Inspiration and a backlash against Realism

I read a great little article by Writers Edit on staying inspired as a writer. I agree with the author on many of her points. Though I am finding that reading ‘Art Objects’ by Jeanette Winterson is changing my perspective on books reflecting real life. I’m not as convinced by the argument that all writing (fiction) is based on life or should be. Jeanette makes the point that this kind of Realism come from the Victorian era and reflects a backlash against the Romantics who embraced innovation, imagination and art for arts sake. Realism was focused creating fiction that reflected “real life” and had a certain didactic quality that was very socially “responsible” in its message. Jeanette makes the argument that books do not have to be (and shouldn’t) just be a version of everyday life; that novels are in fact not a version of certain facts, but a whole new reality to be entered and understood. In a way she is concerned with what is at the heart of a novel, that it goes beyond just mimicry of life.

A great break down of her book can be found here.

The unintentional self sabotage

Not being a naturally well organised person I have to put in place a lot of alarms and reminders for myself. For the second time I have mis-remembered the deadline for an ANU library job application and missed my opportunity to get my resume in. It wasn’t like I had the exact qualifications for the job (I don’t have a Cert III in Information and Cultural Services) but there’s no harm in submitting. I am going to have to work on being even more organised than I already strive to be. Not being in sync with a culture of hard deadlines but trying to be otherwise is hard work….

Missing words

I often wake up and look forward to doing my CIT homework. Currently my favourite class is Colour Theory. We are making a huge number of our own colour swatches from only yellow, blue (cyan), and red (magenta). It’s a great,  practical way to learn about how colour works. But I also miss words. I’m not engaging with them any less, but my focus and perception of my future is different.

I’m starting from the beginning again in a way; soon I will be building up portfolios, trying to get recognised, collecting contacts in the design industry. It’s been a bit humiliating to be starting over because my degree that took me five years is unrecognised. Those years of study and adoration for the conventions of Victorian fears imbedded in literature feels wasted. I always have what I know and I might find a way to use my knowledge in an unpaid manner, but that direction of learning seems a little dimmer. I’m doing something not totally unrelated, design is still in the field of the arts as writing is, but the skills I previously honed I’m sad to not be continuing to develop in a formal or paid manner.

I can be too concrete about my future, wrapping too much of my identity in what I do. None of us are only made up of what we do for a day job, but being a writer (and future publisher/editor) has been who I thought I was for many years. I miss it. The slowly solidifying dream of working for a literary/feminist/philosophical publication aches. In part it also aches because a question was posed to me about what kind of jobs in the art sector I want. I wasn’t sure how to answer as I don’t have a lot of clues about what jobs exist and what skills beyond admin are needed. But the question has beckoned me to dream into that dim space. From it I feel I should keep pushing forward in the writing/publishing world as well as see what develops from Interior Design. I don’t have to be one thing with one direction.

Having a future

Almost all writers need another job to sustain them and pay for the goth boots. Mine might be Interior Design. It would be an understatement to say that this last year has been hard. My self esteem has been severely damaged and I was actually starting to believe I had no talent. Despite my efforts, I have little ability to do retail, admin or hospitality to a level that makes me employable. I didn’t want to be a wiz at those occupations anyway, but being told I am crap over and over when I was doing all I could to at least be adequate, was more than disheartening. And it was the only narrative that surrounded me- it was taking over. I used to feel talented and smart. What happened to that? Out of necessity I was trying to make it in industries that went against my nature and skills. I’ve been profoundly stuck. But I kept to my agreement with myself to try new career paths and get further education, which lead me to CIT.

I’ve been intrigued for years by the idea of Interior Design. In College I filled diaries till they were bowed and water logged with glue. They were filled with pictures, paint chips, mood boards, fabric, old jewelry and concept drawings. This was my art more than sewing a dress or painting on a canvas (though I enjoy doing both still). But I didn’t know what I was doing had a name and was a skill. At Uni, during my Graphic Design course I became overwhelmed with excitement when it came time to work on composition skills. So I’ve had an inkling that this could be ‘my world’ for a while.

I was fortunate that I was able to get into one CIT class this semester and not have to wait till next year (though I can’t do full time study till then). The class last night was on making concept boards. I had flashbacks to my previous experiences with these skills, which filled me with a sense of confidence and capability. It’s been a long while since I have felt like that. This one 3 hour class has rippled through me in a way that I thought would be like a stone hitting still water, but has been more like a car being thrown off a bridge. I didn’t doubt that this could be right for me, but I didn’t anticipate having a wide sense of possibility and a future again. If you know me or have at least read my posts then you know I’ve struggled, writhed and agonized over this past year. It’s immense to think that this could be right for me and that one day I could sustain myself doing something I am great at and enjoy.

Like so many young people I dreamt grand dreams and spat upon what I saw as an average life (doing the norm/babies/mortgage/hating ones boring existence). As a teen I was especially vicious about this. I had no idea how hard living out of home can be, and how rewarding being independent is. I still hope to live up to a more realistic version of my teen dreams, but I’m more than thrilled by what’s ahead of me and being able to sustain myself in the process. Being independent with my learning disorders, anxieties and being a HSP (highly sensitive person) has been extremely demoralising and formidable. But doing these classes makes me feel that I’m building a platform that will enable me to be free and do things that I value.

The truth in despair

Few people know what they’re doing; they stumbled along and find great jobs eventually. Yet this is seldom said and much of what I see are “adults” who seem to shoulder their responsibilities with ease. They can look after themselves and the world doesn’t make them want to retreat to a cave. Do they cry at night? Do they want to kill themselves? I don’t wish that despair on people but I’d like to know who’s actually functional and who’s pretending. Is this the mask of getting older? I’m alone when surrounded by a world that I suspect is pretending.

I’m compelled in my writing to regurgitate those quiet, shady truths that seem a bit despicable and leave people feeling they are standing in a long abandoned room. We want to speak into those spaces about life being beautiful and worthy of our lifespan, but more often than not this is just to fill the uncomfortable feeling. I don’t advocate a state of perpetual depression or giving up, I just like to sit in those spaces without pushing them aside. We humans are not all joy and sensuality, we equally made up of aguish and indignation.

I have a nature that’s fairly unflinching in the face of darkness. It leads me to being fascinated by despair. I don’t delight in it, it’s not abstract or just a curiosity, but a deep human reality that is a comfort to see in some instances. I don’t see the world as a glass half full/empty issue; that all can be cured by having a positive perspective. I’m preoccupied with despair because I often find it to be honest. Uncomfortably honest in a culture obsessed with the success, performance and appearances.

I am driven to find this truth in humans and speak to it. Truth is not easily spoken about though. I don’t mean to invoke the childish notion of seeking the one true truth; that it always sets us free and must be nobly sought after. I mean truth in this instance to mean the stripping back of pretense and self told delusions. To simply hear a friend talk about their depression or universal restlessness and not shy away it. I wouldn’t call this easy to do and it does take practice. But people are pulsing and struggling. Ignoring the homeless man won’t mean you’ll scream any less on the inside. In being able to actually hear the pain of others we really are less likely to ignore it in ourselves.

I would like to bring some of this to Scissors Paper Pen if I have the chance. I am sending in an application soon. I love the idea of the opportunity to write for them, but I also figure it’s a great platform to speak to other people like myself who chose or are compelled to live ‘the artist life’ and hence struggle with disillusionment more chronic than poverty. I haven’t got all the ideas formed in my head but I’ve got the anger, first hand experience and reflection on the issue to undoubtably come up with something powerful. I’m still wrestling with wether there is a ‘writers utopia’ or not; if through enough exploitation, internships and frittering away our talents for free we really do get what we deserve (and it pays well).

Either way, I’m driven to turn my year of agony and uncertainty into something of use to others; to form it into raw advice ungarnished with bullshit. Those in despair don’t need me to essentially write for them that which they could also get from a useless cat poster. It’s brutal trying not to hide from my own unhappiness and where it comes from. But it would be fulfilling to be able to turn such a lost experience into useful words for others.

Image: http://innadril.deviantart.com/art/Despair-209828769

Progress of a kind

In my pursuit of finding the place where I fit I have applied for a few internships. The first was the commutations and research internship with UN Women. Unfortunately, having spent hours writing a cover letter and laboriously covering all the selection criteria did not equal being accepted into the program. But we have to try. Perhaps the next opening I will be more qualified for, or I will have had more experience. I was disappointed yet I still believe that a break will come eventually.

The second internship/volunteer position I have gone for is at CCAS (Canberra Contemporary Art Space). I’m fascinated by curatorship, so I’m hoping I can gain some experience in that area. I figure that if I have any hope of finding my place in the creative world I have to try things. I will know if and what I will need to study next depending on the experiences I have. That’s why its vital I try things and volunteer.

I am also hoping that the Belconnen Arts Centre will get back to me soon after having spoken to my referees. By volunteering there I could also get a taste of curating and working in a gallery.

Editia Publishing may be a place that I can intern with in the future. I looked into working with them but there wasn’t any help needed at the time. But I’ve made the connections so hopefully I will be thought of in the future. And if none of those work out I will surely find other programs.

Image from: http://www.artgallery.sa.gov.au/agsa/home/Visit/

I applied for the ACT Writers Centre Blogger in Residence program. My application was not successful, but I feel I have succeeded regardless for two reasons. The first is that applying for competitions, residencies or trying to get published can be confronting work. It can feel like we are being judged as a person if we don’t get in or a publisher doesn’t want our work. To keep going requires courage and a developing understanding that these rejections are not personal. I keep pursuing my writing and publication which always feels like wining.

I was also pleased because they offered me the chance to write a number of blog posts over the next three months. I’m thrilled with this outcome. To have a platform to write from is essentially what I wanted.

One of the post ideas is to write a bit about my experiences during the Project Space Residency. I’m thinking this could lead into a discussion about writing days and creating a conducive environment for creating.

You”ll be seeing more of my work around the place soon.

~Rach