I lost my job but found my writing?

I lost my job

(Si quieres leer esto en español ve más abajo. ¡Gracias! :D)

Life happens. And it turns out that I lost my part-time job because they didn’t want more part-time people any more. And, because of the PhD, I cannot do full-time. Well, I think I’d have shot myself if I had to do that job full-time. But that’s another story.

Now, where next? I neeed a part time job to support myself. But I don’t want to do something that sucks my creativity away. I feel so identified with Amanda Palmer (I listened to the audiobook The Art of Asking and it was a cathartic experience). It’s not that I’m lazy. I’m ready to work hard, oh, of course I am. It’s just that I don’t want an ordinary job, an office job. I’d rather take my guitar and start playing in the streets. (Oops, I don’t really know how to play guitar. I just play the piano, and it’s not like I can bring it with me easily everywhere I go. But I could learn the guitar, no? And, in any case, you get what I mean.)

Am I the only one here feeling like that? I said it in that other post, I don’t want a life in the highrise. I refuse.

A friend believes I should go for Erotic novels and short stories. That’s where the money is, she said. Well, honestly, I may try it. I forgot to include that in my list of possible professions.

But God and Goddesses, how difficult it is to wake up in the mornings. Although my writing has imrpoved exponentially since I lost my job. I have finished the second draft of a Sci-Fi novella that is about a sinking world, Catholic priests, a teenage bully and a crazy nun. And lots of rain.

And it turns out that hey, above all, I’m a writer, so… do you want to listen to a story?

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Life happens. Resulta que acabo de perder mi trabajo a jornada parcial porque solo quieren a gente trabajando a jornada completa. Y como estoy haciendo el doctorado, eso no puede ser. Lo cierto es que me habría volado los sesos si hubiera tenido que trabajar en esa oficina todos los días de la semana pero, hey, eso es otra historia.

¿Y ahora? ¿Qué va a pasar? La cosa es que necesito un trabajo a jornada parcial para sobrevivir, pero no quiero nada que me chupe la creatividad hasta dejarme vacía. Me siento muy identificada con Amanda Palmer. Hace poco escuché el audiolibro de su libro El Arte de Pedir y fue catártico. No es que yo sea una vaga, ni mucho menos, porque estoy lista para trabajar todo lo duro que haga falta, ya lo creo. Pero no quiero tener un trabajo ‘normal’, de oficina. Antes que eso me largo a la calle y pongo la gorra en el suelo mientras toco la guitarra. (Ups, espera, ¿sé tocar la guitarra? No, la verdad es que no. Solo toco el piano,que es difícil de arrastrar de aquí para allá. Pero siempre se puede aprender, ¿verdad? Además, ya pilláis por donde voy.)

¿Soy la única que se siente así? Ya lo dije en uno de mis posts, no quiero la vida en el Highrise. Me niego.

Una amiga me dijo que debería intentar escribir historias eróticas, que es ahí donde está el dinero. Puede que lo intente un día de estos. Se me olvidó añadir eso a mi lista de posibles futuras profesiones.

Pero por los dioses y diosas, qué difícil es levantarse por las mañanas. Aunque mi escritura ha mejorado exponencialmente desde que perdí el trabajo, algo es algo. Ya he terminado el segundo borrador de una novela corta de Ci-Fi que va de un mundo que se está hundiendo, sacerdotes católicos, un adolescenete acosador y una monja loca. Y lluvia. Mucha lluvia.

Y, bueno, ante todo soy escritora, así que… ¿alguién quiere escuchar una historia?

 

 

The Journey Project: The Call of Adventure

The Call To Adventure

‘… the call rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration (…) which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a birth. The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals and emotional patterns no longer fit;’

Joseph Campbell

I have been working on a paper about the video game Journey for quite along time. This game is based (as many other books and films) on the twelve steps of the hero’s journey, described in Campbell’s book The Hero of a Thousand Faces. I picked it up recently and it has turned to be quite an illuminating reading. I always thought that heros were people who descended to the underworld and came back alive, or killed dragons, or saved a whole city from a nuclear attack – all of these things that I don’t see myself doing any time soon, to be honest.

But it turns out to be that the hero’s journey has seventeen steps instead of twelve (in Campbell’s book) and it’s quite complex. However, the good news is that we all have experienced it. This is the journey of separation, initiation and return. The journey that brings us, for instance, from adolescene to adulthood and all of the other stages in life.

The Call of Adeventure

Who has felt this before? I always wanted to visit foreing countries and live in them since I was a little child. I didn’t travel out of Spain with my family until I was fifteen, yet I tended to set my stories in foreign places and I remember my mother wanting to know why all the characters of a particular plot had French names instead of Spanish ones – at the time I felt it just sounded way more exotic, Spanish names and Spanish places where just too boring.

When I played with my sisters and invented new stories for her we used – sometimes – a big world map that hang on my father’s room. My two favourite places were Ireland and Japan, two countries that keep appearing in my stories.

I think that the first time I followed the call of adventure was to go to Ireland on my own. The country keeps fascinating me as much as the very first day I stepped on it – and I have been there more than six times, even spending quite long periods of time.

Another call of adventure brought me to Scotland – when I was child I though unicorns dwelled in Scotland so I had to go there! So far, nothing has brought me closer to what lies deep inside my soul than the silence of the Highland’s mountains.

And, finally, the call to adventure brought me to Lancaster, pursuing my dream to be a full-time writer. As the character of Journey, I cannot avoid by approach the high, golden mountain that seems to wait for me, just right there, in the horizon.

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To me, nothing represents the ‘Call of Adventure’ better than this beautiful image from the video game Journey.

All my travels started with fantasies I already had as a child. I followed them blindly because, sometimes, if you let the current take you, you can end in exciting places.

Have you ever heard the call of adventure? Where has it taken you, so far? Let’s share stories!

 

 

Murdering Your Words AKA Editing

Curious  Cow
A curious cow that wonders why I’m inside my office editing instead of enjoying the Lancastrian sunshine…

There is nothing beautiful or clean about the editing process – at least, not in my case. It’s a messy, frustrating and extenuating duty. But, at the end of the long day (or night) of fighting against your draft you know you’re turning that monster into a pretty piece of decent art, and that is what matters (that, and keeping your sanity in place, of course).

I used to hate editing so much when I wrote in Spanish. It just made me angry. I was very enthusiastic when writing my first draft  but then, coming back to it and realising that some parts were… well, just shit, that was not nice. So I basically went through editing because I had to, but it was a very draining process that I kept postponing as much as I could.

Now, hen I write in English, I cannot allow myself such luxury. I’m editing from day one, because I know my language can be quite obscure so I do need to revise one thousand times each paragraph to make sure it makes sense and it says what I want it to say. Paradoxically, I find editing in English much more entertaining than in Spanish. I see it as if I was carving stone and turning the ugly, shapeless rock in some unique statue.

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I imagine myself carving things such as this…

However, as I said, editing islike murdering your dear words, and there are a few things I always do to make sure the process is completed despite of my artistic vanity.

1. Read Aloud

Come on. Who doesn’t like the sound of her or his own voice? I love reading to myself (when I’m alone, I have to say, if I’m reading in front of an audience I get a bit self-conscious about my accent or my speed). Reading what I just wrote help me to change things because they simply sound better one way than the other. It also allows me to avoid cacophony and take out from the dialogues what is not essential.

2. Let It Breathe

Ideally, I’d let a text breathe for at least 24 hours before coming back to it to do the editing. This allows me to distance myself from the page so I start seeing the obvious mistakes (such as grammar or discordances). Also, the more time you can allow a text breathe, the better. Sometimes I write something I feel very unsatisfied with (I want to burn the pages and flush the ash down the toilet). However, experience tells me that if I come back to that same text six months afterwards, I’ll find many valuable passages that can be rescued. So, I’d say, never delete something. Keep everything (even what seems truly worthless) because in time you can still recycle some metaphor, some line of dialogue…

3. Bring Your Beta Reader In

Sometimes you feel stuck in the editing process. You know there’s loads of work to be done, yet you’ve become blind in front of your text and start thinking you’d rather let twenty Cumbrian spiders do races all over your body than keep editing that part of your work. Well… this is when your fantastic, awesome beta reader can be there for you and have a good read of the troublesome extract. Her or his perspective will help you narrow down your editing and identify what is not working and what actually does work (horray!)

4. Start at the End of the Page

This might be just my strange thing, but when I’m editing the same few pages on and on I get a bit (too) tired of them. Something that helps me spice up the task a bit is to start reading from the last paragraph to the first. By altering the order the text becomes slightly different and I’m more alert.

5. Choose Your Bright Period

I’m more awake  in the morning, so that’s the moment of the day when I’m more prepared (and motivated) to do the heavy editing. It’s important to do the editing with a clear mind so you can localise the mistakes quickly instead of feeling frustrated because the process is dragging on and on and it seems to never end.

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This is me after a productive day of editing…

6. Print It

This is so essential if you (as many of us do, for practical reasons) work on a computer. People may say what they want, but I see things differently when I can read them on paper (and not on the screen). Also, it makes more sense to me to grab a red pen and start crossing out sections, pointing arrows at things, doing mini comments… Also, I read somewhere that some writer said that editing on a physical page is good because the margins have reduced space. It’s not like on the computer, where you can delete and change endlessly. So you have to prioritise the areas where the bigger problems are. And also, helps you to keep focused.

7. This Won’t Be Your Last Work!

Well, hopefully not, right? Unless you’re a genius writer of a single, awesome book (like Harper Lee and her To Kill A Mockingbird, although she did write a sequel in the end) one work in your career is yet another step in a huge, steep stair… I like to think I improve with every story I wrote, so even if the one I’m working on will be better than the last, it won’t be better than the next. I think it’s important to think this not to fail in the perfectionist’s trap. No book or short story I ever wrote felt completely finished. Never. I could always go back and change this adjective, modify that scene, even add new features to a particular character… but instead of that I chose to let that story go to let other new ones come in return. It’s a pact you have to do with yourself. The end of your love story with a particular piece can occur when the professional editing is process is over and the work is published… or when the deadline for that contest or module is done. There is always an external event that marks this, and I think it’s okay to leave our pieces to approach new ones. Yes, sure, they could be improved… but remember you acquire new skills by trying new things!

Or, you can do as the Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez and dedicate half of your life to write and the other half to edit what you’ve written… it’s a very personal choice!

I won’t lie. I don’t love the editing process, but  it is the scary forest I have to cross to bring  to the other end of the writing journey. So I’m sort of accepting that is an important (and sometimes enjoyable) part of being a writer.

And how about you? Do you have any tips to share? If you write in a second language, do you find easier the editing process, as I do?

Emptiness

Williamson_sunset

What’s better to fulfill the heart that a beautiful sunset?

Lancaster gives us sometimes a glorious sunny day in which you feel you want to celebrate, no matter what. And so I did.

I went out and walked under the sun and the nature, letting them nurture me. I’ve been feeling so disconnected and sad lately, but still sunsets make me feel blessed to live here, so I feel grateful for that.

I was going out with two people I know, both of them from completely different backgrounds and situations. We were talking and suddenly both of them started talking about the same things that have been worring me for so many months now.

Emptiness.

Disconnection.

How can this be possible? I thought the fact of not having enough money for living on my own in a foreign country was causing me all this distress. But perhaps it’s something else, if these people who -in many aspects- are in a position that I wished for myslef, keep feeling the same.

I read Pure recently. Andrew Miller is one of my favourite authors. His novel Ingenious Pain was a great inspiration to my writing (in fact, it almost convinced me I didn’t need to write my Gothic Horror novella when he had already touched many of the themes I wanted to address and in a better way!)

Pure tells the story of a young engineer in 18th century France  who goes to Paris to make his fortune. (Like me, going to Lancaster, which is less fashionable but yet…) Once there he’s called in Versailles (no less!) to recieve a very special task… They want him to empty the cementery of Les Innocents, a place in the middle of the town were people had been ‘throwing’ bodies for centuries.

Digging out so much death, carcasses, bones and misery is quiet traumatic. Not talking abot ghosts superstitions and so on.

But sometimes, I guess you have to dig out ‘all your deads’ to breathe pure air again.

Another thing that has been inspiring me lately has been Brené Brown interview in Being Boss. I know I’m always talking about this podcast, but it’s been my running companion since January and I have to say it’s saving my life in these days. It brings me what I need: a boost of inspiration that fills my emptiness.

I loved when she spoke about the Hero’s Journey (the monomyth, Joseph Campbell) and the fact that nobody can skip that dark second act in the journey. To advance, we must go directly to the bottom, where all the shit gathers, and that it is. (Pardon my French, as they say).

Have you read more books about emptiness and disconnection? Sometimes there is nothing that explore ‘the whole’ instead of pretending that is not there, and literature is a safe tool that also allows reflection…

I can think of some:

Sputnik My Love, by Haruki Murakami: A young aspiring writer (Sumire) looking for inspiration and fighting against her unrequited love for an older woman.

1984, by George Orwell. This book doesn’t need an introduction. It gave me a depression when I was just 14…

Persepolis, by Majarne Satrapi. About being an immigrant… the bright and dark sides.

Blindness, by José Saramago. A book everyone should read because it’s simply brilliant. Imagine a future in which everyone goes blind but just one woman? I could also be read as a metaphor of how disconnected we are from each other in this society.

Journey.  A videogame you should play when you’re feeling sad and disconnected, as it was precisely created to combat feelings like that. As a person who normally doesn’t like videogames (I’ve terrible coordination skills that are necessary in most of them) this one has been fascinating me for almost a year.

Can you think about more? Have you ever felt empty? How do you nurture your soul?

 

 

On Balancing Work + Art: Inspired by Allison Ranieri

Writing while you have a full-time or part time job that has nothing to do with it?

Well, I know about that! And so does the talented Allison Ranieri.

Recently I got PhD funding but because I’m studying in England without being English – how do I dare! – it doesn´t come with a monthly payment to help me eat and sleep in a sheltered place and things like that.

I must confess I was very annoyed by this – even when many would tell me I’m lucky enough because if I was not from the EU I could have never applied for this money in the first place!

I don´t understand these rules – I’m leaving my mother togue to write in English, are they not impressed by my sacrifice?

But then I wathed Allison Raineri’s YouTube series ‘A Week in the Life of an Illustrator (Working 9-5 Day Job) Challenge. And that was very inspiring and made me think about all the positive aspects that come from (trying to) balance a daily job and your true passion.

So let’s get started!

1. It brings experiences.

Experiences

Even Emily Dickinson – who was said not to leave her house in years – surely did many other things apart from writing such as taking care of the home, her siblings’ children, her elder parents, the garden and so on… Unless you’re St Kevin (and you decide to hide yourself in a little cave in Glendalough to meditate/write for years and years) you need to do other things in order to keep getting ideas for writing. In fact, I see the writing/artistic process as something that includes at least three parts:

  1. Compost. You need to go out there and get both shitty and wonderful experiences. Meeting new people, travelling, experiencing new things… but also suffering disgraces and all sort of scary events (like my Cumbrian spiders) open your mind to new worlds of ideas.
  2. The craft. Getting your hands directly into your creation.
  3. The response. Unless you’re St Kevin, your art will get out there and you’ll recieve a response. This will shape new projects and can be scary, drainning but also immensly inspiring.

 

2. Time becomes meaningful.

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If you have all day to write chances are that laziness and procratination are going to get in your way. The daily grind is something feared by many (I include myself). At the end of the day, combining writing with other activities you must do means that whenever you have that single hour to write you’re going to take the most of it (instead of checking out Facebook). I think that´s why people like Kathleen Jones – an amazing poet – managed to launch a great writing career even when she had to take care of four children and provide for them!

3. It Makes you more productive.

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You take every chance yo go out to research, to interview/ask someone who you admire, to try new productivity techniques… Whenever you’ve all time in front of you to spend is very easy to accomodate to the routine and think you’d do that great thing tomorrow. When it’s not the case, you’ll probably try to grasp the first opportunity you get – because it might be the last one!

4. We’re all humans.

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Last but not least: perfection doesn’t exist. Allison always starts her day in these videos doing a lot of to-do lists because she wants to get the most of her day. However, most of the times she struggles completing them. I could feel so related to it. It’s good to make plans to stay focused, but oh, life happens. And sometimes things just get crazy.

Being organised is fundamental to balance work and art, but what is even more important is to acknowledge from the very beginning that we’re all humans. We’re going to miss points in our to-do lists, we’re going to lack inspiration in the most important moments, we’re going to break down at some point in the way… And then, when that happens, it’s important to take a breath, rise and keep walking. Having the motivation clear helps us to advance the path, even if it’s tiny step after tiny step. But never stopping or leaving.

5. Get it all done and then enjoy!

Relax

Working, doing art, getting inspired… sometimes you might feel restless (I do, at least). So I also like to stop and do nothing for a while, because otherwise I know I’d just burn myself out (it has happened before). For instance, at least once or twice a week I like to take my evenings free and lazy around reading, playing games, meeting friends, watching movies… Something that I don’t need to take very seriously – because art is, at the end of the day, my most serious occupation, and that can feel a bit like a huge rucksack at my back.

I think that when we’re starting our artistic path is very easy to feel discouraged. We could see around us people already making a living of it and feel like it’s a question of pure luck (and we’re not the chosen ones) or that we’re not talented enough (as these people are). But the truth is, the ones who make it are the ones who are (above all) persistant. Everyone has stories of endurance and dark moments behind – a famous example is J K Rolwing, or you can also listen to this inspiring interview from the Being Boss podcast with the writer Tommy Walker – who at some point thought about living with his family in a tent in the woods.

What I love about Allison Raineri’s series (and all her videos in general) is how she manages to offer honest advice for people like her, who might not make a living just in illustration but are willing to try – and succeed! It’s a pleasure to see how talented and passionated she’s, and definitely I can translate her feelings and aspirations into my writing journey.

Thanks Allison, and thanks to you all for reading this post.

Anyone else out there balancing work and art? I’d love to hear your experiences. Let’s share tips!