Digging myself out of a dark, long, bewildering year of being lost as an artist

You know how I talk often in those posts about losing hope and gaining a bit of it back…. well mostly finding my way as a “creative” has been miserable (growth comes from pain -_-). But this is the most jazzed up I have felt in….. years.

It was simple but pivotal. I picked up a copy of the 2015 ACT/NSW jobs guide and had a read of the description on ‘Editors.’ The information on Book Editors excited me the most out of any of the occupations I looked up. It was right about then that I wanted to let out a primal scream of victory FINALLY! tangible facts about jobs for creative types!

This book has started to dig me out of the dark descent I have been spiraling into over this long, bewildering year.

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And I’ve continued to grow excited about the roles of editor through my work with Grapple publishing on the second Annual. I’ve also managed to find useful information about jobs prospects. I’m wanting to gauge my (increasing) interest in this career path with information about what most likely awaits me. I’ve already had a searing lesson in doing otherwise. But to be fair, it often takes a lot of time to work out our career paths.

I’m cautiously ecstatic about the new direction. Most of all I’m thrilled energy is coming back to me and I’m naturally finding myself directed towards gaining more editing experience and hunting down internships with publishing houses.

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.

You’ve lost your hope but you’ve not been idle

“You’ve lost your hope 

but you’ve not been idle.”

I wrote this on a piece of paper from my journal recently. It summed up my experience after graduation (and even before it). It comforted me to express the truth to myself so clearly. But also because I worked something out recently which has given me some hope.

“How did I not think of this before?” It’s simple but often overlooked. To find out what we enjoy and are good at, we have to try many things. This is what we all did in High School and College. My efforts these last months have often lead to dead ends and blocks I forgot to challenge. Through lack of confidence and general bitterness at what it means to be an artist in this society, I forgot to do. That is, I forgot the most essential action in all this, to keep trying occupations and roles. Getting a lot of knock backs and not getting anywhere with my efforts and applications was part of forgetting this. It’s a simple idea, that’s not easy but effective. To re-discover this feels like hope.

Though I have learnt an enormous amount about myself, the industry surrounding artists (writers) and the type of life we face, I’ve been limited in gathering some types of information. I’ve had little exposure to the publishing industry, gallery environments and other areas of the arts sectors. To get a feel for curatorship and the details of publishing a book would give me the real life knowledge that research can not provide. This is the very active doing aspect that had been lacking thus far. I need to throw myself back into pursuing these opportunities. Someone will say yes eventually and I’ll have more than a good idea if I am moving in the right direction.

I have a few directions in mind, which makes picking rather desperately confusing. They all seem correct in that they seem to fit my needs, talents and interests. The first is Editing and Publishing, the others being Interior Decoration, Curatorship or an occupation with feminist (aid/crisis) organisations.

The first is the easiest to consider as I have a preexisting fire to argue about the content of stories and how I see their meanings. I have obviously done a degree which gives me a lot of information about story and the conventions of writing. Editing and Publishing would be building on that knowledge. And, it would be sublime if my Creative Writing degree could be a foundation for specialising in Fiction editing.

I was set on continuing my education at University and found a great Editing program at Melbourne Uni. It has been my dream for numerous years to move there. But if I was to decide to move I wouldn’t be able to do so for at least a year. So I was stuck again. I also foolishly listened to the advice of people who know nothing of the arts industry and turned their noses up at the suggestion that I might get non-award training (not a nationally recognise diploma or program).  It was the awe of discovering that I have to do, not just ponder, that made me reassess my previous judgments. Which has lead to finding great, affordable distance ed programs which will no doubt inform me as to my aptitude and passion for the editing and publishing fields. I actually feel hopeful! Instead of thinking I had to wait for a year and a big move to study this topic, I can study it here and possibly find out now if this field suits me. I can set up a payment program and do it!

What is also exciting is that my partner has recently made the big, inspiring choice to go into Game Design. It’s taken several years, but he’s reaching the point of solidly knowing where his interests and (immense creative) talents intersect. He was previously doing a medical science degree as sussing out a possible career and avenues of retraining. He’s found by doing this where his bigger passions lie. Not only am I happy for him, but this has been an incredible example of exactly what I have been circling around.

I also have a great girl pal who has followed a similar pattern of trying out training and a number of occupations so as to know herself better. She started a teaching career, considered training in being able to take blood and administer injections and is now doing Interior Design at CIT. I’m impressed by her fortitude and that she isn’t deterred by negative attitudes which surround those changing jobs and degrees often.

It sounds so simple but realizing what I have about action, has had a big impact on me. I’ve got some direction back.

the pros of loosing faith

befreeLoosing some faith in my direction, has been good for me. It has forced me to think about why I write, the effect I want to have on the world and what jobs would satisfy me. I’ve had to take on more responsibility for my life, as well as consider my options more broadly and deeply. Which caused me to be lead back to two books in my burgeoning bookshelf.

The first was How to be Free. A passage in it radically changed my feelings about this long, unemployed process. I had been feeling that typical guilt of not having a job and being “productive” (in that puritanical sense of doing tangible, “honest” work in a barn or building somewhere). I know what Capitalism is and how it operates, so I was doing my best to be grateful for the opportunity I have to not work and devote my hours to considering grand self involved issues. But it wasn’t until I read the following passage that I felt free from the weight of (false) guilt.

And how do you find your vocation, your gift? The answer is simply to do nothing for as long as you possibly can. In the same way that wise gardeners advise that the first step when taking over a new garden is to do nothing for a year, in order to see what grows there and only then to design your own unique, useful and beautiful garden, so I would advise taking a few months off, or even a year, if you can manage it. Most of the time we are too busy to step back and find out what we would like to do. Create some time for yourself and things will gradually become clear. Above all, stop trying. Career is a try-hard notion. The free of spirit have stopped and instead let things happen.”(p.49). 

I’ve taken a more active approach to working out what jobs might be right for me, but I am aware as Tom says, that I need to let it just happen. I am adamant about pursing volunteer and internship opportunities but then allowing my passion for each to dictate my organic direction. But this is no passive process.

The second book I found helpful was, Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Teiger. I had a growing list of possible jobs that I felt could give me a sustainable income but also be greatly satisfying. In my personality section (INFP) I read a list of job/career options. I found that all the possibilities I had come up with were couched within that list. That doesn’t exactly narrow my options down, but it does confirm that I know myself. Which is a comfort to know when on this often confusing path.