On Sabbaticals and Making My Own Art

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My planned September sabbatical is almost at an end, sadly. I say “sadly”, because I very much enjoyed not being online this time around or, rather, online in closed circles. The first thing I did, after wrangling my list of paying gigs, was to do some adult coloring courtesy of Sarah Bigwood. And then? Decompression. This campaign has been absolutely ridiculously awful in the sense that there are so many arguments happening online. It’s challenging to get a squee every now and again for something that isn’t so spectacular it takes everyone’s breath away, regardless of whether or not I’m said creator of said piece for squeeing, and that gets to me. When I hear nothing but a single note at a singular volume, fortissimo, with a heavy pedal, it becomes noise and it loses its value.

It did take about two weeks to let the emotional angst flow right out of me, and then another two to right my head and get back in the What I Need To Be DoingTM headspace. Not to be confused, of course, with the What I Think I Should Be DoingTM headspace. Two, very different things–especially for writers. A few thoughts coming out of the past few weeks has reinforced that a) we’re all just making this shit up as we go along b) many (if not 95%) of us are doing the best we can and c) what you know or how you’re regarded means f-all with respect to what you do. As an addendum to that, plus an obligatory footnote(1), worrying about everything else is far too complicated and gets in the way of making art.

I’m sure some of my angst is coming from a charged election, but as I live in a charged state a decompression this time around was sorely needed. Of course, being offline doesn’t necessarily help me get down words faster on the page, but mitigating the words and headlines I consume has had an overall positive impact on my psyche. And, it has allowed me to get back to center and focus on what really matters. The in between spaces, the five and ten minutes here and there when I’m waiting on an e-mail, I definitely want to make better use of those.

What’s ahead? I’m planning on participating in Inktober, but I won’t be following the prompts. I have something specific planned, to add to my growing list of beadtastic-ness, but I’m pretty excited about it. I’m all about interstitial art that connects to the worlds I’m creating, to feel that visceral experience of my imagination brought to life–even in a small way! And yes, I feel like a “fake” artist, because none of the creative stuff I do (outside of words or art direction) is attached to my core business. I don’t know if it will be, either. Art has always been my religion, because it’s a testament to what’s inside. I just know I am totally and wholly miserable without it, and have to fall down this particular rabbit hole with or without the $ attached or the fear that I’m wasting my time.

That’s really been the crux of making my own stuff, and has for a while. We talk about making money as artists all the time, and how hard it is. I would write and make art with or without the money, but thinking about ways to earn it based off of what I already do isn’t evil. It’s counter-intuitive to what a lot of other people thinking about making your own stuff. Suffer on in obscurity, selling 20 copies, or have a book made into a movie. Only, there’s 1,000 different business models in between here and there and everywhere, and it’s maddening to try to control the outcome because it cannot be controlled. It can’t. You can have a background in business, which I do, but that doesn’t translate to how readers or players respond to the work or how many copies are sold. The only thing that can be controlled is how I spend my days, and right now? That means adding my own stuff. Just adding it back in, without the fear or anxiety or worry it won’t matter.

So what’s changed for me? I think the illustration at the bottom of today’s post perfectly sums up my thoughts but, for those of you who cannot see the honey badger, what has changed is that I stopped caring to remove another obstacle that gets in the way of being creative. Anything that gets in the way has gotta go. Stagnation for me, not writing or not designing or what have you, that’s the true death. That’s the beginning and end of the darkness that surrounds me, and I fight back by making art.

I don’t know if I’ll post links to my works or not, but if I do it won’t be every day. There is something very soothing about putting pen to paper, something that can’t be replaced with a mouse and a keyboard. I encourage you to participate if you think it’s a cool idea, even if you’re just lettering or watching what other artists are doing. More art = better for all in my book!

(1) Yes, games are in the category of art. Why wouldn’t they be?

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[Sharing Book Love] Free Copy of Genrenauts

genrenauts-cover-imageIn the category of “How cool is that?”, Michael R. Underwood is offering a free copy of Genrenauts: The Cupid Reconciliation for a limited time if you sign up for his newsletter.

I’ll see what I can do about sharing more tidbits as they come my way in the future, too. Free books plus supporting authors I’ve worked with equals lots of love from me!

Curious to hear more about Genrenauts: The Cupid Reconciliation? Here’s a snapshot about what this novella is about:

Wounded Genrenaut Mallery York returns to active duty just in time for the team to be deployed to the Rom-Com region of the Romance world. There, everyone is beautiful, office workers can afford palatial midtown apartments, and hearts are won and broken on every corner. But before they can fix the broken love story, they have to find it. Mallery takes the lead, bringing her expertise to bear and leading Leah to wonder whether there’s a space for her on the team now that Mallery is back. SOURCE: author website

If you’re interested, head on over to this link to sign up for Underwood’s readers’ list. Huzzah!

Munny, Magnets, and Painting [Pictures]

Kitten and Fish Avatar

Took the time to decompress and find my head space again, and wound up doing some smaller beading projects(1) before I picked up a paintbrush. Captain Whinypants is hilariously addicted to all kinds of brushes, makeup or otherwise, so to satisfy the little monster I gave him his own brush to play with. He killed it dead. Deader than dead. Sad, little brush… *sniffles*

Anyway, I have a few projects pending(2) but it’s been an age since I’ve done anything art-related. Given the fact that my con schedule is much lighter now, I’m looking forward to taking the time to work on the art projects that are eating a hole in my brain.

Sometimes, though, to prep for the GINORMOUS VISION I do smaller bits to test brush sizes, paint consistency, techniques, etc. It’s also calming, since writing requires a different head space than drowning in paint. At some point, finger painting may need to happen.

Behold the fruits of my decidedly not gothish labors! Flat magnets stylized in the form of Lord Lardbottom and Captain Whinypants.

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And here’s the Munny I painted. He wanted to be in spaaaaaacccceeeeee.

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(1) I have a LOT of beads, and a LOT of detailed projects to do. Oy.
(2) I really, really want to make the door knockers from Labyrinth, but sadly that requires the use of sculpey and it scares me. Will I blow up the oven? Will I light my Pocky on fire? Will my caffeine consumption triple? Inquiring minds want to know.



Katherine Cross on Court of Shadows over at Gamasutra

Shadowrun Court of Shadows Cover Art

One of the biggest challenges working on any project for me, is the intersection between the response from readers/players and how that book/game/etc. was intentionally designed. Katherine Cross is one of, if not “the” first critics to fully grok the depths of Court of Shadows and the ancillary Sixth World Tarot deck which was released at Gen Con.

I hope you’ll check out Katherine’s analysis of Court of Shadows and the Sixth World Tarot on Gamasutra and check out her other articles, too. Katherine not only understood why I took a nuanced approach to the faction, she went on to talk about how the two releases intersect with one another and hints at a bigger world to come. The setting creation aftershocks are definitely rippling through the Sixth World setting, just like it did with Drawing Destiny: A Sixth World Tarot anthology.

Enjoy the article!

On September a Social Media Sabbatical

Yuna Final Fantasy X-2

As summer winds down(1) I find myself in a familiar place. For the past few years I normally take a month off from Twitter and Facebook, and even though I haven’t Reached My LimitTM with all that’s going on, especially given this charged election, I’m about to do the same thing again for the month of September. I did have a few weeks in August where I touched base very briefly, but I need the headspace to not only write but to use my downtime to do some art-related projects I have not had the bandwidth to do.

I understand that sometimes it’s challenging to interact with someone like me, if only because I am so focused on making art I sometimes forget the human container and those around me. But, this space(2) that I have right now, this space to create freely may not exist six months from now, and I recognize that I have to make the most of my time now. One of the best ways to do that for me, is to limit social media for a few weeks to discharge the flotsam and jetsam and make those bits more manageable.

This Fall also requires me to focus very strongly because I have a mixture of smaller projects, big ‘uns, and spec work that I’ve taken on just in case certain balls I’ve thrown into the air never manage to fall back down(3). More than that, however, is the fact that I desperately need to focus on creating in the physical space rather than the mental one. I have over 100 e-mails of story ideas, for example, that I’ve sent to myself while on the road. I’ve successfully managed my consumption(4), such as it is, and have narrowed down a lot of distractions to create. I can tell, however, I run the risk of falling in love with worldbuilding all over again and I definitely need to nip that in the proverbial bud. Worldbuilding is fantastic, but it’s also an easy way to procrastinate because that bit of the creative process is far easier than putting fingers to keyboard. Always has been, always will be.

For September, this means my presence will be focused on work-related announcements and/or blogging if the mood strikes me than being social. I will be answering e-mail and remain in contact with friends and family, of course. This is more of a “turn down the volume on noise” than anything else.

(1) Hopefully, as I am adverse to humidity and hot weather.

(2) Space meaning that complex algorithm balancing the variables of time, money, physical and emotional health, relationships in order to Do The WorkTM.

(3) I’ve learned to anticipate rejection as part of the business cycle.

(4) I limit how many hours I watch television, focus on non-verbal music, and read, primarily, for work just as three examples. Silly mobile games tend to be a source of brain break, but even then I like smaller art projects to help reorder and refocus, like origami or jewelry making.



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