I shook the magic random number generator, and the winners of Daisy Yellow Zine #8 are…
Congratulations, winners. Tammy will be contacting you shortly.
I shook the magic random number generator, and the winners of Daisy Yellow Zine #8 are…
Congratulations, winners. Tammy will be contacting you shortly.
One would think that summer would be a time of awesome productivity for me. After all, it’s school vacation!
One would be wrong.
And I’ve finally decided to adjust my expectations to take into account that I get very little writing done in the summer.
For one thing, summer is not a creative season for me–at least not for writing. My stories are ice flowers–they blossom in the darkness of winter nights, the grey chill of a fall day, or in the bluster of an early spring wind. Summer is too big and gorgeous and golden; somehow the overgrowth of vines and weeds, the bloom of showy roses and peonies, sap my creativity rather than inspiring it.
It’s strange, I know, but it is what it is.
Two, the very lack of school-imposed structure, the daily and weekly march of education, works against me. With a summer full of vacations, camps, and swim lessons, every week looks different from the next. The mental adjustments of getting one kid to swim and another to camp, of coordinating pickups and dropoffs, of making sure I have the right kinds of snacks for camp lunches–all of these take up a lot of headspace.
Three, what creativity I have is taken up with planning the upcoming school year. So far, I’ve pored over catalogs, checked a gazillion samples online, scanned through pages of reviews, thought and pondered and talked at poor David, and finally, finally, ordered our books for next year.
And four–my house. Summer is the time to reorganize the pantry, straighten out the school room, go through toys and books and clothes. You know, all the stuff I’ve been avoiding all year, because, well, school.
Four, it’s nice to just relax and have lazy days. To be plain Mom instead of Teacher Mom. To play five games of Forbidden Island in one day or work on puzzle of a dragon on a rock or the Oxford Skyline.
When I start pining to go back to school (feeling that way now), when stories start sneaking into my head, when I feel the loss of creating something with my mind and hands, when summer is sliding fall-wards, then… then I know it’s time to write again.
Today I drew a tap shoe and an owl statue.
My creative (non-work-writing) goal for February is to draw every day–though at the rate I’m going, it’s more like Draw Every Other Day.
I didn’t draw much as a kid. Actually, I hated art class. I didn’t have an abundance of natural artistic talent. The disconnect between the picture in my head and the one on my page frustrated me. My Bs and Cs in art dragged down an otherwise stellar report card–which made me rather cross.
And I was slow. My art pad was filled with incomplete projects since I always ran out of time. (I’m that way with all hands-on work, including labs. I was always the last one out of lab, one of the reasons I didn’t minor in chemistry. I never finished my wooden-spoon doll with the paper mache head nor my embroidery sampler in Handwork during elementary school. And yes, it still galls after all these years!)
I would’ve rather done extra math than painted a still life.
But, secretly, I always wished I could draw well.
There were two things I didn’t understand about art when I was a kid. I don’t know if it’s because no one ever told me, or that I didn’t listen (I was stubborn, too, as well as being a loather-of-art-class).
First, you can learn art. What I thought of as talent is mainly skill. A teachable skill. No one ever taught me things like how to use my art materials, how to create depth, or the proportions of the human face. I didn’t realize that one could take art skills and break them down into smaller steps, and that an ordinary person like me could learn them.
Second, because I had it in my mind that being good at art was an innate talent–either you had it or you didn’t–I never bothered to practice it. One art class a week was not enough to make up for my lack of giftedness. If I wanted to draw well–and yes, I wanted to, still do–I should’ve been practicing.
Twenty years later, with a writing career and homeschooled kids, I’m finally squeezing it in. It’s not much, it’s not going to be consistent, but it’s still keeping the dream alive.
How about you? Do you have something that you secretly wish you could do well? Something that’s always appealed to you, but that you’ve never tried?
1. This last week, I was over at A Digital Magician, blogging about what I learned about writing from video games.
2. On the writing front…*hollow laugh*
I’ve decided to step back from NaNo-lite, because I wasn’t getting anything else done. Not blogging. Not revising. Not getting to a dozen little business-y things that need my attention.
I’m still not getting any of those done, except for the revising. Which is fine, because I need Mourning Cloak to be in good shape by the end of this month. I’ll go back to Rafe after that’s done. In the meantime, he can enjoy a little rest because there’s a world of hurt coming his way (she laughs evilly).
Part of my lack of wordage is just… I’m scraping bottom. I’m out of blog ideas. I’m stretched thin among all these different writing projects. Plus, I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things recently and reading a lot and I just need time to process it all, before it comes out in blog posts and stories.
I feel struck dumb. I have nothing to say right now–at least not anything coherent that can be shared with others.
I know. And I’m writer. *spreads hands, shakes head*
4. And speaking of Ravven, I don’t know if I ever linked to the post she did on the evolution of Rainbird‘s cover. It’s long, but it shows you just how much back and forth there was between us.
This is not an Internet-bashing post. My Internet usage may be affecting my life in ways I find disturbing, but it also has many great benefits. All of my writing friends are online. I regularly encounter blogs, articles, images, videos and podcasts that inform, entertain and inspire me. And it’s the Internet that makes it even possible for me to have a career self-publishing ebooks.
With that out of the way, here’s my response to Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.
There are two points that Carr makes in his book that struck home for me.
1. The Internet is rewiring our brains for quick thinking, not deep thinking. Our adult brains are still very plastic. The things we do rewire our brains. According to Carr, Internet usage overloads our working memory, distracts us with the allure of the new and immediate, and interrupts the work of thinking.
2. When we outsource our memory to the Internet, we diminish the richness of our own intellectual lives. Carr points out that human memory is not a mere data storage and retrieval system. Memorization is no rote process, but one of synthesis and creativity. Memory is “as much a crucible as a container. It … [is] more than the sum of things remembered. It … [is] something newly made, the essence of a unique self.”
Tools, Carr explains, end up numbing the part of the body they amplify. The map diminished the ability of the brain to remember a landscape in rich detail. The clock separated us from the natural rhythms of life. So, too, does reliance on the Internet come with a cost.
As a creative individual, both of these points worry me.
I know this about my creative process: I need time and space and silence in which to think.
I grew up before the Internet had a stranglehold on our daily lives, so I remember well afternoons spent just dreaming and thinking. I continually draw from the store of imagery I built up as a child. Phrases and fancies from those golden days still find their way into my fiction. And I worry because my adult life is so busy and distracted that I don’t have time to replenish the well in the same way.
I don’t have–no, I don’t give–myself time to think deeply.
I also know how closely related memory is to the creative process. Memory encompasses not only facts, but sensory details and emotions. It’s the synthesis of what we know that gives us fresh stories. And if I’m all over the Internet, tweeting here and blogging there and buying curricula while listening to a podcast, then I am overloading my poor brain. I’m not giving it time to consolidate long-term memories which would enrich my creative and intellectual life.
So. Now I know the problem. What are the solutions?
1. Regular Internet Hiatuses
I have this sense that if I’m offline for long, I’ll lose my friends, hemorrhage my blog followers and sink my sales. That may happen, but I know that for long-term productivity I need to get offline. Internet hiatuses can span hours–like a tech-free evening at home–to days. The world will still go on while I’m gone.
I’m a journaling dropout. I aim to rectify this by keeping two journals–one a personal journal in which I write whatever I want, and the other a reading journal, sort of like a commonplace book.
3. Intentional Reading
I have two lists of books I want to read: one fiction and one non-fiction. The fiction book list is based off NPR’s list of Top 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy books. The non-fiction list includes books on history, theology, science, and biographies. I’m still building that one, so if you have a recommendation, let me know!
4. A Hobby That Does Not Involve Computers
In the past I’ve sketched, crocheted, played piano, and embroidered. These days I doodle. Easy to pick up, easy to put down, and nigh-on impossible to do wrong.
Do you have any bad habits that you want to replace with positive ones? Any changes you want to make in your lives? How are you going about it?
I need to change my Internet habits.
I spend a lot of time online for both work and pleasure, and the line between the two often blurs. It’s easy for that to happen on the Internet. You get on to check reviews and samples for homeschooling curricula and, before you know it, you’re watching a video of dueling cellos while ogling pictures of steampunk-themed sand castles and it’s 1 am and five hours have gone by.
I’m not a scientist and I can’t discuss the latest research on how the Internet is changing our brains. But I do know that it’s had a negative impact on my brain in the following ways:
First, it’s turning me into a consumer rather than a creator. Guys, there is such a LOT of cool stuff on the Internet. Thoughtful and witty and entertaining blog posts. Gorgeous photos and awesome art. Funny memes, useful how-tos, amazing facts. I could spend hours immersing myself in other people’s words and images.
And quite frequently, I do.
But the thing is, if I’m consuming then I’m not giving myself the time or space or silence to create. And if I don’t create, if I don’t bring art from within me, I feel down and depressed.
Which leads me to another aspect of the Internet: it’s shortening my attention span. Ever notice how you surf the web? You read a short blog post, follow a link to a two-minute video, move on to a series of pictures with funny captions, then tweet or change your FB status. You’re restless, constantly on the move, clicking links, opening and closing tabs.
If it doesn’t grab right away, if it’s not broken up with lots of white space and cute images, if it’s too difficult to get into, you move on.
And that’s filtering into other areas offline. Follow an argument through several pages of densely-written text? Phbbt. Reached a snag in my current story? I’ll just check my RSS feed for a few minutes. I wrote a paragraph? Hooray. Now I can go see if someone mentioned me on Twitter.
Uh. No. In order to write the kinds of stories I want to, I need to dig deep into myself. I need to burrow into my characters’ heads, wear their skins, feel the bite of the wind and the stench of sewage and the ache of muscle… and I can’t do that if I’m running off every ten minutes.
The Internet keeps me sedentary. I am my brain and my body (and my soul, but I’m not getting into that discussion right now). They feed each other. Ever notice how many ideas come to you when you’re doing a repetitive action, like washing dishes or sweeping the floor or–this is a big one for me–pacing a room? My muscles work, kickstart my brain, and boom! I unsnarl a plot point, a coy character starts talking, and I get a new story idea.
The Internet can cause unhealthy dependence on casual relationships. Online interactions are like a drug. Every comment on a blog post and every retweet can give a momentary high, leaving one craving more. My life, though, is not measured in blog subscribers, twitter followers or the opinions of perfect strangers. When those things take away from the real, important work of raising my children and investing in my close (on and offline) relationships, they’re taking a place that’s not meant for them.
And lastly, too much screen time makes me feel bad. If I spend too much time staring at the screen (and this includes TV and video games) I come away feeling jittery, anxious, sad, or down. And then it’s hard for me to reconnect with the world around me, with my family, with my own stories, with God.
And with that, it’s time for me to get off the computer and take my children outside to see what butterflies and dragonflies we can spot!
How is the Internet affecting your brain? What guidelines govern your Internet usage?
via Rebecca Hoffman
Would you add anything to this? Do you disagree with any point?
I was first introduced to M.C.A. Hogarth’s work by Liana Mir. At that point, I hadn’t quite made the decision to self-publish Shattered. I knew that I was interested in going into business for myself, but I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t have any tools, and I didn’t have the mindset of an artist-entrepreneur.
Enter Hogarth’s Three Micahs–cartoon jaguars who understand the creative process and make business principles fun and accessible. Hogarth is pretty amazing–she’s a writer and artist who has also held down day jobs in the business and technology fields. Over the years she’s experimented with interactive storytelling, serialized fiction on her blog and small press publishing, not to mention creating visual art (fantasy illustration and cartooning) which she’s productized (yet another word I learned from the Micahs!) in her Zazzle store.
People, this lady has a lot of experience in combining the creative right brain and the analytical left brain into a career as an artist-entrepreneur, and she’s shared a lot of her insight in (free!) monthly columns.
And now she’s running an Indiegogo campaign to turn her columns into an actual book (with extra chapters! and worksheets! and more cartoons!).
To say I’m excited about this is a wee bit of an understatement. So, if you’re interested in making money off of whatever kind of art you do–be it writing or costume-making or jewelry design–you should run, not walk, to see what Hogarth is offering. Check out the Three Michas columns that started it all (Roles, Products, and Plan) and if you’re convinced, help support her campaign.
At first glance, Miss M. seems to be drawing a pleasant campsite scene, with a campfire and a tent, green grass and happy people. But all is not as it seems!
Miss M: That’s the sun and that’s the moon. They’re exploding. And that–pointing to a black hole near the fire–is the portal. People are running to the portal. It will take them to a new Earth.
Those apocalyptic visions do start young.
In a sunless world on the edge of war, a diplomat and a demon-slayer form an uneasy alliance to find a massive vein of light-bearing quartz—their world’s greatest resource—before it falls into the hands of an oppressive, power-hungry regime.