Why Do I Write

The question arises in me. I’ve written since I knew how to write. The hunger was always there. To put the world into words, to lock it in, to understand. To create. To capture rhythms and beat, the steady steps of an absent-minded wanderer, the erratic fly, everything in between that resists definition. I want to create my own kind of beauty – and truth. I want to confront. I want to explain. I want to share.

There was a moment when I did less writing. There was a moment when I had no time. I felt the need burning in me. Still do. Some kinds of writing are more demanding than others. I tend to not begin what I cannot give my focus. The full sacrifice. Somehow I’m always biting down a scream.

Why do I write. Why do I not write. Why do I love it, why does it make me bleed. Sometimes I want to bleed words onto pages, if only it were real. Something real. I got to this point. When life I’m building is beginning to be alive, but it isn’t at all how I imagined, isn’t what was promised. I can’t achieve my goals, half the time I don’t know or understand them. The world is burning but slowly, the embers blink, I don’t know if hope is folly or the only thing that can be. I don’t know at all. I know the words, and before I fall, I’ll throw my breathlessness onto a page. Alongside laughter, desperation, rage. Rhyme, always – rhythm. Arrythmia of feels.

If I still prayed, I’d want something real.

Midnight Rant On Internet Habits

It’s quarter to midnight as I write this. I already wrote a nice, quick, inoffensive blogpost, a literary landscape with cake – a throwaway moment in time that helped me deal with my huge appetite for today, in context of my tiredness and need for rest. I keep thinking though. That’s the thing with me; I can’t stop thinking.

Today wouldn’t quite have gone the way it did if I had no Internet. That’s just a fact. Yes, I was overwhelmed because I wanted to do a lot of things, but I would have likely done more of them if distraction wasn’t so readily available. We often talk about access, accessibility – and Internet breaks a lot of barriers for everybody. We no longer have to contend with gatekeepers of knowledge, a lot of it is free for the taking. That IS wonderful, but we have new problems now. The overabundance of information – truthful and false – is one of them. But what really concerns me is the ready availability of online content that is emotive and stirring. When I read articles that activate both thought and emotion, when I read Facebook updates, I feel connected to… something, shaken, moved sometimes. But I have very little control over what I’m going to encounter and weirdly, it’s the easiest thing to access of all the available Things.

I’m not explaining this right. I am a fan of Internet, if one can say such a thing; I certainly don’t expect to stop using it permanently, we’re on my blog over here. But often I have to get offline to realise that I’m relatively isolated; that I haven’t reached out to friends; that I have too many encounters of the purely online kind. Add to this the fact that easily digestible emotional experiences are a click away, and I begin to feel like a rat in an experiment cage, pressing the button for cocaine. Sure, we don’t stop living – we cook and clean and go to work and perform all the productive functions – but I feel that my quality of life suffers without disconnecting from it at least a little bit.

I used to live in a house that had no WiFi – I had no data on my old school phone at the time – and remember experiencing it as a welcome relief. Like, I had to go to a cafe or library to go online, and that would switch me in the work mode. I remember being so relaxed. And sure, when I go vaguely offline nowadays, I let myself look things up – my offline discipline does NOT extend to recipes – but at least I’m grounded in the present, making stuff with my hands. Don’t get me wrong: I love being connected to the web, finding friends and common interests, but I also feel… dried out and stretched and imbalanced when I’m in there for a long time. Perhaps that is why I consciously sought out employment that doesn’t require a lot of online activity?

I don’t know. What I do know is that I experience a pull to use my online experience more consciously. That’s how this blog started: as a private call to action, to create a writing habit and put my words into the world, instead of steadily inhaling someone else’s. Perhaps using Internet sparingly is the answer here, the answer in which I will fail a hundred times, because a month’s long experiment is like a diet, and what I’m after is a lifestyle change: a permanent solution, not a yo-yo effect. And for this, a cutesy cake post, much as it is relatable and descriptive, doesn’t quite cut it. I’m asking myself this: why do you write? Who do you write for? I’ve yet to find the answers.

 

Tired Friday With Cake Potential

It’s Friday….! Which means that I made muffins for breakfast (black banana from the fridge finally utilised), had a coffee (I ration the stuff) and got through my swimming class (instructor was very concerned because I was tired – kept asking what was going on. Aside from a busy week at work, and aren’t they all, the answer is simply PMS; should have said so).

Swimming and blogging are the weekly staples of my Friday diet, but I always try to do something more. In fact, I had so many ideas today, that I wound up on Facebook, because it all sounded like so much work! Sample idea:

  • making a cake! lemon loaf again? or that difficult apple pie that I fancied?
  • finish my registration for European elections – that one’s in the calendar!
  • watch RuPaul’s Drag Race – but not before other work!
  • do two-three loads of laundry (okay, one of those even happened)
  • footbath and scrub! ooh, and a facemask (I never do any of these)
  • look up the next slow cooker sensation and plan shopping, so that lunches for next week are done (steady on, got a couple of days yet…!)
  • ….more…

The problem is that Friday is duvet day for me. As in, the one and only rest day I allow myself in the week. I always make plans for Saturday, I work Sunday nights as well as Monday-Thursday – there is literally no part of the week when I’m not DOING SOMETHING. So maybe – just maybe – making a cake that I fancy eating and watching Drag Race is not the end of the world. I mean. Maybe. I can’t quite make myself believe it.

In fact, the one thing that is steadily suffering in my new world order is socialisation. Oh no, make that two things: socialisation and gigs. I all but stopped doing comedy, and while I get lots of human contact from my dayjob (yay kids!) and evening job (yay quizzers!), seeing my friends seems impossible. I did do pilates, yoga AND swimming this week, so maybe I can give myself a break…?

In any case, by writing this down I want to give myself permission to both Want All The Things and Not Achieve All The Things. I’m tired. I’m sitting on the sofa. I really fancy making a cake. Maybe there is nothing wrong with that.

How The Light Got In

1. Crack of Dawn

For the last week or so, I found it so easy to be joyful and productive. I’ve been waking up at 6.30 am and doing my physio exercises – the kind of behaviour I always WANTED, but never managed to do. If you’d asked me, I’d have told you that I like winter and don’t suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it’s hard to explain the recent lift in my mood. The early mornings are my favourite time of the day right now, I’ve been packing my lunches immediately and with no complaining, I’m just beautifully organised. Since the last blogpost, when my mood was conversely shitty, I’ve been able to clean up my room (with the support of Manbear) and more importantly keep it clean and that is probably the only other reason of this inset of blessed joy. I do not seek to question it, really – except in hopes of understanding how to keep it, and/or bring it about again….

2. Cracking On

This week I met up with a friend to do something we talked about for LITERAL YEARS: a twoprov.

What is a twoprov, might you ask? It is meeting of two minds on improv stage. My friend and I have a very particular chemistry and I’ve been wanting to explore it. We set a rehearsal for every second Wednesday and just had our first one this week and I am so very excited.

3. The Story of the Cracked Mug.

Once upon a time, I bought a mug.

I bought it from my then-workplace, Pylones – a quirky French brand of colourful everyday items. It was yellow, in a pattern we called Dahlia and I really liked it. And then I broke it.

That would have been in 2016 the latest, maybe earlier.

I still have that mug. It broke in such a way that when I looked at it, I thought immediately that it would make a great candle holder. I figured I’d Superglue the two separate parts together, and the tiny hole where some smaller bits of ceramic fell off will be fantastic for creating light.

I held onto it for at least three years.

When I first came up with this blogpost, I figured that I would either write about completing this long-awaited project (and that would be powerful) or letting go of this long-held-onto project (and that would be powerful). But I didn’t account for creative process. Yesterday, when I pulled out my precious ceramic friend and a small tube of Superglue, I had a sudden thought: is Superglue flammable? Is it heatproof? The corresponding answers turned out to be yes and no. It’s hard for me to evaluate the precise risk, but I decided using this particular glue would not be the safest option in my room full of wooden furniture, books and papers.

Stumped, I called in reinforcements (a.k.a. my flatmate) and asked them about different kinds of glue. We stared at the mug for a bit and had a conversation about making it a vase (I vetoed it – I wanted a tealight holder!) or piecing it together with various means. And then the realisation came: the mug was already a functional candle holder. It just needed a base, so that one part could be stuck to it and another secured in such a way so that it wouldn’t easily fall apart! So the mission parameters changed: I am now hunting for a base. But my mug is already functioning as a candle holder and it’s BEAUTIFUL.

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Amongst my struggles with “I Own Too Much Stuff” and “I Do Too Many Things”, there are moments like this: when I dared to ask for help and got some, and suddenly life gets a little bit easier. I can’t say how blissful that feels – like a heavy weight, lifted. In wading through my general problems with executive function, I want to take this time to be happy because This Week Things Worked. The work is slow, but I am reshaping my relationship to my body (physio! pilates! swimming!), my space (declutter! cleaning!), my creativity (play! blog! comedy! improv!), and it’s all beginning to show results. I will write my play this year. I will start a Polish-language blog this year. I might yet publish some essays, this year. I broke some things apart, this year, to put them back together. Slowly, slowly, slowly, things are becoming possible.

“There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”

 

The Ministry Of Unfinished Tasks

I’ve been sitting in my room for the last three days, trying to get stuff done. It’s been a bit unsuccessful.

I inadvertently skipped blogging last week. It wasn’t by design – rather, because I was travelling through Poland, I lost the sense of time and routine and simply forgot about days of the week. It probably didn’t help that I drafted a giant essay about online activity (called “Live from my browser”, I’ll post it at some point): I did that on the plane to Poland, and it probably contributed to me feeling like I’ve already done my writing for the week.

Another half-term, another blogpost about how I can’t get sh*t done. There is a pattern here: it seems that when faced with large amounts of unstructured time, I simply panic and dive into the nearest screen face-first. It also doesn’t help that I spent one week visiting family (which, while pleasant wasn’t always necessarily restful) and after I got off the plane, I pretty much had to start packing for what turned out to be quite an emotionally taxing rehearsal. Even though I optimistically planned to do a bunch of stuff during the Easter week, it turned out that… umm… I couldn’t do a goddamn thing.

This is a thing I struggle with: prioritising large tasks and making them into smaller tasks; remembering to do things when I’m outside my usual routine; getting started on large overwhelming things when I’m on my own; finishing multi-stage tasks (i.e. I’ll do and hang laundry, but then won’t fold it for weeks); ASKING FOR HELP, because all of it has a hefty dollop of shame, of the “you SHOULD be able to HANDLE YOUR OWN STUFF” variety.

And then there is the fact that outside of one million things I need to get done (re-organise my room! throw things out! cook ahead! laundry! writing! tidy documents!), I also needed the rest. And those two pressures – for discipline and for unstructured time – simply cancelled each other out for the last, oh, four days.

In the end, I did ask for help. And I am lucky: when I was younger, these feelings of not-good-enough-ness could last for weeks or months. I remember having these struggles much more frequently – it was a rule, not an exception – and in fact it’s been a while since my inner dialogue descended in such an unpleasant direction. I do have a lot of shame to do with how I manage my household (cleaning, laundry and the like), but I managed to overcome. Even if it meant asking my flatmate to hang out in the kitchen while I washed the dishes – and later, ringing my boyfriend (a.k.a. Manbear) to process some of the asking-for-help shame.

As part of this whole thing, I wound up going back to online bingeing, something that I’d successfully reduced with my previous “almost offline” project. Who knows, perhaps I’ll have to do such projects periodically, just to remind myself to be more mindful about engaging with internet world. Frustrating. But also the only way, aside from going fully offline – something I’ve contemplated before, but can’t yet bring myself to do. So this is an in-progress blogpost. I’ve done things this half-term that can’t be measured – I met with some family members I see very rarely and I actually met two young cousins for the first time – but I haven’t done a spring clean. And I’m still a worthy, good-enough human being. And I’m writing that down, because I definitely need the reminder.

 

 

Taking Yourself Seriously: A Lesson In Progress

This weekend there was a meeting of Rita The Company.

Friends smile when I mention that. They ask me “are you paying yourself dividends” or “was in one of those useless meetings”. But. They don’t get it. I am a self-employed artist. It’s my job to create my work, present and produce my work, offer my work for hire. Invoice for my work. Pay taxes on the money I got paid for my work. And in order to do all these things effectively, I have to take myself seriously.

Hence Rita Suszek, the company – one person, one business, one CEO, admin, employee. All of the things are my things. I own all aspects of myself, and pay special attention to documents and finances. I now have an in-tray – a little gift bag where I put random papers that show up in my life during the week, so that I can sort them out later; I have an app to mark out my expenses; I am creating processes and workflow that a regular company already has in place. I am becoming a businessperson, because I. Have. A Business.

Gone are the days when I thought I was too artistic to understand money. Gone the moments when I chose to float around claiming that “all that” was “beyond me”. I can read the writing on the wall. My artistic practice may not fit a conventional earning model, but it does bring money, the amounts rising steadily through the years. As Rikki Beadle-Blair remarked in a workshop I took once, success looks like more work. So laugh all you want: if I can implement good habits when I have twenty or forty invoices, things will be easier when I have two hundred of them. By the time it happens, I will have files. My files will have dividers. My dividers will be laminated. And I’ll be over here, ironing whatever passes for a business suit within my artistic practice.

Is it perfect? God, no. Did I fulfill all items in my business agenda? Forget it. Did I sit down for four hours and name the date for the next business meeting? You bet. Increments are important. I am moving, will continue moving.

There is a book titled “Why Are Artists Poor”. I’m afraid to read it. I’m more afraid to be in it. Rita The Company – taking myself seriously – fighting for my life.

My Favourite Failures (Pithy Post On Perfectionism)

Aside from Brexit failing to materialise last Friday, I have had some failures this past week. I failed to post a blog on either Friday or Saturday (my usual schedule), I failed to achieve creative goals I set for the weekend… and yet, those failures contributed to a pretty good result.

About the goal: I’ve been banging on about Brexit (in blogposts, poems, comedy, podcasts…) for almost three years. And I decided to release all the backlogged content I have about it during the Brexit weekend! On brand, on time, everything done! Go me! I was excited: the idea was pleasing to my perfectionist brain. It had a feeling of achievement paired with the idea of a clean slate: it’s practically perfectionist catnip.

Spoiler alert: I failed. But what does failure mean? It means: I published an episode of Jobstealers podcast that has been languishing on my hard disk for years – an interview of another European human right after Brexit, when we were both despairing and hopeful, unlike the beat-up tiredness of the present. I also figured out how to do audio editing on my shitty cheap laptop (the answer is paid online software, but hey, it worked!), figured out YouTube’s editing software, rewatched my solo show on Brexit (“F*cking European”) and edited my YouTube channel. How is that for “failure”, considering that a lot of these things needed to get done for a while?

I have a tendency to take on too much, but this weekend it has served me. Sure, I fell short of my goal. But I am still working on publishing my videos, the podcast has premiered, another podcast is on the way and I am re-energised in my creative practice, even if a lot of this is essentially admin, and admin long overdue at that.

I’m cosying up to failure. I’m learning to reframe. Frankly, perfection only exists in not-doing (as I keep learning again and again); “perfect is the enemy of the good”. Perfect, pfft! Ain’t nobody got time for that!

I Want More Life And Other Dilemmas

It’s Friday again and I’m standing at the border between my two lives.

I live a double life of sorts. Monday to Thursday I am a trainee teaching and behaviour support: I am devoted to productivity, eat batch-cooked lunches, try to rise on time and go to sleep early (skipping out on sleep has major consequences), manage my moods by reading stuff online in my lunchbreak. I occasionally attempt some self-reflection – journaling on the Tube or writing the odd poem – but by and large those habits don’t stick; I can’t read books, I have no time and if I tried it on the Tube, I’d spill my tea on them or something. I do my physio, stop by the pool, wolf down a dinner, try to squeeze out maximum efficiency out of my hours, try not to be too stressed, watch a show to wind down and go to sleep.

Then Friday comes.

Friday is my twilight zone. Actually it starts Thursday night. Thursday night I will either go out or attempt to Achieve Something Meaningful, which may mean staying up until 2 am JUST BECAUSE I AM NOT TEACHING NEXT DAY AND I CAN. Friday morning I will go swimming; let the water take my weight, beat my body, create some pleasant lassitude in my muscles. I come home, eat some food, and – this is important – I don’t have to do a goddamn thing.

I do occasionally clean; I write a blogpost; I may cook or go out; but I don’t have to do a goddamn thing.

This guilt-free zone protects my sanity. Saturdays tend to be busy – I’ll go to a gig, be in a gig, sometimes both. Tomorrow there is a march and a birthday party, with a date thrown in the mix. Sunday I’m wrapping up some podcast editing of yore (there’s nothing more horrible than unprocessed old footage or audio!) and of course hosting the quiz. Tonight is the night I get to myself.

And I. Want. More.

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There is a necessity to the way things are in my life right now. Or what feels like necessity. A led to B led to C and I made it all the way to L; is it worth finishing the alphabet? I’ve got a job that is incredibly engaging (god knows many of my previous “support jobs” were very repetitive and dull); I’m good at it and developing within it. A part of me thrives on the speed that I can achieve on Monday through Thursday. Yes, the work made my physical problems escalate, hence the constant physio/swimming/should-I-do-pilates-yoga-or-both convo, but that was a long time coming; at least they higher-ups at work are supportive. It’s nice to have a steady paycheck. And yet. And yet.

I want more life. I want to see friends without trying to convert it into doing artistic work together; I want to have time for both. I want to afford the luxury of messing around with writing, or songwriting, or dancing. I want leisure; I want creativity; I want my first thought not to be about how to turn things into an ambitious project. I want the speed of exciting things, but with maybe slightly less stress that the two hour daily commute and actual risk of injury that my current dayjob provides. I want to stop having to cut off bits of myself to fit within my life. I want to design a life that I can live, not just survive.

I want rehearsal rooms; I want comedy gigs, poetry gigs, music gigs; I want to take songs out of my head that live there, homeless, in-between; I want to take a honest look at that essay book I’ve got knocking about there, that play I already assembled a team for. I am a fountain of creativity and I have no space, choking a little, even though rationally there is only so many hours; rationally a lot of effort right now goes into re-routing my body from its path to further injury, into creating a healthy and sustainable muscle structure. Between that and the work, even though I want to write and create, I simply need to sleep more than I need to write; my body needs to heal, but meanwhile my brain tries to eat itself. The balance isn’t stacked in favour of creativity right now, and it hurts.

I guess there are Fridays. On Fridays I get to take a breath and rest. But the second part, the part when I take another breath and embark on my full creative journey, that’s the one that doesn’t fully happen. I may need to reframe it; I may need to rethink it. “I’m not standing still, I’m just lying in wait….”

I Love Swimming. I Don’t Love March

Quick note in addition to my Wednesday blog: this week has been… a bit not good. Tough, even. I expected myself to Do Stuff to do with my permanent residency – something that I am beginning to accept might not happen, because as I do the research, it turns out that the way I worked, earned and survived might not be good enough for the British taxman. I am still looking into it, but also trying to let it go slowly. I wanted this. Settled status will still be a option, later. We will see.

It is a very strange thing to think of the years I’ve spent in this country – growing up, learning about myself, trying, failing, designing my artistic career – as a retroactive audition for citizenship. I certainly didn’t “perform” my life to earn a passport, I haven’t come over with that in mind. I’m not the most business-minded person, although I am working to change that: that means that when I registered as self-employed, it was to find out whether I could hack it as a performer and get legally paid. It doesn’t mean I had what is considered a “viable business idea” or knew how to realise such an idea. Or earned enough to prove that in retrospect I was The Correct Kind Of Potential Resident.

So many of us. Doing cash-in-hand jobs, floating, trying to be free, trying to survive, trying to be artists, performers, to add beauty to life. In this new world order, we are so vunerable, so unpractical, considered unnecessary and extraneous, of low value. Kafka-esque paperology. Good thing I know that my value doesn’t rest on it.

And today is Friday. So I went swimming. I love swimming. For now it’s enough.

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