Category Archives: Rambles

Hey There, Lazy Freelance Bums

garfield_busy_day

I was writing out of a Starbucks the other day, and a few hundred words in, the smoke alarm went off. A barista appeared from the first floor, told us something I didn’t take my headphones out in time to catch, and was gone again. Some people around me started packing, so I assumed some sort of leisurely evacuation was in order. A few other headphoned individuals like myself were looking around, equally confused. The alarm quieted down within ten seconds, no further evac orders followed, and from the window, we could see that the first floor people weren’t running, either. So, after a brief chat between ourselves, we settled back down.

During that chat, a young woman at the next table caught my ear. The way she pronounced her th-s strongly suggested she was from the same neck of East European woods as yours truly. A quick question proved me right. She was Ukrainian, and from my home city of Kyiv, at that – so we were chatting before long.

My new friend was called Yuliya, a Java programmer with a good taste in headphones and a strong dislike for Liverpool stemming from its lack of freelance contracts in her field. As someone unable to find a part-time minimum wage job for about a year now, I happily joined in the bitching about the job market.

Then, somewhere in our talk, this exchange happened. Yuliya, dear, if you’re reading this, I’m sure you meant no offence, so I ask you take none at me, for sharing our conversation with the world.

Me: Fortunately, I don’t need to worry about money TOO much at this point, so I’m putting my main focus on my art.
Yuliya: Oh no, I’m a workaholic, myself. *laughs*

Did I hear an intake of breath from any freelance/beginning/struggling artists who are reading this?
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The Ocean at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange

(Warning: this post will make the most sense to someone who has a) read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman; b) has ever been deeply impacted by someone’s art. (a) is not obligatory, but recommended. (b) is highly desirable, for your sake more than mine.)

ocean_edinburgh
This spring, I came back to Edinburgh, for the first time since a very memorable night in 2010. That was the night I met Gerard Way for the first and, so far, only time (I’ve seen his band My Chemical Romance play once before then and three times since, but never got to talk to him again). We exchanged a few words and two-and-a-half high-fives (nerves play havoc with my hand-eye coordination). The whole encounter took no more than two minutes. To date, my only tangible proof that said meeting took place is a packet of cigarettes with a Californian tax stamp, which Gerard had traded me for a pair of goggles that were part of my costume.

Out of context, the meeting itself was hardly anything special. But in the context of my life at the time, it was one of the ‘shining moments’ that make their way into poetry. A perfect alignment of time, space, heart, and soul.

It wasn’t something I could see right away. Moments like that are too big to see when you’re close to them. At the time, all you feel is overwhelmed. Deep down, you know that something strange and wonderful is happening to you, but all you’ve got to show for it is the vague feeling that somewhere, the proverbial stars aligned, the proverbial cogwheels clicked into place.

But as time passes, you look back, and realize, with ever increasing clarity, that you were right. If your life were a universe, that moment was the fleeting instant of perfect universal balance. Bodies in every orbit, from an atom to a galaxy, each in a place that’s inexplicably yet unequivocally right.

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The Wick

Sometimes you feel you’ve gone out. Like a candle. Maybe the wind was too strong. Maybe the wick bent in a weird way, curled up on itself, turned into that little crystallised black snail that won’t catch fire again, no matter how much you poke it with a match.

That moment, what you fear the most is – it’s not the wind. It’s not the wick. The candle has simply burned down. And even the strongest fire can only make it flash for a moment, melt the pathetic remains of the wax, and leave this black, curled up little snail of a wick lying on its side. Empty. Cold.

What do you do? You panic at first, and you keep striking matches, haphazardly, sloppily, in a hurry – one, another, five, ten of them. But the flame just won’t stick. And you think – this is it. It’s gone. There’s only so long you can burn. There’s only so much a human – this human – can do and feel.

Then you sit there in the dark. Surrounded by all those dead matches and a few drops of hardened wax that can’t really do anything for you anymore. You feel just like them. That you can’t… do… anything… real… anymore.

Then you do the only things you still can. Small things. Small things that keep life running. Try to minimise the chaos around you, hoping that it will help abate some of the chaos inside you. Little by little, you have to re-teach yourself things you thought you could never forget.

You succeed, you fail, you try to focus more on every little success than every little failure (these days, everything is little; it’s the only way to keep things under control). You keep going, and every now and again, there’s a day at the end of which you find yourself happy. You go to bed satisfied with what you’ve done. It is, at the time, a rare and unusual feeling, and you cherish it, enough to try and feel it again. So you do. You try. Another day. Another. It doesn’t always work. But every so often, as you lay your head down, there’s a part of it that thinks – I’ve done well today. For a while, that’s all you’re getting. You think this is all you’ll be getting now. And you’re alright with that. That’s more than you’ve had for a long time.

And then, suddenly, when you least expect it, when you don’t even think to expect it, the fire finds you again.

It can be anything. An image. A note. A word.

It punches you in the stomach, just like you remember. Exactly like you remember. Again. The fire.

And then you think that maybe, just maybe, the small things didn’t go to waste. That you hadn’t run as down, as empty, as dry as you’d thought. Maybe – just maybe! – all the little things you’ve done, they helped chip away the wax thrown around by the wind, helped straighten the wick that had curled up on itself.

You were wrong. It’s not over. There’s still a lot of it left. Plenty of wax. Plenty of wick.

Burn.

Flame_from_a_Burning_Candle

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Find A Sun


Find a sun.

Find someone who makes you want to be better.

Find someone who makes you feel inadequate in all the best ways. It’s not that you’re not good enough – it’s just that you can be So Much More. Always.

Find someone who tells you that you can be anything you want, and you believe them.

Find someone you believe. Find someone you believe IN.

Find someone whom you fear to disappoint. More than anything. More than anyone. More than looking yourself in the mirror.

Find someone to believe in. Living or dead, fictional or supernatural, real or… There’s no ‘or’. You will make them real. And they will make you more.

Find someone whose words reach inside you and open the windows you never knew were there, the doors you were afraid to touch, the floodgates you pretended didn’t exist.

Find someone who, right after making you cry, tells you not to – and you stop crying in the next five seconds.

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Are You Sure You Want To Live Like Common People?

Every now and again, I feel like a bit of a fraud. I’m told this is normal.

Singer, musician, artist and paradigm-changer Amanda Palmer talks about the feeling she calls the Fraud Police, an “imaginary, terrifying force of experts and real grown-ups who don’t exist and who come knocking on your door at 3am when you least expect it, saying ‘fraud police. we’ve been watching you and we have evidence that you have no idea what you are doing. and you stand accused of the crime of completely making shit up as you go along.'” (you can read her whole speech on the subject here or watch the video of it there).

Worldwide-acclaimed, award-winning and generally awesome writer Neil Gaiman speaks of a similar feeling, calling it the Imposter Syndrome, “the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you” (again, the whole speech can be found transcripted here or in video form, and I heavily recommend it to anyone who… oh, everyone, really).

(Screencap from video by BBC Radio One)

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