Caregiving, Career, and Creativity

Caregiving, Career, and Creativity

Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to win the 2019 Pulp Factory Award for my short story “Knights of the Silver Cross” in 1950s Western Roundup. After winning the award, I decided to take a break from creativity and writing. Working on creative projects for two years non-stop while balancing caregiving duties and freelance work has been especially challenging, and taking a break has enabled me to recharge and regain a strong sense of focus.

Caregiving an elderly, ill parent often means a greater need for self-care, and my own efforts to maintain relationships and stay connected were becoming compromised. Think of caregiving as “parenting in reverse”: there are similar dynamics to raising a child, but while a child tends to develop upward, an ill parent requires greater effort and time. Self-care, especially focusing on other relationships, can be particularly challenging to caregivers, and I was finding myself feeling increasingly isolated despite a non-stop schedule (including a successful Doctor Who panel at C2E2). Engaging with my friends and colleagues requires consistent effort, as well as a self-reminder that I have a community of friends and colleagues supporting me even if I am not always aware of it. Plus, I have also started a south side Chicago caregivers meetup in order to bolster my efforts to find support but to also “pay it forward” to other caregivers.

C Now - Blogging

One of the other aspects of caregiving is balancing my “regular” duties while seeking freelancing work and consulting assignments. One of the great challenges is finding time for professional networking: my schedule does not always permit me to attend the plethora of networking events in Chicago. So my efforts have been more focused: touching base with several contacts, running a coworking meetup, and attending nontraditional events focused on specific kinds of clients rather than larger scale, two-drink-minimum kinds of events. I have also had to consider the kind of work I want to do, focusing more on freelance and remote work than traditional full-time work. Finding employment can be a challenge for anyone; for a caregiver, it can be especially daunting.

Especially in terms of current attitudes towards work and employment. For those who openly embrace the myth of “crushing it”, my efforts are inadequate (in other words, I’m not “trying hard enough”). Many individuals often advocate that I simply just “get a job to care for your mother” as if jobs are prizes to be won rather than opportunities to utilize my skills. Not only should professional work come before everything else, but my creative work should be “freely available” and without recompense. (Recently, I had to remove a member from Chicago Doctor Who Meetup for not only trollish behavior but for suggesting that I simply “accept modern technology” when it comes to the effect of digital piracy on my work as a writer). Being creative when facing both life challenges and negative attitudes from others can become increasingly difficult and means shifting priorities.

Comics Code

Shifting those priorities and managing time effectively in the midst of all of this has impacted my ability to write and blog consistently. Our current cultural lack of empathy towards working creatives (including writing, music, film, and other media) has resulted in an attitude of “I-know-better-than-you” from those who may not understand the totality of effort. (Just look at YouTube “critics” declaring that certain works have “failed”, or that there is “too much diversity”.) Blogging allows me to express myself, but also allows me to highlight lesser-known efforts around technology, social change, and other community-based efforts. Writing New Pulp fiction allows me to express and resolve more intense emotions, but also requires time and distance that my caregiving duties may frequently impact. Achieving a sense of balance and equilibrium is possible, but requires great effort.

So why am I writing this post, you may ask? Many caregivers like myself are often held to unreasonably high expectations, being told that we’re heading “on a great journey” without acknowledging our specific challenges. Caregiving for an elderly, ill, or dying relative can be physically and emotionally taxing, and our current culture does little to provide basic support to empathy. People like me who care for a relative (especially caregivers in marginalized communities) require resources and support if only to provide them an opportunity to express themselves and their experiences. I am fortunate that between this blog and my fiction work, I recognize that I have the luxury of having my voice be heard…

…and recognize that many other caregivers are not as fortunate, yet they need to have their voices be heard.

Want to share your comments or experiences? Please leave them in the area below. Please join the conversation and follow us on our Facebook page, or join our Patreon community. If you want to contact me directly, please use this email contact form.
And as always, thanks for reading!

Leave a comment