MANW Week 3 Check-In: New Creative Prompt & Challenge Follow-Up

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Today’s the exciting check-in for Week 3 of my Make Art Not War Challenge! I have had a tremendous week where a lot of unraveled threads have been snipped, and I’m in the process of figuring out what thread I need to spool before…

Okay, that took the whole “eye of the needle” analogy a bit too far; my point (Hah! Hah!) is that by embracing January’s theme of PLAY, I’m beginning to sort out what I want to focus on this year for the next three-to-six months. I’m also remembering which long-standing projects have been languishing as well, and that’s provided me with a much-needed kick in the butt to sharpen my focus.

I’d like to share with you how my week went, but before I get to that I’d like to plug an article by Gareth L. Powell titled “How To Keep Being Creative In A Crisis”. Loads of great insight here, and I really dug this quote:

“Art is one of the candles of civilisation. If we abandon it, the bad guys win. – Gareth L. Powell

Inspiring, eh? As more authors blog about making art in challenging and difficult times, I will continue to link to their words of wisdom. Remember: if you are just finding out about the challenge now, you can join at any time!

Creative Challenge Recap: Making Art at Cons

Last week, I did mention that I had a creative challenge to work through. I was invited to be a special guest at Midwinter Con, and my goal was to keep making art while at the show. Here’s how the days broke down:

  • Wednesday, January 11
  • – I did not make art. I was forced to slay dust bunnies instead.

  • Thursday, January 12
  • – This was a travel/booth set up/see people day, so no art here, either.

  • Friday, January 13
  • – I set up and participated in a LARP about an eeeeeeevil corporation, which was the culmination of characters I helped design. Not sure if this counts as “new” or not, but it was the result of my creative efforts.

  • Saturday, January 14
  • – I did here! Part of the day I spent with my cousin on creative photography and discussing my business plan. I also started narrowing down how to focus my creative energy on my original projects as well. Plus, spending time at the signing table allowed me to conjure concepts for new worlds, stories, and games.

  • Sunday, January 15
  • – Another travel and tear down day. This was a long one, and didn’t make art here.

Though I didn’t make art on certain days, when I came back home I did feel as if my focus never waned–not once. Since MANW was always on my mind, it was omnipresent and, because of that, I spent Monday recovering from the convention(1). I wound up buying some software that would allow me to design flat, two-dimensional bracelets, necklaces, earrings, etc. and used it to create two fan-made patterns. (One was for Dungeons & Dragons, and the other was for the Packers.) For flat stitches, the software will allow me to plot out intricate designs and “see” them before I stitch them. Pretty cool!

All in all, I think the creative challenge to continue making art at conventions can’t be forced or helped if travel gets in the way. The two most important things for me was to never lose sight of my goal, and to get back on the proverbial horse as soon as possible. I needed a day of downtime after a convention, for example, and I found there was no better way of spending it than making art.

Your mileage will vary, of course, but if you can’t make art while you’re away please don’t beat yourself up about it. If, however, you find yourself not making art when you get home, too, then that’s something I’d keep an eye on. If your lack of productivity goes past a week, then I’d say that’s definitely a cause for concern–especially if you don’t have a lot going on.

I’d love to hear how you’re doing. Feel free to check in on the hashtag or use the comments section. Can’t believe we’re in week three!

Creative Prompt: Visualize a Castle

The story behind this creative prompt is my love for a book that I feel was billed as a romance–even though it really wasn’t. Season of the Witch, by Natasha Mostert, touches upon a concept in spiritual alchemy where you build constructs in your mind. Natasha uses that gilded palace in an interesting and suspenseful way while other fantasy writers, like Melanie Rawn in her Exiles series, utilize mental constructs to teach magic, defend from magical attacks, etc. [Similar to this, is the “mind palace” which was featured in Sherlock.]

This exercise has two components to it. The first, is to take twenty minutes and find a nice, quiet space to visualize a castle of your dreams. If you don’t have one of those, I recommend noise-cancelling headphones to help you focus. Then, when you’re settled, draw a castle in your mind and add in the five senses. If you picture a tower, go inside the tower. Does it have staircases? Elaborate carpets? Stained glass windows or heavy oak doors? What does that room smell like? Fresh rain, rose petals, or cinnamon? Once you’ve visualized that room, move on to the next one and the next one until you’ve pictured an entire castle of your own making.

For the second part, bring your castle to life. You can do this in any number of ways via scrapbooking or cutting techniques, illustrations, lush descriptions, etc. The idea here is to build a castle in the real world that you’ve visualized. Remember: this doesn’t have to be something you complete on the first try, either. It could take you up to a week or more, and that’s okay!

Why do this? Here’s a secret: by creating a place in your mind, through your art, you are giving yourself the gift of space. This might be a place you dream about buying, building, owning, or traveling to one day. Or, your castle could be a safe space you retreat to because it’s uniquely yours. It may sound incredibly silly, but having a safe space is important for your well-being on multiple levels. This exercise allows you to create one and give you that sense of ownership and control–which is a must when times get tough!

(1) Every introvert understands what “recovering” a.k.a. “de-peopling” means.

    Mood: Caffeinated
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Yeah, I don’t think the addiction will bypass anytime soon, not until Spring at least.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Bah, humbug.
    In My Ears: Movie soundtrack playlist. Currently on Harry Potter.
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Research materials for work.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016. Check out Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling and, if you like it, consider leaving a review.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update.



One Response to MANW Week 3 Check-In: New Creative Prompt & Challenge Follow-Up
  1. Rachael C.

    Checking in, Week Three!

    Life continues to throw challenges my way, but the art continues on! This week seems especially challenging, due to a physical injury that still has me unable to sit up for long stretches of time.

    I love being able to just take my time working on projects. There is something very pleasant about being able to set up my work table for the evening’s project and then diving into it and not worrying about how much time I have left before needing to go to bed.

    This week, I’ve wanted to paint some miniatures and do some writing for my D&D world, but my injury disallows either for more than a few moments at a time. Today is the first day I can sit up long enough to write something even this long (hence why I didn’t chirp at you yesterday). Moreover, attempts at using my lap-desk only seem to make my problem worse.

    I don’t like being bedridden. And while I do have other projects I can do and enjoy in the interim, it’s Not What I Want To Do Today. That being said, though, this past week I designed a new store for myself, moving from Etsy to Big Cartel, and posted up pictures of the cabochons and other whimsical thingies that I’ve been making during MANW2017. I like the new store, if I do say so myself — the links change colors when you hover over them, and I think that suits me just fine. 🙂 So while I’m facing these obstacles, at least I can take comfort in doing Something instead of Nothing, as I might have done in previous years! That’s a win!

    I hope this next week brings you much creative joy and strength, and I look forward to hearing about what adventures you have. As usual, thank you again for your voice and your encouragement!

    Art on!



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.

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