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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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 #30- Time for a creative revolt

30 11 2016

Weather: Weird end to a Weird Month. Been in the low 50s and WINDY. Having intermittent rain. Just odd. Next week?  Here’s the snow we’ve been not seeing. Hello December.

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Yep. Got to 50 K. Validated and everything. And it’s a giant mess. Sigh. Well, I was mostly aiming just to get the structure of the thing in place. I think I will feel better once all the jagged edges are better stitched together.

November 2016 has been, for lack of a better phrase, a bit of a dumpster fire. Between this clown car of an election and the crazy series of events that seems to be following and the added deaths that the bloody Grim Reaper that is 2016 has racked up…I’ll be more than happy to see the backside of this year.

I found that I’ve spent more time away from social media and the news, and truth be told, I feel better mentally for it.

Probably a good sign that I need to get out of the online cesspool and back into life again. Studio time has been languishing for no good reason. Creative deep diving always makes me feel better, so I may need to take a moment and analyze why I’ve not been indulging.

I read the below post recently and it’s served as a bit of perspective and calming reassessment of all things that are currently giving me indigestion. Read it and take a  moment to breathe. And consider all the ways there are to battle cruelty and darkness and ugliness in this current time. Not all battles require fists and angry retorts. Sometimes our energy is better spent facing down the awful with overwhelming beauty and compassion. Shame the terrible venom by drowning it out with cavernous shining art and creative output. There is plenty of room  in the battle for both the hard and soft approach. (Keeps ’em off balance. 😉 )

There is no time for despair

I’m off to spend some time away from my keyboard for a bit.

Keep making art. Keep writing. Keep making music. BE CREATIVE.

Bullies and demagogues have no defense against those who refuse to engage and step around them. Sometimes we shine a light on dark things to make sure they don’t take root. Other times we starve them of attention so they wither on the vine. Both methods are effective and they work in concert beautifully.

Art can be reactive and proactive. Do both. Do it all.

Words can be weapons, sharp and subtle in the same breath. Images can soothe and disturb and incite and reassure. Music can inspire  or commiserate. Bring all your emotions and stories and statements out.

Make Art. Everyday.

 





NaNoWriMo Day #22 -Trying to avoid the weeds.

22 11 2016

Weather- Why does it feel so much colder than it actually is? Upper 20s when we walked out the door this morning, and it’s barely nudging the 40s now.  Feels sub arctic. No snow yet and none to be seen in the forecast. But stranger things have happened.

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Work again took up a big chunk of my writing time today. Still, I find that sometimes the pressure of less time can  get the ball rolling.

The title of today’s blog best describes how sometimes the wheels go off the writing wagon and you end up far afield from where you intended. I used to refer to this also as the muses getting drunk and taking the steering wheel away.

The good news is sometimes it leads to interesting places that allow you to rethink some aspects of your story. Sometimes the weeds can produce some better paths and more colorful accents. However, sometimes all getting off the beaten path can do is just bog you down. It’s important to know when your being creative and when your just filling the page with words that sound great but ultimately take your story so far from where you intended you have to stop and take the wheel again.

So far, getting off the path has led to some good possibilities. Nothing that has made me want to stray too far from where I’m going. I’m a pantser by nature, but I do try to keep some plot in mind to rein in the flightiest of fancies.

Link for the day: (I know I link a lot of stuff from Chuck Wendig, but I love his verbiage, profane as it can be. Plus, he knows his shit.)

This is an older post from Chuck. Lots to think about here (Plus my fave phrase in big letters right there at the beginning):
 NANOWRIMO PEP TALK: THE PERFECT MACHINE VERSUS THE ART MONSTER

ALSO– DO NOT TRUST THE CUTE FUZZY PLOT BUNNEH! THEY WILL MULTIPLY,NIBBLE ON YOUR BRAIN STEM AND EAT ALL YOUR AVAILABLE TIME!

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NaNoWriMo day#21- A brief post

21 11 2016

Weather: Cold, but expected. High hit about 40º today, but the wind made it seem much more arctic. The sun was out, but incidental. Didn’t do too much warming up. 

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Not much to write about tonight. Had to work a full day today, so I was crunch time writing this evening.

Here’s a link of good advice when you feel like you’re hitting the wall.

Facing the Blank Page: Celebrated Writers on How to Overcome Creative Block

More thoughts tomorrow, hopefully with more wordcount. Getting to that “Paycheck To Paycheck” feeling that I’m barely skimming by.

 

 





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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NaNoWriMo Day#19: Catching up on a Stormy Day.

19 11 2016

Weather: Went from the upper 60s to low 30s overnight. Gale force winds today, with rain/snow/ice mix. The lakeshore is howling at us. Seems apropos. 

Here’s a great shot of the lake today, to give you scope. (Credit Joshua Nowicki)
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Have been writing, but haven’t been updating. Things in RL have been interfering with that. Also, mentally I’m kind of drained. Actual stress and online stress (mostly political related) have reached fever pitch, so I stepped away for a bit. Work and family and everyday stuff seemed like more workable stress sources. 

So, back on the writing horse, and getting a story epiphany this morning, which is always helpful. It relates to how the villain of the piece is portrayed. His motivations and arc finally fell into place. I knew what his actions would result in already, but getting to those results was a little murky. Captain Exposition was in control of the car again and things were starting to head into the weeds. Needed to get my authorial machete out and clear the path again. 

Here’s some apropos writing advice from the House of Wendig:
(considering I’ve had the soundtrack on a loop today. Because REASONS.)

FIVE STORYTELLING LESSONS FROM HAMILTON’S AMERICA

In case you don’t know what the article is referencing:
Hamilton’ s America (Trailer)

Things in this country seem scarily unstable at the moment. Make art. Write. Create. When everything is out of control or seems untenable… Make something. It helps.