On Sabbaticals and Making My Own Art

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My planned September sabbatical is almost at an end, sadly. I say “sadly”, because I very much enjoyed not being online this time around or, rather, online in closed circles. The first thing I did, after wrangling my list of paying gigs, was to do some adult coloring courtesy of Sarah Bigwood. And then? Decompression. This campaign has been absolutely ridiculously awful in the sense that there are so many arguments happening online. It’s challenging to get a squee every now and again for something that isn’t so spectacular it takes everyone’s breath away, regardless of whether or not I’m said creator of said piece for squeeing, and that gets to me. When I hear nothing but a single note at a singular volume, fortissimo, with a heavy pedal, it becomes noise and it loses its value.

It did take about two weeks to let the emotional angst flow right out of me, and then another two to right my head and get back in the What I Need To Be DoingTM headspace. Not to be confused, of course, with the What I Think I Should Be DoingTM headspace. Two, very different things–especially for writers. A few thoughts coming out of the past few weeks has reinforced that a) we’re all just making this shit up as we go along b) many (if not 95%) of us are doing the best we can and c) what you know or how you’re regarded means f-all with respect to what you do. As an addendum to that, plus an obligatory footnote(1), worrying about everything else is far too complicated and gets in the way of making art.

I’m sure some of my angst is coming from a charged election, but as I live in a charged state a decompression this time around was sorely needed. Of course, being offline doesn’t necessarily help me get down words faster on the page, but mitigating the words and headlines I consume has had an overall positive impact on my psyche. And, it has allowed me to get back to center and focus on what really matters. The in between spaces, the five and ten minutes here and there when I’m waiting on an e-mail, I definitely want to make better use of those.

What’s ahead? I’m planning on participating in Inktober, but I won’t be following the prompts. I have something specific planned, to add to my growing list of beadtastic-ness, but I’m pretty excited about it. I’m all about interstitial art that connects to the worlds I’m creating, to feel that visceral experience of my imagination brought to life–even in a small way! And yes, I feel like a “fake” artist, because none of the creative stuff I do (outside of words or art direction) is attached to my core business. I don’t know if it will be, either. Art has always been my religion, because it’s a testament to what’s inside. I just know I am totally and wholly miserable without it, and have to fall down this particular rabbit hole with or without the $ attached or the fear that I’m wasting my time.

That’s really been the crux of making my own stuff, and has for a while. We talk about making money as artists all the time, and how hard it is. I would write and make art with or without the money, but thinking about ways to earn it based off of what I already do isn’t evil. It’s counter-intuitive to what a lot of other people thinking about making your own stuff. Suffer on in obscurity, selling 20 copies, or have a book made into a movie. Only, there’s 1,000 different business models in between here and there and everywhere, and it’s maddening to try to control the outcome because it cannot be controlled. It can’t. You can have a background in business, which I do, but that doesn’t translate to how readers or players respond to the work or how many copies are sold. The only thing that can be controlled is how I spend my days, and right now? That means adding my own stuff. Just adding it back in, without the fear or anxiety or worry it won’t matter.

So what’s changed for me? I think the illustration at the bottom of today’s post perfectly sums up my thoughts but, for those of you who cannot see the honey badger, what has changed is that I stopped caring to remove another obstacle that gets in the way of being creative. Anything that gets in the way has gotta go. Stagnation for me, not writing or not designing or what have you, that’s the true death. That’s the beginning and end of the darkness that surrounds me, and I fight back by making art.

I don’t know if I’ll post links to my works or not, but if I do it won’t be every day. There is something very soothing about putting pen to paper, something that can’t be replaced with a mouse and a keyboard. I encourage you to participate if you think it’s a cool idea, even if you’re just lettering or watching what other artists are doing. More art = better for all in my book!

(1) Yes, games are in the category of art. Why wouldn’t they be?

honey-badgers





Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

Want to Interview or Hire Me? Send Fan Mail?

Would you like to hire me? Because my projects and manuscripts are in flux, I am always open to discussing new opportunities with publishers and studios. As a full-time writer, I spend a portion of my time seeking new gigs–so don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re interested, please e-mail me via my Contact Page. I typically reply to work-related e-mails within one-to-two business days.

Want an interview? If you’d like to interview me or request a guest blog post, please connect with me via the contact page, too. Due to time constraints and other communicative concerns, I typically don’t follow up on requests via social media.

Keen on sending fan mail? I am also happy to engage with readers and fans. Please note that I am unable to reply satisfactorily to certain types of queries related to the companies I work for due to the agreements I typically sign. If you have a question about a TV show or a line of books, the best way to get your answer is to contact the studio or publisher directly.

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