Throwback: Creative Community, Not Bullying

I don’t know what prompted this post originally. Clearly something got me all fired up.

To everyone who is remotely creative, or knows anyone who is creative:

We have enough problems with people who don’t understand the time and effort we spend on our craft. The people who expect that we should design them a free website because we’re good at it, or photograph their kids for free. We’ve all been there at some point.

We need to stop demoralizing each other. We’re not in competition, we’re a community. None of us create exactly the same thing, the same way, which is why there really is room for all of us. And even if there isn’t enough commercial success for all of us – that’s not the point. We create because we have to, because it’s an essential part of our being, not because of the money. (Though to make a living at what we love is a dream, obviously.)

To be creative is an incredibly difficult thing, because it takes years of practice on something that often feels so intimate. Who doesn’t put a little piece of themselves into what they create?

There are so many ridiculous, subjective barriers, that we never know when we’re good enough. We see authors who can barely string together a coherent plot reach the best seller list and spawn successful movie franchises, while we agonize over the details of a character arc. A five year old gains publicity for slinging paint at a canvas, but we sell character sketches to make ends meet.

We need to be in this together. We need to encourage each other, no matter what medium, no matter what point in our journeys we’re at. We need to remind each other to do what we love, because we love it.

And we should never, ever, invalidate another person’s craft.

It doesn’t matter if you know better, or if they’re better and you know it. If they got to the same level of skill in your craft in a tenth of the time, or if they’re thirty years older and still mastering the basics, it doesn’t matter. If you spend eight hours a day and they only spend twenty minutes – it doesn’t matter. Whether you like their work or they like yours…

Don’t tell someone that they aren’t, or can’t be, what they are.

You’re an artist even if you’ve never had an exhibition.

You’re an artist even if you only have a deviantart account.

You’re a musician even if bar chords hurt your hands.

You’re an artist if you draw fan art.

You’re a writer even if you’ve self-published.

You’re a writer even if you’ve not published anything yet.

Throwback Post: A Writer’s Confidence

I don’t remember when I wrote this, to be honest. I’m going to guess it was somewhere around 2014.

A lot of my sentiments are the same, though. I do still believe that if I put the work into it, I can get Roselyn’s Legacy (and other things I write) published. The things I was proud about learning then, I only know better now. While the scope of what Roselyn’s Legacy was has morphed drastically YET AGAIN, I believe that eventually, I’ll get to what the story should be.

I’m going to make a bold statement: I believe that if I put the work into revising Roselyn’s Legacy, I can get it published.

I’m not naive. I know how difficult the process is, and how dismal the odds are. I’m not even saying that it won’t take me years to accomplish. But I believe in this story that much, and I believe in myself that much as well.

I would consider the last few months a ‘cocooning’ for myself as a writer. It wasn’t intentional, while I set out to learn a few things, I didn’t anticipate that it would go so far in changing how I approach things.

Over the last couple of years, I have been trying to learn things, using that as my crutch. I thought that I would be able to call myself a competent writer when I had read all of the proper books and done tons of research. While arguably it would have been smarter just to write regularly, this information hasn’t gone to waste. I have methods for building worlds, plots, and characters that extends beyond (but does not exclude) notes in a haphazard notebook. Because I am not flying by the seat of my pants anymore, I can point others to my resources, which makes me feel credible. I can also look back on these resources when I get stuck.

I discovered, quite by accident, that I am not alone. When I close the file after working on my novel, I feel proud of myself. What I wrote belongs on the pantheon of the gods, or at the very least in a respectable book. But by the next morning, I am pretty sure when I open that file, I am going to find that all I really did the previous day was smack the keyboard with the tip of my nose for an hour. But if I swallow that fear and open the file again, I’ll find that what’s there really wasn’t as bad as I was dreading. But if I let that fear build, it’ll keep me from working on that novel indefinitely.

While I’m not sure if this happens to every writer, or even a majority of writers, I learned that I am not alone. That revelation was gold. You know what the cure is? To keep writing. It’s easier said than done – revising Roselyn’s Legacy, whenever I think about the next scene, I’m pretty sure that’s the point that everything turns to drivel. But then I find that it’s not so bad in reality, and I think of ways to make it better.

I also discovered that ideas beget ideas. Like plot gizka, or plot bunnies, or whatever your favorite multiplying creature may be. If I don’t touch a file for a long time, my brain isn’t working on it. Ideas will be few and far between. But if I work on something consistently, it’s always somewhere in my processing queue. Not only am I finding ideas for Roselyn’s Legacy, but I’m taking notes for a couple other projects as well. I don’t know how much writing I’ll get into with these ideas at present, but I’ll toss those irons into the fire as well and see what comes from it.

I’ve also been reading like a fiend. In addition to reading stuff from writers that I would like to be when I grow up, I’ve been expanding my palette. I’ve always been a pretty voracious reader, but only in the last few years have I stopped being such a snob and started to admit that there are perfectly good books written after 1865.

Lastly, I swallowed my fear and let other people see my creation. My writing isn’t perfect. No matter how many times one section gets passed around, there is always -something- that can be improved. But funny thing, with all this writing I’ve been doing in the past year, I’ve become a better writer. No one has dismissed my novel as drivel and told me to quit writing and go back to my day job. It’s terrifying, don’t get me wrong. Originally a short story called “Heart of Ice”, Roselyn’s Legacy has existed for me for ten years now. I wrote things before it, and I’ve worked on projects since, but I need to do this story justice.

In the end, it all comes down to my willingness to sit down and do the work. The art of discipline is one that I’m still learning, but I am no longer stalling because I don’t feel capable. For the first time, I believe that I can do it…and that’s a nice place to be.

Throwback post: On Creativity (With Kate)

From time to time I’m going to share old posts that are no longer available from my personal blog. This is one of those posts, with some new commentary at the end. Enjoy!

I got to see Kate (and Sylvia) yesterday, and as should be expected from two people who met through NaNoWriMo, the topic turned to creative pursuits.

Or lack thereof. Maybe that’s a better way of phrasing it.

I’ve been a big fan of being creative super late at night, at those wee hours of the morning when all is eerily quiet and shrouded in darkness. There’s nothing, less to distract me.

The problem is that there is no way for me to actually create at this time. I prefer to have my schedule on something of the same page as Matt’s because it is way easier to get things done when he is gone, rather than while he’s home or asleep. With him pushing his schedule towards the early side, (his alarm is set for 6 or something absurd) I can’t afford to stay up until 3-4 writing or painting or whatever. I would end up sleeping through most of the time while he is at work, which just doesn’t work. I may get more done creatively, but I would also end up very frazzled.

So the alternative is to pick up my creative spot and move it to something more convenient. Which is a very grown up thing to do, and ultimately why I prefer to stomp my foot like a 2 year old on a tantrum. NO. I don’t need a TIME to do things. If I can’t do it at night, I will just do it at any ol time, and it will work out just fine.

Which is why on average of every 10 days, I manage to forget to do my 750 words, and my streak drops back to zero. Because I don’t take it seriously, because I don’t believe that it should have something of a dedicated slot in my day. Because the best time, the time that makes the most sense, is morning, and I really don’t like mornings for getting things done.

Kate and I talked a bit about routines, which neither of us particularly want, but to some extent see a necessity for. She pointed out that for her daughter Sylvia, routines are important. They give her security, allow her to know what to expect and what is expected of her.

We like to think as adults that we have the freedom to do ‘whatever’ we want. But the truth is, I think we function better when we know what to expect, and what is expected of us. I can see that with Matt.

Since he started aiming to be at work at 7, his mood has improved. Sure, he gives up a bit of freedom in that in order to adhere to this, he can’t really stay up until 1 am, and he has to pull himself out of bed in the morning. But knowing that if he gets in at 7, he can expect to leave around 3 gives it a nice definition for him…and for me. But I can also see where his actual position with work is frustrating him. He is working towards this nebulous “deploy” which will allow him to move up in the programming world. The problem for him is that there are no visible benchmarks. He doesn’t know what he is working at, and cannot see tangible progress. To this extent, not knowing what is expected of him is frustrating.

Thinking about the concept of routine from a child’s perspective helps me clarify things that I’ve expressed before – that I felt that I really thrived in high school and have had a more difficult time since. I don’t have a clear definition of what is expected, and haven’t quite developed the skill of reasonable self-expectations. (I am getting better with it than I was even a couple of years ago, but I am still not where I would like to be)

So, maybe I need to see more of Kate and Sylvia before they pack off and head to DC for the summer. (If that’s even possible!) I don’t know about her, but I enjoy bouncing things back and forth. After spending time with her, something always looks a bit different.

As for me and my words – well, much as I hated coming to the conclusion, I decided that mornings are the only time when I consistently know I will have the ability to write. Pushing it off until later in the day is asking for some sort of interruption. So, while I still need to refine the process, I’m currently content with trying to get my writing going before noon. Some days are earlier than others, depending on how much sleep I got or what needs to happen that day, but right now, noon is a good benchmark.

2020 Commentary:
What I love about my thirties is that I feel so much more settled in my skin. I tried, failed, fell on my face a thousand times in my twenties, and while I still do – I fall on my face a lot less, or at least in new and different ways.

Picking a time and sticking to it is something I still struggle with, particularly when it comes to things that can happen “any time!” and even more so during the pandemic, because so much can happen at any time – or no time. It feels like there’s very little middle ground. But I am FAR better now than I was when I wrote this (I’m guessing eight years ago? Maybe nine? I can’t remember how old Sylvia is!).

I have a far bigger respect for routine and how good it makes me feel when I stick to one. I was getting pretty good at that before the pandemic hit, and while I’m coming back around, I admit that I’m still ‘holding my breath’, waiting for things to go back to ‘normal’ – I know I need to stop that, but it’s easier said than done.
One of the biggest boons to my ability to stick to a routine is a planner. For years I resisted planners because I wanted to get things done naturally, or because I didn’t feel like I had enough stuff that was ‘planner worthy’. Well, as it turns out, putting everything down on the planner is totally acceptable, and a great motivator for getting things done. If I put down “wash Gwen’s ears” on Sundays, it’s way more likely to get done than if I don’t. When I write down that I want to finish a certain book in that week, I feel like I’ve scored a touchdown when it’s Wednesday and I’m done.

So when it comes to creativity, try and fail! You won’t know what works for you unless you know what doesn’t. While I don’t tend to set a strict time for doing things, having an idea of whether I want to get it done in the morning, afternoon, or evening usually offers just enough structure for me to work with.

Don’t judge your brain for whatever routine or structure it needs to work best. Throw lots of creative spaghetti at the walls and see what works best for you. Sometimes it’s the unexpected thing that will really work well – other times, the answer is right there and you’re pretending that it’s not.

Also, I miss Kate. <3