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.



Making Art as a Way of Dealing With Bad News

Fizgig Avatar

It has been quite the week, and I cannot imagine what it’s been like for those of you who have been active online. Even the little bit of news, both personal and political, has been depressing as hell. That, topped off with multiple viruses and other day-to-day crap, can get to be too much very quickly. In fact, it can downright stall your ability to write, revise, edit, sketch, etc. It might even feel selfish to make art on spec (e.g. without a contract); or, you might have convinced yourself there’s too many terrible things going on in the world, so why does your story matter? Why bother?

Often, we downplay how much we give of ourselves to our art. Our joys, our sorrows, fears, pain are often wrapped up into one painting, game, story, comic, etc. Sometimes, we might even create a piece of art to help someone feel that much needed sense of relief. Other times, we might make something because the act of creation is not something anyone can take away from us. You, and only you, made that piece of art or collaborated with other people on it. That’s amazing, and that’s very, very important–especially right now. We may not be able to save the world, but we can tap into people’s emotions and move them through our art. I used to think that was just entertainment, and I was wrong. It’s more than that. It’s our point of connection, our way of showing the truth in a more palatable (or brutal) fashion, our reminder that we’re all human.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to think about the importance of making art when the bad news doesn’t stop. It’s not the one thing, of course, it’s the death by a thousand cuts. When it’s personal, it’s one passive-aggressive comment after the other about what you’re not doing, what you should’ve been doing, what you need to do, what you’re not. When it’s not, your faith in your government and your country is shaken. You hear the dogs of war barking–and aren’t sure if they’re real or imagined. You feel helpless. Fear, fear, fear, anxiety, fear. And it adds up. Oh, does it ever!

At some point, you’re probably going to shut down. Then, in that darkest of spaces, you do the one thing you’ve convinced yourself needs to happen: you wait for more bad news. Now, you might even be looking for it, because your boundaries have eroded. Bad news is now something you expect, and it’s something you’re unwittingly using as a survival mechanism. That bad news is familiar, it’s how you cope, it’s all you know. Your worldview might even shift in the process. Suddenly, things that were once enjoyable aren’t anymore. Small things are meaningless, and making art is an afterthought. The bad news, that’s what is really important–right?

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: life continues. Even at the worst of times, someone bakes bread or plants flowers or pets the cat or flies a kite with their kids. Think about all the shit I’ve been through; I’ve been bullied, doxed, harassed, threatened, etc. multiple times over and I am still standing. I am still here. And, I am still making art. A little slower than usual this week? Yep, unfortunately I’m coming off of a cold this week and Ny-Quil does strange things to my creativity. But, regardless, I am still at it even if progress is slow. Sometimes, the best I can do is take it one step at a time.

It wasn’t always this way, and the stars-only-know I’m not perfect. Like you, I do the best I can. Yes, there have been a few times where I have gotten so sucked in, because everywhere I turned people were either talking about politics, protesting, or negatively affected by the fractional “us vs. them” everywhere. It felt as if I had no escape, and it was hard for me–and many other creators like myself–to focus. I saw yellow journalism happen right in front of my face. I felt powerless to stop people from getting hurt, and all I could do was get out there and vote. Then, when it was all over… I felt like I was hungover, and I was angry for many reasons. I had been consumed. We had all been eaten up by what was happening, and despite our best efforts many people were definitely not being heard.

There was another reason why I was angry, though. I was mad at myself. At the end of the day, when you make art for a living or a hobby you lose a lot when you aren’t creating. Not only do you lose time, you also lose your purpose for being. I am not a doctor or a lawyer or a politician. I’m an artist. And that means, that in order for me to do my job to the best of my ability, I have to keep making art regardless of the thousand and one reasons out there that make me feel as if I don’t matter. That, dear reader, is my definition of persistence.

The title of today’s post was “Making art as a way of dealing with bad news.” So, here’s the deal: I have some bad news for you today. I do. I’m worried that you’re going to be overwhelmed by all the bad news that’s surrounding you and you won’t make art. It’s true. It is easier to stop making art than to keep at it, but don’t give in. Take the harder path, because that one? That’s usually a sign you’re headed in the right direction. Fight. Know that you are not alone. If you can’t make art for yourself, do it for your future self. Or, make art for someone you haven’t met yet. You never know how powerful and transformative your art can be unless you keep going. One brush, one word, one sketch might not seem like much, but that’s all I’m asking for right now. It’s the only way to fight back the darkness, and to firmly and loudly proclaim that you are still here despite the odds.

Please, I know it’s hard right now. Don’t give up hope. “It can’t rain all the time.”

    Mood: Weird. Hot and sneezy. Summer already?
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Coffee has health benefits. Right?
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Light walking
    In My Ears: Stupid fan
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy X-2. Found the bloody chocobo dungeon and the bloody underwhelming chocobo. Huzzah!
    Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
    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.



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