We did something we haven’t done in three years this January. We took a break.
Abby mentioned it briefly, in August – we were deep in planning for our September event, sorting through submissions and contacting illustrators and photographers for the DD Annual 2019, generally into the swing of early morning meetings, daily Whatsapps and all the other bits that go behind the scenes of running a side project.
But still, “shall we take time off?” wasn’t what I expected to hear. Not because I didn’t want to (and would desperately, desperately need by the time January rolled around) but because I hadn’t even thought it was an option.
Most people I know have a side “thing”. It might be pottery that they make and sell. Running an Instagram account and agonising over content and algorithms. Offering your time to do the make-up on a short film project. The list goes on.
There’s a new pressure in our lifetime, a slightly skewed version of the old ideal of ‘having it all’. We are not ‘having it all’. With sky-high rents, insecure job opportunities and a dumpster fire political climate, there’s no chance of us achieving anything close to everything. But what we can aspire to is ‘doing it all’. To filling out that CV with extra bullet points to show your commitment. To coming home from a 9-5 to work for your own 6-12. To adding three extra identifiers to your social media profile. We feel like we need to keep busy, to hustle, to boss it.
This was never the motivation behind Dear Damsels. Honestly, it wasn’t. We felt passionately enough about our project to dedicate our time and energy into it. It wasn’t about hustling; it was about providing the space for creativity that we so had wanted for ourselves.
But it can get lost, sometimes. When you’re staying up packaging books in bedrooms, missing your lunch breaks and evenings with friends to work through spreadsheets, when the first thing you think of when waking up is your email inbox – these things distract you. These things heckle you. These things burn at you.
I wouldn’t say we burnt out. But we were on the verge.
What’s good about having two of you is that there is someone looking out for you when you can’t look out for yourself. Who can lean across a table, mid-meeting and say, “Why don’t we put one of these things down for now?”.
To you, it probably looks like we didn’t put anything down, but we did. We had to put down the thing that we’ve been doing every day since Dear Damsels started. January was the first month we hadn’t had a submission theme for in three years. We felt guilty, we felt a bit sad. But not to have that constant process of publishing new pieces in the background allowed us to achieve everything we wanted to this January. We launched our new annual, our new podcast project, an event with Waterstones. Not only that, we were able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
This blog is part of that bigger picture. This will be a space for us to start a conversation with you about your collective. To share news, comment on trends we’re seeing in submissions, events, podcast episodes – all the in between stuff that spills out onto our social media, in replies to tweets and DMs – it’ll all be here for you.
As will we. It’s been nice having a break, even a small one. But we’ve got great things planned for this year, and we hope you’ll enjoy where we’re taking Dear Damsels next.
Dear Damsels is your collective.
We want to create a space on our website where you can find out what your collective is doing for you. Whether it be upcoming events, publications, projects or podcast episodes, this will be where we communicate directly with you about what is going on in the world of DD.