Self-Care and Saying “No”

Make Art Not War October 2017

This month’s theme has been SELF-CARE! Today, I want to talk about the word “No.” I feel it’s a powerful word, and it’s one that we feel guilty about using sometimes. A “No” feels negative, because it seems as if we can’t do everything we want to do, be every place at once, and maintain relationships with everyone we want to.

I’ve come to learn the hard way that this is exacerbated by social media, because many friends/peers/family members use the tools in different ways to supplement relationships by sharing really important updates or thoughts about current events. This becomes challenging in a 24-hour news cycle on a normal day, because the likelihood of something else happening is great. What’s more, I’ve seen and been subjected to assumptions that if someone posts a Very Important UpdateTM, both the responses and the lack therein are tracked. I’ve mentioned this before, but a grossly oversimplification of this is the fact the tools operate a lot like a slot machine. You have to “play” (e.g. post) to get a reaction in the form of shares, signal boots, comments, or likes.

[Begin Segue.] I’ve said this before as well, but I feel that we have outgrown the tools because of the way they are being used. So many of us, myself included, utilize our identities on these platforms for various reasons. I am a writer so my name is attached to my work. I can’t change my social media profile names or manipulate the system, because that directly impacts how readers, publishers, etc. find me on those tools. But, getting verified is a sticky widget and subjective. Despite having been a guest at two overseas conventions thus far, a Wikipedia page, etc. Mind you, I don’t like trotting out my credentials, but there is a gender bias. And, after comparing notes with others, I’ve found that to be the case for many white women and women of color I know. Here’s what would solve ALL of our problems with verification and bots: verify anyone who uses their real identity. Then, anyone who doesn’t is possibly fake and suspect. Bam! Done. [End Segue.]

Some people, myself included, are more susceptible to getting sucked in than others. It happens, because there’s a lot of emotion wrapped up in social media. For me, as a writer, words matter. So reading people’s updates, I get a sense of how they’re feeling and what they’re up to. When life is great? I enjoy that exchange. When it’s not? It’s terrifying. At the same time, there are extremely powerful conversations happening that I often miss or catch the tail end of. I instituted a “No Social Media” policy during work hours, and that’s worked so well for my productivity and crushing deadlines I’m going to keep it in place for the time being. But doing that? Taking that step? That’s saying “No.” That feels uncomfortable, especially because of how much interaction happens online due to how many people I know in other cities/states/countries. “No, I can’t right now.” is the best thing for me to do, however. It’s an act of self-care.

“No” can be as simple as: “No, I’m not going to write for free anymore.” Or goal-oriented: “No, I’m not going to watch TV for 20 hours a week. I need to figure out a better way to spend my time.” Or for self-preservation: “No, I’m not going to deal with that toxic person any longer.” Sometimes, you can’t say “No”. That sucks. It happens. And, in many ways, that ability comes from the specifics of your situation. You can’t always say: “No, I’m not going to work as much.” if your financial outlook doesn’t allow it. You might say, instead: “No, I’m not going to stay in this job forever.” And then make a plan to find a new job, knowing it might take a while.

I think of the word “No” visually sometimes, too. For every affirmation or “Yes” you commit to, your proverbial well keeps filling up and up and up, until it’s overflowing. The only way to get the water back down to manageable levels, is to take a “Yes” away. Sometimes, that’s what a “No” does. It removes something you don’t need, so you can replace it with something you do. In my case, for example, I knew my manuscripts required a lot of focus, so I decided to say “No” to social media until I met those deadlines and wrangled them. It also means, however, that the time I spend around friends and family will be more valuable, because I’ll be hearing what folks are up to for the first time.

Your mileage will vary, of course. My point here is simply this: you aren’t selfish for saying “No.” Sometimes, that’s exactly what you need to do, in order to grow.

Mood: Yeah, it’s been a week. A BUSY WEEK!
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Two. I “think” I have it under control?
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walking, walking, housework.
In My Ears: Mind-numbing coffee house music oldies.
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go – Halloween Event!
Book Last Read: Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Assassin’s Creed Um…
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.

Dreaming for Hope and Destinations

Make Art Not War Challenge October 2017

This month’s theme for my Make Art Not War Challenge is SELF-CARE, and today I want to talk about the importance of having dreams. First, some background.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I tend to err on the practical side. I often use key markers to focus on the work, because the emotional aspects of the job can derail my productivity–and they have. Beyond dealing with rejection, when you work freelance there are a number of things that can and will go wrong. Sometimes, despite all your planning, the cardboard house you’ve built falls apart–and now you’ve got more work to do, because you’re busy picking up the pieces.

Here’s what I’ve learned: though not everything will go your way, it’s healthy to recognize and mitigate that to a point. But, it’s also important to have dreams that you pin your hopes on. Otherwise, you’ll be sitting around waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop, wondering when something else is going to happen. As my friend Meredith would say: “Trust”. We can, and do, learn by our experiences, but I’ve found we also condition ourselves and add a thin (or thick) veneer of expectations that color our views.

Yes, it’s true, there are systemic issues that impact your chances of success; any industry filled with people will have them. At the same time, I’ve found that your personal mindset can influence what happens next. If you work on a project, for example, convinced you’ll be rejected or fired, then you’re in danger of sabotaging yourself. Even if you do so subconsciously, keep in mind that most people are very, very smart. While it’s true they may not vocalize their feelings, they make judgements just as much as you do. That said, I do feel we should be helping each other, but the entertainment industry is extremely competitive and often based on what you’ve done as opposed to your potential. Still, I believe you’ve got to find a way to say “Yes!” to yourself, and let that feeling, that emotion pass through everything you do. Success, in other words, often breeds more success. Only, that “overnight success” story you hear about? It’s not uncommon for that moment to be the culmination of ten or twenty years of hard work. Sometimes, all you need is a chance.

Doing the work is the only means of moving forward as an artist. I’ve said it a thousand times, and I’ll say it again: you can network all you want, but if you can’t produce it doesn’t matter who you’re friends with. Even so, luck and timing are uncontrollable. You can help yourself mitigate all the bad stuff, and position yourself for good things to happen by doing one thing: dream.

Creative Challenge: Dream a Little Dream

Dreaming is an act of self-care, because without hope–or a reason to write, paint, draw, etc.–we don’t have anything to look forward to. We don’t have something positive to offset the bad. You need that emotion, even when your situation feels dire, because it can serve as fuel for your inspiration and future self.

[That said, if you’re already dreaming about what you want to do? Don’t forget you can get stuck in the dream, and never write. That’s partly why people are wary of those who talk about writing and business plans and social media followers and such. There’s so many who simply talk and don’t write.]

So that’s my challenge to you today: DREAM. What good things would you like to happen in your career? What do you really want? Describe them. Write them down in a letter to your future self, or scribble a list on a sticky note. Put a reminder everywhere you need to see it, or tape it to your monitor. It can be big, small, modest, or bold–but be specific. It’s your dream. What do you want? Get that vision clear in your mind, and you’d be surprised how your focus will shift in a good way.

If you’re lost or stuck, please know that it does take a lot of energy to steer your proverbial boat if you feel you’re headed in the wrong direction. Dreams are a tool that can help you, because they allow you to choose where you want to go. How you’ll get there, if you’ll ever reach your destination… That’s all part of the journey.

Your journey. Your dreams.

Good luck!

Mood: It’s Monday. Engage cyber-meeting mode.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Uh, enough I was up super late.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walking, walking, sitting.
In My Ears: P!nk’s new album Beautiful Trauma
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: Loads for work. Loads. LOADS MORE. MOAR.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: The Magnificent Seven YUS!
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.

Make Art Not War Challenge: 75 Suggestions for Self-Care and Improvement

Make Art Not War October Challenge

This month’s Make Art Not War Challenge theme is SELF-CARE, which is one of the essays I pubbed in my new Make Art Not War Challenge: Rules, Essays, and 31 Creative Tips eBook! To celebrate this fun and necessary theme, I’ve cooked up seventy-five suggestions for you. Woo!

1. Get a facial or use a face mask
2. Set up your annual doctor’s visit
3. Schedule your dentist’s visit
4. Watch a comedy
5. Re-read your favorite book
6. Listen to your favorite song
7. Wear your favorite color
8. Buy yourself flowers
9. Schedule a sexual health screening
10. Get a massage
11. Get your nails/hair/toes done
12. Change your hair color/style
13. Do that One ThingTM you’ve been putting off for months
14. Clean your desk
15. Make your bed
16. Sleep with fancy sheets
17. Spray stress-reducing fragrances (lavender, peppermint, etc.)
18. Light a candle
19. Take yourself out on a date
20. Bake! Fresh bread is fabulous
21. Meditate or pray
22. Plan a New Year’s celebration!
23. Indulge in your favorite hobby
24. Get some fresh air
25. Take a nap
26. Cook an elaborate meal
27. Find a new theme song. (I like Survival by Muse)
28. Read a new story by your favorite author
29. Watch a feel good movie
30. Have some delicious tea
31. Color! There’s swear word coloring books, too!
32. Eat your vegetables
33. Do a second thing you’ve been putting off for months!
34. Check your water intake and up it, if needed
35. Find a safe space and scream
36. Play with your pets! (Or go to a rescue and see ’em.)
37. Track your mood with smiley faces. (Sometimes, you need to know where you’re at, before you can help yourself!)
38. Set up a savings plan that’s affordable for you
39. Take a class or tutorial
40. Get glam/silly/spooky/etc. and get photographed!
41. Take a long hot shower/bath
42. Use some fancy lotion
43. Specify an event or date you’re looking forward to–then count it down!
44. Schedule time to disconnect
45. Do some breathing exercises
46. Wear excellent socks
47. Put up holiday lights in your office — I did! Mine are purple!
48. Visit a planetarium
49. Cull your social media lists/followers
50. Use a worry stone
51. Vent. Journals work great for this!
52. Visit a planetarium. The vastness of space is an excellent reminder how small our planet is!
53. Plan for the holidays early. Save yourself some time and space to enjoy them.
54. Sitting on an application/submission of any kind? Submit it!
55. Putting off that body art? Plan and do it!
56. Watch the sunrise/sunset
57. Visit your local arboretum or park
58. Do that computer/phone maintenance you hate doing
59. Organize/sort your photos
60. Create a vision board–a digital version works fine, too!
61. Forgive yourself
62. Plan (and do) a new self-help morning routine
63. Geek out! Write fanfic or make fan art
64. Get your personal library in shape
65. Take a self-defense class
66. Seek out guest lecturer opportunities–try your local library!
67. Have a good cry
68. Level up your writing instruments. I adore!
69. Have a planner? Pretty it up with fancy stickers.
70. Plan a trip and go cloud watching
71. Create a wheel spinner to do something fun. (Then do it!)
72. Learn ASL, Morse code, or a foreign language
73. Sign up/plan a longer-term fitness goal with a trainer
74. Prioritize your wants/needs/goals
75. Say buh-bye to toxic people and deepen your relationships with those who matter.

Mood: The future is yet before us
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Addiction? Oh yeah. Too embarrassing to admit.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Steps! Averaging 5K a day work-out wise, and ready to up the program.
In My Ears: A whiny Muse song
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: Loads for work. Loads. LOADS MORE.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Westworld
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War Challenge eBook
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.

MANW Week 40 Check In: New Theme and Saddling Up

Make Art Not War October Challenge Badge

Hello everyone! As I mentioned previously, I spent September finishing up the Make Art Not War Challenge: Rules, Essays, and 31 Creative Prompts eBook. Now that pledge has been fulfilled and my travel is more manageable, I’m back in my office and here to make art. Rah! Rah!

This month’s theme will be SELF-CARE. Fairly self explanatory, but a topic I’m going to write about further. I think we all need this reminder, especially in the wake of several natural disasters in addition to politics. I’m sure you probably know someone who is affected by what’s happening in the world today, and it can be hard to stay motivated. But, we have to!

Today, I want to revisit my pledge as a means of getting back on track.

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 where I am sitting with my Make Art Not War Challenge pledges today:

  • I fulfilled my promises in September, and managed to make a few jewelry pieces. I’ve been spending the time getting my space and personal business sorted as well, with a goal of December 31st.
  • I did freewrite a few times, but I haven’t had an issue with motivation lately.
  • I haven’t marked my progress on the calendar, but I do plan on logging time going forward. I’d really like to end this year with a bang.
  • 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 You’re looking at my post, right now! Hee.
  • Connections are proceeding apace, and my social media time and usage will need to be adjusted further. I’m seriously considering further means of altering engagement, especially since Facebook and Twitter don’t seem to take the hint that not all of us use the tools in the same way. But, for now I have it blocked during work hours, and I’ll take it from there as time allows.

Right now, it feels like it’s February all over again, and I’m rocking with new energy, fresh to-do lists, and a heap of goals. The productivity is there, and after this year’s round of ridiculousness I can say this with vigor: if something doesn’t work for you, then consider letting it go. For full-time writers like myself, we have to remain vigilant and focus on work. If something throws our routine off-kilter, that can be disastrous unless we get back up on the horse quickly.

I’ve got some fabulous news, but can’t say anything for quite a while. It does mean, however, all the work I’ve done to clear up my proverbial slate and get my shit together has paid off. My business plan is solid, I’ve been doing some awesome work with Onyx Path Publishing and Wizards of the Coast for games, and I’m very happy with the direction my career is headed. Thanks to Luke Cage, the motto “Forward. Always forward.” is a wonderful thing. No matter how slow the mechanism of publishing moves, it’s still moving. Hah!

Mood: Huh. It’s Wednesday? Okay then!
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Yeah. It’s “ashamed to admit” levels.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Went for a short walk in the blistering heat.
In My Ears: Tron: Legacy soundtrack
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: Loads for work. Loads.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Westworld
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War Challenge eBook
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.

Update on Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge

Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge Participant Badge

Hey folks, wanted to give you a heads up about the status of my Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge. I’m spending the rest of September to use my Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge time to work on my eBook, polish off a few short stories on spec, and get my office sorted after a busy summer of travel. The eBook has a cover and is seventy-five percent completed; I need to give it another read through and make sure the content is clear for beginning and hobbyist artists, in addition to professionals. Then, in October, I’ll be kicking off a new (hopefully) fun and holiday-related theme. I haven’t decided yet, but I might be participating in this year. My schedule is more focused on local events for the time being, and that’s going to hold my attention for a while so I can enjoy the season. Summer travel, in particular, was a lot more than I expected to deal with; I had four conventions in two months plus international travel, and that took a lot more energy than expected for a lot of reasons.

Now that I’m back at my desk, I’ve been working through the last vestiges of that stress to fall into a great routine. I’m happier than I’ve been in a few months, and definitely taking advantage of it. There’s been a lot of stress these past few years, for sure, and the news sucks. But, if I want to keep my focus as someone who works from home, I have to do a little self-care. That’s why I’ve recently introduced a lot of positive changes in my activity level, and that has had an effect on my system. I’m much more sensitive to caffeine, and I need to remind myself to drink more water! Why bring this up? Well, something to think about for yourself is that self-care is definitely needed not just for your health, but for your writing, too. Stress, hormonal fluctuations, activity level, posture, breathing, changes in your diet…all of these things impact your mood, health, and ability to put thoughts together–even help you pummel those brain weasels into submission. Self-care is important to do the thing! Do all the things! Don’t forget!

Before I head off to my To Do List From HellTM, comments are open on this post today if you’d like to suggest a good place for donations to hurricane and earthquake relief. For those of you who were in the direct path of the multiple hurricanes, fires, earthquakes recently, I am so sorry for all you’ve experienced. My thoughts are with you. As a reminder, game designers and freelancers affected by this tragedy may apply for assistance through the RPG Creators Relief Fund, comic book writers, editors, artists, etc. can apply through The Hero Initiative. I’ve also donated the proceeds from my first comic to’s Feeding America Hurricane bundle. The digital comics bundle offer has been up for a few weeks now, and it ends Wednesday, September 13th at midnight. Following this, I encourage you to check out Feeding America and Doctors Without Borders. Both fantastic places to give a little if you can in this time of need.

If you have other charities you’d like to recommend, please do so in the comments below.

Mood: All the pentacle-covered coins, all the time.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Good grief.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Stepping. One, two. One, two.
In My Ears: Harry Potter soundtrack
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: Loads for work.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Central Intelligence
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
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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