The Centrelink fear spiral..

I wake to an automated text message from Max Employment saying that I have an appointment at 10am tomorrow. This is the first I have heard of this! Immediately I am anxious. I haven’t had to deal with either Max Employment or Centrelink for over two months and it’s been a luxurious and anxiety free time.

The government (thanks Abbot, you bastard!) has implemented a new system whereby they pretend to help you out by forcing you to do volunteer work. It’s just another reminder that my life isn’t under my control, that I’m being given ‘hand outs’ and I’m obliged to work for free for Christians and not for profit companies that need some indentured labour. Not only am I not being given enough to live on or pay my cars registration, I am obliged to volunteer my time wherever Max Employment want to place me in exchange for this slap-in-the-face service that is called government “support.”

Max Employment has’t been able to handle the new influx of work and bullshit they have to deal with so I haven’t been placed anywhere yet. I knew they would call one day though, so I have been relishing this reprieve. The time of bliss has come to an end, but I have not been idle. As you know I am volunteering 7 hours a week with the M16 Art Space, with the Belconnen Arts Centre and soon with the ANU Press for 4-7 hours a week. On top of that I write for Verity La and edit for Grapple Publishing. And honestly I am not always on top of all that I have signed up for, let alone my own projects. I am desperate for Max Employment to recognise the volunteering I do and either exempt me from their punishment or make me do less of whatever they have designed. I need time to look for jobs, write and honor my other commitments. If Max Employment had even a snifter of actual ability to help people into jobs and understanding about the life of artists, they would see that I’m already doing valid volunteering and they don’t need to force me into more. Besides I have registered myself with a real recruitment agency, I don’t need their “help.”

So my Sunday which I planned to be languid and mostly involve editing and reading the Shadow Over Innsmouth has turned into an anxious hell of jittery job searching and trying to fight off images of being forced to volunteer at the Tuggeranong vinnes. Oh it’s a fine life, the artists life…

In my anxiety today I had another look at online or distance education courses in editing. I think I may have found some actual options. I also came across this useful lecture from the USQ – University of Southern Queensland  on what an editor is and a bit about the industry. It was a less depressing message than I expected.

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….

“It’s a bit like trying to overcome a phobia of peach flavored dental gel”

I’ve been getting email alerts from Seek about administration and editing jobs. It’s a bit like trying to overcome a phobia of peach flavored dental gel; frightening and distasteful. But my aversion to the Seek website has subsided. It’s been a handy resource that’s introduced me to more than one suitable job that I would not have seen otherwise.

kitsy-babcock~s800x800I’ve been particularly interested in library jobs at the ANU and in writing the selection criteria I have come across something unknown to be previously. I found that the library jobs were often asking for a Cert III in Information and Cultural Services. I had no idea what that was and feared it might be boring. But I looked it up and found it wasn’t. I’m rather interested in it now and think my chances of getting a library assistant jobs will be greatly increased if I do the Cert III. As always, if I find I hate it, as disappointing as that might be, I will have learned something invaluable about my interests and abilities.

I’ll be looking into it as soon as possible. I’m excited by what this could develop into.

image credit

The good without the tantrums

It’s been a while since I have written anything; I felt my frustrated tantrums were better left off the internet. That’s not to say that good things haven’t happened. After months of applying for positions and internships I have finally gotten a bit of a break.

First off, after close to 6 months of stalling the Belconnen Arts Centre has taken me on as a volunteer. The next great thing that has happened is that the M16 Art Space has taken me on as a (contract) volunteer who will write for them for about 4-6 months. This is a major achievement! I was not expecting to be taken on by them as a writer! They are keen for me to do reviews, help out with social media and their blog. Yup, this is big. This is great for experience and for getting contacts, plus everyone at M16 I have met so far is warm and supportive.

My work with Duncan on Grapple Publishings second annual has been more and more rewarding the further I get into it. Just this Sunday he and I sat at Gus’s cafe for three hours and worked out the short list. We have selected about thirty pieces for the short list wrangled from the initial 140 submissions. It’s taken a few meeting and many weeks of reading to get down to 30. The process often gives me a rewarding feeling of having worked hard and done well.

I’ve also been steadily digging myself out of pretty nasty hole created by depression and anxiety. There is no truth to the romantic myth that depression makes artists more creative. Certainly people have made important artwork from times of darkness but when you’re in the middle of depression you’re not productive. So coming out of a difficult patch I have been much more capable of getting on with writing. I’m getting back into fiction again too.

The next awesome thing is that I am now a manuscript assessor for the ACT Writers Centre. They put a call out for more assessors, so I decided to put some faith in my abilities and apply. I’m really grateful to the ACT Writers Centre for taking me on and giving me more experience with editing.

I’m currently hunting down information about publishing internships and entry level jobs. I’m finding more resources than I thought. I somehow thought there would be very little, but some helpful people in the UK in particular have written about their experiences and offered advice. I found a striking quote from an article, Throw the book at publishing internships. It’s not a chipper article but it was a well timed reminder that I need to be on the look out for well structured internships that aren’t going to exploit me. This article is spot on when it says:

“Ability to do a job adequately should always be based on skills and competencies and never on how long someone has slaved or hawked themselves for free.”

Right on!

There is plenty in my (writers) life that is working out and I have a long over due sense that I am not far from meaningful and skilled work in the field of writing.

“Myth #1: A good writer doesn’t need an editor.”

I’m experiencing a lush mania for researching the roles and types of editors out there. I found a warm, useful little article from Huffington Post regarding myths about editors.

“There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about editors and what they do. Here are seven of those myths that I’d like to clean up:

Myth #1: A good writer doesn’t need an editor.

In these days of self-publication and “service” publishers — who take a percentage of sales for letting the author do all of the work — you hear this a lot. “I’ve slaved over this manuscript for years. I checked it through a hundred times. Microsoft Word’s Spelling and Grammar comes up clean. It’s ready for publication.”

Want an example of a professional book from a world-class author who convinced her publishers to put out the book as-is, without a deep developmental edit (see #3 below)? Look at J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Pretty good book, and it’s sold millions of copies, absolutely — but it’s at least a hundred pages longer than it needs to be. There’s needless repetition, uneven pacing, and side-plots that go nowhere. You’ll notice that the previous and subsequent books in the bestselling series were much shorter and much tighter. Rowling worked more closely with her editors.”

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.

I forgot I could do anything

“You can do anything you want sweetie.” most of us were told that by our parents. If we were fortunate we were told that. They leave out the bits about classism, racism, sexism and the glass ceiling, but it’s an inspiring sentiment regardless. And it’s more than sentiment, however naive it may feel, surely it is better to live with a feeling of possibility than assuming few opportunities can be had?

At some point I forgot that I could shape my life to the direction I wanted it to be. School and parents guide us and sometimes cripple our abilities to think for ourselves. But again, I forgot it was up to me how I wanted to live. The prescriptive narrative is both temping and depressing. I don’t think I’ll be escaping the rat race entirely and living in Barbados with my sudden millions, but I could live in a commune under a dormant volcano near the border of Queensland. And why don’t I?

I was reminded that I had more control over the shape of things by something that is intangible to me now. But the idea has been emboldened by a recent encounter with a brilliantly strange woman. As she says, she may have paranoid schizophrenia, but this doesn’t cancel out that she’s living an authentic life; living off her art and wits. She is doing what I feel the Romantics and old bohemians did with cunning and some approximation to nobility; living off their art and accepting lack of toothpaste and expensive lingerie when it arrives in tumultuous spurts.

I have also recently met a new person, who’s exuberant past shows a courage to take risks for relationships and a colourful path to knowing his truest self. I do compare it to my own past, even though comparison is rarely useful. And I don’t come up badly, but I do see a fearful influence that might be called “stability” but may also be called “cowardice” and lack of imagination.

The point is not to bejewel oneself for the sole reason of a marvelous life tale or to impress on some level, but I do wish I went looking for a few more daring opportunities. The sort of daring that is daring to me; that challenges my fear and limitations I place on my spirit. My fears may not cause others discomfort, which brings me back to the idea that my life direction must be for myself and for the impressing of myself.

I don’t know what manifestation of action this concept will take me, but that shall be revealed in the future. For now I have the idea and I want to let it change me.

becoming reliable

I didn’t expect it, but one of my biggest goals as part of my residency at Gorman House (Project Space) is actually to become a more organised person. I am not great with deadlines and remembering to get back to emails or finish an article, but a large part of getting work and keeping it (even if its unpaid) is to be reliable. 

I’ve worked out I need clear deadlines and probably a big calender in front of my face in my office. Maybe even an adorable planner would help? Writing out a list of upcoming writerly commitments, deadlines and goals would likely help as well. 

What I would like to achieve while I have this space is:

  • Editing to a publishable standard my “Dictionary Sex” article and sending it to Lip Magazine. 
  • Finishing my “write what you (don’t) know” article 
  • Applying for at least 2 internships 
  • Start writing that particular fiction short story 
  • Going through my files of half written articles and working on 2-3 that could be edited and hopefully published 
  • Making connections and using every resource offered or available to find a job (even just vaguely) related to my degree in writing. 

This doesn’t seem like enough to fill up another 5+ weeks, but I will see how I go with what I have got. I’ll update you on my progress!