Do you see? DO YOU SEE?!!

Heya,

Long time no speak.

About…a month ago I came on and deleted all the blog writing prompt posts where I didn’t actually say anything and got rid of the posts in the queue, because I know I’d be super fucking annoyed if I kept getting writing prompts sent to me on a daily basis (though I know some people would probably pay for that). I then planned on writing a post about how that experiment had failed.

Then I got distracted.

I have a job now. I mean, I had a job when I started this blog, but it wasn’t a show-up-at-an-office five-days-a-week kind of job. It was more of a part-time, fit-it-to-my-schedule kind of job. And my job has been in the process of moving offices for … oh, all summer up to the present. We’ll be on our third workspace in as many months soon.

There have been problems. There has been a lack of office supplies and space to spread all my stuff out in (I like to spread out–it’s a big part of why I always try to be early to … everything. If you’re early, you get first dibs on the available space).

But that’s not what I want to write about today.

I want to write about what I’m working on that isn’t work. As a rule of thumb, I don’t like to talk that much about creative projects. Not out of any sense of proprietorship or anything like that; more because I like to keep things loose and not feel like there’s any kind of structure being imposed on me. I feel like telling people about what I’m working means that I have to do what I tell them. And I don’t like feeling like I have to do things a certain way.

I think there’s also a danger of spending more time talking about the project than actually doing the project, and that as valuable as dialogue is, sometimes you have to just take the leap on faith that you’ll figure it out. Sometimes people introduce problems that make the project seem like something unattainable. And not in a sexy way.

Okay, so

Looming Projects

  • The Quarter: my friend turns twenty-five in the not-too-distant and her apartment is full of empty walls and canvas that she keeps meaning to paint, so I’m painting her a picture of a 1989 Canadian quarter. I was originally just going to paint it, but after a while, that started to seem like something that would only be interesting to look at for a brief span of time. Then I got something in the mail that was packed with a bunch of sheets of cardboard. I’d already painted the background of the painting. So I decided I’d paint the cardboard in varying shades of grey and jigsaw a quarter together out of pieces of cardboard in different tones of grey.
  • The Journal: my other friend is going on a Bedouin adventure across Western America. She has no particular itinerary, she just knows it’s going to be across Western America. She’s going to work on some farm communes along the way. I’m trying to restrain the part of my brain that is saying, “Cult, cult, cult, cult” but it’s hard. I’m trying to set up a weekly Skype date for us, both so that we can keep in touch and so I can subtly check her for signs of brainwashing. I’m only somewhat exaggerating. Oh, the journal! So, I bought a really plain, hardback journal and a road atlas. I’ve scanned a bunch of the maps of the west coast, and I’m in the process of covering the journal with them. So she can write in her journal, and also mark the places she’s been on the cover.
  • Dustwallets: I have inherited a hatred of dustjackets from my dad. When you try to read a hardcover with a dustjacket on it, it gets all bendy and slips off and is just generally a giant nuisance. About a month ago, I was reorganizing my bookshelves and found a cache of dustjackets that I’d stripped off my books. I was going to recycle them, but that seemed wasteful. So I googled paper crafts. One of the things that came up was how to make a wallet out of paper. So I’ve been gradually working through a pile of dustjackets, making them into wallets. Some are more complicated than others – you want certain things to fit on the front and back, certain things to be in the pockets, etc., for the look of the thing, and sometimes the dimensions just don’t work and you have to figure something else out. It is both engaging and kind of mindless. I’ve just started sewing them rather than just taping them together. Fucked my fingers up really bad on the first one. I’d never done enough sewing before to appreciate thimbles. I appreciate them now. That’s an ongoing project. When I have time or I’m feeling the urge, I paw through my pile of dustjackets and make one. I don’t know what to do with them. I’ve give a few away to friends and family members (I’m really proud of how the one I did for California turned out). I’m not entirely sure that it’s better to turn them into wallets if I don’t do anything with the wallets, either…
California by Edan Lepucki

California by Edan Lepucki

  • My Mother Says: This is a play that I’ve been working on for years now, at the behest of a friend of mine. It’s about the internment of Japanese-Canadians during WWII. I’ve done a lot of research into it, but I have a lot of trouble connecting with it. I come at story from a place of character, and I’m struggling to get a grasp on the characters. I also don’t want it to be limited, thematically or in terms of the time it’s dealing with. Because the larger implications are of history repeating itself. The internment is not widely known of, and it’s not the first time the government of Canada has done something like this. If you ignore your mistakes, if you believe you’re above those who came before you, you blind yourself. Everyone likes to think they’re not capable of bowing before that kind of pressure, that kind of fear, but most people have never been put in that position. And you never truly know what you would do in a situation until you’ve faced that situation and acted.
  • Merde Creek Chronicle: Is a graphic novel. It’s an online graphic novel. It’s sort of the inverse of My Mother Says. I feel like I understand the characters and the setting, I have an idea of where everything is leading. I have the URL (and now so do you – there’s one post on there right now. It’s from 2012 and it’s about building an author platform. Holy fuck, it’s almost 2015.) I just don’t know how to execute it. I can draw, but the amount of time it would take me to draw something that I would be satisfied with far outweighs the amount of time that it would take me to write something that I’d be satisfied with. And I’ve always been particularly attracted to the idea of doing really rough sketches, just pencil sketches, the minimum required to get the point across, maybe with some concept/character art on another page that’s had a bit more energy put into it, and letting people fill in the blanks. Use there imagination. That would also let me play with the format a bit more, with the minutiae. Make it part comic, part script, part short story.
  • Kindred (working title): fantasy with some sci-fi, in the Arthur C. Clarke sense. I don’t want to get too into it (commitment issues and all that), but I can say that there’s a civil war, a desert, and genetic engineering/mutation. At present. I’m not entirely sure what’ll get slashed in the end. If I get to the end.

And there’s the rub, really. The juggling. Always the juggling. In some ways the job I’m doing is deeply satisfying, in large part because it is so different from my creative projects. But it does absorb a lot of the energy I’d like to dedicate to these projects. It’s not a matter of finding the time. It’s a matter of finding the energy, both physically and emotionally.

I’ve started doing cardio in the mornings, in part because it’s good for my heart and lungs and anxiety levels, but also because I’ve been told that it raises your energy levels. We’ll see, I guess.

Oh, and in case you missed it, the title of this post is referencing South Park when South Park referenced Silence of the Lambs.

Love,

B

Reading: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (why the fuck is everyone called Petrov(na) or Romanov(na)(vich)? What is Russia?)

Listening: Zaba by Glass Animals

Watching: The Cornetto Trilogy on repeat, because I don’t have the mental capacity for anything more complicated, and I like how they make fun of movie cliches without being dicks about making fun of movie cliches

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Work-life balance is an ugly phrase and we need to find a new one

Heya,

As you may have gathered from the title of this post, I don’t like the phrase “work-life balance.” I think, aside from the inescapable clunkiness and the self-help-y tone of the phrase, what bothers me about it is that it suggests a dichotomy between work and life that I think is less and less present, if it ever really was. Work is part of life and life part of work. Just because it’s not always fun doesn’t mean it’s not life.

Most of us spend the majority portion of our (conscious) adult lives at work. With coworkers. Doing work. Thinking about work and worrying about work. We build our vacations around our work. Many of our friends are our coworkers. Some of our spouses started out as coworkers, or friends of coworkers. For many of us, there aren’t firmly delineated boundaries. Personal and professional relationships can blend and change.

People say they need to work on their work-life balance when work takes over a greater portion of their lives than other things, other interests. When family suffers, when friendships deteriorate, when you’re just fucking exhausted all the time because you’re stressed out and on call all the time, that’s a poor work-life balance.

I’m not saying that it’s not a thing, and that it’s not important to figure out how to balance it, just that the phrase might be part of the problem. In suggesting that work and life are separate things, you make them into two opposing forces that need to be measured against one another. It becomes a “versus” situation, where work is up against family, friends, fun, etc., where it should be work and family and friends and fun. I think the need for balance comes back to anxiety, to the feeling of being overwhelmed by conflicting responsibilities. Of trying to manage on an ever decreasing budget of time.

Did I ever talk to you about the Culture of Character and the Culture of Personality? It’s mentioned in the book Quiet by Susan Cain, which I recommend whether you’re an introvert or not. If I haven’t, I’m about to, and if I have, get ready for redux:

In the Culture of Character, people are admired for internal traits, like honesty or temperance. There is a stronger delineation between public and private life, with greater weight being given to the person you are in private than the person you are in public. In the Culture of Personality, it’s much more external. How you present yourself in public is given more weight than your internal characteristics. Which makes charm very important. The book argues, and I would agree, that in the latter half of the twentieth century we moved from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality. Nothing wrong with it, but I do think that phrases like “work-life balance” relate to this. Because as we live our personal lives more publicly, as there is more overlap between our persona and our character, it can become a more difficult thing to balance all the different elements of your life. It can be harder to “switch off,” “unplug,” or whatever you want to call it. And not just because most of us never have our phone’s more than an arms-length away.

I’ve gotten a little off-track. The point of this post was, I don’t like the phrase “work-life balance,” and I want a new one. But I need help.

So, right now I’ve got “Anxiety Meniscus,” “Human Factor” (this one would be a measure of how close your were to being a computer in a flesh suit), “To-Do List Measure” (if your to-do list goes past a certain length, chances are you’re work-life balance is a drunk guy on a balance beam), ummm…

Okay, what you got?

Love,

B

On optimism and boxes

Heya,

I interviewed two amazing artists for Repurposed a while back – Valerie Arntzen and Christina Norberg, in case you’re interested. The profiles themselves will go live when the first issue of the magazine launches.

Anyway, they’re both artists who work with reclaimed and repurposed materials, and talking to them put a point on something I’ve been thinking about/feeling in relation to both repurposed art and art in general.

There’s something wonderfully optimistic about reclaiming, repurposing, upcycling, and whatever other words might be applied to it. The Maker movement, the DIY trend, homesteading, the efforts that people make that counteract decades of advertising us that new is better and planning obsolescence.

I hate the word “millenial” but apparently it’s the word that has been landed on to define my generation. Anyway, I read about how apathetic my generation is (apathy seems to be a common complaint of the older generation about the younger generation, by the way), and it strikes me that, at least for me, it’s not so much being apathetic as being overwhelmed.

We are the future leaders of the world, apparently. And what a world we get to lead. We have global warming, which world powers only periodically seem to give a shit about. We have rampant world hunger. The bees are dying, so there’s the question of pollination and future food supplies. Genetically engineered crops that live only for a year and seed other crops so that they won’t grow again, thereby forcing farmers to purchase seeds every year where previously they had renewed themselves. Numerous other species are on the verge of extinction. Daily, we inhale oxygen that is more and more contaminated with carbon monoxide and other harmful gases than at any other time in history. We’re all over regulation regarding cigarettes, but hybrid/electrical/other cars are still barely a blip on the market despite the rapid exhaustion of natural gas stores in the world. We pollute our groundwater to the point that in various parts of of the world there is no drinkable water that isn’t bottled. And even in countries where the tap water is drinkable, we still buy bottled water rather than drink it.

There’s more, but I’m making myself tired and sad and existentially anxious.

Which is sort of the point of all this.

One of the things that came out of my conversation with the aforementioned artists was this sense of optimism and community. The wonderful thing about reclamation, repurposing, is that it takes things that people don’t think of as valuable and brings out their beauty, tells their story, integrates them and melds them into a new story. Making the story yours.

There’s something attractive about shiny and new. There’s something attractive about a blank slate to work with. But I think there’s also something attractive about the weight and veneer and patina of older things. And we’re rapidly running out of blank slate. Metaphorically, I mean. And physically, sort of. And, as deeply, deeply fucked as the world often seems, so fucked up that it’s hard to know where you would start if you wanted to fix things, it is wonderful whenever you encounter things that show you that not even trash is all trash.

Oh, and a quick thought about boxes, which is the other part of this post. I thought I would find a neat segue in the course of writing this post, but the first part took a turn that I didn’t expect, so I’m just going to switch right over.

Another thing I loved about these discussions with these women was the idea of thinking outside the box, of looking at things and contemplating different uses for them, different purposes, not being constrained by what is or isn’t expected, either of the object or the artist. I think too often artists (be their painters, writers, reclaimers) try to fit themselves into boxes of what they think is appealing, what they think people want, what they think will sell. Especially fledgeling artists. And you can’t succeed, you can’t grow as an artist and a person, if you’re trying to fit in a box.

Love,

B

Uncomfortably warm at the back of the class

I sit directly under a projector that produces a low, continuous whine. My prof introduces a freelance editor to talk to us about editing children’s literature. I have not done the readings and I made the mistake of buying hot coffee instead of an iced drink because I forgot that the room I’m in has no windows.

It gets stuffy in here.

I spent the first half of the day doodling variations of a hipster leprechaun. Because a while ago I wanted to buy a pair of green jeans and then thought, “No, then I’ll just be a hipster leprechaun.”

So … yeah, that was the first half of my day.

I’m in the middle of one of those oh-so-common Quarter-Life Crises. Mixed in with a healthy dose of existential crisis. Why am I here, what am I doing, why is she getting married at twenty-two, his Instagram is prettier than mine, what is life?!

Fun times.

That’s my introduction to what this blog will be. Maybe Dusty will say something better.