Thursday, July 31, 2014

Scattered? Me, Too!

Although it's been a good month since I moved into my new house, there is still a ton of work to do before we can say it's actually finished, or even completely livable. The main difficulty is finding both the time and the energy after work each day to accomplish everything my imagination envisions. The same holds true for my creative life at the moment. As much as I want to finish my WIPs, start a new art journal, and sew a winter wardrobe, it's not going to happen as quickly or completely as I would like. And that makes me feel . . . unhappy.

Last night I had trouble sleeping while I worried about what seemed like five hundred loose ends--disconnected projects and ideas that only spun into more projects and ideas. We had an unexpected (and what I would normally consider very welcome) New Mexico thunderstorm during the middle of the night, increasing my feelings of nervousness, incompetence, and outright failure. Consequently I woke up with a sore back and neck and the need for a serious re-think, resulting in some frantic morning pages and a list I titled, "What I Want to Do." It included:

  • Finish my new screenplay.
  • Go back to my screenwriting group.
  • Finish the edits on my nonfiction WIP, A Pet Owners Book of Days.
  • Draw the illustrations for A Pet Owner's Book of Days.
  • Finish the edits on my novel WIP, The Abyssal Plain.
  • Get back to working with clay.
  • Buy jewelry tools and make jewelry.
  • Start a really neat poetry project.
  • Read my friends’ manuscripts when they ask for critiquing.
  • Stay focused on my day job.
  • Finish my new house, as in FINISHED.
  • Keep up with the housework in my new house (amazing how fast dust collects).
  • Read for fun. 
  • Sleep.
  • Blog.
  • Stay current with social media.
  • Promote my books.
  • Buy a sewing machine and start some sewing projects.
  • Sketch more often.
  • Sign up for The Sketchbook Project.

Impossible? You bet.

Long ago, when I sold my first book, my editor said, “You are very ambitious.” I was genuinely surprised. I thought "ambitious" meant you were crazy for leather briefcases and suits with shoulder pads. I had no idea it simply meant I had big creative dreams and wanted to write stories that delved into many areas, topics, and themes.

Either way, I still don’t know how to not be ambitious; how to stop wanting to dive into color and words, how to stop writing multiple stories and chasing after all projects labelled "NEW." So here’s a little scheme I’m going to try. I'm calling it:  Concentration. 

The Concentration Plan

  • For my daily writing, edit and concentrate only on The Abyssal Plain.
  • For my daily art practice: concentrate only on pictures of dogs, cats, and Barcelona.
  • Social media is a reward only after I’ve accomplished a timed amount of work every hour or so.
  • Freewriting time is only for blog posts.
  • Reading is only at bedtime.
  • "Finishing the house" as well as housework is only on the weekends.

To get there I'll have to say no a lot, e.g.:

  • No sewing.
  • No jewelry.
  • No clay.
  • No poetry.
  • No screenplay.
  • No critiquing.

Just looking at these lists makes me feel a lot better; I might even get to sleep tonight! The beauty is that I now feel I have some goals back on track. For instance, finishing The Abyssal Plain edits means I can then move on to marketing the manuscript. Drawing cats and dogs will give me a break from the edits and help me create the illustrations for Pet Owners. And getting the house finished over the weekends means we won't get burn-out. So let it rain, let it pour--I've got it covered.

Tip of the Day: I’ve used calendars, spreadsheets, journal notes, all kinds of things to help keep me get focused. However, the best thing I’ve found to date is a stack of index cards. If my day’s tasks don’t fit on a single card, they don’t get listed at all. 

In the meantime, how do you focus best? I'd love to hear some ideas!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Pearl of a Story

Last week I promised I would share the result of my “take time off from moving” project, and here it is: Pearls! 

First some back story: a couple of months ago while I was searching for interesting blogs to read I came across MiShel Designs, a lovely blog focused on pearls and pearl jewelry. I was intrigued because a) I don’t really know very much about pearls; and b) for the last few years I’ve had a serious desire to make jewelry. I even blogged about it with "Lessons from a Bead Class" after a fantastic workshop I took and that I thought would propel me into the world of gemstones and earrings galore. Except I never seemed to get there. Novel writing, pottery, watercolors, and learning to draw puppies ate away at my "free time." The closest I got to any jewelry-making were the dozens and dozens of little ceramic beads I made last year and have yet to turn into anything useful. (They look very pretty in their plastic case, but I don’t think that’s quite what they're for.) But still I dreamed. . . .

So when I found Shel at MiShel Designs and discovered she was having a Pearl Blog Hop—I signed up, thinking, oh, wow—here’s my big chance to MAKE JEWELRY! I also totally forgot that the hop reveal would be on the day I would be moving and would have no Internet connection, let alone time to make anything. 

I was so excited to sign up and design some pearl jewelry that I also forgot I had no jewelry making tools (other than a very scary and sharp awl), no pearls, no studio space to make jewelry, and absolutely no way to have  these things magically materialize. 

I also felt that despite these shortcomings, if I didn’t participate, even on a very humble level, I would be letting Shel and myself down. Shel's post about the hop did say you could make non-jewelry items, too, just as long as you used pearls. So I put the packing on hold for a few hours and went to the craft store. The first things I found were some sheets of little stick-on faux pearls. Yay! It seemed like a great start—to what, I had no idea, but from there I bought a package of ribbon scraps, followed by some pre-cut, hole-punched brown cardstock tags that looked promising. I took my purchases home, got out my glue stick and collage papers and voila, I made . . . well, whatever these are supposed to be.

To begin with I just had fun making different designs and compositions on the cards. It was super-relaxing to play and not worry about the end result. When I was finished I put the decorated cards in a row and wondered what I could do with them. 

 Brainstorming included:

  • Bookmarks.
  • Writing my name and contact info on the back and then using them for business cards.
  • Turning them into price tags for when I do make some real jewelry and am ready to sell it.
  • Same for my other artistic endeavors: pottery, wall art, etc.
  • Gift tags for birthday or other presents.
  • Mini-collages for an art journal.
  • Add-ons to larger collage pieces.

Whatever they are, I want to keep making more. For this particular project I stayed with an ocean/beach theme that fit with the pearls, but there are many different directions I could go using a variety of stick-on faux gems with matching papers.

So even though I missed the hop (wah) I certainly was inspired by MiShel Designs. Thank you, Shel—looking forward to your next post. Everybody hop on over there ASAP! 

Tip of the Day: Life doesn’t always go as planned, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the essence of your original intention. For me, I truly wanted to participate in my first blog hop, and I was disappointed not to get there. On the other hand, by playing along as best I could, I got some new ideas for future projects while taking a much-needed break. A real pearl in the oyster, if you ask me!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Moving Day--We Made It!

We've moved--at last! It's been a whole three weeks since we unloaded one truck, two vans, and more than a dozen car trunks-worth of boxes, boxes, and more boxes. I have never been more tired in my entire life, except for maybe when I wrote my first book and it was edited about nineteen times before publication.

Although the new house is still in the last stages of remodeling-construction mode (next job: sanding, varnishing, and hanging doors throughout) we've managed to make ourselves reasonably comfortable: books on the shelves, sheets and towels in the linen closet (sans door), pots and pans in all the right places. And here I am back at my computer, blogging again. It feels good; I missed everyone and I'm looking forward to picking up from where we left off.

I've moved a lot in my life, and I bet some you have, too. And whether you've moved to another country, or just up the road as in my own case, it's still a big deal, one you can't help but question every step of the way, LOL. What's really been amazing to me is how many people I know who are currently planning and preparing for moves of their own. So far I know of one writer moving house here in Albuquerque, another going to Germany, one more on her way to South Korea, and yet another buying curtains for a new home in Los Angeles. Creativity must make us a restless group! Either that, or we somehow secretly enjoy the challenge  of new floor plans, lives, and career paths. If that describes you to some level, here are my top 12 tips for a reasonably smooth transition:
  1. Pack early. I started putting everything in boxes about 2 months ahead of time.
  2. Plan your writing room in advance--what will you need to make it ready from the get-go? Buy supplies.
  3. Make your writing room "moving headquarters." It made sense to use my room as a home office during the move so I could pay bills and keep up with necessary correspondence in relative calm.
  4. Leave spare copies of manuscripts, discs, notes, etc. in a second and secure place. I left copies of my current WIP and all related documents at my day-job office in case anything got mixed-up or left behind.
  5. Spend a dedicated morning or afternoon to stop packing and instead change all your contact info as needed. Order new business cards, revise your website, let agents and editors know how to get in touch quickly and easily.
  6. Go through your filing cabinet and writing "clutter." Toss whatever you can: old rejection slips, out-of-date marketing info, unread conference flyers and handouts.
  7. Book giveaways! Pass on your TBR piles, "non-keeper" books, and even copies of your own published work--you know, the one somebody used  for a notepad to jot down a phone number at a signing, or dropped on the floor--twice. . . . 
  8. Acknowledge and accept that you won't be able to write for a little while. It's okay--even vital--to stop. Give yourself permission to take a break.
  9. Set up your Internet connections early. The cable guy is always late.
  10. Take advantage of the move to develop a new writing/creativity routine and schedule.
  11. Get to know your new neighborhood cafes, libraries, and writing nooks. Make each trip special by turning it into an "Artist's Date."
  12. Establish a "start date" for when you'll resume blogging, social media, and writing again, and mark it on a calendar. For me this was July 17th--today!
The most important gift you can give yourself during any major life change, moving being just one of many, is to be gentle with yourself. Don't rush. Allow for plenty of time to absorb your new surroundings, neighbors, commutes, and get all the sleep you can. Trust me, you'll need it!

Tip of the Day: Breaks are important. Trying to work on a manuscript or fulfill a deadline during a move can often seem more stressful than the actual moving process, so be sure to have a few escape routes handy. Although I was in a hurry to be out of my rental condo by the end-of-lease date, I still found an extra hour every now and then to shut the door, play with some collage, and forget about the chaos in the other rooms. I'll show you what I got up to in my next post. Until then, thanks for reading!