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Challenges

I’ve been using challenges to learn things about myself, and the world around me for some time. NaNoWriMo for five years, the Bradbury Challenge a couple years ago, and last October I did Inktober and Drawtober,

Both ink and draw-tober are about drawing every day in October. I managed to draw 27 drawings, and ink 24 of them. I even add some color to a few.

For each challenge I put myself threw I try to take something out of it. From this one I learned that I loved drawing strange, and unusual things. I loved pushing my creativity in art as well as words. I hadn’t done more then cute little chibi’s of super heroes and other odd things lately, but this had me drawing steam powered submarines, and spider ballerinas, poison fairies and underwater wraiths. I did things with an ink pen I never would have thought to do before.

It was also invigorating. I did a lot of this challenge while we were traveling for twitchcon. We had days where we only slept for four hours, only to get up and put more leather together to get the armor set done. And yet I still managed to do so much. It just goes to show how much you can get done even when there’s a time crunch. Even when you’re sleep deprived. Even if you’re busy and the world doesn’t slow down so you can get your words, or ink lines in.

And in the end being creative is amazing, whatever creative thing you’re trying to do.

You can see more of the drawings, and pictures from twitchcon, over on instagram. 

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Posted by on November 12, 2017 in On Writing

 

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Creativity and Depression

I was listening to the recent Author Strong Podcast where Nancy talks about her battle with getting the words out now that she quit her day job. She took a leap of faith, and now she has to deal with her depression trying to assert itself.

I listened as she stumbled, trying to explain to Matt (a very cheerful and go for it type of person) why it was easier to say “do this to work around it” then it was to actually do it. And I saw myself reflecting back at me.

I’ve dealt with depression for as long as I can remember. As a teen I had school, and sisters to help pull me from it. When I got married I had the children to help. In the last six years I’ve been happier then I’ve ever been with a new life, a great boyfriend, a supportive family, and an outlet for my creativity. And yet for the last month I’ve had that old beast, depression, rearing it’s ugly head.

I know what’s causing it. I know what I need to do to make it shut up and stop all the self doubt and whispers in my head that I’m not worthwhile. But that doesn’t make it easy.

For creativity, this is horrible. Every time I sit down to write I have to talk myself into it. Not just the act of writing, but the act of sitting at the computer for anything other than playing a game or checking email. Just opening the files so that I can read through them is a huge stress when depression starts whispering to me, and it’s not always easy. When I do start to clunk away at the keys sometimes I can write, other times I will put down a few words before the whispers in my head telling me I’m not good enough, I’ll never get anywhere with this, I’ll never finish, get too loud for me to write anymore. I’ll get up, do something else, change perspective, but I simply can’t continue on with that work…yet.

I sent a tweet out yesterday that said “Depression is a lying bastard.” It’s a common refrain now, a reminder that all the whispers in my head are wrong. I am worth it, I will finish, I am stronger than I seem. All those things and more.

Someone replied “I don’t believe in depression.” I don’t know if he meant it as a joke, or he honestly doesn’t believe in it. It really didn’t matter why he said it. I looked at the tweet and all I could think was: “Man, I’d love to have the luxury of being able to dismiss depression as nonexistent.”

In some ways knowing what’s wrong, and why my creativity is floundering, helps me get through it. I can write a blog post, or tell Gregg about the things going through my head, and things tend to die down for a little bit. Sometimes. Other times I can’t seem to break free from the cycle. Even while writing this blog post I had a moment where I could not pull myself from the destructive thoughts.

If you think of the brain like millions of chemical reactions going off all over the curves of your cerebellum then it is easier to see how one miss fire could trigger a cascade effect that can run out of control sometimes. Thoughts that keep repeating themselves, destructive thoughts that keep cycling over and over, a lack of will because it is simply easier to avoid new things than deal with that destructiveness.

We do have some control over the chemical processes in our minds. There are techniques and medications we can use to lower certain hormones which cause the more harmful problems. But not all of us have access to medications, and the techniques aren’t effective 100% of the time.

How do you explain depression to someone who doesn’t have it, or someone who thinks it’s “all in your head”? I don’t know. I have trouble describing it to myself some days.

But I will continue to sit down at the keyboard and try to write, even when the chemicals in my brain don’t want me to, because this is important to me.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2015 in On Writing

 

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Ban them all!!!!

This week is banned books week, dedicated to thousands of books that have been banned throughout libraries, schools, and colleges. Sometimes books banned in an entire country.

You can find my top 5 banned books reading list here, and my thoughts on each book. Also a bit about my thoughts on banning books in general. However… I’m a writer not a talker so I needed to write about why I find the idea of banning a book so offensive.

The first video I clicked on about banned book top fives this morning was from a woman who said she agreed with the ban on a comic book that I actually loved. She noted the sexual situations, violence, and nudity and said she agreed. It wasn’t appropriate for children.

My question… Who’s child? Just because you find something offensive, does that give you the right to tell my child they can’t read it?

I took a look at the reasons for banning a lot of the books (books that are still being banned today, btw) and one thing became increasingly clear… Most of the titles weren’t being banned to protect the children, they were banned to protect the ideals of the adults.

Take Harry Potter, for example. It was banned because it “promotes witchcraft.” Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it did. So? There are people in the USA that are Wiccan and do practice a form of witchcraft, and they probably share that love with their children. Is that wrong? Some would say it is. Others would say inflicting Christianity on a child who is incapable if telling fact from fiction at a young age is wrong. Are either of them right? Both would say the other is wrong and neither would see their own bias they suffer from.

Harry Potter was banned because some parent saw it as an attack against their personal beliefs and was afraid that their child would turn away from them. This bothers me. If your beliefs aren’t strong enough to stand against a children’s book than they aren’t very strong beliefs and maybe you should reconsider them yourself.

Others were banned for incouraging violence, or homosexuality. M.E. Kerr was told that the girls in her book had to turn away from homosexuality at the end in order to get past the censors. I’m glad she wrote her books anyway because “Is That You, Miss Blue” had a big impact on me as I was growing up.

In some cases banning books serves to promote one life style over another. We can’t have our children growing up thinking it’s okay to be gay, or promiscuous, or practice another religion.

But with each banning the case against the people who would do this rises. If your ideas and beliefs can’t stand up to a little scrutiny then they cannot stand!

On the other side of the coin: by saying children can’t read a book because that book will change them and encourage them to do x, y, or z, you are saying that child is weak willed and incapable of making choices in their own. If you honestly think Harry Potter will make your child believe they can cast a spell and turn someone into a frog then you really don’t think highly of children.

Playing pretend, imagination, exploration of different ideas and themes encourages young minds to grow and expand, their horizons to widen. Just remember that most scientists were inspired by star trek and science fiction. That’s why you are probably reading this on a smart phone right now. The concepts for smart phones and cells phones were first invented by star trek writers.

“But, sex!” the banners cry.

Children are not asexual. Some boys look up little girls skirts. Children play doctor, masterbate, and sneak peeks. Yes they are still trying to figure out themselves, and yes they should be protected from inappropriate situations, however books are not going to hurt them. On the contrary, books might help them by showing them what is appropriate and what isn’t and giving them encouragement to speak up when bad things happen.

Part of growing up is discovering your sexuality, and learning about yourself, and your body. Books can be a safe way to explore those thoughts and emotions. By restricting books you’re actually making it more likely that a child will act on those thoughts instead of just reading about it.

“But, homosexual agenda!” 😥 Just, no.

“But, violence!” Okay now you just sound like the same people crying about video games causing violence. Multiple studies prove this is dead wrong. Any aggressive tendencies they have are linked to frustration, not the violence on the screen.

Isn’t it better to teach children how to deal with frustration? To give them examples of both the right and the wrong way of doing things so they can have the knowledge to do the right thing and why it is the right thing?

Lastly I would just like to add that reading a wide variety of books in multiple genres, about various points of views promotes critical thinking, tolerance understanding, and creativity.

Moral of the story: banning books should be in a case by case for a child, not a school.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in On Writing

 

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Minecraft

I play a lot of minecraft. Too much, maybe. But I think of it as a way to exercise my brain.

Some people call it Legos on the computer, and they aren’t wrong. You do build. It is also resource gathering, time management, and circuit building. Then there are the mods. With miss you can add magic, technology, monsters, animals and more. Sky’s the limit!

Last night I was trying to figure out a tricky problem. I have ars magica and I’m trying to build my magical abilities. Eventually I want to fly. But I didn’t take the easy route like others do and create a fire spell. No, I took the slightly more complicated path and decided to make a leap spell. It has more parts. And it wasn’t easy to find a tutorial about it so I had to figure it out on my own.

But these puzzles, piecing things together, reading manuals, and just perservearing even in the middle of daunting tasks, even in a video game, are useful skills.

Maybe people think Minecraft is a waste of time. It’s a game, and I could be writing instead. I tend to think it’s an excuse to use my mind, and stretch the boundaries of my imagination.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2015 in Personal Notes

 

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Burn out

Every November I participate in NaNoWriMo. It’s a tough month filled with a lot of writing and sitting in chairs all for the chance just to say I did it, I won.

It’s no wonder that right after NaNoWriMo a lot of people take a long break. We get burnt out. That’s 50k words worth of story completed and our minds are jelly.

But that’s not the only burn out an artist can suffer from.

I’ve been working on Mermaids Curse since October. Yes, that’s nine months with one project. I’ve completed a little over 81k words on it, rewritten over half of it already, and also thrown away about half as much as I’ve kept. That’s well over 100,000 words in the same project. It makes you sick of looking at it after a while.

Burn out can happen when you’ve spent too much time on the same project. When your pushing yourself too hard or when you aren’t taking care of the rest of yourself correctly.

For me, when I am really feeling it I will take a day or two to read something. I don’t get nearly enough time to read anymore. I often will switch projects for a day or two so that I’m still writing but not over working on the same project.

I know right now I feel like there is no end in sight for my dang novel and that makes writing and editing take that much longer. It’s that feeling of defeat that always gets in the way. Oddly enough, when I published ‘Footprints’ a couple months ago that gave me a burst of speed that carried me through the edits of half the book. But I haven’t published anything since then and I know that is part of the reason I’m having issues. Unfortunately I don’t have anything to publish so that isn’t an easy fix, but I’m not giving up.

The ultimate cure for burn out is just finishing the project and moving on to the next one. I know I’ll be so excited when I’m finally finished with Mermaids Curse.

So… This was my break and now I’m off to write some more.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2014 in On Writing

 

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The Circle of Creativity

There is a wonderful book called “Steal Like an Artist”, and I read it once, a while back.

It seems like such a simple thing. As an artist working in paint and pencil our art teachers started us off by having us replicate other artists work. Musicians start by learning scales and move up to covering some of their favorite musicians, or some of those considered the best in their industry.

In fact if you go back to classic Renascence paintings you will see many with the same theme, or pose. A few are quite clear that the copied another. Van Gogh copied Millet. A large percentage of music all use the same four cords, all the way back to Pachelbel. We won’t even get into all of the movies influenced by other or outright remake them. Then there is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and the thousands of adaptations.

Art, all art no matter the medium, is a flow of thought and action. It is the combined totality of all that we’ve known an experienced. All that we’ve watched, tried, emulated, and retold.

But to learn to produce your own art it usually stars by imitating old art. Writers will try writing fan fic, or write in similar styles to authors they enjoyed reading. Artist will try reproducing techniques, images, and variants that they see in other artists. Musicians will practice their favorite songs before they start writing their own. Even game designers will start by programming simple games before striking out on new adventures.

Yes, there are the occasional creators that come up with their content very shortly out of the gate. But I would say that is more rare then creators who mimic before creating.

Think of it like a child. When you are a baby you don’t blurt out whole sentences. You say sounds, then words, ten mimic people around you. Finally, after months of practice, you start saying whole sentences, then paragraphs and stories of your own. The creative process is much the same.

And then it circles around. The things you create inspire the next generation of artist. The things you create will inspire new creations. Then you’ll consume new art and experiences from new areas and that will influence your continued growth. As long as you are living you are gathering new pieces to add into your canvas of creation.

So don’t be afraid to mimic now and then. I happen to know some great movies that started by making fun of some existing movies. I know a couple of books that came about by mashing up ideas from other books.

And if you’d like some more inspiration, I really suggest reading “Steal Like and Artist“.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2014 in Commentary

 

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FAQ – Should I Really “Write What I Know?”

writeYou see this advice everywhere. New authors asking how to write, or what to write, and other authors telling them “Write what you know.”

This is a quote from Mark Twain. It is fantastic, amazing advice, and yet people constantly miss understand it.

“How do I write about dragons? I’ve never seen one.”

“How do I write about love? I’ve never been in love.”

I hope to all that’s good that VC Andrews did not know about incest and child abuse first hand. Or that Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov had first hand knowledge of what is in Lolita. Stephen King probably hasn’t met a giant spider that makes children hallucinate evil clowns. Yet, they exist. And they are some of the most read books out there.

There are many things that I, personally do not know about. I have never experienced the death of a loved one, but I know what it’s like to loose someone. I don’t know the thrill of climbing Mount Everest, but I know the joy of accomplishing something I’ve never been able to do before.

We all have loves, tragedies, heart felt moments, days when we want to pull our hair out, and days when we think we’ve never felt happier. The trick isn’t to “write what you know” but to draw on the experiences, the hopes, the dreams, and the very essence of life, and create a realistic narrative.

If you don’t “know” something, then go learn something! Watch people. See how they react. Take a class. Live and love, and learn and exist in this great big world we call home. And then write about living.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in On Writing

 

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