New! December’s 30 Day Challenge to Make Art Not War

Wow! What a year it has been! For several months, you’ve learned some things about yourself as an artist. You’ve made art! And, you’ve stuck with me on my artistic journey. Now, I have one last challenge for you. In lieu of a theme for December, I’m offering a series of fun daily activities for you to complete. Each one touches on some of the tips, advice, and themes I’ve offered throughout the year. Enjoy!

MANW Check-In Week 48: November’s Progress and Finish Lines

Make Art Not War November 2017

Hey, how did your November go? Mine went pretty well, despite two weeks lost to the flu. This month’s theme was FINISH, and by now you have either finished what you started this month or you’re struggling. There could be a lot of reasons behind your lack of motivation or slower progress, and I’ve often found that it’s important to record them. The point of finishing is not to hyper-analyze how you reach the finish line. Sometimes, it’s more important to type “the end” than it is to write it with a flourish or add a bit of poetry. From there, from your failures or setbacks, you might discover new goals or behavioral techniques you can use to move forward.

Here are some examples of setbacks and solutions:

Setback: Falling Behind. Your goal was to reach 50,000 words for a novel this month, but you felt overwhelmed and couldn’t figure out what to write. By the time you got that sorted, you fell behind.

Solution: To prepare for a month of writing, try your hand at outlining and character sketches beforehand. What do your characters want? What stands in their way? Where does your story start and end? Outlines can help keep you on track as you write, because they’ll offer goal posts where you didn’t have any before.

Setback: Lack of Focus.
You knew what you wanted to write, but it was hard to focus. Every time you started, you quickly lost interest and didn’t want to write at all.

Solution: Being resistant to the work happens to all of us. To get past that mental block or stubbornness, you could try warm-up exercises, changing your environment/music, writing something else for fifteen minutes to half an hour, etc. Usually, when you’re slow or can’t focus there’s a reason for that. It could be something as complex as anxiety/depression or a consequence of heavily relying on online tools. It could also, however, be something simple. You’ve never written in that genre before, or haven’t used that technique. Fear can definitely be a factor, even on a subsconscious level, too.

Setback: Can’t Finish.
You have no trouble getting into writing, but you can’t seem to finish what you start no matter how hard you try.

Solution: Try writing the end or middle of your story first. You might also benefit from mini-tasking, or taking your short stories and breaking them out by scenes instead. You might also plan to write for shorter periods of time, lke 15 or 20 minutes, until you rebuild your concentration. If you get distracted, I also find that having a journal or a tool like Evernote next to you can really help. That way, if you have a to do item you forgot or suddenly remember an important task you can write it down and get back to your manuscript.

The next time you have a setback, try identifying what it is and cooking up your own solution. This week’s check-in addresses some of the finer points I’ve been dealing with. Tune in later this week for a brand new 30 Day Challenge!

Weekly Check-in

My Original 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.

Here’s my current status:

  • Diary of an Aspiring Alchemist is going strong. William Sand finally got the job after a confusing and rocky series of appointments. He’s currently stuck in an archive, reading old books about alchemy and the occult
  • Motivation hasn’t been the issue for me, but I did have a challenging time trying to work while I had the flu. I’ve got a strong routine down now, and need to add back in a few other things. Looking forward to it!
  • So, I’ve been using a new technique on Evernote to mark down progress. It’s been very effective!
  • 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’m good re: social media. I’m mostly using it for work right now, and I may extend that into 2018. We’ll see how this month goes!

Hope your month went well and better than expected. Write soon!

Mood: Focused. Tired. Deep-fried.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Going to hit the caffeine hard. Vrooooom!
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Some walking.
In My Ears: Us Against the World by Coldplay
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: A mega-ass ton of anthologies.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Lucifer Season 3
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War Challenge eBook now available!
Latest Releases: Over the Edge for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Legacy of Lies for V20 Dark Ages.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




Using Evernote to Create Project Snapshots

Trojan On Your Computer

One challenging aspect of a professional artist’s job is administration and goal planning. These, sadly, are the unsexy bits. They’re the scaffolding we stretch, shape, and mold our art into, whether we create games, books, movies, etc. Or to put it another way, what I’m referring to is not how the sausage is made, it’s the tools we use to track what kind of sausage we’re making, how much of it, where it’s being sold, etc.

Sometimes, project administration gets in the way of making the things we want to make. I find this is especially true for myself, because I am one individual. I don’t have an assistant or a team of people helping manage my time. I do check-ins, occasionally, to ensure I’m on the right track with a few individuals. Overall, however, it can get cumbersome because essentially I’m running my own business and, to be honest, I never really liked that part of the job. It feels cleansing to organize, but it’s not as satisfactory to me as making art.

Despite this, without a clear snapshot of what’s on my plate it’s challenging to commit to anything new, see where I have space to fit, and feel any sense of satisfaction. The pressure to create, mind you, is different depending upon which vertical you’re in. For gaming, that pressure is high. It bleeds into everything I do, and I often apply that to fiction. That, however, is not realistic considering the work I do in games is often more intense and frequent than anything I’d do for traditional publishing venues. I know that, but in my head I can’t see that. In lieu of manually recreating a system using bullet journaling, I’ve created a few project overview snapshots using Evernote.

    Step One: Create a note to track payment and date of release. Using the checkbox function, I make a list of everything I have that will be released separated by fiction, non-fiction, and games. I add the date (or year), marketing-or-production related tasks, and when that particular item has been paid.

      “Publication Title” (X% Paid)
      Release Date 11/22/17
      Post for X site
      Post for Y site
      Submit pay schedule
      Submit comp copy request
      Update Bibliography

    I often deal with pay schedules or different types of contracts, so payment in the context of release helps me see if I need to follow up or not. This particular snapshot is something that I can attach to a planner/calendar very easily; it doesn’t have financial specifics, but I regard this as a shortcut or a brief overview. Updating this note won’t bog me down, either. To that end, this is also why I include works that are finished and unfinished to clearly see my deadlines and publication status.

    Step Two: Set up a note for works on submission. This note is separated into fiction and non-fiction to start; Other forms (e.g. screenplays/comics/etc.) would be added as needed. Right now I don’t need a spreadsheet to track my work because my focus is a) not on spec and b) doesn’t heavily lean toward short fiction. My goals are modest for the time being, but that may change. Who knows, little luck fairy of luckiness? If, however, my submissions take off I’ll likely need a spreadsheet just so I know what’s what.

    This snapshot allows me to see what I’ve sent out for editorial consideration, and also helps me “count” the number of pieces I have out in the wild. I should note that these are also for original or creator-owned pieces; I have a clear sense of what I own the rights to. If you’re dipping your toe into work-for-hire waters, I would strongly recommend adding reminders of rights to help you keep track.

      “Title of Piece Here”
      Pub: Name of venue
      Editor: Name if applicable.
      Submitted: 10/24/17
      Approved
      Rejected
      If rejected, resubmit?
      Yes
      No
      Notes: If rejected, try ‘X’ venue.

    If you notice, this format also helps me prepare for rejection. By listing another venue, I can easily tweak and resub if needed. If published, however, I can copy/paste this to my release schedule and modified the entry pretty quickly.

    Step Three: Create an Ongoing To-Do List. Okay, time for a guilty admission. I like redundancy in my to-do lists, because I’m terrified I’ll forget something if I misplace a journal. Plus, the nice thing about using apps is that the information translates well (and is readable) if I move from laptop to phone. With that in mind, I have a daily mini-list I’ve been using. Basically, date the list. Use the checkbox feature, which you can easily cross off on your phone, and then rinse/repeat by day. If I didn’t finish the day’s previous items that carries over to the next day.

For me, these lists are the fundamentals of project management. It helps me see a) what I’m working on, b) if I’ve been paid, c) what’s being released, and d) what’s being considered. As I evolve my process, I may include other notes to list other details, like market listings, but for now I want to keep my snapshots tightly focused. Your mileage may vary!

Mood: Grey. Like the sky. And my sweater.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Not enough, apparently.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Bwahahahahaha.
In My Ears: Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: A mega-ass ton of anthologies.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Beauty and the Beast live action. It was something.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War Challenge eBook now available!
Latest Releases: Over the Edge for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Dagger of Spiragos for Scarred Lands.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




Streamlining to K.I.S.S.

Music Avatar

Before I get to today’s post, I’d like to share a few pieces of ephemera. I wrote a piece about dealing with rejection for Red Sofa Literary; I hope you find it useful! Second, I have recently discovered the wonders of wireless headphones, which I can connect to my phone. I wound up getting the Mpow 059 wireless headphones in red, and damn. I mean day-am! I can take them on the road and use them while writing in a house of coffee, or I can wander around my pad listening to music without carrying my phone. I’m so into this!

So, today I want to talk about Keep It Simple Stupid. It’s a mantra I apply when I’m overloaded and ready to go. I had a few friends point out that it’s challenging to do this when you’ve been hit with the flu (as I have), and there’s only so many brain spinny wheels to go around. I’m of the mind that physical and emotional health definitely contributes to your productivity, and if you’re unable to make changes it’s because you’ve got more going on than you realize.

The K.I.S.S. system I use is basically a method of prioritization to shape how I use my time. When I know I have a lot to do, then I make listicles (my new and current favorite word) of everything I have to get done: house, personal, work. Then, I prioritize based on what’s important and reduce distractions. Basically, I make a concerted effort to say: “Look, all these little items on my list. The 1,000 things that get in the way of me doing the work. I’m going to cut all that shit out to finish items 1, 2, 3.”

Mind you, you can take this methodology to a different plane of existence. You could: plan your meals in advance, your social schedule for the week, your clothes for the next day. By removing micro-decisions, you’ll clear your brain space to help you focus on what you need to on a macro level. Then, you can figure out the details and adjust from there. Sometimes, your ability to do that greatly depends upon your personality and connections you have to the people around you. That doesn’t mean you’re “doing it wrong”, and I side eye OneTrueWayisms that say otherwise.

Lastly, one thing to consider is that you may be utilizing too many planners, listicles, word count meters, etc. and that is getting in the way of finishing your projects. Over-planning can be a form of procrastination (Say it ain’t so!), because you’re using that as a motivational tool. Think of it this way: every time you write down what you should be doing, you are taking a snapshot of your frozen progress. You know exactly where you are in your work, and that list encapsulates that. If you make more lists, you’re not making any progress. You’re simply reviewing your static position from a different angle. If you find yourself buried by apps, to-do lists, etc. then consider streamlining your process to help you get more use out of the tools.

That’s all the time I have for today. Happy writing!

Mood: I want Christmas cookies. Nay, I need them. Need!
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I lost count, if only because I didn’t think the caffeine I drank was impacting my system in any way, shape, or form.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I shuffled and shambled like a zombie rising from the mists of Avalon.
In My Ears: Jack Pack 2 album
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: I forgot the title! It’s so far away from me right now… On the table… In the kitchen… *grunts*
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Beauty and the Beast live action. It was something.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War Challenge eBook now available!
Latest Releases: Over the Edge for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Dagger of Spiragos for Scarred Lands.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




Week 46 MANW Check-In: Where The “No, I Can’t!” Comes From

Make Art Not War Challenge November

This week’s check-in is brought to you by the makers of tissues, cold medicine, and the professional lung hacker’s association. (Of which, I am apparently a member.) Today, I want to write about the reasons why we talk ourselves down, and where those voices come from. Hint: social pressures are complex, often wrapped up in mores and cultural aspects, but there is something we can point to. How we, as human beings, are depicted in media matters, because we internalize stories as informative truths.

When youth and beauty are glamorized, deep down we begin to wonder. “Am I too old?” “Did I start writing/painting/singing too late?” We constantly see young people represented in movies and television shows, but we also notice them in advertisements, magazines, etc. Representation is a powerful force, because in our minds we still capture those images or depictions as information that we consciously and subconsciously process. The insidious questions arising from our manufactured self-doubt leads to jealousy or even spite. “Everyone younger than me is getting hired, so why bother?” “There’s too much competition. I’ll never measure up.”

In your head, you know that age is just a number. You have to feel it in your heart. You are not too young, too old, too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, etc. etc. etc. The list of what you’re not is so long, if you believe every word you’ve mentally racked up, then you’ve already convinced yourself you can’t. If you believe that, deep down, then you’ll wind up procrastinating and sabotage your efforts.

I know it’s hard. That negativity something we all deal with, and it’s exacerbated if you aren’t seeking or getting the support you need. It can be challenging, too, with our 24-hour news cycle. This isn’t about what negativity you can handle; it’s the death by a thousand cuts. The things that happen in your day-to-day life on top of bad news on top of those niggly voices in your ear… It all adds up.

I don’t know the specifics of your personal situation, of course, but what I’m trying to point out here is that sometimes self-directed negativity is a big off-page factor that can affect your productivity. Unfortunately, sometimes the reason why you’re saying “No”, is because you’ve programmed yourself to think that way. If you find yourself talking yourself down, try to make a mental note of that. Or, flip the script and do exactly the opposite. It may feel uncomfortable, even fake. But those mental images and cues are so important. If you believe you can do a thing, you’re more likely to actually do it.

Mood: Coughing has a purpose. Right?
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Um… Tea? Coffee? Coffee-tea?
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Some light walking again. Still trying to kick this cold.
In My Ears: The Killers “When You Were Young”
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: More works hit.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Sing
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War Challenge eBook now available!
Latest Releases: Over the Edge for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Dagger of Spiragos for Scarred Lands.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




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Monica Valentinelli > Make Art Not War Challenge

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