As a cooperative Soft Chaos has realized one thing: despite not being in a traditionally “seasonal” industry, our work and funding has been extremely feast-or-famine. During our last “feast” session we were working on over a half dozen contracts and projects simultaneously. This was primarily client work with tight deadlines, and a lot of what Squinky described in their last post as “in-between” projects (ones where we got some creative control and some money, but not a lot of either).
It felt like a period where neither my financial needs nor my creative needs were met (through no fault of the cooperatives – we’re a new business just getting on our feet). I quit my job in January because of burnout and was running out of savings so got a new one. As my capacity seemed to be coming back after being sick and grieving for so long, I decided to crowdfund a game I had been working on for almost a decade. I filled every inch of capacity I had (when will I learn?). And then, I once again got sick.
I couldn’t make everything be something I was proud of. I had to prioritize the projects I could put my whole self into. A lot of those “in-between” projects fell through the cracks. I felt like I was letting the cooperative down. I wrote in April about accepting a lowered capacity (still a work in progress) but one thing I still am not good at (or used to) is accepting failure.
I wouldn’t call the work Soft Chaos did a failure. If I wasn’t writing this, I’m not sure anyone would be able to pick out the particular projects that I don’t feel I was able to give my full self too. Again, this is one of the amazing aspects of being on a team. I was able to rely on both Squinky and Jess to make sure that we produced something that is still interesting, unique, and beautiful. But, I know those things could be better. I know what I contributed is, by my standards, a failure. And I know that they had to pick up the slack for me.
It’s hard to not be proud of what you’re producing, and even harder when the names and reputations of people you both work with and care about are tied to your work.
One thing that I’m not sure has been mentioned before, but is very important to me is that as part of our working structure Soft Chaos does group therapy together. Squinky, Jess, and I are not only coworkers and creators: we are good friends, family even. And we want to be sure that the struggles of our cooperative don’t bleed into our relationships. I bring it up because having this space to talk about my feelings of failure in such an open space has been invaluable to me. It helped me realize I might not be alone in these feelings. After our last therapy session, we talked about boundaries we could set to help make sure this doesn’t happen again (number of contracts we accept, what sort of control we have over our projects). Being in a cooperative means we get to value the health of our relationships more than the amount of work we produce.
As I write this, the cooperative is taking a one-week break. For the first time since we’ve founded it feels to me like we are in a good place – we’ve wrapped up a large number of contracts and get to see our work out in the world. We also have funding to work on getting our own creative project completed and published. We’ve set up both the working conditions that will foster work I am proud of, as well as support systems for dealing with the feelings of failure when I can’t.
To end on a really exciting and positive note, people have been receiving their copies of Cadences and nothing makes me happier than seeing everyone receive and love something we really put ourselves into.