Stop Waiting and Make Art

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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!



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!

Creative Challenge: Organize for Headspace and Avoid New Rules

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One of the issues I see pop up with respect to making art every day, is that when you don’t (and guilt sets in) your brain creates a new “rule”. These rules take the form of “I will” or resolutions that are so complex and unrealistic you can’t possibly achieve them. I will write 2,500 words every day no matter what. I will work on the same project every day until it’s done. I will hit 10,000 steps every day. Etc. Etc. Unfortunately, this is what leads to procrastination because when you fall down (which is normal because you’re human, not a robot) you’ll associate “making art” with creating demands for yourself that wind up making you feel very small.

This issue is exacerbated when you start getting your shit together, because as you go through stuff you’ll take stock of your past self and goals–and that’s when the brain weasels wake up and attack. Organizing by itself is not a creative challenge; organizing to clear your mind, however, is. The point of revisiting old files, cataloguing your inventory, and assessing where you’re at is to make way for your future self. To do that, sometimes you have to address your physical space even though that might generate memories of your past self.

Here’s how I deal with this creative challenge: in anticipation of brain weasels, I’ve been using a visualizing technique to facilitate and channel my emotions. I picture a large house inside my head. (Way bigger than any home I’ve ever lived in!) All my proverbial junk is in the basement. If I’m feeling crappy, when I head down there I “see” a flooded basement. Super gross! As I clean up my physical space, I concentrate on draining that water and mopping up the floor. It’s an added layer to help me be more resilient to making new rules, and it helps me “see” the effect it’s having, instead of just feeling it.

    Mood: It’s all coming together.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Whoaaaaa… Like, psychedelic.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Half an hour
    In My Ears: Fish tank
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Clone Wars
    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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