Discover more from Words on the Page
and resisting the hustle
Friends, I’ve been in a funk. You may have gleaned this from my lack of newsletters. It’s not that I intended to take a hiatus from this. It just happened. I even intended to write about my time in the Prairies while I was there, but that didn’t happen either. If you don’t remember, let me catch you up. I was in Saskatchewan for the months of March and April. I was the writer in residence at the Wallace Stegner House. It snowed, and snowed, and then stopped snowing, and then snowed again. I loved every minute of it.
I didn’t know how this experience would shift my relationship to my own writing and how I make art. I didn’t know how much I wanted to make art. If you aren’t endlessly frustrated and saddened by capitalism, tell me your secret, because it bums me out almost every day. Take for example the other day I went on to Instagram to find a message from someone who asked "If you’re a writer shouldn’t you post about writing. Why all the food and knitting posts?” Let me clarify something: I’ve never wanted to be some kind of writing guru. Those people exist on the Internet. I’m not one of them. As a creative working in a capitalist system, I know that what I make will (whether I want it to or not) become a commodity. My town even recently discussed making a cultural resource map. The thought was to put all the galleries, studios etc. on a map. But when we call arts and culture a resource, it implies extraction and don’t we do enough of that?
Back to the message I got: I didn’t reply. Instead I stewed, I pondered, and I considered what kind of space I hold online and why I use social media. I get a lot of inspiration from the beautiful things people post. I get ideas for knitting projects and meals to cook. I even get ideas for things to write. Social media has allowed me to connect with a community that exists beyond my small coastal town. And it helps be elevate the amazing creators that make life more beautiful, that challenge the way I am in the world, and disrupt my ways of thinking.
The reason I don’t only post about writing is because that’s not all I am. To focus solely on that one part of me would mean ignoring the bits that need to be fed to make sure that I can write. I love swimming in the river on a hot day. I love kneading dough. I love eating cheap ice cream treats while the fan cools my bare legs. These things have nothing to do with writing, but feeding the soul is creative work. It’s necessary work. Writing doesn’t always bring me joy, and I need joy to be create, which is why I go searching for it where ever I can, even if that means a break from my writing.
It’s been essential for me to search for those special, glimmering moments because for the past three months I’ve been trudging through manuscript revisions. I’ve been working on my manuscript, in some capacity, for nearly 6 years. I’ve revised it and edited it, and re-written it. And yes, there will be more of this should it — god willing — be published. I’ll be honest, there’s no joy in this work right now. There are times that I feel satisfied with the work I’ve done, or that the process feels rewarding, but it is not joyful. My mind is constantly wandering to new creative projects, ones that are just small seeds eager to burst with new growth, but I’m trying to stay the course while tending that little garden full of bright ideas, that one day soon I’ll be able to go back to.
As I’ve trudged, I’ve had to remind myself that existing in a social media world can be a bit like navigating a house of mirrors. The Western Development Museum in Saskatoon had a fun house in one of their exhibits. I walked through and at the end felt nauseous and had to sit down. There’s so much pressure on writers and other creatives to constantly be hustling. If one day, we stop, it feels like the whole stream will keep moving past us, leaving us behind. We must be seen and relevant or else the book deals, the sales, the opportunities will stop. And unfortunately our industries haven’t been kind in how they remind us of the essential role being online has on our careers, even if many of them are now back peddling on this. There is so much external pressure on professional creatives. And then mix that with some self-doubt and imposter syndrome and it can feel nearly impossible to put words on the page/word doc. I’ve struggled with comparing myself to other writers. So many people post their successes, I post my success, but we don’t share enough about the realities of the day-to-day of trying to do this thing called writing.
There are so few spaces where we can exist creatively without external pressure. And obviously it’s unrealistic to assume that a social media platform (created under capitalism that’s made people disgustingly rich) would be that space, but maybe the reason I’m not always posting about writing is maybe I’m some kind of naive daydreamer who wants to imagine that there can be something different, where we don’t have to constantly value ourselves and our output as resource and commodities. Where we can find inspiration in the glimmering little things that spark joy.
The Whole Animal by Corinna Chong: https://arsenalpulp.com/Books/T/The-Whole-Animal
The Record by boygenius
Green Bean and Peach Salad from Heidi Swanson: https://www.101cookbooks.com/green-bean-salad-with-peaches/
Yume top by Isabell Kraemer: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/yume