This will likely be a two-parter with the 2019 New Year’s post.
So let’s talk about failure!
I experienced a lot of growth in 2018 that I hadn’t paid attention to because a good deal happened through successive failures. On the other side of them, they’re kind of funny and instrumental in a way, but when I was going through them, there was not a hint of joy or wisdom I could extract from them. The reality that all creative people come to understand eventually is that being creative requires one to fail. It involves suffering: for your art and because of it. This is true about life as much as it is about art, though.
I have failed a lot in 2018, personally and professionally. Take my career ambitions, for example. I have failed interviews in a lot of ways this year for avoidable reasons. That’s another pain of hindsight: that the mistakes you made were ultimately avoidable with the correct information. Worse, if that correct information was in reach. When you were in the situation, you appeared to act as best you could given the context.
The pain of my financial non-existence has forced me into sitations I was not fully prepared for. I have been in situations where I felt I did my best, where I was not up to par, when I felt I was up to par but got sloppy with the specifics. These are but three interviews and I’ve learnt a lot because of them. I wish I had more opportunity to practise but I will take them as necessary fuel* to progress. It hurts like hell when you get those rejection emails, or worse in my opinion, when you see yourself failing during the interview—you’re drowning and you can’t do anything.
The last interview I had, for example, was promising because now I have necessary affirmation of my abilities and desirability. Before, I thought I was just an upjumped nobody punching well above his weight, but now I know that I have qualities that employers would see as both desirable and useful. That’s a big thing for me that I cannot overstate.
It’s hard to not get frustrated by the inefficient and obtuse welfare system, which has only done more to add to my sense of failure. The problem of having little money is the feeling of shame. Shame that you were not better. See, if you were better then you would not be in economic straits in the first place, so you would not have to feel shame: you would not be in a shameful situation. It’s something we don’t speak enough about. But normative values have a stronger hold on you than truth does, unfortunately. I’ve said many times before but pain gives the sufferer tunnel vision, and the narrowness of that vision is typically proportionate to the amount of pain experienced.
Shame is a cruel presence. I’m going to say this even if it’s overused: Your ability to secure employment is not representative of your ability to do those jobs, and most certainly not representative of whether you deserve them. I had become slothful through dejection, not willing to try because what’s the point. I felt like I “knew” the road ahead (see: full of failure) so why try?
To say that I didn’t expect to be going into my third year of unemployment is an understatement. Like many my age, I had anticipated potential financial difficulty—if not working towards my dream career, then with a minimum wage job, making the most out of what little I got by hanging with my friends and writing lots when I could. But when even that didn’t seem attainable, I was lost in the swamp. I was falling well short of my ideal and that was sapping my spirit. Having little money takes a heavy blow to my emotional state. I did not realise how heavy until last year. But I am over the worst of it now, I think.
I know I am because I am able to see what I did do which were no small feats. Like the first post, I felt that these accomplishments were forcing positivity in an erstwhile unpleasant situation. My intention was honesty. An honest post on balance needs to acknowledge everything, not just the good or bad individually. So, I should look at stuff that was good as well, which was numerous. For example, in the latter half of the year, I did some charity! Me and three others raised a grand (there were cash donations as well as the money we raised on the fundraiser). I think because it was another set of tasks coming at a time when I was knackered meant that I didn’t enjoy it much. I am trying to appreciate what I helped bring into reality. I actually put something into the world. Maybe it’s small in the long run but I helped people.
Poetry: I began the poetry project! Not long after the last post, I sort of experienced a mad rush and finished the first part. I’m enjoying what I’ve got so far. I will be getting back to that hopefully by February. I am working on a review post of the project so far (more to follow, hopefully sometime next week).
Beyond that, I have joined an informal poetry group that meets fortnightly! Getting to meet other poets and workshopping some of my own has been beneficial to developing my craft. I’ve also been to poetry events (when I can!) and have performed just once. The poem was very average and my performance was worse but, hey, I’ve performed my poetry. It’s the first step in many, I hope. My ambitions for this are to have a smooth translation from the feelings in me flowing to the page and then conveyed to others through my voice.
Essays: I burned out. I am not going to make concessions, I am just going to try harder. They will be done when they are done.
Writing: As I said before, I am not ready to submit short stories. But in better news: I have finished my manuscript! I wanted it done by my birthday in summer but I finished in November instead. No wonder it took me so long: it was 195,000 words. 1-9-5. THOUSAND. I started this book in 2015, stopped, wrote a different book in 2016, then started this one anew in 2017. I did it!
Not only this book but the series that it was part of. Admittedly it was a two-book series but the series began in its current iteration in 2013 so it’s been a 5 year battle. Latter versions will not take so long, I hope but I’m quite pleased with the overall product. It’s a bit hefty at nearly 400,000 words in total but especially the latter half of the sequel feels representative of my current writing skill. Now, as a result, I have millions of ideas for other books set in the same world so this is overall a great thing. I’m very excited again for my fictional world.
As of the new year, I’ve started redraft that 2016 novel I mentioned above. Looking back there are admirable qualities but it’s actually quite cringey so I’m revamping old scenes and creating anew other scenes.
Music: My guitar strings broke which killed my urges to play, even after buying a replacement set. Regularity is my primary ambition. Nothing more.
Drawing: I think part of my arc will be decided what sort of art I want to be doing. I’ll think about that long-term but in the short term, pencil just needs to go on the page.
Keep in contact with friends: I think I’ve been okay with it. But some of my friendships are not well-adapted to conversation over the internet. I think I’m coming into money so I would like to try to reinvigorate ones that are waning and need that physical presence to maintain that longevitiy.
The flip side is the friendships I have had that have deepened immensely due to, hilariously, my unemployment. Not having cash and limited autonomy sucks but I’ve grown in other ways: found the poetry stuff and people, developed my friendships that I likely would not have been able to if I wasn’t unemployed in virtue of having little social mobility.
The lesson here is that there are gifts in life that are there if I am willing to look for them. I will try to relax more, enjoy things around me instead of focusing on being unmoored. Nick Drake had it right: our ocean will find its shore.
Hope you are all well.
*I have realised that simulated interviews do nothing for me because I normally know the paramaters or the person and there are no stakes. Trust me, the interview is basically a whole different thing when you have to make an impression on people you’ve met moments ago and your livelihood is at stake.