May 28, 2020 § Leave a comment
UK readers will know the context for this micro-blog, which first appeared on Instagram @s_boue
It has taken a disaster to teach me how to wear a beret like my grandfather. It sits on top of my shaven head and feels suddenly right, after 4 years of thinking it was too small. A child’s beret! I thought. That was before we crossed a red line and I shaved my head too close, all on the same day. My grandfather lived to be 94, and sat in his armchair tutting and muttering, I shit in the salty sea! It’s a Spanish phrase. Bah, bah, bah…he would say to himself, and then smile at me. Sonia Begonia, he called me. I didn’t know what he’d lived through or what he’d seen. Sonia is the only one who understands the thing! He said often. Yes, my mother would say, but what thing? He never told us. Sometimes I think about it. I was a wilful and ‘naughty’ child. They called me the earthquake. Was it this? My wilfulness? I’ll never know. What I do know is that he’s with me in these strange days, guiding me with his mistrust of those who treat the people, el pueblo, like fools. Bah,bah, bah! I shit in the salty sea! I wear my beret because this is a long story, as old as time.
April 1, 2020 § Leave a comment
Updated and retitled, this blog has been republished with a new image
So we’re in COVID-19 lockdown.
Many neurodivergent and disabled people are watching, the abled neuro-majority, with fascination.
We are witnessing a moment that is spectacular and beyond our wildest imaginings. The tragedy is that it’s taken a lethal pandemic to create the culture shift we need. Accessible work norms are being adopted on a global scale, when many of us have struggled to gain basic access accommodations so much closer to home. That this is so brings a sense of awe, the scale of which (like the pandemic itself) is almost impossible to grasp. For once, we really are all in this together. Many will want to say, welcome to lockdown! Welcome to our world.
This is the moment to say that not all neurodivergents or disabled people are the same, and that some of us are extrovert, highly mobile, and need frequent ‘real time’ social contact. We do, however, all face barriers to participation in our daily lives (including stigma).
In this moment the variously identifying stay-at-home veterans are looking at you. As you join us in your vast number, we gasp. As you struggle to adjust to lockdown, we can only gawp in wonder. You’ll finally know what it is to live with restricted mobility, but will you even consider us? What will you learn? And when the nightmare is over, will you still remember?
In the UK Spring has sprung. I sit writing this piece by my widow. My neighbour’s cherry tree is almost in blossom and the sky is picture-perfect blue. I noticed yesterday that the birds are returning. No aeroplane trails cut through this pristine sky. It’s as virgin as untrod snow. Our planet heaves an audible sigh of relief, and on one level so do the normally-stranded. My usual status is more out-and-about than some, but staying at home is the best way I can avoid the significant impact of sensory stress.
Yesterday I visited an adult autistics’ social support group via Zoom for the first time. It was magnificent. What pleased me beyond the ease of this technology were the clear rules of engagement. Our facilitator also directed the flow of conversation like a skilled traffic cop (in a good way.) Not that the traffic was heavy, and all of the drivers followed the rules. No jams and no confusion. Text chat options enabled multi-modal yet simultaneous group dialogue to take place, and one of us chose to participate with sound only. The advantages quickly become obvious. Avoiding the sensory assault of travel, and access to a greater number of communication options make meetings not only do-able, but also without negative impact. This is revolutionary. This is the layer the abled neuro-majority need to know about and understand.
At the close we talked briefly about this moment, and I feel it must be spoken about more widely and acknowledged. As the abled neuro-majority scramble to adjust, I admit to a feeling of calm in this respect, though I fear the virus greatly.
As I process all the implications I wobble, but I don’t fall down. For now, I’m distracting from the horror of COVID-19 by gazing at our new world order and wondering how this access story will play out.
NB. I’ve chosen to republish this blog post. I can no longer distract from this pandemic by thinking about access issues, but nonetheless the moment it captures is important. I hope we can all learn the lessons COVID-19 brings.
March 22, 2020 § Leave a comment
My top tips for surviving and thriving online.
We’re all at sea with this coronavirus pandemic, and for freelancers in the UK it’s also been a body blow to learn that (the the time of writing this) our Government has failed to support our incomes in line with employees. With so much creative industry work cancelled (for the foreseeable future) we’re entitled to feel hung-out-to-dry.
We know that world health matters most, but meanwhile we need to make a living, and find ways to “stay calm and carry on” from home.
It’s wonderful to see so many rapid responses to this crisis. A-N have created guidance and information for artists, Disability Arts Online have responded by creating new commissions, and Mathew Burrows recently launched the Artist Support Pledge. It’s all good. We will refashion our working lives.
But in all the uncertainty, there’s one blinding truth. Abled freelance creatives who’ve taken mobility for granted can no longer do so. We don’t know for how long, or in what ways the coronavirus will impact our future working norms. With self-isolation our new reality, and lockdown round the corner, we will all experience the same level of dependancy on the online world for communication.
So I want to say, welcome! This is where we (the variously-identifying stay-at-home freelance veterans) hang out and do our business. We know that you’ve enjoyed these spaces too, and found them a useful support to life and work. But this is a whole new level of habitation.
You’ll quickly connect to this next level but it can be overwhelming. I’ve spent 10 years building a career online, and this is what I’ve learnt about how to avoid the pitfalls and thrive.
- Ignore social hierarchies that shame online interaction. It’s not shameful to be seen to be a regular online user.
- We can break through social isolation by daily sharing. Regular sharing builds networks.
- Sharing and responding is important. You don’t have to respond to everything. Promote the voices you believe in without expectation. It’s not a given that they will like or share your content in return.
- Sharing quality content is key. This includes process and context for your work, as well as finished works. Visual artists especially, the quality of your images is important.
- Sharing is also the work. Online is also the work. You’re constantly building.
- The pace of online connection is different. It can feel and be instant at times, but deeper connections take more time and patience.
- Share for you, not for likes. You’ll find your own level. It has to feel good and useful to be right for you.
- Don’t worry if no one engages with a post. This isn’t failure. There’s an avalanche of information to process online. It’s not personal.
- Only tag contacts into posts if it’s likely to be useful/relevant/interesting to them. Repeatedly tagging contacts can be off-putting.
- Boundaries can get blurred. Remember online sharing is publishing and subject to publishing law.
- ‘Oversharing’ can be a hazard of spending more time online. This is what the Direct Message (DM) function was made for.
- People respond more to positive messages. It’s okay to share negatives, but a consistently negative message can be off-putting.
- Be true to the core of your creative practice online. Don’t try to be all things to all people, but do link what you do to others, and to what’s topical, when relevant.
- Using hashtags is an important networking tool. Researching relevant hashtags is time well spent.
- In 2020, filtering, muting and blocking options have become an essential part of the online freelance toolkit. It is your right to inhabit and work in a positive and conducive environment. This is now also useful information for safeguarding your mental health online regarding coronavirus anxiety. You don’t need to stay away, you can filter trigger words on some platforms.
- Online platforms can be overwhelming. It can take time to find out what works for you. Follow the people and organisations that interest you, but with multiple contacts it’s wise to use filters. Enabling notifications for key contacts is also a great tool for keeping in touch.
- A watched kettle never boils. Follower numbers are the same. Network for the joys and benefits of connection and your numbers will grow themselves.
- Adopt what works for you, you don’t have to do it all.