Summer hasn’t been all fun and games, though happily there was enough of that to make it feel like summer, but now it’s time to push forward on the creative front.
Above are two digital pieces, the top not yet complete. I found some movie stills as reference material because they help me think about the whole scene, rather than just the characters. And figures in movie stills do more natural looking things than when you are working from a model, or from most photographs.
Happy autumn everyone. Another time for growth, but of a different kind.
Yes, it was only a week ago that I moaned a little about the heat and the smoke and the lethargy of the dog days of summer. There were hints even then that things would change. The light was different, even on days when there was no smoke. The past few days have been overcast and cold. Yesterday didn’t warm up much over eleven degrees Celsius (about 52 Fahrenheit).
The end of summer always comes as a big shock to me. It’s not like I haven’t lived in this province for nearing seventy years, and yet, each time when the potato plants die, the ferns go yellow and the weather goes cold, it’s a big surprise to me. And it never fails that it’s cold and rainy when school starts.
For all that I love September. I get excited about buckling down and finishing projects that I’ve been working on in a lackadaisical manner during the summer. So today, right after my walk I got to work on the revision of The Chronos Project. And this afternoon I’m going to finish a drawing and start another.
I completed the novella, Hannah’s Hearing about a week ago, and this week it was time to chose a new project.
But which one? They’re all clamouring for my attention all the time. Every silly idea, big or small wants prescidence and as I mentioned last week, I’m feeling entirely overwhelmed by all the work there is to do.
Jessica’s book is full of good advice on how to narrow down and do one project–ONLY ONE–in order to focus and complete your work.
Can I stick to just ONE Project?
Snort. Of course I can’t. But I can take all those little ideas, write them down and promise them I’ll get to them in time. (Maybe not, but what do they know?) In the meantime, I’ve chosen one project to focus on.
Some years ago, I started a novel I called The Chronos Project. It is a time travel novel that takes place in 2087 and 1940 Germany. It seemed like an excellent idea, but I couldn’t make it work. It got too complicated and I didn’t have the chops for it. I revisited it a while later, but again, I set it aside for another shiny new idea, or was it because I couldn’t figure out how to end the story? At 120,000 words it didn’t feel as though it was coming to an end any time soon.
This week I pulled that story out again, and I’m reading it, back to front. Yes, weirdness. But I wanted to see it in a new way. I’m finding to my surprise that the writing is good, the story is coherent and has tension. And the idea is still exciting.
So, I made a small plan. As per Jessical Abel’s suggestion, I chose this project, and I will break it down to its small parts. This week and part of next week, I will continue to read the story and make a brief note about each chapter. The next project is to read each pov characters pages in order so that I can see their story arc and find out where I can strengthen them and where they’re story needs to go.
That’s all the plan there is for now. I’ll make more as I come to the end of a goal and am ready to move on to the next.
Oh, and while I’m reading I’m listening to Minor Matter. Do yourself a favour and give them a listen.
It seems to me that young adults and old adult have something in common. Fearfulness. When we’re just emerging into adulthood, we have no idea how to negotiate all the pitfalls of taking care of ourselves, fending for ourselves, making a place for ourselves and being someone. It’s all flailing and floundering and fear that we’ll embarrass ourselves and nobody special will like us. Ever.
In the middle years we kind of sort it out–at least a little. And if we haven’t sorted it out there is no time to do so now, because now we’re in it to the armpits and there’s not time to let fear hold us back. That career needs building and the family needs care. It’s a doing time.
Then comes later adulthood when somehow your back to not knowing quite how to get on in the world. Things swirl around and past you at such speed that you’re left standing slump-shouldered, mouth hanging open wondering what now. You have no idea how you got to this ridiculous place where it scary to go for a walk in case there is ice on the sidewalk, and you’re worried that your grand kids might think you smell funny.
These things can lead to many Eeyore moments for young adults and old adults alike.
I’m not going to suggest going all Pollyana, but when life get shitty I would suggest finding something that makes you laugh, and then build on the things you know you are good at. There’s something you’re good at, always something, and if you push the limits on that thing you grow, and that is one of the most satisfying things you’ll ever do. Immerse yourself in what you are good at, and when you’re feeling like you could just about handle something else, give it a try. Be optimistic. Optimism won’t kill you you know and if you lose, try again, or try something else and maybe put ice skates on when you go for a walk.
Shortly before the end of 2017 I was feeling dissatisfied with my creative output. We, as creatives often make these fuzzy goals in our heads, and then when somehow those fuzzy goals don’t magically become reality we get down on ourselves.
I decided to do two things.
Get a calendar and set more concrete goals.
Give myself a red star every time I met a writing goal, and a blue star every time I met a visual art goal.
Now, you can do all this on a Google Calendar–well, if you don’t care about the sparkly stars. I decided I needed both. I use the Google Calendar to set goals. When I’ve done a particular item I cross it off. But even better is my old-timey paper monthly calendar. I don’t set any goals there or write in any appointments. Instead, I write down what I did, and if it’s writing I get a red star and when it’s painting I get a blue star.
Shiny! Shiny! I’m astonished at how many shiny stars appeared on my calendar. Maybe I did more work because I was keeping track of it or maybe I’ve been working hard all along and didn’t give myself credit.
Even last week when I was laid low by that nasty flu, I managed the three digital pieces above and the analog drawing of a “rocker”, as well as revision of four chapters in my comedic boomer novella, entitled Hannah’s Hearing.
What about you? Do you give yourself the credit you deserve? Go ahead. Give yourself a gold star!
Painting by Marie Lyons, Welcome Summer, acrylic, 13.5″ x 13.5″
On January 31, 2018 I retired for the third time.
When you’re an artist you often can’t wait to lose the day job and do what you really want to do, but I can tell you there are perils to having all that free ‘alone’ time. It’s much harder to keep yourself going and organized than you might think, and it’s especially difficult if you are energized by social interactions.
Work is not the problem here.
Most creatives can’t help but work, but the isolation, and the fear that you’ve missed the boat–that the world has moved on in your creative field and left you behind–is a pretty miserable thing to contemplate.
I think young artists experience this too and I know only one answer to that kind of misery.
Keep on keeping on.
It might sound like the definition of madness, but you’re not going to let that bother you, are you?
The painting above is by Marie Lyon who began her art study when she was 53. She’s now, 88 and continues to work. Read all about her at Debra Eve’s Later Bloomers. She sounds like a fun lady.
Okay, we’re moving on into the second week of January. Many of you have set and begun to work toward goals. Lots of goals. You are going to be so much better in 2018. Your friends won’t even recognize you the new you.
It feels as though anything is possible in the New Year. All your old blots have been expunged. You can dump that frayed old you and become…anything, everything.
Some of you are really good at setting goals and working toward them. You write them down in your journals, and you plan for them in you schedules, and when 2018 ends, you’ll have accomplished at least some of what you planned to accomplish. Yay you!
Now, I’m a seriously conscientious person. Not in the orderliness aspect of that trait, but in an industrious way. I’m the person who can’t just sit there. Part of the reason I don’t like parties is that mostly it’s just sitting there making inane conversation. Come on, if we’re going to talk lets talk about really important things.
Yes, I know, I need to learn to chill. Perhaps that should be one of my goals this year. Wait, I’ll write that down.
I have a confession to make. I find it really hard to set goals–the precise written down kind of goals. Oh yes, I have a vague plan in my head. I’m going to begin a new novel, and I’ll finish the revision on the current one. I’ll submit the novel in revision to…and I’ll make digital art at least once a week I’ll work on analog art three times–no four time, maybe…
See, not very specific. So what’s the problem? Why am I so reluctant to make specific goals?
It might have something to do with fear of failure. Or, maybe it has something to do with my tendency to remain open to new things for as long as possible. If I tell you I’m going to do something, I can’t change my mind and do something else instead. My conscientiousness won’t let me. To compensate I make vague goals. It gives me direction, but doesn’t lock me in.
What about you? Do you find it easy to set specific goals? Reasonable goals that you can achieve? What makes it work for you? If you have as much trouble with this as I do, why? I’d love to hear from you.
I’ve been working hard on revising a young adult fantasy novel, called The Spell, and haven’t had much time in the studio. The above is a small sketchbook collage I made in November of 2017