If you’ve been following my work for more than a few weeks (um, or minutes), you’re familiar with my years-long desire to move away from hospitals and into a sense of belonging within myself, as well as my attempts at defining what exactly it is I am looking for in hospitals that I have not been able to find on the outside. And, of course, creating days of self-care, creativity, and contemplation.
After my recent attempt to participate in an 8-week group therapy program for complex-(p)TSD was foiled (again!) by participants’ lack of adherence to the scent-free policy, as well as my own feelings of being stuck in a remedial class of lessons in how-to-breathe and how-to-self-soothe and how-to-recognize-fight-flight-freeze and how-to-dear-man (I also refer to this as ‘effective manipulation’), I had to dig even deeper, once again, to figure out what I was/am looking for in these spaces. I survived four interviews and a 9-month waitlist just to storm out in a rage. Again. And when I spoke to one of the facilitators of the group over the phone, she told me to ‘try writing’. And when I told her about my last fifteen-plus-fucking-years of writing, we had a discussion about how, clearly, this is not enough. Writing alone is not giving me what I need. Hospitals are not giving me what I need. What else is there?
[image description: A bottle of lilac-scented purple ink on a purple desk, with a black dip pen resting upon a sheet of lilac legal paper. Written in purple ink are the words: What do I want to feel today? What do I need to do to feel that way?]
I stumbled upon Oliver Bendorf’s How to Make It online creativity workshop when Kay Ulanday Barrett RT’ed it into my timeline. I had recently been talking to pals (and yelling at the internet) about various forms of inaccessibility for creative/writing workshops/classes etc, especially for broke-as-fuck queer crips (hi!), as well as my difficulty in having the guts to contact folks and ask about the possibility of pay-what-you-can options or scholarships or or or because, you know, no matter how much I talk about things like poverty and poor-shaming and and and, it still feels uncomfortably-vulnerable and scary to bring it up again & again and ask for permission to access spaces I typically cannot afford to access. I dream about little things like folks on social assistance being given – at least – the same discounts as students and seniors, for example, like that’s a piece of my imagination for a more equitable world, but I just don’t know how to go about making it happen.
[image description: An open Moleskine notebook held against a lavender background where Maranda has drawn images with black india ink and painted over them with watercolours in various shades of purples and oranges. The images they have drawn are: a pen, their cane (also referred to as wand / sword / broomstick), their library card, and their backpack, with close-ups of the enamel pins on their backpack. There are three pins. One if them is a classic tattoo-style heart with a banner that says ‘disabled’. Another is a white squirrel. And another says ‘Weirdo forever’.]
So, I signed up for another 8-week group, this time not in a fucking hospital! Friends had been encouraging me to dare myself to ask for things like pay-what-you-can options, so when I found the How to Make It workshop and read a) “This workshop encourages and prioritizes marginalized people’s safety and participation,” and b) “He loves working with diverse creative people and particularly encourages registration from women, queer and trans folks, people of color, and people with disabilities,” and saw that there was contact information to ask about different payment options, I dared myself to give it a try.
Without a pay-what-you-can option, I wouldn’t have been able to participate, and without the little bits of cash that come to me through my zines and through donations, I would not have been able to send even the small amount I was able to gather. One of the reasons I prefer the term pay-what-you-can to “pay-what-you-want” or “pay-what-you-feel-like” is that I can only pay what I can; I almost always wanna give more cash than I actually have, and I always wish I had the ability to pay the very highest rate (hell, and leave a tip, too!), but I can’t. If you can, you should, because it helps create real space and opportunities for those who cannot.
Like Oliver says, Creativity Is Not A Luxury. CREATIVITY IS NOT A LUXURY. I’m writing this not only to show off some of the art I made and thoughts I thought throughout the How to Make It workshop, but also to remind you, if you don’t already know, how important it is to make sure projects like these are funded and available to the people who need them the most. Right now, Oliver has the Winter session of How to Make It scheduled, and is actively seeking donations to open up spaces for marginalized folks who cannot afford it, and he’s specifically prioritizing trans / POC / Muslim / immigrant / disabled artists & writers who are interested in the workshop and in need of financial assistance. If that’s you, consider joining, and if that’s not you, please consider offering a donation!
[image description: A Moleskine notebook with Maranda’s left hand holding the pages open, and notes written in various shades of purple ink. The top of the page says: “RITUAL. What words do you think of?” And there is a list of words, which are typed below.”
This is one of the (many!) pages I made during the workshop, as we were discussing rituals. I decided that before doing the assignment, I wanted to write a list of words that comes to me when I think about the word ritual. I wrote:
time, slow, ghosts, ancestors, spirits, mindfulness, repetition, compulsion, obsession, candle, magic, signs, awake, prayer, psyche, soft, listening, lineage, senses, hands, devotion, affirmations, schedule, routine, list, sky, earth, presence, gifts, art, words, creativity, growth, change, transformation, silence, altars, saints, sacred objects, gratitude, beauty, burning, protection, survival, reclaiming, haunting, messages, wishes, time-travel, stars, planets, the moon, circles, shapes, sigils, cauldron, potions, self-care, breathing, imagination, dreams, warmth, daydreaming, drawing, metaphors, analogies, values, reminders, memories, connecting, invoking, calling, skin, tattoos, femme, violet, amethyst, witch, elder, young, revival, sacred, hold, container, feeling, emotions, navigation, float, fly, stillness, home, safe, body, stay – HERE.
[image description: A self-portrait of Maranda walking, drawn with black india ink and painted with watercolours in various shades of purples. They’re wearing a deep violet blazer, a t-shirt of The Bell Jar, a black & grey vertically-striped skirt, and they’re using their magical lavender cane. They’ve written notes about being an amethyst-femme-cripple-goth.]
When I introduced myself to the group, these are the pieces of my selves I chose to share:
“I’ve been writing zines for over a decade. In 2012, I published an anthology of the first decade of my zines, Telegram: A Collection of 27 Issues, and in 2013, I self-published a novel, Ragdoll House. Right now, I’m working on my second novel, a non-fiction work, a collection of short stories, and a piece about twin-feelings and the ways in which twins are portrayed in fiction. Plus a few more zines.
I’m a professional nothing, on permanent disability due to complex-trauma and chronic pain. I left school when I was 14.
I came to this group because I felt/feel a strong desire to participate in writing/creativity groups, but school is 10,000 kinds of inaccessible to me, and many other groups are either not affordable, not offering scholarships, only open to youth between ages 18-29, or are only for “emerging” or “established” writers/artists, or beginners or or or… none of which I technically qualify as/for. Writing-wise, I am actually productive to a ridiculous and dangerous degree (and tend to read about 80 – 100 books a year – I’d be dead without libraries!), but I do most of my work in either physical or emotional (or both) isolation, which is another reason I wanted to participate in a group. Also, I want to feel both challenged and inspired, but I don’t want to be graded or compared. I’m also very drawn to themes of Ghosts and Harvest.
While I mostly write creative non-fiction, sometimes essays, as well as fiction, I also often find myself wanting to draw (illustrations and comix and typography), and maybe even write poetry. I just want to do everything.
I, too, have spent time in hospitals (at least a dozen times over the last decade, but I lost count a while back), and am very medicated. I’m a survivor of multiple suicide attempts. Many of my days continue to be spent in outpatient treatments, both for mental illnesses and chronic pain. Yay! Also, I have a pattern of recognizing that sometimes when I’m in hospitals, I was actually wanting to be at an isolated writing retreat, but, well, hospitals are free here.”
The How to Make It workshop turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. I also very much want to note that Oliver has been very generous with his time, encouragement, thoughtful notes, questions, ponderings, etc., and comes to the workshop with a million different resources for creativity and staying alive, so not only will be you be making good art from all the assignments and prompts provided, you’ll also being reading a whole lot of excellent essays and stories, seeing different art-forms take shape, and probably adding a few more titles to you to-read list. And the timing makes it a perfect winter survival project because you can interact with a community of queerdo artists while staying cozy at home.
Now I’m feeling gushy. This is totally not a sponsored blog entry, just an enthusiastic response to an excellent artist and a nudge to my readers to consider participating or donating or sharing or all of the above and then some.
I just wanna live in a world where queer and trans art and art by marginalized people is prioritized and valued and shared and compensated and appreciated. Maybe you do, too?
P.S.: In case you missed it, throughout the month of November, all the cash I make through my zines I’ve been giving to my friend mel, a Black non-binary chronically ill poet and fibre artist who makes zines, poetry, patchwork quilt art, etc., and has been having some tough times traveling to Oakland, California from Toronto, Ontario to work with their mentor, when a much-needed cheque could not be cashed. You can follow them directly on Twitter as patchworkpoetix, and there’s a few days left to offer your support and solidarity, and you can get my zines at schoolformaps.etsy.com.
P.P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!