Daily Instagram Challenge

One of my goals for the year of 2017 was to post more on Instagram, specifically posting once a day (or at least one post per day of the year, because sometimes I forget to post for a day or two and I have to post several in a row to catch up) and so far, I’ve been doing great! I wanted to focus more on photography and posting quality pictures (though, sometimes I just post random pictures of whatever I’m doing that day) and flexing my photography skills more. I used to do a lot of photography in high school but sort of stopped doing it recently and wanted to get into it again.

Sometimes I take a few pictures in a day and post them sporadically, sometimes I post whatever is happening that day, or post an old picture from high school. Most of them are new, however, and a lot of them are just snapping my day-to-day life, but a good amount are thought-out photographs and special ones captured on a whim.

I’ve also had a lot of fun editing pictures—recently, I’ve been using the ColorStory app for effects and filters, and Polarr for more advanced editing and some great filters, too. Sometimes the Instagram filters and editing are fine, but these apps are great.

So far this year, these are the best I’ve posted/my favorites of 2017:

Illustration Progress #3

So, the last time I made an update about my illustrations was in May. I hate to say it, but I haven’t had much time to work on a whole lot. But I have done a few and I think I’ve improved, just from looking at the ones I posted back in May. I haven’t been sketching every day like I’d planned and the summer has been so busy, I haven’t been working with my Copic markers or doing anything too elaborate. I’ve wanted to do more animals and take a shot at some landscapes. I haven’t done a lot, but I’ve done a few that I’m proud of.

Here’s some illustrations and doodles I’ve done over the summer:

2017 Favorites: August

August rushed by quicker than any month this year. Going on a vacation in the middle of the month always does that—the first week was planning and packing and getting ready for it, the week after spent catching up and recovering. Then, all of a sudden, August was almost over. Yikes. But in there somewhere, I was able to read a little after BookTube-A-Thon in July and enjoy some music and films. Here were my favorites of August:

Logan

Hands down, this has become my favorite X-Men film in one viewing. It’s violent and rough and raw. It’s heartbreaking. First of all, spoiler alert if you didn’t already know, this was the perfect end to Wolverine’s story arc. Hugh Jackman has played him perfectly for seventeen years and this was the most fitting, perfect end to his time in this cinematic universe. Same with Patrick Stewart’s Xavier, but I have a feeling that won’t be the end of his performances as Professor X. The films itself is beautifully done, the action sequences were incredible—especially with the character of Laura. The young actress playing her was brilliant. I loved every second she as on screen. Everything was just so so so good about this film—except for the end, though I thought was beautiful, just didn’t feel finished. We didn’t see the children Logan was helping reach their destination, only that they all survived and started on their journey again—but to where? They never showed if the place they’d been trying to get to is even real. It didn’t feel completely finished, but in a way, I kind of liked it that way. It lead us to think that the story isn’t completely finished, whether setting up potential sequels/connections for down the road with other films or simply stating that mutants will survive, they’ll continue to be. Either way, it didn’t feel complete. Even so, I loved it. It’s my favorite X-Men film ever.

Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift

Unashamed to say that I’m a Taylor Swift fan. She’s a problematic fave and I love this new persona of hers, even if it’s petty. I’m here for the drama. I’m here for this new sound. I love it all. The video rocked, the song is cool. That chorus is such a dramatic reverse to anything she’s ever done before, unexpected and rad. The song’s not perfect by any means but it sounds good. It’s fun. It’s crazy. I love it.

Malibu – Miley Cyrus

Completely different from the previous favorite, this is a song that came out a long time ago but I haven’t heard yet. Miley Cyrus has swung back around to a more calm, mellow persona (which was so obviously her genius plan to follow the footsteps of other pop stars to make a bigger name for herself) with a new album. The song has a mellow, Sheryl Crow vibe that I love. It’s a perfect summer song (I’m angry I hadn’t heard it ’til late August) that has a beautiful vintage-sounding guitar riff in the chorus that I love.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite young adult authors. Her Grishaverse books (starting with the Shadow & Bone trilogy and then with the Six of Crows duology) are an imaginative world of magic that reminds me of the books I’m writing. I obviously fell in love. And although I really liked the first trilogy set in this world, the duology Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom have hands down been her best work yet. Six of Crows is one of my favorite books of all time and Crooked Kingdom follows close behind. It’s a great book, and because it’s the second, I’m not going to go into too many spoiler details about it, but the story wraps up perfectly in this book and kept me surprised the entire time about the plot. All the characters are so well crafted, the story could’ve gone in any direction, and I probably still would’ve enjoyed it just to spend more time with the characters. It’s so good.

Vermilion by Molly Tanzer

Switching over to an adult book, Vermilion by Molly Tanzer is not a book at first glance that I would’ve chosen. Well, technically it was because I bought it solely for the cover—but if it had had a less beautiful cover, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. Not from knowing the surface material: it’s a western. But not just a western, it’s a paranormal, steampunk-esque book about a young woman who dresses as a man and deals with sending ghosts off to the afterlife. Then? I’m totally in. But if I’d known it would’ve been a much more fantasy, queer-heavy, mystery novel, I would’ve read it immediately after purchasing. It’s so so good. I’ve heard word of a sequel and I’m all in. Especially if the covers match and the second is just as beautiful as the first. Then I’m doubly in.

And that’s what I’ve enjoyed in the month of August!

BookTube-A-Thon 2017

BookTube-A-Thon was recently! Actually, a while ago, at the end of July. Anyway, it’s one of my favorite events to take part in, having done it now three years in a row. The main challenge is to read seven books in seven days. And I did not accomplish that — but, I did accomplish all the other reading challenges and read quite a lot for a single week, so I’m proud of myself.

My official count is six and a half books read. Which isn’t terrible! That’s awesome! But also so close that is makes me so mad! I had an opportunity to have a fun night away and instead of saying no, I did it and ended up spending almost 24 hours of that week not reading. I definitely could’ve made it to seven had I not done it. But it was still fun so I don’t regret it. I still read more than I ever usually do in a week.

Here’s the breakdown with challenges:

  • Read a hyped book:
              The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis – 3/5 stars

  • Read a book with a protagonist very different from you AND read a book with a person on the cover:
              Binti by Nnedi Okorafor – 4/5 stars

  • Read a book in a single day AND read a book entirely outside:
              Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K Vaughan – 5/5 stars

  • Read a book you bought because of the cover:
              Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli – 4/5 stars

  • Read seven books:
              This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab – 4/5 stars
              The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket – 4/5 stars
              Vermilion by Molly Tanzer (the half a book, but I’ve recently finished and gave it 4/5 stars)

I also switched Seven Brief Lessons on Physics in for Behold the Bones by Natalie C Parker because it was shorter and I wanted to get my sixth book in on the last day!

Anyway, I had a good time reading — this is the second year of getting six and a half books in (the other year I only read three) but I’m still happy with the results. Next year, I’m totally making it to seven! I’m determined!

2017 Favorites: July

July simultaneously felt really long and felt like it flew by — I don’t know how, but it did. My monthly focus for July was reading, and I did a fair amount of it, so most of my favorites this month are book related.

BookTube-A-Thon

My favorite read-a-thon to participate in (and really the only one I do participate in, though I plan on doing more in the future) is BookTube-A-Thon, hosted by Ariel Bissett. You don’t have to be a BookTuber to participate and I do it every year – it’s so much fun and a little stressful. It’s a week long, with many challenges, but the main challenge is to read seven books. I did not. I plan on writing a wrap up post soon.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

One of the books I read during BookTube-A-Thon was by my favorite author Victoria Schwab titled This Savage Song. It’s set in an alternate future of the United States, telling the story of two teens from opposite sides of a divided city, crossing paths long after “the phenomenon,” an event where monsters are created from acts of violence. It’s such an imaginative, cool world and the story was engaging from start to finish. It’s just a really awesome book and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Another book I read for BookTube-A-Thon was the novella Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. It’s a sci-fi story about a girl named Binti, chosen to go to the best university in the galaxy, having to survive an attack by an alien race on the ship taking her there. It’s one of the most interesting, imaginative stories I’ve ever read, from an incredible perspective of a black woman that doesn’t often get the attention from the mainstream as it should, especially in this genre — it’s the only one I’ve ever really heard of, but I know there is more out there. I’m excited to find more stories similar and I’ll be starting with the sequels to Binti.

Call Me By Your Name (Trailer)

Technically, the trailer came out in August and I’m writing this in August, but I don’t want to wait to talk about this film. I’m incredibly excited to watch Call Me By Your Name, a gay-themed drama starring Armie Hammer (one of my favorite actors). I’ve been waiting for this trailer for so long, ever since hearing about the film — I’ve watched it a dozen times already. And, it’s an adaptation of a book, so I’ll be hunting for that to read in time before the film is released.

In A Heart Beat 

This entire list is either something book related or something gay. I’m not mad about it. In A Heartbeat is the most adorable gay-themed animated short about a school kid who has a crush on his classmate and his heart becomes anthropomorphic, chasing down his crush, risking the boy being outed. It’s adorable, the music is perfect, and it’s an instant classic up there with some of my favorite animated shorts like Paperman, which has a similar vibe.

So that’s all my favorite books/films/etc. things from July!

Hand Lettering

Each month, I’ve been focusing more on one goal for the year over the others, setting aside a few hours a week to one goal instead of trying to fit them all in. This has been making it easier to dedicating more time to them rather than spreading myself too thin by trying to do a little of them all. One of my goals was to work on my hand lettering skills, and having only taken a calligraphy and letterform class in design school, I wanted to practice it more and get better.

Over the month of May, I practiced as often as possible—which ended up not being that much, but much more than I had before—and, though I still need to work a lot more, I can definitely see an improvement from just one month alone! Some were done quickly, some when I had a few hours to spare, so the quality varies. Overall, I definitely felt like I had improved by the end. (Also, if anyone has tips or books on lettering, please share!)

Here are a few pages of work I’ve been doing over the course of the month:

After doing some on paper, I wanted to try vectorizing a piece of lettering to use in a full design, and because I’m already working on redesigning book covers of some favorite books to add to my portfolio, I though I’d give it a try and add some lettering to my redesigned cover of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I’m not entirely happy with it—my lettering skills still need a lot of work, but it was still worth it to try out.

I also designed the cover without the lettering, which I prefer anyway, to go into my portfolio. I did it in a few different color options, and I think I prefer the white cover with the single star shape.

2017 Goals: Checking In – 6 Months

2017 is halfway over and I’m in a constant state of panic because of it. June was the most insanely busy month I’d ever had (the small business I co-own launched another product) and went by as quickly as if it were a week long. Around the end of April, I decided that I would break up some of my goals and focus on one more than the others during each month, and so far it’s been working…sort of okay, mostly not. Anyway, it’s time to go over how well I’m doing with my goals for the year.

Design & Illustration

In the month of May, I focused on practicing hand lettering! It went fairly well, though I didn’t do as much as I wanted—I’d wanted to do one piece a day, but only ended up doing about half. Still, I definitely see an improvement in just that short of time and want to do more to get even better. I’m still not great at it, but a few of them turned out great. Along with this, I’ve been wanting to redesign book covers of some favorite books for two reasons: 1) to do more design projects in between other work that I’ve been doing and 2) to get more works that could go in my portfolio, specifically because I’d like to start marketing myself as a freelance designer that does book design covers (as well as branding and marketing design). It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and think it’s a good time to focus on it more. I’ve done one book cover with some hand lettering on it (still in the works, will post along with whole hand lettering post). In other ways, I’ve done very little design work outside of my day job (and even within that, hardly any) because June was so chaotic. And guess which month I chose to be my month of illustration focus? That’s right! June. I did very very little sketching and illustrating. But it’s okay, because I plan on choosing another month to focus on illustrating later in the year. Disappointing, but okay. I just have to press on!

Writing

Guess what I’ve been doing very little of? That’s right! Writing. But it’s okay. I posted about it last month here. July is writing and reading focused, so I’m going to be taking some extra time to write. Do I try to do to much? Too many interests? Probably. Anyway, my other writing month is September and then again in November (NaNoWriMo baby!), so I know I’ll be doing a lot more later in the year. Hopefully, July will be good to me and I’ll be able to care out the time to write.

Reading

Don’t look at me. I’ve only finished five books. FIVE. The year is half over and I’ve only read FIVE BOOKS. How does this happen to me? I feel like I read all the time but I just…am not. Again, hopefully July will be super great with reading. Well, I know it will be, because BookTube-A-Thon is this month! It’s my favorite time of year, where I stress myself out trying to read every extra minute I have for an entire week straight. I don’t sleep enough, I stop functioning as a normal human adult. It’s great.

Film: Import

I’ve actually watched a lot of films this year! I’ve seen almost 15 already. However, none in theaters—yet. I planned TWICE to go see Alien: Covenant in theaters, but couldn’t make it both times for dumb reasons (like work and stuff, ugh) and now I have no money to see any films in the theater. I do want to see Atomic Blonde, Valerian, and Baby Driver but I don’t know if I’ll be able to. But there are even more films I want to see in the fall, so I’m not worried. Five films in the theater is manageable, I don’t know I’m struggling. Stay tuned.

Film: Export

Though I haven’t made any film-based projects this year so far (my camera has been hijacked by a relative who needs it for work, as her camera broke, so I’ve been unable to really do anything yet) but I plan on doing some later in the summer. But—as I said in my last goals update post, I finished writing a short film called Anya, and I spent some time in May editing it. So there’s that.

Exercise

THIS IS THE ONE I’VE MADE MOST PROGRESS ON! I’M VERY EXCITED ABOUT IT! I made a post recently about changing up my diet and how I’ve been walking/jogging nearly every day (except for most of June and the first week of July, but I’ve been getting back to it now) and have lost a total of 25 pounds! That’s the most I’ve ever lost! I’m extremely happy and pumped up to keep going. I’ve reached my first weight goal, so now I’ll be targeting a second goal and aiming for it to be hit by the end of the summer!

Instagram

I’ve still been posting every day (or at least having one post per day, sometimes catching up with two or three a day) and I’ve been really loving it. I’ve almost hit 200 days and love a lot of the photos I’ve posted. Some are just okay, needing something to post or just posting a fun memory, less of a Photograph but it’s been a lot of fun.

2017 has been a difficult, busy year. But it’s all exciting! And hopefully worth it! I do know that I’ve already decided to lessen my goals next year. I have so many interests and things I want to accomplish, but I have to remember and realize that I can’t do it all. I can’t fit everything in one year. Doing two “everyday” projects in one year is too much (sketching daily and an Instagram post daily) and pressuring myself to create a certain number of illustrations, books read, and movies watched is taking the fun out of it. So I know what I want to change for next year, but want to finish this year out before doing anything different. Hopefully I don’t start to feel burnt out by the time 2018 comes along…ha ha…

Writing While in a Creative Slump

I’ve been in a creative slump.

For the most part, I try to write as often as I can. It’s what I love to do. Sometimes I write for hours, every day, for a week straight. Sometimes I write for twenty minutes on only one day of the week. It all depends on how much time I’m able to carve out for myself. It’s all about carving out time, making it work, doing what I can.

With doing anything creative, there needs to be a balance of creativity coming in and going out. Refilling the creative well is important: soaking up from all sources (books, films, art, television, life), taking in inspiration and creative energy in order to focus it and use it to produce, to let it flow out. Whenever I’m in a creative slump, and nothing else is working, I know I need to fill the creative well.

But the last few weeks, I’ve been incredibly busy with work—the small business I co-run launched a new product, so we’ve been busy promoting and making the product and sampling at stores a lot. I haven’t had much time to work on anything else, especially writing. I’ve had to make choices with my time and writing hasn’t been winning the time slot. A few times, I carved out a bit of time to write, but sat down and couldn’t get it going—and I knew it was because my creative well was dry, that I was in a creative slump. But I barely had enough time to read or watch anything, let alone write.

A few times, I could’ve carved out more time to fill the well or maybe even try to write, but I chose to do something like getting other work done or spending time with family or watching a few YouTube videos before going to sleep instead. One such YouTube video was by my favorite author, Victoria Schwab. In her video, she talks about when a writer is at their computer, they’re really just transcribing and that writers write all the time, whenever they think about their work—plotting, creating, building. That’s all writing, too. And that had me thinking about my writing time.

So what do I do when I’m unable to carve out writing time and unable to refill the creative well? There’s one thing I know I can do:

Not write. Or, I should say, not transcribe. Seriously. I just don’t do it. I don’t sit at the computer, I don’t pick up a pen. Because sometimes it’s not feasible to do so. I’m not a full-time writer, it’s not my job, so I don’t need to do it. So I don’t.

And that’s okay.

It doesn’t mean I’m not making progress. Because no matter how busy I am, how hectic life is, my brain is always with me. I always have a few stolen minutes to think while doing mundane tasks—showering, driving in the car, lying in bed at night, walking the dog. I always have time to think about the story, the characters, the world—and maybe jot down a note or two. And that keeps it going. Even when I don’t have time to sit at the computer and type out the actual words, just keeping the wheels turning is all I need to do—it’s still being productive, it’s still writing.

Favorite Book to Film/TV Adaptation

The Walking Dead

One of my favorite shows on television is The Walking Dead—I’m a big sci-fi, dystopia fan, and zombies are an always fun, often disgusting time. The show is based off of a series of comics by Robert Kirkman, a series I didn’t start getting into until way after the show. I’ve been reading the comics in the 6-issue bind-ups and I’m only on volume seven, but they’re great. It’s cool to see the differences they’ve made with the show—characters added or taken out, storylines differing—and they’re really quick reads. I’ve been buying them when on sale and picking a weekend to enjoy a few issues. As an adaptation, it’s really incredible. I think the show takes a lot of risks and is incredibly well-made—the effects work alone is worth watching.

The Hobbit

I’m a huge fantasy fan, and though I haven’t yet read The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien (I’ve seen all the films), I read The Hobbit a few years ago and loved it. Because I never saw the first trilogy in theaters, only later when on DVD, I’m glad I was able to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in theaters (I missed the third movie while it was in theaters, but have it on DVD) because these films were so incredible to watch on a big screen. The adaptation of the book was really well done, though I’m not certain an entire trilogy was necessary—the structure of the book seemed more like a two-parter. At any rate, it’s one of my favorite adaptations.

The Hunger Games

I’ve only seen the first two films in the quartet (for no other reason than neglecting to see them in theaters at the time, always forgetting, and just never remembering to pick them up on DVD), but I’ve read all three books, and The Hunger Games is one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen and certainly the best YA adaptation. It’s so perfectly adapted, getting everything just right, being as faithful as possible to the source material, having a really awesome style, and having some killer performances, especially from Jennifer Lawrence. Though, as a film, I enjoyed the second one more, but as an adaptation, the winner is the first in the series.

A Single Man

After hearing about the film starring Colin Firth, I read A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood one summer day and liked it—but then I saw the film and loved it so much more than the book. The film is very stylistic and Colin Firth’s performance is incredible and heartbreaking and I could watch it again and again. Honestly, it’s the rare occasion where the adaptation is several times better than the original book.

The Magicians

The Magicians is one of the coolest, fun shows on television right now. It’s funny and magical and disturbingly creepy at times—it’s like all the best parts of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia but for adults. It’s based on a trilogy of books by Lev Grossman, and though I haven’t read them yet, I have the first and plan on reading it this year. This is the only adaptation on my list that I haven’t read yet, but because I love the show so much, I’m assuming I’ll love the books even more.

Atonement

As one of my favorite films of all time, Atonement definitely needs to be mentioned even though I’ve never read the book—though I plan on it! The film is beautiful; every scene, every shot is stunning. And the performances are incredible—Keira Knightly does some of her best work, as does James McAvoy, and Romola Garai gives one of my favorite supporting performances—and of course Saoirse Ronan is so young and so brilliant in the film it astounds me. Everything from the style, the era, the score—which I still regularly listen to—is just perfect to me. And I’m sure the book will be just as incredible.

Dietary Changes + Weight Loss

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to eat vegetarian, or at least partially. And recently, I’ve been wanting to go vegan (or at least try to get to like 90% of the food and meals I consume to be vegan). However, still living with my parents, who buy most-to-all of the food, made it more difficult—even having the items in the house made it easier to just say “forget it” and eat meat again.

Then, about two months ago, my parents wanted to start eating more healthy (as a family, we never really ate terribly, just not very well) and together, we decided to start eating more plant-based foods, bringing in more vegetables and fruits into our diet, and less meat and dairy. I took it as an opportunity to start transitioning slowly to pescatarian, with the goal of trying out being vegan afterward, and so I have taken over all the meal planning and cooking for the last two months.

So far, it’s been going really well. We’ve cut out beef and pork almost completely from our diet (we have free days, where we care less about what we eat, and sometimes whatever we have left in the freezer, from before our change, is eaten) and we have chicken occasionally. We have eaten fish the most out of all the meats. I know that cutting out beef is the best for helping the environment, so that’s what I want to really focus on cutting out completely. But as someone who still likes meat, who still occasionally craves it, I’m not willing to never ever eat it again. Even while trying out being vegan, I’m probably going to end up having at least one burger, even if it’s just once a year on my birthday—I don’t think I’d be capable of going 100%. But I think that’s okay. For now, I’m just going to be putting in the effort to reduce the amount of meat I consume. Maybe I’ll get to a point where 100% vegan fits with me, maybe I’ll find it just won’t work. Giving it a chance is something I think is best.

During the change, we have eaten eggs a lot during the last two months. I still love cheese but we’ve eaten very little dairy, and I don’t miss it or crave it like I used to—and regular dairy milk just grosses me out now. The other vegan thing I think I would struggle with is honey. It’s easily substituted, I know, so I want to work on it, but it’s often the cheapest option at the store (agave is almost twice as expensive and real maple syrup is way way way too expensive, and I don’t want to buy the artificial stuff.) A few obstacles, but I think the transition will be easy as long as I go slow and not worry so much about not following the “rules” exactly, just be more mindful of what I’m consuming.

Because of these changes—along with going for a one to two mile walk everyday—of eating more vegetables, less meat, and almost no dairy, I’ve lost twenty pounds in just a few months (some of that loss was before the dietary changes, but most was after). So, for now, I don’t think I can call myself anything yet. I’m not vegetarian, definitely not (yet) vegan, and only occasionally pescatarian. But it’s a start. And I’m really happy with that for now, especially because I can now wear shirts and pants I haven’t been able to in a while. I’m really excited to start living a more healthy, active life—one that will hopefully, one day, no longer do harm to animals.