MANW New April SPEED Theme Sprints and Badge!

April 2017 Make Art Not War Participant Badge

Timey Whimey the TimerGood morning, challengers! Today, I’m excited to dive into April’s theme: SPEED. VROOOOOOOOOOOOM!

Last month you spent time wandering to PLANT the seeds for your artistic future. Now, you’re ready to give your mind a break and do something fun.

The point of this month’s theme is to push yourself one or two times a week, to move past your procrastination and revel in the joy of writing, painting, drawing, etc. by racing against the clock.


Be kind to yourself! April is a fantastic month to try something new for your personal health or fitness. Sometimes, to get your art moving — you need to get physically moving, too. Shake up your perspective, and get your body used to doing something different! Moving can help lift you out of your funk, even if you’re going for a quick, fifteen-minute walk.


Making art quickly is one way to move past a mental block or get rid of the “Idunwannas” to challenge yourself. The art you make during this time may not be perfect–but it doesn’t have to be. That’s what revisions are for. You filled a blank page, tried a new technique, or practiced a brand new stitch, and that’s more than enough!

5 Sprints To Try

Confused? Not sure what to do? Here’s five different sprints you can try. Grab a timer, and go go go!

1. Write as fast as you can for a hour. These #1k1hr sprints churn up anywhere between 500 to 1,200 words on average. Many will be conducted during Camp NaNoWriMo, too, so you can always hop on over to Twitter and have some fun. Word sprints are a GREAT way to complete your word count goals.

2. Sketch objects in the room you’re in as fast as you can for fifteen minutes. Grab a small pad of paper, a pencil, and go go go! Try to do this once or twice a week, to warm up your artistic hand and see your environment in a new light. If you get bored, try tapping into new styles that you’ve told yourself you don’t have the time to try. This is also a good excuse to head to a new locale to make art!

3. Create as many characters as you can for fifteen minutes. This sprint is perfect for gamers, writers, or artists! To do this, assign five to eight specific traits you want your characters to have. Names are often the hardest part, so if cooking up appropriate names doesn’t come easily to you I’d name them after the exercise. Here’s a list of traits you can pick from: city of origin, profession, gender, species (e.g. alien, elf, etc.) sexuality, hair/eye/skin color, style of dress/hair, social class or standing, etc.

4. Cook up a practice drill and repeat for ten minutes. When I was preparing for concerts, practicing scales were a way to warm my fingers and voice up. I think practice drills are an awesome way to get your mind used to making art, and can be translated to any form. For writers, you might spend ten minutes working on your descriptions. For artists, you might perform different line or brush techniques. Give yourself this time two to three times a week, and you’d be amazed how you’ll naturally get faster and better at these drills the more you do them.

5. Find inspiration in one minute. Then make art for ten. Sometimes, research or an inability to refill your creative well sidetracks you from making art. Ideas can be found all around you, even in the most unusual places. This exercise removes or reduces the time spent finding inspiration, and gives you a soft nudge to make something. To dive in, embrace randomness! Pick a book or magazine off your shelf and flip to a page, or sign up for Pinterest and make art based on the first image you see. You may never use what you produce during these mini-exercises, but you are making art and that can put a dent in procrastination.

Freaked Out About Mistakes?

If you’re a perfectionist, you might be a little freaked out right now because you understand sprinting may result in mistakes. Your inclination may be to stop, go back, and fix your errors. My suggestion is to avoid doing that and keep going, even if you’re stumbling. Embrace the flow of your art and surprise yourself. You never know what cool, fantastical, or interesting things’ll turn up!

Making mistakes teaches you resilience and persistence; in order to be an artist, sometimes you will make mistakes or be sidetracked by any number of things. How quickly you get back up on that proverbial horse is hugely important, because that shows you acknowledge mistakes, errors, and roadblocks are all part of the job. And believe me, they are. Sometimes, that’s in your power to control. Other times? Not so much.

Now, get out there and have some fun!

    Mood: Scrambling to pack
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Well, I’m still buzzing.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Housework. Blargh.
    In My Ears: Fish tank and… Oh, dear. Cats.
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy X-2 Remastered
    Book Last Read: Urban Fantasy Anthology
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Into the Badlands
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: Unknown Armies Books One, Two, and Three. 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. I’m scheduling my project update for May, to take stock after April.



MANW Week 13: Month-End Recap

The Tick Weapons Lab Avatar

Good morning, challengers! If you’re just joining us, you can check out the full set of rules for my Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge. As always, this challenge isn’t about me–it’s about you. Hopefully, these posts are motivating you to make art and find your light.

Time to revisit my pledge!

My Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge pledge:

  • I pledge to devote one hour a day to my original art.
  • 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 pledge to mark down on the calendar whenever I complete a day’s efforts.
  • 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
  • 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.

March 2017 Challenge Recap

  • I had no problem making art every day.
  • Motivation hasn’t been a problem. Sometimes, I do feel out of the loop because I haven’t been online as much. The only way forward, however, is to make art. Can’t sell a blank page!
  • Tracking? Eh, I fell off the wagon there. House guests, trip/con planning, and the pain and agony of adulting really soured my mood. More on this shortly.
  • Social media? TOTALLY MANAGED. (Finally! YAY!) Future community time? Also planned.

All in all, I think this was a fairly productive challenge month. I felt my priorities shifting 100% to work (which is good) and more reading (which is very good). Doing that, allowed me to better spend my free time knowing I am doing everything I can to get shit done. That’s a good feeling!

Adulting blows, because it’s boring as hell and it’s not as exciting as writing a new story or making a gift for someone. But, it is part of being human on planet Earth, unfortunately, which means that it’s necessary to offset that filing/appointments/life, the universe, and everythingTM decision-making crap with a reminder of the good stuff. That can be hard in today’s climate, but no matter what age we’re in that little bit of light can be found.

PLANT Theme Recap

March’s theme was PLANT. I decided on this theme to ease off of “big picture” planning and focus on the small stuff–especially after February’s ORGANIZE theme. PLANT encouraged you to spend this month accomplishing small, mini-goals. Even if you did a handful, that adds up quick! And, knocking off a few minor to-do list items can help build your confidence as an artist, too.

To tap into PLANT-ing the seeds for my future, I focused on outlining–which isn’t something I normally do. Then, I started working on a few scenes for each story just to get started in preparation for Camp NaNoWriMo. I also revisited my “morgue”, which is where my stories go to die, and the 100s of e-mails I have filled with story ideas. From there, once I grab ideas from the dozens of journals I have lying around, I’ll probably put together a spreadsheet. I’ve also marked down two settings I need to create setting bibles for; they are massive, massive lumbering beasts that can populate games, stories, comics, etc. Additionally, I did focus on spring cleaning, organizing my art supplies more, and I started taking stock of my beads. I do have a rough idea of how long a household project will take me, however, and that definitely helps me plan my day.

Out of this, what I learned was that outlines for fiction don’t come naturally to me, because I’ve always been more of a gardener (as opposed to an architect) when it comes to telling stories. My solution to writing has always been to write until I internalize what I need to, and I always wanted to try new approaches to see if I’d get longer projects done faster. Outlines have helped me recognize a story’s potential for conflict and character motivation, which are two things that are often lacking in stories if you’ve worked in games for as long as I have.

For some novels and long-term projects I’m working on outlines are essential; they’re also necessary in the world of media/tie-in for approvals, too. In the past, I’ve worked off one-to-three paragraph pitches for short stories, but now that my productivity cycle is longer? I have to use them–especially since I can’t drop everything to work on “one” project for months at a time. That would be glorious, if that were the case, but to stay in business I have to do more than one thing.

For April, I am embracing Camp NaNoWriMo and am in a cabin with other writers from my agency. April’s theme will be SPEED! It takes inspiration from the many one hour, one thousand words writing sprints the NaNoWriMo team conducts. Watch for my upcoming post about how (and why) this theme can be a lot of fun!

    Mood: Focused like sharks with laser beams on their head.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I stopped counting.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Housework
    In My Ears: Nada
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy X-2 Remastered
    Book Last Read: The Oracle
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: ONCE Upon a Time
    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!



[New Release] Unknown Armies Books 1-3

Unknown Armies is an occult game about broken people conspiring to fix the world. I worked on all three books, and they are now available for you to download in PDF format. This game is utterly dark, weird, gut-wrenching, and very cool! If you don’t want to get all three, I’d start with the first one or check out the Unknown Armies Kickstarter page for more information.

Unknown Armies presents magick as it might exist in a world informed by crime fiction and secret histories, as twisting wrinkles in reality created by greater and greater risk, sacrifice, and obsession. As a player, you are confronted by the consequences of your character’s actions, and challenged by the implicit threat of a world shaped by the will of those who want something more than you do.

Unknown Armies Book One: Play is the book for players. It details:

  • Obsession and identity.
  • All of the rules for resolving actions.
  • The central shock gauge mechanic.
  • How to avoid fights, and how to deal with them when you’re dragged into them anyway.
  • The magick of adepts and avatars.
  • Gorgeous full-color art and layout.

Unknown Armies Book Two: Run is the book for gamemasters. It tells you how to:

  • Present the characters with obstacles to their fevered dreams of changing the world.
  • Oversee character creation and setting collaboration in the first session of play.
  • Draw on the rich and disturbingly familiar world of the occult underground.
  • Create new creatures and antagonists.
  • Resolve conflicts as a fan of the characters.
  • Prepare situations to disturb and entertain.

Unknown Armies Book Three: Reveal is the book of the weird for everyone. It contains:

  • Gamemaster characters, locations, creatures, and events.
  • Heresy and hearsay, alphabetized like a devil’s dictionary.
  • Ideas, hooks, tidbits, scraps, lies, truths, and horrors.
  • Lists, stats, and ephemera.
  • Even more weirdness.
  • Even more magick.

Created by Greg Stolze and John Tynes, Unknown Armies presents an entirely original yet disturbingly familiar approach to mystery, horror, and action in roleplaying games. If this is your jam, check it out!

MANW Week 12: Check-In and Emotional Labor

Jack The Pumpkin King Avatar

Good morning, challengers! I’ve got a few updates for you before diving into the meat of today’s post. LeechBlock is working out fantastic for me, and I also managed to get my main compy up to speed, too. Huzzah! Sadly, I am forced (forced, I tell you!) to suffer in domesticity, but thanks to February’s ORGANIZE theme my spring cleaning is going a lot smoother than last year. The habits I picked up on are allowing me to gauge how much time a household task takes; this gives me more options to plan my day.

I’ve been bead stitching for my artistic time, and I recently finished this spiral stitch necklace with peyote embellishments. The pattern is available in Jill Weisman’s Beautiful Beaded Ropes–I loved the red so much I didn’t deviate from the color scheme or the original pattern.

Also in hilarious news, I backed the Chameleon Pens Color Tops Kickstarter and didn’t realize that my pledge was specific to the “tops.” A few e-mails and updates later, and I’m the (future) proud owner of alcohol-based markers!

For today’s check-in, I want to talk about emotional labor and its impact on your productivity.

Creative Challenge: Dealing with Emotional Labor

Emotional labor is defined on Wikipedia as: “..a form of emotion regulation that creates a publicly visible facial and bodily display within the workplace. The related term emotion work (also called “emotion management”) refers to “these same acts done in a private context,” such as within the private sphere of one’s home or interactions with family and friends. Hochschild identified three emotion regulation strategies: cognitive, bodily, and expressive.”

Artists perform emotional labor because we tap into the human condition to produce art that generates a desired feeling (e.g. happiness, fear, awe) or response (e.g. sexual arousal in romance) when we create our art, sell it, and interact with our readers, players, etc. If we (e.g. artists) lived in a bubble, unaffected by the outside world, you might think it’d be easier to produce works of art in any genre–humor, romance, horror, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, thriller–on command. It’s not and we don’t. In fact, to become better artists, we have to explore the human condition either consciously or subconsciously to produce art that connects emotionally. Whether we do that through our daily lives/local communities or not, we aren’t robots. We are human beings who make art, and we’re not immune to what’s happening around or to us. Due to the nature of our work, we often have to ignore or deal with our feelings so we can generate emotional touchpoints in our work.

It’s easier to put emotional labor into context offline. For example, consider a fan who asks me out to an intimate dinner at a con. In the fan’s mind, they want to do something nice and spend time with the artist they admire–which is lovely! In my mind, however, an invitation for a private one-on-one dinner with someone I’ve never met before is something I’d typically say “No, thank you!” to for a few reasons. First, when I travel it’s typically for work so I often balance my schedule against meetings, etc. Second, since I’m fairly private a lot of people don’t know I’ve been in a long-standing relationship and I don’t mix work with pleasure. And lastly, as a woman in a strange city there are safety considerations I have to weigh against an invite like this. Because I don’t want to be rude, I might say something like: “I’m very flattered, but no thank you.” Conventions are usually work for me, and I finally feel like I’ve figured it out!

Offline, emotional labor is interesting because face-to-face interactions and body language support what you’re saying. Online interactions are an entirely different ballgame because people are exchanging words and images through their “world view” filter. The internet isn’t a utopia filled with unbiased or free information, because human beings create the content that is published online. If you’re engaged, then you’re consuming updates and content that may or may not impact your emotions. The news is the easiest example I can think of, but what happens when it’s not that simple? Take, for example, a piece of bad news that’s circulating about a peer you’ve worked with. Do you keep an eye on the discussion and pay attention to every nuance? Do you defend this peer? Does this peer expect you to chime in? Do you converse with other fans to make sense of what’s happening? As another example, say that I’m writing a funny short story about kittens and it’s due in a few hours. I briefly touch base on Facebook only to find out that my friend’s beloved cat died. Ouch! How does that news affect my work? I’m sad about Booster, but I don’t have time to feel that emotion. If I want to get my short story done, I need to channel or set aside that grief for a later date.

By thinking about emotional labor as “unpaid work”, I feel this lens puts a little space between what you feel obligated to do, what you have to do, and what you can walk away from. You aren’t getting paid for the emotional labor you’re required to perform online, much like you wouldn’t get paid to smile and nod in front of hostile reviewers or back-stabbing peers. Remember: people often go where they feel welcome, but that doesn’t hold true in all cases. Sometimes, you might not have a choice and have to engage online. Instead of saying: “This [current event] might de-rail me from my deadline. How do I deal with these toxic emotions?” Try re-wording this to: “This [current event] might de-rail me from my deadline. Do I need that kind of work right now?” That way, you’re recognizing you’re adding unpaid labor on top of your regular workload, and that by itself could help you deal with difficult situations.

Lastly, I want to point out there is no possible way for me to relate to all of my readers for this (or any other) challenge, and I recognize that. This topic is a broad one, and intersects not only with productivity but with harassment and depression, too. If, however, your productivity is out of whack, consider what kind of unpaid work you’ve taken on. Maybe your solution is to take a break from the internet for a week or two. Maybe you decide to stop engaging on social media before you get your word count done. Or, maybe you’ve figured out to take a step back from certain communities because you don’t feel welcome. The specifics of your identity, your situation, and how you deal with your emotions both online and off is uniquely personal–your art, your life, your choices. I trust you’ll make the right decision for yourself, your well-being, and your art.

    Mood: I went outside and breathed fresh air. It was weird.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Four or five
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Housework
    In My Ears: Nada
    Game Last Played: Star Realms
    Book Last Read: The Oracle
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: ONCE Upon a Time
    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!



Camp NaNoWriMo Prep and 5 Writing eBook Recs

CampNaNoWriMo

T-minus two weeks until Camp NaNoWriMo begins! You can find me at camp under the username: mlvalentine if you want to connect individually. I am significantly decreasing connectivity in April, because I’ve got a lot of words to write for both work and camp.

To help you prep, I’ve picked out ten reference ebooks on writing that are available on DriveThruFiction.com. I’ve either read these books or have them sitting on a shelf in my reference library, and I’ve made notes where applicable.

  • Dynamic Characters – Written by Nancy Kress, I really liked this character reference book because it reminded me of being in workshop. Dynamic Characters utilizes a mixture of advice and examples from popular fiction, so you can see the logic in Kress’s advice.
  • A Writer’s Guide to Persistence – Persistence and discipline are two keys to being a writer, and sometimes it’s hard to find the energy or motivation to have both. This book focuses on persistence by offering tips, advice, and journaling exercises to help you push through a hump. I’ve found this book to have long-term value; it’s not unusual to have more than one slow or frustrating period as a writer. Getting back on the proverbial horse is super important, and this book offers a different perspective.
  • 90 Days to Your Novel: A Day-by-Day Plan for Outlining & Writing Your Book – Outlining my original fiction is something that’s been helping me remain focused and get more done. There’s many different methods of outlining (e.g. The Snowflake Method), but I’ve rarely seen a book that combines outline with planning. I haven’t sat down and tried the plan yet; current goal is to start in June and wrap writing into July’s Camp NaNoWriMo.
  • 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists – Sometimes, writing advice can be challenging to give and receive because what works for one writer may not work for another. Secondarily, the path to success varies so wildly from one writer to another, that sometimes it can be challenging to figure out if you’re on the right track. This collection of habits helps to reinforce what you’re already doing, but also give you ideas on how to model your actions after super successful writers.
  • 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them – On the pragmatic side, this book is filled with big picture lots and has a lot of checklists to ensure you’re on track. I’ve referenced this during outlining and revisions, and found it helps serve as a reminder for the big picture stuff.

If you’re taking my Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge, this does count towards the challenge. You’ll want to plan approximately two hours a day to make your daily word count goal of 1,667, and commit to some brief outline sketches ahead of time. Additionally, if there’s other administrative or Life, The Universe, and EverythingTM tasks you need to do, it’s a smart idea to get that done ahead of time and make room for words. That way, if something throws you off-kilter then you won’t veer as far off track.

Happy prepping!

    Mood: Monday Monday
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: So much espresso!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walking my ass off
    In My Ears: Whiny cats
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy X-2: The Last Mission
    Book Last Read: Black Unicorn
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Legend of the Seeker
    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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