2019: Goals Wrap-Up + Autumn Favorites

I haven’t posted in a while! I never got around to posting my end of the year wrap-up in December or even my favorites post for Autumn (I’m just going to sneak them into this post.) I’ve been busy with a few changes happening in my life! It’s all good things, but definitely time consuming.

Let’s give a quick rundown of 2019. This past year has been what I like to call a transition year. At the end of 2018, the small family business I had started with my mother was tabled for the foreseeable future, as she wanted to get into real estate (which she has done now and is doing great!) but that left me with only doing freelance graphic design and little else. I had bills to pay and since I hadn’t been freelancing full time, I needed to take a job this past summer at my grandmother’s restaurant. One that I hadn’t worked at in years. It felt like a huge step backward in my life. I’ve had three major bouts of depression in my life and the months of February-April 2019 were one of them — though not nearly as severe as the other two. But there all the same.

But that spring, I’d started to realize that design was, though I do like it and I’m relatively good at it, it wasn’t my passion. Actually, this isn’t news. I’ve always wanted to be a novelist (among other things) but always, always a writer since I was twelve. That’s always come first. Design is more of a job I have for now. It’s always been my plan to go to school for design and then work on my novels and eventually transition once my books were published (if that were to ever happen.) And because I’d been learning about linguistics, it quickly became apparent that literature and language is what I’m passionate about. It always has been. Even when I didn’t know it.

So, as I said in a previous post, my plan is to go back to school to get a bachelor’s degree in literature and linguistics. I’m very specifically interested in translation and philology. (I’d always thought that someday I would go back to get a BA, in design or something else, I just didn’t know when and I had no real plans.) So after all of what had happened, I’ve set my sights on actually doing it. I’m applying as a transfer in the next few weeks to several schools that I’ve been looking at. I’m going to have to move fairly far (none of the colleges near me has linguistics programs) and find a remote job (in design, lol) that will be flexible enough for my schedule. It’s all very exciting and very nerve-wracking. But mostly exciting.

And because of all this, my goals that I’d decided earlier on no longer felt right. I still accomplished some! But for the most part, I was just going through the motions for most of this year.

Anyway, here’s how I did on my goals for the year of 2019:

Design

I’ve been doing some freelance work (though very little, and almost none in the last 6 months of 2019) but because my focus for the year shifted and I had to get a job in the summer, I really sort of just let that slide right by. I mean, I’m still available to do freelance work, I just haven’t been trying to get any new clients. My plan to open an online shop for stuff that I design, specifically stationery, has once again come and gone. I set this goal nearly every year, and though this part of design still appeals to me, I’m not sure how much time I’ll be able to invest in it. It’s actually still something I’d like to do, just not now. Maybe in the future once things have settled down a bit (ha ha.) Doing a personal design project every week went really well for the first few months until I completely stopped. It was nice to add some things to my portfolio, but after a while, I was bored with it. And again, my mind-set shifted for the whole year after we shut down the business.

  • freelance work
  • plan to open online shop
  • 1 personal design project a week (52) – 20/52 completed. yikes lol

Reading

LOL this one is truly hilarious because I haven’t read this little since 2013! I only read 18 books. And a good portion of them were short and/or graphic novels. I just wasn’t in it this year. I didn’t even complete the Reading Rush and I only set out to read 5 instead of the usual 7. So I definitely didn’t read more often and I DEFINITELY didn’t complete any series/trilogies. Even MORE hilarious, is that I didn’t even finish ONE series or trilogy. I started a NEW trilogy and then DIDN’T start the last book and now it’s just floating out there, waiting for me to finish yet another series. That’s the OPPOSITE of why I’d set that goal!!!

  • read 52 books
  • complete trilogies/series
  • read more often
  • Reading Rush (formerly BookTube-A-Thon) (I mean, I participated, so I’m giving myself this one. LOL)

Books Read in 2019:

  • Vengeful by VE Schwab – ★★★★☆
  • The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket – ★★★★☆
  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson – ★★★★★
  • The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson – ★★★★★
  • The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket – ★★★★☆
  • White Cat by Holly Black – ★★★☆☆
  • The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket – ★★★★☆
  • Red Glove by Holly Black – ★★★☆☆
  • Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K Vaughan – ★★★★☆
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf – ★★★★★
  • The Circle by Dave Eggers – ★★★★☆
  • Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince by VE Schwab – ★★★★☆
  • The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab – ★★★★☆
  • East of West, Vol. 4 by Jonathan Hickman – ★★★★☆
  • The Walking Dead, Vol. 10 by Robert Kirkman – ★★★★☆
  • The Magician King by Lev Grossman – ★★★★☆
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – ★★★★★

Writing

I didn’t finish the draft from NaNoWriMo 2018 and I FAILED MISERABLY at NaNoWriMo 2019. I did outline the new fantasy series, for the most part. That’s it. Never even worked on any of the other projects either. I just….it was a ROUGH YEAR okay? hahahaha

  • finish NaNoWriMo ’18 draft
  • NaNoWriMo ’19 (giving myself this one, too, because I FAILED but I PARTICIPATED so I DID IT.)
  • outline fantasy series
  • Thoughtless draft 2

Film

I didn’t watch 30 films. BUT, I went to see FOUR new films in the theater!! (Booksmart, Midsommar, Frozen II, and Little Women). That’s HUGE for me. I’ve posted before that I hardly ever see any at the theater. One year, I didn’t even see a single one. But I did it four times! I love going to the movies! I need to do it more! I did NOT, however, write and shoot a short film. I sort of wrote some pages. I sort of shot some footage. But then it just never came together. And I didn’t even write anything else. Not even a PAGE of the screenplay I wanted to write. I planned it! Just never happened. My whole mind just shifted this year.

  • watch 30 films
  • write/shoot short film
  • write feature-length film

Illustration

I’m actually fairly proud of this one. I completed Inktober! I did 31 days of illustrations and I love how most of them came out. I didn’t do 2 days a month, though, but toward the end of this year I was asked to illustrate a local drug prevention book for 1st and 2nd graders, so that’s fun! I’ve been working on that, so by the end of the year I had been doing quite a lot of it so it probably equaled about as much as I would have done if I had done it a few times a month. So I’m giving it to myself. lol

  • sketching and illustrating 2 days a month
  • Inktober

Health & Fitness

I honestly think that I accomplished walking everyday. I mean, sometimes I couldn’t — raining, traveling, etc. — but for the most part, I walked every day. And I hit 10,000 steps for probably 75% of the days of 2019. That’s so good!!! I didn’t expect to do that well. I did NOT, however, workout three times a week. That died early on and I only got back to it in the later months of the year. I also still have not mastered the art of waking up early. I’m trying, though. Probably a struggle I’ll have forever. I’m just a night owl. It’s in my DNA. 23andMe told me so. I also didn’t drink only 2 sodas a week. I definitely drank more than that, but I didn’t drink any soda in April and I almost completely switched to Diet Coke for the rest of the year (and having only a few a week) and now I’ve completely switched to drinking either sparkling water or Zevia, which is delicious (well, the Ginger Root Beer, Ginger Ale, and Lemon Lime) and only drinking (diet) soda when I eat out (which is rare).

  • walk everyday
  • workout 3x a week
  • go to bed/wake up earlier
  • 2 sodas a week

Other

I didn’t technically accomplish any of these, but I tried. I was enjoying my “intake day” of art a week, but I soon fell into a spiral of depression that left me basically doing that EVERY day and then, again, my life kind of changed a bit so I stopped doing that. But it was helpful at the beginning of the year to go into consumption mode and fill up the creative well. It’s an important part of being a creative person and I still think it’s something I need to remember to do. I didn’t grow my social media following in any way which is completely fine with me. It was a goal in order to achieve other goals and, guess what, my life goals have kind of shifted to something that suits me better and something I want more. So that kind of didn’t work out how I wanted it anyway. All is good there. I was meant to post more regularly here on my blog but I just, quite simply, stopped having the time. It became an after thought. My “Further Learning” series took a backseat as well as I was figuring out what I wanted for my life. But it was a necessary time to figure out, so it was worth it.

  • 1 intake day a week
  • grow social media
  • post regularly on blog
  • further learning – 12 posts

All in all, I think I did all right considering the incredibly difficult life things that occurred!!!

Autumn Favorites

Books:

Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo’s first adult novel is so good and so perfectly tailored just for me. A dark, academic, magic-filled, murder mystery set at Yale? Is Leigh Bardugo inside my brain? How does she know that this is specifically a perfect novel for me? She’s magic. Ninth House is too.

The Magician King – I read the second book in the Magician’s trilogy this fall and loved it just as much — okay, not quite as much — as the first. I don’t think any book will top ever top the first for me. And not because it’s particularly good — I mean, it is but. The first just resonated with me at a certain time of my life and I specifically relate very closely to Quentin Coldwater. So. I just really loved the first book a lot. But The Magician King is just as an incredible journey as the first, although I didn’t like the finale quite as much in this one. The way in which they just…find everything so easily and it just stumbles together didn’t quite work for me. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone if you haven’t read it. Anyway, I’m still in love with this trilogy and can’t wait to read the last book. There are few books or series that I am compelled to reread (in fact, I’ve never reread anything other than the first half of Eragon by Christopher Paolini when I was in the the eighth grade) but I definitely plan on rereading this trilogy by Lev Grossman. Again, just as it is with Ninth House, these books seem very specifically for me, and I love that.

Films:

Frozen II – I have very few things to say about Frozen II except for the fact that it’s incredible and far better than the first one and “Into the Unknown” is a million times better than “Let it Go” and I stand by that with my entire heart and soul. I’m an Elsa stan for life, okay?

Little Women – Hi! I’ve been excited for Little Women since I heard about Greta Gerwig (my favorite writer/director/actress of all time) making it. And the cast? Only Meryl Streep (the greatest actress of all time IN MY OPINION), Emma Watson (one of my favorites), Florence Pugh (literally the greatest actress of this new generation she’s so incredible I can’t breathe, her performances in Lady Macbeth and in Midsommar and in this were unfathomably good, I’ve literally been waiting for her to blow up since 2016), Saoirse Ronan (my favorite young actress since I saw her in one of my favorite films, Atonement), Timothee Chalamet (my current favorite actor), and Louis Garrel (my favorite French actor since I was thirteen). THAT’S ALL. I WASN’T EXCITED AT ALL. And to top it all off, this film was perfect. It was so beautiful and I cried so much and laughed and felt warm the entire time watching it. Greta killed it. She MURDERED IT. Saoirse is always so good but the real bright spot was Florence Pugh’s performance as Amy. Her range of playing both a 12 year old girl and a 20 year old woman is astounding, and she plays her with such humor that even when you hate Amy, you love her. This film was the perfect cherry on top of 2019.

Music:

“Northern Lights” by Death Cab for Cutie – Once in a while, I’ll hear a new(ish) song from a band that I previously listened to quite heavily but fell out of sync with — I don’t dislike their music now or anything, they just aren’t on my radar. But I heard Northern Lights and fell back in love with them.

dodie – Both her recent singles “Boys Like You” and “Guiltless” are such good songs. Her voice is so light and beautiful and every song I’ve listened to of hers, I’m just like, “Yes. Good. Another.” Love it.

“Freaking Out the Neighborhood” by Mac DeMarco – Thanks to Nicole Rafiee on YouTube, I’ve been listening to some Mac DeMarco and his song “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” became my favorite song of 2019. I couldn’t stop listening to it for the last five months of the year. I just couldn’t stop. It made it on to every weekly/monthly playlist. It’s so good.

Phoebe Bridgers – Phoebe’s album Stranger in the Alps is just one of the most beautiful albums I’ve ever heard. Favorites tracks on it are: “Funeral,” “Motion Sickness,” and “Smoke Signals.” Also am I the only one who mentally mixes up the names Phoebe Bridgers and Phoebe Waller Bridge? lol

Moonshine by Caravan Palace – This song is so fun and upbeat and I really like the sound of it. It’s one of my new favorite songs of all time. I typically listen to darker, depressing music but occasionally a bop will sneak its way into my favorites and this one did.

Television:

Stumptown – Full disclosure, I haven’t watched more than the first two episodes of this show. I’ve been recording the rest on my DVR because I just had Too! Many! Shows! last fall to keep track of. But of what I saw was really great! Cobie Smulders is great in it and I’m excited to continue to watch her carry such a fun, but dark drama like Stumptown.

And here, a general review of the year 2019/the past decade that I posted on Instagram stories:

All right! That’s it! A complete recap of my 2019 and the last post about my favorites of the year.

I Failed at NaNoWriMo 2019 and It’s Okay

That’s right. I failed. I didn’t reach 50,000. I wasn’t even close.

For the last three years (2016, 2017, and 2018), I have been successful at the November event of National Novel Writing Month, where me and thousands of others attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I’ve participated in other years before (I think the first was in 2010 or 2011) but had never even reached 10,000 in the first few attempts. But I began to take it more seriously and was successful for 3 years in a row!

And then this year happened.

My final word count was 28,463 words. This is just over half of the goal.

And you know what? I’m okay with that. I just wasn’t in it this year. Since I’m planning on going back to school next fall, I probably won’t have time to do NaNoWriMo again for…4 years? 6 years? Who knows. So I definitely went out with a fizzle rather than a bang. But that’s okay. I can’t do everything.

I do know where I went wrong this year, though. It was a combination of many things, circumstances both in my control and out of.

First things first, I just did Inktober all October long. I was exhausted.

I started a new job/volunteer work (which isn’t that much, but it was still an addition).

My mother’s back went out and I needed to help her for over a week, so I was just too tired to write anything some days.

I hadn’t properly outlined this novel as I usually do (because of Inktober) so I was lost. It took twice as long to write anything when I did have the time.

Thanksgiving landed on the LAST weekend of November. I never write during Thanksgiving because it’s just too busy of a time and, therefore, I always end up writing the last 10-15,000 words within the last few days. But I couldn’t, because those last few days were THANKSGIVING MADNESS.

This novel wasn’t ready to be written. I’ve been thinking about it for a year, which is sometimes just enough time to write, but sometimes it’s not. And because I didn’t outline anything in October, nothing was ready. I was pantsing it far more than I like to and it just wasn’t coming naturally to me. I need an outline. I can’t write what I don’t know yet. It just doesn’t work in my brain.

And that’s that.

Just a mess of a month. I love NaNoWriMo. It’s so much fun and any excuse to force myself to write, to carve out the time, to explain to people “I’m doing this weird contest thing so I have to write stop talking to me oh god please let me leave” makes it a lot easier to say no, I’m up for. But this year just wasn’t my year. And it’s okay! I don’t need to win every year! It’s actually for the best, because the novel I was working on just wasn’t working. It needs more time to simmer in the ole noodle.

So, that’s my NaNoWriMo 2019 story. I failed and it’s fine.

I’d love to say, “on to next year!” but I don’t know if I’m going to participate again for a long time. It’s sad that my last year for a while wasn’t a win but it’s just what needed to happen, I guess. The stars, and all that.

2019 Goals: Reevaluation and Changes

It’s that time of year again, where I reevaluate my entire life and decide to change my goals for the year. It’s fine, I’m fine, everything’s fine.

So let’s do a quick recap of the goals I’ve set at the beginning of 2019 and where I’m at.

Design

  • freelance work (I’m still chugging along, always in the need of more clients)
  • plan to open online shop (this is a slow process that I’ve been procrastinating on but I think I’m going to focus more on it soon)
  • 1 personal design project a week (52) (I’ve done about 20 so far, having a bit of a hectic June/July, but I think I’ll get back to it)

Writing

  • finish NaNoWriMo ’18 draft (good LORD, this book is long and I haven’t had many days to focus on writing it)
  • NaNoWriMo ’19 (coming in November!)
  • outline fantasy series (I have been doing this and it’s been swell! outline isn’t totally done but I have mostly outlined the big picture arc of the series and the first book’s full outline to write during this year’s NaNoWriMo!)
  • Thoughtless (a book I should be writing) (lololol)

Reading

  • read 52 books (lololol, I’ve honestly been trying to read more I swear – I’ve read 9 thus far, but Reading Rush is happening now and I always read more later in the year it’s fine it’s fine I’m fine everything’s fine)
  • complete trilogies/series (literally forgot this was a goal, but I haven’t really done this yet at all, but I have a few second and third books to read, so maybe?)
  • read more often (I’m trying, okay?)
  • Reading Rush (formerly BookTube-A-Thon) (happening as I type this!!!)

Film

  • watch 30 films (I’m about halfway there, which is great! TWO already in theaters!)
  • write/shoot short film (in process of writing, will decide if I want to shoot it in August???)
  • write feature-length film (probably this fall)

Illustration

  • sketching and illustrating 2 days a month (nah, man I don’t have the capacity – I think my time with illustration has come to an end, I’ve reached my peak, I can’t get any better without more focus and time but it’s all good)
  • Inktober (still doing this because it’s fun!!!)

Health & Fitness

  • walk everyday (have been doing great!!!!)
  • workout 3x a week (lol was doing well but stopped for a few months but back on it!!!)
  • go to bed/wake up earlier (kind of? 7am average is early, right?)
  • 2 sodas a week (I gave this up looooong before April even began but I have to say, most of the sodas I drink now – which the number has gone down significantly, but nowhere near 2 a week – are diet, which ain’t great for me but I’m trying)

Other

  • 1 intake day a week (was doing this for a while and loved it but I think an hour a day would be better? it just didn’t fit within my schedule)
  • grow social media (I’m trying but no one likes me it’s not my fault lol)
  • post regularly on blog (I have been doing this! if you read these posts, you probably could tell. I doubt it though, I see the traffic on this blog and it’s looooow but still!)
  • further learning – 12 posts (killin’ this, I love it so much and this is a great segue….)

There’s been some changes happening in my life, over the last year or so. I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it, and I have come to the decision that I want to go back to school.

That’s right! Back to college. Back to the book learning. Since doing “Further Learning” on this blog, I’ve realized how much I love learning and how much I love learning about language, specifically. I don’t know for sure, but I’ve been thinking about going back to school for Linguistics and/or English and creative writing. Maybe something else. I haven’t nailed anything down yet. (I’ve been looking at schools and doing some research about it, though. It’s weird being a “non-traditional student” going to school later in life at 26. There’s so many questions and it’s not easy to navigate.) But I miss school. I regret not going to college formally. I need a big, wonderful change in my life.

For a few years now, I’ve been feeling restless, feeling like my life has hit a weird stand-still. That stagnant, static life of mine burst to life briefly last summer when the opportunity to live in Spain for just under a year came about. It was exciting and terrifying and I felt like, Ah, yes, finally, my life is about to start. But when that fell through, and the small business I was co-running decided to (maybe temporarily) shut down, I felt that same static feeling wash over me again. I’m just here. Waiting and wanting and unhappy about it.

It took me a while to realize that I don’t have to wait. I don’t have to want. I can do, I can seize. All I have to do is pick myself up and do it. And I’m tired of feeling like I can’t do the things I want.

So I’m going to. It’s going to take some time. I don’t know when school would be happening. I need to figure out all of that and figure out my life as I work toward getting there, because I still need money and to work in the mean time.

That’s my new goal for this year. The main goal. And I’m excited and terrified and it feels great.

Designing a Book Cover

Hello there! For the last few months, I’ve been setting aside some time to design book covers to add to my portfolio because it’s something I’d love to do for self-publishing authors (if you are one and would like to work together, please send a message through the contact page on my website here) because I love doing it. Most of the covers I do are of already published books, usually something I’ve read or is a favorite of mine. I redesign them for fun and to put up on my portfolio, but for this cover, I did something a little different.

This time, I first found the original stock photo while searching around on Storyblocks and wanted to build a cover around it. So, this cover is not of a real book nor is Nathan Patterson a real author. I made it all up to fit around the concept, kind of reversing what I usually do. I wanted to do more fantasy and more work with photography rather than vector art, which is what I usually do, and thought I’d share the design process for this particular cover.

First, as I said, I found the image that I wanted to work with. It’s a stock image a photographer has available on Storyblocks that immediately made the gears in my head start to turn.

There were a few things that I wanted to edit and fix of the original: the fold in the fabric close to eye needed to be smoothed, the contact lenses the girl are wearing are a bit crooked, and I wanted to smooth out the fabric in general so that it didn’t look quite so cheap-looking (this was done later, so not shown below). So those were the first steps. I achieved these tweaks in Photoshop.

Below, you’ll see that editing out the folded-up part near her eye doesn’t look perfect, which I knew would be okay because I was going to be doing more work on it.

After that, I took the photo into Lightroom just to play around with the coloring and shadows to make it look darker and less bright and green in the background (on the left). Then, I brought back into Photoshop to continue editing to smooth out her skin, darken her eye makeup, and smooth out the fabric to look less like velvet (on the right).

Once the photo was where I wanted it, I continued in Photoshop to add more effects. This included darkening more of the background to even it out, coloring her contacts to be blue, and adding this stock image texture I found, which reminds me of metallic eye shadow or something. After applying the texture over it, I erased it just around the eyes so that they would still pop and not be too covered up.

One thing that I wanted to try, was having a smoke/fire/magic-looking effect around the text of the title. After much trial and error, I was able to achieve the desired effect by removing all the black from the original smoke image in Photoshop, then digitally erasing and painting in several layers of the text in order to make it appear as though it is within the smoke, not just on top of it or behind it.

And there it be! I’m very excited with how it turned out. This was my first design using many of these techniques and the first I’ve ever done using a photo of a person, too. I pushed myself to go beyond my usual style and comfort zone, and I’m glad I did!

Here are some more covers I’ve done:

Again, if you’d like to work with me, whether it be for a cover design or something else, visit my website and use the contact page to ask any questions you’d like!

The Opposite of Writer’s Block

I don’t actually believe in “Writer’s Block” but that’s an entirely different post that I plan on writing about. (I originally went very off topic with this post and decided to cut it and make it a separate post.)

Today, I’m going to talk about the opposite of “Writer’s Block” and that’s the glorious, wonderful (if not a little ironically frustrating) time when I have too many ideas. When my brain is bountiful with words and characters and worlds that I just can’t keep from bubbling out of me—and how I shut that shit down, because I have to focus on one thing at a time, dammit.

I’m not good at multitasking. Well, I’m average at it. But when it comes to writing, there’s now way I can keep multiple projects in my head. I mean, I can keep multiple ideas up in there—snippets and pieces. But, eventually, I have to get them down. Especially when I’m going through that wonderful time of having too many ideas because it’s just so much clutter. I’ll forget things. I’ll merge stories. Characters from one story will pop up in another. The detective will suddenly discover that the murder victim was killed by the fire-bending vampire who’s been secretly in love with the detective ever since they met at spy school. Wait…*writes this down*

Anyway, with too many ideas, I need to get them all down and accounted for. And this is how I do it:

Because I use the program Scrivener (for reals, it’s the best) I can have one file for all ideas and projects I want to work on soon. For example, since January, I’ve been developing ideas for…

  • A new fantasy series, but specifically the first book to write during NaNoWriMo 2019.
  • A full-length film script about MY LIFE. It’s a comedy…ish. Only semi-autobiographical.
  • Another full-length film script about ALIENS. It’s a thriller.
  • ANOTHER full-length film script about a FAMILY. It’s DRAMATIC.
  • And, yet, ANOTHER full-length film script about MURDER. It’s another thriller.
  • A short film that I can’t produce with such a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (just me).
  • Another short film that isn’t really an idea yet, I just want to make one this year with a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (still just me lol). I used to make these a lot right out of high school and miss doing it.

Plus, I’m working on 1) the book I started during NaNoWriMo 2018, trying to finish it and 2) the book I’m supposed to be working on as “the book” that I haven’t touched in, like, a year. I Marie Kondo’d that shit. IT DOESN’T SPARK JOY RIGHT NOW, SO I PUT IT AWAY UNTIL IT DOES.

So HOW DO I KEEP ALL THESE STRAIGHT AND TIDY IN MY BRAIN?

I cry a lot.

Just kidding, I don’t. I mean, yes, I cry a lot. But I don’t keep them all in my brain!

I have a Scrivener (#NotSpon) (lol like anyone would sponsor this blog) file with all of these ideas. I set it up like this: I have one text document (and you can do this with Word or Docs with just different files in a folder on your computer, whatevs, nbd) with a MASTER LIST of all of these projects. It’s just a list of the projects (by title or short description) and projects that are completed are highlighted in yellow. The project that I’m actively working on, I highlight in blue. Projects that I have yet to start on are not highlighted with any color and projects that are outlined-but-not-yet-completed are highlighted in green.

Then, I have other text documents within that file (or if you don’t have Scrivener, just within a folder) for each of these projects. This is a dumping ground. Any time I have an idea or a thought or anything that I can’t have in my head about the project, I plop it in that text document. Sometimes there’s just a few lines, maybe a paragraph. One of them, I have an entire outline started. It’s just everything I need to get down to get it out of my head.

And it’s all in one, nice and tidy place!

So what is this magical time of having too many ideas called? The opposite of “Writer’s Block”? Let’s call it…Writer’s Flow? Creative Fulfillment? Magic Time? Heaven? Maybe it doesn’t need a name. It’s a great time, though.

Writer’s Block Is Fixable

Occasionally, like most writers, I periodically suffer from something known as “Writer’s Block.” But listen, it’s not real. Okay it is real, but it’s not what you think.

Hear me out — I just think that it’s an over-used term that’s often romanticized as this “You don’t understand! It’s too difficult! My muse has left me! I shan’t go on!” [proceeds to dramatically faint, landing on a chaise with one arm draped over forehead] kind of thing. As if it’s something that just falls upon you like an illness.

But listen! That’s not what it is! And it’s easily fixable!!!

If you’re struggling from writer’s block, it’s not because an evil Cupid-like demonbaby shot you with an anti-idea arrow. You shot yourself with that arrow. Because a lack of idea comes from a lack of something else in your life. You need sustenance. You need sleep. You need a break. You need inspiration, that “muse” you claim left you. So go get it back.

I mean, the problem is simple: you are creatively, mentally, or physically drained (or a combination of the three) so you’re unable to write. The answer: you need to fill your creative well by stepping away and reading or absorbing some other art; take a break and breathe and/or meditate; or go for a walk, stretch, exercise, sleep, eat something, and/or drink some water (or a combination of all of it). It’s usually a combination of all of it. Sometimes, as someone who deals with mental health problems, it was my depression and/or anxiety getting in the way. That’s a whole other issue, but working through those hurdles is just as important.

The point is, your writer’s block is a symptom of a different problem.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been writing for almost eleven years and I have not once felt like I had “writer’s block” as it’s often described. I, of course, go through spurts where I don’t have any ideas or I can’t seem to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) or I just don’t want to write because it’s become something that no longer makes me happy. So, instead of staring at the empty computer screen or notebook page, I do as I mentioned above. I’m usually creatively drained and need to fill my creative well. I read, watch a film, go to an art gallery. Or I’ve been at the computer too long and I need to go for a walk. Sometimes that fills the well, too! I just go outside, walk through the woods a bit. Something will come. Something always comes.

BONUS: Sometimes none of the above works. Sometimes. And I can tell you exactly what that is — or, at least, what it’s been for me. Because none of those things worked, I knew that it was the story. It wasn’t ready to be written. It needed to simmer in my brain more. I needed to put it away and work on something else.

But even still — the block wasn’t the problem. It was the symptom and I needed to work it out.

TO RECAP, “Writer’s Block” is a symptom of something else. It’s not the cause itself. And, most of the time, you can work through it. You can fix the problem by troubleshooting. Water? Rest? Creative dry spell? Take care of it. Move on.

Now, go forth and write and write and write. But don’t forget those breaks. And don’t forget to refill your creative well by reading and watching and listening. Then write some more.

Recent Design Projects

Hi! So I’ve been trying to do more design work outside of work like I talked about in this post. I’ve been really enjoying just designing and creating some digital art just for the hell of it. Here’s some stuff that I’ve been working on:

So, I’ve been working on alternate book covers for some of my favorite books to put up on my portfolio because designing book covers for self-published authors or for publishing houses is something that I want to do. I’ve been working on a few more but I have finished one that I’m in love with, and that’s an alternate cover for the book Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. It’s about Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed for murder in the early 1800s Iceland. I’d wanted to feature the setting and tone of the book, using the imagery of vultures circling the farm house in which Agnes was forced to stay before her execution date, signifying her impending death.

This trio was simply doing an exercise. I just needed a refresher and some practice with layers and effects, and especially wanted to work out how to do a metallic effect. It’s not perfect here, but I like how these three image turned out.

I saw a tweet about Mary Shelley, saying how she was both a cool gothic teen and a revolutionary author who invented a genre with Frankenstein. I thought, Yeah that’s right, she’s my homegirl. Then, I thought about the “Mary is my Homegirl” t-shirt with the Virgin Mary on it. These two things merged in my brain for a second. I laughed out lout. Mary Shelley is my Homegirl. And I really, truly, desperately wanted a shirt with that on it. But none had been created yet. I was upset but only for a moment because I realized — UH, I COULD MAKE ONE? So I did and she’s amazing and I gave her a little skull necklace. It’s my first, like, illustrative design so it’s not perfect but I’m really proud of her anyway.

If you happen to be as weird as I and love this little design I made, I have the shirt up on Redbubble for myself to order and I’m just going to keep it there for anyone else who likes it.

I’ve been toying with the idea of an online shop for a while, so I’ve been slowly trying to build a social media presence and designing products that I want to sell. I have a whole big plan and everything, but I’ve just been working on some pieces casually for now. One such pieces is a calendar that I’m real excited about. So far, a few months have been completed but I recently finished “January” and I love it.

And lastly, I played with animation for the first time in a LONG time. I took an animation/motion graphics class in design school, but never really bothered with it since. But as I was working on the calendar’s page for “February,” I started to like the way I was maniplating some of the shapes and thought, “Woah, this would be cool if I saved each change as an image and animated it frame by frame.” So I did and it’s not, like, the coolest thing in the world as I’d imagined (lol) but I still think it’s neat. I think I’ll try to do more of it because it was a lot of fun. I’d love to be able to work out more complicated ones. Anyway, here’s a short clip. (Literally like two seconds lol.)

And that’s it! These are all the little projects I’ve been working on outside of work and thought I’d share!

✌🏻

Writing: Current Works in Progress and Goals

So, I’ve talked a lot about my writing here. I’ve stated over and over that I’ve decided to change directions and write something different. Well, for once, that’s not what I’m going to talk about! I’m sticking with the current book, Thoughtless, which I’ve posted about before. For this post, I just want to talk about all of my writing projects for a bit and my goals for the new year. I already posted about my goals for the year, but I wanted to dive deeper into each project, what they’re about, and what I want to accomplish with each in 2019.

Let’s just start chronologically, which projects I’m going to working on and when. There’s some overlap with most, but for the most part, a large chunk of the year will be dedicated to each project. I tend to write like this anyway. The seasons changing always get me in the mood to write one particular project or another.

First and foremost, I need to finish the first draft of the book I participated in NaNoWriMo 2018 with. That’s the first goal. It’s the story of a fake family of thieves who move from town to town, stealing from their rich neighbors in an elaborate series of heists. I had such a blast starting and writing the first 50,000 words, but I believe that it’s just over halfway, and I want to finish it between now and the end of March.

Second, I’m working on the book I’ve been working on for a few years off and on, tentatively titled Thoughtless. It’s a science fiction story set in the future about a young woman becoming the youngest police officer, joining the Force, in a world in which humans have evolved to be able to read minds. I’m planning to work on Thoughtless throughout this year. I originally wrote the first draft of this book many years ago, I think in 2013? And I reworked a lot of the plot last year, slowly rewriting it ever since. I’m hoping to finish this second draft by the end of the summer.

Third, I’ve been itching since October to start a new fantasy series. I came up with the idea, which is less of an idea and more of a set of parameters (a long series, same length for each book [I like the idea of a fantasy series that doesn’t grow exponentially in length with each addition], an interesting complex magic system, and a magic school that isn’t like other’s I’ve read). That’s literally what I was thinking about when I came up with the series. I usually have a character, an idea of a plot, something. But no, I just wanted to write the perfect fantasy series for me to read. The plot and characters came much later–I still don’t know entirely what the series is about. I have a few vague ideas. So, I want to outline the series/first book this winter because…

Fourth, I plan on writing the first book for NaNoWriMo 2019! I’m incredibly excited. I’m obsessed with this fantasy series in my head. It’s not a particularly original idea, yet. It’s sort of a basic fantasy concept, but the more I research and start delving in, the richer it’s becoming.

Fifth, I want to write another script for a full-length film. I wrote one last year and enjoyed the process a lot. Writing a film is so different from writing a novel, but I’ve been an aspiring filmmaker for as long as I’ve been an aspiring author — I just love telling stories, in either form. Not only do I want to write another full-length film, I want to write and hopefully shoot a short film this year, too. I don’t have any idea what the short will be about, but I have the story worked out for the full-length one already. It’s another sci-fi, like last year’s, but an entirely different tone and way of telling the story. To begin with, the idea is that it would be a real-time, two hours of a single mother dealing with an invasion of some humanoid creatures of undetermined (by me; I can’t make up my mind) origin and fighting to save her kids. I see it so vividly in my head. I just want to watch it.

That’s the key to writing, for me. I always write what I want to read or see.

So those are all my current writing projects and what I plan to work on this year. I hope I can accomplish it all. A year seems so long and promising until it’s December in the blink of an eye, doesn’t it?

2019: New Year | New Goals

2019 is a brand new year! I’m a big believer in setting goals, not resolutions, and working toward accomplishing tasks rather than setting out to make “big changes” in my life. Last year was rough and, even though I don’t like resolutions, I do like the blank, clean slate a restarting of the calendar can give, even if it’s kind of arbitrary.

Last year, I tried to do too many categories with too many goals to keep up with. I tried splitting my time as evenly as possible between them and realized that some things aren’t as necessary for me to focus on. And I’ve been doing a “monthly focus” where I focus on one thing more than the other each month, but found myself not devoting enough time to each. So this year, I want to focus on three more than that others. My main focuses will be design, reading, and writing — three things that suffered last year, along with everything else, even though they’re more important. I’ll be doing less illustration practice and simplifying my health and fitness goals, but keeping film on the same level. I’ll break it all down below.

Here are the goals I’m setting for 2019:

Design

This year, I’m going to be continuing freelancing on the side — especially in the first few months, as I’m getting a large break from my main source of income with the small business I co-run until summer. So I’ll be focusing on doing more freelance design jobs this winter/spring. With that, I’m hoping to work more toward opening an online store of products (like cards, stationery, prints, etc.) with my designs. It was a goal last year, but I didn’t have the time, and now I have some so I would love to get it going — many steps before that happens, however. With that, I want to start doing some of these designs, and others, outside of work — like the book covers I did for practice/fun a few years ago. I want to do more, with a goal of one a week to keep my creativity going between freelance work.

  • freelance work
  • plan to open online shop
  • 1 personal design project a week (52)

Reading

I never read as much as a I want to. I want to change that. That’s why reading is one of the main goals I have this year. It’s so important for me, not just as a writer, but as a person, to read more. It’s something I love. I’m setting my Goodreads goal for 52 books. I know, I know — if you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’ve done this before and every year, I don’t get anywhere near 50. But I want to focus more on reading specifically. So I hope I can do it. If I just double my reading time this year, I’ll make it. I also want to return to some old reading lists — I have several series and trilogies that I’d just like to finish or continue.

  • read 52 books
  • complete trilogies/series
  • read more often
  • Reading Rush (formerly BookTube-A-Thon)

Writing

This year, my goals for writing are pretty much the same. With NaNoWriMo 2018, though I wrote 50,000 words and completed the challenge, the book itself is far from finished and I’d like to complete it. I’d also like to do NaNoWriMo again this year, outline a new fantasy series that I’ve been thinking a lot about, and continue to work on the book I’ve been working on — or supposed to be working on — Thoughtless.

  • finish NaNoWriMo ’18 draft
  • NaNoWriMo ’19
  • outline fantasy series
  • Thoughtless

Film

I’m more or less keeping my goals for film the same. Instead of wanting to see 25 new (to me) films, I’m going for 30, which shouldn’t be an issue at all because I was able to do 25 easily last year. I’d also still like to do a small, short film project — I wrote one two years ago that I love, but it’s not a feasible film to create on my own — and write another feature-length film, as I did last year.

  • watch 30 films
  • write/shoot short film
  • write feature-length film

Illustration

I’m doing a total change to my illustration practice. I’ve been steadily better in the last few years, which is great, but I’ve been taking too much time focusing on it. Last year, sketching a few times a week, everyday for two separate months, and doing several full-color illustrations a month was two much. This year, I’m going to just do two days a month where I sketch and illustrate for a few hours, and do Inktober with daily prompts. Much more doable with everything else and I think I’ll like it more, as I was getting frustrated that I had to do it every week instead of wanting to.

  • sketching and illustrating 2 days a month
  • Inktober

Health & Fitness

For health and fitness, I’m going to continue to walk everyday — though, the last two months of 2018 were spent doing nothing — and working out 3 times a week. I’d also still like to try to get up earlier and so far, I’ve been slowly going to be earlier to do so (skipping New Years Eve festivities and going to be early helped set that habit and realign my sleep schedule). I’m adding, however, a tracker in my bullet journal on how much soda I drink –both diet and the occasional regular — and would like to limit myself to about two a week instead of the one, sometimes two, a day. I already had three this week, so I’m not doing great, but if I could do without it for the Whole30 for a few weeks last January, I think I can do it.

  • walk everyday
  • workout 3x a week
  • go to bed/wake up earlier
  • 2 sodas a week

Other

I have a few stragglers for the year that I’m adding here. This year, I want to take one work day each week (I work six days, Mon-Sat) and devote it to solely intake, filling my creative well. Whether that’s watching a film, reading, going to a museum, going for a walk, etc. — just stepping back from outputting and creating, and making sure to absorb (this will obviously help with my reading and film watching goals). This is so important as a creative, and I think sometimes I forget — and wonder why I occasionally have a creative block when working. Another thing is, I’d like to grow my social media following more — I’d like connect more with people and grow my numbers before opening my online shop. I plan on posting the designs I’m doing more often and be more engaged than I have previously. Not only just on social media, but here on this blog. I want to post more and be more active here. Speaking of, another goal is to post about my further learning journey that I posted about a while ago. I’m learning a lot about language right now and want to move on to Greek mythology later this year. My goal is post once a month about things I’ve learned, things I’ve found interesting.

  • 1 intake day a week
  • grow social media
  • post regularly on blog
  • further learning – 12 posts

As I said, I also like to choose a specific month to focus on these goals more than the others. I find it helps, especially with something like NaNoWriMo and Inktober. It makes it easier to let a few things slide and focus on just one each month.

  • Jan: Design (plan + research for shop, freelance)
  • Feb: Writing (NaNoWriMo ’18 draft, outline fantasy series)
  • Mar: Reading (5-6 books)
  • Apr: Design (continue planning shop)
  • May: Film (write/shoot short film)
  • Jun: Writing (Thoughtless)
  • Jul: Reading (4-5 books + Reading Rush 7 books)
  • Aug: Film (write feature-length)
  • Sep: Design (open shop?)
  • Oct: Illustration (Inktober)
  • Nov: Writing (NaNoWriMo ’19)
  • Dec: Reading (5-6 books)

Looking at all these goals has me wondering if I should try to choose a few less hobbies. This is normal, right? It probably is. I’m just interested in a lot of stuff. Anyway, those are my goals for the year.

NaNoWriMo 2018

I did it! I won NaNoWriMo for my third year in a row. 

My plan had been to document each week, as I’d done in 2016 and 2017, but this month was far more difficult to juggle everything than I’d thought it would be. But at least I can do this wrap-up post about the month.

I started out strong, for the most part hitting or being just under the target 1,667 daily words. I dropped off for a bit with low numbers and had my first 0 Words Day. I picked it back up again with just one other 0 Words Day until I hit a Thanksgiving Slump, which is usually an okay writing weekend, despite the family dinners and decorating the entire house for Christmas, but this year is was almost nothing written. After Thanksgiving, I made a goal to write at least 2,500/3,000 words a day. And, except for on the 28th when I was just too busy to sit down and write, I did that well. Because of that last 0 Words Day, I only had to write 5,500 words on the last day.

This year’s book was a slightly different book for me, as it wasn’t fantasy, which is what I usually write. Although I tend to write more contemporary stories for NaNoWriMo, I don’t know why. Maybe because they tend to be shorter? Less world building? I probably do that subconsciously. Anyway, this book’s about a trio of thieves pretending to be a family who move from town to town, stealing from their rich neighbors in an elaborate series of heists. It’s a bit comedic, a bit dark. I love the characters and I had blast writing it. Well, writing most of it. 50,000 is obviously not that a long of a book, despite it technically being a novel’s minimum length (I think it’s 45,000 actually). I believe I’m over halfway at 50k, which would bring it to around 90-95,000 at it’s end. I’m not sure when I will continue on with it, as I have other projects in the works already.

Anyway, NaNoWriMo was fun and I can’t wait for next year! 

The Daily Count:
November 1st: 1,769 (1,769)
November 2nd: 1,685 (3,454)
November 3rd: 1,820 (5,274)
November 4th: 1,520 (6,794)
November 5th: 1,905 (8,699)
November 6th: 688 (9,387)
November 7th: 720 (10,107)
November 8th: 0 (10,107)
November 9th: 2,523 (12,630)
November 10th: 969 (13,599)
November 11th: 2,553 (16,152)
November 12th: 1,783 (17,935)
November 13th: 0 (17,935)
November 14th: 1,667 (19,602)
November 15th: 1,817 (21,419)
November 16th: 1,880 (23,299)
November 17th: 1,667 (24,966)
November 18th: 1,667 (26,633)
November 19th: 1,866 (28,499)
November 20th: 0 (28,499)
November 21st: 0 (28,499)
November 22nd: 978 (29,477)
November 23rd: 0 (29,477)
November 24th: 3,000 (32,477)
November 25th: 3,103 (35,580)
November 26th: 2,673 (38,253)
November 27th: 2,585 (40,838)
November 28th: 0 (40,838)
November 29th: 3,662 (44,500)
November 30th: 5,509 (50,009)!!!