New Year, New Perspective, New Challenges. Hi 2017! How Ya Doing?

1 01 2017

Weather: High: 38° This may be the first New Year in a while that has been unremittingly Sunny! I hope it bodes well for the year. It’s at least a good start!

So yesterday I posted my year end post, which as per expectation was about looking back. This is my new year post. It’ll mostly be about looking forward. 

As a lot of people have been already proffering up their goals and expectations, I see both some foreboding and some hope in generous proportions.  For myself, I am weighing in heavily on the side of hope. As I saw someone else say last year, Hope and Naivete are similar but not the same. Hope requires effort while Naivete is more based on expectation and assumption. So I’m placing my energies on hope for the short term, although I realize that in order for things to pan out in the positive, there will have to be some work to get there.

For my goals, a lot remain the same as last year: more art, more writing, better health. In general, be a better person. I am already working on the health aspect. (Took a  near 4 mile walk today. Yes in winter, in Michigan. It was cold, but sunny. No excuses.)  Art will start tomorrow, as I’m heading back into the studio. Have a lot of projects on deck and I’m being militant about not sliding into bad habits that include making excuses or being easily distracted. Time is a commodity I am not taking lightly anymore. I’m turning 50 in less than 2 weeks. Seeing people of my age bracket dropping dead of health issues in the past year has put a very sobering sword of Damocles over my head. Either commit to self care and make the effort to get things done, or accept the consequences, short and long term. I’m not willing to throw in the towel because it’s difficult. I rather like a challenge, though I will bitch about it in the beginning.

It’s also going to be a financial rebuilding year for us. We invested a lot of funds in house overhaul last year and this year we need to get ourselves a little more above water than just floating on the surface. (Sorry, living lakeside seems to make a lot of metaphors water related. :shrugs:) Some luxuries are going to be curtailed and some trips & expenditures we were contemplating may be back-burnered for the year. But, that’s the adult part of the equation. Sometimes you can play a little looser with the pocketbook , but there comes the time to pay the piper and you can’t put that off forever.

There’s a lot of uncertainty overall going into this year, what with political shenanigans and the usual global instability. But I think that part of my duty, as a good citizen of this country, is to be vigilant that rights are not eroded and that, as a nation, we don’t start moving backwards. I get that things like economics and foreign policy will always be on the pendulum, swinging back and forth, but I don’t agree that having all citizens of this country being treated with dignity and equality is something we should backtrack on. Moving backwards is despicable and only makes us look the villain, and rightly so, in the eyes of the rest of the civilized world. We’ve kind of fallen backwards in a lot of areas, and that is a little depressing. We’re better than that. We just need to realize it and work on it.

One of the things I think is going to be a big change for me this year is scaling back on social media. I’ve made this claim several years in a row, because I know it’s an ongoing distraction. Weirdly enough, I think it’s going to stick this time, only because last year was so unbelievably ugly that I was actually staying offline to avoid the fracas. Even people I agreed with were getting on my nerves. Social media is mostly my way of staying in touch with long distance relatives, friends and the swath of artists that I consider part of my community. Somewhere along the line, it turned into a loudspeaker of political and opinionated blather, until it was a nonstop stream of only that. I started getting bored, then increasingly annoyed with it. Now, I’m trying to decide if there’s a better way to reduce the signal to noise ratio or if I should just take an extended sabbatical. That remains to be seen.

Studio time is going to become a priority for me, because I’m totally buying into the art as rebellion idea. If the world is going to continue to be ugly, then I will combat it with the tools I have. I’m joining the #MakeArtNotWar Challenge this year. It’s a way to carve out time for my creative pursuits and keep me accountable. Also, I hope it will prompt me to blog more often, read more, write more and just in general generate more new creative output. Some of my fave people to interact with are musicians, writers and artists. Some of them wear all three hats (:cough: Ego Likeness : cough:). But regardless of their chosen medium, these people are always working, day or night, in the mood or not. That’s the work ethic I’m hoping to foster by doing this challenge. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo several years now and I always rise to the challenge there. Now I just need to stretch that commitment out for a year. The nice thing is I can fold my health challenge into this one, because self-care is part of the package.  😀

So in general I have some pretty lofty goals and challenges on the ledger. But I’m already in process on most of them, so they’re not unachievable. The challenge is not letting my commitment lag.

Hopefully, people will be along for the ride, but the truth is I’m doing this even if they’re not. Hitting the half century mark carries some deep implications for me. I desperately need to ingrain some good habits now. Here’s hoping I can make the grooves deep enough to stick.

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Mood: Upbeat, but tired
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: 2 cups of java. Probably some tea later. 
Work-Out Minutes Logged today: 1 hour & 20 Minutes (walked 3.5 miles)
Listening To:
Twenty One Pilots, Ego Likeness & the Hamilton Soundtrack on Spotify
Book Last Read: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: CBS Sunday Morning & Sherlock (Soon!!!)
Latest Artistic Project: Writing:  Editing  Serpents Trilogy
Mosaics:  Holiday ornaments & working on  Nordic  Mandala

 





Time for that End of the Year musing we all dread.

31 12 2016

Weather: Winter is taking a slight break at the moment, as we’re in the 40s for the next few days. Then it’s back into the freezer later in the week.

We haven’t seen a shit-ton of snow so far ::knocks all available wood:: but the weather has been all over the place this year. Summer was cooler than expected, and drier. Spring and Fall both stretched past their usual dates. Not that I’m complaining. (I’m all for the cooler temps to be honest. )

So. New Year’s Eve. We meet again my friend. Been muddling most of the morning on what I wanted to write this year and considering the tenor of 2016, it could turn into a horror story right out the gate.

Truth be told, my personal life has been…okay. The world at large? Not so much. I’ve had idols die this year. (SO MANY OF THEM. WTF, Grim Reaper? Are you training some overeager assistant, because DAMN. )

Politically….the less said the better. The election was a mess. The candidates were unimpressive. The voters were their own worst enemies, if they even voted at all. Infighting made enemies of once allies. Buyer’s remorse seems to be setting in, since we seem to have elected a petulant child with a lengthy slam book in hand to the head of the table. The country by and large seems both weary and uneasy. Not good for what seems to be a fight ahead. Anyone who thinks things will turn around or are not heading into troubled waters should probably be in for some depths of disappointment.

I’ve kind of taken the tact of focusing on what I can do to work on issues locally- Neighborhood, city, community, state levels. The federal government has failed us on so many levels. It seems to have abandoned listening to anyone but those who line their pockets, and even those who would have good intentions are getting pecked to death by supporters who think good is the enemy of perfect. It’s not because I have any animosity to the government as an idea, because when it works, it’s fantastic. I also don’t believe “reducing it to a size that can be drowned in a bathtub” is anywhere in the vicinity of a responsible attitude. People do love their soundbites, don’t they? Regardless of how inane or dangerous the idea is. Sigh. Didn’t really want to turn this into a political assessment, but considering how the ugly side of politics has seeped into every fucking aspect of our lives, it’s hard to pretend it’s not a problem. I’ve seen members of families literally stop talking to each other over this.

Anyway. On less contentious things, I think that this year is the seed of a new creative revolution. Not because things seem bad, but because the underlying structure on how art is made, marketed and shown is shifting. The old label/publishing house/art market structure still exists, but is growing increasingly inadequate to sustain for most creative types out there. More and more people are finding ways to tap their communities for support, and use their own knowledge of their creative output to better market it. It doesn’t mean the methods are becoming more lucrative. But if your only reason for entering the art world is to make money, then I think you need to reassess your reasons. Money will come, but you have to be good at what you do. That takes time and effort.

The patronage model seems to slowly be making a comeback. People are selling directly to their fans and supporters. Commissions are getting done, because of the need for unique pieces of work or exclusive releases seems to be on the upswing. Pre-ordering something that comes from an artist you like and have faith in can sustain that artist. Granted this model works best for those who have an established fan base, less so for those who are starting out. This seems to be where a lot of new creatives are befuddled. There is no magic trick to being successful in anything. A lot of it is timing, some luck, but the truth is – and people for some reason hate hearing this -you have to WORK VERY HARD. Put the time in. Make the sacrifices. Rob Peter to pay Paul, so that maybe you don’t have cable for awhile so you can buy supplies or travel to a convention where you can sell your wares. Practice until you have reasonable mastery. Then keep practicing. There’s always a new level.

This year, I kind of stepped back from a lot of what was happening and just watched. I tried to observe what worked for some people, and what didn’t. I tried to listen when people did write-ups on their experiences, seeing if there was a commonality to the struggles versus their successes. What I didn’t do was join the Greek Choir of “this year is awful and everything is on fire” when it came to whether someone would be successful or not. I watched people who had more limitations on their time and finances become successful, even if it was moderately so, and people who had vast amounts of resources barely break even or fail.

So many iconic artists passed away this year. It’s really not the year. It’s just been overwhelming because there were a lot of trailblazers in there. Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Carrie Fisher – on and on. One thing that all of them had in common was not stopping when things got difficult and not letting the zeitgeist dictate their creative output. The reason that all of them garnered so much respect and why their passing inspired so much emotional response was that we are invested in people who speak to us when we are feeling like outcasts ourselves. When we think the world is looking down it’s nose at us. When we are emotionally low or experiencing those downturns in our lives that inevitably happen. They speak to us. Some of us at different times and for different reasons. We have different favorite  albums, songs, performances. That’s because we needed them for different reasons at different times.

I know this is typically rambly of me, but if I had to glean one lesson from 2016, it was simply that time doesn’t care. It will pass regardless of events, or endings, or procrastination. It will not slow down to accommodate your sorrow, or inability to cope, or vast plans. We lost a lot of people. Some friends lost family. Some lost friends. Some lost idols. We are heading into uncertain times. We are standing at the edge of another year, but this year, things do not carry any assurances. We’re starting the new year battle scarred and a little less hopeful. Doesn’t mean we have to wallow. We can reverse the trend, but again, we have to put the time in.

If 2017 is to be anything more than just more of the same, or heaven forfend, WORSE, it falls on us to do something about it. Make the new year YOUR year. Step away from howling morass of social media politics. It is possible to be informed without having to get mired down in things. It’s possible to make improvements, to get your voice heard, and to express your hopes, desires and yes, disapproval. You will probably have to work harder to be heard. You probably will have to apply a lot more critical thinking when you read things, seeing that there are people actively trying to mislead you now. Most are easily avoided.

One thing I would advise to all: Even if something makes you angry, if a person is pissing you off to all ends– Don’t mention them by name. “Internet famous” has no downside anymore. Even if 90% of you are speaking about someone with disdain and anger, you are still making their name trend. And trust me, most of these jackasses care more about that than worry about your negative view of them.
There are exceptions, of course. If someone needs exposing, then by all means do so. (But make sure your accusations are founded, documented and make sure that collateral damage is not hitting innocent people. Internet mobs are less helpful than you think, although they feel good when you’re angry at something/someone. Yes, you have to make that effort. Otherwise you are no better than them.)

STOP MAKING STUPID PEOPLE FAMOUS. 

Yes, even our elected officials. (You notice I didn’t mention anyone by name above. Wasn’t necessary. You know who I was talking about.)

Sorry for the downer post, but it’s been a downer of a year. Still, there’s always room to head up and that’ll be the focus of my New Year’s Day post.

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I’ll be back tomorrow for my thoughts for the new Year. 😀

Thanks for reading my write-ups this year. I truly appreciate it.





NaNoWriMo Day #20 – Deep thoughts are creeping out again…

20 11 2016

Weather: Still cold- low 30s- but much less windy and the snow seems to have gone. Still, finally feels like November.

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Thanksgiving is on the near horizon, and Christmas is not long after. This year has been mostly a garbage fire. Not that my personal life has been awful, far from it. But it seems the world at large has been fracturing, with long simmering resentments bubbling up and taking form in surprising and chaotic ways. We’ve lost a lot of touchstone people that especially people my age (late 40s) were hit hard by- Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, the list goes on and on. I know that a lot of this is to be expected- as we age, those we look up to or are inspired by, age accordingly. Some will leave us sooner than we are ready to let them go. Doesn’t make the hurt any less.

NaNo has been harder this year for me than last. Didn’t help that there was a contentious (she said, in vast understatement) election in the first week of writing, and between the weather, and potential jury duty, and imminent family gatherings, and the usual financial roller coaster, the word making was a little derailed.

But I’ve realized in the  past week that as the particular overwhelming signal to noise disruption happening on social media required me to step away a bit, I’m starting to get back in touch with life again. I hadn’t realized how much the politics and associated strong emotions had sucked me in. The slow drowning effect, I suppose. Didn’t realize I wasn’t breathing or underwater until my health, both mental and physical started taking a hit. So I extricated myself as best I could. The concerns I had before the election are still there, but the associated din of outrage and blame and finger-pointing and gloating are not washing over me like before. I’m trying to take the “Make Good Art” mantra to heart.

Do not take this as me giving up fighting for things I believe need fighting for, but understand that existing in a constant state of rage and fear does not make for clear thinking or good judgment. I’m no anarchist. I don’t believe that burning things to the ground is necessarily the way to fix what’s broken. Yes, it requires an unvarnished look at how we got here, but I also believe that things can be fixed by a complicated combination of compassion, realistic assessment and taking a long view. By finding allies with common goals. By not demonizing those who would help us, though they might not 100% agree with us. By not letting things slide because they are difficult. And most of all, by not enabling bad behavior or derailing conversations because it’s “not going to change” or “it’s been going on for a long time”.

I’ve said many times before, I am not a fan of nostalgia. I find it annoying and unrealistic and cherry-picking, because the past is the past for reason. Yes, there were good things, but there were also awful things and you don’t get to gloss over the bad because the good things make you wistful. Too easy and lazy by a long stretch. I’m more for grappling with the issues we have today, so we can entrench the advances we made and work on the new challenges so we can move forward. I mentioned to a friend today that part of our problem now is that we are just far enough away in time from things like the Depression,  WWII or even Cold War eras that the current generation has no real connection to that time. It’s stuff in history books or things our grandparents talk about. (In my case, parents). We look around and say things are horrific, and by some measure, they are. But we are still nowhere near the bottom of the barrel of the Dust Bowl, or rationing, or the Draft, or being wiped out by the flu. (1918. Look it up.) We need to deal with our current problems, but we also need to get a grip. Worse things have been lived through and worse things have been conquered. Which should be a MOTIVATION not a way to diminish our worries or challenges, mind you.

(I see too many people minimizing others pain by saying others have it worse. That’s cruel, reductive and not at all helpful. Be compassionate or be silent.)

All the same, I think our historical challenges can help us face our current challenges a little more clearly if we put them in perspective.

All of this musing leads to story compilation. Taking a long view of history and asking a lot of what if questions when turning that view toward the future is how ideas come to mind. Will those ideas fix real world problems? Who knows. Creativity is not limited to fictional or artistic outlets.  It’s something I think we’ve lost a bit over the past few years. We do a lot of re-sharing of others ideas, images and creative output, but I think we’ve diminished a little by not putting our own creative output out there as well. Happy accidents and half-baked ideas can lead to solutions. Maybe not in themselves, but by providing component pieces to foster discussion or to build upon by others with their own pieces to the puzzle. Collaboration has taken a big hit of late, whether due to fear of ridicule or fear of having one’s own ideas co-opted by someone else or losing one’s sole claim to glory, who knows?

Sorry for the woolgathering here, but these things have been weighing heavily on me lately and I’ve been too scattered to compile them into something coherent. I suppose I need to take my own advice and start suggesting ideas and putting my creative output into the stream and see what floats and what sinks. Failure isn’t fatal. It’s just an idea that didn’t work. Trying something new that builds on what didn’t work, or just making another attempt from a different launch pad is not a waste of time. That’s how most things result in a success. We talk way too much. We need to do more. Discussion is fine, but ONLY discussion results in little. Awareness is good, but awareness alone changes little. No one is asking you to fix EVERYTHING or even to solve anything on your own. Don’t let people make you think that all the challenges we face are a zero sum game, that by focusing on one problem, you are ignoring others.  You can’t spread yourself that thin. But you can contribute. You can lend a hand. Make your voice heard. Create memorable images. Help motivate others.  Just my 2 cents on all this craziness.

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We pause in our house related chaos to maken zee update. A very very random update.

17 04 2015

Weather: Spring has sprung! We’ve finally stabilized out in the upper 50s, low 60s with spatterings of flirting with 70s. Love it! 

So the past couple of weeks have been almost entirely consumed with getting unpacked and decorating and purging stuff and breaking down boxes…..BREATHES. And going to the studio when I can.

But I’m happy. So very very happy!

The house is perfect for us. We are just finishing up the lingering unpacking, but we’re about 85% done.  It’s been amusing to keep finding things we “bought for the new house” that we’d forgotten about. Made parting with other things so much easier!

Getting back to the studio has been both a relief and a daunting prospect. I really get a therapeutic surge being there. Being able to focus on making things is calming and assuages my self-deprecation. It’s a bit daunting though when I realize how close we’re getting to tourist season and I’m so far behind on making things. I work on two levels: the art side and the craft side. The art side is usually bigger pieces, mostly abstract, meant for galleries or individual purchase. The craft side is smaller pieces, made in multiples and sold with the intent to keep producing more, similar pieces with some consistency. Getting back in the rhythm of producing both kinds of work at the same time is jarring after the past few months of inactivity. The good news is I have two pieces larger artwork on deck after I finish my current piece. I also have two other pieces that just need finishing touches before I can offer them up for sale.

I’m full of ideas, just need to line them up and get them done.

Looking forward to summer on the lake. Husbeast and I went to Lion’s Park Beach last night for the first real beach therapy of the season. Still a bit chilly to do more than stand at the water’s edge and shiver, but SOOOOOON. 😀

Switching gears here: I’m going to actively be avoiding politics and the usual hand wringing over-analysis that’s going to start happening now that “candidates” are starting to announce their runs. Let’s be honest– There’s not a single person who the media props up as a potential candidate that is worth our time. As voters, we are never going to get the candidates we hope for, because honestly? Most of them have been in politics too long. Any newcomer will probably get buried under expensive ads from the other candidates who have carefully garnished their chests in the past few cycles. It’s always gonna come down to the lesser evil. Obama was an exception because he was a historic candidate, a first in many ways. But there’s no Obama this go around (by which I mean an unexpected candidate with charisma and oratorical panache.)  Politics is no longer an admirable path for anyone and the kind of people we need to run to fix things, with fresh ideas and strong will, won’t run, because they don’t want to put themselves through the meat grinder of the press and negative ads. They don’t want to put their families through that. I’m tired of the lack of good choices. (Full disclosure: I tend to lean liberal, because most of the things I believe in fall under their umbrella. Show me a  conservative who is pro-marriage equality, pro-environment, pro-choice and pro-income equality and I’d probably consider voting for them. It’s not brand loyalty, but issue loyalty.)  Anyway, that’s about as much time and words as I wish to waste on Politics. Done.

In general, I think I may be scaling back on  social media. I find my timeline on FB to be awash with cynicism and bitterness. Twitter is basically just a news stream for me these days. I need to be out DOING things in order to have anything remotely interesting to share or post. Otherwise I’m just regurgitating other people’s info, words, and ideas. Nothing wrong with sharing other’s ideas if they’re good ones, but I’d like to share my own as well. I want to get out and take photos with my camera (not just my phone). I want to immerse myself in my art and writing again. There’s a lot of world out there that is getting missed while I sit in my living room on my laptop going “tippity tap” on the keyboard. In winter, there was less motivation to get outside, but now that the sun is shining and the temps are going up? I want to be OUT THERE. Nice thing is, social media will be there when I come home.

There is some truth about social media being based in narcissism. It is all about  sharing me, posting about me, my feelings, my opinions. Blogging really is just the long form of that. It’s not a bad thing in small doses, but it can lead to “missing out” syndrome. I’ve finally managed to rein in my need to comment on all the things. It’s funny how there are people who treat comments like validation. If you post and no one comments, are you in some way lacking? It’s a silly premise. If you’re basing your worth on whether other people happen to be online and read your post and have something of value to add to the conversation? You’re gonna be sadly disappointed a lot of the time.  I fling my posts out there like messages in bottles. It’s nice for a response, but for me they’re just a small flag in the sand about where I was and what was happening at the time. I plant it and walk away. I try not to comment unless I can add to the conversation. Birthday greetings I try to keep up with. It’s a small gesture, granted, but I like doing it. Maybe my age is starting to show.
I’m less interested in over analyzing  things, and just enjoy them. Maybe I just don’t have anything to prove. I know I’m not the most knowledgeable of nerds, but I’m okay with that. I don’t like all things in fandom, so I don’t watch, or listen, or read the things that don’t hold my interest. I also don’t waste energy commenting on things I don’t like or indulge in. Why would you? People who like a thing don’t need to hear my 20 cents on why I don’t like it. It’s not going to change their opinion, and will probably only serve to make them defensive, or angry. Friendships get broken over stupid things like that.
I don’t pretend to have a firm grip on all issues or legislation in the political arena, but I have opinions, which I can modify if new info arrives. Maybe this is what going with the flow is all about. Life is getting more complicated by the day, over full of information and demands for my attention. I think the answer, for me, is to just not indulge in the over saturation. I may not know everything, but I can stay focused on the things I am interested in, that I can change, that I can help. I’m not awash in money, so I help the people and causes I can, and try to spread the word about the ones I can’t. Stress is skyrocketing in this country, and our attention is so paper thin anymore that our outrage wears off before any situation is resolved. So, I’m going to slow down. Think before I post. Breathe before I jump to conclusions. Research before I assume. I may not be the first one to the megaphone, but at least I’ll have a calm and reasoned response, possibly with a little more info.

My 2 favorite quotes from the past year have been “You don’t have to attend every argument to which you’re invited” and ” Not my circus, not my monkeys”. Both speak to online interaction very pointedly. If I responded to every single outrage post I saw online, it’d be ALL I DID, ALL DAY. Yes, the world is awful. Yes, bad things happen, including bad legislation, bad behavior and irredeemable acts by morally bankrupt people. Reading about it all day would make you either want to punch someone or feel so helpless you could curl into a ball and never come out. Guess what? You can only do what you can to make the world a better place. But it’s not all on you. Sometimes you need to just turn off the stream of awful. It doesn’t mean you don’t care. It doesn’t mean you’re heartless or apathetic. It’ll keep you sane.

Sorry that this post is a bit of a grab bag of things. Lots of thinky thoughts stored up over time needed some air. 🙂

So, in sum up– I’m going to go do the IRL thing and only come online sporadically. I do have people I care about far away so  I want to keep that connection. But I need to cut the cord a bit more frequently. Hopefully when I come back to my keyboard, I’ll have better stories, less navel gazing. Also. PHOTOS OF CATS!! (Because it is an internet law, isn’t it?)

Be kind to yourselves, my friends. You might be missing out on things online, but you won’t be missing out on life out there. Find your balance. Be happy.





Breaking the Rear View Mirror

31 12 2013

Weather:  Well…it’s cold. And snowy. Proper winter for once. Been several weeks of temps in the teens with a rare 50º day shoved in there. After several years of weirdly mild winters, we’re getting back to A good old fashioned Midwest Winter. 

I usually use this post to note what has happened in the past year and start roughly graphing out what I hope to do in the new year.

Except this year has been particularly heavy on the downs rather than the ups. There’s been too much death, economic difficulties and negative thoughts. Plans fell through, depression killed a lot of creative output and yet again, the best of intentions collapsed under apathy and self-immolation.

The ups were less numerous, though I will say with much pride that we finally turned a profit at Einini Glassworks, which bodes well for 2014 if we increase our output and momentum.

So instead of rehashing the minutiae of the year, I’m gonna just smash the rear view mirror and focus on looking forward.

I’m making big plans for the upcoming year. I’ve sunk so far into a rut that I don’t much like the person I’ve become. Instead of lamenting the person who seems to be wearing my skin, and badly at that, I’m going to figure out what person I am going to be.  Not want to be, mind you- AM GOING TO BE.  Slightly more commitment there.

I had a bit of an epiphany recently. It hit out of the blue, as epiphanies are wont to do.  Something had been missing from my perspective for a while, something that seemed to have exited stage left when my creativity went on vacation. I rediscovered it when I started spending time in our yard taking seasonal photos.
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It was a sense of transcendence, finding the sublime in the mundane. The source of my creative ideas had always been rooted in finding the interesting bits among the dull piles, whether it be a turn of phrase that sparked a story idea, a particular angle of a shot that made something everyday look ethereal, or finding a way to flesh out a visual from my brain into some form of practical media. I’d stopped looking. I’d stopped SEEING it. I think a lot of people have turned off that part of their perception. Because it’s always there, nestled amid the grey and ugly and boring things that populate our everyday lives. Cynicism blocks it. Boredom makes us gloss right over it. We’re skimming the surface of things all the time.
Because we’re in such a rush to see and know and read and connect with EVERYTHING, we miss the individual, the small things that fill the spaces between the big events, the shouting masses, the bombastic imagery.

I’d lost that quiet place in my brain where things take root, and grow. I’d stuffed my skull, from floor to ceiling with amusements, trite and banal, with anger at things I had little investment or control over, and with the dull cotton stuffing that inevitably accompanies reading the bottom half of the internet. Music had stopped being inspirational or soundtracks for the visuals in my head, relegated to background noise with a pleasant tone or a memorable beat. I’d literally stripped the color and flavor from my life. Some of it, I can blame on the resurgence of my depression, which always covers everything in shades of gray. There were enough crises that cropped up that escalated from manageable to chaotic that made focus nonexistent. I found small moments where I was able to recover enough clarity to accomplish SOME creative output. Ultimately, the biggest killer of that momentum was spending hours online, accomplishing little more than attempting to amuse my friends, keep up with every single post or comment or Tweet and playing the passive observer, rather than contributing anything of note.

The husbeast and I have lots of conversations. Mostly talking about what we want to do, what we haven’t been doing….and of course, what we would do if our circumstances were different.  So we talk and talk and talk and rarely act on any of it. He finally said the other day, “How about we shut up and do something?” And we did. This preceded the aforementioned epiphany, but I hazard a guess that it contributed to it’s revelation.

Something has shifted recently, birthing this need to be constantly informed, “up” on things…this dread of being left out or left behind. I know it’s turned this information junkie in me into something of a monster. I need to slay it, kill it dead. Or at least reduce it from Godzilla to an ostensibly smaller lizard I can cage up and put away.

So–intent for 2014. Regain my transcendence. Regain my focus. Make more things. I think I’m going to set myself a challenge to make something new every day, whether it be trying a new recipe or writing a new scene, creating a new art piece or even just writing a brain dumping blog piece. This of course means that I need to make space for creation in my life. I plan on cutting back my online time, indefinitely. I plan on cutting back on my tv time. Less talk more action, as the husbeast says. I’m going to do my damnedest to get out and experience the world first hand, instead of living vicariously through photos and videos online.

I’m going to be turning 47 in a couple weeks, and I think that’s as good a time as any to cut the ties on the person I seem to have slipped sideways into being, and literally face the upcoming year as a blank canvas.

The person I am going to be is someone I can be proud of, someone who will add new things to this world, not just idly sit by and watch others create.

So goodbye 2013, with your sadness, your dull detour into the doldrums, and your barrage of self-defeating idleness. Hello, 2014. Challenge me. Make me sharper. Make me MORE. I’m ready.





Expanding your Toolbox

27 09 2013

Personal update first:
Glanced at the dates and cringed. But I have a legitimate reason for falling off the posting cliff –After years of waffling, the Husbeast and I are FINALLY putting our house on the market, and getting ready to relocate.

Granted– our grand plans to move to the Pacific Northwest have been knocked over under the weight of financial realities, but they are not fully dead. Postponed rather than killed off.

We’re looking further east in Indiana, mostly because we can get more house for our (rather meager) housing dollar.

Now onto the meat of this post. The husbeast and I were chatting in the car this morning, heading to the train station where I drop him off for the commute into The City where he works. And by chatting I mean, he groggily nodded as I pontificated out loud. As you do.

We were listening to music from zee iPod and a My Chemical Romance song came on. I commented at length that I loved artists who had multiple outlets –e.g. Gerard Way sings (well, SANG) for MCR, but also has a very healthy career in comics, award winning even. Steven Archer & Donna Lynch from the band Ego Likeness also make amazing art & write great books.   It’s really less about the number of things that these artistic multi-taskers work on and more interesting to look at why they do it.

A lot of my friends are artists, writers and musicians. Not a calculated thing, I just have more in common with them. Most of them are single art/media focused. Which is fine, because they are VERY GOOD at that particular media. Several others are multimedia. Some have pursued the different branches of the art tree because they got bored of one particular track, or because, due to one unforeseen event or another, had to change track. (Injuries, money, relocation, etc.)

But there are a handful of my artist friends and idols who juggle multiple disciplines for the same reason I do: to expand their toolbox.

As creatives, a lot of us are usually juggling a bunch of ideas in our noggin, which makes for some uneasy translations from brain to physical manifestation.  Results can vary from satisfactory to “oh gods why did I even bother???” If you work in a single media, that can make things even more challenging, as a single media is limiting. If you only paint or sculpt or write, sometimes getting the idea in your head to manifest in the physical world can be like shoving the proverbial square peg into a round hole.

Your toolbox, as it were, doesn’t contain the right tool to tell the story or describe the image in your head.

At this point you can do one of three things: 1) wrestle the idea into shape as best as you can with the tools at hand, 2) abandon the idea and work on something else, or 3) you can decide to expand your toolbox and manifest the story/idea through different means.

Number 3 can be both exhilarating and daunting by equal measure. Trying a new method of idea translation, especially one you’re not well versed in,  can be frustrating.  But if you at least try, you might be surprised at the results. No one is going to be an expert the first time you try another method. If you’re a good painter, you’re not going to switch to sculpting and create at the same level instantly.  But here’s the rub: ideas are fluid and complex and never come with a step by step instruction how to manifest them. By adding different tools to your toolbox, you give yourself a wider selection of ways to tell your creative story.

I started out as a writer, with no intent of trying another media. I wrote to give my ephemeral brain stew some structure. Words were my building blocks. My ideas always came as images. Sometimes moving, sometimes still. The moving images were easier to write. They were movies, complete with soundtracks and actors and dialogue. I was writing the transcripts of these snippets and then, like putting concrete around a wire frame, I built a story.

The still images? They’re vivid, they’re specific and they don’t really do more than lodge themselves in my brain, waiting for passage into the physical world.  I stashed them in my brain locker , in carefully labelled Tupperware, for later use.

A few years ago, The Husbeast decided to take some stained glass classes. He’s a graphic design production artist, so his comfort zone is working with computers and design software. Learning a hands-on, physical art was new for him. (He’d dabbled in painting and art classes in high school, but nothing serious). He was instantly hooked. He started building pieces, working towards making Tiffany reproduction lampshades. Watching him get absorbed in translating images in his head using pieces of of glass and metal was fascinating. I started thinking that, since my novel had stalled in the middle of my gazillionth editing pass, maybe I too should find a craft that would allow a different outlet. Since there was a metric tonne of small glass pieces and leftovers from The Husbeast’s projects, I decided to try my hand at mosaics. I made some pieces for Christmas presents, and they turned out pretty damn good. Then the inevitable happened: The ideas started poking out the Tupperware in my head. All those still images that had stumped me now had a way to manifest. I bought sketchbooks, and to my surprise, found out I wasn’t too bad at drawing the things in my head. But even with this new tool in the toolbox, I realized that there were still ideas that I sketched that wouldn’t be served by mosaics. So I’m learning to paint, and photograph, and sculpt.  I want to learn to make tiles and pottery. I want to have as many tools at my fingertips as I can, so I don’t have to shove ideas into that Tupperware anymore.

I have no idea if I’ll be any good at any of these new tools, but my perspective has shifted.

Instead of taking my ideas and wrestling with them to make them work with the tool I’m best at, I’m now letting the idea dictate the tool.  I think all of us, all creatives, can be served better by increasing the options in our toolbox.

It doesn’t matter if it’s something as simple as learning a new brushstroke or switching the substrate you work on or changing the genre of your story, or if you decide to completely change the medium to something you’ve never tried before.

Tell your story in the best way you can.  Don’t be afraid if it seems impossible.

You got the idea, created it from nothing into something. Somehow, I think if your brain gifts you with art, it probably already knows how you need to make it.  Just find the art equivalent of the Babel Fish to translate it into life.





Wherein I realize I need to revisit Square One…Hiatus time.

27 06 2013

Weather: Summerlike: 80s & humid, with a light soupçon of thunderstorms in the forecast.

I was reading an interview with Neil Gaiman about his latest release, An Ocean At The End of the Lane, and one response stuck with me. Oddly, it wasn’t writing related, at least not on the surface. It was related to creativity, however. Neil has made a lot of fantastic observations and comments to the idea of art and how we make it….or how we don’t.

The question and answer were this: (From this interview, Here)

And how does one cultivate imagination?

I think the thing that we all have to do is to cultivate boredom again. The trouble is having those little handheld devices that will entertain you. That’s the biggest trouble with the imagination—it’s the killer. You need to find yourself stuck in a place where you can’t do anything other than think. Then your mind wanders and you can go to fantastic places.

(Emphasis mine.)

That bolded line hit very close to home. I’ve been going through dry spell after dry spell, both in writing and art. While I’ve had moments of inspiration, they are sporadic and don’t seem to take hold for long.  Insecurity as an artist is almost a foregone conclusion, but sometimes we spend far too much time zeroing in on our lack of productivity while wrapped in the cloak of “I’ve lost the ability to create/ maybe never had it / I’m a hack”. But we usually don’t add in the external causes, or we blame them entirely, vaguely, desperately. Too little time, too many distractions, the muse doesn’t inspire, too tired, too busy, too much or too little of anything or everything.

The truth is, in all honesty, is lack of will. Harsh truth, that . Inspiration is important, don’t get me wrong, but practice, and repetition, and focus make up for a multitude of evils, (i.e. distractions).

One of my inspirations, Karen Ami , a mosaic artist and the Executive Director of the Chicago Mosaic School, recently wrote a blog post about the importance of practice.  ( HERE: Art. Practice.)  Important quote from there:

Resistance- the voices of insecurity can get in the way of your practice but are important to hear.  Am I talented enough? The dance of avoidance. TIME and ACTION OVERCOMES FEAR.

Her point was that in the current crazy fast paced environment, a lot of creative energy is being poured into the end result (marketing, selling) and less into the practice of making & creating, the very thing that makes you better and starts muting that voice of insecurity as an artist.
Another quote from that blog post links up with Neil’s quote above:

Facebook is fun and a great place to see what’s going on with all these other artists and see what your friends have eaten for dinner or look at my new cute dog but like most of what is going on online- it is a timesuck that pulls you away from your practice and honing your skills and voice in the studio. So stop reading this and  go make something.

The point that I’m trying to relay here is that in this age of easy availability of information & ease of interaction, we’re starting to fill the spaces in our heads we used to reserve for creating with data dumps and entertainment. Neil said it best up there. Boredom is not a great thing, but it does force us into our heads to find something to do with our jittery, information addicted braincells.

The technology isn’t really to blame. We are. Yeah, I know that’s not a popular idea, but hear me out. We’re rapidly becoming unable, or more accurately, UNWILLING, to put down our mobile devices or iPads or laptops, and just….let our minds create. We spend hours “researching” or “looking for inspiration”.  Waste hours discussing on Facebook, or Twitter, or other social media our inability to get things done. We’ve succumbed to the cult of BUSY, without really looking at WHY we are so busy.

Truth is, and I know a lot of people hate to hear this, we need to disconnect now and then. The world will go on, and it won’t end if you are not incessantly involved/informed. We can miss things and not be the less for them. I know myself that disconnecting causes a form of withdrawal, a twitchy need for the datastream needle. Refreshing for something new and mostly being frustrated that there isn’t anything.

Technology is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. We are the variable, the component that uses the tool for good or for bad.

Some people can use it and still get their pages written and their projects completed. Artists and writers need to keep a healthy balance of  technology usage and offline creative time. I know I have a difficult time doing that. So, in deference to the title of this rambly bit of nonsense, I am taking a week off the interwebs, except to check e-mail. I’m disconnecting my laptop from the internet during that time.

Why? Because I need to prove something to myself. If at the end of the week I can meet the challenges I’ve set for myself (Finish a mosaic project, plan my next project, finish editing my manuscript and outline a new book, catch up on my reading), then maybe I will have reset my creative brain. Again, I don’t think technology is to BLAME for my dry spell, but I think it’s made it easier for me to  avoid focusing on it. An easy excuse that I’ve been “busy”, that I’m getting inspiration from my surfing. That I’m marketing our business. That I’m networking.

Bullshit.

As Karen said above, my focus is misdirected. I’m trying to create for the marketplace instead of trying to create the best art I can make. I’ve been uninspired by my creations. Bored by the results. That should have been the first red flags. Same thing for my writing. I’m finding my stories to be trope ridden, cliche filled and lacking the passion I used to have. My moleskines have been collecting dust as I tried to work on Scrivener, easily distracted by the open internet browser.

The bottom line is I am an artist and a writer. But I haven’t served either epithet lately. The title has to be earned by action, not by mere intent or declaration.

My wise and insightful friend Karen Boykin wrote a blog on treating art as work, and she said:

Do I value improving my artistic expression enough to experiment; to waste a few canvases to become more adept at using that tools, mediums, and paints to give visual voice to what’s inside my head in a way that I consider meaningful? Even it it’s just an hour or two every day, I must believe that spending my time in this way will pay dividends in the form of happiness and a sense of purpose I’ve been searching for. That is my kind of work!

Mine too!

So, hiatus. For a week. To start.

Time to recapture a less distracted creative mindset. Square one may be disheartening, but sometimes a reset is the best way to clear the decks of detritus.

To quote one last person, Chuck Wendig, who is my writing spirit animal with a profane voice, (From here)

Think about your story. Think about your art. Go elbow deep. Get into the guts like you’re trying to birth a humpback whale. Art is a kind of madness. Story is messy, weird, gory, greasy, hard to grasp. But always try. We’re all flying blind. We’re all feeling around in the wet-slick dark for the baby whale. Reach further. Think more. Art harder, motherfuckers.

If you are struggling with productivity, I highly recommend this article, especially the short video. 🙂

Then get offline for awhile and find that quiet space to create.

See you on the other side.