ON GIVING UP, GOING BACK TO STARBUCKS

This has been one of those weeks. One of those months, really. One of those stretches where I kinda want to quit trying to be an artiste and go get a regular job and forget I ever wanted to be a writer or a small business owner or a storyteller. It's been one of those weeks-- a project I’ve been working on for several months just sort of seemed to deflate, another project got caught once again in red tape, writing workshop inspiration sank to an all time low (probably because I didn’t really leave my house on account of the snowpocalypse), and I felt like I was back at square one in so many ways wondering why I bother.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just go do something normal where I’m not constantly putting my whole soul and artistic vulnerability on the line for the whole world to see?

I want to go work at Starbucks again. I loved working at Starbucks. I always knew what my role was every shift because they told you- you’re on bar today, or cash, or floater. I liked being on cash for good hair days when I felt like being chatty, and I liked bar for the days I didn’t want to talk to humans and could just put my head down and make endless caramel macchiatos. We had the raddest boss, I think his name was Craig?, who let us do whatever we wanted on shift, so we would pull stunts like suddenly declaring that day ‘toffee nut’ syrup day, offering toffee nut to everyone no matter what they ordered (every Starbucker knows NO ONE EVER orders toffee nut! Why the heck do they keep making it??). It was amazing how many people would agree to put toffee nut in their drink just because it was offered for free- I’m talking toffee nut strawberry frappuccinos, toffee nut lattes (okay that sounds good), toffee nut drizzled on their lemon cake.

I worked with a handful of my best friends from high school at the time (shout out to Steph, Pam, Tim, and my dear Jacqui!), (also please ignore the fact I said ‘shout out’…), and so it never really felt like work, just an extended hangout with free pastries, extreme caffeine highs, and the pure joy of getting to serve whipped cream in coffee lids to rich women’s dogs. I never felt lonely (constant insidious by-product of working from home), never really felt overwhelmed with responsibility (customer yelled at you? You told Craig. Craig made them leave. End of story), and never had to sell myself or my artistic merits to complete strangers on a daily basis in order to convince them to buy my product (it literally doesn’t matter who you are when you make people’s coffee- you even dress exactly the same as your coworkers in black outfits with little green aprons as if to say your very uniqueness would be distracting to the sale, and also that you are somehow a chef of coffee which I always thought was super cool and official feeling). It was glorious.

Sure I made $8.25 an hour back then, but with the amount I work to keep up on writing projects and run Whitespace Writers, not to mention creating new curriculum and courses for future projects, writing grants and festival submissions, and trying to keep up on “what’s new” so I stay “relevant”, I’m probably making $0.60 an hr by now. I’m not kidding, you guys.

On weeks like these, I sincerely dream of quitting it all and heading back to anonymity and artlessness. And really- would it be so bad? The world doesn’t really NEED another screenplay; it’s not going to shrivel up into a wrinkly green and blue ball if I don’t put out another play this decade. The government would probably be relieved to not have to untangle my rat’s nest of a tax-filing cobbled together from every writing project, coaching client, film festival screening and jury fee, Whitespace workshop client, and babysitting tip (jk – I don’t babysit anymore, but I admit there are weeks I have considered it simply to make extra cash and be around humans). So what stops me from doing it?? What stops me from throwing in the towel and giving it all up???

I. DON’T. KNOW.   

And that’s my problem. I can’t help myself and I don’t know why. I have to write, I need to write, I can’t really imagine existing in the world without storytelling and encouraging other people to tell their stories. I don’t know where this comes from. My husband is a musician and he says the same thing: he wishes he could just NOT do it, because it’s sometimes physically painful to get up on stage and pour your heart out and know it’s not as good as you imagined it could be, and some people won’t like or get it, and most people won’t pay attention, and the world will totally keep spinning without it. PHYSICALLY. PAINFUL. 

I sent out a film script to a handful of colleagues (I still find it funny that in university they were my friends but now they’re suddenly colleagues, as if they’re all lounging around reading my work in dark mahogany and leather clubhouses drinking scotch and wearing tweed elbow patches) for some feedback yesterday and I felt literally sick to my stomach waiting for opinions on my art/soul. Like I couldn’t eat for the rest of the day and drinking water made me want to vomit. WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF??? WHY NOT JUST STOP CREATING????

Social media doesn’t help. Everywhere I look people are publishing a new novel, getting accepted to a major film festival, wracking up thousands of followers on their niche poetry account, writing in exotic locales like Toronto (okay, I just miss Toronto a lot, mostly my creative, brilliant friends Sam and Sandi- hi!). Meanwhile, I’m out here in my little home office which is, arguably, really cozy and has fur things on the floor and bright big windows, but STILL. I’m just here, slogging along, trying to churn out something that speaks to the world around me in a way that only I can speak to it. Or something like that. And I don't know why. At least this week, I don't know why.

I really don’t have a nice tidy conclusion to this post. I know next week or the week after something will jolt me out of the stupor, whether it’s the launch of our spring writing workshop (open for registration HERE!) or an online writing course (I’m working on it!), or heading to Vancouver for the screening of a short film I wrote and produced, called Chokecherry (the thing I’m probably currently the most proud of, which is ironic because the process of making it was almost a mammoth disaster).

Actually, Chokecherry (you can see a pretty little trailer HERE because why not) is a good reminder to me that making art I believe in is really the only thing that makes it worthwhile, because otherwise I really do go down the black hole of ‘why bother’. The film is a sort of lyrical glimpse into the summer of a young pre-teen girl as she begins realizing that she’s crossing the threshold out of childhood into a world that sees her as a woman, and not necessarily equal, and she tries to stay in the innocent realm of childhood as long as she can. Though the film is by no means perfect on a technical level (small budget, child actors, insane production schedule including multiple water scenes and me almost getting my baby-maker blown off by a jet ski - give us a break!), I think it's beautiful and I’m proud of the film because it does what I believe art should do- reflect the world, ask questions, but not necessarily answer them. Plus I got to make it in collaboration with another woman, my fabulous directing friend, Sandi, and have long wine-soaked conversations about art, male gaze, and womanhood, which, come to think of it, is probably two main reasons why I write: wine and women.

I write this post today in an effort to be honest about the life of at least this writer and solo entrepreneur, since I’ve been getting some emails lately asking me how to become both of those things (which I must say is infinitely hilarious to me since I literally feel like I'm flying by the seat of pants all day err day), and God forbid I give the impression that it’s all glitz and glamour (I AM wearing red lipstick and faux fur right now, but that’s literally for nothing but my own benefit, since I live in a bizarre dream world where my thoughts are clearer the darker my lipstick shade).

The fact is, I spend a lot of time a) worrying about regular cash flow, b) longing for regular interactions with co-workers, c) agonizing over so-called "authentic" online content that creates “draw”, and d) worrying about very non-artistic things like legal contracts, insurance, taxes, copyrights, and how to convince myself to put on tights and walk to the gym when it’s so warm and not-sweaty in my house.  Other people’s fun water cooler gossip is my 3pm glass of wine alone. That might sound like some people’s dream. You’d probably make a good solo entrepreneur.

I do try to combat those sucky things with good things, like trying to get out and work alongside other solo entrepreneurs. I talk a lot about marketing and business with my friends Lindsay of Elle Peters Design and Jamie of Jamie Anholt Photography, I dream about authenticity and bringing beauty into art with the poetic blogger Paige, and I rage about the strangeness of being a woman in the film and art world with local documentary photographer Elyse. Also I eat lots of good food with food blogger Christina and sometimes consider that the definition of art lies simply in a perfect, moist, buttery, gooshy piece of cake. 

Artistic collaboration and honest friendship feed my soul, remind me of why I make art, and get conversation flowing that keeps my creative mind sharp. I have to remind myself of that on these weeks when I get bogged down in the to-do lists and the striving and the comparisons and the let-downs, and the tax forms, and, and, and, and….

Or I’ll just go work at Starbucks again. Did I mention I really really liked Starbucks?

As Frankenstein's ill-fated lover, Elizabeth, would say:
"Adieu! Take care of yourself; and, I entreat! write!"
Alexa