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Hello, my name is Sandy.

Creative guilt

Over the holidays, I was chatting with an artist, and mentioned in passing that I often felt guilty for making crap art because of how much garbage ends up in landfill. He remarked that this seemed like a very self-deprecating thing to say.

I thought nothing of it at first, but then someone else said the same thing to me later that evening. It got me thinking about how I approach creativity and my own creative output.

I struggle with creative guilt. It strikes me at every turn, usually shaping up in one or more of these forms:

  • This story is too farfetched. Just don't.
  • You're never going to get this. Why bother?
  • This is drek. Stop wasting time.
  • Your lines are wonky. Give up now.
  • Your technique sucks, just stahp!
  • Why are you taking up space with your crap art?
  • Don't watch tv, go make something, you lazy cow!

It's a rock and a hard place. Especially with that last one in the mix. It all sounds harsh when written out, but I swear it's placid and conversational when I hear it in my head. I'm not crying the corner or anything.

Feeling insecure about my work doesn't stop me, but it does suck some joy out of the process. It's like trying to swim with clothes on. The extra weight makes me fatigued and I experience reluctance when it comes to trying again. It makes everything feel 10x harder than it needs to be.

Anyway, I've decided to reprogram my brain where this is concerned. Not for all the art I might make. I'm still getting my head around this landfill issue. And honestly, I found the 100 days of teacup a bit upsetting cos I just plain didn't like some of the art I made. :|

But I've wanted to invest a bit of time in drawing and watercolour for a while, so I'm re-thinking my emotional response to the learning process. I decided not to feel guilty for producing shit drawings and paintings.

You know, as if guilt is a tap you can just turn on and off. But for something like this, let's say it is. It takes extra mental effort, but it's worth a shot.

So, it was odd at first, but I'm enjoying it now. And I'm really happy with the progress. Here's what the last week of swimming naked (not literally) has been like:

watercolour anime girl

watercolour collage with cat, goldfish and mountain town

the top of a church in ink and watercolour

vanishing point perspective of a row of shops with a disembodied eyeball floating overhead

war memorial at Kings Park

urban scene in Venice

Of fun times and fresh starts

The sun set strongly on the year. We spent Christmas week in Sydney, with most of the days down at the farm. I've never been there in the summer, and it was remarkably green versus what I was expecting. We spent the days eating and drinking and giving each other shit, then kicked off the evenings with tranquil hill views.

This is the first Christmas I've been away from my folks (not counting the year we went to Japan cos we still had a family Christmas a couple days before) and I missed them terribly. But I can't complain too much. I have three families now, and they're all pretty rad. Getting to hang out with the family with brothers was a rare treat I'm so grateful for.

rifle targets set up along a fence

We played with an air rifle on Christmas day. I bloody loved it. I have great plans to visit a gun range sometime this year and learn the art of marksmanship.

And I played heaps of Avernum: Escape from the Pit. It was exquisite to sink my head into a game and decompress - and get a strategy RPG fix to tide me over until my next D&D session. It was a bit surreal playing computer games and surfing the net at high speed in the sticks.

You know what was awesome, though? Writing. I only did a bit, but did it under a tree surrounded by birds and nature sounds. Is it the most productive way to write? Probably not. But wow, it felt good and I hope to make writing holidays a more regular thing.

a street performer squeezing herself into a tiny box

Back in the city, we saw a contortionist squeeze herself into a little box. I don't usually stop for busker shows, but I couldn't help it for this one. It was odd and unique, and kind of amazing to see what the (someone else's) human body can do.

giant Sylvanian Chocolate Rabbit

Also saw a giant Sylvanian Chocolate Rabbit, which, after spending the last few months following @forest_fr1ends, was utter perfection. Merry Christmas, tw*ts.

planner, notebook and pen

Aaaaaaand now we're home and ready to start 2017 with a bang. Already, I've been rock climbing (bouldering), geocaching, karaoke-ing and gaming with friends, and it's only been two days.

I now have a navy blue Hobonichi Weeks and a cheapo little notebook to keep me on track, along with clear, achievable goals and some strategies for accomplishing them. I have felt like I could be doing more, working smarter, working harder... I wrote some thoughts about it in Soft Signal.

I've started asking myself, "What do I want to get out of this X?" Where X could be the day, the week, the month, the quarter. Let me share a couple of things I hope to get out of this week:

  • Working on my novel
  • Gaming with friends done 2/01
  • A crafternoon done 2/01
  • Working on my Pico-8 game
  • Visiting the Ninja Academy done 7/01
  • Visiting a shooting range (or at least finding a good one to check out)

What do you want to get out of this week/this month/this year? Find me on social media and let's chat about it.

Packing and moving

It has begun. Packing in earnest. Destashing like a mofo. Preparing to move. Things I do not need in my life right now include:

  • running out of packing tape
  • finding yet another box of stuff I thought I threw out last year, and
  • the cat throwing up on the rug.

But these things happen and we keep calm and carry on.

my cat

Lately, I've been waking up early most days to go for a run/walk. It's part of a 4-week fitness plan to slough off the laziness and ennui of winter. And of my life as a whole. I've become very conscious of how easy it is to slip into languid habits and use tiredness as an excuse. That's not to say tiredness isn't a good reason, but everyone gets tired, and also, why do we get so tired all the time? What habits force us into feeling rutty and slumpy?

I don't know the answer, and I certainly don't have a solution, but this "getting up a bit earlier sometimes" has helped. I'm clocking fewer hours of sleep a night on average, but I feel like the quality of my sleep has improved. Just from getting activity levels up throughout the week.

The 'me time' is nice too. I have lots of distraction-free time to think about stories and plans and other things. I've learned there are some exercises I prefer to do alone, and even though I hate running, it has been the easiest and most consistent part of this month-long regime.

nasi lemak on a plate

Things I've accomplished in the last week that make me feel OK about having a Netflix binge tonight:

It's been a year

It's been a year since I started my career as a writer. So much has changed in my life, like now I'm relying on notebooks like life support, and regretting my potato phone because I need my electronic note-taking device to perform better. My care factor for the UX and design world is in steady decline, which I never thought would happen. And I don't feel so stressed out about work any more.

This experience has taught me a lot about myself, about people and business (and how I do and don't want to do business). Friends and family have been supportive, and I'm ever so grateful for the good vibes and cheer they've sent my way. I'm super grateful to my Mum for the freezer boxes of dinner, especially when I'm in a writing frenzy and can't make time to cook. Our relationship has improved since I've been able to make time to go visit. Can't complain about that!

I'm happy I pivoted. And being totally biased, I would recommend everyone seriously consider a pivot at some point in their lives. Maybe take a couple of tiny steps towards change. Even if you decide not to follow through in the end, at least you'll have tasted and daydreamed.

That said, for the last few months, I've felt like I was spinning my wheels. A lot of doors opened up that looked like awesome opportunities, and I felt ungrateful for second-guessing them. Life's like that sometimes, isn't it? You can find yourself in a great place, but if it's not the right place, it quickly becomes draining.

When I decided not to pursue horticulture as a profession, I felt very light and free. I guess that 'wheel spinning' sensation was a sign I needed to whittle my pursuits yet again.

So, crafting was the next to go. I love it, but unexpectedly, I found I loved the writing more. What a reversal! Writing was only meant to keep me clothed and fed while I built my arty-crafty empire, but oh well. These things happen.

I loved and love-hated NaNoWriMo, and even though it's been torture trying to rewrite my manuscript, I'm driven to commit. I'm in love with my characters, in love with their worlds. I want to see this book through, whether it ends up being good or not.

Also, while working on this book, I've also come to feel 'unworldly'. I had a pretty sheltered, coddled life growing up and now even in adulthood, still feel trappings of naïvete. Isn't that strange for a 30-something? Well, I don't know what kind of pivoting this translates to yet, but gutfeel tells me it's all related somehow. We shall see.

Anyway, my plan for the next 12 months will be to finish my book.

Pretty whittled, huh?

Breathing in, comfortably

Lately, I've struggled to blog. It could be residual burnout from #blogjune, but it's just as easily bad timing. When I make a point of sitting down to write a blog post, I simply don't feel like saying anything. As soon as I go have a shower or do something on my ever-growing list of chores, my brain is all blah blah blah write this down next time you're at a computer. Then when I get to the computer, you know the rest. It's a cycle.

I have, however, felt very compelled to work on my novel. Since finishing the first draft, I've realised so much of what you write for NaNo is only good for putting in the bin. Sure, some writers are so good that they produce a workable first draft under duress. But for less good writers like me, NaNo is there to open the door.

The past nine months have been an excruciatingly slow process of stepping through. Then stepping back. Another cycle. In the time it takes me to not finish my manuscript, a child could be conceived and born. Maybe by the time I'm ready to contact an agent, that child will have grown up and had a child of its own who can write a novel faster than me.

In case you were wondering, yes, I did just sit down at the computer to complain. :)

A recent-ish issue of German designer Tobias van Schneider's newsletter introduced me to the idea that creativity is like breathing. Usually, this concept is framed as a "work vs rest" deal, which is tricky to balance if you love the work you do. If your work matches how you see yourself. If you have workaholic tendencies beneath your wings.

But breathing - that's easy! My brain doesn't have to spare the clock cycles to wonder if what I'm doing qualifies as work or rest, or if the fun I'm having might be slightly more taxing than it should be. That meta-thought is hard work too. Somehow, I know instinctively if I'm breathing in or out. No worries, no dramas. This metaphor is good.

So I've been relaxing and self-care-ing guilt free, taking in movies and playing games in the name of breathing in, and it seems to be working. I exhaled a lot too over the last few days and still managed to write this post without feeling breathless.

And now, it's time for bed. Nite nite. :)

Signals and noise

It is decided. After much pondering and wondering, I'm starting a newsletter. Friends and family have been super supportive, and my cats have wandered across the keyboard several times in solidarity.

You can get more details and subscribe here. :)

Other than that, my week has been eventful:

  • My dentist confirmed I definitely need braces. First consultation is next month.
  • Our moving plans are officially official. Konmari 2.0 has begun.
  • Work on my novel no longer feels like I'm clutching at straws. I've learned that creating good characters is harder than making new friends.
  • I'm totally OK with Star Trek Beyond being pretty much a Fast & Furious remix of Star Trek TOS. Once again, Pine nails the Shatner body language when he and Spock banter. And they pulled off the Sulu stuff in a dignified and classy way. Well done, movie-makers.
  • Finally, I'm still reeling from Stranger Things.

What have you been up to lately? Tell me on facebook or twitter.

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