Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Happy Holidays; Celebrating 2019!

© Creative Commons Zero

It's that time of year again: Deck the halls! Eat fruitcake! Review the past year! Well, okay, maybe "review the past year" isn't on your usual holiday to-do list, but for me it's an important part of the season.

This December it seems particularly important to look back and figure out where I am right now. 2019 flew by at such an incredible--and alarming speed--that I often felt I was racing against myself, struggling to keep up with the (too) many projects I wanted to accomplish by year's end. The irony was that the things I wanted to do, especially the revisions to my work-in-progress novel, Ghazal, needed me to go slow. Second drafts just can't be rushed. Consequently, the entire year felt a little "off" to me, as if I could never quite get it right (whatever that means). All the more reason, I think, to use this month with its short days and long nights to take a breath, forget about measuring my progress along some imaginary growth-chart, and simply appreciate what made the year special and fun, starting with (of course!):

  • Ghazal, my work-in-progress novel. I had wanted to be finished with my second draft by the end of the year, and really, I'm not so terribly far off. Just another 60 pages to go. Who knows, maybe I will get those pages done by New Year's Eve, but if I can't, c'est la vie! I'll have a glass of champagne anyway. 
  • My August-September trip to the UK was both a surprise and an adventure in every sense of the word. Super fun and has given me a lot of ideas for both writing and artwork. The only problem was the trip was a) too short, and b) I want to go back. Like tomorrow.
  • Beads! So many beads . . .  An accidental online ordering situation delivered enough beads for me to make several hundred necklaces, bracelets, and earrings--a few hundred more than I'd been planning to make. On the bright side, though, I don't have to go shopping for a long time, and the beads are beautiful. I am inspired! 
  • I took a class in working with metal clay which turned out to be exactly what I needed to learn in preparation for making all this unexpected jewelry. Mere coincidence?
  • I kept to a good drawing schedule, doing my best to "draw every day," a practice that included Inktober, (an October drawing challenge to work solely in ink for the month). Drawing for me is both relaxation and a way to improve my illustration skills, slowly but surely.
  • Living downtown for a year now has given me the opportunity to walk much more than I have in years. The difficult part, though, is choosing which direction to go: the zoo, the museum, parks, coffee shops? The walks are never boring and never the same. Best of all, they give me some good "thinking time" for planning out my WIP revisons.
  • Somehow I found the time to help out once again organizing the annual New Mexico chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Enchantment Show. The show is a collaboration of local artists and writers working to a set theme. This year the chosen theme was "Serenity" and it turned out to be one of our best years. From a healing walk in the snowy woods to a little mouse gathering his courage to tackle the big world, New Mexico talent was on full display!
  • Midway into the year I moved into a new studio and office space with lots of room to spread out my writing, my beads, my paints and pencils. (Now if only I could figure out how to live there . . . )
  • A goal that totally eluded me was completing my illustrations for my picture book WIP, The White Pony. So many reasons: I couldn't coordinate my "style," I couldn't settle on a single medium or color palette, I didn't feel that my work was "good enough." As a way to tackle all my doubts and insecurities I bought a very inexpensive sketchbook and a set of colored pencils and allowed myself to just draw like a little kid. Working on these "prelim thumbnails" has helped immensely, taking the pressure off and allowing me more room to explore. Highly recommended if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.
  • Using a Moleskine Cahier Notebook and writing one hand-written page a day, I wrote a novella: The Seaweed Collector. I also created one collage a day to go with each written page. I don't know how I did this. It was a surreal experience that I don't fully remember with a lot of detail. I just sat down every day, usually in the late afternoon, and listened to the story in my head. 
  • In a similar vein, I wrote several flash fiction stories while in the company of my writer's group. Just like daily drawing practice, timed writing exercises are a fun and practical way to "stay creative every day," with or without a writing group.
  • After returning from the UK, I had the opportunity to put together a proposal for a writing and drawing workshop event that was, unfortunately, cancelled. No matter--it's a good proposal and one I can offer again in the future, hopefully in 2020! Can't believe that's only a few weeks away . . . Until then, however, I'm going to take it a lot easier and enjoy the cocoa and twinkling lights. I suggest you do the same. Happiest of Holidays, everyone. See you next year.
Tip of the Day: "Achievements" don't have to be monumental. Some years, just getting up in the morning and going to work can be major accomplishments, taking you into the new year with optimism and confidence. Go for it! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

November Affirmations and Gratitude

© Jaroslaw Grudzinski / Dreamstime.com

Thanksgiving, autumn, preparing for the December holidays:  November is the perfect month for looking forward as well as looking back. What worked for you this year? What didn't go so great, and why? Most importantly: what will you still be working on as the year draws to a close? Will you finish your work-in-progress, or does the project need to carry over into the new year, perhaps with new ideas, motivation, and purpose? 

At the start of 2019, I sat down and wrote a list of twelve affirmations for each month of the year. The majority of my "you can do it" messages were connected to my writing and artwork, affirming things such as, yes, I could finish my drafts within my own set of deadlines, or, yes, I could learn to trust my own ways of painting with watercolor.

November's affirmations, however, were a little different, and centered more on reflection, gratitude, and maintaining a positive outlook about my work as a whole. Because the affirmations were less about my personal goals and more about how to simply "stay creative every day," I thought I would share them with you, starting with: 
  •  Everything finds its own space and time.
  • Accomplishment is more than "being finished."
  • "Set-backs" are valuable opportunities for reflection and finding new directions.
  • Every piece I create adds to the greater whole.
  • I enjoy the creative process: mess and all!
  • Step forward, step back, step sideways: keep the dance going!
  • Even the most mundane of tasks can be meaningful.
  • Reflect, review, revise, and remember: creation is an opportunity for contemplation.
  • The creative journey is often more important than the finished piece.
  • "Harvest" is much more than gathering large or impressive results. Search out and celebrate the tiny things, too.
  • I make room for the new by letting go of the old.
  • I keep what works and recycle what doesn't into new shapes, forms, stories, and memories.

Reading this list and "checking it twice" has been a big help during a month when things haven't gone at all the way I had planned back in January. On the days that have been particularly harried, full of long work hours and unexpected snafus, it's been helpful to choose just one affirmation at random and then keep it mind as I rush from one task to the next. Helpful because during this time I actually have been able to a) find a spare half hour or two to revise some manuscript pages, and, b) not worry about the days when I can't. 

Creativity is a continuum; the important thing is to realize and accept that the so-called "bad days" are just as important as the "good." Using my affirmations has brought me a lot closer to understanding--and being grateful for--the process whatever happens. Thank you for stopping by and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tip of the Day: Writing affirmations is fun; turning them into artwork is even funner! For a creative holiday project, how about making yourself or a friend a deck of affirmation cards? Collage is always an excellent starting point: magazine cutouts, pre-made stickers, rubber stamps, and glitter glue are quick and easy ways to add visual interest and variety to your cards. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Happy Blog Birthday!

© Creative Commons Zero / Dreamstime.com

Happy Birthday to my blog: eleven years today!

It's been a journey, to say the least. Eleven years. I can't really believe how fast the time has gone, or that I could think of so many things to blog about. When I first (very nervously) considered blogging, that was my biggest fear: that I’d have nothing to say. Up until that point, I'd only ever read fashion or lifestyle blogs and I had no idea what on earth I could offer potential readers. I also wasn’t very computer literate, so I worried that I wouldn’t be able to post any pictures, create links, or make my blog very attractive. Other fears were that my posts would have a lot of typos, my grammar would be dreadful, and that I wouldn't be able to blog on a consistent basis.

Things went from bad to worse when I invited an established blogger with a large following to write a guest post and help me get started. She refused, saying it would be a waste of time because “nobody reads your blog.” I was crushed! However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I decided that if nobody was reading my blog, then I didn’t have any reason to be embarrassed. With that in mind, I started writing blog posts that I’d like to read myself, things about writing, art, and the creative process in general. And that’s remained my primary focus all these years later. 

One bloggy trick that's helped me immensely is to brainstorm my posts in advance as much as I can. Rather than sitting down on my appointed “blogging day” and facing a blank screen wondering what to write, I keep a special journal just for blog ideas. Every time something interesting occurs to me that I think would make a good post, I jot it down. This way I always have something ready to go, especially during those weeks when I am either overly-busy or running on empty.

The main thing that keeps me going, though, is that I truly enjoy the topics I write about. Blogging is always easiest when I remember it’s all about having a conversation with my readers, and to that end I plan to start blogging a little more frequently in 2020. These last couple of years have been a bit too crowded with house renovations, day job chores, manuscript revision, etc. etc., and I want to change that next year.

So with that in mind: I'm celebrating eleven years on the Blogosphere! Anyone up for cake?

Tip of the Day: This one is for my blogger friends, especially those who may be feeling a little burnt-out or thinking of calling it quits: Don't think about how many people are reading your latest post today. Blog posts last forever. No matter how old a post is, there's always a new reader for it. Almost every day I'm amazed at how many people still check out posts of mine from four, five, ten years ago. Blogging for me is as much of a creative outlet as writing a short story or experimenting with a new color palette. In other words, it's fun! Thank you all for sharing the view. See you next time!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Beads, Glorious Beads!

 So . . .  I've been bead shopping . . . 

And I kind of got more than I bargained for!

For the last week or two I've been sorting, bagging, and organizing what must be several thousand individual beads that arrived via US Post in what were called "mixed bags." Initially I thought I had ordered, oh, a few little envelopes of assorted colors. You know, some focal beads, a variety of purples, some blues, some greens. Little things. When I went to the post office to pick up my parcel, I was shocked--the box must have weighed close to twenty pounds. I was staggered--both figuratively and literally; I could barely carry it back to the car.

For the first few hours after opening the box, I just sat at my art table looking at all this bounty in utter shock. A few hours more and I had to make a decision: either I had to pack the whole lot up and store it on a very high shelf where it would remain for the next ten years, or I had to get moving. If I didn't act now, it was never. These beads weren't going to sort themselves into a zillion different categories and somebody had to take control. And thus my plan was hatched: it's time to go into business, kids!

The idea of starting a jewelry business isn't entirely new; I'm sure I've mentioned wanting to do something along these lines more than once on this very blog, but getting up the courage and determination to follow through certainly is. No more playing around with colors and bead shapes and sizes and arrangements "just to see what they look like." Instead, I'm setting up special weekend hours to work steadily on both learning my craft and creating new designs to sell. Yes, sell. It sounds so scary!

The goal is to have by next summer a full inventory of earrings, necklaces, and bracelets priced at affordable levels with enough items to keep some back so that I can replace items as they are sold. In other words--a lot of stuff! 

To make the process and adventure even more interesting, I bought my first packets of silver clay to make my own pendants and charms. I haven't opened any of them yet as I'm not quite ready to begin (our New Mexico climate is so dry that once the package is open, the pieces must be made immediately), but in the meantime I'm studying the steps involved via books and Youtube.com.

One unexpected benefit to all this abundance of shiny glass baubles is I am seeing color in an entirely new way, noticing how shades interact with each other whether I'm admiring autumn leaves or a friend's new jacket. It's a nice complement to my painting and drawing, and I'm sure it's going to spill over into my writing, too. As they say, one thing always just leads to another . . .

Tip of the Day: I don't think I'm alone in saying sales and marketing have always been terrifying concepts to me. But it's something I have to conquer and to that end, part of my "bead education" has to involve studying what's needed to become a selling artist. Thank goodness for artist and teacher Mary Gilkerson! Lately I've been taking the time to watch her excellent videos on art marketing and creativity at https://www.youtube.com/user/marygilkerson. The videos are fun, informative, and applicable to more than just art--how about book marketing too? Two thumbs up from me!