February MANW 2017 Challenge Recap: How’d You Do?

MANW February Badge

The end of February is upon us, which means it’s time for another month-end recap. First, I want to circle back to my original pledge to share with you how I did. This month’s theme was ORGANIZE; it was designed to make way for new projects, assess materials/inventory, and get everything sorted.

Let’s see how I did!

My Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge pledge:

  • I pledge to devote one hour a day to my original art.

I averaged about a half an hour per day this month, and wound up planning longer sessions for make-up time. This was due, in part, to this month’s organizational activities which ended up being a bigger time sink than I originally anticipated.

As I started going through stuff, I encountered brain weasels that threatened to de-rail me. Those trips down memory lane were Not FunTM, because I focused on the shoulda/woulda/coulda’s and not on using the past as a jumping off point. This added a layer of time as I recognized I was dealing with stuff, and that slowed me down a bit.

  • If I don’t feel motivated, I pledge to write down the reasons why I wanted to take this challenge for fifteen minutes or one-to-three pages whichever comes first.

I did not have a problem with motivation, so this didn’t apply.

  • I pledge to mark down on the calendar whenever I complete a day’s efforts.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, this I didn’t do. I forgot my own advice: celebrate my accomplishments no matter how small!

  • As the challenge creator, I pledge to create a weekly accountability post every Wednesday beginning on January 9th. Comments will be open. Hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017

Yep, I did do this! Some participants are popping in and out, and I’ve noticed that some folks are getting sucked into the news as well. Plus, we’re adding some new folks here and there. That’s normal. My goal is to remain a constant this year: I, along with this challenge, will always be here to inspire, motivate, and keep you going.

  • I pledge to check into social media twice a week for personal use, and once a month with my local community of artists and writers.

My social media usage changed quite a bit after I made some decisions last month, and they continued to evolve as I focused on Life, The Universe, and EverythingTM. I spent a lot of time on what was happening in my own backyard, and did not add my social media accounts back onto my phone. I managed to get one quarterly group meeting for creatives off the ground, made sure I was up-to-date on convention planning, and only had one or two weeks where Art Night didn’t go as planned. I also added a new website blocker that’s active during work hours; this allows me to focus and find better things to do when I need that five-or-fifteen minute break.

February Recap: ORGANIZE

I spent a lot of time taking stock of what I had and where I wanted to go next. Out of this, I planned a bunch of projects and identified which specific things I needed to do and acquire. I got my proverbial shit together, bought some reference books, and know exactly what I have to do in order to move forward.

Some “Idunwannadoit” projects, like filing, are going to take a while. I started to go through The Black Hole That Is My Office ClosetTM and did make some headway there, and assessed my art supplies to have a clear picture of what I can make with what I have. My beading supplies are going to take a lot longer to inventory, because I discovered another box I had stashed away. Plus, I do want to finish a few statement necklaces for the conventions I’m attending. I am, however, not going to make the mistake of letting this stuff slide or saying “I’ll remember!” I’m regarding these projects as work-related, so they are being broken down further.

I also went through a lot of my digital spaces and got those cleaned up. Plus, I started relying more on Google Calendar and Wunderlist, and that helped a ton! The nice thing about both of these tools, is that I can sync up my work/life activities and get valuable reminders popping up on my phone. The only thing I don’t like about Wunderlist, is that it takes 12 hours to sync with GCal; everything else about it is pretty slick.

What I’ve Learned Thus Far

January was a great warm up for this year-long initiative, and February allowed me to really dig in and make a push for my own art. I have learned a few things along the way about this project’s affect on my psyche, and I’d like to share them with you.

  • My mental health dramatically improves when I’m not connected twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Going outside for walks helps a lot!
  • My fear response is to summon Ryan Reynolds, and I’ve been channeling him a lot lately.
  • To prevent modeling (e.g. plotting out what will happen in the future to be prepared for it), it’s important to focus on the “now”. What can I control, what can I affect, how can I help.
  • Shouldering an emotional burden isn’t just overwhelming, it is work. Managing your emotions is one-hundred and fifty percent emotional labor that impacts everything from your personal to your professional life, and that requires awareness and trouble-shooting to figure out how to deal with that.
  • Making my own art has allowed me to dream big again–even in this charged environment. I want to do such a great job people will gladly pay money for the end result, and being aware that making art is work helps me value my efforts more.
  • I’m reminded that not everyone has the same goals, passion, or drive that I do–and that’s okay!
  • There is no better place to find inspiration than in the life I’m living and have lived.
  • Being uncomfortable is a sign I’m on the right track.
  • Small measures of resistance still matter.
  • Hope is one of the most underrated and unique emotions we can experience as human beings.

I can’t wait to see how this year shapes up. It’s a lot to process after only two months of the challenge, but I can feel the change on a cellular level. How about you? Did you have a good time making art in February? Was the theme something you embraced? Or did you avoid it altogether? On Wednesday, I’ll be kicking off March’s new–and super fun–theme! Rest well, and don’t forget to congratulate yourself on another awesome month of making art!

    Mood: Zen with a side of Zzzzzzzzz’s.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Ummmmmm… I think two?
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walked a few steps.
    In My Ears: Xerxes, HWV40: Ombra mai fu (Largo)
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Reference for work
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Trevor Noah’s Netflix Special
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming this month!



Have Confidence in Yourself! Your Mileage Will Vary

Whenever I read advice either online or in a book, I often feel frustrated whenever I see the words “this is what you must do”. Sometimes, the text is massaged as a conscious decision to present the author as a confident, successful expert. On other occasions, the “must” originates from a deeply heartfelt sentiment. This solution to a problem worked so well for the speaker/writer, that it’s guaranteed to work for everyone else, too. Lastly, there is a style of editing that removes or reduces certain tenses so the prose pops off the page; changing words from “you might” to “you will” alters the messaging and makes the advice sound more personal and immediate.

In my experience, The One True WayTM doesn’t work when you start applying it in practice. The proof? There is no absolute tried-and-true method for weight loss, to write a novel, to learn how to paint, etc. The sum of who you are is comprised of your body and your mind, but it’s also impacted by who’s around you, what your culture/identity is, and a thousand other factors.

Despite the tendency to categorize humans simply, we are far more neuro- and bio-diverse than the stereotypes might have us believe. We do, absolutely, share some things in common with each other; these commonalities allow us to benefit from our experiences while learning about our differences. Those nuances are hard to address when a book is being written to teach you how to plot, devise characters, or draw manga figures; that’s the reason why some how-to and advice books only work for some people.

This is the reason why I have been consciously avoiding the One True WayTM-isms as much as possible, especially since I started the Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge. I do want to present myself as a confident motivator, but I don’t ever want you to feel as if I’m forcing my methods on you. After all, I started this program because I wanted to help keep your creative fires burning and, to do that, sometimes I have to say things like “stop waiting” or “wrangle your brain weasels” or “pick up your pen” to motivate you. I have faith you will find joy or unlock solutions to your problems in your own time, in your own way.

    Mood: Tired
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Not a lot, and I am feeling it.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Butt-sitting
    In My Ears: Dragon Age: Inquisition soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: RED 2
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming this month!



Stop Waiting and Make Art

Madagascar Penguin Avatar

Do you want to know the secret to making art? There is no secret. You just make it. Seriously, that’s all you have to do. One word, one brush stroke, one stitch at a time. Talking about writing doesn’t get the words down — even though it might motivate you! Claiming that the muse needs to strike may not get the words down either, but it can help you visualize that proverbial angel sitting on your shoulder. I don’t have a muse, because if I waited to be “in the mood” to write, then I’d never get anything done. I’d keep waiting and waiting and…

Waiting. Unfortunately, I see this a lot. An artist makes that “one thing”, and pins all their hopes and dreams on it. Or, they never get started in the first place because they’re intimidated. It’s easier to daydream about making art, than it is to have the discipline to make it. We’re not doctors or lawyers or police officers, mind you, so the life of an artist isn’t as challenging as someone who is put in life-or-death situations, but we do have our own trials to go through since our creativity doesn’t flow on command.

The truth about making art, is that you’ll get better and have more opportunities as long as you keep making it. If you get a rejection, write another story. If a door is slammed in your face, pitch to another venue. If you’re frustrated, try flipping to another project. Why wait for a perfect moment that doesn’t exist? You will not have a manuscript if you avoid your computer for a couple of weeks; you’ll have no words and a lot of guilt. 1,000 crappy words is better than nothing!

If you’re learning and scared to keep at it, keep in mind one of the key principles pounded into my brain when I was studying piano: you have to practice if you want to get better, and practicing is a normal part of the learning process we all go through. The only way to see growth, is to keep making art — even if it means writing draft after draft after terrible draft. The only way to sell art, is to have something to sell that other people might want to buy.

There is nothing more important to an artist than to be persistent and to keep making art. That is the only surety in this business; you have to keep at it — no matter what. Believe me, I know how frustrating it can be. I also know you can do it. So, what are you waiting for? Stop waiting and make art!

    Mood: Pretty zen, actually.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: That last double espresso did me in.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Lots of walking
    In My Ears: The soothing sounds of the washing machine
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: RED 2
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming this month!



MANW Week 8: A Mish-Mash of Administrivia and Brain Weasels

MANW February Badge

Can’t believe it’s been two months already! How are you all doing? Several projects have popped out of this month’s planning and organizing, and I’ll describe some of them in next week’s monthly recap. Before I start talking about brain weasels, I want to address some administrative points I thought I’d share.

  • How My RSS/Newsletter Appears in GMail – Google is regarding the e-mails you’re receiving as “Promotional” and listing it under that tab, no doubt because I have pictures and links in my posts. You can read more about this issue here on Quora (Thanks, Didi!).
  • Geek Social Fallacies Still Relevant – The five Geek Social Fallacies addresses some social characteristics within the geek-o-sphere, and though this was written years ago I still think they’re relevant.
  • Guest of Honor at OddCon – Don’t forget! I’m a Guest of Honor along with Tad Williams and Christopher R. Mihm at Odyssey Con at the end of April. Join us to talk about games, movies, books, and a whole lot more.
  • Adding a monthly coupon for www.booksofm.com subscribers – Thanks to the depth and breadth of work I’ve done, combined with the relationships I’ve built up over the years, I’ve gotten permission to offer some monthly discounts with some of the publishers I’ve worked with. I don’t want to spam you with special e-mails, however; you’ll either get a special coupon or a free e-book once a month to give you something back for subscribing.
  • Prepping for Camp NaNoWriMo in April – I’m in the middle of outline hell, and will be preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo. This camp is a spin-off from NaNoWriMo.org, which takes place in November. Ideally, I want to write 50,000 words of my own, original material which roughly translates to 2,500 words per day. I’m guessing that, because of work, it’s more realistic for me to do 20,000. If you need a kick-in-the-ass to get some writing done, I’ll be posting about it later on.

Creative Challenge: Wrangling Those Brain Weasels

Did you know I’ve been blogging on and off now for over ten years? I’ve been reviewing some of my earlier posts, and I was amazed at the person that I once was. In fact, I was a little embarrassed by my blog posts, because I have learned so much since then — and I’m not sure I would give the same advice now as I did in the past.

Growth is normal, healthy, and a sign that the slow pursuit of my career has continued to evolve. But, being embarrassed of who I once was opens the door to brain weasels. “Why did I say something so stupid?” “Why did I present myself as an expert?” “Geez, this sounds incredibly self-serving.” I got de-railed, and was in a funk for a couple of days. “Oh no! What was I thinking?”

It’s easy to look back and see past mistakes, because conventional wisdom — hindsight is 20/20 — holds true, especially for artists due to the uncertainties of being in this industry and making a living. There are so many factors outside of our control, I’m of the mind that many of us are doing the best we can with what we have on our own journey. For example, sometimes we might buy our own bullshit because that’s what gets us through to see another day. Or, we break out that ruler or measuring stick to compare ourselves to another writer to see where we’re “at” to motivate us to write more. (Related: my blog about Keeping Your Eyes On Your Own Page.) Of course, if we do manage to avoid brain weasels that tank our Inner Artist’s ego, sometimes we turn that back around and point to all the reasons (some legitimate, and some not) that we’re not making art, we’re not successful, or we haven’t gotten the help we need when there’s only one thing we can control: making art so we have something to sell.

Wrangling brain weasels is a creative challenge when it threatens your productivity or mood like it did mine. They are normal, they are common, and you are not alone in suffering from them when they attack. To deal with them you might go for a walk, list your accomplishments, track your time (to see where you’re spending it), find a mentor, etc. Though you will do what works best for you, the main thing to remember is that you are the only person who can deal with your personal bullshit — and that includes those moments of insecurity. So, how do you get back on the horse and get back to writing? That’s entirely up to you.

I’ve decided to deal with my brain weasels by molding them into a singular monster; I’ve also given it a name. Mine is Bob the Many-Headed Slithering Snot-Nosed Smelly Goober Weasel. Because really, when standing in front of my insecurities, sometimes the best thing I can do is laugh and then get on with my day.

    Mood: 90% of my feeds are about politics. No wonder I’m exhausted.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Good gravy I lost track.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walking!
    In My Ears: Fish tank
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: RED 2
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming this month!



On Jewelry Design

After posting a few pics, some folks in my online circles wondered where I get my ideas from. After suffering from metal allergies, I started designing jewelry in college using regular stringing methods and some basic wire work. Then, when I found out there were classes and kits available at my local bead store, I’ve been focused on bead embroidery and bead weaving. Some magazines and books, too, provide patterns that allow me to create pieces like this:

A Twist in Grey

Since I’ve been making more pieces, I’ve also been able to take on my own designs or heavily modify existing patterns. This bracelet started out as something else, but I lost the pattern so the embellishment is my own. As you learn patterns, you’ll pick up what size of beads will work for which projects–and what cut as well.

Harlequin Bracelet

In addition to your local bead store, there are a ton of resources online you can visit to learn more about beadweaving and wirework. To get you started, here’s a list of five websites you can visit for more information.

The thing I like about making handmade jewelry, is that it’s uniquely satisfying to create something from scratch. Plus, there’s a mathematical component to jewelry design that lies underneath the surface of the artistry, similar to knitting, crocheting, or sewing. Add in levels of complexity, too, and over time you’ll notice your progress (and confidence) improve as you start with something simple and increase your skill set.

    Mood: Blargh
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Three-ish
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: A short walk
    In My Ears: RED 2
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: RED 2
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming this month!



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