On value and worth
And being snowed under
I’m surprised it took as long as it did, but recently, I burnt out. The wave of everything I agreed to do plus just the day-to-day expectations of my life hit me, and I had no choice but to crawl in bed and watch hours and hours of Shetland until the exhaustion faded and the crying stopped. Yes, there was crying and a lot of feeling sorry for myself. But when it faded, and it did, I got out of bed and thought how did I get here? I’ve been asked by people how I manage my time, how I balance working on my book and working on essays, and I thought I was doing it. I thought all the plates were spinning in unison, in the right direction. But the reality was it was all very precarious and when one thing I hadn’t planned for entered the somewhat-organized carnival act, it all fell apart.
The truth of how I got here is that I forgot my value and my worth. I spend a lot of time writing about how the patriarchy, racism, and capitalism attempts to mess with our value and worth. I think about how these systems of oppression tell women their value and worth comes from their beauty and their bodies. But as a woman and a writer I’m constantly stuck in a place of being in service to others, often at my own expense. Saying no, or asking to get paid makes me feel like I’m being selfish, or that my priorities are in the wrong place. I answer a lot of emails from people picking my brain or asking for help, and the truth is that I love those emails, especially from folks who come asking with genuine kindness and curiosity. So many people have been generous with their time and wisdom, that I feel it’s important for me to give back to the community. But when is it too much?
It’s hard for writers to value the work we do. The work that so many creative people (and women) do is unseen. We sit at our desks with characters dancing in our heads, plot problems wake us up at night, but we can’t put a dollar value on it. So much of it is for us, for our own process, and so it’s hard to know it’s worth it. Because I don’t always value my time, or my efforts, or even my own wisdom, I can let people whittle me away one email at a time, I say yes to too many things, I can give and give and give until all that’s left is me and DI Perez spending the day in bed together.
So that’s how I got here, but where do I go from here? I spent a morning journaling on why I do the work I do. I scribbled down all the reasons I write, all the reasons I do event programming, marketing, and communications. I made a list of my values and what motivates me to keep working. The truth is I love my work. I love to write. I love planning events, and working with authors. Even when I’m drowning in a see of unread emails, I’m happy to do the work I do. Sometimes, we need to remember why we do our work. We need need remember we’re good at it because there is value in the skills we’ve acquired, the energy we give, and if we’re not going to see it and advocate for it, no one will.
In the spirit of recognizing our value and worth, spend 20 minutes journaling about why you do what you do. This might be about your work and your career. It might be about the creative pursuits you take on. It might also be about volunteerism and advocacy, or parenting. We all do a lot and so much unseen labour goes into keeping it all going, and sometimes we forget why we do the things we do and why those things are valued. Write without editing. Write without worrying who will read it. And when the 20 minutes is up try to distill it to a list of core values. With that list you’ll be able to recognize when things come your way that don’t align with those values .
What I'm reading: I just finished reading Machine Without Horses by Helen Humphreys as I prepped for my conversation with her for the Federation of BC Writers Summit. So, what I’m reading now is Typhoid Mary by Anthony Bourdain. This is the little-known third book by the late writer and TV personality. It documents the story of the real life woman known as Typhoid Mary who they believe is responsible for infecting up to 100 people with typhoid fever.
What’s next on the reading list: I’ve got a lot travel in my future. I’m headed to Victoria, Halifax, Vancouver and Dawson City in the next few weeks and I plan on reading some of the BC and Yukon Book Prize Finalists including The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki and No Shelter by Henry Doyle.
What I'm listening to: Two new albums have been on heavy rotation as I’ve worked my way through my manuscript revisions and my inbox. Florence + the Machine released their new album Dance Fever and I can’t get enough of the song “Choreomania.” The other album I’m loving right now is Sharon Van Etten’s We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong. Her song “Seventeen” was on one of the final episodes of Sex Education and this new album is a knock-out.
What I'm watching: I watched The Northman last night, but that’s not the movie I want to tell you about. On Monday, as part of Doxa Film Festival I watched Fire of Love. This movie! If you love National Geographic, love stories, and Wes Anderson, you need to see this. The movie uses Katia and Maurice Krafft’s still photos and film footage to tell the story of their love and their work. They were volcanologists, which means the studied volcanos, and the footage they captured was spectacular and quirky, and was the perfect way to tell their unique story.
What I'm cooking: We’re going away on Friday to Victoria before we head to Halifax, so we’ve been eating the entire contents of our fridge, so tonight I reheated some mac and cheese, and we ate that with leftover salad. Not gourmet, but it was still pretty tasty!