It’s okay to enjoy your work

Depression & Anxiety, Thoughts & Ramblings

Over the weekend I caught up with Chris, the man behind Criss-Fit (follow him on Facebook or Instagram). He recently became a personal trainer, so I wanted to feature him as a creative over on SONZA. I’ll share a link to the whole interview once it’s up, but there was one thing we talked about that I have been working through and would like to put in the public forum.

It’s the idea that if we are doing something we love, we should feel guilty about it. Now, on paper (or rather, on screen) this seems absurd, and yet it’s something I’ve struggled with for a really long time. It has only been in the last year that I’ve actually identified it as an issue and begun to work on it.

Before I started writing this post, I was working on yesterday’s page for the 100 Days Project, and I noticed this feeling of guilt. I put the page aside to write this post, because I think it’s important that we don’t feel like this. I believe that when we are doing things we’re really passionate about, the world is a better place. It’s why I became a teacher, it’s why I share my work, it’s why I try to encourage others, and it’s why I spend my time on things I love and care about.

Last week I spent a whole afternoon making these journals, and it was bliss.

But while I am doing these things, a little voice pops up sometimes and reminds me that other people are slaving away at their desk-job, or walking miles to get barely-drinkable water, or working hard physical labour. How dare I spend my time on something so frivolous and enjoyable as art?

I try to reason with it. I’m doing this project to build my connection with, and to raise awareness of the beauty of our natural world; I’m publishing to inspire children to follow their dreams; I’m interviewing awesome people to raise their profile; I’m sharing my experience of depression and anxiety so people know they’re not alone. But I know that those aren’t really why I’m doing any of it. I’m doing it because it helps me, because the process of creativity is a wondrous experience, and because I love being a part of other people’s transformations.

And I am entitled to make and share my work for those utterly selfish reasons. I am allowed to spend my time doing stuff I love doing (and some things I really don’t like doing). While I still feel responsibility to help people less fortunate than I, the way that those more fortunate than I help me, I am only human, and I am only here for a short time.

There are a few people close to me who have died, in my lifetime. When I look back on why they are so special to me, and why I looked up to them while they were around, it has nothing to do with what they sacrificed for others. What I admired about them was how they lived their daily lives with passion, and how kind they were to others. I loved them for their uniqueness, and even for their ‘flaws’.

I want to end this post with an Instagram post from my friend Amanda, that really struck a chord with me this week: “Be proud of who you are and let it come out in everything you do.”

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

News, Thoughts & Ramblings

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.

News, Thoughts & Ramblings

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?

 

The Freedom of Writing Non-Fiction / Making Art for Me

creativity, News, Thoughts & Ramblings, writing

Last week I held a stall at the Oratia Markets with my mum. There was a wonderfully creative group of people, and one of them (a visual artist) and I started talking about art, and art careers, and art education.

Her son’s an artist too, and she said that he’d become disillusioned with, and cynical of, the art world (which can be easy to do, unfortunately).

But there is a happy ending – when we make art for ourselves first, that is when it is successful.

When I started writing, I wanted my stories to be something that a younger version of myself would have loved, and that’s what I kept in mind as I was writing The Caretaker of Imagination, and Lucy’s Story. It wasn’t about following the rules or taking genre guidelines into account.

But when I started drafting the third book, Beyond the End of the World, I also started thinking more about what I should (and shouldn’t) be doing.

My writer-friend Cassie (J.C. Hart) labels these “should-isms”. They should be avoided, squashed, or otherwise destroyed.

You may have noticed that I’ve taken a HUGE break from my fiction. My last release was in June 2016, and I didn’t make much of a deal about it. I then got about a third of the way into a new draft, and put it aside.

I decided to take a break from it because I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t know why. I didn’t want to know why, I just wanted it to be okay again. While I was letting those feelings settle, I worked on non-fiction instead (I’m pretty good at avoidance strategy). For some time, I’d wanted to do a sort of memoir about my ‘journey’. This morphed into an art course, which morphed into an art book.

I am an Artist was born, and it has become something I am incredibly proud of. It is inspiring, encouraging, down to earth, and practical.

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I’m now working on I am a Writer and a small non-fiction series about writing, starting with Where Do Ideas Come From?  These books are specifically for other people. They come from the things that I get asked at school visits and by my non-writer friends.

Having these books that are written for others frees up space for me to write my fiction just for me.

Now I can treat my fiction-writing the way I treat my art-making: it doesn’t actually matter what other people think about it, as long as it tangibilises the emotional blueprint I have planned for it. The people who resonate with the ideas in my writing will love it, and the people who don’t will find other things that they do resonate with.

And that’s totally okay.

What lessons have you learnt about writing? Do you write just for you, or for a specific audience?

You can purchase my work from Felt or Etsy.

Reflections on 2016 

Thoughts & Ramblings

It’s officially December. That means I only have a couple of days left to manically run around and get stuff completed for the exhibition / book launch (info here) and I’ve been thinking lots about what I want 2017 to look like.

This year has been good. I’m in a much healthier place, and I feel (mostly) good about my work. My identity  is solidifying, I’m more physically active, I’m eating better, and I’m generally happier. My mindfulness practice is improving, and I’m making great strides in knowing what is worth pursuing and what I need to say no to.

On the less positive side, I haven’t made as many sales as last year because I took some time ‘off’ and I haven’t published much. Upon reflection, I’ve realised that was due to a lack of belief in my own work – it is really hard to feel motivated when you think your work sucks. So, I’ve spent the past week or so ‘decluttering’ some of those negative beliefs. 

It’s not an overnight process but noticing is the first step 🙂 I will write more about how I’m going about this because I think you’ll be interested in what I’m doing . 
I have some ideas about what I’d like to do next year, which will include SONZA, The Coffeehouse & (wo)manpower zines, more non-fiction, a picture book, and more chapter books. I want to do more painting as well, but I’m not sure how it’s all going to fit together just yet.

Watch this space.

Zee xx

If you would like to purchase my books, you can grab them from my website shop or on Amazon / Kobo / iBooks.