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

 

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The Journey Continues! (after a few glitches & pitstops)

14 06 2015

Weather:  Weirdly wet and cool June so far. Steady in the low 70s & overcast or rain alternating.

On the personal front, had my throat surgery this week. Polyp on my vocal cord is gone, but apparently replaced with a mild case of Bronchitis. Because let’s face it: Nothing can go smoothly in recovery for me apparently. Alas. So while I sit here, on seven days of restricted voice usage, I’m hacking and coughing like a 2 pack-a-day smoker. The irony is not missed on me by the way….

But there’s an upside, as there always is. By this time next week, gods willing and the river don’t rise, I should FINALLY have a clean bill of health.

Which means it’s time to kick off all the sad “ashes and sackcloth of Woe is Me” and get back to work. I’m finding the one thing that has been lacking lately has been creative drive. I’ve been to the studio, but cranking out work has been a little joyless lately. Functional but not passionate. And that kinda sucks. Hard to be motivated to work on things when it’s starting to feel paint by numbers. I’m taking the tact of stepping back and getting some smaller things worked on first. Easily accomplished goals. I need to make room in the brain meat for bigger things.

I’m beginning to understand that I still haven’t quite found my voice as an artist yet. My path, if you will. Maybe my interests are too eclectic to have a”style” and maybe that’s just the way I work.  Still…the health related disruptions have been problematic less in the “taking away time” realm and more in the “distracting my brain from art” way. The fraud police have shown up with their threatened “You’re a Hack” sign and I’m hard pressed to argue with them about it.

Not having been trained in art — I was a science & communications major in college– trained my brain differently.  I tend to see the world in patterns and logic. Which can work on artistic level to a certain extent, but being married to someone who has design in his background and a fantastic grip on color theory, makes me think I’m going about things the wrong way.  I think I’m trying to emulate artists who see the world much more differently than I do.  Abstract only works in the geometric for me, not in the impressionistic sense. I like my intersecting circles and squares and sharp colors. I’m not particularly blessed with talent to do realism or portraiture, though I have no doubt with more training I might be able to make a credible go at it.

Maybe that’s the hitch, right there. I want to make things. Now.
Create things.
Leak my weirdly acrobatic brain-fevered visions onto some sort of substrate and present it to the world.
Yet, I keep getting tangled in my own shoelaces.

Reading a lot of motivational artistic philosophies and inspirational pieces can sometimes amount to feeling like you’re in the middle of a circle of well intentioned people shouting cross-purpose advice at you through megaphones. Individually it’s good, but it can be contradictory in places, leading to the “two steps forward, one step back” feeling of “Is this what you meant? No? How about this?”

As a mosaic artist, I know there are a LOT of incredibly talented artists out there, all making some incredibly pieces, in various sizes, in all sorts of media. There’s a rather elastic definition of art versus craft in this field. Depending on who you talk to, everyone has their own criteria for what counts as respectable art and merely amusing craft. As per expectations, you can get two different definitions from two different people on the same day. So, do you try to create your work with a eye towards how it will be defined and therefore, pigeonholed? Or do you just get on with making the best work you can and flesh out the ideas in your head with the media and tools you have on hand? I think the answer is kind of self-evident there.

Sometimes, my biggest stumbling block comes in the weirdest aspects of creating– I question whether I’m using the “right” supplies or the “right” technique. I’m still learning -a lot, to be sure- but even things I know I have gotten worked out… still they get a second guess, then a rather severe judgment on my part. Mosaic supplies aren’t cheap and to get the look that a lot of other artists have managed, I would have to finance a lot more options. So, do we make art with what we’ve got and compromise on the vision, or do we sacrifice for the supplies and possibly curtail other projects that can’t be made now either? Silly how economics can kneecap you, isn’t it?  (Of course the flip side to that problem is the “Oh wow, they’re having a sale! Let me stock up!– which is how you end up with piles of colored tiles or similarly colored marble you will not use and your studio becomes a “full-up closet with nothing to wear” situation)

Anyway. First world artist problems here.

My husbeast Brian is often fond of saying that our biggest problem (on so many fronts!) is that we can’t seem to get out of our own way. My creative problems seem to be falling very much under this heading.

I have some ideas. I’m going to do my damndest to get them made. So I think I’m going to take my inner art critic and garrote her in her sleep tonight.
Art isn’t hard.
Really, it isn’t.
Make what you love, make it to the best of your ability, and let it loose on the world. Sure it will be judged and compared, but that’s going to happen because: PEOPLE. You can either get hung up on the comparisons and judgments and get locked into stagnancy (which seems to happen to me too much) or you can just shrug and get on with the next piece. Like any creation, sometimes it finds it’s audience, sometimes it doesn’t.

Either way, it’s not your job to cater. It’s to create.

Time to get back to that. Can’t find an audience if you don’t provide something for them.

SO…..Back into the studio with me. Let’s hope once this stupid mucus stops trying to kill me, it can take the self-doubt with it when it goes.

Promised a more coherent post last time…yeah….well maybe next time. Hope is ever buoyant.

 





Recovery slogs on, with a few bumps in the road….

21 05 2015

Weather: Spring has arrived,  but by the Midwest Definition: If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it’ll change. We’ve been from the 40s to the 80s and back again, sometimes in the same day. Hoping June will be more stable.

So the title of this post is a little on the nose. Since I had my brain hemorrhage in December of last year, little repercussions have been rearing their ugly heads.

Two months out, I had my final angiogram….and had a massive allergic reaction to the dye.
Three months out, my hair started falling out in clumps. It’s started growing back in, thank goodness.

Now, I’ve developed a chronic hoarseness in my voice, which has been diagnosed by my ENT doctor (Ear, Nose & Throat) as a polyp on my vocal cord, which I am having surgically removed in June. After which I won’t be allowed to speak for a week. At ALL. (I’m going to have to tape my mouth shut. )

Other than the above things, I haven’t had any brain related hiccups. Maybe some mood swings, but not much else. All in all, I’m taking the ripples in the pool in stride. I just hope by Summer, I’ll have shaken off any more of these little quakes. Tired of having my activities curtailed, even slightly, by health foo.

Husbeast and I walked to Lion’s Beach the other night. WALKED. TO THE BEACH. (Happiest words I’ve ever spoken) Had our first beach therapy evening, watching the sun lowering over the lake. Sat on a bench, his arm around me. Was the most peaceful I’ve felt in a while. We stopped for ice cream  on the way home. I’m hoping for a lot more evenings like that.

I finished my huge sun mosaic piece that I’ve been working on since I returned to the studio after the brain foo. It’s not perfect, but it’s close to what I saw in my head, so I’m happy with it. I have three other pieces I need to start working on. Starting to see a trend towards geometrics and I’m playing with changing up my tessera cuts for different effects. Also will be working on my first 3D piece. Scary but exciting.

In general I’m in a good headspace about most things, though I’d be lying if I said I’m not going to be relieved once my surgery is done. Just want to get back to focusing on the art and the house and the garden again.

For a short trip into derailment, my thinky thoughts recently have been coming to the realization that I’m really too exhausted to be outraged anymore. It’s all I seem to see everywhere. Not that the topics being raised aren’t eyebrow raising or worthy of a good old fashioned shade throwing, but I just see some people spending all their energy and time trying to find things to be upset about. I know there’s bad in the world, and awful people. I also know that the media and politicians are out of a job if they can’t keep people scared or angry. I guess I’m just flummoxed as to why everyone keeps dancing to their music?

If you see something that bothers you, either do something to make it better, or step away from it. Yelling online and bashing people with the guilt trowel because they don’t get as upset as you DOESN’T FIX ANYTHING. Yes, yes…..You’re raising awareness. Just like the other 50 angry people posting the same clickbait link with no suggestions  or solutions attached.  Sigh. Tired, as I said.

I’m starting to see no difference in people yelling from the left or the right. Each have their boogeymen. Each have valid points. Neither seem all that interested in compromising or working together to fix it. (I’m mostly talking about the frothy extreme edges, not the mostly moderates that seem only bemused by the noise and are actually trying to do things.)

And I’m not just talking politics — NerdRage is at an all time high and fandoms seem to only be civil for one season before turning into toxic wastelands of death threats and shipper wars. I used to be amused by it, now I’m just annoyed. Everyone seems to have forgotten how to enjoy things. Valid criticism is one thing. Crazy entitlement issues are another. And don’t get me started on Tumblr. No seriously…There be monsters. Scary Scary ANGRY monsters. I’ll end this here, because otherwise I’ll accidentally mention something that will draw the nutjobs and I’d rather not have to dust off my ban hammer.

::gets the train back on track::

I’m trying to be patient, waiting for all the health detritus to shake out. But I don’t want that waiting to turn to “laying on the couch, binge-watching Netflix and letting the rest of my health go to hell”. It’s easy to do, and so is making excuses for not doing things that require a little effort and a little sacrifice. Money situations are not fixed by sitting around navel-gazing. Art doesn’t get made if it stays in your head or only on paper. Novels don’t get written just by talking about them.

And Heidi doesn’t get better by sitting around, hoping that her body will magically become well.

Everything in life takes effort. Everything. And as Kevin Smith has pointed out today, happiness is being productive. It’s not a destination, it’s a journey.  If you’re not careful, you’ll end up wistful and chasing the ephemeral idea of happiness, and miss when it actually comes your way.

Sort of disjointed writing today, but I’m having a kind of disjointed week. More coherent thoughts next time.





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.





Facing the proverbial fork in the road…..

23 05 2013

Weather: mid 50s & rainy. Unseasonably cool.

When I saw the date of the last post, I cringed. Best intentions to keep up with blogging, covered in dust and cobwebs. Funny how life gets in the way of other things.

The last few months have been filled with the usual roller coaster of ups and downs, and I would do most of them a disservice to merely recap them. Suffice it to say that I’m still not quite where I want to be, but after jumping through a few hoops and stubbornly chipping away at the usual obstacles, I’m at least on the path.

The husbeast and I decided that , faced with the painful realities of our financial situation, moving cross country is not in the cards for us. However, we are still adamant about moving out of our current home. So, compromise was to move into a condo/loft in Chicago and get some separate studio space to finally get our stained glass/mosaic art career going full bore.

Compromises. Life is full of them. Some of them are necessary. Some of them inevitable. Most of them are like eating your vegetables – you know you have to, but sometimes they’re hard to swallow.

Today is the 7th anniversary of my dad’s death. Sucks every year. I miss him so much. I’m sad that he was unable to see me succeed at my passions. I’m sad that he’s not here to go see superhero films with me. I know he would have loved The Avengers & the Dark Knight movies. I miss his humor, I miss his advice….mostly I miss his gentle ability to help me see the silver lining in any situation. Really could use that right now. But I know in my bones that all the things he taught me and shared with me have helped me get through some tough times. So in some sense, he’s always here. It will have to suffice.

Currently I’m trying to improve my art skills, though I have the insecurity that comes with the lack of art schooling that many of my peers have, and that makes for some difficult decision making.   I’ve been spending a lot of time, both in classes and open studio at the Chicago Mosaic School, learning with some of the foremost artists in this field. It’s humbling and exhilarating at the same time. I’m also highly aware of how much I need to still learn. Thankfully I have gentle teachers who support my meager attempts.  Always a good thing. Seeing my view widen and the opportunities multiply can only inspire me to try more paths and techniques. I love mosaics. Love the history and the methods and the unlimited ways my visions can be fleshed out. Art has actually turned into therapy for me, much in the way that writing has. My brain is overcrowded. It’s always a good thing to have multiple ways to bleed off some of the noise.

The only bad thing that has arisen that I’m still dealing with is the ever-addictive rabbithole that is the internet. It’s become far too easy to disconnect the brain and fill it with mindless hours, surfing social media and cycling through the refreshing until hours have passed and I’m bored to tears or guilty at the lost time. It’s entertainment, nothing more. I’m not researching anything or even getting inspired. The only thing the endless refreshing is doing is ruining my eyesight and numbing my brain. My focus is shot to hell and truth be told, all I’ve discovered is that people are unencumbered by empathy or courtesy. (Neither is an earth shattering revelation, but it can erode your soul after a while) .  So why blog today? After all this time? Because I’ve reached the point of internet saturation where I’m so bored of politics and fandom insanity that I can’t be arsed to go to my usual sites. I’m burnt out mentally.  Television is only moderately more entertaining. Now that my fave shows have hit summer hiatus,  maybe I can take a few months to focus on getting my  creative brain back up to speed. Don’t get me wrong. It has been in my power to do this at anytime. I freely admit to taking the easy path. The work doesn’t get done because I’m not doing it, plain and simple. No excuses.

As much as it grieves me to say this, it’s time to grow up a bit. I feel like it’s time for me to choose a path. I’m at that proverbial fork in the road. This one is more fractious than previous ones. No soft landing this time, no half-assing. It’s the art path or the easy entertainment path.  Keeping up has become more important than making things. And I honestly am angry at myself for that. Until I can find a way to balance the fun  with the work, I need to focus on becoming a doer rather than someone who simply, PASSIVELY lets the world go by. I need to get out of observer mode, become a participant again. Depression has not helped. Bad health has not helped. Being overly empathetic to everyone else’s issues has not helped. Truth be told, my life has gotten out of control. Time to grasp the reins again, because the alternative is to just let go of them, and give up on anything other than a pale imitation of life.

I prefer bold colors to pastels, so I think I’ll put down my mouse and pick up my paint brush, change the vista.

I’m unplugging for a while.  See if I can find out who I am now. Not who I was. Not who I want to be. WHO I AM.

ETA: Neil Gaiman posted a link to this from his Calendar of Tales project. Perfect encapsulation of my needy artist brain right now. Perfect motivation in under 2 minutes:





Keeping promises I’ve made to myself.

2 01 2013

Weather:  Frigid and sunny. High: 28°

So it’s January 2nd, but I’m treating it like the first day of the new year. (Yesterday I was too headachy and tired to get on top of my new routine)

Today I started a new workout regimen. It’s varied and, as all new workouts do, kicking my arse all over the place. Still, my goal is getting healthy, not attempting to be a Victoria’s Secret model. (I’m too short anyway. So there.)

On a related note, I’m getting back to my pre-holiday eating habits. OY, did I slide on that between Thanksgiving and Christmas. :headdesk: Too much sugar, cookies, bread, and I think I cornered the market on dairy products. SO–guess what is on the cutting block? Yep. Going  back on a mostly vegetarian diet (OvoVegetarian to be specific), and drinking more water. The food may have tasted fantastic, but I feel awful. Piper’s knocking. Time to get paid. Fecking Piper. ::grumbles::

New Year’s eve was spent kissing the old year goodbye, rather than spending too much time stressing the new year’s expectations.  Husbeast and I spent the day getting some studio work done. As evidence that the business is starting to take off, I sold a mosaic piece within 2 hours of posting it. Definitely motivating to keep my work pace at a steady rate. Nothing makes you productive like seeing your art sell. 🙂

Next week, I start classes at the Chicago Mosaic School , a yuletide present from my husband. It’s less about learning how to make mosaics, and more about finessing my skills. I’m self taught, and the longer I go on, the more I’m realizing I need to improve my techniques and output. So, off I go to unlearn some  bad skills and re-learn better ones.

On the writing front, I’m almost done with a major overhaul of my first book. Had to blow cobwebs off the manuscript a couple weeks ago, but the time away actually had clarified where I needed to go with it. Sometimes it’s better to let it lie to see it more clearly.

Still trying to sort through some self-pubbing platforms. May just end up posting some short pieces I have done, and excerpt the novel. Lots of options, but I need to pick one.

The title of this post is significant in how I’m approaching my so called resolutions. It’s less about living up to other people’s expectations, more about keeping me accountable to myself.  Some things have become very clear in the past couple years. I’ve realized I’ve relied too much on external pressures and peers to keep me on the right path. My intents and drive suffered because I let go of the wheel. The months since I left my job found me sinking into spirals of depression and allowing all my best plans and goals to disintegrate under the weight of imagined failures and false, unrealistic benchmarks based on other’s successes or expectations. Too many cooks in the mental soup, so to speak.  Finally, I decided it was time to scrap this obviously broken view and replace it with something far simpler: Take it one day at a time. Don’t allow yourself to spend more time on unproductive things than things with measurable results. If it’s making you miserable, let it go. Cynicism and anger are reactionary, not means to an end.

Basically, if I want to get myself moving forward and staying in motion, I need to avoid wasting time on things and people who impede that progress.  Mind you, this is not me telling others to change their views, attitudes or opinions. I simply am not going to join in with the cloud crowd. I’m gonna do my best to pick out the silver lining and run with it. I’m not naive. I realize things are kinda crappy now on many levels. But I’m tired of being in the Greek Chorus chiming in how awful things are, while doing nothing to change them.  Are there pointless endeavors? Sure. But I’d like to think that failing after trying is 1000% better than throwing up my hands and not trying at all. At least in making the attempt to fix or improve things, you have a possibility of success, granted with varying degrees of probability.

So, the promises I’ve made to myself are simply that.  I’m the only one I have to please or disappoint. Other people’s opinions or acceptance or dismissals do not matter. Ultimately, only I can determine whether I will succeed or fail on my goals. Time to get to work!