I Can't Draw and Other Stories #3
My main goal here is to help one person. If it ends up being more than one, amazing. That’s all it takes to make this worthwhile. Because I can’t tell you the number of times I read something that changed me by including me. That gave words to an experience that up until then had left me feeling solitary and feeling like I was the only one trying to catch up, or be better, or abandoning myself in some way to “fit in.” How about all of us always remember that we are enough, no matter what. And if we’re doing something, or being something, or with someone where we don’t feel like we’re enough, then get out.
I’m going to put this right here at the beginning: this is really hard to write about.
But I made this zine to set myself the challenge of addressing my personal stories so here we go. I have been under earning for so long that I’ve lost the belief that I’m capable of making life-sustaining money. I feel like there’s a code I can’t crack. For a
long time, I ascribed to the story that I just needed to work “harder” and “more” and everything would be okay. I needed to find the “hustle” and “grind” that the world kept telling me was inside all of us and then I would make it. We’re told that hustle and grind is the secret sauce behind every great artist, business, product, organization, and contribution to the world. There are so many things wrong with that, perhaps most importantly, it’s not my story. This is capitalism’s play book and it’s making us all sick, tired, and feeling like we still don’t have enough. Hustle and grind begets more hustle and grind unless it turns into burn out and then you’re fucked because sorry, there’s no support system for the “wimps!”
I DON’T WANT THAT LIFE! I don’t want to be consumed by work to the exclusion of other things so that part of my work becomes finding balance with my life. I don’t want to build a practice focused on recovery and self-expression by grinding myself into the ground - that is misalignment, plain and simple. Mostly, I’m tired of beating myself up because I can’t find the right formula to take my work to the next level. It’s not motivating, it’s paralyzing.
On the other end of the spectrum is the narrative that if you find your purpose, the Universe will provide. Guess what, this also doesn’t work. First of all, there are inherent problems with the idea of purpose as its proposed here (and this is coming from someone who has developed a deep sense of “purpose” in the last year or so). I think the biggest mistake is thinking it’s something fixed, something you find by turning the right corner. My experience is that it’s a practice. It takes effort and constant realignment and being willing to learn uncomfortable lessons about ourselves. It is not a cure for being lost, it’s a tool to navigate unknown terrain. Oh man, did I ever want it to be the cure.
Even when I do feel excited and “in the zone” my output comes in bursts. I can become obsessive about finishing a project and lose hours but this doesn’t happen every day. Freelance work I do for clients usually happens in 2 - 3 hour chunks, sometimes twice a day and I only have about 5 hours of “productive” output in me
per day. That’s the tea. And I know this admission has the potential to invite scorn. Its verging on a dirty little secret in this age where the dominant narrative around labour is about never-not-working. On paper, I don’t participate in the 8 hour work day we’ve been indoctrinated into (which has become the 10, 12, 16 hour work day) and don’t follow the rules of how much time I’m “supposed” to be working to start a business.
There is an undercurrent frequently running through my brain that sounds like: “you can’t complain about not having enough money, if you’re not willing to work to get it.” But here’s what’s missing in this cursory measurement of “output” that I’m desperately trying to reject - my labour is not just about the output. I can’t do what I
do without a lot of input - I need time to read, listen, daydream, drum up the courage, experiment, talk to my therapist, write for myself, be in nature, play, and rest.
What I’m struggling with at the moment is how to self-motivate amongst all this clutter. Because I do have a practice I’m proud of and want to grow. There are also too many ways that self-employment suits me to give it up just yet for the lucrative (imaginary) job I dangle over my practice’s head all the time, threatening to abandon it as a scare tactic to illicit overnight success. It hasn’t worked yet and I’m the only thing that’s scared. Also THAT job does not suit me - the pressure and stress of that kind of work environment destroys my nervous system. It makes my whole organism sick. It made me an alcoholic once upon a time. I guess I’m trying to figure out the difference between hard work and hustle. Because I’m a hard worker, it just doesn’t always look how it’s supposed to.
I do things I love and know the feeling of waking up with an idea or clarity and immediately needing to go grab my laptop or iPad and get it out. It happened with this zine - there was something else entirely written here not that long ago. A first draft that included pointing my finger at “workaholics” for making me feel bad when that’s not the problem. We’re all trapped in the capitalist machine and some of us just adapt well. Some of us also look like we’re adapting well when we’re actually panicked and scrambling to stay afloat and our laptops are the life raft. Some of us “fail” and feel okay about that. Either way, WE are not the problem.
I acknowledge my privilege here - I have a safety net and access to resources and inclusion that is undeniable. I am connected to networks of people who have the means to contribute to what I make and have had family bail outs. I also frequently have to put aside the work I want to do because I have to pay the bills, often working longer and harder than other times because the pay is minimum wage. These retail jobs have perks, one significant one being that I don’t take anything home with me. If working in an art store paid better, I would keep it. I don’t want to do it everyday, but for me it brings a balance to what is otherwise a pretty quiet, work from home, schedule. I’ve also held on to a contract position with an art studio because although it’s only a few hours a week, it connects me to a supportive community of other artists and professional development opportunities.
Where I’ve landed this year, is understanding the kind of work that is most meaningful to me and where I think I have the most to offer. I know I am supposed to be helping people heal, recover, and find their true selves and that this contributes to a collective
well-being. I think of how I read tarot cards as peer support and lived experience counselling. I see my art and writing as an expression of a similar desire to bring people into connection with the world and themselves.
This is the work I want to do right now and I just want to get paid to do it so I can live a simple life. I want this for everyon: universal basic income; fair pay; mutual aid; redistribution of wealth; and people being able to celebrate their skills and talents and be compensated for that. Perhaps most importantly, I want community in my work not competition.
So that’s what I’m going to do next: find and build the communities I’m looking for to feel supported, understood, and held accountable.
I want to dismantle the story of scarcity and replace it with astory of abundance. I want to exorcise the story of hustling and replace it with a story about gentle, intentional steps to nourishing something that is my own.
I’m obsessed with hidden object games so I made one using a collection of my favourite things (at the top of this page). You can print the image and use the
list below to hunt for them. It’s an invitation to not work for a few minutes (you could colour it in and really stick it to capitalism).
Sarah M Chappell + Holistic Business Academy @sarahmchappell
Sarah M Chappell - So You Wanna Be a Witch Podcast
Episode #170: Hard Work vs Hustle
Sarah Faith Gottesdiener - Moonbeaming Podcast
Episode #21: Anti-Capitalist Witches Love Abundance
Hannah Joy Graves - Cult Mother Tarot
Margeaux Feldman - 1:1 Trauma Witchery
STAYING THE COURSE TAROT SPREAD
What is the obstacle in the way of my self-motivation?
Where do I need to be gentle with myself?
Where do I need to encourage myself?
What will help me manage self-doubt?
What is the outcome of a dedication to my practice?