The Moil of Life

Yesterday I posted about the terrible curse that is to be scatterbrained; to be see-sawing between two or more different interests. I posted it up on my art/writing community, asked if anybody had advice about the soul-crushing crisis of getting stuck. They pulled through. The suggestions that came out of the conversation were enlightening and inspiring. It was a much needed salve for the creative soul.

So before I even start, the first suggestion I’ll impart is pretty telling. Find a community. The creative life is racked with potholes of despair and self doubt, and it helps to know you aren’t doing this alone. I’m lucky to have people in my life who are not only creative, but gracious with their knowledge. My S.O. also helps me a lot. An encouraging partner is such a blessing. His constant faith in my own gift gives me strength to face the challenges of a creative life. I cannot stress it enough. It is beneficial to be part of a community. Struggle and succeed with other people. Share with them your joys and failures.

The next advice discussed was for writing. I’m happy to know one of my activities is already conducive to a healthy writer lifestyle. The daily blog! I’m not as faithful to it as I want to be, but this is the longest I’ve kept a blog running semi-regularly. I post on it at least once every week; every day or every other day if I could, and having this daily writing habit has helped loosen up my writing. It has made it easier for ideas to flow. It may not be for a project, or for a story, but any writing is writing practice. The skill of writing improves with practice. This blog will keep me going until I am ready to write my story once again.

Next advice is learning Time Management. My friend Lore linked this video which proved to be quite a helpful exercise. Listing down priorities and making time for every thing you want to do made me realize that I do have enough time in my day to do everything I want. Prioritizing is an oft misplaced skill, which is unfortunate because it is crucial. When I listed down my priorities, I was surprised to learn it really isn’t a matter of “I have too much to do” but really just “I need to get started.” I knew this deep down. Seeing it listed visually has left me without an excuse, and now I can start with simply doing.

There is a danger, I noticed, to get into the minutiae of the daily grind. You lose sight of the big picture. You get overwhelmed by each passing hour you waste. I found that if you plan your weeks instead of days, your months and your years, you step back from the grueling sludge. It’s refreshing to see the path sometimes. The map is a nicer view than the bramble of thorns you are currently stuck at.

So now with a fresh perspective, the moil of life is not so bad. I’m ready to get back to work.

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Pressure: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

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Around two years ago, I’ve decided that  I wanted to be an artist. I signed up for an online art program, got oil painting lessons and filled out sketchbooks of drawing studies and notes. When I told my closest friends and family about it, they were a little concerned. I understood it. After all, just about a couple years ago, I was fronting a band. We had a few gigs around the area, it had a facebook, youtube and an online profile, won a few contests, got a handful of followers and slowly but surely, died a natural death of neglect.

But surely art is different! I’ve been drawing since I was a kid! I love looking at art and I want to be paid doing it too!

Unfortunately for that young naive girl, she will soon discover visual novels and games and realize NOW she wants to do that. She’s sure of this one this time. Take back another five or so years ago, she wanted to be a jeweler. Another two years before that, she wanted to be a graphic designer. And if you go even further back another five years, she wanted to be a mangaka. She’ll learn Japanese and everything! She’ll fly to Japan and make it happen!

None of those things came to pass. But wait, there is a lesson in this drab, depressing story and it’s this: Pressure is all in the head, and there are different kinds.

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Time better spent

From this day forward, I’ve decided that I was going to give myself a time limit in writing my journal entries. Usually I spent 1-2 hours just drafting them. That’s all well and good, but if I really want to keep this sustainable, it might not be a good idea to give it a better chunk of my mornings. It isn’t the blogging itself that’s the problem, but I usually lose focus during the writing. I click on this, and then I chat with that. I check my phone. I doodle. It all eats up the time, and on top of that, I have an unfinished entry.

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So now I’m going to use a Pomodoro timer for my daily blogs. If you haven’t heard of it,  Pomodoros are timers that run for 25 min of focused work, and allows you a 5 min break. I’ve always used them to time myself to take breaks every 25 minutes or so, since I use a standing desk to help my posture. I use Tomighty for this exact purpose and it works really well with my workflow. I’m thinking of using it for my blogging as well.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to sacrifice quality because of time constraint, so I had an idea of typing down the main thought I want to write about the night before. Rough notes, snippets, and things I’ve discovered or done during the day along with any other ideas I have can go in the drafts the night before.

I think time-limiting tasks forces you to focus on one task at a time. If you’re anything like me at all, distraction is a cute and friendly creature. It’ll come by when you’re busy, hang on your head, showing you all sorts of fun things on the internet. It means well, and it’s almost always hard to get rid of (they are the welcome oasis for your pressure-cooked brain), but if I don’t strap on and get crackin’, another day is wasted. I can’t blame “Distraction” as my main problem. It’s always there after all. It’s a permanent fixture in life.

I really like Pomodoros too, because you’re given that five-minute breathing room to recuperate and prevent mini burn outs. Going over a certain limit also helps you let go of an entry. It’s done. It’s out of your hands. Don’t over-edit cos it’s time to get going! Gotta tackle other important things in your day!

Try it if this method works for you and let me know your results!

Grind in your own dungeon

I think we can all agree that one of the hardest parts of creating something is getting started. Dreaming up a project is so much better than actually making it. And I can understand that. There’s a magical feeling lost in the translation of apparition to physical thing, the fairy dust swept aside, the treasure chest unlocked to reveal the enchantment for what it is. And it is… *drumroll*

… dirty, sweaty hard work.

On all my readings and scourings on artists, musicians, creators, business people, authors, etc. It’s always the same thing. They worked their butt off. That is the secret sauce. Sweat. Yum. Well, I personally don’t mind that at all. It’s a relief to know it’s not an elusive unicorn like PR and Marketing (h-ha…haha… *nervous chuckle).

So we got the beginning part down. What about this long stretch in the middle, a.k.a. the “journey” itself? The “hard work” part? How do you get over the overwhelming feeling facing insurmountable tasks? That stone wall golem’s looking pretty darn indestructible.

During the little hiccups of time between work, my brain (thee I dub the mistress of pain), starts introducing little needles of torture in my system. Thoughts of stuff I still need to do, things I should be doing, things I should be doing better. Apart of the game itself, I gotta start sketching character concepts, preparing the programming, contacting musicians, making promotion materials, thinking of a kickstarter, putting money together to pay for assets, merchandise?, email youtubers??, make a website???

It just goes on and on and I… I’m only one person… It gets overwhelming at times, and I just can’t help but retreat to that usual dark corner of despair.

…But a wise person came along and slapped me with the best advice I could ever hope to receive.

“Grind in your own dungeon,” he said. “There’s no point grinding in Level 20+ if you’re Level 5. You’re gonna be taken out in one hit. You think you’re being cool, but you’re really just wasting time. Strive to be a little better than what you are now. Go for Level 7 instead.”

It’s a very good metaphor for the common knowledge “cross the bridge when you get there”, but with a little more sophistication. The advantage of working hard over a long period of time is you improve everyday, and with it, your tolerance for difficult things increases as well. I realized I was getting overwhelmed with things way out of my level and stressing out on things that I obviously don’t have the capability to solve. Of course I’m gonna get depressed. But I must see it for what it is. It’s simply another form of distraction away from work. No better than a twitter feed or a cat or a funny gif (Cats are pretty good tho gotta admit). It’s highly indulgent and requires ego stroking to appease. If I were really busy, I wouldn’t feel the need to gratify this craving.

So, every time I feel like I’m way over my head, I’m going to remember to keep grinding in my dungeon level! Gain better items, make friends with my people along the way. Little by little, chugging down that sweet level up juice. Gotta work towards that next level y’all (and maybe bang a couple elf dudes along the way)!