Wednesday, January 17, 2018

January De-Clutter

January is a great time for "out with the old, in with the new," something I've been attending to with vim and vigor this past weekend. For the first time in years, I decided to not save any leftover holiday wrapping, gift bags, ribbons and bows which then encouraged me to scour through the house to see what else could be tossed or recycled. It was amazing what I found, especially when I consider myself to be an expert minimalist! Some of my top get-rid-ofs included:
  • Books. For the last couple of years I've held the rule that for every new book I buy, an old one has to go. This has been an excellent practice forcing me to use the library more, read used books I find on giveaway piles, and curb a life-long habit of buying books because they're for sale. But this weekend I went way beyond a single book or two. I got rid of dozens of titles I won't be reading again for pleasure or using for reference. It was wrenching, but, oh, those shelves look good.
  • Gift wrap and more. Besides getting rid of the 2017 Christmas wrapping and bags, I cleared out all those other types of gift bags I'd kept for sentimental reasons or that I'd intended to use "one day." The thing is, one day never came, or at least not the day when I wanted to put a gift in a bag from a store that the gift couldn't possibly have come from. The same with leftover Christmas cards from several years ago, as well as worn-out holiday decorations. All gone.
  • Clothing. If I haven't worn something for a few years, chances are I never will again. And thanks to our unseasonably warm Albuquerque weather this winter, I was able to clear out several bulky and not-so-favorite items I'd been hanging onto just in case the next Ice Age arrived overnight. And if some freak mega-blizzard does arrive in the coming months, I can always layer with what I decided to keep.
  • White elephant gifts. My writer's group used to swap unwanted, unneeded, or duplicated items at our annual holiday party until we eventually ran out of things to share. However that was several years ago and in the interim I've somehow managed to collect some more. I think (I know) I'd been storing these things out of sheer guilt: (It was a present!). Not this year. Off to the thrift store they went.
  • Art supplies. I love to experiment with new supplies, but more than once I've had to learn the hard way that new doesn't mean it's for me. Which is fine--my local recreation center loves donations. Giving away several sets of unloved pencils, pastels, and brushes will help someone else discover their true artistic self this year. A real win-win for everyone.
  • Old art work. My biggest weakness. You'd think parting with failed paintings and drawings would be easy, but for me it's like getting rid of my soul. I painted that! It took me hours to get it all wrong! My current compromise has been to save my entire collection of sketchbooks (I will NEVER part with those), but I decided to get ruthless with everything that was truly for practice or not very skillful. What didn't go into the trash I tore and/or cut into small pieces for collage and art journaling.
  • Old manuscripts. This task is still a work-in-progress, but I'm going through all the freewriting stories that I wrote for . . . freewriting . . . and will never even attempt to publish. The ones that I like I'm transcribing onto a flash drive. The ones that I don't, out they go with the not-so-great artwork. I'm doing the same with old drafts of projects that are now in the final draft stage. I don't need physical copies of the originals and in many instances I don't need digital copies either. Delete, delete, delete!
  • Bills and paperwork. I like having only one filing cabinet and I like keeping it neatly labelled, uncluttered, and easy to close. I only file copies of household bills for a year, tax materials for five, and after that, off to the shredder I go.
  • Stuff. This seemed to be the most esoteric of my categories and also the most ridiculous. Included in what I managed to sort through and toss were keys that opened locks that no longer existed, a 20-year-old pair of glasses and their broken case, and a ceramic bear without a front leg. Several more items were so peculiar I couldn't even recognize what their original purpose had been, e.g., a strip of blue plastic. What was it? Where did it come from? Why was I keeping it?
De-cluttering always makes me feel good. The challenge, however, is not allowing the clutter and excess to accumulate in the first place. With that in mind I'm hoping to approach this new year with a firm refusal to allow unwanted belongings enter my life at all. The stores won't be happy, but I'm looking forward to a year of Zen-like shelves and closets. No more three-legged bears for me!

Tip of the Day:  Keeping old, unwanted stuff isn't an obligation or a social duty. Instead, clear out, clean out, air out the past and make 2018 the year to let go. Holding onto items you mistakenly think you have to only sets up resistance and resentment. This also goes for any unloved, unfinished creative projects you don't want to work on any longer. Be brave, take a deep breath, and make the new year a clean slate.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Happy Creative 2018!

Happy 2018, everyone! It's great to be starting a new page, a fresh chapter, and even an entire book if that's what we want to do. The possibilities are endless.

2017 was a good year for me; I accomplished many of my goals, added some new ones, and discovered what it is I truly love to do: write and draw, of course!

Some of the year's highlights included:
  • Travel to southern California for business, and travel to Corpus Christi, TX for sheer fun. Both trips were welcome get-aways, but later in the year when hurricane damage struck the Texas coast and California suffered such terrible fire damage, I could only think myself fortunate to have missed the devastation. I can't imagine what the residents of those states have had to endure these last months and I hope the recovery goes well for them.
  • On a more positive note, I wrote a collection of poems based on my trip to Taiwan several years ago. This is the first time I've written enough poems centered on a single theme and narrative to make a good-sized chapbook.
  • Once I was finished with the text, I then finished a series of mixed-media paintings I had started about 18 months ago, also based on scenes from Taiwan. Using watercolor, sumi ink, colored pencil, and oil pastel I tried to evoke many of the emotions, sights, and sounds I experienced in that country. My plan is to use the pictures as illustrations to the poetry when I'm ready to publish it all in book form.
  • My novel, The Abyssal Plain, went to several agents, and is currently being read in full by request right now! I had very much hoped to publish it this year, but having a positive response is a close second.
  •  I completed the first round of edits for my next novel, Ghazal, getting it ready for a second draft I'll begin in February. (I like to let drafts sit and settle for a bit before tearing them apart again.)
  • July saw me attending Camp NaNoWriMo--a side journey I never meant to take, but there's nothing like going off the beaten trail. Rather than working on a novel, I used my time and word count to write short stories, a format that fit the challenge well.
  • Overseas visitors! Friends from New Zealand made the summer special. It was so much fun to show off Albuquerque and see my town from a fresh perspective.
  • I created a new art journal, concentrating on Asian themes for future writing and painting. Similar to a journal-style "mood board," I filled the pages with my favorite colors and images for both inspiration and reference.
  • Reading. What would I do without books? The best I found in 2017 were Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves and a biography of Madame Chiang Kai-Shek by Laura Tyson Li.
  • Ink became a real mainstay for me, and I used it for much more than journaling. Ink pens, ink brushes, sumi and bamboo sticks . . . Line and watercolor wash became my full-time sketching technique, something I'll be continuing throughout this new year.
  • Last, and perhaps my favorite: I blocked out a first draft and dummy for a children's picture book, The White Pony. Learning to draw horses hasn't been easy, but I'm getting there!
So with all that out of the way, my goals for 2018 are plain and simple, no frills attached:
  1. Publish The Abyssal Plain. (I hope, I hope.)
  2. Submit Ghazal to agents and editors before the end of the year.
  3. Turn The White Pony into a ready-to-submit manuscript package including illustrations.
Accomplishing these three milestones will require a number of mini-goals, i.e., draw every day, market every day, edit and write every day. I'll be busy, but it's doing what I signed up for and I'm grateful for another year to keep working on my dreams. In the meantime, wishing you a world of joy, creativity, and achievable goals of your own. Happy New Year--may the celebrations last until December!