Playing around with design

So lately, I’ve been trying to learn a bit about design.

Turns out there is a lot to learn. But I have learned a few little tricks.

Last week I did a little series of creepy/scary/mystery-ish type images which I’ll post over the next few days.

Here’s the first one.

Feel free to share your thoughts, offer advise or to criticize them – feedback is super cool and I love it.

Something beautiful for you

Life has been so stressful lately and I’m sure we’re all feeling it. So instead of trying to stuff your brain with more words and thoughts, I wanted to just give you something truly beautiful to listen to. Magnificent! Enjoy!

 

If you are interested in learning about Cal Morris’s amazing music here are his links:

Cal Morris Website

Cal Morris Youtube channel

Cal Morris Facebook Page

Cal Morris Instagram

Cal Moris Twitter

And no, I have no personal connection to Cal Morris whatsoever – just heard his beautiful music at a time when I needed something beautiful in my life. And I thank him.

What to expect when you self publish

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Self publishing is a new thing to me. Very new. But I have to say even in a few days I’ve learned a lot. I humbly pass what I’ve learned onto you:

Things will go wrong. For example when I sent the check to the formatters to have my files converted to digital files, little did I know that Florida would have a week of heavy rain, flooding and delayed mail delivery. It set my schedule back nearly a week.

You’ll learn what sleep deprivation really means. I haven’t slept in two weeks. My dog is afraid of my cat hides and me whenever she sees me coming. Although the hallucinations are interesting and might make for some good inspiration for a horror story somewhere down the line.

You’ll have energy you don’t know what to do with. All the hype all the anticipation all the worry, excitement, and jitters do not go away after you press publish. Actually, it is set free and you’ll find yourself wandering around thinking you have something to do when you don’t. Everything you attempt to do will go unfinished and your attention span will have reduced to that of a gnat.

Your expectations won’t be met. You’ve told yourself you won’t expect anything. You’ll publish and see what happens. But you do expect things. No matter how hard you try to act casual, you won’t be feeling it. You’ll wonder why your aunt Myrna didn’t buy a copy of the book. Why everyone you ever met hasn’t called or sent you a congrats email, why everybody else is going about their business as though nothing has happened.

You’ll have yet another thing to obsess about. Yup, just what you need. A new obsession. That shiny object is known as the Amazon author dashboard. In real time, you can watch your sales and page reads change. Or not. Or not fast enough. You’ll tell yourself that you’ll only check it twice a day – first thing in the morning and last thing at night. But you’ll check it every hour. Every half hour. Every five minutes. It’s too cool not to be obsessed by it. It’s the magic of technology.

You’ll want to cry – if you’re a guy, you may want to punch something. You won’t necessarily know why you want to cry. And you’ll resist it. You’ll try to reason with yourself. Convince yourself there is nothing to cry about. That everything is going fine. But it won’t matter because all that stress, worry, anticipation will have you hopping around like a Mexican jumping bean. Let yourself. Cry. Cry it all out. Or punch something – not a human of course, but walls can be repaired, punching bags are made for such things. You’ll feel a bit better afterward. Really, you will.

You’ll feel like you should be doing something but you won’t know what it is. Leading up to publishing you’ve had a list and you proudly checked off each item as you accomplished it. Now, you don’t know what to do. Should you keep tweeting and face booking your carefully constructed promos banner one more time? Should you do the laundry that has been piling up for a month? Should you try to get your cat out from under the bed. Chances are you’ll just check your sales dashboard again and alternate that with playing online solitaire or mahjong..

You’ll think of details you should’ve added to the books, or edited out or changed. You may even be tempted to take the book down and do another round of edits before re-publishing. Your mind is a cesspool of shoulda, woulda, coulda.

How to get some perspective

Okay so this completely new world of self-publishing is exciting but now that you’ve done it, clearly you’ve got a case of the crazies. And if you don’t get hold of yourself, you may end up

It’s understandable. You’ve spent months maybe even years preparing for this and now that’s it has happened you don’t know what to do with yourself. The following may help:

Tear yourself away from all of it. Yup. Go to the beach, go hiking, check into a motel in the mountains for a couple of days. Unplug. Leave your devices at home, or at least locked in your trunk – and forget about all of it for a little while. You may go through a little withdrawal, but after a few hours, you’ll feel better.

Stop stalking your friends and relatives with helpful suggestions on how they can buy your book. Chances are, most of them probably will – eventually. But people resist being told what to do. If you leave them to their own devices, they’ll come around. And some of them won’t. And you have to be okay with that. Though this is a milestone in your life, it’s just one more detail that buzzes by them in a blur.

Come up with a plan. After you’ve gotten some sleep, some space and some decent food, sit down and come up with a rational plan on how you will promote your book (if you haven’t already). Even if you had a plan before publishing, now that you’ve had a taste of the reality, you may need to tweak it. If you simply don’t know what to do spend some time on blogs of those who have blazed the trail already: Anne R. Allen, Hugh Howey, Chuck Wendig and Joe Konrath all have great blogs filled with useful advice for self publishers.

Start your next book. This may sound crazy. You’ve just spent months, maybe years writing the book you just published and I’m suggesting you start your next one? Yup. That’s right. If you are in this for the long haul, the next book should be foremost on your mind. When readers discover you and like your work, they’ll want more. Be ready for them. It’ll also give you something to focus on and pour all that crazy random energy into and likely be a calming influence in your life.

Keep notes. After you publish, keep a log of all the promo actions you do – large and small. Because I guarantee if you see a spike in sales, you’ll want to know what caused it. If you have a record of the actions you’ve taken, you’ll be much more able to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Above all else, don’t become discouraged. Nothing happens overnight. Even though it may appear to be that way. It just isn’t true. There may always be the exception to the rule, but chances are you won’t be that exception. Chances are you are going to have to work hard, go through a lot of trial and error, fail and succeed continually to get to that sweet spot. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t good, that your books aren’t good, that people don’t want to read them. It just means there is a learning and experience curve. Slow and steady wins the race, or something like that.

Be proud of yourself. You did it. You had the courage and persistence to write that book, polish that book and publish that book. Of the millions of people who ‘want’ to write a book, you are one of the few who did. Be proud. That is an accomplishment. Now go write the next one.

Annie

It’s Easy to get Discouraged

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It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re pursuing a creative goal. Life in general is hard enough—getting to work on time, feeding the kids, paying the bills. That alone can exhaust you and leave little time and energy for other loftier goals.

I suppose I’m one of the ‘lucky ones’ because to a degree I’m living my dream. I make my living as a freelance writer and when I’m not doing that I work on my mystery series. So I’m living the charmed life, right? Not so much. I still have to pay rent, pay bills, pay for taxes, healthcare – the same costs you have. And when unexpected costs arise those have to be covered too.

And then life happened – again

For example, a couple of weeks ago my car started leaking oil. Was it is just a minor irritation that was easy and inexpensive to fix? Nope. It was a seal or two or maybe three. And apparently that’s a big deal because they need to drop the engine and do major surgery. So…the money I’d carefully set aside for piddly things like editing and cover design got reassigned. Sigh. Back to the drawing board and time to get more work in the door. And so it goes.

In an earlier time I might’ve just stuck my head in the oven and wailed. I might’ve thrown up my hands and proclaimed it was just too hard. That no matter what I did, it was always one step forward and two steps back. Then given up. Because, you know – I’m one of those temperamental and over-dramatizing creatives.

This time I decided to forego that particular dramatization and just shrug, pull the money together and keep focusing on the goal. And interestingly enough I only felt bad for a few hours, instead of the usual two weeks of woe and worry. And that felt kind of great in a way. I didn’t let life victimize me. I just gave it a, ‘Meh,’ and kept going.

If you focus it will come

A little over a year ago, I came up with an idea for a mystery series and decided to go for it. Initially I was only going to write the first book, publish it, and take it from there. But somewhere during the process I decided I might as well write all the books in the series and publish them in rapid succession. I knew exactly what the next two books were about, so why wait? If readers liked the first book they’d want to read the second and the third, why not have them ready and available. Granted it was a lot to bite off and chew and there have been times when I’ve called myself names for going this route. But something kind of magical happened during the process (and continues to happen because the process is still ongoing) I became fully committed to the project. I simply decided that my priority was the series and that everything else would have to support it, rather than the other way around. No matter what, I was going for it and wouldn’t let anything stop me.

Kind of amazing what a decision like that can bring about. Instead of making things more difficult, suddenly things just sort of happened. Work appeared out of nowhere. A little networking enabled me to line up a cover designer and proofreader. Doors opened in the weirdest most unexpected ways. Go figure. All because I finally decided that this writing thing was my priority. Duh, took long enough, eh?

But it’s not a piece of cake

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not easy. Given my particular goal I have little time to socialize and generally sit at my computer 14-16 hours a day, every day, every week. I often forget to eat and sometimes don’t manage to get out of my pajamas. My friends have sent out search parties looking for me. But I’m happy. I’m doing what I was meant to do. I’m being who I am. Sounds simple but you’d be amazed at how hard those two little things can be to accomplish. And in this crazy journey I’ve learned a few things:

  • You must analyze what went right as well as what went wrong. Otherwise you’ll never get anywhere.
  • Will your heart always be in it? Hello no. But do it anyway.
  • Sometimes the dark places are where we find our best work.
  • Giving up is not an option.
  • Life is a bully – it can beat you down. It won’t stop just because you surrendered. On the contrary, now it knows you’re a willing victim and it will really let loose.
  • Creating anything beautiful in this world is hard as hell and downright dangerous.
  • Having an original thought and uttering it is also dangerous.
  • Everybody’s a critic – accept that and move on.
  • Some people will love your work, others will hate it. Accept it and move on.
  • Baby steps.

Art is hard but what else do you have to do?

Speaking your mind and saying (or painting, or drawing, or singing, or dancing) what you really think? Blasphemy. But do it anyway. Because you’re an artist. Because you’re an innovator. Because you’re an entrepreneur. Unlike most ordinary humans, you create stuff. Usually out of thin air. That’s your superpower, so use it baby. Revel in that. Understand that. Be that.
Stay committed and the rest will follow.

What discourages you about being a creative? How have you handled it? Share your thoughts and experiences with the rest of us.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

Love me, love me (for God’s sake will you just love me already?)

love me, love meLet’s be honest, to be a writer, an actor, singer or any type of ‘creative’ you have to have a pretty big ego. It’s not wrong, it just is. Perhaps it’s God’s way of helping us deal with all the rejection, finger-pointing and the fact that we were looked upon as the weird geek all through high school.

Most people aren’t going to understand us. They aren’t going to understand why certain sounds might send us into a state of impassioned annoyance. Or why we’re so interested in talking to strangers and fascinated by the conversation at the next table. Or why we have that “I’m taking notes” look on our faces half the time. But that’s okay. We’re not here to be understood. We’re here to create. We’re here to enrich other people’s lives (hopefully) with the things we create. Whether it’s a song, a performance, a painting or a story – ours is a mission of finding beauty and meaning in life and reporting back. Maybe we’re also the note takers for the current culture – the predictors of what the future may hold. Some think so…

But what we aren’t is the world’s darling. We aren’t here to be loved. To gain approval. Or to be the homecoming queen. The world isn’t interested in our neediness. And yes, we’ve got it – in spades. And if the world (or any part thereof) decides to love you, it will be on its own terms, not yours.

The very fact that we create something doesn’t mean that it’s great or even good. And when it’s not we should be humble enough to accept that when someone points it out. We should be grateful that there are people in our lives who will be honest with us, tell us the truth and insist we give only our best work. Because in our best work we give what we are meant to give – an undeniable truth, a pure note, a perfect color – whatever it is, you know it when you’ve got it. When you’ve reached it. When you’ve created it.

The world does need our work. It is important. We can only give that when we put on our big girl and big boy pants and dedicate ourselves to it. And keep the griping and hurt feelings to a minimum.

Though there is the occasional anomaly – trust me you won’t:

  • Pen the great American novel on a first draft
  • Paint like Picasso after one art class
  • Win an Academy Award for your first performance
  • Sing like Caruso (or Beyoncé) after completing Music 101

If you don’t put in the work, you’ll never develop your craft enough to get there. But if you do dedicate yourself to it – earnestly and without insisting on constant love and adoration for doing your job – the world may love you after all. Or at least your work.

Writer Chick

copyright 2014

Pain, Art & Random Thoughts


Pain. There are a lot of opinions about it. Particularly in artistic circles. Are you sensing a trend here? Some deep thoughts? Perhaps. As may be obvious I have been thinking a lot in the last few days about the other things one considers when they have time to think. Usually life demands so much of us and gives us so little time for ourselves that we don’t get the chance to ponder things. During my time off from the blog, I traveled among some writers – or maybe less traveled among, than more went along for the ride. I went to new blogs, read, commented – took on the mantle of the persona of my other blog and experienced what it felt like not to be Writer Chick. It had been something I’d been planning for a long while, actually and would have happened much sooner, but snafus in the freelance department, friends having fatal accidents, then new blogs to push back the grief… And so on. Many things that ate my energy and took my attention. Many things that changed my perspective forever and whatever the previous perspective was I couldn’t tell you now, so gone is it, so never was, is it – not even a shadow remains of it.

So, I lined up some friends to write me some posts and off I went. It was a curious world to travel in, I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I liked it. I found it filled with wonderful writing and also huge egos, odd ideas, isms, prescribed methods of thinking and a lot of form over function – still the writing was awfully damn good and interesting and in some cases, exciting. Certainly inspiring and challenging. I felt a child among savvy, sophisticated thinkers, unable to divine their in jokes and witty repartee and felt like I wandered about this particular part of the blogosphere with my virtual mouth agape, jaw on the floor. An exotic and exhausting vacation – exotic because of the newness, exhausting because for the first time in a very long time I was able to just throw myself into what I consider to be my work. I have written nearly 30 pieces in the last week. Which may not seem like much to some writers but it was an enormous amount for me.

I became almost obessessed with it – and I do think some part of me was owned by it. I would get up in the middle of the night to scribble down this and that – I’d be in the middle of a conversation with someone and a phrase would leap out of me while I was trying to keep up my end of the conversation and still scramble for paper, pen and the words. Exhausting. Draining. Wonderful. And I honestly did worry that when I went back to being Writer Chick it was all going to go away and I would be dashing off memes and jokey lists once again. I’m sure there will always be memes and jokey lists here on this blog but I am also sure that I will not lose whatever it is I gained this past week. Perhaps it was the fruition of these many past months which began last November about seriously pondering how to be what I was, am – a writer. Where it all comes together in one crystalized moment or it could have been the company I kept during that time or a combination of both or something else altogether. No matter how many times a writer is asked where their ideas and inspiration comes from I don’t think any of us can really give the exact answer – from everywhere and nowhere, from all of your experience and the lack thereof, from all of the love you’ve ever felt and all the tears you’ve ever spent, from all the wonderful things that you will discover in the future. From everywhere and everything is now my answer to that question.

Sorry…I digress…yes, back to pain. Here’s the thing – there are many artists out there whether they are writers, painters, dancers, actors, poets, sculptors, and so on who believe that pain is a primary motivation for their art. And I was certainly among them because what is more exquisite than the sharpness of deep pain? And despite it’s awful attendant physical and emotional tearings one does feel alive during it. And I think it is this aliveness that brings this idea to the fore. I think that because great love songs are written in the throes of great loss, great paintings painted at the pique of despair and incredible dances delivered on searingingly painful legs that it is easy to believe it was the pain that forced the beauty through. But I don’t think it’s true.

I think that greatness in a person’s art, whatever the form, comes from all things, all feelings, all interactions and that if pain has any significant part in it, it is because the way an artist works through their pain is with their art. Sort of a Catch-22 I guess. I know when I am in pain it is easier for me to write about it than talk about it or even ironically think about it. It is easier to take that surge of enormous, white hot energy and pour it into something that will eventually, hopefully become beautiful. It is the proverbial making of lemonade from lemons.

So, for all my strange travels and foreign experiences this week, I think my biggest lesson is this: that I do not have to be married to pain to produce beauty. I do not have to have horrible hurt to have depth in my words. I do not have to own a particular emotion more than any other. They all produce that which leads to the thing we eventually create. It was a good lesson. I’m glad I learned it.

And once again, sorry for not being funny, as I intended to be. Though I will keep trying. 😉