Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Happy Holidays; Celebrating 2019!

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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!