It’s time for my progress report. Happily, September was a much better month than August. But it was also a month where I didn’t reach many of my goals. This year has been like that for many of us. It’s a year when many of us are struggling. Where we are all on a journey of change–a slow, difficult and messy journey. All many of us can do is… put one foot in front of the other.
I finished the rough draft of If I Should Die. As far as rough drafts go, I’m happy with it. The past three weeks, I have been identifying weaknesses and strengths of the story. It will probably be another week, maybe two, before I begin edits. That’s when the real fun starts!
I’m working on bringing some old stories to life. Still have a couple more hurdles before I can release them.
I’ve made a few improvements on this site. Expanded some resources listed for readers and for writers.
Figured out a couple of problems with the new mail service. Hopefully that’s the last major hurdle. Now I just need some time to dedicate to finish up the last touches.
The only reading I accomplished was reading a friend’s manuscript. I made some recommendations. Honestly, it only needed a few tweaks.
I have completed statistics for the month of September. And of course, the end of September is also the end of the third quarter. Also done.
My learning journey continues. I’ve taken several web classes lately. The primary topics are marketing and blurb writing. I won’t bore you with the details.
On the Home Front
My son did a massive amount of work on the lawn at the beginning of the month. And we now have some baby grass where old shrubs used to be and through out the yard. Our house sits on a lot and a half. So there’s a lot of lawn to water (my job). But the new grass is growing and looking good! Accomplished just in time as they predict our first hard frost for next week.
I have been enjoying some Netflix bingeing. I haven’t watched much television for the past five or six years, so I’ve got some major catching up to do. Doesn’t have a thing to do with avoiding certain chores… Nope. Not a thing.
Before school started, my grandson and I went to the Kansas City Zoo. We zipped around there trying to see everything in four brief hours. Didn’t make it. But we had fun.
Other than my trip to the zoo and essential doctor’s visits, Hubby and I have stayed home. I do most of our shopping online and get it delivered. But when we have to go out, we continue to mask and social distance and use good handwashing. I hope you do, too.
The Quarter and the Year-to-Date
I evaluate my progress each month and each quarter because I want to improve. To improve anything means you have to want to change. And change is a hard, slow, messy journey.
With the huge issues going on in the world, I can’t see clearly. I am uncertain what has worked. A lot hasn’t. Ugh. It’s 2020, you know? I’ve met very few of the goals I set in January. Of course, this year’s challenges have been unusually… challenging.
It’s imperative that I remember I am only in control of what I do. And all I can do, all any of us can do, is to keep trying. Stay on this hard, slow, messy journey. Put one foot in front of the other.
The weight of political divisions, racial injustice, gender or ability discrimination, and natural disasters can be overwhelming. Particularly in 2020. Choose your meme, but many express dismay about the ongoing issues. And many creatives feel the impact of these important issues in a way that diminishes their creativity. Do you have a creative support network? Maybe it needs some reinforcement. Here are 5 ways to support your creativity with a support network.
You need mentors. People who are more advanced in their craft, who can share their experiences. Mentors come in many forms. They can be one-on-one in person, but they can also be teachers in your creative classes, a memoir, or in how-to books. You may find a mentor in your genre related creative organization. SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) has one such program.
Peers who understand problems, frustration, and successes are vital. They be in person or classmates, critique partners, co-authors, or online friends. You can use twitter chat, forums, zoom, and writer groups online or on your favorite social media site. Make certain you choose peers who give more positive interactions than negative. And that you dish out more positive than negative.
Your mentees are important for two reasons. One, so you can give back. That effort not only helps fulfill a need we all have, it also helps you. It reminds you of how far you’ve come. You solidify techniques and skills when you try to explain or teach them. Where do you get mentees? You can teach a class, write a how-to article or book, engage with critique partners who aren’t at your skill level, or join a mentoring program like the one from SFWA.
Refill the Well
By the well, I mean you—spiritually, creatively, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Creativity needs a source from which to draw. Make certain you give yourself the opportunity to have those sources all the time. (Okay, within the 5 ways to support your creativity are an additional 5 ways.)
No, not religion. (Not that I’m saying religion is bad.) There are many interpretations of spirituality. Replenish your inner self. Use meditation, prayer, sit or walk in nature, read spiritual or religious guidance and inspiration, read poetry, or listen to music. You’ll know you’ve used the best source of spirituality for you when you feel rested and at peace afterwards.
There are many, many ways to refill your creativity. Visit museums (even online), read books you enjoy, learn or practice a different creative outlet (music, art, writing, gardening, etc), have an inspiration stash… Pinterest, Instagram, make a physical scrapbook, make a mood board, or change to a different media (if you use computer, try pen & paper, if you normally use pen & paper, try dictation, try crayons, if you normally do paper sculpture try clay, etc.) You may have other ways.
There are several ways you should refill your physical well or wellness. Creatives rarely like this recommendation. But it’s important to get enough exercise and rest. If you are physically stronger, you will be more creative.
Set your workstation up for the best ergonomics. Mayo Clinic has some recommendations with illustrations of good office ergonomics.
Set a timer so you take regular breaks. Calisthenics can work, if that’s your thing. But exercise can also mean take your dog for a walk, dance, play tag with your kids, ride horses or motorbikes, or simple stretches in your office.
Creatives are often emotional beings. Your emotional state affects your creativity. Prepare for those days when the emotional thunderclouds come. Create your own book of encouragements (book reviews, quotations that encourage you, copies or photos of your work, or letters you’ve written to encourage yourself.)
Friends who understand your creative work and are supportive are priceless.
Find examples that inspire you. A certain book writer used to keep a horribly written book on her desk because if that that author got published so could she.
Keep a journal of positives. Re-read them on those not-so-positive days.
Refueling yourself mentally is perhaps the easiest of these tasks. You can learn new skills, language, or information. If one part of your craft is suddenly difficult — take a fresh approach. For example, if you normally write on the computer, try dictation or handwriting or drawing. Read a how-to, practice single parts of your craft—nonstop writing, doodling, copying masters, flash fiction, making the same stroke, etc.
Give yourself and your creativity the gift of a dedicated space. Use part of a room, a whole room, a closet, a she/he/they shed, or go to a favorite shop or library. Your space can be portable or temporary. The setting up of your space will be the wake up call your brain needs to be creative.
Not only do you need a regular place to work, you need the right tools. Pick out tools you need and that you’ll love to use. If you can’t afford the tool you want at the moment, make an inspiration board to keep you motivated and working toward acquiring that tool.
Layout your space in a way that’s not only ergonomic but pleasing. Surround yourself with what you love AND your best work. Inspire yourself. Again, it might not be affordable to do it all at once—but aim for it.
Minimize the Negative
Minimize the things, events, or people that drain or kill your creative energy. If you must have contact, try to schedule contact with the negative for a time at the end of your creative day.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Here are six ways to set yourself up for success. Yes, there really are more than 5 ways to support your creativity.
1. Attitude—know yourself and have a positive attitude
2. Routine—schedule your creative time during the time of day you are most creative.
3. Comfort—Get a good chair meant for the job you’re doing.
4. Light—Have light for the job you need to do. Daylight bulbs and computer glasses may help.
5. Minimal distractions—This is highly individual. Do what will help you focus.
6. Music, nature sounds, or silence—Again, a highly individual choice. Try out different things. Journal how that music or sound or absence of sound worked for you. Finally, choose what works. Sometimes we have to choose second best, that’s okay. Choose whatever will support your creativity.
Support Your Creativity
There are endless ways to inspire yourself and support your creative endeavors. You may find there will be times when you need more or less support from any of the 5 ways to support your creativity mentioned here. Do you have a good support network for your creativity? If you use something not listed here, please share with us in the comments.
In my year-end review process I go through my old journals to get a sense of where I was last year and five years ago. It helps me to see what my goals were, what I’ve accomplished, and where my goals changed. This year something I wrote five years ago, caught my attention. I don’t remember the details but can read between the lines. I had said something out loud about my dream of being a successful writer and it paralyzed me for a while. It’s been a rough year–again. But the little free verse that I wrote five years ago speaks to me today about more than my writing. What is bad will be better tomorrow.
I Dreamed and was Afraid
I dreamed aloud today. I boasted of my writing abilities.
And I grew afraid. I’m not that good.
And I wasn’t.
I dreamed a quiet dream. And I whispered I will try.
And still I was afraid.
But I tried.
And words meandered across the page.
I stopped dreaming. And I wrote.
I was still afraid.
But I did it anyway.
And words marched and plodded and stumbled and fell.
It wasn’t that good.
But it was getting better.
I dreamed on paper today.
And the words sailed and danced across the page.
What was good was very good.
And what was bad, will be better when I dream again.
It makes me smile today. Am I living the dream? Yes and no. I’m not famous. I’m certainly not making much money. But I’m doing what I love every day. And the last two lines apply to more than my writing. It’s the optimist in me. I tend to see life as mostly good–even when bad things happen. Because what is good, is very good. How about you? Do you keep journals? Do you ever look back and find a small gem? Do you think what is bad will be better tomorrow?