Saturday, 23 January 2016

Blue

Here's a pretty Livejournally post. It's the first in a while.

I thought the typical January blues had escaped me this year. Feeling down during the winter - especially since this has actually been a winter, complete with snow and ongoing minus temperatures - is to be expected. And sure, I don't have the practical problems I had this time in 2015. But it's still been tough.
The month was tainted by the death of David Bowie, which has hung over his erstwhile adopted city like a stormcloud. I was sucked into it for a little bit, probably because of all the time I spend online. The past week, I've had no social plans (in the evenings, at least) and I am finding it very difficult to achieve a work-life balance. Everyone seems to be leaving Berlin, or wanting to leave.

These days I do ask myself what I'm really doing in Berlin, what my identity is here. I feel I have been living here now just long enough for the German way of doing things to have become second nature, but at the same time I've not been here long enough to escape feeling really quite alienated at times.
I'm not German, so there's lots I don't get and never will, but I'm also not a tourist or newcomer who doesn't have a clue. I spent years studying the language and dreaming of Berlin; I have invested a lot. Still, it feels like I have to make a lot of effort to strike a good balance: yes, there are times when I really just need to hang out with Brits or Australians, and I'm certainly not about to do stuff like ban myself from reading English books; but also, what is the point of living here if I don't revel in the difference of the place and people? It can be difficult not to measure your self-worth against that.

Right now, I'm actually sitting in St Oberholz (see last post). I had had a writing workshop planned, but a couple of the group were ill so we had to cancel and I only found out while already on the way there. I had my laptop with me, so not wanting to waste the fact I'd got up early and was in the city centre, I headed here to get some writing done - namely my novel. But I still feel like I can't really relax. You see, the plan had been to bring food to the writing workshop - I had volunteered to bring a sorbet, which I bought this morning. Now it's melted of course. No, it's not the end of the world, it's probably refreezable, but it cost €2.89 and I am pretty broke at the moment so it just feels like I spent money on expensive slushy sugar and everything is shit.

Self-doubt is normal. But I suppose this post is to let people know that ~even in Berlin~ things aren't always peachy. In fact, I would say you have to hustle harder than in most cities to make it all really feel worth it.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Productivity

Productivity is toxic. It's a word that I only first started hearing in university. People used it to describe their weekends. 'It wasn't very productive. I was hungover the whole day' or 'I need to get off Netflix and start being productive'.

Now that I'm in the working world, whether I'm productive or not correlates directly to whether I'm employed affects whether I can pay my rent and eat affects whether I am able to enjoy nice things like flat whites or books or a new set of fairy lights for my room or a trip back somewhere I left my heart in.

So it comes as no surprise that productivity is a close cousin of capitalism, picking holes in our self-esteem. All I need to do is open LinkedIn to read about the latest productivity apps or tips. It makes me feel a bit like a robot. Well, what did you expect? you might say. That website is a Hunger Games-style skirmish for the advancement of careers. People go there to win, not make friends.
I can't help but wonder if the notion of productivity was as pervasive before the internet, though.

About once a week, my illustrator friend Katie and I meet up at (notorious?) St Oberholz to 'have a co-work' - we bring our laptops, grab coffee and hopefully our own table, and settle into whatever respective projects we've got going on. We nudge each other if we spot each other procrastinating. This particular time, today, I saw Katie scrolling through Facebook and I said, 'Oi! Stop slacking, get cracking'. As can be seen from the tweet below, my words resonated.



Productivity is nice when it's on your own terms, when you set your own goals - which is why Katie and I do this each week. When you do not achieve those goals, you think things the fuck through because those goals and dreams are the things that make your own life worth living. They're not just what keeps you out of the red. You ask yourself why you didn't meet your expectations and you can analyse what to do next time, because it's about you.




As a New Year's Resolution (I like the German word Vorsatz because it can also mean "intention" which is a little weaker and makes you feel a little less of a failure if you don't follow it up), I have started to cook more.
Well, really, it began more out of realising the obscene amount of money I spend on restaurants/cafés each week - and I guess also because I got bored of the eateries immediately around where I work (which is when I am usually at my hungriest and therefore 200% more tempted to go pay someone to make something for me).
Cooking makes me feel like my life is more considered. Like I'm doing something for me - which I am.

I have recognised that productivity can be toxic. I've stopped trying to measure my day on how productive I've been. I make plans, I try to achieve them. If I don't achieve all of them, it's not the end of the world. If I take myself out for dinner, it's not the end of the world.

My worth is not the same thing as my productivity. Same goes for you.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

My first reading: Raum B, Neukölln, 06.01.2015

Photo: Fritz Schumann

Last week, I did my first ever public reading of my creative written work, as part of Der Lesende Krake. This is a monthly series featuring writers reading in German, English and French, taking place at the wonderful Raum B bookshop in Neukölln, which stocks mainly secondhand books in French (serves coffee and wine, too).

The piece I read was a short story I had written a couple of years prior; autobiographical in the sense that it was mixed together from a couple of different personal experiences, fictive in the sense I'd changed names and tweaked some details. To be honest, I don't think I would have gone for it if I weren't in the habit of sharing my work anyway, which I do monthly at my writing group. That's definitely a hurdle to overcome. It took about 15 minutes to read out (the story comes to 3,000 words or so, for reference). I kind of had a sore throat but only took one gulp of water - and felt so awkward I made a corny joke.
I got good feedback afterwards, not just about the piece, but also about the performance itself - someone said I was 'voll drin', meaning I seemed totally absorbed and in character. (Thanks, school drama club!)

Anyway, it was really cool. I'm looking forward to my next opportunity to do something like this!

Photo: Fritz Schumann

Click here to view more photos from the event, featuring the other great readers Robert Klages, Allison Krupp, Myriam Louviot, Anna Pawlicki and Maike Gaca!