in a new decade.

Resources to help you feel safe being creative:

The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron (this book changed my life, no joke)

Creating a Life Worth Living, Carol Lloyd (also a book-based course)

This:

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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

Dumbing Down: career women who self-deprecate

Part 1 of two pieces on careers and women.  Why women are expected to be more quiet, speak less, and be more self-deprecating than men.

I’m a pretty shy girl. Well, maybe shy isn’t the right word. I can often be quite friendly and steer conversations in a social setting. I sometimes even introduce myself in a self-confident and open manner and continue to an interesting topic of conversation such as ‘what do you think of the bunting?’ and ‘isn’t the selection of desserts great?’ like I did at my friend’s wedding party this weekend. But as soon as I admire a person, as soon as I think they are talented, interesting or, let’s face it, hot, I clam up. I start to put myself down and insist that I am a less worthy human being than them who doesn’t deserve to kiss the ground at their creative/innovative/sexy feet.

I find myself jealous of people who are able to speak about their career with confidence. Men, in particular, seem to have the gift of the gab. An ability to find the right words and have an unashamedly self-confident attitude that will make their listener believe that their companion is a man worth listening to; a man who knows his stuff.

“I’m pretty much a nobody really. You should probably talk to someone else. “

When I meet people, I am often frustrated at my own inability to, as it were, big myself up. When asked what I do I generally freak out and put myself down as if to insist, contrary to my own belief, that I am a really boring and unsuccessful person with no talents whatsoever. Although I am a pretty fucking clever, talented and well-travelled person with plenty of strong opinions the way I describe myself gives off the subliminal message ‘I’m pretty much a nobody really, not worth talking to. You should probably talk to someone else. ’ I’m pretty much a self-confidence train wreck, really, akin to Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns before she gets transformed into back-from-the-dead Catwoman.

The conversation usually gets off to a good start. I say ‘I am a writer’ to which people respond in a genuinely interested way. Faced with this positive reaction I invariably to continue to make sure my conversation partner knows just how unsuccessful a writer I am by stressing that I ‘only’ write on my blog and the internet, and that I don’t get paid for it. That my zine is only an amateur home-printed publication.

(I’m more of a career Selina Kyle than a kick ass villainess like Catwoman)

It all depends how you spin it. While the above information is true, it doesn’t mean that I am less talented or successful than the self-confident guy who ‘has a studio’, ‘exhibits worldwide’ and ‘is currently exploring a way to replicate soundscapes in a digital application’. I can either say I am an unpaid blogger with larger writing aspirations, I give workshops on sex and sexuality and I teach English to German kids or I can say I am a self-employed writer with a moderate online following who is currently experimenting with her creativity while living in Berlin.  I can say how I conceived, edited and promoted an 80-page bilingual publication and recently organised and performed in a cabaret attended by over 600 people.

See, I even had to insert the word ‘moderate’ there. I AM SO TERRIBLE AT SELF-PROMOTION!

While I think I have always been insecure and afraid of bigging myself up, I do think this tendency to downplay is more common in women. A lot of the British career women I know, no matter how brilliant, habitually talk in a way that puts themselves down. We undermine our achievements in order to appear more socially acceptable. We make ourselves seem more stupid, smaller, less significant in order to cater to the subconscious idea that a woman is meant to have a lower place in society than a man.

A man is encouraged from birth to inhabit his personality and develop his abilities. He is nurtured in a way that women often aren’t, who are taught to hide their brilliance and pretend that they are somehow lesser than they are.

I see this attitude in my parents’ celebration of my intelligence along with their desire to push me into a ‘normal’ job. Any job will do, no matter how unsuitable, so long as I fit into the mainstream idea of acceptable-things-to-do-with-your-life. They would rather I were a miserable secretary, employed in a job that uses none of my creativity, than a happy, unknown artist (if I were famous like JK Rowling, as my Dad points out, that would be another matter).

It is now my project to stop apologising for myself when asked what I do for a living. I am going to proudly claim my artist / writer label and not say, ‘but don’t worry, I’m really brainless and broke and what you do is way more important anyway’. I’m going to be proud. Go get ‘em girl.

Don’t forget to check out part 2: fat, body image and self-esteem in the workplace. Now up!