Saturday, January 30, 2016

Artisans and Images that Just Aren't True

(from j4p4n's collection)

"I hate calling myself an artisan," the woman tells me.

I smile and nod because I think I understand.  Her ego is properly sized.  Calling oneself an artist of any kind seems pretentious to her.  It's an old story I'm ready to hear again even as I envy her the creative freedom, her ability to work from home, and the liberation from someone else's schedule set.

"I hardly call working on the same thing over and over again for 14 hours at a time an artisan thing," she continues.

My world halts.  The gears of the world pause for a moment as I consider her words.  It's never occurred to me that artisan could be the same as a small scale sweat shop.  I never considered that seamstresses or woodworkers even chose to make the same piece over and over again until it lost whatever little bit of soul it might have once had for the creator.

And I wonder is she as positively happy as I'd assumed anyone would be if they were "following their passion" or "had a skill that the market would support her to pursue".   As a thinker, a writer, and a researcher, I often envy others skills.  Even people just societally considered half a step above me like the artisan.   They after all, they can do what they love full time.  They must be deeply engrossed while I'm here behind the coffee bar handing off lattes and listening to small children tantrum while flustered mothers try to shop.

I'm so bored and quietly miserable--but here's the stay at home artisan in front of me and she's lonely and isolated.  Her hands hurt and her parents worry about her--just like mine.  She doesn't have time to explore interesting projects she'd like.  She just follows trends and has to keep making what is selling.  Yeah there are no screaming children and the rude people buying her stuff are in a store away from her--but she goes days without seeing another soul beyond her husband.  She's so busy at home that she can't cook a fresh meal.  Hot pockets are their go to lunch dinner and breakfast.

And I look at her--really look at her.  She's unkempt.  Her colored hair has about 5 inches of growth, it's falling down from it's low bun into a loose unruly mess.  Her black zip up sweat shirt is tattered, covered  in frayed edges, loose strings and random stains. There are bags under her clean make up free face.  Her build is sturdy but her husband stays close--is she about to fall over on her feet exhausted?

I see suddenly that we could be in the same place.  I write and I research for me and for art (which is so presumptuous to put down it makes me nervous to type) .  It's not my bread and butter.  How amazing would it be if one day  I wrote something took off and made money--but it's a distant dream.  I don't alter my writing to make it more marketable, not really.

Did she start the same way, making things because she loved it?  Did one or two things take off--forcing her to keep making more and more of the same thing over and over again because that's what people wanted?

This is how capitalism destroys us.  Here she is living what should be a dream, and other than scale, the work hours and some of the conditions are little better than sweat shops.  Does she work this hard to keep up with demand or because she needs to sell this much to keep herself a float?  Is this how she wants to live deep down and she's just hunting for some sympathy from me?

And here I am brewing her coffee and smiling all the while.  I'm only half listening to her, my mind is off in deep thoughts about what else I'll write for various blogs and whether or not my main character in my novel should show vulnerability and weakness.  I have her drawn up as an distrusting fight first kind of woman.  She's dragged along by her friends into a host of environments she finds distasteful--and I'm wondering if she needs to fall, even as she protests, to some of the dangers inherent in the scene.  Part of me doesn't want to open her up to the loss of control--as that's largely what I like about her--and part of me feels like it's so inevitable that people lose control in that the point of her succumbing would make that impact loudly and dramatically.

And how is me working on these elements in a book inherently less valuable than standing around in a coffee shop making small talk about the weather and other peoples' jobs?   Does everyone else in the system not feel as small and constricted as I do?

These are the questions we should be asking our culture and our society.  Are the things we value in line with what the culture demands for survival?  How do we define value or work?  What does it take to be more than a corporate cog--if one so desired--and is it feasible?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Performing For a Live Audience: And How it Can Stymie My Creative Process

(from j4p4n's collection)

The only thing worse than prolonged conversation with people when I need alone time, is performing in front of a large group of people.  Blogging and networking online forces me to do both, and thanks to all the ways to track views, the very meter of success forces me to acknowledge how many people I may be performing for.

The desire to create a good impression to so many people--whose expectations and experiences are so alien to me feels crippling.  I wake up early, planning to write three of four blog posts, and then to post one on each blog and suddenly I want no part in it.  I start picking up almost anything to avoid writing these posts.

This blog is a chance to go over parts of my process that I struggle in and am sensitive towards.  As everything seems clearer to me once I write it, it seems like it would be good to hash it out in works.  Yet, the very fact these are sensitive and troublesome aspects of my process keep me from wanting to post them.  This juxtaposition would be largely humorous if it wasn't standing between me and more success.

My less important Aquagarden Blog, that records more a hobby than anything that could be a career maker, still manages to create this feeling of anxiety.   I like taking the pictures of the tank and the plants.  I like being able to look back and see day to day growth compared.  And still, I see the 200 page views on 20 days of work, what most people would consider a pathetic turn out, and think it's too large.

 It concerns me to think of so many people looking at the blog and judging me with no more context than I've provided.  Part of me starts filling up all this supplemental reading and writing I should create to justify the blog.

Perhaps a betta 101 care post along with references to prove I'm taking good care of the fish. The whole post would only take three hours to research and write.  It would both prove my ability as a fish care taker and possibly increase traffic.

Then, I remember that how large a betta tank should be is a HUGE source of controversy, and I realize that will need it's own post.  For this I'd have to look up the varying opinions, analyze them and then integrate whatever scientific research there is on fish mental, physical, and emotional health.  This is minimum six hours.

Another point of controversy between the fish hobbiest community and the aquaponics community is exactly what kind of filtration system fish need and whether water changes need occur.  Honestly, I've done a good 30 hours research and can't give an answer to these questions.  I sort of just skim over them on the blog.  My tentative answer seems to be that plant roots can be a complete filtration system, but there are a lot of factors at work in my own tank--let alone what may be going on with others for me to truly answer this concern.

(from  bmichalik's collection)

And I've only scratched the surface of the fish side of the equation.  I'm already how many hours justifying a hobby blog where truly, we may not have an answer yet for some of the questions or concerns aquaponics raises.

Why do I feel so compelled to justify myself?  Why am I so nervous to just to put my thoughts or feelings out there?  What do I think is going to happen when people read my posts?  

I wish I could understand this crippling fear.  Never afraid to write, only afraid to present.   Still, I know if held me back from creating a new Aquagarden post for a week.  I had to force myself to take pictures I suddenly dreaded, look at my blogger account, and go through and post.

Likewise, here I have three posts I've started and abandoned.  One about what as an aspiring novelist I'm trying to create, one about race portrayals in fiction and creating responsible character diversity, and this current post I'm slogging through.  As the least controversial, it's easiest for me to share.  Why am I so afraid to get things wrong?

All I know is that of my three projects, I like my novel best because it goes out on paper completed.  There will be no addendum, no corrections, and no ongoing conversation as I create.  Sure there may be judgement and discussion on the final product, but it won't be the extended relationship that blogs and networking sites allow for.  Something in that format seems so much safer and more distanced.

On the other hand, I've spent a few years researching details for the novel--obsessed that even the smallest little pieces feel real and as if they're coming from a rich and vibrant tradition.  For all I know, it's less the judgement and more that I've allowed myself more time to do all the insane research so I feel more ready.  It's a shame the internet needs things to go too quickly to allow for the same level of in depth detail work.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Every Blog Needs a Intro: Welcome to My Current Projects and Obessions

(From j4p4n's collection)
Maybe other writers are more organized than me?  The ones I've met seem to be fairly scattered and spread thin.   I fit that mold well myself.  Reading writer's work and process often feels like roaming through my own inner mindscape.  It's very homey and insightful at the same time.  There's a lot of "I do that and I didn't even know why till now" or "I'll have to try that" or "Lucky me I'm not currently procrastinating on my project like this person is".

These blogs about the process along with gems of insight into how to make it all come together seem to be very popular--or at least popular in my circle.  I thought I'd try my hand at my own blog on my writing and project process.  If nothing else, I thought it might be fun and a perfect diversion from writing.  It's procrastination that I can pretend is productive or meaningful in some way
( from Fabuio's collection)

My writing and project work process is scattered at best.  I consider myself a pretty creative person, and I get a ton of interesting ideas that spawn more interesting ideas that spawn even more interesting ideas that then keep me up at night so I can neither sleep nor create anything because I'm soooo tired.

Then I go to my day job and think about all the progress I'm going to make on my totally cool awesome ideas when I get home.  This of course makes me scattered and irritated in dealing with customers while I sling coffee for a living.

(from jean_victor_balin's collection)

Just To Date Projects I'm working on Include:

1. A novel that's in it's fourth revision and about 20 pages short of an ending.

2. A Small scale aquaponics blog that dovetails very nicely into a larger outdoor model I'm studying to create--which doesn't sound creative but finding cheap supplies, thinking of different things to plant, and recording it all is a very creative process.

3. A blog responding to all the Kindle Unlimited Books that I'm reading.  Currently the blog is a template but I have about 20 articles sitting on my computer waiting for publishing to proceed.  Indeed, I was actually supposed to be posting there today when instead I decided start ranting in this blog that's been without any writing for about four months.

4.Learning Swift so I can make a writing related app.  This is going slowly because I hate learning the programming language and it's really very new, but I really like my app idea so I'm sticking it out at a few hours a week learning the junk.  I'd actually had an idea for a blog addressing changes in Swift 2.0 to Swift 1 and how to augment online free tutorials for the code changes--but I'm not that good at the coding yet and I don't want to spend more time with Swift than needed to have a pretty clean and sleek looking app.

5. This blog with project notes and thoughts.

(from j4p4n's collection)

Projects that Are on Hold or Dead in the Water:

1. My Barista to Boss blog.  The sad thing is I have about 7 posts edited and ready to go up, but I just couldn't take being so cheerful and happy about coffee and customers who as a general rule are terrible people.  Beyond that, I don't want to read any more about SEO or how to write a catchy post.  The experiment taught me a lot in how to get views.  It also reminded me that I'm not  social even on a computer screen and I need a lot more me time than networking was allowing.  I require a more slow and organic creation of online presence.  Preferably with one social media outlet.

2.  My children's book series.  I have two books written and illustrated with creative commons pictures.  I needed to revise them as each page was a little too busy and I needed to add a small dictionary in the back but otherwise the projects were a bright and colorful success.  I'm just not interesting in hawking them in the market.  I enjoy looking at them from time to time though.

3. A tarot card/ meditation series,  Was going to be active in this as it would generate interest potentially in my urban fantasy novel and be something fun to do, but 5 projects is more than I can handle already.  Plus swift is very time consuming and there's a lot of pressure to perform in that project from loved ones in my life.

4. Three vague novel ideas.  I'm waiting for the first to be complete and to have a few publishing inquiries in.

So how do I push through on these projects?  

My Aquagarden Blog is pretty simple.  As I'm here in my studio working I can see my fish tank and the green wheat grass going. It's physical presence reminds me to take a few pictures, upload and edit those pictures, and write a few words that come up off the top of my head on the tank's progress.  The visuals tell most of the story really.  Occasionally I have advice or a potentially helpful tip to add.

  Doing that usually brings a few questions to mind that I track down online or collect some research from amazon to look at later.  The whole process can be as brief as 30 minutes or as long at five hours depending on research and how much has changed in the tank.  As the tank stabilizes, my update will be fewer--though if I do end up setting up an outdoor aquaponics system this March, that blog may take off.

Since this project is mostly for my personal enjoyment I don't have to do a lot of selling on it.  Yes, I publish to my google+ feed and I tried to find some relevant communities.  It would be good if other people enjoyed my project or it inspired them to try their own gardening project, but the goal is just to record the tank's growth. I'm actually surprised with how many page views it has.

Swift is another fairly structured project.  Because my fiancee and my mother continually ask me about how this is going I sit down, schedule time and plug through it.  Also I'm not in the creating part yet as I'm still learning the programming language--I'm not even on how to program with the language yet.  Plus I keep learning notes and journal notes on how I feel about what I'm learning and sometimes how I imagine what I'm learning will work in creating my app.  Since I like to write so much that actually fuels my continued progress. I have a feeling this will stall some once I'm doing more than learning the basics and sketching potential App screens.  Who knows though, by then I might have it all worked out.

The real work--at least for me-- is going to be promoting my app and getting people using it.   I'm hoping that I'll have worked out some following somehow by then that will at least get people downloading it to play with it for a little bit.

My Kindle Unlimited project feels promising but isn't ready for presentation.  So I've spent the last three months reading like normal and writing feedback on my reading.  The main difference is that this reading and writing has all been focused on what books I can read through the Kindle Unlimited program.

This blog has the most potential to transform into money and networking gold.  Here I am reading and reviewing independent authors, the very thing I might become when publishing my novel.  These people could help me promote and sell my book.   Of course a major stumbling block here is that so far I hate the works by independent authors I've read and my reviews, when or if I post them are scathing.  That seems counter productive to my aims of making connections in the market.

Likewise, since my blog may help interest people in Kindle Unlimited, if I promoted correctly and had a high enough following, it might be a blog that amazon would notice and want to work with me on.  Maybe not, I mean Amazon is a huge company and little old me has never successfully created a blog with a crazy market changing following.  It's this potential that has me stymied on how best to proceed, because there are concrete things I'd like this blog to do along with just being a bit of fun.

Writing my novel comes in spurts.  The idea came to me in a dream, and I started writing it later that month.  The original outline  was written in out of order chapters--most of which I had to write but were scrapped in actual production.   I have a ton of bonus content though should readers enjoy my characters and writing style.

The serious work started in June this past year.  I actually took a week of work to churn out about 100 pages of content and finish the outline on what happens and how the characters get resolution.  I have two different people proof reading these efforts for me and I'm exploring agents and self publishing options.  Neither is going smoothly enough for me to feel confident.

I love my book.  I love the plot, I love the characters.  I love both the fantasy and real world elements.  I love the many different themes and messages in the work.  I love the hundred or so different things I'm trying to do and I love the prose tie it all together.  With all the heart, soul, and joy in creating this book, I need to invest equal quality in getting the book published and marketed.  I just don't love that side of the process as much at the writing part.  In fact I think approaching that part of the process has slowed down my writing.

This blog is a thought bubble, and so should be easy enough to produce.  I'm just sharing thoughts on my creation process and hoping they resonate with others.  As such a personal blog it shouldn't take extensive editing.  It shouldn't require very regular updates and it should have just as much promotion in it as I feel like putting in.  What will probably take the longest is finding and adding the clip art in to make it look more interesting and break up my writing.