“Just” a Creative Dream

imagination

My eldest son is – for one more week – a high school senior. He’s a creative kid, always has been. Creativity and imagination are things I’ve always encouraged in my children. I mean, obviously. I write. I crochet, sew, and make all sorts of crafty things. And let’s be honest, if you’ve ever met me in person, “creative” might be a word you’d use to describe me. (Also potentially suitable: quirky, odd, freak, hippie, pirate, punk, anarchist, bohemian…)
So it pleases my odd little soul when my kids get inspired to be creative. When I see some creative dream lighting a fire within them, leaving them bright-eyed and talking at the speed of light about their new interest. I love it. It always makes me smile.
Last week I attended my son’s senior exit project presentation at his school. He looked sharp in dress pants, dress shoes, button down shirt, suspenders and bow tie, hair carefully combed. He shook the hands of each person on the panel and introduced himself, grinning and maintaining eye contact. Then he stood in front of an audience and went slide by slide through a Power Point presentation he’d made over the course of several days and in a clear, loud voice, discussed his plans to become an actor & musician. He’s already enrolled in a local college for this fall, pursuing an Associates degree in media arts & technology, with plans to transfer to University for a Bachelors in theater & music.
He’s worked the last three years as a service clerk at a local grocery store, pays his own car payment and car insurance, as well as most of his own cell phone bill. He talked about that as well.
After the presentation, the panel – made up of adults, mind you – was allowed to ask him questions about his future plans. Instead of asking him about his dream, most of the questions went like this:
“You know why they call people like that starving artists, right?”
“How do you plan to pay your bills?”
“What will your real job be?”
“I knew a guy once, thought he could be an actor. Waited tables while he waited for his big break. Guess what he’s doing now? Still waiting tables. You want to end up like that?” (This one really struck a nerve with me. Double whammy. Let’s simultaneously shoot down his dream while also shitting on people doing hard, honest work in restaurants. Super inspiring!)
Though my son patiently went back over his plans – a back-up degree so he can work to pay his bills while he auditions and figures out his way along this journey – the remarks didn’t change. It frustrated me to no end. He maintained his composure throughout his presentation, and afterward shook the hand of each panelist again, thanking them for their time.
One of the panelists marked him down several points because he wore tiny silver hoop earrings with his dress clothes.
Here’s the thing: as adults, we’ve got to do better. Teach responsibility and accountability, for certain, but imagination and creativity are just as important in life. Of course bills need to be paid, but is there no room at all for dreams? No stress upon the way passion for an art improves our lives? The way art teaches us empathy, compassion, and personal discipline?
If we spent the same amount of time & energy on encouraging kids & teens to pursue their artistic bents as we spend pounding the idea of becoming another cog in the machine into their heads, we might ignite a revolution.
Imagine that. Oh, wait. Imagining things isn’t directly linked to a paycheck, so it’s obviously not worth doing. Forgive my folly. Must’ve had a bit too much to think.

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Under Pressure

 

creepy stairs

Writing news update: Slim to none.

That’s not entirely true, I guess. I have been writing, although infrequently, and mostly on my phone, since my laptop, Tallulah, has been misbehaving lately. She’s working today, so I’ve been scrambling through my social media, updating things and whatnots and whozits, linking things, writing, transferring the writing from my phone into actual manuscripts, and just generally catching up on all the things I’ve been – for all intents and purposes – neglecting in favor of losing myself in fiction and adopting guinea pigs.

I feel sometimes like I’m the only writer I know that isn’t motivated by money. I mean, obviously, I expect to be paid for my work. I expect any artist to be paid for their work. I also need to make enough money from my books to be able to create more books, and things like formatting, editing, and cover design cost money, as they should. So, yes, I need to make money off my books, but I guess it’s just not my driving force. It’s been a tough year for authors. News of plagiarism, copyright drama, and book thieves has been all over the place, and there’s no doubt it’s discouraging for all of us. So many authors – incredibly talented writers – I  know have been on the brink of throwing in the towel as far as their writing goes, and it’s sad. I hate that there are such unscrupulous people out there. I hate that book pirates feel so entitled to books that they think stealing them is an okay thing to do. I hate that the actions of rotten people affect so many good people just trying to make a living.

I’m not throwing in the towel. I can’t imagine a time when I will ever willingly quit writing. That doesn’t mean I’ll always share the stories I write. Some days are so frustrating I feel like pulling all my stories down and just writing strictly for myself. I don’t really want to do that, but it is extraordinarily discouraging when there is so much negativity and drama going on in the book world. I just want to write, not fight with people or get caught up in drama. I try to keep to my own little corner of the writing world, but even so, drama spreads like wildfire.

But what means even more to me than that kind of nonsense, is getting the chance to interact with those who read and enjoy my books. When a reader sends me a message to tell me they enjoyed my story, or when someone new to my books tells me they love my work because it’s not like anything else they’ve read, or because they see themselves represented in my stories, that makes an enormous difference to me, to my attitude about writing. I’m not the biggest name author out there, and I’ve never intended to be that. I’ve intended to be authentic, to write my stories truthfully and to the best of my ability. I’ve intended to write relatable characters and bust harmful stereotypes about appearances or mental illness. I’ve intended to reach people, so they can know that they are not alone, that at the very least some fictional person has the same thoughts and feelings they have. Representation matters, whether it’s representation of physical appearance, or living through trauma, or mental illness, or some other attribute that makes people feel “other.”

I’m not great about remaining consistent on any social media platform. I’m not great about remaining consistent about blog posts, or churning out new books on a schedule. I’m not even that great at promo stuff, quite often dropping a book with no prior fanfare whatsoever. I’ve got a brain that is simply faulty in some areas, and one of those areas is the ability to focus on one thing consistently. I’ve said before that my writing style tends to be feast or famine and that remains true. It seems like either I’m doing doing doing doing, or absolutely silent. I often fall silent after I finish releasing a new book. I think I just need some time to crawl inside my brain and rest. I do this sort of thing more often now, since I realized how much added stress was contributing to my anxiety and depression struggles. It’s not that I don’t want to release books more often, and it’s not that I don’t want to write. But once I start feeling like I’m getting overwhelmed in every facet of my life, I have to take a few steps back. I have to hunker down. I have to cease putting extra demands on myself. I love writing, but not more than I love my family. Or my own sanity, for that matter. Rest matters, whether it’s mental or physical or both. And it’s a bit easier, I think, to be able to make such decisions when I know my mortgage isn’t riding on the amount of book royalties I’m bringing in.

It’s a pressure I’ve chosen to release myself from, and I feel I enjoy writing more because of it. I know this way isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine. Do I need to bring in money from book sales? Absolutely. If I don’t, I can’t keep making more books. But does the need to make money off my books take priority over my mental health? Nope. I simply cannot allow that.

That said, I have been working a bit on my latest WIPs. Knowing Rogan, the 5th installment in the Secrets of Windy Springs series, has been creeping along, and is currently about 75% finished. The collection of writings on grief I’ve been putting together is just about ready to release, and we recently did a photo shoot for the cover, which I’m super excited about. I’ve also taken a step in a new direction, and launched a Patreon. I’ve set two tiers, one at $1 a month and one at $5 a month. Those who choose to pledge a monthly amount will be rewarded handsomely with boons. And possibly pirates. Sharing matters, truly. It makes a huge difference. I appreciate every single one of you who share my work, write reviews, tell others about my books, etc. I hope some of you will consider joining me on Patreon, because it looks like a cool and different way to interact with everyone.

What else can I update on, other than books? Hhhmmn, well, let’s see. Since my last blog post, I’ve gotten two new tattoos, two new piercings, survived another gray winter in Michigan, adopted two guinea pigs, learned to build them a cage all by me onesie, and have been teaching myself to play guitar. Wait… we may have already talked about me playing guitar. I’m terrible at it, TBH, but my God, is it ever fun to learn!

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