Thursday, November 07, 2013

Shooting in the Dark

Shooting in the Dark

One night, past sundown, I was sitting in a lovely little waterside bar, with my new camera beside me. I had missed the sunset, arriving just a bit too late. It was getting darker and there wasn't much to see.

My plans for capturing the sunset had failed, but I said to myself, "self, what do you have to lose?" And I picked up the camera and took a picture. Even though it was too dark to really see. Even though I'd tried dark shoots with my old, crappy camera, and it was always a crap shoot.

And then I looked at the picture I had just taken.

Water!
Egrets!
Boat!
Pilings!
Nature Preserve!
Deep blue with just a touch of pink!

Now, I am not a professional photographer. I just like to play with pictures and capture pretty things. I consider it a hobby and a tool, and myself an amateur. I couldn't tell you why this camera takes such better pictures although my uncle the photographer tried to explain it to me. I can't explain anything about apertures or shutter settings. I forgot that after my long ago high school photography class. I am relieved to not have to deal with developing or chemicals or any of that stuff from the last generation. I just like to be able to play.

And I can also recognize when an image sizzles.

Here's the lesson I learned.

Take the chance. Even when you are not sure what might come out, what the results might be. Even when you feel like you don't know what you're doing and you have missed your opportunity. You have nothing to lose. Take the chance. Even though you feel like you are going blind and don't understand anything, trust yourself and take the chance.

It might not end up like what you expected.

It might be better.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ideas



It is the end of October and tomorrow is the first day of November, the first day of Nanowrimo.

My mind is awhirl with ideas.

Tomorrow starts the month when I put my ideas down on paper and attempt to make something concrete out of them.

It's a scary thing, often, making your ideas real. Sometimes it feels much better to keep your ideas in the realm of the maybe, to not put them down on paper, to not show them, to not turn them into something real.

The thing is, ideas can be wonderful and great and genius and perfect, but once you put them down on paper to make them real, they will be real in their flaws, lumps, awkwardness, and imperfection. Before you put them down, when that page is blank and full of nothing but potential and possibility, your hopes of what might be can get so big and important that it's too frightening to write them down and expose them.

Because reality is never perfect, and genius may start with a genius idea, but to make it real, it takes an awful lot of work and pruning and revising. It is so much better to put that flawed idea, that uncertain attempt, that maybe down on paper than it is to sit with the flawless, intangible idea floating around in your brain.

Put it out there. Try it out. See what happens when the floating idea lands on the page and inspires a second idea, and then a third. Or maybe it turns out to be a bad idea that doesn't go anywhere. In that case, scrap that idea and move on to the next. Just make sure whatever it is, you commit to those ideas, you make those ideas real.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Get Ready for Nanowrimo with a Mock Up of Your Book Cover



Subterranean

In preparation for beginning nanowrimo in November, I created a mock up of the front cover of the novel I am hoping to write.

It is actually quite surprising how creating the cover of your novel can help you focus on the book you are going to write, it almost makes it real, whereas before, it was just a nice idea and a bunch of words all mashed up in some order you're not quite sure of yet.

I suggest this as an exercise for anyone tackling a big book project, whether in nanowrimo or on your own. I did this once before for the novel I was revising, and it really gave me the push to see it all the way through.

Some suggestions for how to get this mock up going.

1. Take a look at some of your favorite book covers and look at how these books convey the mood and characters and story of the books. Start getting some ideas of what you'd like your book cover to look like. For some inspiration, I have pinterest collections of illustrations, and more text based illustrations. Notice that the illustrations can be anywhere from super elaborate to very simple, multiple colors or black and white, perfect and precise to scrawled graffiti. 

2. Pick a medium that you are comfortable with. Remember, you are not actually trying to be a book illustrator, you are just trying to make your book real to you. It's okay if you are not a great artist. If you like taking photos, try using one of your photos as the main image. Use magazines and collage images that convey a sense of the story. Perhaps your book cover is just color block, patterns or words. If you know photoshop or computer graphics or  like cool computer fonts, use that. I generally hand draw all that

3. Take out a piece of paper and divide it into 6 or 8 book cover shaped rectangles. Sketch a few ideas on this paper, one per rectangle. Think about different main images, colors, where the text goes. Try rearranging the main elements for the best effect. Leave space on the image to put your book title, author and any other text. Sketch out the title so you know how much room you'll need to make it all fit. Pay attention to the space around your images, the negative space, so nothing is too squooshed or unbalanced (unless that's part of your design.) After I did it, I noticed that my lettering is a little unbalanced, but you know what? It's not that bad, and this is just a mock up. It's good practice for nanowrimo to not worry about being perfect. Practice letting go of your internal editor. I'll be honest, I skipped this step when I did my own mock up and went straight to step 4.

4. Take out a larger piece of paper and sketch out the placement of your images lightly, just so you know where it all goes on your paper.  Oh, I suppose if you're working on the computer do whatever it is the computer wants you to do. The point is, try out your final arrangement. 

5. Now go at it and make your image, paint, draw, collage, photo edit. Don't be too obsessive about getting it perfect. You only have a few days left before you have to start writing, so don't spend all that time on this. This is an exercise for your writing.

6. Don't forget to display your new book cover mockup so that you can be inspired by it while you are writing. Upload it to your novel page on nanowrimo. It feels good to have it on your profile.

I am specifically not giving advice on how to do graphics or art techniques, because the point is not to get all wrapped up in the hows of the craft, but to help you with your planning and drafting and writing. And to play. This is supposed to be fun. If it's not fun, scrap it. Find a better exercise for you, your personality and your creativity.

Perhaps it would work better for you to write the back copy of your novel... those few paragraphs that you would read if you picked up your novel in a book store and wanted to find out what it was about. Do that instead. Or do that also. Just have fun, and focus on the story you want to tell. Woo hoo, November is almost here!

Friday, October 25, 2013

I May Wander But I Am Not Lost, Turning Failures into Something New


Sometimes, when I am printing up one of my paintings that someone ordered, something will go wrong. The ink will splotch or an unnoticed spot will appear or the colors will be off or I tried to use the wrong paper or something will smudge or the printer will break down or it just won't be right.

I won't send those prints out. I will stick them in a box and pray the next print comes out. Every once in a while, that one doesn't, or the next one doesn't. So every once in a while, I go through my boxes and files of failures and look for something that I can take and do something with, make something of.

I had a whole series of prints where the color was off. I finally just took them out and chopped them up into little bookmarks. This is one. You can see the tip of a flying girl's foot right above the 'wander.'

I thought this was a kind of fitting metaphor for life, and a good illustration of Tolkien's quote.

I wander from my path. I fail in my endeavors. I get lost in the details or in the living. Then I unpack all my mistakes, and see what I have learned, how I have grown, what I can make from my failures.

Interestingly, I'm doing the same thing with writing. I'm doing Nanowrimo in a few days where I will write 50k words in a new novel in the month of November. I've done nano for the last 7 years. I dropped out last year because life was just in too much upheaval, but even the two years before that, where I met my wordcount goal, I wrote stories that were failures as stories. The first of those stories didn't work, so I tried again the next year, and that one didn't work either.

They wandered. They wandered terribly into places that didn't make sense and didn't seem to get me where I needed to go, narratively speaking. I explored paths the story wasn't ready to take, and so the "novels" I wrote never went anywhere. That would be 100k words of a novel that wandered, without ever getting where it needed to go.

So here I am again, getting ready to write that novel that I failed at twice before. Unpacking those hundred thousand words, reading them, salvaging what I could.

And I chopped that sucker up, just like the bookmark. My new outline starts with the one scene that worked in the first novelistic failure.The same scene that I started again with the second novelistic failure. After reading both drafts, I realize that my second draft improved greatly on the first draft of the scene, so I got ONE thing out of rewriting it twice.

My new outline for this twice attempted book is taking an entirely different direction. The book, while it has the same characters and basic premise, will have an entirely different flavor. I believe it will be richer and smarter and darker. It will mean more.

Because the thing is, I have learned things over these last three years of failed noveling that have actually gotten me past the struggle I was having with writing the new story. Some of those lessons are about writing and character and plot, but some of those things are about myself, living, love, fear and pain.

I am very optimistic about my writing for this nano, and about the story I am going to tell. Is it because this time I put my energy into planning and outlining instead of winging it like I tried for the last three years? Quite possibly. Or is it because in my wanderings I have grown and am now ready to write the story that needs to be written? Maybe that, too.  I may wander, but I am not lost.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Write. Just Do It.

Write, or Pink Smith Corona

To reach your dream, you have to make a commitment, a real, solid, painful commitment, much like a marriage. It's a better or worse kind of scenario. It's the kind of commitment where you forsake all others, and give up other things to stay true to the dream. If for instance, you dream of being a writer, you may think only of the wild and alive story that you have brought into the world, the glories of publishing, the swagger of being that writer with the pen in hand and the journal, sitting at the cafe like some Parisian bohemian, drinking strong black coffee and pouring his soul out onto the page. But being a writer is often a lot uglier than that. It's struggling with the days when the words don't come. It's a deadly dull day job or grinding financial struggle. It's rejection letters. It's fear and insecurity. It's isolating. It's the hundreds of pages that you have to delete because you were just going down the wrong track. It's your laptop dying when you didn't save, when you had finally figured it out, and were *that* close to the masterpiece of your dreams. It's that moment when you say, "Forget it. I give up. It's too hard."

A lot of the time, when we think about our dreams, we only see the hilights, the pretty pictures, the golden light streaming through the windows and the joy of achieving what you have worked for all that time.

But the truth is, dreams are hard work and they have shadows, too. They are full of struggles, confusion, failure, drudgery, dust bunnies, neglected children, neglected health, being broke, lonely days, detours, breakdowns of many varieties, long stretches of silence, block and giving up.

But if this dream is really your dream, if you love the journey, not just the idea of accomplishment, if you love the work, then trust yourself, trust that when you come back, your dream will be waiting for you and you can climb your way back onto the path. But, it's hard. Don't think it will be easy. If you really want this, and you have lost your way, you will have to claw your way back, regain the ground that you lost inch by inch. But believe in your dream and believe in yourself, because it's that belief that makes the dream possible, even when it seems like it isn't.

PS  This is my 1000th post. I think that is why I've had such a bloggers block this year. I knew this momentous post was coming up and I wanted to make it a landmark, important. I made the stakes too high and it kept me from writing. One Thousand blog posts. ONE THOUSAND. Even thinking about it kind of blows my mind. So perhaps, instead of making this a special post, I will just quietly go back to writing my blog, one post at a time, the way I wrote every one of those thousand entries, without trying to make it momentous. Maybe I'll reward myself with a new sweater. Or a cake. Cake is good.

PPS I'm also doing nanowrimo this year. Is anyone else taking the challenge? I am rosymamacita over on nanowrimo if you want to buddy up.

PPPS I have prints of Write or Pink Smith Corona up for sale in my shop. You notice it says "Write" not, "Hey, why don't you think about writing and avoid the blank page until you are absolutely 100% sure you have it all perfectly down and will not make any mistakes and really really know what you're doing and are totally confident and the circumstances are just perfect and you're not tired or stressed out or don't have to go deep clean the kitchen." Just write. Do it.

PPPPS Yay me for sitting down and writing this blog entry instead of just thinking about it for more weeks on end. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reintegration and finding yourself not lost

Reintegration by Rowena Murillo
There are times on our journey where we might find ourselves lost.

The answers that we are accustomed to do not address the questions that we are being asked.

We might find ourselves confused, and aimless, at a loss.

What now?

Here's something that I have learned over my long journey.

These times of crisis are not a failure, they are part of the process.

The important questions will be asked again. The important answers will have meaning again. And the important paths are the ones we are still walking, even though the signposts no longer show us the way.

Keep going.

You will find yourself again.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In Which The Psyche Throws A Temper Tantrum

YES (nononononononono...)

I've been thinking about this post for a while. And each time I think about it, I don't do it.

It's about resistance.

We've decided that we are going to do something. We are going to change our lives. We're going to reach for our goals. We're going to go for that thing that we've always wanted but haven't been able to do and then, we say YES, now it's time for me to achieve.

And we make our goals and set up our tasks and shoot for the stars.

And then we come upon the resistance.

We choose not to sit down and write. Or we pick up that bag of cookies. Or we turn on the tv instead of making those phone calls... whatever it is.

Part of this process of changing our lives and taking action on our dreams is facing resistance.

When we make our commitments, the little angry, scaredy cat inside of us all of a sudden gets really loud and demanding. It doesn't like the idea that it is losing power. The 'no's get louder. The 'yes'es get overwhelmed. It finds its ways to be the center of our attention, to stop the forward momentum that will leave it behind, to be in control of your life.

And this is part of the process.

We all face resistance. We all back slide. We all have roadblocks of our own device. We all have fears and anxieties that flare up and take over like a toddler.

It's okay. You don't have to let the the resistance win.

When my kids have a temper tantrum, I tell them that it's okay for them to feel their upset, to be angry or afraid or hurt, I tell them that their feelings about things are valid, but it is not okay for them to take out their upset on other people, or use that upset to control the family. I send them to their room to feel their anger. I sit with them and talk to them about it.  I ask them if they're ready to move on. I talk to them about what they could be doing now if they weren't having a temper tantrum. I ask them what they'd really like to be doing. And when they are done being upset, they come out of their room and we move on with our day.

That's a child. Your own resistance is something different.

Breathe through it. Relax into it. Accept that your fears and anxieties are valid feelings, but may not reflect the reality of the situation. Acknowledge the resistance. Recognize that this is part of our defense mechanism that has served to protect us. It may not be what we need right now to move forward, so pay attention to the voices that are resisting your forward movement. Thank them for protecting you. And then tell them that you don't need them right now, you are quite safe already and are intent on moving forward with your goals.

And then do so.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Today Is A Day To Honor Who You Are, or Self Portrait With Eyes Closed

Self Portrait: Eyes Closed

One of the things we can forget to do when we try to step out into our dreams, is to remember who we are.  It's so easy to look at all the wonderful things that are out there, the beautiful paintings, the beautiful people, the talented folks, the successful business people, the brave and exciting and important paths that people take and think, "Oh, that is just not me."

We compare ourselves to everyone else and decide that we are lacking. They have it. We don't.

It's so easy to do. So easy to focus on the negative and the flaws.

So today, I'm going to look at myself as if I weren't me, as if I wasn't privy to all the fears and failures and missteps and dead ends that I've gotten caught up in. I'm going to look at only my own beauty and talent and success and bravery and adventures and contributions to the world.

I'm going to make a list of the things I am good at, the things I know how to do, the things I can speak with authority on. I'm going to list my successes, because for all my failures in life, I've had successes, too, we all have. I'm going to focus, today, on who I am as a positive force in the world. What I can give. The effect I have had. I am going to focus on my own power.

Try it yourself. Try making a list of all your strengths... without adding caveats and exceptions and 'buts' and trying to convince yourself that you're not that good. Write out the ways you are wonderful and beautiful and strong. Take stock of your own strength and power and abilities. Every time those negative voices come up, tell them, 'thanks for sharing, but we're only looking for positive qualities now.' Ignore the negative and move on to the next positive.

It takes practice to look at the positive aspects of yourself without that negative voice, without the pessimism and doubts and fears. So practice. Answer that internal 'I suck' voice with a new internal 'I rock' voice... even if you don't believe it at first. Keep focusing on your own greatness, and sooner or later, you might even start believing it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

How To Get Creative 1-25, and Work In Progress

Work In Progress (dream catcher)
acrylic on paper
8.5x11

After a life of being creative, I think I've learned a few things. One of those things is that we are always starting over. We're always going through endings. We're always going through transformation. And we're always beginning again.

This is the process. Fighting it doesn't help, it just makes us feel guilty. Trusting the process means that we believe things will turn around, eventually. It gives us hope.

So in this period of starting over again (where did my creativity go? where?) I am going to make a list.  I like lists.

How To Get Creative

1. Start something.
2. Turn on the music and dance.
3. Take a camera and go take pictures of something.
4. Read an old journal.
5. Go to a museum or gallery or show or concert.
6. Talk to someone creative.
7. Watch a documentary about something you care about.
8. Divide a page into four sections. Fill each section with a different drawing, painting, poem, story, song.
9. Sing a song.
10. Play with clay. Create a tiny sculpture. Display it proudly.
11. Take out your old portfolio, mss, tapes, or other creative work, and look at it as if you'd never seen it before.
12. Climb a tree. Take a minute and pay attention to the view from up there.
13. Climb under a table. Take a minute and pay attention to the view from down there.
14. Cry unashamedly.
15. Take a shower and plan a great story/painting/dance routine/song while the water is running.
17. Freewrite in your journal for fifteen minuets without stopping.
18. Make something with a child.
19. Read your favorite author.
20. Write out 100 great words on little slips of paper. Fold the words and put them in a jar. Shake and pull a word or two. Create something based on those words.
21. Make a commitment to create something every day for one week, no matter how small.
22. Set an alarm for 15 minutes and be creative until that alarm goes off, no excuses and no stopping.
23. Join a class, group, workshop, community, blog party, organization, etc of like minded, creative beings.
24. Clean up your creative space.
25. Write a list of ways to be creative.

Seeing that I like lists, and since this is a process and there are a million ways to be creative, I just might come back and add to this list.

Add a comment and share your tricks to getting your creative juices flowing.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Look Out Now or Flying Girl Makes It Through The Storm

Look Out Now, or Flying Girl Makes It Through The Storm
Pencil, Ink and Acrylic paint on vintage Alice in Wonderland book page
7 1/4" x 4 3/4" on 8 1/2"x 11"

This is my first flying girl in quite some time.

I'm not sure what the lesson here is, unless it's about learning how to breathe again after being buffeted about by the winds of fate.

Or perhaps remembering the lessons that I have already learned.

Or perhaps life is guaranteed to knock you around a bit, but if you manage to come out the other side, it is a lesson, not the doom that it felt like when you were caught in the middle of it.

That sounds suspiciously like "this too shall pass," but that's ok since that's one of my favorite old sayings.

Maybe the wisdom of getting older is learning to hunker down and wait it out, and understanding that there is  always going to be something better on the other side. Time goes faster than we think and we are stronger than we know.

Maybe this is just a reminder. It gets better. We get stronger.

Prints of this painting is for sale here:
https://www.etsy.com/listing/122841807/look-out-now-or-flying-girl-makes-it
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