What’s Down The Pipe? (December 2018)

Welcome to December, the season of torturous Mariah Carey and Wham songs. It is intended to be a time of contemplation and slowing down. The reality though, as we all know, looks very different. The three weeks leading up to Christmas are some of the most hectic of the year and Christmas itself – well, it depends on your family, I guess.

To cover up my growing frustration about the job hunt (what’s a German got to do to get a job around here?) and because I’m special, I decided to create SiNoWriMo – Simon Novel Writing Month. Screw NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November! Yet, the goal is the same: 50,000 words in a month. Let’s see how it’ll go. Two-and-a-half days in, I’m at 3,512 words. So I’m off to a good start.

There are also news on the podcast front: I’ve got four people lined up to appear on it, but we’ll only be able to record our first sessions in January. Which is fine with me. My goal was to go on air at the end of January and make this a monthly thing. So that suits me perfectly (no, I won’t tell you who my guests will be.)

I’ve also finally got around to create an editorial calendar for this blog. The consequence? I’ll try to post on a weekly base from now on. I’ve got a few literature-related ideas but they require a bit of time. This means that, in December, I’ll just be chronicling my progress in SiNoWriMo. Beginning in January though, this blog will be completely dedicated to book reviews, writing tips and podcasting. There’s even a certain method to the madness, so there’s lots to look forward to. Hallelujah!

In the meantime, I’ll still try to get a job. To be honest: I’m frustrated. 50 applications in and nothing to show for. Sitting on my butt for hours on end with nothing to do drives me nuts. To paraphrase a line from The Shining: all play and no work makes Simon a grumpy jerk.

Enough of the whining and complaining. Let’s stay positive. I’ll see you next week with an update on my SiNoWriMo. Until then: stay literate.

Thoughts of an Impatient Mind

Believe it or not, but I am a very impatient person. Not with others. I am very patient with people because my cynic self tells me I shouldn’t rely on anybody else anyway (before any of you get offended: there are a few exceptions – very few). But when it comes to things I need to do, I need to achieve, I am very impatient. I cannot catch a break with myself. I’m my own worst critic. I can’t do anything to my fullest satisfaction.

That’s a tough mindset. But it also encourages you to get better all the time.

Having said that, it goes without saying that sitting at “home”, doing nothing but writing job applications is hard for me. I do what I can but there’s no progress because, well, I depend on others in this case.

You might be thinking now: but you keep talking about all those other projects of yours. What happened? Well, that’s the problem. Nothing’s happening. Because I’m waiting for people there, too.

– I am waiting to hear back about a potential part-time job opportunity as an independent contractor for a start-up. They will get back to me once their legal assistance confirms that my visa allows me to work as an independent contractor.

– I am waiting to hear back from potential podcast guests. I’ve sent out emails last week, but nobody’s answered so far.

– My bank cancelled my credit card and I have no clue why. There was no suspicious activity, I’ve only tried to purchase convocation pictures through the university – which wouldn’t accept a credit card issued in Germany, so it got declined. Once. Is that enough to cancel a credit card? Apparently. So they’ll send a new one to my dad’s house and he is in South Africa on vacation. So I won’t get that card until mid-December.

– Last, but not least: the job hunt (see above).

So there you go. I am waiting. All I can do is do the same things over and over again: write applications, write emails. Then sit on my ass and wait. Impatient, depressed and wondering what the fuck I’m doing. I’m so tired of this, of everything.

But what can you do?

Now excuse me. I need to write more emails. And job applications.

What’s Down The Pipe (October…okay, November)

Yes, yes, boil me in hot oil and sell my fat for soap. It’s been forever since the last blog post. I know.

But, for the love of humanity, time flies by when you’re adulting, doesn’t it? Also, I’m a bit under the weather. Which is no surprise, considering that temperatures in Saskatchewan dropped from +10 last week to -15 today. Even a good immune system will go into “Fuck this” mode.

In the spirit of things, here’s a fun fact about me: winter is my least favourite half of the year in Saskatchewan.

Well then. Moving on.

Or actually, let’s stay with the weather because that was nicer last week – which was great because it was Convocation Day. That means I got to wear a silly robe and walk across a stage to receive an expensive piece of paper. Thank you to the Deeers, Cassi, Danielle, Lindsay, Shannon, and Julianna for being there. Your honorary Deeer-for-a-day is very grateful.

If you want to see me in a robe, focusing very hard to not stumble and fall (or if you want to see Julianna dance across the stage like a legend right behind me), click here.

Now, let’s talk business.

The job search is still under way and I feel there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I really hope to have good news next time around. Meanwhile, I’ve dipped my right toe into copyediting for Untethered (thank you for letting me on board, Nicole) and have plans to work with antilang (thanks Allie and Jordan) on an issue early next year. Either way: I’m keeping busy.

Not to mention that Shannon McConnell and I recorded a test episode of my still-unnamed podcast (any and all suggestions for names still welcome) and it went as expected: slightly awkward. I’ve finished editing the conversation, which was fun, but also a major pain in the south end of my piehole (let that sink in for a moment….good? Okay.).

Editing(For all the geeks who want to see what I’m working with)

Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to insert audio from another Audacity project into this project, so I can add an intro. I hope to have the entire test episode done by the end of the week. As soon as it is in the can (as they say) I will send it out to a select few test listeners. If you want to be one of them, just let me know. Applications are still open. From then we’ll move on to the real deal.

Also, it’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I haven’t even started yet. But I will today. Or tomorrow (have I mentioned that I’m a bit under the weather?).

That’s enough for today’s post, I guess. I need to get to that NaNoWriMo stuff. And job stuff. And editing stuff.

See you next time. I won’t let you wait this long again. Pinky promise.

When Life Feels Like An All-You-Can-Eat Buffet (sort of)

It’s okay to admit it: we’ve all been to an all-you-can-eat buffet before. Whether it was Chinese-Thai-Vietnamese, Mongolian, sushi, pasta, burger or whatever else is out there, you’ve been to one. There’s no shame in that. Sometimes, we like to stuff our faces with food and praise the gods of affluent society for it. And you know what? That’s not just okay. That’s freaking good!

Now. I don’t know about you but my problem with AYCE buffets is that I feel the unmitigated urge to try everything. Maybe it’s my OCD, but I need to get a hearty scoop of everything in order to figure out what I like best. The problem with that is: I’m usually full after that because there’s so much variety. You might argue now that this was all well and good because I could always come back another day and only eat the stuff I liked best. Well, here’s the problem: once I come back, I have to start over again! Because, you know, things could have changed.

And this is pretty much how my life feels right now. There’s the job hunt, which is priority number one (and, with a little luck, may end tomorrow; fingers crossed!). Then there’s the volunteering as a reader for untethered magazine; the editing for antilang looming in the cold January distance as well. Then there’s the final stretch of podcast preparation which causes me headaches because I’m struggling to understand all tricks and tools of the audio software. And finally, somehow, I also try to keep writing. Which isn’t going so great at all because it’s near the bottom of the list of priorities right now, somewhere behind groceries, dieting, and the Leafs, but ahead of laundry (I did that last night) and baking a cake (long story).

My point is: there’s a lot on my plate, including a good chunk of things I don’t know or can’t foresee. But I don’t care because it feels good to have plans again. It means things are happening and I’m finally moving forward. I’m trying to do all these different things (I even have Netflix now!) and it will be tricky figuring out how much I can fit into my schedule (read: my plate), especially once my full-time job is no longer looking-for-a-full-time-job. But it’ll work out. Somehow.

I guess what I’m saying is: sometimes, we need to try everything in order to find what we like best. At least this is not a buffet. I won’t have to try everything over again and again.

What’s Down The Pipe? (September 2018)

Helloooooo all you wonderful people who read this blog. I love you for doing that. Both of you. Really.

So, there’s a few updates. The most important obviously being that the Canadian government decided I was worthy of staying here for at least three more years. Which I appreciate. It shows you that if you work for something, believe in yourself, and, most importantly, don’t fuck up royally, then…you’re allowed to stay in a country? Where was I going with this?

Anyway, the staying-in-Canada thing is sorted out (kind of at least; I still need to get the physical letter in the mail) and I’m already in the process of looking for an apartment, which is hard when you don’t know how long you’ll be around. But once that’s done, I can also look for a part-time job that gives me an income until I get a real, grownup full-time job. Somewhere. Anywhere. Except Winnipeg. I still have some standards.

Along with a place to stay permanently goes the opportunity to finally start the podcast I’ve been crowing about for weeks. I’m scratching and clawing in anticipation to get this off the ground, much like Steve scratches on my door every morning because he wants his Good Morning Belly Rub (Steve is one of two cats at my friends’ house, in case you’re wondering). If you’re a writer and you read this: watch out. I’m coming for you. For real this time. But don’t worry. I’ll bring cookies. The dark side always has cookies.

Writing is still really hard but now that I’m mentally in a much better state, I should be able to pound out those words at rapid speed again. I’ve already started a project that smells vaguely like novel (read: hard work and headaches) and I write down ideas for stories like parking enforcement writes down license plates around U of S campus (hey, a Saskatoon reference!). So let’s try to start sending stuff out by January. And maybe get published. Somewhere. (#PublishSimonPublish2019? I feel like this should be a hashtag).

Finally, Oktoberfest started yesterday. The real One. The One in Munich. If I hadn’t gotten my new visa approved I’d be back home, enjoying the best rotisserie chicken in the world with a large Bavarian pretzel and a few Mass (read: litres) of Oktoberfest beer, drowning my sorrows. But I’m not. Oh, the sacrifices!

I feel like this was enough rambling. I’ll try to get back into my biweekly rhythm now that I have at least some sort of clarity back in my life. Hey, maybe I’ll write the next entry from a new apartment? Maybe I’ll even have to plan ahead because I have a job? Only time will tell.

To close, just let me state that I don’t appreciate snow before my birthday. That shouldn’t be a thing.

See you in two weeks. Pinky promise.

Homeless, Jobless, Visaless. Still, things could be worse.

(This entry has been drafted on paper. Actual paper. With lines and shit.)20180902_135620.jpg

It’s September 1, 2018 and it’s the first day for me without a valid visa. I’ve got what’s called ‚implied status‘, meaning I’ve applied for a new visa but it hasn’t been approved yet and until it is I can’t do anything: I can’t go to school, I can’t work, nothing. Basically, I’m allowed to eat, sleep, wander around and spend money. Like a tourist. Which is basically what I do since I’m homeless, too.

Well, sort of at least. My lease expired and since it was unversity property and I’m no longer a student I had to move out. I’m staying at a motel for now until I hear about my visa which will be sent to my old address. Fun times.

So my visalessness is the reason why I’m homeless and jobless. I should be depressed (and to be fair I AM bored out of my mind) but overall, I’m more positive than I have any right to be. I mean: I’ve hit rock bottom. The only way for things to go is up (unless I get sick and/or die, but let’s stay positive, okay?)

In other news, I’ve recorded a little monologue that will never see the light of day (or rather: the airwaves) and familiarized myself with the whole audio editing technology. So I will start recording soon – well, as soon as I got a visa and the charging cable for my laptop. Which I forgot back home and which will be sent to a friend’s address since I don’t have one.

Well, I think I’ve beaten this joke to death, haven’t I? That’s got to do it for now. Let’s hope my visa goes through soon and I can be a halfway useful human again.

What’s Down The Pipe (August 2018)

Hello you again. You look sleepy. Did you even leave the sofa? I’m not judging, just observing. I said you could stay, didn’t I? Can you scooch over? I’ll leave the door open too, just in case a few new faces want to join our little session here.

As promised, here’s an update on what’s going on with me. I’m on my way to Calgary at this very moment (yes, I scheduled the publication of this post ahead; you’ve got to love modern technology) to fly to Germany, where I’ll be the Best Man at my Best Friend’s wedding. In case you’re wondering: planning a Bachelor Party from afar is weird. But it worked out. At least in theory. We’ll see about the practice.

I will be back in Canada on the 27th though I don’t know yet for how long. It depends on whether my visa is approved: I might stay a few days or a few years. Maybe I’ll head out to Toronto and become a barista at an underground coffee shop or a supermarket. Maybe I’ll be a drifter, going from city to city, continent to continent, writing and growing a long beard. Maybe I’ll go north to the territories and live off the grid. Who knows. Updates will follow.

Here’s the big one though. While in Germany, I will record a little test episode of a podcast. Yep, that’s right. A podcast. With me. As host. With guests. And we’ll talk about stuff. And by stuff I mean books and writing and writing books and books on writing. I’ve spent the last few weeks scouting the competition (spoiler alert: most literary podcasts are terribly dull) and coming up with a unique concept. But before I start recording for real I thought it might make sense to get familiar with the technology: mic, software, all that goodness. I’ll also try to convince people that appearing on air with me will not ruin their careers or lives. So if you’re a writer and I know you, chances are you’ll get an email shortly. Brace yourself.

What else?

Still on the job hunt. Oh, and I’m writing again. Hadn’t put a word down – except for my blog entries and cover letters – since I defended my thesis. But I’m starting to get back into the groove. It feels like learning to walk again after being confined to a hospital bed for weeks with two broken legs that you suffered in an accident. But I take it one step at a time and I can already tell it’s getting better every day.

Well, that does it for now. I’ll be back in two weeks or so. Hopefully I’ll know more about my visa status by then. And maybe even from the job front. Or anything else in life.

I still think we’re going somewhere with this; we’re making progress, don’t you think? What? Yes, of course you can stay. No, I’m really not judging.

Oh, one more thing before I leave. You can now follow me on Twitter @Cymaen. I’ll try to be hilarious to make it worthwhile.

Confessions of a Self-Doubt-Ridden Artist

Hello world!

Or at least: hello you.

You probably know who I am. How else would you know about this blog? I’ve posted a link on Facebook and that’s about it for promotional effort (on the off chance that you don’t know me and kind of just stumbled upon this page: I’d love to hear how you got here! So go ahead, leave a comment. Please. Really.).

You might ask what this blog is or is supposed to be. It’ll be many things, hopefully – stay tuned – but for a start, it’s a sort of therapy couch for me. If you don’t want to be my counsellor that’s okay. I won’t be mad or judge you. If you rather see yourself as a patient that’s fine too – there’s a lot of room on this virtual couch and I can scooch over.

So. Let me start by stating my problem.

Okay. Here we go. Ready?

I’m an artist. A writer, to be precise.

Phew. That felt weird. But it’s out.

See, it’s a big deal to say that because I never felt like a writer. It’s a problem I’ve struggled with for quite some time. The entire point in coming to Saskatoon from Germany was that I hoped I could start my writing career here. The rationale was that a degree in Writing would do that. At the very least, it would validate my statement, right? It would lend legitimacy. Heck, I’d get a piece of paper that I could shove under people’s noses: “Look, I’m a writer, a verified artist! I’ve got the papers to prove it, look! LOOK!”

That was the theory.

For two years, I wrote poems, short stories, short non-fiction pieces, an article for Freelance magazine and countless notes and drafts that I either threw away or lost or got rid of in some other way. I started doing writer things, or what I assumed were writer things. I bought Writer’s Digest magazine. I read articles on writing and researched publishing opportunities. I subscribed to topical newsletters. I even tried to keep a journal (as always, unsuccessfully). Most importantly, I started sending out stories to magazines and anthologies. They all got rejected.

Ah, now here’s a deeper level of understanding. Let’s explore that a bit.

See, I can’t cope with rejection. On any level. I want to be liked. I assume that’s natural enough. But when somebody gives me the You’re-not-good-enough-treatment I take it personally. Worse, I believe them. I ask myself why I’m not good enough and what I need to change about myself. How can I become a version of myself that this other person will like?

And, there’s the other problem, too: I’m stubborn. Very stubborn. I can’t quit, won’t quit. Ever.

That mix of wanting to be liked and accepted and stubbornness isn’t healthy. It means you can’t let go. You constantly blame yourself. It’s a black hole and I tumble into it. Every. Single. Time.

Which is what also happened after I had defended my thesis. There I was, unpublished and out of ideas. Yet, I wouldn’t quit. I tried to be creative, to come up with new stuff, but creativity is like a bottle of ketchup (not the squeeze bottles but the old glass ones): the harder you try, the less you will get, and I was pounding the bottom of the fucking bottle until my hand was all bloody.

Also, I needed to apply for a new visa and start looking for a job. A REAL job. Like, a job in marketing or editing. But I wanted to get the stupid ketchup out of the bottle, too. Otherwise, I would have to admit that, like it or not, I wasn’t an artist. I wasn’t a real writer. I was just a guy who got a degree in Writing. Big fucking deal.

To give my bloody hand (and pounding brain) a break, I picked up a book I had bought about a year earlier for no apparent reason. It was The Art of Asking by singer-songwriter and all-around-artist Amanda Palmer.

I’m not here to promote the book. But if you ever struggle with similar craziness as I described above: READ THIS BOOK! You can borrow it from me (see, I told you it’s not a promotion). Just return it, please.

Anyway, there are a few things I understand now.

Rejection is okay. Reject my story, reject my application, reject me as a person. It’s okay if you do. All it means is that you’re not my audience. There are over seven billion people on this planet. I’ll move on.

If somebody wants to spend time with you or if somebody says they want to help you – believe them! Accept their offer! Hold on to them! Because, guess what: they’re your audience. They’re your friends (if you reached the equation of “audience = friends” then congratulations, you’ve understood the concept).

But most importantly:

YOU DON’T NEED ANY VALIDATION TO BE AN ARTIST!

Let’s say that again, because it feels so good.

YOU DON’T NEED ANY VALIDATION TO BE AN ARTIST!

I think we’ve had our first little breakthrough. Let’s call it a day. I’m off doing my thing for now, which is applying for jobs (I still need to make money, right?) and looking for a way to get the ketchup out of the damn bottle. If you want to stay on the couch a little longer, be my guest. It’s pretty comfy, eh? I’ll be back soon.

Oh, and before I forget it: thank you, my audience.