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So here’s how it breaks down: I have this blog you’re reading right now, and another one on WordPress, and an all-but dormant LiveJournal that I won’t link you to. I also have a folio website for my freelancing work, which is basically also a blog where the posts are my articles, and a Twitter feed. In the non-virtual world, I have a hardcover notebook for my innermost thoughts (read: whining), another one for ideas and drafts of ‘real writing’ (whatever the hell that means), the notebook I carry in my handbag, and if I dug around I could probably find the Hipster PDA I made at the start of the year when I was quite sure I did not want to carry a notebook around in my handbag anymore.
I have numerous sketch books in sizes ranging from A3 to A6 for those rare times when I feel the urge to make art and then actually follow through. Recently I bought another one to use a visual source book so that I can collage all the pretty pictures I collect from magazines, and I have notions of buying yet another to turn into a kind of multi-page vision board.
And that’s not even all of my notebooks. There are more. Many more. Needless to say, with so many options and so little time to actually fill any of them, none of these gets much of a workout. So it’s time for some consolidation.
For a long time now I’ve been making plans to move The Art of Work to its own domain, change the name to something more easily Googled, monetise the pants of it and then spend my days blogging and rolling around in all the (American!) dollars I would obviously make from AdSense and affiliate programs. I might still do that one day, but in the meantime I think it would be best to bring my personal and professional musings together in the one place. My favourite blogger thinks you should only have one blog, and I intend to take her advice. (Ironically, she made that statement on her ‘other’ blog – her main blog is here, in case you’re wondering why my favourite blogger ever only has two posts.)
So changes a afoot, and as a result The Art of Work will probably disappear into obscurity. For posterity I will probably move the old posts over to their new home, wherever that may be, and I will still mainly be talking about creativity and having a crack at a fulfilling career in this big, mean world. But I might also occasionally want to talk about wine, or cats, or weird things I’ve seen in the street. And gentle reader, you can only benefit – where else are you going to hear about dogs that pee upside down?
The moral of the story: stop obsessing over your tools and materials. Simplify and get on with the real work of producing things the world has never seen. Now, go get rid of some notebooks.
Just a public service announcement: someone has registered the WordPress blog, artofwork.wordpress.com. They appear to be Norwegian (I think) so I’m afraid I can’t tell you what it’s about. Anyway, if you’re typing this URL into your browser’s address bar just remember it’s theartofwork. Alrighty?
When you give up one thing, for example a day of paid work or bothering to keep your house clean, in favour of spending more time and energy on your creative work, apart from the logistical issues involved it’s quite common to find you have another problem to solve – guilt.
Some of it comes from within – feeling guilty about letting the dishes pile up, or because you’ve been painting watercolours instead of doing something that will top up your retirement fund, or more insidious, guilt that you get to do more of what you love than those around you who are still slaving away doing things they hate. Sometimes, though, it gets laid on by other people, and laid on thick – like when they ask when you’re going to get stop messing around and get a real job.
Aussie wordsmith Kate Holden talked about the former, in a tongue in cheek sort of way, in this article for The Age a while back.
The Germans, bless them, have a word for it. Kunstlerschuld means “artist’s guilt”; that is, the gritty niggling of remorse for getting to have fun whacking paint and words around when honest citizens are banging away at retail counters, sticking their arms down toilets and putting up with boring Nathan in accounts. It is a perfectly reasonable feeling. After all, getting to do what you like is a privilege in this world and the chap out there who heroically devotes his time to designing a product to gently heat Baby Wipes to perfect bum temperature is no doubt doing a fantastically useful duty, whereas some plonker like me, sitting pretty pondering adjectives while sipping a caffe latte, is the very picture of degeneracy.
Philip Larkin talks about the latter, the guilt-trips you get from others, in his poem ‘A Life With a Hole In It’. (If you click on that link, you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to the full text of the poem.) It seems the women in Larkin’s life were a bunch of banshees:
When I throw back my head and howl
People (women mostly) say
But you’ve always done what you want,
You always get your own way
— A perfectly vile and foul
Inversion of all that’s been.
What the old ratbags mean
Is I’ve never done what I don’t.
Those bitches! Granted, he may well be talking about women who worked their arses off to get his dinner on the table and his socks darned, so it’s possible that their complaints were legitimate to a degree.
Then we have the famous lines in the second stanza, where he talks about
…the shit in the shuttered chateau
Who does his five hundred words
Then parts out the rest of the day
Between bathing and booze and birds
I’m undecided on what’s happening here. On the one hand, this could be more on the way others perceive his life and his choices. If that’s the case, though, it’s not really fair. Larkin worked as a university librarian his whole life; he was an artist with a day job. He was also a prolific writer. What I reckon might be going on is that Larkin is dishing out a bit of the guilt-trip to someone else, maybe even someone in particular – a dilettante living off a nice little stipend and not doing much work is what I picture in my mind.
If you choose a creative career there will be many people who will ask you to justify it, politely or not. So why should you paint watercolours instead of work the extra day at your ‘normal’ job? Go and read Larkin’s third and final stanza for the answer. I tell you what, I fear the ‘havings-to’ and ‘the unbeatable slow machine/That brings what you’ll get’.
I don’t know enough about Larkin to know if my interpretations are correct, but I’ve become obsessed with this poem.
Welcome to The Art of Work. This post marks the official launch of the blog. And I am not ready.
My plan was to have ten really great posts up before I started showing it to people. To have a more focused ‘About’ page. To have started a comprehensive list of resources for creative workers of all kinds. To have a more appropriate picture at the top of the site. The list goes on, and would probably have gone on forever, with ‘ready’ seemingly just around the corner but never quite arriving.
But then something came up – I was invited to chair a panel in the Vibewire e-Festival of Ideas. In fact, I was invited partially on the back of this blog. The panel is all about managing creative careers, so in my emails with the festival coordinator I told her about The Art of Work. So since I was using it as my platform for the panel chairing position, it just didn’t make sense to leave the blog unlaunched.
Life does that does that sometimes. You get on what you know to be the right track, you have a nice, sensible plan set up and then suddenly something comes up that is too good to refuse but that requires you to push yourself harder and put yourself out there and you get scarily close to having what you want much sooner that you thought.
Launching the blog in tandem with the e-Festival was a better opportunity than launching the blog when I was ‘ready’. So I got over myself, wrote a few more bits and pieces, and now here I am. This is it. This is the blog. It’s not exactly what I wanted to give you at this point, but it will do and it will grow.
So even though I’m not ready – not ready to post regularly, not ready to handle comments, not ready to deal with all the little details that go into making a successful blog – I’m going to jump in and do it anyway. And so can you. Whatever your own creative project is, the one you’re working on in secret, the one you’re not making public until it’s yea big or (x)% completed or (y) time of year – you may be readier than you think. Or you might need to pretend that you’re ready if an irresistible opportunity comes up. So be prepared.
This post is dedicated to my test-readers, AK and KB, you sweet things.
For quite a while now, I’ve been planning to make a job change. The entry-level publishing job I’ve occupied for nearly a year and a half is, shall we say, no longer challenging, and I want to find a part-time job that will cover expenses while I build a freelance writing business.
Unfortunately the rigours of full-time work turn me into a sloth in my downtime, and I found I had very little energy to dedicate to job-hunting (let alone any creative projects). I was starting to feel really burnt out and desperately needed a break from work that would last more than a week, so at the end of last year I decided to use up all of my annual leave. I had three weeks off.
And, oh, what plans I had for those three weeks. I was determined to find a new job. I was going to go into application overdrive and write cold calling letters and schedule informational interviews. I also wanted to do a ton of writing and a new painting. I was going to get this blog ready for launch by writing the first 10 posts! Oh yeah, and exercise every day. Naturally.
Of course, I also needed to relax, so the first week was earmarked for enjoying Christmas and chilling out with a book or two. After that – to work. But as the clock ticked over into the new year, I just kept on chillin’.
Here’s what I did over my break. I spent Christmas with my family. I spent time with my friends. I went to a friend’s beach house for a few days. I swam in the ocean. I saw a bright red hermit crab peek out of the most fantastic shell I’ve ever seen washed up on an Australian beach. I played Risk 2210 AD with the boys until we all wanted to kill each other (it was great!). I shot a roll of film on my new lomo. I got rid of half my clothes and a piece of furniture that had been taking up too much space for months. And I ate way too much junk food and played Kingdom ofLoathing until my brain went numb.
I think I went to the gym once.
I did sit down to write job applications, but after going through the pile of ads I’d collected I deemed them all unsuitable and threw them out. In the last few days I made a start on updating my CV.
This week was my first back at work, and I went into overdrive. Work was hectic, but that didn’t stop me from going out three nights (normally I would be sacked out on the couch in exhaustion) and completing a lengthy job application to boot. I feel energised, more organised and positive about the future. My three weeks paid off big time.
Anyway, here’s my point. All too often, us creative types take time off our day jobs only to spend that time working blisteringly hard on other projects. Or we come home from a full working day only to do yet more work for ourselves. There’s always more work to be done, and sometimes we forget to switch off. Sometimes even for years on end.
I didn’t mean to slack off over the break – I was going to work hard and achieve some goals. But I blew off the goals for a bit and had some fun instead. So remember that you need to take a break every year, every week, every day. The work can wait.
Relax, man. It’s good for you.