Balancing work and the creative life

Balancing work and the creative life

The ability to work and pursue creative endeavours without going mad, or forfeiting the right to sleep and eat regularly, is pretty much the ideal life for creative people. People, particularly employers, talk about providing a work-life balance for their employees, but the emphasis is usually on work first, then life. Work and the company’s bottom-line is the important part, and whatever you do on your time is your own business. This isn’t much of a balance. It is nearly impossible to find a job that is interested in supporting creative people because, despite employers filling job postings with phrases like, “out of the box thinker”, “dynamic self-starter”, “innovative problem-solver” and other such hackneyed nonsense, the truth is, that’s exactly what they don’t want – and in my experience, that becomes clear very quickly. I’ve worked at many places where I went in ready to contribute ideas and make positive changes as the need arose…only to be shot down at every turn. I’ve had the odd great manager who was supportive of an idea – and it would get shot down by her bosses for reasons unexplained. Then, because shit really does roll down hill, she’d get to tell me that the great idea was now dead in the water…because the Powers That Be said so. And we’d sit in her office and feel gloomy, knowing that at the next company-wide meeting we’d be listening to speeches about taking pride in the product, and how wonderful the company is, and why we should all love the leader. I used to call these Masters of Universe speeches – and after the first few times, I started tuning them out because I learned that it wasn’t me, or my fellow co-workers that were important, it was the bottom line. It was profit and happy shareholders and CEOs hemorrhaging money on impressing clients with fancy lunches. As a co-worker of mine used to say, “I’m not the Madam, I’m just the whore.” Well. No more of this for me. I’ve just started the holy grail of part-time jobs. I’m now working with a small web design company whose owner has a great philosophy: You don’t work for me, you work for the company. Use your best judgement, do what’s best for the company, and if you need help with that, just ask. The difference between this company and most others is that, he really means it. So my hours vary from day to day. Yesterday, I spent several hours taking care of an important task – it needed to be done, so I did it. Today, I spent less than an hour doing company related work, and have been editing a story,...

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Double Love – a book review

Double Love – a book review

Title: Double Love (#1) Author: Kate William (a ghostwriter, series created by Francine Pascal) Publisher: Bantam Books Pages: 182 ISBN: 0-553-27567-4 Price: $5.18 (USD, paperback, previously owned) I recently unearthed old copies of the Sweet Valley High series at a local used bookstore. Just seeing the cover of Double Love transported me back to seventh grade, and spending rainy days reading about the trials and tribulations of the ever-perfect teenage twins, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. These books are directly responsible for my misconceptions about high school (real high school is nowhere near as exciting or interesting), and set me up for great disappointment in terms of the sort of romantic adventures I might have (none – there were no Todd Wilkinses at my school. At all.). Still, they’re an easy read, amusing, and laugh-out-loud terrible in some spots now that I’m reading them again as a 36 year old. The first three pages are not dedicated to story telling, or world building as you might expect. No. They are dedicated to talking about the twins appearance by way of Jessica complaining about how “gross” she is. Let me regale you with the catalogue of horrors that are the Wakefield twins: “…disgustingly fat….” (and “[w]ith that, [Jessica] spun around to show off a stunning figure without an extra ounce visible anywhere.”). “…perfectly shaped bronze leg[s].” Jessica is “…the most adorable, most dazzling, sixteen-year-old girl imaginable.” “silky blonde hair” (on the book cover, Jessica has a comb-over that would make Donald Trump jealous) “almond-shaped eyes the blue-green of the Caribbean” And, both have “the same shoulder-length, sun-streaked blonde hair, the same sparkling blue-green eyes, the same perfect skin…Both girls were five feet six on the button and generously blessed with spectacular, all-American good looks.” Oh, and they’re a size six, too. Yeah. The first three pages are very indicative of how the rest of the book, and series, is written – everything is about the twins, and whatever is happening, you can be sure that their perfect beauty will be part of the scene, and/or that they are the focus of solving problems (their own, other people’s…) Anyway, on to the plot! Jessica has her sights set on Todd Wilkins, the star basketball player. And Jessica, being the conniving bag of twats she is, usually gets her man. But Todd, he of the “tanned, muscular chest” and, “compelling presence” has his “gorgeous brown eyes” set on Elizabeth. Elizabeth wants him, too, but, in keeping with her martyrdom complex, assumes that she is no competition for the “dazzling Jessica Wakefield”, so she decides to just let Jessica have her own way. I don’t remember any of the boys in my class when I was 16 having a particularly “compelling presence” or...

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Arguing with the Peanut Gallery 101

Arguing with the Peanut Gallery 101

Last night my good friend Duder and I went out for dinner and drinks at the usual place (they aren’t quite yelling “Norm!” when we walk in the door, but it’s a close thing at this point). And, as we often do lately, we discussed writing because we are both working on writing projects right now and we are both finding that we’re having similar difficulties with the work. I started things off by describing the heavy feeling of anxiety that sits like a stone in my chest when I face the novel I’m working on (and often, lately, not working on due to said chest stone). I talked about the stupid and nearly hysterical displacement activities I do when I feel this anxiety (cleaning – I love to clean when I’m anxious. I have the cleanest home on the North Shore right now). I also mentioned the peanut gallery in my head and how they amuse themselves by shouting abuse or generally being disapproving in my general direction about me writing things instead of making a regular and large paycheque. As it turns out, Duder is having the same issues (which is bad) but, we’re having them at the same time and that’s actually kind of helpful because it’s not just me being neurotic by myself. So we talked it over; compared notes on how we are (or are not) dealing with the weirdness that is living in your head a lot and then writing down what you find in there. Neither of us have any delusions – I’m pretty sure I’m not the next J. K. Rowling (not very many writers get to that level), and I’m OK with that – I’m even OK with never being published because that happens to plenty of writers too – even really good ones I bet. So, this isn’t about making money, or getting famous, or being crowned with laurels and declared a genius; I just want to write. It’s doing it without feeling anxious and guilty that plagues me and turns far too many of my days into hours spent doing anything but writing. So a couple of days ago I decided if the peanut gallery in my head was going talk at me anyway, I’d write up my half of the dialogue and argue with them directly for a change. It was a very interesting dialogue to put on paper. ME: Do you not want me to write? Is that the game plan here – scare Renee off writing forever because why the hell not? THEM: Well, no, not really, we’re just worried you’ll fail, and Joe will leave you for someone with a steady paycheque, and you’ll die alone...

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Welcome!

Welcome!

Welcome! This post is just a quick one to let new visitors know that yes, more stories are on the way, and yes, I know content is a little sparse here – it’s a work in progress, which is still a lot more interesting to read than a “Down for Maintenance” splash page (and with one thing and another in the back end, that splash page was proving to be tricksy and troublesome anyway). So, while I sort myself out here, please enjoy the couple of stories I have up and check back often for new content! NB: Original Pub. Date: July 17,...

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