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Getting Fired Is the Best…

And the worst. The absolute worst.

It was a dissonant event in that I was fired from a position in which I’d been promoted, given a raise, and earned much praise for the quality, speed, and tenor of my work. A position in which I’d gone above and beyond.

Which filled me with existential angst and made me question everything about myself as an employee, worker, writer, human.

The work was fun, exciting–I loved it. I got to collaborate with other creative people. I had to be agile in my thinking about my work. I had to be willing and able to redirect with fluidity in 90-, and sometimes 180-degree turns.

The place, however, was less thrilling. While a lovely environment in many ways, the ways in which it was not were aggressive and untenable. I read it as hostile at the time, and even through the months (7 of them) and grieving process and perspective that have followed, I stand by that reading.

The people who love me were happy I got fired. They love me more than they love money. That is the first thing I learned, and I am so grateful.

I got unemployment for six months that bought me some time to read myself and my life and do some prioritizing.

To paraphrase Virginia Woolf, all we need is a little money, time, and room of our own.

I told myself I’d get a real job if I couldn’t make a go of my soap business.

I made goals and rolled with the plan I’d already put in place to get out of the hostile working environment. That plan was to do enough shows and make enough soap and drive my internet sales up so that I could quit within the year.

Unemployment meant I couldn’t make any money at my business, so it forced me to dump every cent I earned back into the business, to diversify my products and learn how to make lots of new things. To study how to do business. Which was empowering. (and scary)

Getting fired pulled the rug out from under me when I was in an extremely vulnerable financial situation. Thank the Universe for my well-employed romantic partner. I’d be so fucked without him.

But I needed the time. I’ve been working since I was 15. That’s 20 years now. Most of the time 2, 3, 4, jobs. I’m burned out.

And I’ve amassed quite a diversity of skills. I do not lack ambition or self-direction.

The truth of my ambition is the first thing that made me question the bootstrap theory of the American Dream. If it were true that all you need to do to be a rich, successful person is to work hard and have a good attitude, I would be a gazillionaire. But that is a subject for another post. #feelthebern.

Getting fired is the best because it forced me to function without a backup plan. I had to get cozy with the notion that  my options for writing jobs in this part of the country are limited, teaching in my field feels increasingly unlikely, even when I do publish a book, and that it’s time to embrace the thing I always return to: self employment.

So last week, my homegirl and I opened a little shop inside an artists’ cooperative. We kicked ass our first weekend. I am excited about going to work for the first time in YEARS.

In fact, I’m going there in 21 minutes. You should come by and see us. We have great products, big knowledge, and we are so fun to hang out with.

And shit is still wicked hard. I’m still in a really vulnerable financial place. I’m still terrified and full of self-doubt. But.

And this is a big but.

I am powerful.

I am learning about myself. I am doing what I want to do. I already have success.

Getting fired forced me to switch my thought process.

I used to think of myself as an abundance thinker. But I was not. I was a scarcity thinker in the moment. I was a suspended abundance thinker. Like, That abundance is mine someday when I am done working really hard for nothing. But today I have nothing.

A friend of our shop heard me doing faulty mantras. She said, “Stop saying, you’re going to. Because when? When will that happen? You have it now.”

Getting fired and everything that followed forced me to practice radical abundance visualization. This is what I say to myself anytime the devil mistress of anxiety, doubt, and fear shows up (even though she is very pretty and I am addicted to her): “I have more than I want. I have more than I need. I have everything I want. I have everything I need. I am successful. I am brilliant.”

And after the first quadrillion recitations, it started to feel less like a lie.

And another hundred recitations past that, it is my truth.

The month we were in the shop before we opened, we made our overhead (rent + utilities), without even trying. Our first two days, we doubled our overhead + 20%.

And now, ya’ll sit back and watch this bitch manifest.

It’s going to be quite a ride.

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Creatives Are People, Too. (a rant)

I am really sick of apologizing for being a creative person.

I am sick of seeing “thought” pieces about how useful or useless particular disciplines of study are.

WE ARE NOT ALL GREAT AT SCIENCE, MATH, TECHNOLOGY, AND ENGINEERING.

Wanna know what I’m great at?

Telling stories, making stuff, creating recipes for body care products that ACTUALLY WORK, crocheting hats and amigurumi and coffee cup cozies. I knitted a zombie once. I made my boyfriend a C’thulhu ski mask. I made a mobile out of crocheted octopodes. You wanna buy one? $125. Send me a message.

I’m also great at using the shit out of every shred of every resource I have.

Know why? Because I live in a time where STEM is what people get paid for, and people like me get treated like errant toddlers with hopeless dreams because we work with colors and words and vegetable oils and plants instead of beakers and graduated cylinders and barium, or circuit boards and processors and base-two programming languages.

I have been hearing all my life about how it’s fine to be artsy, but I really should do something useful.

If I tried to be great at STEM stuff, I’d probably break things and people would be endangered as a result of my ineptitude. My brain just isn’t suited for that kind of work. That doesn’t mean I’m stupid or bad or incapable. It’s like having brown eyes. Not a lot I could do about it.

Also doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to get paid.

There’s this applied sciences college near me whose tagline is “degrees that work.” Because degrees in being an auto mechanic or plastics do, indeed, work out in the field.

Here’s the thing: my multiple degrees in English and Creative Writing work great.

I use the skills I learned in those programs of study every single day.

I know how to use my knowledge and skills to enrich other people’s knowledge and skills.

 

But my skills are “lesser” than STEM skills; so I must do demeaning, exhausting, untenable shit like being an adjunct professor, selling stuff, waiting tables, or whatever else creative people wind up doing for money–working the graveyard shift at a hospital, or working three 12-hour shifts as a janitor so one may spend four days of each week doing what she is really good at. (Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching and waiting tables, but my point is that I’m just GREAT at writing and making stuff, and it’s insanely difficult to get paid for being really excellent at those things.)

So now, with my creativity, I’m opening a store with a fellow creative person, and the skills we have amassed as creative people means we have distinctive packaging, witty copy, and a strong marketing muscle.

It also means we have bitchin’ products.

I am super grateful for people who are good at STEM stuff. I love my computer, internet, programs that let me do my creative work, and living in a house that some person with engineering skills made 100 years ago. I love birth control and antibiotics and ibuprofen.

But the logos for those products, programs, and computers, their shapes, the way the look sitting in your hand, packaging, molding designs in my home,the color of the wood and its stain, the shape of the attic windows, the door knobs and fixtures were designed by an artist.

The more I learn about earth and chemical sciences the happier I am as a human, the better my art gets.

These things make my life richer.

But here’s another thing: creativity pervades STEM fields, too. Creativity is key to innovation.

So why does STEM creativity get rewarded and people who design fonts or draw & write comics or do podcasts or write blogs have to beg for good-will donations or give their work away?

The compulsion to create shouldn’t be a reason not to get paid.

Just because I don’t feel right without a keyboard under my fingertips, my soap smock getting splashed with pre-soap, or trailing a rainbow of fibers, doesn’t mean my skills are worthless, or play, or flaky, or unrealistic, or unvaluable.

And without people like me, there would be no movies, music, galleries, novels, essays, poems, plays, documentaries, beautiful furniture, wallpaper designs, or fun beautiful things to waste time on Pinterest with.

Think about the last piece of art you consumed that changed your life or your thinking.

For me, it was a book.

A book that a creative person wrote, another creative person designed the cover for, and another set of creative people brought to fruition in one of a hundred ways.

So I implore you: If you have dollars, buy books, music, and art. Buy them from people you know. Don’t pirate them. Buy them from as close to the source as you can.

Pay creative people to do things like paint murals on your kids’ rooms’ walls, design a matching set of hats for your family next winter, custom build your kitchen table.

Please, go to art shows, craft fairs, and the quirky shops in your area, and quit making fun of us, even when we’re wearing mismatched shoes, lime green scarves, or have done something outrageous with our hair.

Because what we do is valuable. As valuable as STEM. And as present in STEM as it is in every other area of your life.

If we keep abusing artists, art will be totally ghettoized because artists really do like money. We’ve just been trained to find it in other ways by a bunch of people who stand to profit hugely by having our work for free or cheap.

If you are an artist, PLEASE, STOP GIVING AWAY YOUR WORK. We won’t get it back unless we take it back, My Fellow Creatives. So take it back by asking for a fair sum for your work (think of one now, ok, now double it. Ok, now double that. THAT figure is what you should ask for. Break the chain that it’s no big deal what we do, that it’s worthless, and that thinking has to start with us).

Because somewhere along the line, we lost the idea as a culture that beautiful things made by our fellow humans, unless they go beep, are worth something.

End Rant.

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Girls Rule, Boys Drool

I’m over armchair philosophers and their memes.

I am especially over these memes that *seem* like feminist memes, but are really women apologizing.

Like this one:

unhelpful woman memes 1

Silly me. I forgot about the explosion of passion that rendered me unable to dress myself this morning, causing dozens of firey (small, because my passion is also conscientious and tidy and ladylike) explosions to go off all over the bedroom, destroying our new comforter and at least three laundry baskets worth of dirty laundry, which I had failed to wash because I was very, very busy weeping at the holiday Kleenex ads.

My partner then had to put out the fires and dress me. The whole time, he was rubbing my back, smoothing down my hair, letting me blubber into his shirt, and telling me how very, very worth all of this I am. He is a saint.

I’m so sorry my intensity does not jive with the prevailing, normalized concept of femininity.

I’m so sorry men only feel like men if they’re rescuing a lady.

Can we please stop apologizing?

I do it all the time. I feel like doing it right now. I won’t, though.

What about this gem:

unhelpful woman memes 5

I’m sorry I’m so emotional. It is DEFINITELY because I am a woman. I’m going to do my best not to show my feelings so that you are not annoyed or vexed by them!

Fuck that.Why is strength a virtue, anyway? 

My favorite people, men and women, lead messy, big, emotional lives in which they are sometimes weak.

There is real power in weakness. Weakness is the gate to self-awareness, self-improvement, and self-love.

We live in a culture where men are so emotionally repressed in the name of seeming strong that police officers shoot children because they are ill equipped to deal with their own fear, and suburban white dudes shoot up schools, movie theaters, planned parenthood clinics, and churches as an expression of their rage and brokenness, their racism and misogyny. 

What if all emotions and verbal/glandular expressions thereof were available to and welcome from all different kinds of people?

unhelpful woman memes 4

Why are women who are powerful and assertive said to have balls? Testicles are incredibly fragile. Vaginas, on the other hand, deliver ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS into this world. My vagina is hella stronger than any balls I’ve ever met. 

What’s that meme that’s frequently attributed to Betty White?  Oh yeah!

woman meme 6

Why are characteristics such as self-motivation, intelligence, assertiveness, and pride deemed to be masculine? 

How can we not see that nobody wins when these things are ONLY masculine qualities. I have never had a romantic relationship in which my man friend did not, directly or in coded language, tell me I was emasculating him for being smart or good at things, or for knowing how machines work sometimes.

We will not talk about the ways in which my “masculine”, erm, behavior patterns have been trouble at work.

We have all screwed ourselves out of really great relationships by hyper-adherence to the gender binary…

unhelpful woman memes 3

Sorry for having a job, a car, and a bank account. I know I’m supposed to need to be taken care of.

I know it makes straight men feel manly to meet women’s material needs. I’m sorry for making them question their very senses of self just by taking care of me.

Why doesn’t it make men happy to be wanted, to be chosen? Why must we *need* them?

Ladies, this holiday season, we are dealing with a lotta pressure and expectations. Let’s be kind to ourselves and stop apologizing for being human, ok?

Whether or not our version of being human fucks with somebody else’s idea of how people of our gender should behave.

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Way Cool Women Doing Way Cool Things

We'll Call This Shameless Self-Promotion

We’ll call this shameless self-promotion

During these last lazy days of summer, spend some of your afternoon spinning around in your desk chair looking at these lovely lady entrepreneurs of the interwebs. Some of these would be fantastic bookmarks for holiday gifts.

Goddess Leslie Hall

Leslie Hall is one of my new feminist heroes. Her YouTube channel is a treasure. And if you want to buy some things she made, you can just visit her website.

Vegan Soap

A very strange woman I know recently got serious about selling some of this spectacular soap she and her people make. Check it out.

An annoying vegan told me they might be doing gift packs + wrapping for Xmas at very, very reasonable prices.

Whale Snotbot

So, if you like whales, and I totally do, this thing is happening. It’s a newly funded kickstarter an acquaintance of mine ran to make researching whales a) easier, and b) less stressful for whales by COLLECTING THEIR MUCOUS. USING ROBOTS. Huzzah! Girl Power!

Lady Lucy’s Madness

I really love knowing creative people. Mad Lucy makes the most excellent accessories I have ever seen using doll parts, clay, sequins, eyeballs, and all manner of other fantastic things. Visit her Etsy store for more info.

Sojourn of a Hungry Soul

Laurie Cannady’s memoir is beautiful and powerful and astonishing. I’ll be introducing her at her book launch in November, at Lock Haven University where she teaches. Reserve your copy on Amazon or at etruscanpress.org.

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Notes From The Road.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicholas_t/2789113344/in/photolist-5fsWe7-diugKp-o6qxW-ehDioj-8YPQQ4-9QPp9-6Mdx3F-4Mxiuu-4mAQff-cadkCj-cT5RAY-4xSKzt-5LDsRZ-64W8kL-7TYWbb-9LE1CS-nGwmYu-7dTyrL-mWzQjZ-bYfPzS-djCqm-f1Eu12-89ytzh-qeKBw8-avAjXu-fW3cSS-FNWa4-g6K4Z-5APGkK-5fzZ5b-ao19br-5HMTxE-4hJkMi-ef8Fhz-fxZTv-7hMxyh-ddSJg-8XLpCR-4oLyv5-5GsUpX-dd9GfR-mGnJWn-8tsqTm-81JA6w-aqtYNJ-k3D94x-fcbKFp-7RTdXx-4r96YV-y994Y

Flickr user Nicholas A. Tonelll

Today I drove 40 miles south, then a few hours later I drove back. I saw at least ten cars pulled over, but only got a look at four of the drivers. Two black; two white. I wish I could say I believed there’s a chance the six drivers I didn’t see were white.

Christians, if you’re going to drive like assholes, maybe don’t have those WWJD bumper stickers or icthyses placed prominently on the rear end of your car which I will undoubtedly see as you cut me off.

Brokeass white people with Romney Ryan stickers left over from ’12, one of these days I really will rear end one of you. Know how I know your asses are broke? You drive Jeeps and Ford Escapes from ’89 that almost look lacy for all the rust. Your cars make more noise than semis, and not cos you installed a muffler enhancer. And at least half of you drive around shirtless.

Anybody reading this have any experience with 4th graders and pickup lines? Asking for a friend.

Thinking about law school and getting a PhD with equal lather lately. Anybody know the starting salary for a social justice lawyer? HAHAHA.

Sometimes, I eat onions then I smell really bad.

Nobody in my family loves the Green Ralph Lauren cologne the way I do. Anybody who wears that wanna follow me around so I can inhale deeply your delicious odor like a sweaty perv?

My student’s incomplete is due on Monday. I will turn in his grade on Friday. Don’t know why I feel so anxious about whether or not he will actually turn in his incomplete. Maybe it’s related to the fact that I haven’t been brave enough to view my scores on rate my professor dot com.

Finally, I’m 34. It’d be really unfair if I were really perimenopausal. If, in fact, I am, I am looking for a gynecological surgeon for some pro bono work on my uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. You may keep them for study. Say you found them in a dumpster. I don’t care.

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Franzen, Weiner, and Nuance

From Flickr User Gerard Stolk

From Flickr User Gerard Stolk

I’ve been planning my triumphant return to blogging.

Since I’m done with grad school (for now), I theoretically have time for this again.

What I planned was this confessional about how I’ve been in a shitty mood and fuck the patriarchy.

But then I got sidetracked by Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Weiner.

My writer friend, Beth Bates, pointed out this interview by another writer friend, Susan Lerner, with Jonathan Franzen.

Here’s the interview.

Read it. It’s great.

It also blew up the internet a little. You Go, Susan.

I’ve been noticing these past six months or so as a teacher and person-who-occasionally-reads-and-writes-emails-in-a-professional-setting and a person-who-has-relationships-with-other-people-that-sometimes-include-talking-about-important-shit, that people in general do not see nuance.

Roxane Gay, in her book Bad Feminist, agrees with me. I am obsessed with that book right now. It is saving and affirming my life.

But people are even less likely to be able to see and appreciate nuance if a situation is emotionally charged in any way.

I become a dreadful adherer to the divine principles of black and white when I am upset. We all do.

And therein lies some of the danger of the immediacy of internet publishing (tweeting, blogging, rocking out an essay for Slate, etc).

Discourse between Jennifer Weiner and Jonathan Franzen could be so interesting, complex, and helpful.

But because they both have the platform and freedom to reply in the heat of the moment, and because they are both super brainy people with big opinions, and because they genuinely rub each other wrong, they do a lot of name calling.

Jennifer Weiner’s not the only woman lobbying for equal representation for women in publishing.

Here’s a lovely piece by Meg Wolitzer, and another, from 1988, by Francine Prose that  could’ve been written last week. And let’s not forget VIDA in all its myriad glory.

Franzen is not the only grumpy white guy who is well respected in the world of letters.

You can find your own links for that–those dudes got enough of my time during my education.

It seems Jennifer Weiner is not the only thing Jonathan Franzen is grumpy about. He is irritated with social media. And lord knows what else.

But Jennifer Weiner is plenty grumpy about Jonathan Franzen, too. Read her rebuttal to the recent shit storm.

While punchy and entertaining, her remarks are defensive. She ignores the nuance. She sort of takes what JF said about her out of context. She writes as if he just randomly decided to say something else inflammatory about her.

That’s not really what happened. He was asked, specifically, about women writers and Jennifer Weiner. My girl Susan even mentioned VIDA.

Was he kind? No. Did he “slam” her? No. I don’t think so.

Something else he didn’t do? Slam all women writers.

I think he asked an important question, “Do we want Jennifer Weiner to be the spokesperson for equal representation of women’s writing?” to which I would add the following questions:

  • Why aren’t there many male spokespeople on this topic?
  • How is it not clear that crime novels and romance novels and other commercial novels have the same value as each other, and if some are reviewable, well damnit, so are they all?
  • Why does Jonathan Franzen get to ignore the fact that there are other spokeswomen on this topic, some of whom I’m sure he’s actually read? Some of whom probably also have a fraught relationship with Twitter!

These are important questions, all of them, and even though he’s a blowhard some of the time, Jonathan Franzen would be interested discuss. So would Jennifer Weiner.

Jonathan Franzen actually said *this is an important issue.* And the problem with the idea of Jennifer Weiner being perceived as The Spokesperson is that a) she is not, and b) she is not the only kind of woman writer. There are lots of us.

The bigger problem, as I see it, is that Jonathan Franzen (and many other white male writers) are able to live in a world of total ignorance of this conversation.

They just don’t know how many of us women writers are speaking out–on twitter, on our blogs, as teachers at universities, as public figures, sharing the VIDA count link every year, getting together with our lady writer friends and guzzling wine and talking talking talking about this very shit.

They don’t know because they don’t have to, because the stakes are very very low for them.

But who wants to pay attention to a conversation full of name calling, especially if they are on the long end of the privilege stick?

I like Jennifer Weiner. I heard her speak, shook her hand. She is funny and warm. I would have coffee with her without thinking twice. I bought one of her books for my mom for Xmas. New.

But these two are publicly quibbling over a VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE, that I doubt, when the rubber hits the road, they differ on much at all.

Imagine if these two leveraged the breadth variety of their audiences to raise awareness and !Action! on this issue? Weiner’s already made strides.

I think that Franzen must be ignoring information that is certainly at his disposal, since he claims “[Jennifer Weiner makes] no case for why formulaic fiction ought to be reviewed in the New York Times.

The thing people have seized about that statement is, “Jennifer Weiner makes no case.” (she does, it’s in her rebuttal)

I haven’t read anything that notes how Franzen’s got the wrong stick here. Nuance, anyone?

NY Times Book Review lets you search all reviews since 1981. I typed in Stephen King , got numerous hits of reviews both by him and of his books on the first page. Then I typed in the less-famous-and-way-less-notoriously-tight-with-the-intellectual-lefties, John Grisham, and the same.

Just for funzies, I typed in Anne Rice and got two articles. One from 2014, a year after Times Books’s controversial hiring of a female Editor Pamela Paul, and another, on the second page of results, from 2008. (I also found the review of Weiner’s most recent).

But Franzen says something else, too, in that interview. Something surprising. Something I think Jennifer Weiner would have to wholeheartedly agree with. He says what people read doesn’t have to be emotionally complex, that adults reading YA Fiction aren’t doing anything wrong, even though other Grumpy White Dudes think so.

I think Franzen would have to agree that fiction on par with Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, and Stephen King, is the same kind of delicious, ready escapism.

And some other day I will write about the problem that almost everyone mentioned in this little blog post is white.

So let’s all unbunch our panties, boxers, or dingleberries, shall we, and have an actual conversation. Let’s ask honest questions and discuss them after taking a break to scream, privately, into our pillows, about how much of an arrogant prick the question asker is, or what an entitled c-word.

Wanna?

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#NaNoWriMo, it’s not just for writing novels anymore.

from Flickr User Monda, used under a Creative Commons attribution license

from Flickr User Monda, used under a Creative Commons attribution license

So, it’s NaNo.

The month that fills every writer I know with a sense of hope and possibility. Or, as likely, dread and insecurity. Whatever the feelings, NaNo inspires a certain type of person to get behind a keyboard.

Whatever the end result, writing is good for a person’s soul.

And as much as I am not prone to loving the hype, I think NaNo is pretty great. I have never successfully participated myself, but I talk about it from time to time, and I like to hear about it, read the posts, enjoy the energy from my every-month-of-the-year-WriMo perch at my little table in my little office.

I get annoyed with all the snobbish woe-is-me posts from seasoned or professional writers saying things like, “better yet, don’t write that novel,” and “to win, you could theoretically write the prhase, ‘nipple sandwich’ 25,000 times and earn yourself a little certificate.”

The second quotation isn’t from a technically hating piece, but it’s from a post that does, at its core, seem to be about de-glamorizing the writing life and explaining that writing is not just this magical thing that happens while you hardly notice then suddenly you’re getting piles of cash and accolades like you’re some kind of Stephen King protege.

And that’s truth. The piece is called “25 Things You Should Know about NaNoWriMo.” It could also be called “25 Things You Should Know About Being a Writer, some of these relate to NaNo.”

Get to the point, already!

I hate hacks.

I would tell anybody. And I am. See? You’re anybody. I maybe don’t know you at all. And now you know a little truth about me. Hacks make me full of ire and nasty words I have no shyness or fear about spewing all over hack backs.

But I don’t hate NaNo.

Call me Pollyanna, but my feelings on the matter are this: People who finish NaNo are people who are, at least in some small way, committed to living the writing life. It is not easy to write every day, least of all 1666 words.

And whatever else happens, the douche fools who query agents and editors Dec 1 with their shitty 50,000 words are people who would do it anyway. Maybe they wouldn’t do it Dec 1, but at least now there is the possibility for an editor/agent to blanket ignore any unsolicited submissions that appear on Dec 1-15 (note to self).

But this year, my writer friend and I have committed to writing-related goals in honor of WriMo. She’s finishing her novel (she’s been working on it for years), and I am submitting my essays to literary journals and querying agents to the tune of 5 each week.

It took me a year and a half to write all these essays, and I still consider the manuscript to be in progress, I am, in fact, revising three new essays for it now.

I’m keeping a spreadsheet which I will show to my friend once a week.

My friend is showing me her pages.

So NaNo is about accountability. About setting and reaching writing goals.

So get yourself a partner and write! Or Submit! Or Query! Or Revise! Or Outline! Or plot! Or whatever you need to do to get wherever There is.

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