Hello!

Welcome to SamanthaHolloway.com!

I'm a writer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, and a cool chick.

If you're only interested in one of these subjects, you can click on the links below and to the left to filter your experience!

My Instagrammed Life

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Worksheet Wednesday - Printable trackers for movies, books, comics, and podcasts this week!

Periodically, I update my secondary Etsy shop CASHEW Creations with a new batch of cute, clean, cheap planner printables! This one is all for media:







They're all 1$, they're all digital downloads, so you get them as soon as your payment processes and you can print as many as you need, and they're all simple and easy to use! Yay simple and cheap!

Go! Fill your planners and journals with lists of your fav media!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Why the whole daily gratitude thing doesn't work for me

I want to be one of those people that's just grateful for everything, but I'm not. Periodically, I try to do a daily gratitude challenge, and every single time, I stop part way through.

Because it's false. It's fake. It's not real.

After a week or two, I run out of new things to be happy for, and once I have to go digging, or once I have to find new ways to say what I already said before, it stops feeling like being grateful for anything and starts feeling like making stuff up. Scrabbling. Trying too hard.

It's not that I'm an ungrateful person; I do appreciate what I have. But my day to day life mostly has the same collection of things in it, and I'm not outward-directed enough to keep having new things happening. That's exhausting. And it's exhausting trying to be that way when I'm just not--it goes back to understanding what it means that I'm an introvert and taking care of myself on those terms. The whole concept of forcing me, daily, to look for some new thing to feel grateful about feels...bizarre.

Don't get me wrong: it's good to get out of my head and look around some. It's good to take note of things while they're here. But it's not good to add more stuff that feels like work, or more things I can guilt myself for failing to do, when I have a lot of other work to do already.

So here's what I do:

Periodically, I do Thankful Thursday lists on IG: it's easier to see what I'm really, honestly feeling gratitude for when the signal isn't blocked by faking it just to have something to note in my planner every day.

At the end of the month, in my monthly review, I list three or five people and things I'm happy to have interacted with in the last month.

And when something good happens, it goes on a list, and sometimes gets noted in my journal if it's something worth talking about.

But I don't try to force myself to do something every single day that I don't like. I have trouble doing ANYTHING every single day. I certainly can't expect myself to suffer through something that doesn't make me happier when the whole purpose of it is meant to raise happiness!

All of which is to say: there's no one single way to do any of this stuff. We all want to be happy, we're all looking for the way to do it, but just because hundreds of people on the web have a trick that works for them, doesn't mean it'll work for me. And maybe you. And that's okay.

Try it. If it doesn't work, like this didn't work for me, try something else.

How do you guys handle the Gratitude Issue?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

You know what I miss? The feeling that I can make the world better.

Ages ago, when I was working three jobs and living with four other people so that we could have financial security, and for the first time in my adult life I had actual free money, I used to give money to charities for things I believe in. Helping women all over the world better their lives. Feeding people. Literacy movements. Environmental and historical conservation. Space exploration*. Ocean cleaning.



I miss that.



Since then, finances have been getting tighter and tighter, and I can barely take care of myself, let alone other people--even for the good of the world. But I don't like that feeling, like every single penny needs to be pinched; it's a grabby, scared feeling.



So I think I'm going to start little mini-funds. I have very little wiggle room, but 5% of my income each month, will go to a charity I like, one that actually uses the money to help people, and that does something on-the-ground and practical for them. And it'll build from there, because the Universe likes when people are good to each other. I just wrote it on my calendar next to my desk: at the end of the month, I'll figure out what five percent was, and I'll give that to whichever charity I decide to give to first.



It's an experiment; let's see how it goes. As Leonie Dawson says, "worldchanging philanthropy". It's got to start somewhere, right?







NOTES:

*Yes, space. Because we need to spread life out or we're gonna choke it off.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

My five favorite journal hacks

One day, hundreds of years in the future, historians will be so happy they have this massive treasure trove of handwritten journals telling about what it was like to actually live through these weird-ass times. I think about that a lot as I fill journal after journal (I'm working on #27 since I started numbering them four years ago). I feel like I owe it to those future historians to make my journals interesting.

Also, I owe it to myself, since I'm the one looking at them every day. I want them to be accurate reflections of me and my life, my world and the world at large.

And I also want them to work better on a day to day basis for all the things I need them to do. My journal is a mix of a diary, a planner, a smashbook, and a general notebook, and here's my favorite ways to merge those things together.

1. Add in pages
No matter what notebook I'm using, there's never enough pages and never enough variety of paper, so when I start a new book, one of the first things I do is just randomly place other pages throughout the ones that come with it.

Blank pages, grid pages, colored pages. Pages cut from magazines and paper bags from shops (and sometimes plastic bags, if they have cool patterns or logos or something). Pages from notepads and scratch pads--or the whole pile of random small papers I brought home from my grandparents' house after my grandpa died. Printable pages and journaling prompts.

I really like making pages out of the insides of security envelopes, a lot of them have really pretty patterns in them that don't get appreciated enough, and they make great dividers or showcase pages.

I just slot them in, and then when I get to the part of the book where they are waiting, I tape them into the spine and plan my daily pages to include them.

2. Keep all your scraps
Anything moderately flat can go into a journal. Articles from magazines or newspapers, or printed from websites--bonus if they're annotated so future-you knows why you kept them. Photos. Fliers and brochures of things you've done or want to do. Scraps of wrapping paper, and cards from every gift you get. Packaging from new foods you try and favorite and on items. Things you find in the street that look cool. Receipts. Pages from books. Handouts. Letters people send you. Letters you write to yourself. Ticket stubs. Bits of ribbons or string or similar. The first fall leaves and the first spring flowers.

Don't worry about making fancy scrapbook pages out of them, just stick them in next to that day's pages, or between them, so they stay in context. Anything made of paper or otherwise page-like, tape it into the binding and make another page out of it!

And if you really want to get fancy, these are the things that are perfect for making fold-outs, or for putting in taped-in envelopes so they can be taken out and put back. If you feel like it, you can make collages, or you can journal on their backs and blank parts, or you can make them interactive and exploratory for looking back on later.

3. Post it notes
Anything you need to remember that can't risk being lost as you move past those pages, put on a post it note. Then, periodically clean them off your desk or wall or wherever you keep them, and fill a page in your journal. Six regular-sized ones will fit on a composition-book page, more if you overlap them.

If you keep a stack of post its with you, you can note things that you want in your journal when you don't have time or access to the journal itself. Write your shopping lists on them, and you can stick it in on that day's page. Keep reminders and inspirational quotes and the first hints of new stories or memories on them, then collect them into pages in hour journal.

It's the perfect way to fill a page when you don't feel like diarizing!

4. Something in the back
There's always stray stuff that you don't want permanently stuck in yet (or at all), but that needs to be kept on hand, and the back cover is perfect for that.

I get the snack boxes from Graze.com, so I've always got these strips of plastic that hold the boxes closed during mailing around, and usually I tape one down the middle-inside of the back cover so it makes a strap to hold stuff in place.

I've also used envelopes from bills, small paper bags from shopping, ziplock sandwich bags, card stock cut into folder pockets...basically whatever is on hand, just to make a place to catch and hold stuff in the back of the book. Sometimes in the front, I'll use a big binder clip, and then move that stuff to the back and / or the next book as I close one and open another. The point is to have ways built in to keep stuff from falling all over the place when you're handling your journal.

5. Color!
What I've been doing lately, is I pick a color to serve as a theme for each day, then match the washi, markers, any random deco stuff, and if I have it, pen to that color. I do the daily docket in that color, then any dairy or journaling pages that belong to that day, I'll decorate the margins with the matching marker and / or write in the matching pen. It helps when I'm looking back to see what pages belong to what day, it makes everything prettier and more interesting, and it unifies the pages while saving my washi stash from having to be on all the many, many pages I fill in a week!

Plus, it can be used symbolically to convey whatever my mood was that day, or what holiday we're on, or what season--stuff that doesn't need to be put in words but still wouldn't hurt to be recorded in a journal! My summer pages tend to be brighter colors, while my winter ones tend to be more subdued or on the cooler end of the spectrum. And there's a lot of green and teal because those are my fav colors!


How do you make your journal work better for how you use it? Share in the comments or come talk to me @pirategirljack on Twitter!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Summer is the worst

I have a calendar in my head that divides the year neatly into seasons, and that calendar is telling me that August, September, and October are Fall. That means my body is telling me that it should be cooler and I should be able to dig out my sweaters and hoodies and the dozens of scarves and wraps I have.

The problem with that is that I live in North Carolina, the American South, where Summer takes over a large chunk of Spring's weeks and most of Fall's, and my internal sense of seasons NEVER matches with what I'm experiencing. It's unfair, you guys.

We've had three months of over-90* weather already, and even though this year is vaguely cooler than last year--only a few days over 100, rather than a whole month, and wetter--it's still Too Much. It makes me restless, wanting something that's still likely to be months off. It doesn't get reliably cool here until at least October. September is often the hottest it'll be. We're starting to get to harvest season and it's so hot I don't want to go outside and think about it, even if any of my stuff hadn't all died off through the hotness of summer anyway.*

It's a weird headspace, the world not matching your expectations. One day, I'll move to a place where the seasons are closer to the ones in my head.** In the meantime, I'm trying to make sense of the seasons I actually have...but it's like wearing someone else's shoes.

I think there's probably something in everyone's life that feels like that--like it should be different than it is. I know this isn't the only place in my own that does, it's just the one I'm thinking of the most as I'm suffering through all this light and heat and being constantly a little dehydrated. Seriously, it's like the sunlight is so bright it physically weighs on me. And everything summery is so noisy!

Ugh, summer.

I'm trying to find ways to use this discomfort--in art or in writing. But it's not nice handling something you don't like, is it?

How do you guys handle that misfit between an idea of something and the actual something? I feel like figuring it out is one of the keys of a good life. What bothers you, that you're having to work your way through?


NOTES
*My grapes and roses and pawpaws and apples are all too young to do anything but grow, and all the veggies died in the heat or rotted in the rain. I'm glad I didn't try to depend on my garden for food this year!
**If you know of a place with four even seasons, I'd love to know about it!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Be realistic to get stuff done!

I love a list. Like, I really love listing. A lot. And I love being able to check things off a list. It's so satisfying!

But loving lists kind of makes me prone to putting everything on my list--it's like the same problem I have with carrying too big a purse: I put everything in it and never use two thirds of it. And that means my list is nice and long and my daily pages look great, but there's always piles of stuff that never get done.

And then I'm sad.

Also discouraged.

It's the hardest lesson I had to learn as a planner nerd: how to not list everything. Or, put another way, how to not expect myself to be able to do seven hundred things in a single day and then get upset when I can't.

I had to learn to be realistic.

I think that's probably the best lesson is learned, too, though, because it means I'm much less stressed. Each day, I pick three or five realistic things I can do that day, and then I do them, and if there's time I pick something else to add to the list.

I'm old enough now and I've been tracking how my brain works long enough, that I can sort of eyeball my weekly task list--which is where I confine my need to make long lists!--and figure out what I can reasonably do in t time I have that day. Most of the time, it's a writing goal, repeating daily tasks, maybe a time-dependent thing or two, and then only one or two actual projects. It feels slow, and sometimes that's frustrating, but it's MORE frustrating to always feel like I'm never getting anything done because everything is always left unchecked at the end of the day.

Being realistic also means knowing how I think and heading my own scatter-brained-ness off:
- I keep post-it notes and / or a scratch pad next to me to take notes on things I suddenly remember I need to do instead of dropping everything to go do them and never finishing anything*.
- If new things come in, I slot them in later in the week instead of trying to add them to today's list.
- I try to block out time to get things done.
- I leave the expectations small so I can get them done easier, and then if they're done really easily, I can do the next step or the next thing and feel super productive.
- I try to pay attention to myself to make sure I don't feel overloaded, but also not bored. I check in and see whether I'm having a pain day or not before I decide on the daily to do.
- I try not to beat myself up over unfinished things--putting a little arrow to show myself that I've moved it and not given up is great for that!
- And I do weekly reviews and monthly reviews so I can be sure of the big-picture stuff: even if I have a crap day or a crap week, I can still see that stuff is happening, and it makes it easier.

How do you stay realistic about your ability to get stuff done?



NOTES:
*Those scratch pages go into my journal eventually, usually at the Es of the week after I mark everything off or add it to the official list for the next week.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

On keeping up

Ironically, a post with this title was meant to go up on Monday, according to my plan for the week...and then I had a doctor's appointment that became a five hour thing because the labs got backed up, by the time I got home, I ate dinner and went to bed and didn't do anything else.

Keeping up is hard.

But also, when you're self-directed, what even is "keeping up"?

I always feel like I'm not moving fast enough, and it's more of a feeling since I developed health problems that slow me down. I've discovered through a lot of tracking and documenting* that it's a minimum of a month between deciding to do something and actually doing it, if I don't do it the same moment I decided. So I always feel like I'm taking too long to do things--but if it's always that long between decision and action, doesn't that make it just the natural time it takes me to get things done? Which would mean I'm not behind at all.

Deadlines are a good thing when you're sort of a nebulous thing. They're anchors on a calendar: this thing has to be done by this day, no matter what. I love deadlines. It's an instant priority, does wonders for classing the other things in order of what needs doing now.

But being a writer doesn't really have as many deadlines as, say, an office job. Or a shop job, even. Some people have the knack of setting and keeping their own deadlines, but I'm not one of those people. I make up for it by setting goals--this many pages, this many blog posts, this much work on these projects.

And I rarely make those goals, because I'm always slower than I think I'll be when I'm planning for the week.

So am I behind?

Theresa Robinson says frequently in her monthly printable Right Brain Planner pages that I use that there is no behind, which would mean there's also no keeping up. I remind myself of that frequently, but it sure feels like it's real when I was sick for a week and missed all the tv reviews I'm meant to do between Monday and Friday.

I don't have a conclusion for this post--I think it's a constant struggle for the self-employed: am I on plan? Am I behind? Does behind exist if I'm the one defining the plan? It's just something I've been struggling with for a while, and especially lately when it took me a whole week to make up for missing a week.

What do you guys think?


Notes:
*I document a lot of stuff in a day, because I have a really bad memory for life-details. I can remember plot details, but if I don't make note of what I physically did during a day, a week later it's a blank that feels like that day never actually happened. Whole years have gone by like that before I started making daily pages in my notebook!

Go find story

The problem with being a writer is that most of it happens in your head while you're sitting in a room by yourself. Most of the writers I've met have been introverts, who live mostly in their heads anyway, so it's not a sacrifice--but it can become sort of a default. And stories need to be fed to turn into books.

So go looking for Story. Watch informative tv--or shows that are really good in the writing and execution areas--so you can find new things to think about. Read books not like what you're writing. Read magazines. Read blogs. Go to markets and cultural events. Turn down other roads you don't usually take and see what's down them. Go on vacations once in a while.

And pay attention to what you see and hear and what it makes you think about--because that thinking-about is the first seed of an idea. Take notes. Write observations and interesting facts down. Save images.

I firmly believe that ideas happen from stuffing your head with as much random info as possible, and letting your subconscious play around with the puzzle pieces until it sends a new thing upstairs to your conscious. And I firmly believe that all information is useful for a writer. So save it. Curate it. Mull it over. Keep it for later.

And get in the habit of going looking for neat scraps to keep! Feed that story-well!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Hey look! A plotting method I can use as a non-plotter! (via: @ryanqnorth 's tumblr: what are the haps)

(I arbitrarily used 25 plot points because it seemed like a good number and it fit on one side of the page)

I had to scroll for what felt like days (it was really like five minutes, and that only because I got distracted) to find this post: what are the haps but it's literally the best writing tip I've seen in ages. I'm not a plotter. That is, I don't plot things out ahead of time*, because then I feel like I've already written the book and it makes it really hard to actually do the writing--I hate writing the same thing over. It's why my drafts tend to change a whole lot one to the next: there has to be something new and it has to do something else if I'm going to get through a whole new draft of a whole book.

But Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics fame has this awesome idea of multi-plotting that I've used twice now in the few weeks since he posted about it during his Tumblr Q&A, and it's the opposite of killing the story. AND it's simple, so that makes it better.

First, you plot the story. (I do it super-loosely because this is just a starting point)

Then you do it again, doing things differently.

Then you do it three more times, doing it all differently each time.

Then you take the best parts for the book itself, and when you get stuck, go back to the parts you didn't use yet to figure out what to do next. (I've been highlighting the parts I think I'll use, and sort of numbering them or drawing lines between them so that I remember what order I intended them to go in.)

Here's what I like best about it: it's actually an exercise in possibilities, rather than locking-in.

Most outlines feel too...fixed. This Is The Way This Will Happen. Full stop. But this sort of thing basically forces you (I mean ME) to come up with other things that could happen. It becomes a brainstorming thing, and it's fun, and it makes for much better ideas. And it highlights what your brain thinks are the most important things for the book to have, because they'll come up more than once in the intentionally different plots!

For BEACON, most of the stuff I decided to use came from the third and fifth plots I came up with. Most of the first one, except the best bits, is going to get left behind, because running on the first plot is what got me stuck to begin with. For FIX AND FIND, it's mostly the third plot, with a pretty even sampling of the other four to fill the gaps.

And best of all, it's FUN, it's EASY, and when it's all on one page, there's not space for fixing the details or nailing down the story, but there's lots of possibility and open options, which is exactly what I need for figuring out a story!

Go try it, pantsers!




NOTES:

*I will, however, plot things out afterward--I'll write the book, THEN plot it, because it's a hell of a lot easier to see where the holes are in a page of scene-descriptions than in a whole novel that covers your whole floor if you spread it out!

PS: you can totally tell which blog posts I do in the browser (the ones with pictures and tags) and which I do on my phone just to get an idea out (the ones without, but much faster to post and get into the world bc the blogger site takes FOREVER to load most days).

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

On the importance of side projects

I think the hardest part about writing is continuing to write. Like, starting a story is easy--any idea can start a story. But getting past the first spark, keeping the story going, that's the hard part. That's where block kicks in.

And that's why I think writers need side projects.

See, in my experience, block isn't usually a comprehensive can't-write-at-all thing. It's usually a I-have-no-idea-what-happens-next thing. But stopping writing just because you don't know what happens next means there's no new words going down on the pages, and that's when it becomes a problem. I'm not a very linear thinker--I read several books at a time, I watch lots of shows during a week, I tend to text people in batches and carry on three conversations at once. So it occurred to me: why should I try to force myself to write in straight lines when I don't think in them?

Maybe you're like me?

The answer to I-don't-know-what-happens-next block is to do something else for a while. To have side projects. To switch gears to where you DO know what happens next, and to continue a different story somewhere else.

Then you make progress on several projects at once!

Of course, you have to manage yourself. If you're on deadline, don't sacrifice more than a small amount of time to the side projects--and hour or a day or a week. Not months. Not years. And you do still have to finish things, or it's not a project and a few side projects, it's a string of unfinished work that doesn't do anyone any good ever. But it's nice to have the escape hatch, the pressure-release valve for when you're feeling too tied up in the main story and can't figure it out.

What works best for me is to have, say, a novel going. Then the side projects would be, maybe, a short story, an experimental thing, maybe some non-word art--smaller things that won't take as much time or brain space as the novel. If the side project is another novel, it'll be in a different stage of production: ironing out what I want to happen, note-taking, editing--not the main writing phase.

The point is to give your brain something else to do and to focus on, without stopping the habit of writing and creating. Giving yourself a break without breaking the habit.

What do you guys think about side projects?

Here's what I've been doing lately: Professional Fangirl SDCC Special!


Long unedited videos where we talk about nerdy things! Yay! I love our little show so much, you guys.

Monday, July 25, 2016

On being an introvert, OR Talk to people, damnit!

I talk online a lot because I don't talk in person that much. Like, I hate talking on the phone, and while I do long for living closer to my friends so I can see their faces, actually talking out loud wears me down a lot faster than typing or texting does.

But see, the easiest way I've found to actually let people know what I'm doing with my life is to talk about my work. On the other hand, talking about things too much when they're still in process kills the spark.

Do you see the struggle?

But here's the thing: struggle is okay. I know that I'm an introvert in a world that values extraversion, and I have to Get Out There to get things done. In the past, I didn't know that I had to make allowances for time to rest after Getting Out There--I thought it was just how everyone is, that it's not easy for anyone, and people just didn't talk about that. And that's why I burned out so badly an sort of collapsed for two years when things went south with my life.

I know now that it's hard because it's not how I'm built. But I also know I can do it, that it's needed, and that if I really want to rebuilt my life on my own terms (I do!), I need to talk about things more. So I'm making an effort to be more forthcoming, and I'm making an effort to gently talk about the things I'm doing, and I'm learning how to find people who want to talk about the things I want to do!

So here's what I've been up to:

My latest novel, Beacon, wasn't working. I scrapped it, and replanned it, and made some pretty big changes to the story and the structure, so it's barely restarted--but it's going much better now.

I've also replanned Fix & Find, my Inkshares novel, and I'll be working on that in little pieces moving forward. I'll be replanning The Ember And The Sea and The Seaking's Daughter and The Sound Of Birds, Singing, and Fracture to various degrees, too--my writer's block has pushed everything back so far that everything needs to be refreshed and clarified to make it work now.

I've launched a Patreon page, but it's still a bit of a mess for now--I'm working that out as I go. You can see it at Patreon.com/SamanthaHolloway if you like! I'll be making and writing stuff and tweaking the levels as i figure out what works best to keep me moving!

I'm still reviewing tv for TVGeekArmy and ScreenCrimes, and I've recently been doing Aftershow videos with my friend Joy and various other nerdy peeps we know! You can see our videos at blab.im/pirategirljack, and soon on a dedicated YouTube channel and as podcasts...somewhere. Probably Soundcloud. I'll get back to you on that.

I'm slowly expanding what I offer in the Incidental Twin etsy shop, and I just reopened the CashewCreations shop--where I'll be posting printable worksheets and journaling stuff. There's some up already--CashewCreations.etsy.com--and more to come! And I'll have some freebies and things here periodically, too! Stay tuned!

That's what I've been up to. What've you guys been doing?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Here's the thing about creative work: it's really easy to NOT schedule it

...and therefore to never actually Get Stuff Done.

Back in the day, when I was a kid and just deciding I was going to be a writer, it didn't matter when I got stuff done. No one was reading it but me! Then, in college, people were reading it but it still didn't matter how disciplined I was, as long as I had something to turn in on time.

Grad school did teach me to be more organized--you can't write a whole 800,000 word novel without learning something about organizing it!--but as soon as I was done with school, I fell right off that lesson. Now, it's years later, and I'm back to trying to figure out how to balance living and writing.

Is there any writer who ever has this all the way figured out? If so, send them my way!

I use a monthly calendar, a weekly planner, and a daily docket, and usually, for most things in my life, that works great.

It doesn't work for creative stuff when I'm falling into the trap of waiting around for inspiration to hit. Like, at all. Because the thing about having a schedule is that it's really easy to only do what's on the schedule. And then it really easy to look at the other stuff and just be like: oh, well, there's no space; I guess that's not getting done now.

So here's the experiment in going to try for a few weeks: I'm going to schedule my creativity. I'm going to set up next week's schedule with a list of minimum actions on each of my projects--a chapter on Inkshares, a freebie on Patreon, a certain number of scenes in the novel, a level of planning in the other novel, etc--and I'm going to put them in the schedule and give them days. I'm naturally resistant to planning myself to death, but when I was in school, and the schedule was tight, I got more done, so I'm going to try to do that for myself. And in a few weeks, I'll come back here and tell you what I've figured out in this experiment. It'll be cool. You guys can be my accountability!

I've been coasting and waiting for too long, you guys. It's time to Get Shit Done and Share The Process!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On self-soothing, centering, and processing

I've been thinking s lot about this tangle of things that help a person get through life: self-soothing, centering, and processing. A lot of it is because these are themes in 12 Monkeys, which is currently eating up my life and my brain space this close to the season ender, but also its a lot because I keep being reminded to think about them. I went looking for my daily quote from Danielle Laporte for today's planner page* and saw a post she did about coming back to center when you're flying off. We moved the Aftershow to Tuesdays to allow everyone to process what they've seen and what they feel and come back with actual comments rarer than just random conversation--which is fun, but which doesn't make for a very organized show.

So all this is on my mind.

I realized that I don't remember the things I used to do to soothe uneasiness and bring myself back to center. It's been so long since I've felt balanced and in control and happy where I was--I don't like talking about it, because it's a bummer and it still feels raw and personal, but I move to North Carolina four years ago in a deep depression, and everything that's happened since then has been sort of...disconnected. It's like a gap in my life and I'm just starting to come out of it. Just starting to reclaim myself and what's mine and try to remember what having a life feels like.

I don't remember what I used to do to feel better when things went bad, but I know that now I eat high quality chocolate, take long showers a hot as I can stand them, take naps, listen to my favorite songs playlist, paint my nails or dye my hair (or in extreme cases cut my hair or get a new tattoo), pet the cat, stand bare foot in the garden and try to do something useful like planting seeds or pulling weeds. I make lists. I journal. I plan things--usually books, but sometimes my life. I talk to S or to J or to H and try to remember what being calm feels like.

I think it's important that I keep a list of these thing for when I don't know what to do to feel better--a lot of times, that's the start of a Slide: not knowing what to do. I can't believe it's taken me this long to think of a contingency list!

And processing. Processing takes time, takes effort, and goes in pieces and fits and starts until one day things come together as you just go "oh. That's what that means." Or "oh. That's over now, it can't hurt me anymore."

You have to have space to process--there has to be a break in whatever you're dealing with so you can move back and look at it, separate yourself from the events and start to put them into context, into boxes that make sense. Making space during the thing is hard--most of the time, for me, I don't even realize when I need to until after its done and suddenly there's this pile of junk on my mental doorstep, waiting to be sorted and getting in the way.

But I've developed ways to work trough some stuff, too, to ease the burden and the pressure a little. The best one is writing--writing lets me come at things sideways and make sense of them without it having to be me who's going through them. Next best is journaling, and guided journaling when I'm really upset. I think in words on paper, and a lot of the time I don't really know what I'm thinking until I write it down.

There's also long walks while talking to my sister. Going somewhere quiet and just sitting. Crying, sometimes, because sometimes that's all you can do. Days-long texts with my packleader who lives too far away but always answers the phone. And watching my favs on TV sort through their own shit so that I can sort of do the same by proxy, that old idea that drama cleanses the soul.**

What do you guys do? How do you find your center when things go sideways? How do you soothe? How do you process?

And how do you use all that to help your lives, your stories, your creativity?



NOTES:
*I try to always have some inspirational or thoughtful thing on each planner page; it makes the world make sense better.
**Which, incidentally, is why good drama needs to exist on tv, and why it needs to include as many kinds of people as possible--everyone deserves the chance to get that cleansing!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I know the world's not made for me...

...but I kind of think the way the world is made is stupid and I'm don't want to spend my whole life chipping off parts of myself to fit into a space someone I've never met decided to fit me into. If there even is someone who decides these things.

I know I can't be the only one. Creatives the world over and all through time must feel this. The feeling that we don't fit. The feeling that everything is made for people who value things that don't matter to us. The feeling that what we have to offer the world is not what the world keeps demanding from us. That's how you crush creativity, I think: constantly coming up against a world that tells us that our pride and joy, the things we spend all our time and effort on, don't matter enough to pay our way in the world.

It's exhausting, pretending you're not crushed by that. It's exhausting trying to do both, to make things and to survive. It's exhausting dimming your light so you don't stand out, just to get by.

And I don't think it's necessary. I really don't. If I'm going to be wrung out by making something, and then worn out by paying bills, I'd rather be worn out following my own goals than the ones laid down by random expectation. I think I always have a choice, and more and more, I'm choosing each time to be who I am.

I can make a life I want to live, and if it doesn't look like a standard life, oh well. I can make the work I do matter, by making thing that matter to me my work. My energy is limited and I'm not willing to waste it much anymore.

I just need to keep reminding myself that. And maybe reminding other people, because there has to be other people who would rather be living their own lives than ones handed to them, right?

So I'm choosing my life. Which one are you choosing?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Daily Creativity - Setting up your life for being creative


This is something every creative person will say at some point when being asked about creativity, but since I keep having to be reminded, I'm saying it: to be creative, you have to e creative. Or, creativity breeds more creativity. Or, set up your life for creativity and you'll be creative!

Because, look, the average life doesn't really care if you're reaching your creative potential or if you're feeling inspired and fulfilled in your work, so long as you're doing said work and paying your bills, right? It's easy to narrow down to this place where that's all you're doing. So you (meaning, me, as well as probably you if you're reading this!) need to include chances for creativity in your daily schedule, and identify the stuff that makes you feel NOT creative, so you can head it off or compensate.

For me, these creativity-sappers are things like house chores (I really really hate doing laundry and vaccuming!), basic Adulting, and when I have pain flare ups. So I make sure that I don't schedule or plan any really important writing or crafting work on the days when I know I have to do some annoying and time consuming real life thing. On those days, I tackle smaller tasks, or I brainstorm for later, or I lower my expectations of myself from four decent pages to like one page that's allowed to suck as long as it happens and move the story forward. On my pain days--which can't be scheduled because they suck and are stupid--I pare down to only what absolutely needs to be done in life, and sometimes don't do anything creative on those days at all. Because resting and not producing is also part of the creative process, so that's fine. It's required. Flare ups like that tend to happen because I'm trying too hard or not paying enough to attention to myself, so I take them as signs that I need to cool it. It can be frustrating, but it helps.

Also part of setting yourself up for creativity: doing things. You've got to get new ideas in to get new ideas out. So schedule in time to daydream (call it brainstorming if that helps). Go check out new places and just wander around. Doodle or play with new apps or journal. Make lists. Read books and watch movies and watch tv--I hate the advice to eliminate tv because there's tons of good ideas and wonderful information there. You just have to be selective about which stuff you let sink into your head. Talk to people. Make things--especially if you're a writer, I think it's important to have side projects that are creative but use other parts of the brain, giving the word-parts a break but keeping the making-stuff parts active. Try new foods. Pet all the dogs you see. Ask questions and look up the answers. Find historical places and tour them. Talk to other writers and artists about how they do it, and try ther process to see how it works for yours.

Basically, make space in your life for creative things to happen, and then let them happen. A little at a time, a little each day, and one day you'll look up and have hundreds of ideas and dozens of projects and feel really inspired and connected--and that's what we all want, right?

The hard part is just remembering how to live it like we mean it!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Guest post and infographic - How to Turn Your Writing Skills Into a Successful Career


Today, we have a guest post from Matt Banner from OnBlastBlog.com!

How to Turn Your Writing Skills Into a Successful Career (Infographic)



I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a writer, and I know that’s true for many of you as well. Now that we’re older and looking for a career, it’s time to turn our passion into something that can propel us into the future.


Today I’ll show you how to create a website and use it to build a writing career for yourself. You’ll also find an infographic below that gives you numerous tips and strategies for pursuing the career of your dreams. Let’s take a look!

Building Your Career as a Writer (Infographic)



Being a successful writer is about more than writing books. It’s about promoting yourself, standing out from the crowd, and ultimately bringing together a following of like-minded fans who wait with bated breath for your next release.


A great way to keep fans coming in between books is to start a writing blog. It may seem counter intuitive to write while you're writing, but it will go a long way towards reminding fans that you’re working hard to bring them the next story that will capture their attention.


Even if you only publish a real post every once and a while, it will give your fans the update they so desperately need and want. Start by creating a blog to pitch ideas to your readers and keep them updated on your progress.

Check out the infographic below to learn more about what it means to be a successful writer and how you can start building a career for yourself. Let us know how it helped you in the comments below!



ETA: Go here to see a bigger version, since my blog seems unwilling to post the pic as it is!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Linkery - May 26, 2016 at 02:56PM


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Linkery - May 26, 2016 at 02:20PM


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May 26, 2016 at 02:20PM
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