Mar 27, 2021
4 mins read
In a previous post I wrote about how I go about creating something, and the first step was for me to have some sort of urge (which oftentimes manifests in the form of frustration and/or fury). In this post I thought I’d write about what got me to where I am now (having a website with illustrations, having this very page on buymeacoffee, and starting to explore zines as a means to share ideas). Similar to my creative process, it was through certain urges.
Looking back, I had more than a few urges that were pointing me in this direction. It took me nearly 10 years to figure it out.
In 2012-13, I first felt the urge to share my thoughts (although it would have been premature at that time) shortly after graduating from university. Through a mutual friend, I met some students who were expressing their dissatisfaction with how their student-led organization was running. At that time, I was experiencing a utopia in my first workplace (in a vision science research lab). Since I saw great people doing great things together in that lab, I (naïvely) thought "Why aren't other organizations like that too? Why are they not following best practices?" I first started writing around this time, although it was short-lived. I wrote about some experiences I had as a manager in a psychology lab, and referred to the “One-Minute Manager” series and “Leading at a Higher Level” by Ken Blanchard a lot at the time.
The second urge I experienced was from 2014-16 when I was struggling with change management in my second workplace (it’s not easy to change when you’re the frontliner!). I learned the art of “managing up” the hard way and did not enjoy it. It was around this time when my boyfriend encouraged me to start writing again. I wanted to have a clear direction or theme about what I wanted to write about before making a blog (like... what would be the name of my blog? How would I know what domain name I should choose!?), but he (rightfully) said I had it backwards - that I need to start writing and the themes will emerge. So I started writing some essays that elaborated on my frustrations at the workplace. My original essays were very different from what I write now. I didn't know who my audience was going to be at the time so I defaulted to writing towards a business-y audience.
The third urge (where I started writing regularly) was in 2018, after I experienced rapid burnout followed by darker thoughts in my third job. I think this was the first time I actually found my self-respect.
It was in the summer of 2019 when I took the CliftonStrengths assessment as part of a professional development workshop. I’m sure that there are individual differences in how much you feel like the results represent you accurately, but for me it changed my life. I was able to shift my framework to a strengths-centered one where I’m not nitpicking or despairing at my flaws but seeing them as my strengths gone out of control. I think my writing started to not sound as angry around this time.
In December 2019, I felt the urge to express not in words but in pictures, and I wanted to thank one of my biggest inspirations - Day, so I did a picture series about the wisdom he shared through his experiences. On January 2020, I made this:
based on this video: https://youtu.be/fAuiE7kpBgg. Someone mentioned that my illustrations reminded them of a software developer who makes very helpful illustrations that break things down into easily digestible chunks. I didn't have trouble finding out who that was - Julia Evans, who makes wonderful programming zines: https://wizardzines.com. At the time, I thought "Oh cool! Someone out there has a similar style to mine!" It wasn't until a year later until I would consider zine-making seriously.
The fifth urge started manifesting itself in the fall-winter of 2020, when I started having regular catch-ups with an ex-colleague and friend of mine about: Why are there so many capable people trapped in horrifying workplaces? Is there a way that we can help them? After discussing this issue for several months, it dawned on me that I was focusing on the wrong audience for about 10 years (!). I realized that I had no business with the tyrants; what I wanted to do was help the people who were being ruled with fear.
Lastly - a friend of mine passed away in January 2021. I only found out then that they liked zines - making them, binding them, collecting them, and sharing them. They drew. I never knew that. If I ever had a conversation with them about what was going on in my mind in detail - about all the things I was drawing and how I wanted to share my ideas - I have a feeling that they might've mentioned zines as a viable method. So, although this conversation never happened and this is literally all inside my head, I wanted to honor them through drawing more persistently than I ever did before.
It took me feeling “I must do something” six times to finally take action. I’d like to believe I have a lot of inertia. Now that I’m moving, I hope that I will be VERY hard to stop.