Vicki Clough Curates

Musings on art and life.

When the Work Fairy and the Thesis Monster Team Up


I have recently had multiple conversations about the distinction between trying to change the world and making a difference. My frustrations with writing my thesis have been compounded by the limiting belief that the message I’m trying to convey is not being heard clearly enough, and the problem is too big. Even though my research is focussed on socially engaged, sustainable and extremely positive environmentally conscious activist art (more on this in future posts), I have been under the influence of negative thinking. I think this is what’s bothering me the most. There is a common belief among my friends and colleagues that I am not in need of encouragement. If I voice the doubts or difficulties I am having, the response is something like “Oh, but you’ll get it done.” or “Yeah, but you’re a fast writer”. Both are true statements, however, comments like these somehow managed to undermine my “can do” attitude, rather than reinforcing my belief in myself. Negative limiting beliefs abound. I fear I am falling prey to the Thesis Monster (he and the Work Fairy have been relentless lately), and I’m not alone.

I think the main problem I have been dealing with is the enormity of what I think I am trying to achieve. This has been pointed out to me by a very dear friend who likes to remind me that what I’m doing does mean something. He told me a story about a man who throws beached jellyfish back into the ocean, to try and save their lives. When reminded by a passing stranger that he cannot save them all, he states that if he can save just one, then what he’s doing is worthwhile. When discussing this with another colleague, he repeated the sentiments in almost exactly the same words I myself have used in the past—”If you can change just one person’s mind, then you are making a difference.” And so I eat my own words.

Taking back my individual power is key to getting this shit done. The idea that I am more capable than I give myself credit for, and breaking though my own limiting beliefs is something I’ve written about before here. Sometimes I reread it to remind myself that to make a difference, I have to change my mindset. Right now I’m not trying to change the world. I’m writing a thesis about the ripple effect that making a difference can have, in the hopes that my work can contribute to positive change. That’s valuable. Maybe I’m not in need of encouragement in the same way others are, but it would still be nice to receive some anyway. I believe that everyone I know who is going through this process right now is in possession of the immense power required to achieve their individual goals. Others have successfully gone before us, and survived the process—we are not thesis writing pioneers. If you are all jellyfish, then I will throw you all back into the ocean, one by one. Starting with myself.

**No actual art today, just a personal and public pep talk to get me back into the writing frame of mind.**


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This entry was posted on January 7, 2015 by in Art, Curatorial Practice, My Own work, Uncategorized.
Vicki Clough

Vicki Clough

Vicki is an independent curator and craftsperson with a focus on socially engaged and participatory art and events. In January 2016 she helped launch Reconstructing Resilience, a research and curatorial project that explored various forms of sustainable practice. As a freelance curator she has worked with the Riverdale Hub, Myseum of Totonto/Art Spin and was the Curatorial Director of Figment Toronto from 2014 to 2017. She has also co-curated exhibitions including JAYU's iAM photography project (2016 & 2017), Move to Stillness, for the Harbourfront Centre's Kick Up Your Heels Festival (2015), The Duel, AGO First Thursdays (2014), and What Are You Made Of? OCAD U Graduate Gallery (2013). She initiated the Toronto based workshop model and website Polymers in Action: Socially Engaged Art and the Environment as part of her studies at OCAD University, where she obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree in Criticism and Curatorial Practice. She publishes on anything that interests her deeply and moves her to the point of lengthy verbal expression.

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