Interview with Alex Creece, July Featured Author

 FullSizeRender(1)-1

Starting this month, Rosewater will be having a “featured author” each month. The editors choose a contributing author, ask them a few questions, and focus that month on publishing many of their pieces. This month, we have chosen Alex Creece, a dedicated Rosewater contributor. Alex’s pieces have historically crossed genres, focusing on personal narratives, virtual reality and occasionally the overlap between the two.

Where did you grow up? How did it shape your writing?
 
I grew up in Australia and Dubai (UAE). I’ve always been extremely shy, but I think this trait has helped me become perceptive and find my voice through written words, rather than pressuring myself to talk for the sake of merely filling the silence. I’ve also met lots of vastly different people in my life so far and I try to strike up a good balance between upholding my ethics, but still being open to new information and making sure I am respectful of diverse opinions, not just ones I already agree with. I am passionate about my principles, but I like to make sure I am never too proud or righteous to be wrong or learn something new.

Which authors have most shaped your writing style?
 
Octavia E. Butler, H.P. Lovecraft, Margaret Atwood, Franz Kafka and Maya Angelou. I love oddities and honesty in literature.
 
What is your favorite Rosewater piece that you’ve written?
 
Witchcraft in the Modern Workplace. It has a lot of heart. And witches.
 
Describe your writing style in six words.
 
Whimsical, unashamed, vulnerable, introspective, sincere and…playful.
 
What advice do you have for young writers?
 
Share your work. I used to be terribly secretive about my words, even with my friends. At some point, I think I just became more interested in getting the feedback than I was afraid of it anymore. I’m so glad for that. Keeping my writing to myself didn’t give me enough opportunities to improve and expand on my ideas. It kept me in a bubble of self-preservation. Vulnerability is one of the most refreshing aspects of literature, and it’s even more wonderfully vulnerable if others can engage with your words too. No piece of writing will ever be universally appreciated, but if it matters to you, it will probably resonate with at least one other person. Your words cannot hold as much freedom if you clutch them too close to your chest.
 
Some of your pieces have dealt with difficult topics, like cat calling, mental health, and body image. Is writing your self-care? Do you have other ways to take care of yourself?
 
Writing is an important aspect to my self-care but I try to make sure I do lots of little things to help myself, just as I like to do for others. I was talking recently to my beautiful friend Tyran about stress management and he told me that I needed to make sure I was setting aside some time every day, even just fifteen minutes or half an hour, to dedicate to writing or any other kind of thoughtful catharsis. This has been helping me a lot, as I am trying to frame my own needs and well-being not as a pipe dream, but as a daily priority. Even in small bursts, dedicating regular time purely to my own interests makes me feel less suffocated, and as if I am switching off the other channels so I can listen to myself and properly tune in.
 
Where else can we find your writing?
 
Ramona Magazine, Antipodean Sci Fi, Literary Orphans…I actually have a list on my website, but it is in need of an update: http://www.creecedpaper.com/works/
 
What is next for you, writing-wise or in general?
 
I’d like to write some more short stories when I get a chance. I’d also like to get out of my comfort zone and try a new style or genre, or attend a workshop, or even read some words out loud where other people might hear them. As for what’s next in general, I’d like to continue finding ways to use my powers for good while still dressing like a villain. I hope that takes me somewhere interesting and helps a lot of people along the way.

Feel Good Playlist

In a funk? Do you need to take your power back? Do you need to be resilient and heal? Try this short feel good playlist, to whisk you away to happiness unknown. Shuffle and repeat.

1. Tubthumper by Chumbawumba

2. Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Apple

3. I Love It by Iconapop

4. Secrets by Mary Lambert

5. Run The World (Girls) by Beyonce

6. One Day by Matisyahu

7. Independent Women by Destiny’s Child

8. Cant Get Enough of Myself by Santigold

9. Rise by Flobots

10. Kick Push by Lupe Fiasco

11. The Call by Regina Spektor

12. First Days of Spring by Noah and the Whale

13. You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon

14. Hey Ya! by OutKast

15. Jump Around by House of Pain

16. Don’t Wanna Fight by Alabama Shakes

Post-Election Self Care

An array of unexplainably difficult feelings and thoughts are present in the days following the major political changes being brought forth in America. These political changes can impact our health and mental health, requiring an increase in self-care. So, where do we go from here? What do we do in these intense and fraught times? Without minimizing or invalidating the pain that many people are in, there are some steps that may be helpful for moving toward healing, even in small ways.

First, we can take a pause. We can sit with our feelings. Whatever we are feeling and thinking is valid. We can notice how certain activities, such as watching the news, going on social media, spending time with family, or laying in bed make us feel. There is a lot to think about, and we may not be our best selves today. We may not be capable of accomplishing all we want to today, or even all that we need to. That’s okay, healing takes time.

We can make a choice to be extra gentle and compassionate to ourselves today and in the near future. Removing judgments and “shoulds” from our vocabulary can be very helpful to us.This gentleness can be facilitated by asking ourselves the following questions, and working to answer them.

  • Are we ready to begin the healing process?
  • If so, what  feels healing?
  • Are our basic needs of safety, food, water, and sleep met?
  • Where and with whom can we safely, freely and thoroughly express what is weighing on our brains and our hearts?
  • What or who do our minds, bodies and spirits need?
  • Is thing harmful to others or ourselves? Is it healing in the long run?
  • What boundaries do I need to set in order to heal?
  • What do I need to let go of, take a break from, or not do in order to heal?

Treating ourselves as we would a child we loved and cared about very much can start the path toward healing.

Another step in the healing process is working to separate facts from feelings. When we have fears and anxieties, they can trick us into thinking that feelings are facts. Depending on, or maybe regardless of your beliefs, there are some facts that are unspeakably difficult to sit with. However,  there also may be some feelings masquerading as facts. Maybe, for example, you’re having a feeling that “the whole world is doomed” or “everyone hates me”. Maybe you’re feeling upset about how you or other people voted, or didn’t vote, feeling like “I am or they are  the worst person in the world”. It can also be possible to see people, ideas, or political parties as “all good” or “all bad”. These are feelings that stem from anxiety, and increase our suffering. Many of these beliefs are not fully based in facts, but instead in judgments or predictions. Remember that it’s not possible to accurately predict the future with certainty, and it’s not possible to understand other people’s motivations with certainty either.  There is a lot of hate, anger, and verbal attacking that has happened in this cycle, and it’s likely that this hate is coming from hurt people. As you notice these thoughts and feelings,  you can make a choice, if you’re ready, to challenge them with compassion. Even if we don’t believe people deserve compassion, compassion can help us heal when we are ready to practice it.

Thirdly, mindfulness of the present moment can help us to alleviate our suffering. Regardless of what the future holds, we can think about what, if anything we can do to heal ourselves or others today in the here and now. Suffering may come from past, feeling guilt or worry or hurt over our decisions we made or didn’t make. Suffering may come from moving to the future, worrying about what will happen to us or those we love. Grounding ourselves in the present moment can give us a reprieve from our suffering. Grounding can look like doing meditation, breathing exercises, going for a walk, noticing details in the room we are in. Grounding can also look like just making a plan for getting through the next small piece of time. Grounding could also be finding sources of comfort for your five senses; comforting smells, temperatures, pictures, people, music, clothing or tastes. In essence, grounding is working to fully be where our feet are. When we are ready, we can forgive ourselves for our past and remind ourselves that we are currently in the present, the future hasn’t happened yet. We can work to find meaning or learning in our suffering. Maybe we will be motivated to make small or big changes in our lives that help heal ourselves or the world. Maybe one day our suffering will become art, maybe it will change our career path, or maybe it will inspire us to reach out and be active and connected with the world. Working to find meaning can also help us to decrease suffering.

Much of America and the world are currently struggling today, and greatly in need of care. Self-care for the hurt after this election can look like whatever you need it to, the first step can be giving yourself permission and validating whatever you are feeling or needing. The second step can be working to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves, and patient with the healing process, even if we are not ready to start it. When we do start the healing process, grounding oursleves in the present moment, looking for meaning in our suffering, and separating facts to care for our feelings can be useful small steps. Healing is an individual process, and it may take a long time to understand what you need to heal, and what our world needs as well.  Wherever you are in the healing process, and whatever you are feeling and needing, you can give yourself permission to have it be okay. It’s okay to not know what will happen, or how to get through today. It’s also okay to continue living, breathing, loving and finding joy today, even in a time of such uncertainty.

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Illness, Cartoonified

When I try to explain what my depression and anxiety are like, I think of Ursula from The Little Mermaid. Ursula swims up to me and wraps me in her 6 (not 8, 6, because Disney couldn’t afford to animate 8, look it up!) sloppy wet tendrils and every time I try to talk she steals my voice.

When I try to sit down to write, Ursula says I have nothing new to say. The hellish hexapod uses her slithery tentacle to snatch my hope, exclaiming that I have nothing new to offer the world. Ursula laughs a booming laugh and says in her raspy, deep voice “my poor darling, your writing is trite and cliché and just plain bad,  all your friends are scared to tell you”. She goes on “why bother writing about Insert Topic Here you  insignificant fool, because the world has enough written about that already, and written better than you could ever write.” She pauses and laughs her deep, smoky laugh, raking her manicured, slimy hand through her hair. “A think-piece about anxiety and depression? OH MY GOD YOU ARE SO ORIGINAL WOW” she proclaims, in a sarcastic voice sounding eerily like my own. “Besides, even if you were a good writer, people would judge you for whatever you wrote about anyway.”

Ursula says that all my success in Slam Poetry comes because either people felt bad for me, or because people don’t really know what good. She attributes my success to accidents  or pity, and my failures to deep-seated fundamental flaws I can never change. Ursula sees me take a breath to speak and slaps a slippery tentacle over my mouth. 

Ursula reminds me of those one or two first poetry performances that were objectively not great, and Ursula reminds me of the times I did get negative feedback. Forget the fact that people were writing about me in the local paper. Ursula suctions away all thoughts in my brain that lead to feelings about self-esteem. She puts them in her shell locket with Ariel’s voice. 

If I can untangle Ursula’s suffocating coils and begin to write, with every word, Ursula whisper-sings songs of discouragement through her impossibly red lips. “Wow really? A metaphor using a sandcastle, how profound, how unique, I bet nobody’s ever thought of it before”.

To Ursula, not only am I a bad poet and writer, but I am a bad person. When she rolls in on her inky cloud, to her I am fundamentally flawed, and my writing will hurt people. I’m a drama queen When this supervillain’s sing-songy voice becomes louder than my own, she insists I don’t have it that bad.  I may be working every day to wriggle loose from her six strong arms. However, she reminds me that even if I can temporarily free myself from her watery prison, my writing about Insert Subject Here will just hurt and offend people, if anyone can bear to read it.

Ursula says I waste people’s time.

Ursula says give up before I start.

On bad days, Ursula says “Shhhh Angelfish my dear sweet child, you poor unfortunate soul” and with all her might she yanks me deep under the water. On bad days she drowns me.

On good days, I fight back. I laugh to myself, as I think  about how Ursula, is a cartoon, a joke, a phony. Ursula is not even worth enough to Disney to even have 8 tendrils animated like a real octopus. On good days, I think that Ursula actually isn’t even that scary; I have never even seen anyone dress as her for Halloween.

On great days, I win. On great days Ursula is silent, I smash the stupid necklace, and I steal back my voice.

I will never stop fighting.