Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Starting Up Again

Whew! When I signed up to work on the Silent Book Contest (much luck and fun to all the finalists!), I had no idea what kind of a journey it would be for me as a visual storyteller. I have to say that I am proud of my work.

After reviewing all of my pieces, I can really see how far I've come as an illustrator. Know what the cool part is? I can see how far I need to go. However, I do not think this is a bad thing at all. Instead of being sad that my work isn't the best it can be, I'm excited to push forward. It's been so long since I put pencil and brush to paper and the process was incredible for me. To take a moment and step away from the computer, the manuals, brochures, and annual reports, and just draw. That took me back to art school.

Which brings me to my current status. I did not make finals for this contest. I sort of knew that in my heart of hearts, but the amount of work needed to make this story happen exhausted me! I had started another manuscript earlier in the year before sending in the contest artwork.

Then all gears came to a squealing HALT.

I was just tired. Do you ever get creatively tired? If you say no, I know you're lying! Or you just started. Or you think you are not creative. Or you are a non-human member of a super-genius creative race. In which case, please contact me directly so we can get together and talk shop. No probes please.

Thankfully I have my amazing friend, Charla, and a pretty great critique group to get me started again. I also attended another writing conference here in Michigan to start my crusty brain back up again. Charla and I were excited to say that even though we go through creative valleys, at least we "show up" for things.

Showing up is important. You can be tired, drained, or just burnt out but you can show up! Show up to your computer to write (gaze at the flashing cursor for a while, perhaps make up a song to it's beat). You can show up in front of your sketchbook (maybe just write out your grocery list and draw some smiling produce). You can also show up to conferences, meet ups, and critique groups.

Just show up! Just try! It's so important to take that step. It will be messy. You may just make mistakes, but at least you're there and you're learning.

Stay on the path...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

In the Waiting...

Who requires months of work be due right after the holidays? Apparently the contests I decide to enter. Starting in September, I decided to enter into a contests to stretch myself artistically with illustration. Boy was I ever stretched! Not used to drawing daily, I ended up with over 40 individual illustrations.

40! Forty! Four - oh!

That's a lot of pictures. During that time I went through the typical creative process of loving it, doubting, hating it, questioning myself, reaching out, being affirmed, loving it, doubting it, hating it, being glad it is done, and sending it off with a shrug of the shoulder and one eye closed.

Anyone else have that experience? I felt very relieved to have that bit of stress and excitement finished and behind me.

I am also happy to announce that I have a finished, and really fun middle grade manuscript out in query form to various agents. I am very excited about this story and it is really unexpected.

I once went to a local writing conference for a last-minute injection of writing inspiration. I was feeling down, uninspired, and frankly, tired. I don't work well under those conditions. We all don't work well under those conditions! However, I found myself in another town, sitting next to strangers and about to listen to a great bunch of authors from totally different genres than myself speak about their writing process.

Two ladies, a novelist and a non-fiction writer, gave a lively talk about pushing through the pain of writing. One woman had a small child and a newborn while writing one of her books. Instead of allowing her work to be set aside for another year (or years - ahem), she made herself work. She was tired, uninspired, exhausted, and pulled in many different directions. She kept saying, "Keep writing! Establish a beachhead! DO NOT DIE!"

The other woman, caring for an ill daughter and mother around the clock, found herself uninspired, exhausted, tired, and not in the writing frame of mind. What did she do? She wrote. She pushed through. When she wasn't inspired, when she was out of ideas, she wrote. She didn't let her manuscript die!

The running theme you may all find that successful published authors will tell you (and by successful, I do mean PUBLISHED), is that they kept writing. Whether it was good, bad, weird, or made no sense. They kept writing. And when they were done writing? They were editing ... and editing ... and even editing some more.

I often find the magic comes in editing for myself. However, at the conference I needed to hear that. I needed to establish a beachhead. I could not let my story DIE, right there, on the beach. So, I went home and started with a nice little fantasy novel that morphed. And MORPHED. Into something else entirely. Instead of telling myself, "NO SELF! You can't let your manuscript cross over into another genre. Stick with what you labeled yourself!" I just went with the flow.

It was very freeing actually. I just kept writing and writing. It became Contemporary, then Sci-Fi, then Mystery, then all those things! I just kept going. I changed course, I changed names, I added a new plot part way through the first 5,000 words. My manuscript became a glorious mess! I kept going. As I went, I picked up wonderful details to add here and there, I created rich characters. My world was full, almost too full, and I kept going.

I can remember the day I finally finished that crazy manuscript. It was a hot mess in a lot of ways. Spelling, grammar, pacing, facts, you name it; they were all over the place, but I was finished! I had a beginning, a middle, and an end. And whoa, what an ending! I knew I had something and it was good.

Want to know something? I went on to edit that story for three more months. I'm not talking on and off. I'm talking, working every day, asking the husband to take the kids out so I can work kind of work. The story was heavily trimmed. It was molded, punched, shaped, and sometimes kicked into a great tale full of great characters. I'm pretty excited about it.

Is there something you have been putting off? A project, or manuscript, or anything else that seems insurmountable? Well, I have a good bit of advice.

Keep going.

Do. Not. Die.

On the path...