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!



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!



Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop Applications Due March 1

Launch Pad is a workshop for established writers held in beautiful high-altitude Laramie, Wyoming. Launch Pad aims to provide a “crash course” for the attendees in modern astronomy science through guest lectures, and observation through the University of Wyoming’s professional telescopes. We generally cover all workshop expenses including meals and lodging, and are sometimes able to offer travel assistance as well.”

Now that you know what the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop is, I’m going to tell you why you–yes you!–should apply today.

I applied last year, because I felt very intimidated by all the amazing and wonderful authors I’ve read in science fiction. I’ve also been working on the Firefly universe since 2013, and after a while I felt inadequate. Sure, I did hire writers and editors who had a better background in the sciences than I did, but I could tell I had a gaping hole of understanding that needed to be filled. I anticipated that my work in genre would only increase, and as I enjoy researching and reading the hell out of whatever I’m doing I needed a starting point.

It’s impossible to describe how intense and rewarding that week was. Did it trigger (most) of my neuroses, as deadlines wait for no space camp? Yep, it did. But, I got to learn alongside so many other brilliant and talented individuals as we listened to even more brilliant and talented individuals talking about things like accretion disks and what black holes really are (Hint: they’re not “holes”). Oh, and all those stupid questions you want to know the answers to–but were too afraid to ask? We asked them, too.

I wanted to go to Launch Pad because I am actively working toward being more science positive. I have the deepest and utmost respect for scientists who do all the things I cannot. I can read, I can research, but in the end I am an entertainer–and this workshop pointed out why and how writers can embrace the sciences even if we’re not professionals. Plus, the workshop environment with its labs, discussions, and field trips facilitated that awe, that wonderment, that feeling you get when you look up at the stars and think “What if?” That, by itself, is an irreplaceable feeling.

So, what if you applied? That’s the question I’m asking you today. Not because you’re second-guessing what you’ve done (or what you haven’t), but because of what you want to do for the science fiction genre. Set aside your insecurity and your Imposter Syndrome for a moment, and remember that all science fiction writers–from the late Octavia Butler to Robert J. Sawyer to Kim Stanley Robinson–all wrote one story, one screenplay, one game at a time.

Our world needs writers who look to the future and see more hope than disaster, who hear about all the work NASA is doing and think about the possibilities, who want to facilitate a science-positive atmosphere in our stories, our own workshops, and beyond. That writer could be you. If that’s the type of work you want to do, I strongly encourage you to submit your application to the Launch Pad Workshop today. If I can do it, then you absolutely can, too!

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