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.


So THAT’s done……NOW what do I do?

9 07 2014

Weather– Can I just say how lovely it’s been up here in Michigan? We’re on average 10-15 º cooler than where we came from in Indiana, plus lake breezes. AHHHHH!

So….. As of today’s writing, we’re 100% done with our old house. Papers signed, all our stuff in storage, new owners are already re-painting the living room- DONE.

And with the year long process of getting the house ready for sale and the usual several month process of selling & closing behind us, I’m suddenly missing a large block of distraction and worry. The hole it’s left is…both a relief and a source of discomfiture. I have a ton of things I can focus on now, but something has me spinning in place.

Maybe it’s just a matter of taking a few days to let it sink in. We are never going back. The house no longer belongs to us in any capacity. A place that I lived for over 11 years (16 years for the husbeast), where I laughed, cried, fought depression and found joy….is not mine anymore. Mind you the regret is very small, the relief- HUGE. The neighborhood was starting to slide a bit. The location wasn’t really doing much for helping us get our burgeoning art careers off the ground. Too close to family drama, too far from the city to use its resources.

It was definitely time to find an elsewhere to be.

This weekend is the Krasl Art Fair in Saint Joseph. It’s huge. We’re definitely going, if for no other reason, to get a feel for the art community first hand. Of course, with not having worked on anything in months…I’m feeling a bit like a pretender, a hack if you will. Studio space is our priority. I want to find some part time employment, just to help out. Ultimately, I’d like to get to the point where my art IS my part time job, with writing being the other half of that equation.

Now I have the time and resources to do it. We ended up having to get a second storage unit because of the amount of studio equipment and supplies we have.

Also, as a side note–we have a LOT of stuff. We both agreed that it’s time to start scaling back on things. When we get around to purchasing a house next year, we’re gonna try to dispose, or donate, or sell, at least 1/3 of our things. If you own too many things, they end up owning you, as the saying goes. Time to part with things that we haven’t touched, read, looked at in several years.

My health is slowly getting better. I’ve lost a few pounds and I’d like to continue the trend. I’m well above what I should be. (Not looking to be skinny, just healthy. Knees and ankles will definitely thank me for it. )

Again… there are no obligations or distractions on the near horizon anymore. We’ve been putting things on hold or pushing them further ahead of us….waiting for the RIGHT TIME. Some were just because we had the house crap going on. Some were….well, those were just excuses. We could have been doing a lot of them now, already. So now comes the litmus test.

Are they still things we want to do? OR have we been paying lip service to goals, dreams and plans that maybe aren’t really what we want anymore? We have nothing keeping us from doing them now. Literally. Finances are always a concern, but that is the least problematic obstacle there is.  Will to do something? That’s another animal altogether. We have no excuses, none of worth. So why the hesitation? When the universe suddenly parts the stormy seas for you, giving you a clear path and a light at the end of the tunnel, why do you pause?

Part of my problem, and it IS a problem, is that during the whole “get the house sold” time, I got way too immersed in social media and online timesinks. It’s time to pull back on those, but the lazy brain keeps slipping into the old rut. That’s just lack of discipline.

Another part of the problem is parallel to suddenly not having a longterm debt hanging over your head and finding yourself with money in the bank. The smart way to view the money in the bank is money to save towards things we have been wanting to do- travel, invest in new house, etc. But the lazy brain starts harping–YOU HAVE MONEY–GET ALL THE SHINY THINGS YOU’VE BEEN WANTING! Again–Discipline.

Recovering time is like that extra money in the bank. You can either use it productively, putting it into things that matter (with a little fun on the side) or you can squander it on meaningless things that only satisfy an immediate interest that will fade quickly. So…need to spend the next few days building that discipline back up. I know what I WANT to be doing. I WANT to be working on art, working on my book, spending some time tooling around the town taking photos. Eventually, I know both me and the husbeast want to start traveling again. We haven’t taken a proper trip in about 6 years. Haven’t taken an international trip together….ever. And after 9 years married, that’s a shame. We’re both second generation Americans, with parents from Europe (Except my dad, but he’s only two levels shy of Europe himself). Our passports haven’t been updated in YEARS.

Depression and fatalism leads to a sort of woolen complacency  where everything you build up as an ideal gets put up on a shelf as a shiny idol- something you admire, but never really try to reach for and touch. It makes for a weary existence where you stop trying to make the goals happen, keeping them on the horizon as a happy thought, but not a reality. There’s a twisted security in not pursuing your dreams– if you’re not taking up the challenge to make them happen, you’ll never be disappointed or frustrated. It’s just a happy thought of “When _________ is done, we can do that”, with something new always replacing the blank space in that sentence.  Somewhere a while back I heard a quote that said something along the lines of “Every time you say next week, next month, next year….you are wasting time waiting for that imaginary time where there are no obstacles, distractions or challenges. It never comes.”  And in the meantime, a lifetime has slipped away, sunk in the dreary minutiae of other people’s obligations, demands and the low level fear of trying to achieve a goal and not making it.

Well, there’s the rub. The husbeast and I are literally in that magical place of no distractions, no obligations and very few obstacles. Yet we sit, looking at each other as though shell shocked. What do we do now?

Perhaps our better question would be, where do we START now? At least that gives us something to work with. Actually…Just saying that has made things look a little better. A new START. Perhaps it’s time to not look at the jumbled pile of put off goals, and unmet ideals, and slightly tarnished dreams. Perhaps it’s time to sort them into boxes, set them aside and put up a clean canvas. Perhaps, if we get let the Universe unfold as it should, with us remolding our goals and pulling out only the necessary components as we need them from the dream box….perhaps the pressure to do ALL THE THINGS will dissipate and we’ll find ourselves where we’re meant to be.

I’m willing to try that.

For now, I will make a start by heading off to make some phone calls that I’ve been putting off.

Then I will work on some edits.

Because discipline doesn’t just arrive because it’s needed. It needs to be built piece by piece, less like armor, more like chain mail, link by link.

Time for our new life has arrived and I’ll be damned if I’ll squander the gift of time and resources that has been literally dropped in our laps.

For now, the social media and the interwebs can do without me for a while.

Hey—-did anyone notice this fantastic world that exists outside? I need to go investigate it. Look at it. Experience it.

Till next time……Gonna go spend time here with this guy. 🙂


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.


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!

End of Year 2012: Assessing and Recalibrating

31 12 2012


It’s been 6 months since I last checked in here. No excuses. Life got a bit overwhelming for coherent thought.

Several things have coalesced in the past few months, mostly on the art & business front, but more on that later.

Looking over the edge of the cliff of 2012, I can see that 2013 is gonna be kind of a leap of faith situation. I really have no profound resolutions other than the usual get in shape, Art Harder and leave this godforsaken town behind.

Something finally clicked over in late November. I think that I finally reached that tipping point of straw vs. camel back with depression and apathy. I got through the stress of Thanksgiving, all that snowball effect of family obligation and striving for the Norman Rockwell perfection of a decent meal in a painting-worthy house. That was followed by the fun-filled stress of potential jury duty. Didn’t escape the call in this time. Made it all the way to the jury box for secondary screening before I was dismissed.

The next day, something weird happened. I woke up relaxed. This was a new sensation considering I’d been under a boulder sized pressure of stress for so long, I’d forgotten what it’s absence felt like.  I was actually…happy. Still am now. Even the usual Christmas stress was non-existent. Maybe I’d reached maximum density, and the whole mind-body interface just went  “NOPE!” and said fuck it.

What ever caused this odd and jarring shift, I’m not complaining. Now, the same issues of finances and pending obligations haven’t gone away, but I just don’t seem to all that bothered by them. Instead of fussing and worrying about them, I find myself focusing on solutions or options, rather than the worst case scenario outcomes.

Along with this newly acquired Zen attitude, I’m finding my interest in online interaction has waned a little. Not in the social sense, mind you. I still immensely enjoy interacting with my friends. But I’m less inclined to do the perpetual-refresh for news or fandom related stuff. Just not that interested in being ON ALL THE TIME. Studio time is rising up to take over that focus.

Writing has languished this year, but I’m not giving up on it. I’ve spent more time recently editing and making notes, but I have to be honest and admit that my mosaic work has replaced it as a priority. Being a hyphenate creative person is complicated. There is no equanimity in how the time and focus is doled out. It took me a while to realize that I shouldn’t be flogging myself for not keeping up with my more prolific writer friends. My goals and time management are measured by different benchmarks and different allocations. Again, once I decided to let my creative focus go where it needed instead of where my neurosis thought it should go, things started moving again.

I left my job in March, and I’d be hard pressed to say I didn’t miss the income. But I’m no longer feeling merely unemployed, finally embracing my self-employed status.

Einini Glassworks is finally starting to see a profit, and Brian and I are starting to see our little business find its legs. 2013 is going to be a big year for us. We’re hoping to have new digs by mid year, with much more accommodating space for our studio, and more reduction in distractions & extraneous unnecessary obligations. We even got interviewed for the regional paper. (They came to us, which was another thing that lifted us both out of the doldrums of apathy.)

So…no real concrete resolutions this go around, and I’m really okay with that. I have goals. I have ideas. And I finally have the focus & positive mentality to get both things on the right track. Maybe that’s resolution enough.

:Blowing the Dust off this Thing::

13 06 2012

Weather: Sunny & 70s. Been a roller coaster since March. Cold then hot. Climate Change, WOO HOO.

Yes, it’s been an elephant’s age since I updated. Lots has happened, but nothing really noteworthy.

On the writing front, I’m finished with my novella of erotica. It’s been edited, revised and now is ready to be unleashed….um UPLOADED. Now comes my first foray into the self-publishing realm full stop. Currently I’m trying to wrap my head around e-formatting. Then I need to decide on a venue to publish it. Was going to use Scribd, but they have capped their sellers for now. No joy there. So now it’s between the usual suspects: Createspace, LuLu and Lightning Source. Will be tapping my friends to get a consensus on the good, bad and ugly about all of these.

Book#1 is almost done. Sigh. Rewrites have proven painful. Last 1/3 of the book required some BIG changes, which as we all know, leads to a domino effect of retroactive changes through the book. There are days it flows, and days filled with gnashing of teeth and thoughts of burning my laptop in effigy. Double le sigh. Still, I need to worry less about arbitrary deadlines and get the best writing done instead.

On the mosaic side, I finished 2 commissions and 4 other pieces. Need to step up my output. I seem to be caught in a tug of war between my two pursuits, and neither is being adequately served. More’s the pity. Interesting development in that I have discovered I prefer working mixed media (Part stained glass, Part tile.) It  gives me a little more flexibility in design. Besides, the husbeast has a metric ton of glass and is quite willing to share. Always a good thing when a couple can share their passions. 🙂

The house is getting some major work done on it: New roof, new gutters and all the windows replaced. Paying for it will be a challenge, but not impossible. Now we need to get the cosmetic stuff done: paint the siding, patch & paint the inside, etc etc.  Bri and I figure we can safely put the house on the market very soon. New horizons and people and opportunities beckon from afar (Well, the Pacific Northwest, to be precise 😉 ) and it’s far past time for us to be on our way.

I’ve had some difficulties the past few months, trying to find my way with this new paradigm. It’s not easy. It’s simple on paper and in theory, but life is neither predictable or plays nice when you make plans. Rolling with the punches seems to be more the name of the game than disciplined planning. Still, things are starting to happen, and to work. My preconceived notions of what I’d do or think or BECOME have altered radically.

For one, I’m finding that I can’t split my time 50/50 between my two pursuits. The muses are not that practical. Projects will take the time they take, and I can’t flog myself if I’m spending more time on one rather than the other. It all has a way of working out. Inspiration will not be ordered about. Sometimes the writing is working, sometime the art needs all the attention. Roll with the punches, as I said.

Online interaction has been sporadic, but I’m getting better at determining when I’m not doing anything productive and stepping away from the computer. My health kinda faltered a bit, what with losing my 2 mile a day hike to the office. So, I’ve built in a workout schedule that has finally started to click.

Nothing comes easy in the freelance life, and maybe it shouldn’t. If it were easy, everyone would succeed and no one would quit. Challenge makes it worthwhile. It’s just trying to find a way to make the challenges motivating and not intimidating that is difficult, at least for me.

I would be remiss in not mentioning that one of the things that’s been helping me not toss the towel in on my writing has been reading Chuck Wendig’s blog on a fairly regular basis. He gives unvarnished advice to writers of all stripes. Colorful language abounds, she says with vast understatement. But the advice is sound. You don’t necessarily have to agree with him, but he’ll make you take a closer look at your work and make it better nonetheless.  Read his awesome blog here: Terrible Minds

Also, a reminder that my husband and I both are producing art for sale at our website, Einini Glassworks. It’s in need of an update as well, and we have more items that will be up for sale hopefully by this weekend. You can also like our Facebook Page,  or follow our Twitter feeds  (Einini Glassworks & Einini Mosaics).  I’ll have my Self-Publishing Facebook page up shortly. Need to get the novella ready for pubbing first.

Again, nothing earth shattering in the news area, but steady has been sufficient to keep me busy. Hopefully, I can stay at least consistent in that.

Update from the Fringes.

27 03 2012

Weather: Don’t get me started. How schizophrenic has it been? 10 days of 80 degree temps in MARCH? And now we’re back down to the 40-50 degree level. Climate change is a myth, huh Sparky? ::slaps idiots::

So– heading into my third week of full time pen monkey/mosaic artist immersion and I’m STILL trying to work out a doable daily schedule.

I find that I’m most productive in the morning…which came as a complete shock to this inveterate night owl. Of course, I’d still be a night owl if I wasn’t having to get up at 5 OMG O’Clock to get the husbeast off to work. ::Tries to figure out how to win lottery so husbeast can go full time artist as well::

Nonetheless, I’ve managed to find a somewhat reasonable balance of Writing:Art:Domestic Responsibilities. Granted, I wish I was spending more time on the first two, but it’s getting sorted on a day to day basis. The hardest thing? Limiting my distractions. I wish I could say that I was better at resisting the urge to marathon one of my DVD sets (Too easy to call it “research” — WHO AM I KIDDING?) or get swept up in the all too easy sway of “refresh–read-refresh”, because that bloody need to NOT MISS ANYTHING is just a shimmy to the left of crack addiction. Less expensive but just as wasteful.

So, Learning Curve for functioning outside the routine of a 9-5 Day Job is taking longer than I hoped. BUT! I will succeed.

I’m currently finishing off the last rewrites on my first novel. I have a short story awaiting publication. And on the mosaic front, I’m doing my first commission piece, a mixed media piece that combines stained glass & tiles. It’s coming along better than I hoped. We’ll see if the finished product lives up to my ridiculous standards. (Nothing has yet, just so you know!)

On the “Hey, here’s a link you should be reading” front, I’ve become particularly fond of Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds blog. He posts some very helpful lists for writers, most often with some hilariously rude metaphors & descriptions. It’s a no bullshit zone for advice. Also, his books are amazing. Seriously–go check him out.

Kickstarter is eating up what funds I can provide lately. I can’t help it. In this new atmosphere of crowd funding, there is some fantastic art , books & music being created and if you get on board, the incentives have been amazing!  I’m hoping in the future to find a way to use kickstarter to fund some bigger projects I’ve been thinking about, but I need to consider the incentives to offer. Plenty of time for that.

On top of all the projects & day to day things I have going, there’s that little “Sell our house & move to Seattle” thing that is staring at me like a panther about to pounce. SO MUCH TO DO! What in all the gods names was I thinking to do this many life changing things at once? Oy.

Well, enough blathering. I have a ton to do on my checklist for today. Time to start chiseling that bitch down to size.

Mantra for today: Butt in chair, focus on the work, finish your goal for the day.

Remember to check out Einini Glassworks. There will be more items posted soon. Including some of my mosaic work!

Heidi 2.0

4 03 2012

So…Friday I took a big step into a new life.

I quit my day job.

I’ll be working full time on writing & mosaic art.

This is part of a bigger plan. Because, yes: There IS a plan.

Brian and I sat down and worked out the numbers. (He’s still working). I’m lucky enough to have a partner who not only is willing to support me financially, but also support my path and my passions.

I’ve already set up a schedule for myself through the week, which I imagine will morph organically as I find my rhythm of work. I hope to do my writing in the morning, with a minimum wordcount for each day, and relegate my afternoons to working on mosaic art. Weekends will be for getting projects photographed and up on Etsy, and for marketing/designing new things.

This first week will be bumpy as I get used to my new routine and getting my discipline in place.

It’s a big step for me. For the first time in my life, any income or lack there of is solely on my shoulders. If I don’t get the work done, there’ll be no product to market & sell. I have eliminated the biggest excuse for not working on writing or art, not that it should have been an excuse in the first place.

Added on top of all this new self-discipline and work routine, both the husbeast & I will be both tightening our belts, finance-wise, and also doubling down on our efforts to get the house sold & our sorry butts out to Seattle.

On paper, this all looks so efficient. Alas, this is not doing spreadsheets and fixing equipment.Writing and art are a bit more nebulous and although discipline helps you to put your nose to the grindstone, the tools and raw materials we’re working with are not exactly measurable or readily available. But therein lies the rub. It’s a risk, to do this creative act. Doubly so to risk your livelihood on it’s back. Payment is at the whims of your audience, not just the hours put in.

So, I’ve taken the leap. I’m hoping for a soft landing. I know it’s gonna be a bumpy ride….

And I cannot wait to get started.