Alternate Rules for Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge

June 2017 Make Art Not War Challenge

When I started this journey, I did so as a means of prioritizing my art over the things I can’t control. As it turns out, there’s a lot I don’t. I can’t control whether or not the U.S. goes to war. I can’t control the uptick in racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic acts. I can’t control so many “big picture” movements and shake-ups, blow-ups and gaffes. The only thing I can, is me–or so I thought. Sometimes, I do get overwhelmed and I’m finding that is very, very common because life doesn’t stop and start with a headline.

How to cope? There’s a prominent idea that, to be successful, you have to shut off all your emotions and be productive as if you were a robot. That has never been the case for me, and I feel dealing with emotional stress isn’t talked about a lot. This is supposed to be the fun job, the glamorous gig we’re lucky to have. Only, the expression of emotion is something fans do/have/expect in response to our work. Now, I am a fan-turned-creator making works for other fans to respond to, which is one of the reasons why I make art. Emotions are part of being human and they are natural after all. Sometimes, we feel things that are so compelling we have to make art and that vehicle, that physical manifestation of our emotions, is how the artist connects to the audience. Other times, we shut down completely due to a thousand tiny bites, those little cuts that chip away at our confidence. Or, in my case, harassment.

Emotions are important to making art. Forgiving yourself for getting sick, falling into a depression, needing a vacation, etc. is so important, because there are many myths about the suffering artist that are works of fiction for a reason. To suffer, to be happy, to be angry or sad…those emotions are part of who you are and they may not necessarily be reflected in your work. You don’t have to suffer to make good art, and anyone who tells you that probably doesn’t realize this mantra causes you harm. Pain can be a catalyst, but it is not the only emotion we draw upon as artists. The beauty of being human is that we deal with our emotions very differently, and that is something no “one-true-wayism” can ever address. However, feel too many emotions and you can get overwhelmed, shut down, and not make any art because you are reacting to your brain weasels. For artists, this is a danger because there are a lot of reasons not to make art in a culture that struggles to define its value.

The flip side to tapping into your emotions is to veer toward routine. Discipline, which was the foundation for my Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge, is important to making art. It matters because making art consistently is the only way to become successful as (or learn how to be) an artist. You cannot sell what you dream about making. You cannot paint a masterpiece if you’re still learning techniques. I know that can be a hard pill to swallow, but making art has to be our core competency and primary focus as artists. However, like emotions, there is a dark side to too much discipline. When you plot, plan, and form routines, you wind up punishing yourself when your actions don’t satisfy your intent. Maybe, you’re the type of writer who now knows you cannot write every day, for example. That’s okay. As I’ve said before, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, because how you make art folds into figuring out your process. Your process doesn’t always impact the end result, provided you keep at it.

For these reasons, I am proposing alternate rules to help you customize this template for your needs. I want to reiterate that my challenge is here to help you feel empowered to make your own choices as an artist. I cannot stand over your shoulder and force you to write; I cannot overpower your personal brain weasels; I cannot give you the secret to making art or being successful as an artist. There is no secret other than to sit down and actually do it. Right now. Not five years ago, not three weeks from now, but today.

With that in mind, here’s the original pledge followed by a customization:

Original 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.

Alternate My Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge pledge:

  • I pledge to devote five hours a week to my original art.
  • If I don’t feel motivated, I pledge to explore what is blocking me from making art. I can do this by talking to a peer, writing one-to-three pages, or meditating.
  • I pledge to acknowledge and celebrate the projects I’ve completed for Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge.
  • I pledge to evaluate how I’m doing, by checking in bi-weekly. Hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017
  • I pledge to review, refine, and reduce distractions, like my time on social media, that are affecting my ability to make art.

As you can see, the new rules shift the focus slightly to incorporate your feelings. There are other customizations as well, because not everyone has the same schedule or means to support the ability to make art. Sometimes, materials are expensive or the allotted time is shifted to account for a family emergency. That’s extraordinarily common, and often I think we forget that the opportunities we have aren’t what everyone else has, too. Further, customizations like this don’t significantly change the challenge goal, what they do is fine-tune the experience to your needs while avoiding extremes. I have total faith that you will customize these rules based on your lifestyle, to make room for making art when you can. Be kind and give yourself some credit!

Lastly, I want to point out that self-evaluation may yield interesting results for you. You might find out you’re suffering from a mild depression. You might recognize that a change in your job or activity levels are impacting your mental-or-physical health. You might notice that you are more isolated than you’ve been in the past, or the political atmosphere is so charged you don’t realize you’re being triggered by current events. I cannot stress the value of self-care enough, and should you find yourself in this position please do not punish yourself for not making art. Your health is so important, and while making art can be cathartic in many ways it is not a replacement for getting the medical help you need.

Be well, and I hope that you are figuring out the next steps on your journey as an artist.

Mood: Moody like the weather. It’s stormy, it’s sunny, it’s rainy in 20 minutes?
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: A solid three.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Fish tank and Captain Whinypants snoring.
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: The Originals Season 3.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




MANW: May Recap and PERSISTENCE for June’s Theme!

MANW June 2017

This month was another weird one, and it wasn’t for a lack of concerted effort on my part to resume normality. I was sick for about two and a half weeks, and that put me even further behind than anticipated. I feel terrible about it, and though many things happened outside of my control I am focused like a shark with a laser beam on their head to get all the things done. What I did learn from yet another setback, however, was that every day is a new opportunity to move forward. In this climate, that can be very hard. So many friends and loved ones are anxious about the repeal of the ACA, net neutrality, civil rights protections, reproductive rights, the right to protest… Hell, I’m furious, but feeling All The Bad ThingsTM for an extended period of time is not good for me mentally or physically. Thank you, very much, Pokemon Go for adding a bit of fun to my walks every day for that reason.

As an aside, I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care right now. This is not a politics-as-usual presidency, and I am so, so sorry if you are either at risk or are being harmed right now. If you need permission, let me repeat that you are not selfish if you take care of yourself. That, when coupled with isolationist tactics, is how the assholes manipulate victims. Taking my own advice, for sure, but getting back up on the proverbial horse and celebrating small wins to keep at it. That, dear reader, is what artists do.

Here’s how I did in May:

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.

May 2017 Challenge Recap

  • I had no capacity whatsoever to make art when I was sick. I did do some lettering this month, and revisited some original stories. But, I was preoccupied because I was falling behind on my obligations and paying gigs come first.
  • I didn’t have a problem with motivation, but I did get very frustrated when I couldn’t satisfy it.
  • Another month where tracking didn’t happen. This time, I didn’t track those efforts because guilt started to set in when I didn’t make art. This, dear reader, is why I feel that “making art every day” or “write every day” mantras can be harmful. It’s something I need to think about going forward.
  • Social media time was managed, and I opted to extend my social media sabbatical. I feel very strongly that silence is helping me recover faster, and retain my focus.

Could I control being sick? No, no I couldn’t. That doesn’t stop the brain weasels from taking over, and given the intensity of emotions I felt during this time I am chalking May up to a lesson learned. Maybe, my goal for this Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge has more to do with making art as a priority as opposed to making art every day.

This observation is interesting to me, because I don’t want to pull back so much on the idea that actually sitting down and doing the work isn’t the only way to move forward in your career. But, it’s giving me a dimension to think about, that making art is the goal and if, despite all your best efforts, you just can’t right then and there…that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It just means that you need to keep at it. (Hence, this month’s theme!)

JOY and other Monthly Themes Recap

Now that we’re in June, I’d like to take a moment and share the monthly themes we’ve had so far. They are:

  • PLAY – January’s theme was designed to kick off a year of making art!
  • ORGANIZE – February was all about getting those art supplies and files in order, to make room for all the new stuff we’ll make.
  • PLANT – March was focused on small, manageable goals that will help seed a future of making art.
  • SPEED – In April, I proposed that speedy sketches, stitches, and quick writing exercises can help unblock your creativity. Fun!
  • JOY – May’s theme was simple, and I plotted this as a reminder that it’s important to have fun. If you don’t truly enjoy what you’re doing, then you’ll eventually stop making art.

May’s JOY theme was fun, and it reminded me what I love doing. Making art absolutely makes me happy, but I feel that needs to happen in a safe space. What and where that space is will be unique to you, but it’s definitely something to think about. With that in mind, I’m ready to share June’s theme!

New Theme for June! PERSISTENCE

Very simply, June’s theme is PERSISTENCE. Yes, I’ve fallen down a few times. I’m assuming you have, too. This is what it means to be a human making art, as opposed to a robot producing art on an assembly line. If you kinda sorta participated in January but abandoned it like your other New Year’s Resolutions, then I encourage you to think about joining in again. I am not asking you for anything other than to show up, put your butt in the chair, and start writing or knitting or painting, etc. for this month. You can do it!

Feeling defeated? I cannot stress this enough: shit happens. It especially happens to artists, and often we draw upon those emotions–joy, anger, fear–to make art. The fan will be hit, and that’s guaranteed. What matters is that you get back up after you fall down, and keep making art. I have faith that you will join me. That, more than anything, is the reason why I tell you about what I’m going through. If you’re experiencing a bump in the road, you are not alone!

Mood: Is hairball a mood? My cats are full of them.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Three-ish.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Blissful silence.
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: La Belle et la Bete.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




MANW Check-In Week 21: Using Silence to Reboot

Make Art Not War 2017

Running at a million miles an hour this week, but I wanted to drop in with a quick tip about a way to reboot if you’re stuck. In a word: silence. I know that it may seem mundane or stupid or even boring, but silence for five minutes can make a world of difference. For me, it wasn’t the silence that was the issue, it was discovering what “noise” meant. Noise. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the news, text messages, Skype, etc. That, when combined with everything going on during the day, that adds up.

Though it’s typed information, words you read can still translate into noise that gets into your brain space. Sometimes, in order for ideas to percolate, you need the freedom to think. That, unfortunately, is a luxury artists don’t always have. Between day jobs and families and pets and… Well, you know how busy your life can get and how that can interfere with your ability to think!

To reboot, I recommend intentionally recreating a space where your mind has the chance to rest. I go for walks, and don’t bring my phone with me. Other times, I use noise-cancelling headphones and sit in total silence for five minutes. You’d be surprised how short periods of silence can help calm you down, give your brain a break, and allow your creativity to blossom. Next time you’re feeling stressed out and can’t find the inspiration to make art, give it a try!

Mood: In the swamp
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Oh, if I only only counted…
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Whiny cats
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: X-Men Days of Future Past.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




MANW Check-In Week 20: When Making Art Doesn’t Happen

MANW 2017

Apologies for today’s late check-in. I had a nasty relapse of the cold I had last week, and spent a lot of time in bed. Figured now would be a GREAT time to cover what happens when you just cannot make art — despite all your best efforts.

Here’s an interesting thing about making art: sometimes, you have to rest your brain and let ideas percolate. Focusing on one project can be detrimental to your revisions process, because you’re “too close” to what you’re working on. Sometimes, the way to keep making art is to have multiple projects on hand in many different styles. Knitting, crocheting, beadweaving are repetitive and have a mathematical component; putting that time in doesn’t require as much mental energy as writing or drawing does, for example, unless you’re following intricate patterns and creating your own. Going for walks or getting fresh air also helps, because you’re doing something else in the forefront of your mind so your creative brain has a chance to catch up.

When you make art full-time, it’s challenging when you have blocked days because the ideas don’t stop. Ideas, however, don’t pay the bills or get the words down. Usually, then, I record new ideas or free write to keep something percolating. Sometimes, though, it is impossible when you’re sick. It certainly was for me, and now that I’m (hopefully) back up to full speed I feel as if I’ve been on a mental vacation for months!

This brings up two points I want to remind you of: first, your mileage will vary if you’re participating in this program. It’s possible you cannot make art every day, because that’s not how you’re wired. If that’s the case, learning that will help you in the future because knowing how and when you produce art is valuable information to work with. Second, keep in mind that Make Art Not War 2017 is also a means of prioritizing what you want to do (making art) over all the peripheral b.s. that you may be experiencing. Then, when you’re not making art, you’ll feel it and (hopefully) ramp back up as fast as possible because deep down, you know you’ve made art your priority.

Regardless, remember to be kind to yourself. There’s a big difference between having a legitimate reason to slow down or not make art versus procrastinating, being lazy, and giving up entirely. Even I have to remember that, sometimes.

    Mood: Determined and plodding along
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Quite possibly, the worst thing about being sick is the caffeine withdrawal.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Light walking
    In My Ears: Stupid fans
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy X-2. Finally got the Mascot dress sphere. Boo-yah.
    Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Lucifer
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.



MANW Check-In Week 19: Fun Work Isn’t Necessarily Free

Make Art Not War May Participant

We’re now a little over four months into my Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge, and I’d like to start talking about aspects of the craft assuming that you are continuing to make art either for personal or professional reasons. Today’s post ties into JOY, which is this month’s theme, and talks about some psychological aspects of making art and getting paid for our efforts.

Why tackle this? Well, there are deep, deep psychological associations between art and commercialism. Besides the myth that you must be mentally ill, impoverished, or suffering to make art, there are also ideas attached to making money. An author who has a best-selling novel is a “sell-out”, for example, because their book is too commercial. That often leads to a comment about what should and shouldn’t make money based on its quality or the nature of the artist, too. Good books that don’t sell are then a tragedy — especially if the author is a nice person! Good books that do sell if the author is an asshole is often believed to be forgivable to an extent Sound familiar? This isn’t new. It’s tied to our beliefs about money and who “deserves” it.

Many, many people who are smarter than I am have often discussed the psychology of being wealthy and poor. If someone is wealthy clearly they deserve that blessing and, if they made art to become successful, then they “did it all themselves”, fueling the myth that anyone can make it without help. And, there are deeply-rooted beliefs in the idea that a wealthy person must clearly be better in some way, shape, or form than someone who’s poor. If you are poor, then you can simply work harder or make better decisions to no longer suffer — which is so asinine and not at all the reality of being broke.

Making Art Is Work

I’m sure you have your own ideas about art and commercialism; I don’t think I’ve met an artist who hasn’t. The aspect of this topic I want to focus on, however, is the idea that making art isn’t work–because it’s so much fun! On a simplistic level, the notion that work cannot be enjoyable for it to be work is tied to a line of thinking that goes something like this: since capitalism is bad, the pursuit of money is evil. Ergo, if I enjoy myself in my work and expect to get paid, then I might become evil, too.

The idea that money has a good or bad alignment is extremely toxic to artists, because it is neither. It is a tool that many of us need to survive and thrive. The system of capitalism is also neither good nor bad, too. Simply, people use a tool (money) within a framework (capitalism) to further their goals. These goals can be very self-centered, and we have seen what happens with respect to corruption and the like, but a desire to be paid for the work you do shouldn’t be an outrageous concept. Nor, should it generate responses that you’re “greedy” for wanting to be compensated.

Okay, this leads to the question of whether or not making art is work. Is it? Here’s (one of) many definitions about work courtesy of Merriam-Webster:

Work is an “activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something”.

Based on this, and multiple takes on the definition of work, making art is definitely considered work. What these definitions don’t include, is the financial component and emotional aspects. You do not have to be paid for your efforts to be considered work; your state of mind and your feelings do not change its definition, either. Whether you’re happy or not, work is simply work.

Commercialism Adds Complexity

Hopefully by now you’ve realized that making art is work. With me so far? Here’s the not-so-fun part. The financial component is infinitely harder, because once you attach a monetary value to something you create you’re dealing with perceived value, cost of materials, distribution, etc. It is extremely complex to figure out not only what to make, but how often to produce, when to sell it, what places are good to do business with, etc. This level of complexity, dear reader, is why I believe many artists undervalue their work and often give a lot away. It takes time to learn business, and often it’s so intimidating that many artists don’t. Instead, they treat their art as a hobby until it “takes off” and they’re forced to think more deeply about it.

There are a million roads in between “I’m New” and “I’m a Best-Selling Artist”. Visibility, popularity, reception, and number of copies sold aren’t predictable and business planning is the exact opposite of that. There are some factors you can control, like production, and that’s what I focus on. I also think this idea of being embarrassed to ask for money has something to do with the joy we feel when making art. If it doesn’t feel like work, for example, then we feel guilty asking for money or other forms of payment. We might even feel small, because we aren’t a Very Famous ArtistTM, and talk ourselves down claiming our art isn’t worth anything because art produced by a VFA will be better.

Value Yourself

Valuing yourself and your art can be difficult to do, especially since the weight of “other people’s opinions” can drag you down, but it is an important first step in a longer process. I find that the first step to being taken seriously as an artist, is to take yourself seriously. Your time, creativity, and talent are valuable, and I feel being new only affects you so much. What is new, anyway? You may be new to selling your work, or certain forms of it, but you’ve probably been making art for a while.

I am hugely sympathetic if you’re feeling down or know you’re too hard on yourself. After you agree that yes, your art is work and yes, you would like some form of payment you can then learn more about the business aspects to make better, informed decisions. That process is hugely transformative, and I personally feel you shouldn’t have to wait to sell your first piece of art to ask questions. And yes, in case you’re wondering? You’re totally worth it! After all, if you undermine and undervalue your work — then why should someone pay for all that great work you’re doing?

    Mood: Recovery. (I have a chest cold.)
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Managed
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Living room to kitchen. Make tea. Rinse and repeat a thousand times.
    In My Ears: Lucy soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy X-2
    Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
    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, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming in May.



Next Posts




Monica Valentinelli > Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

Subscribe to Monica’s Newsletter






Subscribe
* indicates required



Back to Top