Art & Fear – An Exploration, Part I

We all have to face fears in our lives at one time or another.

My daughter drops whatever she’s doing and runs inside at the sight of any flying insect with a stinger (mostly bees, but on occasion she has run from butterflies by mistake). My husband has to put on his iPod and listen to Pink Floyd whenever he goes to the dentist. What can I say? He had a bad experience with a dentist overseas once who didn’t use anesthetic. I don’t really blame him for that one.

I recently faced one of my fears around Halloween. This one had to do with my son, Trevor.

I had been dreading Halloween for weeks. I remembered the year before how Trevor had been so much bigger than most of the kids going around the neighborhood and even though he went out with a family friend who was in grade school – something of a holiday tradition – we still got some puzzled looks. No one said anything mean, but I felt uncomfortable all evening. And I knew this year, with Trevor being even bigger and older, things would only feel more tense. I couldn’t get Trevor to understand that he was too big for Halloween and I’d tried the year before to have him stay home and help me pass out candy, but that didn’t work out.

My fear was that he would be turned away. Shunned. That he would receive hurtful stares or ugly comments – not that he was likely to notice (unless he didn’t get any candy), but I would. And it would hurt. No one wants to see their child be rejected.

So, I thought of a different strategy. I’ve been doing some part-time work for our local autism group and that inspired me to do some outreach of my own.  I’d open up and let our neighbors in. THIS WAS WAY OUTSIDE OF MY COMFORT ZONE. I am not good at asking for help or reaching out to people, so this step was huge. But then, it wasn’t for me. It was so my neighbors would understand who my son was and welcome him.

Here’s the message I posted on our Neighborhood Association Facebook page:

Trevor Halloween Story

There was such a huge positive response to this post that I was overwhelmed. And even one other family in the neighborhood told about their young child with autism, too. They hoped to have their child be able to leave the comfort of his stroller and go door-to-door this year. (Stretching the boundaries of social difficulties that accompany autism.) How nice was that? Finding another family who shares our same issues?

When we went out trick or treating, Trevor was recognized several times by neighbors who went out of their way to introduce themselves.  Later people posted how nice it was to meet Trevor and how sweet and polite he was. Now, when we take our dogs for a walk, more of our neighbors say “hello” than before, and more greet Trevor by name. We even met an actual firefighter who invited us to bring Trevor down to his station for a tour. That made Trevor’s night.

One fear conquered.

Fear & Art

When it comes to dealing with fear in our writing or any medium of art, it can have a crippling effect. Even keep us from making art altogether.

Being a writer can be so thrilling when everything is coming out just right. The words are flowing, the characters are bending to my will, I am the master of my imaginary universe!

YES! YES! YES!

And then that tiny little voice of doubt creeps in. This isn’t working. I suck, my writing sucks, my characters suck, nobody will ever want to read this drivel. EVER!

Creative Process Pic

Sound familiar?

During our SCBWI OK Fall Retreat in September, Romney Nesbitt did a workshop on Conquering Procrastination & Self-Sabotage. One of the first things she had us do was name off all the different ways we procrastinate.

Some of the examples tossed out were fairly typical:

The Serial Projects excuse (“Just as soon as…then…”)

The “I don’t have time excuse” (too many responsibilities)

Perfectionism (waiting for the right conditions/right moment)

Social Media (worse than television)

So I voiced my own reason. The one thing that holds me back from moving forward on projects more than anything?

Fear of Failure.

Romney responded that this is actually a “problem with expectancy”.

That answer surprised me.

Expectancy meant it was coming from me. It made me realize I was in control of that fear. And that meant I could change it.

I also knew I wasn’t the only one who grappled with creating art and fear. Not just of failure. But of what others would think of what we created. Even of success.

I wanted to explore this further.

So, this month, I’m doing just that. I’m forcing myself to do some things to push past this fear.

One thing I’m doing is taking the NaNoWriMo plunge and vowing to actually complete the 50,000 words in one month challenge. I’ve participated for a few years now, but I’ve never made it to the finish line.

I’ve also started reading ART & FEAR OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING  by David Bayles & Ted Orland. I’ll be sharing some of my insights from that book later in the month. So far it’s quite enlightening.

How about you? What are you afraid of as far as your art is concerned? What do you do to combat that fear?

Accidental Vacation

While on vacation in Santa Fe and Los Alamos, New Mexico, I took an unintentional, but much needed and extended vacation from my blog. The company was too engaging, the scenery too inspiring, the WIFI too sporadic.

I took it as a sign.

I needed a break.

Then when I came home last week, I found the desire to write had not yet been rekindled. My muse was still lounging in her pjs, dreaming of southwestern skies. To add to my procrastination vacation, my modem died…or so I thought. It was actually playing possum until the repairman showed up to debunk its fakery. (I guess my modem also needed an extended vacation.) With just a few tweaks of some knobs or some such magic, the mighty repairman had my modem working, again.

Now, after a wonderful visit with some writer friends last weekend, all is back normal; writing fire rekindled and modem functioning properly. (My muse is still wearing her pjs, but frankly, most of the time so am I.)

Before we return to our regularly scheduled programming, I thought I’d share some of the beautiful sights from my vacation that inspired me.

Enjoy.

My daughter outside our hotel in Los Alamos one morning.
My daughter outside our hotel in Los Alamos one morning. (Yes, she’s was reading ALLEGIANT.)

 

 

Daughter and husband walking around in a park in Los Alamos.
Daughter and husband walking around in a park in Los Alamos.

 

 

Son greeting an elephant statue in the park.
Son greeting an elephant statue in the park.

 

 

Daughter with Dr. Oppenheimer statue.
Daughter with Dr. Oppenheimer’s statue. They love him in Atomic City.

 

 

Wildflowers on a morning walk.
Wildflowers on a morning walk with the husband. We snuck out while the kids were sleeping and even had breakfast together. That rarely ever happens.

 

 

My husband standing past the barrier to take a picture. Me documenting his possible demise. (He did survive, thankfully.)
My husband, Tim, standing past the barrier to take a picture of the spectacular view just outside of Los Alamos on the stretch of road I came to call Suicide Hill, with me documenting his possible demise. (He did survive, thankfully.)

 

 

Coming into Santa Fe where there are pueblos as far as the eye can see.
Coming into Santa Fe where everything is pueblos as far as the eye can see.

 

 

Walking through the Railyard district of Santa Fe with my best friend since childhood.
Daughter walking with her godfather and my best friend since childhood. We walked through the Railyard arts district of Santa Fe and spent the day there seeing the sights. We had lunch at a new local place run by a friend of David’s called Shake Foundation. The Adobe Mud shakes were excellent. Later Tim took the kids to see a movie so David and I could talk without distraction. It’s always good to catch up with him.

 

 

My son and David playing on the slides at the playground in the Railyard.
My son and David playing on the slides at the playground in the Railyard.

 

 

David preparing for his turn down the slide. (You can see why we're friends right here.)
David preparing for his turn down the slide. (You can see why we’re friends right here.)

 

 

Me and my bestie at lunch.
Me and my bestie at lunch.

 

 

Russian sage is everywhere.
Russian sage is everywhere in New Mexico.

 

 

The Plaza district has a mixture of old world culture like this...
The Plaza district has a mixture of old world culture like this, the Santuario de Guadalupe…

 

 

...and fantastic displays of art, like this gallery with, yes, a dragon on the roof.
…and fantastic displays of art, like this gallery with, yes, a dragon on the roof.

 

Art was everywhere in Santa Fe. It was beautiful to see and inspiring to the mind.

Another great thing about the long drive there and back, I had plenty of leisure time to read. I tore through four books in a little over one week, which was such a pleasure.

So tell me about your vacation plans. Have you been anywhere exciting? Read any great books this summer?

My summer traveling isn’t quite over. I leave for the SCBWI LA conference in one week. So much to do before then! And when I get back there will be loads to share. (Maybe even some signed books!)

June #writemotivation week 4

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Hmm, we seem to have skipped through a few weeks, didn’t we?

I’ve been very bad about checking in with my goals and that’s probably because I’m not so happy about my progress. Also because the middle of the month was a bit of a struggle all around. I’m making up for it with a fabulous finish and a knock out interview ready to post tomorrow.

(Stay tuned! You won’t want to miss it!)

Let’s get to the goals and see the damage/progress done, shall we?

My #writemotivation goals for this month:

  1. Work on suggested revisions for INSTITUTIONALIZED. Oh, boy. No beating about the proverbial bush. This hasn’t gone well. I’m moving so painfully slow on this. I maybe have a fourth of this done. I’m not very happy with the speed of my progress. However, I am making some pretty radical changes, especially to the front half. It might pick up once I get past that point. 
  2. If complete revisions, submit to interested parties/begin submission process. Not even on the table, yet. But I have promised myself I WILL have the revisions done before I leave for the SCBWI LA conference at the end of July. How’s that for a seriously solid deadline? I must have a singular focus to get through July – setting daily revision goals may help push myself where I need to be. This means less time for other distractions, but I think I’m ready to do this.
  3. Read 5 books. Surprisingly I’ve actually read 4 books and made a good dent in a 5th. I’m not sure if I’ll finish the 5th before the end of the month, but that’s okay. We’ll call this goal close enough accomplished. Even though I feel like I’ve been such a slow reader this month. Probably because I still haven’t finished wonder 2ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s not that I’m struggling with it, it’s just one of those books that begs you to take your time. I’m really enjoying the story and the language – everything about it, honestly. I’m not even going to worry about how long it takes me to. I may actually finish WONDER by RJ Palacio first. I’ve had it sitting by my bedside for months and I finally cracked it open this week. It’s off to a promising start.
  4. Plan out summer blog ideas/giveaways, etc. Done! Wow. One goal accomplished. I finally have my idea box refilled and ready to go. I have several book giveaways planned, starting with the first one tomorrow!
  5. Exercise 4 times a week. We are all doing really well with this at the homestead. Between walking and swimming and now the new gym membership, my muscles will never stop aching that (almost) happy pain of overuse ever again. Whee! And I’m spending so much time outside that for the first time in years, I am not ghostly pale. Yes, I have a (slight) tan. Friends who’ve known me for years will be totally shocked by this.

I hope you have all had a productive or at least motivating June. As I have some actual vacation plans coming up, (woohoo!) I won’t be participating in #writemotivation for July, but I will be active on this blog. We’ll be taking a break over at the TGNA blog for a couple of months, which will help me focus more over here and on my revisions. I’ll join back up in August and I’ll still be following everyone on Twitter.

Keep Writing! (And Stay Tuned Tomorrow!)

Great Literary Dads – a TGNA Post

tgnalogorevampToday is my day to post over at The Great Noveling Adventure, so I took the opportunity to give thanks to some of the most inspiring dads in literature. I find that dads can often be under-appreciated in novels and take a back seat to moms many times, but as I had a fantastic dad who had to go it solo in the parenting department for most of my childhood, I want to give a shout-out to all the great dads and other father-figures in our lives who helped shape us from the nebulous blobs of mess we started from into the creative amazing people we became.

Thank you, Amazing Dads, everywhere!

If you know of some great stories with phenomenal dad characters or want to see which books I selected, hop on over to the Great Noveling Adventure blog and join the conversation.

June #writemotivation week 1

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Looking Back

A brief, blunt, and honest review of how dismally I did on my goals in May before we see what this month has in store.

The goals for May were:

  1. Continue work on suggested revisions for MUSEUM CRASHERS. Didn’t finish. 
  2. Work on suggested revisions for Institutionalized. Didn’t even start. 
  3. If complete revisions, submit to interested parties/begin submission process. Nope.
  4. Read 6 books. Did read 4 out of 6, which was actually better than I thought I would do.
  5. The dreaded and yet necessary exercise – whip cracks! 4 times a week. Done. One goal accomplished. 

So yes, some extenuating, messy life stuff happened. When doesn’t it?

Life is messy.

During these turbulent times I think it’s even more important for me to make sure I don’t short-change myself by neglecting to set aside time for my writing. This is what I vow to do going forward. This is what I MUST do if I am ever going to accomplish what I desire  - to be a writer. I have to make it a priority, no matter what.

Looking Forward

My #writemotivation goals for this month:

  1. Work on suggested revisions for INSTITUTIONALIZED.
  2. If complete revisions, submit to interested parties/begin submission process.
  3. Read 5 books.
  4. Plan out summer blog ideas/giveaways, etc.
  5. Exercise 4 times a week.The Poisoned House

I’ve been working hard this week to stay focused and organized. I’ve already read one book this month, a ghost story called THE POISONED HOUSE by Michael Ford. I can’t remember whose reading list I stole this book from, probably Sonia Gensler’s, but whomever’s it was, I thank you. It was an eerily enjoyable read. I’ve also made some big decisions on plot changes for the YA story, so I’m ready to move forward on the revisions. Oh, yeah, and I joined a gym with my daughter and actually used the membership. Yay, me.

Here’s to a better, more productive month. Hope you all are having a fun summer and making good progress on your goals.

Until next time…

May #writemotivation check in

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Doing my first check in with a little over a week to go in the month. That should say something right there. This month didn’t start out so hot. I do feel that I am finally getting back on track after having way too much too handle. I don’t like to bore you with details, but let’s just say it seemed as if everyone in my household was having an existential crisis that required hours of me talking them down off proverbial (and sometimes not-so proverbial) ledges. Chaos was the order of the day, coffee was the beverage, nay, the meal of choice, and sleep was nary to be found.

Thankfully, that is all behind me. Everyone has once again found their inner zen and their raison d’être.

The balance is back.

Yes.

Image Courtesy of Robin Benad via Unsplash cc
Image Courtesy of Robin Benad via Unsplash cc

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Namaste.

We now return to our scheduled programming. So…where were we?

The Goals:

  1. Continue work on suggested revisions for Museum Crashers. I am close to halfway through with this round of revisions. I had a lovely critique group session, yesterday, that was very productive. My critique group loved the resolution at the end and how my character faced his fear. I just have some tightening up to do to get that ending the way I need it to be. I am really enjoying working on this book.
  2. Work on suggested revisions for Institutionalized. This will have to wait until next month. Although I have been thinking about it a lot and have been coming up with new ideas for it while working on the Museum book. I think I’ve solved a lot of the problems I’ve been struggling with and I can’t wait to get to work on this one. Next month, definitely.
  3. If complete revisions, submit to interested parties/begin submission process. Not ready, yet. Will have to wait for next month.
  4. Read 6 books. I’m doing a terrible job on this goal. I’ve only finished two books so far this month. Although I am blazing through Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles right now. I finished cinder-117x162Scarlet_final_USA-Today-117x162CINDER rather quickly and am already well into SCARLET. (Aren’t those book covers gorgeous?) I know I’ll have this one read before the end of the month. And then this peculiarly wonderful thing happened. I was invited to participate in Colleen Houck’s book club on Goodreads. I have to read the current book, THE SHADOW PRINCE by Bree Despain, by the end of the week so I can participate in the next discussion. I’m really looking forward to it. I thought being part of a book club might help me expand my reading tastes a bit by exposing me to books I wouldn’t normally hear about. It’s going to be a fun experiment. And it should force me to read more timely. Nothing like a deadline, right?
  5. The dreaded and yet necessary exercise – whip cracks! 4 times a week. I have been walking regularly, and for longer stints, which is good, but that doesn’t seem to be enough. It’s time to get back on the elliptical. BLECH! On another note, our neighborhood pool opens this weekend, so I’ll be taking the boy to the pool at least once a day until September. Time to get a new suit. Woohoo.

I hope you’ve had a lovely May and if you are up for some goal challenges for June, it’s a great time to sign up for next month at the #writemotivation website.

 

 

Final April #writemotivation check in

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I may have overcommitted myself this month.

Just a wee bit.

We have our annual fundraiser for the Autism Center of Tulsa, the A-Ok Walk for Autism coming up in May, and I’m the Team Captain for the Avengers for Trevor team. We are wearing costumes this year (or some of us are) and I’m tracking down props and gathering team members and donations and yeesh, it’s time consuming.

Then, I’m giving a couple of talks next month for our SCBWI OK group and I had to (over) prepare for them. Like way over prepare. I don’t think I know any other way. I hope it goes well. *fingers crossed*

Finally, my son’s job coach and I decided it was time to start increasing his work day – to stretch his potential in manageble increments – until we got him from half days to full days. We both felt he was ready. One thing I should have factored into my schedule was that he doesn’t deal with change well. He gets anxious and needs more attention – he has periods of acting out, aggression, and even total ugly meltdowns when he feels overwhelmed. We’ve seen all of these in the past few weeks. He’s getting better, but we’ve been living with a rabid six foot wolverine most afternoons. Not. Fun.

So…

Why did I think I could revise two complete novels in one month?

Insanity!

I do believe I may have some hereditary traits leaning toward mental instability on my mother’s side. That could explain soooooo many of my questionable life choices. But I digress. Let’s get on with it and view the damage done.

My #writemotivation goals for this month:

1. Work on suggested revisions for Museum Crashers. Although I have made significant progress, I still have a long way to go. I remain excited about the direction this is going and the revision suggestions are only making this story better. Meeting with my critique group this months was also very instructive. They pulled off the kid gloves and gave my chapter the business. It sorely needed it. The end of the story obviously needs more work than the beginning, and I have some character continuity issues to resolve. Everything is very doable, it’s just going to take longer than expected.

Blech.

I need some more chocolate to get through this revision.

2. Work on suggested revisions for Institutionalized. Nope. I’m going to have to add this as a goal for next month. Maybe. If I get goal #1 accomplished. I need to be a little more patient with myself. (Have I ever mentioned that I’m not a patient person?)

3. Read 6 books. So close! But not really. I did read 4 books. Two were picture books. (Not that I have anything against picture books, I love picture books.) I really got hung up on one book that required a slower read. THE DREAM THIEVES by Maggie Steifvater. It was a sequel to a book that I tore through in a couple of days, so it was frustrating that I couldn’t get into the second book so easily. In the end, I was glad I slowed down and stuck with the story. Some books can’t be rushed.  

4. If complete both 1 and 2, work on first draft of Pretty Vacant. Bah! ha ha ha ha ha! Maybe for June.

5. Yes, you still have to exercise. 4 times a week. One goal accomplished! I win! (I’m taking my positives where I can get them.)

So there’s the ugly truth of this month’s goal non-accomplishmenting. I shall not give up, however. I have already signed up for next month to do this thing all over again. I plan on hitting the revision track even harder. Once my son has adjusted to his new work hours, I will have a lot more free time to write. Very excited about that!

I hope you all did better than I did. Here’s to a productive May!