One Word 2018: Trust

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For the last few years I have been using the idea of ‘one word’ as a type of New Year resolution. With my birthday so close to January 1st, I don’t usually do resolutions, but use my birthday as a day of reflection and planning. However, I embraced One Word and have found it helpful.

In my second year of One Word, I chose the word ‘sparkle’. This was a particularly good one because when I didn’t feel like I had any energy (or hope) it reminded me to find what little spark was there to hold on to.

Last year my unofficial word was ‘experiment’. My experiments have shifted my career path and my health significantly. While I still enjoy the wondrous, imaginative world of fiction, my career focus is on the factual wonders of the world, and I allow more time for creative play. I look after myself better and am firmer with my boundaries.

This year I settled on the word ‘trust’, which has meaning in several ways for me: to trust myself; to trust in my talents, intelligence, and creativity; to trust that everything happens for a reason; to trust others, especially in the light of current and upcoming collaborations; and to trust that life / my life has a purpose, even if it is one that I concoct for myself.

I wrote a letter to myself with these and other thoughts to pull out when I am feeling down, and it’s already been used so I am grateful to past Zee for doing it!

 

On bookselling: you get back what you give

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I’ve been selling at events for a while now. The first wasΒ The Caretaker of Imagination book launch, then craft markets, and finally bigger events like New Zealand’s annual zinefests and the NZ Book Festival. Not being a salesperson at heart, I’ve learnt a lot.

Last year, the NZ Book Festival almost didn’t happen.Β It was only in it’s third year, though, so we pulled a team together and gave it a good shot.

On the day I made conversation with customers, shared my story about how I got into writing, and repeated my ‘elevator pitch’ for books people were interested in dozens of times throughout the day (with plenty of help from my niece – thanks, Angie!). My setup wasn’t great and I was feeling a bit flustered but I made my stall fee back, as well as a small profit on top of that. Besides sales, I launched the second annual NZ Young Writers Anthology, met some wonderful people, and got to catch up with a bunch of my author friends.

It surprised me then how many people complained about their lack of sales afterwards. An author friend, Kirsten McKenzie, wrote this brilliant post about the do’s and don’t’s of selling. Read it. While I certainly didn’t have the upbringing that Kirsten did, I’ve learnt what she’s learnt: engage with your customers, don’t sit down, smile, have a tablecloth, a table full of books, and don’t play on your cellphone the whole time.

At most events I’ve been to, I’ve done well. However, at Tauranga Zinefest last weekend I broke most of my rules. The problem was that all week, and the previous evening, I’d been working on two new stories. I was still in creative mode, and I just wasn’t in the mood to sell or engage with people. And guess what? It showed. The organisers of the zinefest did an amazing job, but because I didn’t bring my A-game to the event, I didn’t do nearly as well as I usually would.

It reminded meΒ how important it is to bring myself fully to every event I attend. No matter what mood I’m in, I need to be there for the customer and engage with them, and make sure that my stock levels and signage are what they need to be. I’m going to take this lesson forward for the rest of my events – onwards and upwards x

On over sharing

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Sometimes I’m aware that I say a lot more than many people would about the stuff that I’m struggling with, as well as what I’m celebrating. I do this quite consciously and for good reasons.

On an old blog, I wrote a post about only seeing people’s ‘highlight reel’ – whether online or off. It was after a conversation with a couple of writer friends. One commented on how productive and confident I was, and how well I was doing, when they were riddled with self doubt. It was the concept that we only see the highlights of a person’s life – we don’t get to see behind the scenes.

Um, excuse me? I was full of self doubt, and there were a plenty of days where I achieved nowhere near what I wanted to achieve. If it wasn’t for my partner, and my then-new writer friends Amanda Staley and J. C. Hart with their encouragement and words of wisdom, I’d have given up. From then, I decided that I was going to share more behind-the-scenes stuff. I still think this is important – I don’t want to be seen as this person who just does things and achieves them with no problem in the world. That’s not a way to inspire people – it’s just a way to make themselves feel crappy in comparison. Last week after a school visit I got an email from the teacher affirming this:

“It is wonderful for the children to see real people talking about this and it will help them understand that it is not something ‘weird’ about them if they experience any of that – it is ok to ask for help and admit life is not always peachy and easy. Thank you so much for your openness and for providing a good platform to start a discussion.”

So reason no. 1 is just about being a real person, because real people can be real role models.

The other is about mental health. I hid it for most of my life – hid it pretty well, too – and was diagnosed a few years ago. The official diagnosis meant lots of things, one of them being I could talk about it without the perceived need to convince people it was real. Many people are still surprised though. I know I’m seen as a young, pretty, privileged, and capable woman – not the kind of person that people picture when they think of mental health problems. It’s important to me to help break that stereotype and stigma: having depression is not a weakness, and it doesn’t mean I can’t function in life. It just means I need to look after myself while giving to others. I also believe there is a positive side to depression, and anxiety, but we only focus on the negative.

So reason no. 2 is about breaking mental health stigmas, and showing that it is not a sign of weakness.

And what about celebrating achievements? Well, I am actually proud of what I do! I’m also excited when I manage to achieve something I never thought I could do, or touch someone in a way that inspires them to go on and try something new, or feel better about themselves, or just feel a little bit better about themselves. I want the world to be a happy place, and I want to hold my place in that happy world. I’m going to keep celebrating my wins because they excite me and I worked for them! I also want to see more people celebrating their successes. While there’s definitely an up-side to Tall Poppy Syndrome (I do believe we’re all of equal value), one of the drawbacks is that we tend to downplay our achievements. I want to celebrate my win of publishing a book, even though billions of people have done it before me; I want to celebrate my two sales on Etsy even though that’s a bad week for other people. It doesn’t matter how small my win is in comparison to others – it matters that it’s a win for me. And I want to help you celebrate your wins. We’ll be in a much happier world when we can recognise and celebrate our achievements without shame.

So reason no. 3 is about recognising and being proud of my work – and encouraging that in other people.

I feel sometimes like my honest, open sharing is seen in a negative light (attention-seeking or complaining about a privileged life), but I also feel that it helps more people than it annoys, and that is far more important to me. It also just feels like it’s a more real version of me on the internet, and I’m all for being real ❀

P.S. Featured image is me as a kid, because that’s about as real as it gets. Also cuteness.

A Simpler Way – tiny changes to move forward in our world

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I have a vlog that is waiting to be edited and published, but in the interim I want to bring your attention to a documentary which EVERYONE should watch.

Yes, everyone.

It’s about a small group of people who have committed to living directly off the land, in community. They’re buildng their own (tiny) houses with primarily reclaimed materials, and pretty much living waste-free.

I’m not ready to make the sort of change this group has made. Not nearly. But what I love about this doco is that it shows a way forward. It’s not doom and gloom, it’s a feasible solution.

The other thing I like is that there are things we can apply to our own lives. Perhaps we aren’t prepared for radical change – but maybe we can start a vege garden, eat less meat, recycle instead of throwing away, trade our services, buy local… seriously, just watch the doco.

And then make one (tiny) change.

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2017: Projects, not goals.

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This year (or technically, next year) I’m doing my goals a little bit differently. For the past three years, I’ve set up publishing objectives and schedules. These have been based on the bigger picture of becoming a full-time author. I’ve had spreadsheets and timelines and while it did help me do a lot in a short amount of time, it didn’t allow enough for celebration or changing my mind.

Cause I do change my mind. A lot. The big picture has changed, so the goals need to as well. New ideas, new experiences, improving my skills, mindset shifts… these things happen. And they should happen. But fixed goals and fluid experience do not go hand in hand!

I believe in experimentation, because if we don’t try things how can we possibly know if it resonates with us? 2016 has been trying to teach me that this is okay. I think it has also been trying to teach me that we all contribute the most when we are wholly ourselves; when we are in our element.

My fiction is experimental, my art is experimental, and I have delighted in the experimental nature of zines and paper dying. Why not embrace this, instead of trying beat it into line?
So the big picture has changed from ‘full-time author’ to just being the best version of me that I can; permission to let go.

My projects are:

  • Year one of my post-grad dip in counselling.
  • A picture book The Train to Nowhere that has been waiting for my attention for FOUR YEARS.
  • More (wo)manpower – and MANpower – zines. Spotlight on the New Zealand Arts (SONZA) running regularly.
  • The third annual NZ Young Writers’ Anthology.
  • The first annual Indie Annual .
  • More non-fiction about writing and art, starting with Where Do Ideas Come From? And I am a Writer.
  • More crazy stories in my fiction world.
  • Zines! I’m letting these be whatever they want to.
  • Art. Ditto as per zines.

What’s something you’re looking forward to doing in 2017?