Vocations and avocations

At times, I need to remind myself that there actually are things — worthwhile things — to do, other than write. I need to really understand, that focusing entirely on writing isn’t the healthiest way to live, even if it is the place to which I return again and again, by force of habit and ease of flow. There are things that can’t be communicated through language, despite the fact that so many different messages, can.

There is also a difference between writing for communication, and writing as an art form. Writing for communication, is something I can do as a paid vocation. But writing as an art, is one of those things which I’m wary of allowing others to impinge upon. It’s actually easy to differentiate between the two, for me — at least, at this point in time.

Over my experience of blogging; writing for classes; and doing my own creative work, outside of classes…the feeling is different. I’m going to try as best I can to keep business interests outside of my Creative Writing (by this I mean specifically, Fiction: I have not missed the fact that I have tagged this, “Creative Nonfiction”)…though I have seen myself trying to tackle the potentially all-pervasive concern about, “how to earn a living,” popping up within it.

Of course, honesty in that realm develops a counter-argument to the dominant narrative, which would likely be looked askance upon, by those who substantially and personally gain from capitalism. That doesn’t necessarily make it easy for said person to live in a capitalist society, where money equates to power and influence, and following one’s own creative vision, for the masses, is nowhere near as well-rewarded. Unfortunately, creative thinking about how to improve financial systems is not particularly encouraged in my part of the world…which does not look well upon what happens if or when free-market capitalism, fails.

And we should be aware of the fact that the potential solutions to faults in economic systems are neither necessarily socialism, nor communism. But those, plus free-market capitalism, are the only three systems it seems anyone considers where it comes to “viable” economic solutions. We have an entire globe’s worth of people, and Marx & Engels did not live all that long ago. We should be able to get through what’s going on economically — though I wonder to what extent government will cooperate, and to what extent personal freedoms will be preserved.

Right now…I’ve moved to the small “library” (essentially a quiet room with little else than books, a desk and chair, a small altar, light, and heat), where I used to do my homework. The original computer has since retired, and I am faced with a shelf-full of books on crafting: which symbolize the reason I began this post, at all. A bookcase to my right is filled with very many books that I have been in various stages of reading.

Last night, I realized just how many digital books I have access to. This is even without Public Library access, which has expired for two of my cards, and likely will soon, for the third. Do I want to go back to San Francisco to get a new card? All signs point to, “no.” Not, at least, before a multivariant COVID vaccine.

I’m lucky: my parents have been gainfully employed, which meant I did not want for much, as I grew up. I was able to go to University, even if I majored in something that doesn’t pay well. (No one told me this until after I had declared the major.) And even if my (technically, fourth) degree, is in something I’m not sure I want to do.

I really should work this out with my counselor: I have been reading a book on anxiety, and realize now that I have “globalized” the behavior of a certain small, irritating segment of the population, to equate to the entirety of the population. These are the people who will emotionally attack you if they don’t like the expression on your face, or the people who want special treatment because they’ve given something to you (or at least, tried to force it on you), or who think that they should be able to do anything they want to any Public Servant they choose, because they’re taxpayers. (Like I’m not?)

The hardest part of this, for me, is being seen as a heterosexual woman (and dealing with stereotypes about heterosexual women). I don’t consider myself heterosexual, or a woman. What I do consider myself, is something people who assume I’m a heterosexual woman, would in no way understand. But over the Pandemic, I’ve learned to be a bit looser with my gender presentation: to the point that it should, by now, be fairly obvious that I’m not after male approval.

I’ve considered hormones, but for someone with my genetic profile, I increase certain risks (particularly cardiovascular ones) if I start testosterone. Not to mention the fact that in no way, do I want to go through puberty again. That doesn’t even factor in my knowledge that taking testosterone will not, in and of itself, make me a man. I am not a trans* man — trans* men are, in practicality, men who originated as female — and I’m aware of this. I’ve been around long enough.

It’s not my body that’s the problem. It’s idiots who can’t imagine that I’m in no way interested in them (and in this life, never will be), that are the problem. The easy way out is to say that I’m lesbian, as that’s a word they know; but I’m not: I’m not even a woman, so it’s hard to call myself a woman-loving-woman. And it feels gross to even consider it. That’s nothing against lesbians. I’m just not a lesbian. It’s intellectually dishonest.

Outside of unwanted attention (which I suspect, but do not know, is sexually-based: the vast majority of it originates from men and boys. It could well be based in their own power issues instead), my issues with my apparent gender are few. Though now that I think of it, I can add being a potential target of misogyny, to the list.

But, you know, it’s kind of hard to know why the rando staring at you, is staring at you. What you know is that he has a problem; and that’s about it. If you’re brave, you can ask him if it’s a problem you can help him with. But it may not be one of those kinds of problems.

Most of the actual difficult labor in a Library setting, has to do with dealing with that small — one might say tiny — subset of difficult people (who everyone knows), who just keep popping up over and over again. I have some trauma over this, and maybe I shouldn’t have been working for the group I was working for (which didn’t take care of it). I don’t imagine that anyone in that system, saw it as an ideal environment (save maybe two or three exceptionally emotionally stable people I met over the course of a decade; none of them gave signs of being anything but “men who were comfortable with being men”) — but then, maybe no workplaces, are fully ideal.

The problem I see most apparently — besides the lack of respect accorded Library workers by some of the Public (most of the Public are kind, caring, open, and pretty much, great) — is that people tolerate these work environments with unresolved long-term toxicity issues, and then feel trapped. Then their unhappiness pervades their work. They just don’t want to be there, and it’s obvious.

I think people feel trapped, largely because Librarianship at least used to be one of the only acceptable professions with a living wage, pension, and benefits, for a single female-appearing person to have. That means you’re not necessarily there because you want to be there; that means you’re there because it’s socially acceptable for you to be there, and it’s according you a level of financial stability (without the drawback of constantly being questioned as to why you don’t have a man, and how you can possibly be capable in your line of work).

Some people tolerate the “sexy Librarian” stereotype, better than others — I don’t know how. (I broke up with the last person to call me that.) There are a lot of women who tolerate it better than me, which I have a hard time understanding, when they actually belong to the category that these people are targeting.

In my case, I can see how off-base it is, and how little about me these people know when they decide to try this game. I can see that even someone who was a heterosexual woman (just assuming for the sake of the argument that the person actually identifies as such) could understand that misogynistic tripe casually tossed in their direction is thrown at an image of “women” which they don’t match, and that dude (usually, it’s “dude”) doesn’t know them, but — really. There’s no reason for misogynistic tripe to pop up, at all.

I think it has come to at least M’s mind, that she was raised to become part of a heterosexual pairing and raise a family — and maybe never had reason to question it, before she had me (and actually got to know me; a benefit of the Pandemic).

We’ve had the conversation about Home Economics and gender-specific classes my parents had to take when they were young. In my case, the only gender-specific activity that I couldn’t take (aside from baseball), was wrestling: for obvious reasons. There was one female person I knew who did do it, but my parents wouldn’t let me. It’s just as well; I might have really hurt somebody.

I entered Weight Training when I got the chance, in Undergrad: this wasn’t gender-specific in High School, per se, but I didn’t want to be around the guys who claimed it as their territory. The Library was safer.

M has been heavily involved in crafts over the last few years, the latest of which has been sewing. I’m not bashing sewing: I would love to have the time (and freedom of mind) to sew. I’ve bought patterns and fabric; I’ve even devised my own quilt-block scheme.

But M’s life trajectory is not my life trajectory. At least for the foreseeable future, the only — positive — change I can see is becoming able to support myself in a way that makes me continue to want to live. Some way which maybe could even infuse joy into my life. Undoubtedly, this means going into a field which will take up most of my time and energy: and I don’t necessarily have the years left to make a misstep.

As I was reminded recently, my disability (and trauma) together, make me fairly…unmotivated, where it comes to having friends and networking. I had to learn to depend on myself, and entertain myself, as a child. I remember many more negatives than positives, from socializing. In turn, that makes the idea of marriage difficult — especially when I don’t want to bear or raise children, and when I don’t want to be in a straight relationship (with myself as the woman — I don’t know how I’d be as a husband or father, especially if I didn’t have to carry the child), at baseline.

When I was younger, it wasn’t even an option for me to marry someone who was legally female. Some of the States have protected the right to marry any single adult human one wishes, but I haven’t bet on it staying that way. Regardless, my lack of identifying as a woman, kind of locks me out of, “women’s space”: I’m not a woman (even though I may have been considered one in the 1970’s). So far as I can tell, I don’t think the community crossover is there. It’s not that easy to meet people who understand gender-nonbinary people, unless they themselves are nonbinary. (And then, sometimes even nonbinary people, don’t understand other nonbinary people.)

I just basically don’t want to use my uterus for anything other than maintaining bone strength; and I haven’t wanted anyone else to use my uterus without my permission. That’s to the point that I’ve considered a hysterectomy. (I haven’t done it, because of the possible unintended consequences.) But then, that gets into eugenics, which it seems is never far from the treatment of transgender people. There are options that get around the outcome of permanent sterilization (like egg-freezing): but what am I going to do with a kid? I can’t even care for myself, yet.

I do wonder just what percentage of people in the Crafts, are financially supported by someone else, as I currently am. I know the communities are largely majority-female. It has been a question with me, for years, as to how people who devote themselves to crafting, survive. What I have realized is that many of the things crafters make, really can’t be sold for their full value, because their full value is out of the financial reach of most people.

A quilt may only be made out of fabric, thread, and batting, but the hours that go into it — designing it, stitching it — even if the sewist were paid minimum wage, would be extravagant. And yet, I don’t think it would be out of the realm of possibility that most of these sewists go unpaid. It means that “women’s work” is near priceless, but unless the person who makes it is supported by someone else, having large amounts of time to do it may not be a realistic expectation.

Of course, that’s under the economic system we’re currently dealing with.

I’ve been looking at:

  1. What I’m willing to do as a primary source of income, and
  2. What I will do to keep my sanity as I accomplish the above

I have spent a relatively long period of my life, learning to work with beads, accumulating books on beadwork, working with metals, considering the possibility of becoming a small-scale Craft Jeweler (which led me to take not a trivial number of Business classes, which in the end discouraged me from the path), etc. Part of this had to do with trying to find any reason I could, to remain female; beadwork in particular had been presented to me as a women’s craft (at least, traditionally).

Early on — as a teen — I realized that if I wanted to do anything substantial with beads, it would help to know how to do more things than simply string them. So I learned how to off-loom beadweave; I learned wirework; I started to learn beaded micromacramé (I’m still on that one); I have books on bead embroidery, but have not attempted it, so far; I have books on kumihimo and beaded kumihimo; I also found a couple of books on knitting and crochet while incorporating beads…though I do wonder if I have the patience for that last one, or ever will have the time to devote to first learning how to accurately knit, and then add beads…

Most recently, I’ve realized the sheer amount of time beadwork requires, and the relatively inexpensive nature of its components (outside of gold [particularly: anything above gold-plate, gold-fill, or vermeil, is out of reach] and silver). Essentially, it does remind me of a craft like knitting or crochet: relatively inexpensive materials, a huge amount of time sunk, and a modicum of skill (and high amount of attention) used. (And yes, I do acknowledge that if you’re really into it, those materials do not have to be inexpensive. I’m talking about fundamentals.)

What I’m looking at these days, is using my reading comprehension to help edit written works. Things look promising, though I might get tripped up where it comes to the social component of trying to relay places where changes need to be made, to the author. I do realize that a lot of that may be handled by the Copy Editor assigned…the question is, whether I’ll ever actually be required to be that Copy Editor.

I didn’t take an internship when I was in Creative Writing, the first time around in University, so I don’t have a foot in the door. I also know that it isn’t easy to break into Publishing. But for someone who likes to read (and definitely responds) to written works — which I would say is likely my primary method of interacting with the human world — it could be ideal.

Yeah, I said it. Animals don’t have to deal with this.

I’ve begun to visualize my future as full of reading and writing. Reading would be for Editing, to enrich my own writing, to understand what makes good finished work, and to secure my own psychological stability. Writing would be — well — writing. Either writing for income, and/or writing for personal fulfillment, then hoping to traditionally publish the latter and make some modest passive income. I do realize that at a later time I could become a freelance editor, but right now I’m just hoping for experience. Though it is kind of scary to put that out into the universe.

I’ve been getting back into the craft (of Fiction) recently, and I’m glad I currently have a counselor to help me deal with what’s coming up. In the past, I would have stopped writing, just to stop the flow of disturbing thoughts. This time, I took a break of about two weeks to disengage and reset. I’m actually feeling much better about the project I’m working on, now.

Do you know how much it helps to realize that you don’t have to stay with your poorly-planned, messed-up first draft? That first draft that you edited so much, you didn’t think it was a first draft anymore? That first draft that opened up a psychic hellmouth that someone looked like they were about to rappel into?

And I’ve realized that I can work with the beads, and with my own Art practice, as a way to take a break from being immersed in language: but I don’t have to make money from it. In other words, my nonverbal artistic pursuits can be avocations to keep myself balanced while I write and edit. And I don’t have to commit to any one of them, now. That, itself, is quite a release!

Because I’ve come to this realization, I’m thinking of doing something different with my other site, SpectralBeads. I haven’t worked out what exactly I want to host on it, yet (though there should be some form of a portfolio). There is an awful lot of material up there which is just me trying to figure out how to get paid/be financially compensated for doing beadwork — when getting paid, shouldn’t be the point.

Once I realized that the venture wasn’t financially viable (for me) unless I exploited other people’s labor, or charged far beyond the material value of the jewelry components — neither of which I wanted to do — it was kind of an awakening.

It’s like trying to be financially compensated for knitting. It’s not that knitting isn’t a valuable skill; it’s that it takes so long to hand-knit anything, that one is by nature going to have to undercharge when selling a hand-knit garment, unless it’s made of silk or vicuña wool or something. Especially when competing with goods from overseas, where the cost of production is lower because the cost of living is lower. And especially when competing with machine-knit, or otherwise mass-produced, clothing.

There’s the possibility of selling PDFs of patterns, to offset the overhead required to make and distribute the pattern in the first place. The issue there, is legal. I’d have to go and look this up (again): whether selling access to a digital file requires a business license and DBA, and reporting one’s income for State and/or Federal taxes. But that’s doable.

I mean, it’s a hard, accomplishable goal. Hard goals are useful. At least I would know what I was working with.

The other issue is finding a stable, reliable, secure e-commerce site for distribution. That, right now, is kind of a no-brainer: do not host it, here. It’s temporarily convenient on my end; but WordPress is attacked all the time — and that’s not to mention the hosting fees! I’ve got to take seriously the security of other people’s personal information; which is another reason I decided to angle away from selling finished jewelry — at least, online. If I ever seriously got back into Painting — as in, producing copious amounts of finished work — I could probably seasonally sell both my artwork and my beadwork. That’s, if. It’s not happening, now.

Above all, I should not expect to make any significant money off of pattern PDFs — especially when SpectralBeads isn’t even a popular site, to begin with (and I have had long-running issues with the lack of ethics inherent in most social media, where I would otherwise participate). But it does look like what I have of a plan, at this stage, cobbles together various income streams from multiple jobs. I’ve read this is normal, for creative types…logistically, not ideal; but, normal.

2 responses to “Vocations and avocations”

  1. Matters of identity whether social, sexual or individual, are not so important that they should rent that much space in your head. You write well, you observe well. Your observations are important in the sphere of global consciousness, so you might feel lighter if you fret less in your personal sphere. I enjoy your writing and I hear your message. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m late but I understand you completely. I’m trans nonbinary and have the same problems in the gender bracket. People say that womanhood is a personal thing and anyone can do it and it’s up for a women to make her own decisions about her identity then turn around and add negativity towards different ideas, isolate people, act like some things are weird, place their ideals on people.

    As well, my mom supports my art craft and it makes it 200% harder for me to get into things that are salary based or wage based. I don’t want to work at all. Everything I’m interested in, I have to sell myself and I don’t want to. I want to make art and have some people see it, but I don’t want to sell it or have to struggle with selling it. 🤷🏾 It just is what it is.

    I appreciate your honest takes on your account.


%d bloggers like this: