I hate this question so much but I imagine that to many of my readers it seems entirely innocuous. I want to unpack some of the unpleasant baggage this question is carrying around.
What someone means when they ask this question is “What do you do for work?” but that’s not really what they’re asking. This question is an invitation to justify your existence and to reveal your class and status. I think a lot of people don’t really mean it like that. They’re asking it as an icebreaker and they think the worst thing about it is how bland it is. It doesn’t feel bland to someone who’s struggled with unemployment.
Back when I could still work I often didn’t because I couldn’t persuade anyone to employ me. It’s hard not to take unemployment personally. It feels like everyone else can get a job and that you’re stuck at home being a drain on society. Being unemployed can feel like you’re failing at the most basic things about adulthood. And then you’re introduced to a new person and the first thing they do is to ask you what your job is.
“What do you do?”
If you’re choosing not to work because of your mental health then this question feels like an attack. How can your mental health be incompatible with work? How dare you prioritise your wellbeing over your economic value.
If you can’t work outside the home because you’re a carer, either for children or for vulnerable adults, then this question is a chance to be reminded that nobody regards caring as “real work”.
If you’re an artist of any kind then this question is a reminder that not only do people not think art is a “real job” but they also don’t think that artists should get paid.
“What do you do?”
“I’m an artist/writer/actor/film maker.”
“No but what do you really do? What do you do for money?”
If you’re retired, or if you can’t work because you’re disabled, then this question is another reminder that your not a real person in the eyes of a lot of your peers. That’s why people are happy to pretend that the pandemic is over. They’ve convinced themselves that it’s only the old or the sick that have to worry about dying and that’s not a problem because…
A lot of people making this calculation don’t even finish the thought. They don’t really confront what they’re saying by equating someone’s value with their ability to work. They certainly haven’t thought about the fact that many elderly and disabled people do actually work, or contribute to our societies in other ways. It’s a mental dead end that prevents them from absorbing the horror of the idea that almost all of us will become worthless to capitalism eventually and that when that happens we’ll be an abstract on the other side of a string of dots
I think that I’m finally ready to just start putting my completed novels out into the world. I intend to start posting them, serialised, on Royal Road. I’ll post a link here when the first parts go live.
I’ve put together another Gallery page here. Feel free to bask in the beauty of my work.
Reading back that last sentence I’m wondering if the course of steroids I’ve just finished is doing the talking for me. Will I have to come back and edit out all the confidence when the effects wear off? Only time will tell.
Some of you will already have worked out that if I’m posting here then I must be avoiding some other, more onerous, task. It’s true that we’re moving house and I should probably be packing something or throwing something out but I’m also recovering from a nasty chest infection so actually doing stuff is probably a bad idea.
Before I go please follow this link to an indie film made by a friend of mine. It’s a chill and otherworldly, steampunky kind of a thing. No jump scares or Christmas bullshit. A Clockwork Heart
As I become more disabled my everyday life becomes more and more like running a small business. These last few weeks I’ve been hiring cleaners, delegating tasks to them, delegating related tasks to my spouse and managing the household budget so that we can afford to pay wages.
I’ve also been writing my podcast, working on paintings and trying to build an online platform. I’ve invested in Ko-fi gold, that’s the paid version that allows the posting of larger images and has more customisation options. I haven’t worked out what to do with it but my most recent post there is HERE. I haven’t blogged much this month but my most recent post was over on the Stick of Doom blog.
Being the manager of my own life works better than trying to live it like an able-bodied person but it’s not without cost, both financial and mental. I don’t know how sustainable it is. I’ve already had to give up on the idea of saving enough money to buy a new rise and recline chair. The money I’ve been saving will have to go to pay for the cleaners. This means that I need to try to find a new way of raising the money for the chair. If I try to do without it I’m going to end up with cellulitis, leg ulcers and maybe septicaemia (I really recommend that you do not do an image search on those things).
And speaking of image searches (worst segue of the year), I’ve already mentioned the digital paintings. This month I’ve done a couple of portraits and I’m working on a painting of Glen Etive. I’ve started to document my process so I can post about it for other people who use Procreate. I don’t really want to start yet another blog but the painting stuff doesn’t really fit in either here or over on the Stick of Doom. Maybe I should post that directly to Ko-fi?
So what is all this adding up to? I honestly don’t know. There are people who can make a good living via Patreon and Ko-fi but I have no idea how they do it. They probably start from a position of feeling like they deserve to be paid for the work they put in. Maybe that’s something I should be working on.
I’ve decided to make something. My intention is to write and record a short run fiction podcast. At the moment it feels like it should be done in 12 episodes or less but that might change during the writing.
If you’re thinking that is sounds rather ambitious then you’re right. It is a pretty bold plan for me. However, it is a smaller project than it sounds, because I already have a solid first draft of the story, and it only needs to be re-written with the format in mind. Of course there is a bunch of hidden work. I’ll probably need to set up a company to publish the podcast and there’s bound to be a whole bunch of other tedious stuff that I just can’t see yet.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get any money from this. Some podcasts do run adverts but I’ve no idea how they find the advertisers and it’s not like I’ve got any track record to rely on to attract some.
To be honest for a moment, I don’t know if this is a good idea. It might even be a terrible idea. I’m not doing it because I think it’s a good idea. I’m doing it because it’s what I want to do and it’s been a while since I’ve really wanted to do anything.
After all that hard reading you deserve something to look at. This is another one of my digital paintings of Dunnottar Castle.
The lockdown finally got to me. After more than a year hiding in my house I lost all desire to reach out and most of my desire to create.
In 2021 it’s just felt pointless for me to make anything. Even now writing feels worthless. I feel sure that I’ve been horribly mistaken about the quality of my writing and I can’t tell if it’s impostor syndrome or if I’m finally achieving an accurate estimation of my skills.
As you can imagine it’s been quite the dispiriting time but at least I have got my desire to create back. I’ve been doing digital art. Art used to be my thing. I painted and drew as a child and teenager and even went to art school until I had to drop out because it turns out that it’s a bad idea to go to art school with untreated depression and ADHD.
Anyway… Want to see some art?
Don’t care, posting it anyway.
These are two views of Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. I’m not entirely happy with either of them but I feel like I’m going in the right direction. It’s a long time since I last tried to paint Dunnottar but it felt good.
I think I’m going to keep trying to paint castles for a while yet. I don’t know what I’m going to do about my writing. I’m not sure I’m ready to give up on it but I might be ready to start giving it away.