My Little Complication

My Little Complication

 I was never more productive as a writer than the year we moved to Ohio. My husband was in grad-school, the economy was so depressed that jobs were near impossible to find I had no children and a plethora of time. I would write for eight or ten hours a day. Kailen would come home to me scribbling madly and no supper to be found. On the days I didn't write I could usually be found laying on the futon staring at the wall. On a good day I would cry. On a bad day I would wish I could quietly pop out of existence. I was the embodiment of the tortured artist, pinging from wild creativity to mind-numbing depression.

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A Change of Direction

 Four years ago the sentence “There was magic in the castle,” and a vision of a hang-dog middle aged cook came to me. I have a near-complete manuscript and a rough draft of a book proposal now. Four years isn't bad or a fist novel. This is my fourth novel. The first novel was the work of my high-school self. I don't remember any of the character names or what the plot was, but I do know I devoted a great deal of time to working out the main character's packing list, right down to how many bars of soap she had. Riveting I know. The last two I looked at after my first draft and thought “nope” and started something new.

Soap aside, that first novel held the seeds of the novel I'm working on now. That main character stewed in my psyche metamorphosing in the back of my mind from vapid princess to the iron willed, over-worked, order loving Katherine one of the main characters of my new novel. The wild forest I'd envisioned became an island transformed by magical fall out. Those other works I let go of? One contained yet more ideas that grew to maturity in my new novel, the other is the starting spot of a work that is still probably five years from bearing fruit.

In short, I have a long, long process. My current manuscripts' total life span from conception to birth is ten years. Ten of them people, ten. If you divide the 100,000 thousand words of my novel by the ten years I worked on it, that is one year of process for every thousand words. That kind of time frame does not work for a blog. Not even a little. I'd be doing one post per year. Maybe.

So you all (all two of you, hi Mom and Erica) have been sitting through my rough drafts. Not even my rough drafts. My first thoughts. Sorry guys.

I'm just going to have to try a different process. A process that takes less time. In light of that, I'm changing my format to one I enjoy more. I'm going to stop giving so much advice. I was getting on my nerves. I'll focus on what's going on in our lives, and how we're keeping body and soul together while making art. I hope it helps you do the same, or at the very least entertains you and makes you appreciate how much hustle artists have to have. Enjoy.

 

P.S. There will also be adds and affiliate links. I'll try to make them pretty, but I need to recoup my costs on this blog. Get over it.*

 

*You probably aren't bothered by the adds, especially since I'm not doing those pop-up ones that play music and make your computer cranky. I'm really telling me to get over it, because adds are so commercial and I'm an artist and want to somehow be able to give my art away for free, not be part of the commercial beast, and get paid. No, it's not really possible, unless we're going to bring back the patron system. (Bill Gates, wanna pay me to write novels?)

Four Ways to Get Out of an Artistic Rut

It happens to us all. We're cruising along doing the art thing and then something isn't quite right. You get a Twilight Zone feeling as you look back on all your past artwork. It's all the same.  The details are different but the effect is the same. You're in a rut.

 

The only thing to do is dig yourself out. So here are some ways to shake things up:

 

1. Develop some discipline.

 

Look, I know it's not sexy. No one wants to be a disciplined artist. They want to be a spontaneous artist or an inspired artist. But if you only work when you're feeling inspired, chances are you're being inspired by the same things. If you're constantly inspired by the same things, you will get the same results. Discipline means working regularly, whether you are feeling inspired or not. Working when you just aren't in the mood will definitely produce new results. In my personal opinion, inspiration is highly overrated.

 

2. Go visit a different medium.

 

All art is art, but every medium has its nuances. Painting, writing, music, pottery, and sculpture all require not only different technical skills but also different methods of communication. Trying out a new medium helps you break up old patterns of thought. I suggest going to a medium you know very little about for the best results (e.g. if you listen to music all the time, try out pottery).

 

3. Foreign Art.

 

Artists from other cultures have distinct values, aesthetics, cultural metaphors and often a unique structure in how they approach your medium. Take K-drama vs. Western television. K-drama (Korean television) runs one season of 14 to 16 episodes.  There usually isn't a second season and the story runs its full course in that time. The format alone creates different story structure compared to television in the United States. K-Drama also has its own core values putting a premium on characters sincerity instead of characters coolness. Looking at what a different culture does can open up new ways of thinking about your artwork and provide new perspective on the tropes of your own culture.

 

4. Get out of Art-land.

 

Your work is artistic, your hobbies are artistic, your friends are artistic... Maybe it's time to go play frisbee golf or talk to an accountant. (I'll talk to the accountant. You can play frisbee golf. No matter what I do they always fly backwards over my shoulder.)

 

Follow these steps and you'll find yourself on a fresh new artistic path. Don't be discouraged if your first attempts on the new track come out a little half-baked.  You are not your art.  You are a human and have value independent of what you produce. It can take a while to get a handle on a new idea and find the best way to express it. Don't give up. 

This post was edited by Hannah Lee Donor.

My Boobs Are Following Me on Pintrest: A Tale Of Artistic-ish Success-ish

Have you seen this Pin?

I searched pintrest with the words "simple bra pattern" I was one scroll down.  Also, I had to copy the pin from pintrest because I don't have this picture file anymore.  One of the rare cases where copying from pintrest to your blog doesn't infringe on copyright. I took the picture.

I searched pintrest with the words "simple bra pattern" I was one scroll down.  Also, I had to copy the pin from pintrest because I don't have this picture file anymore.  One of the rare cases where copying from pintrest to your blog doesn't infringe on copyright. I took the picture.

Congratulations, you've seen me in my underwear. My hand made, custom patterned underwear. Pinterest recommended this pin to me. I was not a little surprised. For some reason I didn't expect my own boobs to be recommended to me. But how and why did my boobs get so popular on Pintrest?

 

It all began my freshman year of college. I was on the hunt for the perfect bra. I am short and curvy with a small waist. Bras are made for imaginary women. It doesn't matter if you are a tall woman, a short woman, a fat woman, a thin woman; as long as you are real you won't find a bra that actually fits you. This really bothered me. Mostly it bothered me right on my rib cage where the underwire rubbed.

 

After nine months of searching I finally decided I would just, you know, pattern my own bra. Like you do. I had never in my life patterned anything and I had never made a bra. I did know how to sew. I blame my parents for my never ending font of confidence.

 

Fast forward three years and I had come a long way. I'd succeeded in making a bra that fit me to a T. I became obsessed with finding the correct measurements, ratios and formulas to pattern a custom bra for anyone. I made bras for women in my dorm and people in the small town my college was located in. I finally had something that I thought was worth sharing with the world. I made a bra and took a picture in front of the barn-style door in our apartment, posted it on Etsy and waited. I got a few bites, made a few bras, sold some patterns. A year in I decided it really wasn't perfect enough and put my shop on vacation mode. As time went on I got more and more messages about my bra and pattern. People wanted to know when I'd open again, and if they could get one. Four years later I still get an inquiry at least once a month. My Etsy page, which is just a shop banner and icon that says the page is inactive, gets more traffic than this blog.  Poor little blog.

 

My shop still isn't open. I'm not quite happy with the bra pattern, and little things like having a baby and trying to finish a novel slowed down my progress. Yet I have succeed at viral marketing. Someone pinned my picture and it became so popular on Pintrest that it was recommended to me, the creator and model. I have no idea what I did right. Do you?

Five Myths About Artists and Mental Illness

 Mental illness seems to go with the arts like peanut butter goes with jelly. The perception is part illusion, part artists' public nature and part truth. First, in our everyday lives we don't see mental illness, not because it isn't there, but because it's being hidden or denied. When we do see it we think of those people as exceptions, when in fact they're pretty normal. Artists tend to be less shy about their suffering. The candor of artists combined with the tendency to hide mental illness in daily life makes it appear as if there's a much higher percentage of people in the arts with a problem than people in other walks of life. On the other hand, there is most likely a slightly higher (though not as much higher as it seems) percentage of people in the arts with mental illness. Mental illness makes people feel isolated and unheard, and the arts are all about expression and connection. Unfortunately the artistic community has some harmful attitudes about artists and mental illness.

1. All the great artists had mental illnesses, it's what made them so great.

All? Yes many great artists have suffered from things like depression, bi-polar disorder, post traumatic stress, alcoholism, the list goes on. Poe, Van Gogh, Beethoven, Georgia O'Keefe, Sylvia Plath–they're just a drop in the bucket of mentally ill artists. Just because there are many mentally ill artists doesn't mean they all were. Jane Austen may have had dark times due to her circumstances, but no one has posthumously diagnosed her with depression or anything else out of the ordinary. Stravinsky, Christina Rossetti, Coco Chanel, all eccentric but mentally stable. Bob Hope, Gracie Allen and George Burns were all great artists who lived relatively normal lives. And yes, they are great artists. Comedy is art. Get over it. And while we're talking comedy, how about Tina Fey and Amy Poehler? I'd like to point out that if you search “artists without mental illness” on the internet, you will only get artists with mental illness, because it's hard to search for a lack of something.

My point is that mental illness isn't required to be a great artist. I'm completely certain that poor mental health shapes the artwork of its artist. It probably contributes to the flavor, depth and wonder of their works. Any life experience will do that though. What is more important is to remember that mental illness doesn't have to stop a person from making something meaningful and important. One should also remember that mental illness often got in the way of great artists producing great art. They fell into periods of depression or alcoholism and didn't get a single piece of art out. In many cases their mental illness ended their careers by leading to their death.

To sum up, many great artists have had mental illnesses and many great artists have been mentally healthy. Mental illness may aid in creativity, but it isn't necessary to be a good artist.

2. If an artist with a mental illness is treated, they might not be a good artist anymore.

Freddie Mercury had weird crooked teeth. He didn't want to get them fixed because it might change his singing voice. Many artists have the same worry about their mental illness. The good news is that there's nothing to worry about.

If you use the pain and suffering you have or are experiencing for inspiration, that experience will never go away. Just because you've been treated for mental illness doesn't mean you'll forget what it was like. Treatment may make you a better artist because it gives perspective.

Being treated can make being an artist much easier in fact. The paranoia and self-hatred that comes with mental illness can make innocuous interactions with other human beings feel hostile. Artists need to take criticism which becomes nearly impossible if you feel that people are attacking you. Treatment can lessen the perception of hostility and help develop a sense of internal safety that makes taking criticism easier.

3. Art is more important than my mental health.

Art is good, but it is not the point of life. Your lack of mental health will eventually sabotage your ability to do art. See above two responses for reasons why. I honestly think that this attitude is more related to fear of what's on the other side of treatment than a love of art.

4. I have a mental illness, but treatment isn't for me. I'll handle it on my own.

If I had a dime for every time someone told me this or implied it, I would have enough money to buy all the corn fields in Iowa and turn them into tall grass prairie. I can only think of two reasons you would believe the above. Reason one, lack of money. Reason two, underestimating mental illness and overestimating your own powers of self-healing.

Reason one is tough. Money and art are rarely to be found in the same place. However, before you decide you can't afford it, take a look around. Kailen (my husband) has PTSD and we are very poor. The place he's treated at charges on a sliding scale according to income. It's still a little tight, but it's worth every penny. If you still can't find someone to treat you, or can't afford even sliding scale rates I strongly recommend doing whatever you can to afford treatment. This might mean taking a break from being a full time artist to work at a job that has a steady income or insurance. While taking a break might seem counter productive, investing in your mental health is investing in your artistic career in the long run.

Reason two seems more common than reason one. Mental illness is often discounted in our society and it can be hard to take your own mental illness seriously when it seems like no one else does. All I can say is that mental illness is deadly serious. It's also not really possible to treat yourself. There is no exception. If you know you have a mental illness, please, please take it seriously and get help from a trained professional.

5. My art will cure me.

Art can be therapeutic. It can help express emotions, it can make you feel less alone, but it isn't treatment. It might be part of a program of treatment. Art therapy is real and effective, but it isn't Art with a capital A. Art with a capital A is subject to criticism, it is intended to communicate with an audience. Art therapy isn't intended to be criticized it is intended to communicate with the self and express emotion. Trying to use art as therapy will lead you to feeling really terrible when someone criticizes your work because they are putting a value judgement on your feelings. The two are best kept apart.

 

Five Ways to be a Disciplined Artist

 I've spent the last four years trying to write every day Monday through Friday. I thought making time to work on my writing was my biggest hurdle. I became a minimalist and started using a planner. Between the two I always had time for writing. It turned out time was just the tip of the iceberg. I would sit down to write, and suddenly I had the deep need to clean my closets, do the three dishes sitting by the sink, wipe out all the kitchen drawers or organize my socks by color. Worthy pursuits, but not the task at hand. This phenomenon plagues many creative people. No matter how much I love to write, or how much somebody else loves to paint, sing or dance, when it comes time to practice it on your own on a regular basis, you just don't want to.

Creative people love spontaneity and inspiration. We want to do our thing when we're in the mood, or when we have a great idea. People aren't in the mood to create about 75% of the time, and great ideas aren't a dime a dozen. I will never become a master of my craft by practicing only when I feel like it, and I certainly can't make a living that way. Creatives are good at spontaneity and inspiration, that's why we're creative people, but what we need is discipline. The ability to do something faithfully whether I want to or not, because it's a good thing to do, even if I'm not enjoying it.

There's no reason to make discipline harder than it has to be, and I found five ways to  harness inspiration when it comes to make writing every day easier for me. I suspect they could do the same for you and your craft as well.

1. Always work when your inspired (within reason).

Inspiration is fun, and often produces a great end result. I'd be a fool not to use it when I have it. If I'm feeling inspired I drop whatever I'm doing if possible and get right to work. I might have to rearrange my schedule a bit, but in the end I've done my days writing joyfully.

2. Work at least five days a week.

I treat my writing like a real job, because I want it to be my real job. I didn't always feel like going in to work at other jobs all the time. I just had to do it. So if I'm not in the mood I tell myself I don't have a choice and then use the following rules to make it easier to keep going, and easier to go back to it the next day.

3. Work where you are inspired, or at least attracted.

When I sit down to write I usually have a few scenes jotted down to work on. I choose the one that appeals to me most at the time. I might not be jumping up and down to do my work, but this usually gets me exited about it by the end.

4. Work until your enjoying yourself, and quit while your still having fun.

Sometimes none of the tasks I need to do are the least bit appealing. I start somewhere and keep going until I get into it. When I think to myself, “why was I avoiding this, this isn't that bad,” or even, “this is great” I keep working, but when it starts to wear off, I quit right away. I don't work as well once the fun is gone and if I make myself keep doing it what I remember the next time I sit down to work is how miserable it was. If I stop while it's still fun, what I remember is the fun.

5. Bribe yourself.

Sometimes I just have to treat myself like I'm a four-year old going to the dentist. I have two ways to bribe myself. First I make everything around what I'm doing as awesome as I can. I make myself tea or hot coco or coffee, I sit somewhere nice, I wear clothes I like, and I'll get myself a snack. Second I promise myself if I do this thing I don't like, I will do a creative thing I do like. For instance, if I have to edit, I'll promise myself If I edit for one hour, I'll spend some time writing a chapter of my next book. It works when nothing else will. I have no regrets.

So there you have it. May your art be disciplined.

Why My Planner is the Best Writing Tool I Have

Behold the mighty planner, my most cherished writing tool. It's not glamorous, and it doesn't spur creativity, but without it I wouldn't get around to writing often, and certainly not regularly. I use it to make sure that I get things done I have to do, have time for family life, and get to write. I use it to keep big projects (like my novel) manageable and moving along. I use it to keep myself from losing steam between projects. I could not be a writer without it.

If writing is the center of your world how will you ever write anything that connects with non-writers?

The most important thing I use my planner for is marshaling my non-writing life. I firmly believe that in order to be a good writer, you cannot live and die for writing. If it is the center of your world how will you ever write something that connects with anyone who is a non-writer? I have a family and responsibilities, all of which either come before or are on the same level as writing. On the other hand, I am a writer, and I'd like to have time to write. My planner is the catalyst that lets it all get done.

...you can only focus on so many things at a time.

A person can only do so many things in a week, and it's important to know how much you can do. More importantly though, you can only focus on so many things at a time. In our society I think we forget this, and try to multitask to the point that we have to many things going to do well. I made my planner (available for free below) to reflect that. The average person can only focus on normal household tasks and three other goals a week, so my planner has three goal slots per week and no more. By goal I mean an action to be accomplished in a set period of time that takes multiple steps. For instance, have a cleaner house is an aspiration but spring clean this week is a goal. If I, and as far as I can tell, the rest of humanity, try and focus on more than three goals a week it tends to be detrimental to mental health, and it often results in many things either left undone, or done very poorly.

My planner has two pages for each week. The second page is a days-days-of-the-week calendar. The first is what I think of as the week's over-view page. I fill out the overview page first and then use it to figure out when to do what. I sit down on Monday morning (my planner starts on a Monday, I hate the ones that start on Sunday) and I make a list of everything that has to get done that week in the to-do section of my planner. This is boring stuff. Shopping, bills, normal household tasks. I also write down my three daily routines down for each day of the week- my devotions, my physical therapy exercises and walking the dog. I write down any appointments I need to make and people I need to contact. Unless I had a brain fart, all of the appointments I've already made are written down. Most of my must do items are actions that require only one step. If any of them require more than one step they are a goal, which I write in the goal slot on the top of my planner.

My rule is to have no more than two home/life-related goals per week so that I always have room for one writing goal. Generally I don't have any goals that must be accomplished on a certain week and cannot be worked on earlier, or delayed till later. Occasionally I do though, and I usually end up with multiples. They're things like doing my taxes or planning my garden so I can buy seeds on time. If I find I have three must do now goals, I try and delegate one or two to my husband. SometimesI just lose a week of writing. It happens. Since this occurs maybe twice a year, I don't worry about it much. The rest of the time I pick one home life goal to work on. Because I have young child, these goals often take longer than they used. to. If I wanted to paint a dresser pre-child, I just made that my goal and I had enough time in the week to do it. Now I break goals like that down into smaller goals and do one of the smaller goals each week. Instead of my weeks goal being to re-paint the dresser, it would be to sand down the dresser. Then I'll write down the steps to make that happen in my to-do list. For that particular project it would be- buy sand paper, use power sander, do detail sanding, wipe off sawdust.

Some reoccurring goals eventually turn into routine. You become so familiar with the steps involved the time and brain power it takes to accomplish the goal decreases dramatically.

After I've got my one house goal, I pick at least one writing goal like blog this week. I write it in the goal slot and write down the steps it need to take to accomplish it. Rough draft, revise, edit, upload, pictures, post. Some reoccurring goals eventually turn into routine. You become so familiar with the steps involved the time and brain power it takes to accomplish the goal decrease dramatically. At this point you might find that your week feels a little empty when you set it as one of your goals. Instead of making it one of your goals, continue to write down all the components in your to do list, but pick a different goal. I haven't gotten to the point that blogging is a routine instead of a goal, but I'm hoping to soon, because I have bigger projects I want to get to.

I now have one goal slot left in my planner. Sometimes I leave it blank if one or both of my other goals require a great many steps or I have a very long list of non-goal related things to do, or we're traveling or have some sort of special event that's going to take lot of time. Most of the time though, I pick the third goal. If I had my druthers it would be another writing goal, but half the time, it's another life goal. I break whatever it is down into steps and write it on my to-do list.

Using my planner keeps me focused on the step of the process I’m currently working on without worrying about what I’ll be doing next.

Besides using my planner to make sure I have time to write, I use my planner to give my writing life structure. When I have a big project on, like a novel, I break each bit of the process into smaller goals and set my self deadlines for each one as I'm working on them. I don't set whole-book deadlines in advance because it psychs me out. I can handle one deadline at a time. Using my planner keeps me focused on the step of the process I'm currently working on without worrying about what I'll be doing next. I also use my planner to do small writing projects (this blog, for example) while doing a big one. It also lets me keep from lying fallow between big projects. While ideally I'd move from one project to the next, sometimes it's just not possible. If I jump into an idea before it's gestated long enough I never get a finished product I like. Instead, when one project is done and the next is still stewing in my mind, I give myself little writing exercises to keep my skills sharp.

To use my planner, just download it and fill in dates and months as you wish in your word processing program. If you're a student, I have this version with a place to write down assignments. Three hole punch it, spiral bind, whatever it is that you want.

If my version doesn't float your boat try something from this list:

http://www.emilyley.com/products/printables daily planner, callendars and more

http://scatteredsquirrel.com/printable/personal-planner/ - many options for formats and layouts, and all in a very pretty color scheme.

http://www.wendaful.com/free-printable-inserts/ inserts for planner systems and notebooks you may already have, or want to use.

 

 

 

 

 

How Becoming a Minimalist Made Me A Better Writer

minimalistwriter

I am not a tidy person. My natural state is a hurricane or forgetfulness, lost items, and either over or under scheduling. My mother, my teachers and my relatives all tried to help me cope with my natural tendencies. I at last embraced the planner in college. But I still had a problem- planners do not organize your sock drawer. They don't keep you from losing your phone for two months and then finding it in the pocket of a dress you haven't worn in forever because you have tons of clothes. It doesn't keep you from repeatedly buying sticky notes because your under the impression you don't have any left, and then finding a mountain of them stashed in your office supplies tub which was buried under your spare computer cords. I could remember that I needed to go to the doctor at 2 pm on Tuesday but was still late because I couldn't find my wallet, keys or glasses.

...we probably had even more stuff, and I was going to have to try and keep track of it all. It was scary.

One day the fall my junior year of college Kailen and I went to look at an apartment we were thinking of renting out for the coming summer when we were married. The apartment was currently occupied by some people we knew from school. It wasn't a large apartment, and they were both school teachers so the had their fare share of school materials and papers to grade stashed around. It was clean, and relatively neat, but it was full. Very full. Which I exclaimed in some surprise. I believe I said “so much stuff!” I am not the queen of tact. I'm sorry you two, you are not slobs or packrats. I was just realizing that between what Kailen had and what I had, we probably had even more stuff, and I was going to have to try and keep track of it all. It was scary.

We moved into the apartment, and I was right. We had way more stuff. It was not pretty, and it wasn't organized. At that same time, I became enamored of the idea of a tiny house on wheels. Eventually I got Kailen on board with the idea. I started looking at our house with tiny-house eyes. Did I really need two sets of dishes? How much fabric did I actually need? What's with all these christmas ornaments?

We never got the house on wheels, but I sure got rid of a lot of stuff. It solved my organization problem pretty well. It's easy to keep things organized when there's not much to organize. We became dedicated minimalists. It was one of the best thing that ever happened to my writing.

 

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that since becoming minimalist I wrote my first book that I think is good enough to be sent out into the world.


Being minimalist saves us time and money, making it easier to be full time artists. I feel like every one of my possessions makes a tiny buzzing noise in my head, requiring a tiny bit of my attention. The more things I have the louder the noise, the more of my attention is chipped away. It's hard to write when your stuff is talking to you. However it's the subtleties of minimalism that have had the biggest influence on my writing though. Minimalism spread from my possessions to how I approach writing. Too many words is as bad as too much stuff. I can look at my writing and cut out words and chapters and characters without feeling loss, having practiced getting rid of things that were “precious” over and over in real life. I look at my stories and think “what is essential for the plot?” not “how many of my cool ideas can I get in here?” Minimalism shifted my focus from what I wanted from my writing, to what was needed to make a good story. When I don't look to my writing to make me feel happy or validated, it's fun. I don't think it's any coincidence that since becoming minimalist I wrote my first book that I think is good enough to be sent out into the world.

The Reality Of Making A Living As An Artist

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 I think a lot of people dream about being a full-time artist. I used to dream about it too, but I never thought it would become reality. It just kind of happened to me and my husband. I'm not implying that we're wildly successful, or even financially stable yet, but we're here and we're doing it. It's terrifying, but we don't regret it. I see a lot of my fellow artists having trouble though, and I see a lot of people starting out thinking they're going to make their living as artists and ending up as computer programmers. Some of them probably could have made it with a little direction. Some of them shouldn't even have tried. So, lets say you think you want to be a full-time artist. Well, this is the blog for you. It's all about how to do that thing we do- live and eat as artists.

Before you start your journey though, you need to face the facts. There are unsustainable reasons to be an artist, reasons that often are based on a fantasy of artistic life instead or reality, reasons that will sabotage all your efforts and make you crazy when times are tough. Then There are sustainable reasons for being an artist- reasons that will encourage you in hard times, and spur you on to good, hopefully great art. If your going to try and make your living off of the art you do, you can't afford to cling to those unsustainable reasons. You'll go nuts.

Some of the most common reasons people become artists are the least sustainable. My husband Kailen became an artist for the girls, and also for an escape from himself- he has PTSD and being someone else for a while was a relief. I've met people who do art for the praise; they have a deep longing for approval, for love. When they act in a play or write a poem or paint a picture and someone says it's good, they feel as if they're needs are being met. I've met people who want to get rich and famous without doing much work, so they plan on being actors or writing novels. In high school I used to fantasize about being an artist because then I would be free to do whatever I wanted. In case you haven't figured it out yet, these are all terrible reasons to be a full-time artist. They aren't based in reality. They all focus on the artist getting something from they're art. They are also all unlikely to produce art that anyone would want to see. The important thing though, is not why you started out in art, but why you continue.

There are many misconceptions about what it's like to be an artist. People envision getting up at noon and knocking out three chapters in your jammies, and then talking to your publicist about your book tour, signing some autographs and opening your advance check in the mail. Who wouldn't want to do that?

The reality of an artists life is that you wake up at noon, stare at your computer in your jammies for an hour and a half and write three pages that you feel pretty weird about. Then you eat breakfast, and see if putting on clothes and drinking some coffee might improve your writing. It may or may not do so, but you don't smell anymore, so that's good. Then you have a meeting with your spouse about this months finances, comfort them about the terrible review they received in the paper and look at the edits you need to make on your book, do a writing exercise that always makes you feel like a kindergartener but turns up good stuff, weed the garden, and make dinner. And that's a mildly successful artist without any kids. Mundane isn't it? The truth about being an artist full time is that it's hard work for inconsistent pay. Your work is public so everyone can criticize you, and you better bet they will. It will be worse if you are a woman, or any color but white. Somehow, even though you are fodder for critics, you will also be obscure. If you get to a point where you are known, you will have to deal with a certain amount of privacy loss because being an artist is agreeing to be a public figure.

If your going to hack it as a full time artist you have to be in it for the right reasons, reasons that sustain and encourage you. You have to believe that art is worth it. That it's good. You have to love art, and you have to love the people you make art for. You must be willing to put your heart and soul into your art for those people, even if they don't like what you made. You must be passionate about it, but also know that it isn't the be all end all. You can't look to it to make you feel good, or nourish you, though it might occasionally do so. By and large art is a thing you give to other people. At the same time it's a thing that scratches an itch that nothing else does. The art itch, I guess.

Kailen and I ended up in this life because we felt called to it. We are both talented in our areas, are really bad at other things, and have the itch. But the big, capital letter reason we're here is because we follow God, and based on a long period of prayer, meditation and logical deduction, this is where we were felt led. We have to work to keep perspective- it's easy to think your writing or acting for the right reasons, and then someone gives you a little constructive criticism and suddenly you feel all hurt and defensive. You realize that there's still someone inside you who can't separate you and what you do, who wants everyone to think they're awesome all the time and never say anything at all mildly negative about anything you do ever. It's a constant battle, but we believe it's worth it. We believe that art is a way to love the people around us, and more importantly, it's one of the ways God has called us to love.

You don't need to feel that call to be an artist- if you aren't Christian, it'd be pretty weird if you did. You do need to be in it for the right reasons though. If your counting on your art to make you feel important and loved, you'll find yourself in a dark place the first time someone doesn't like your work. If your going to make your living as an artist you can't be living on an emotional rollercoaster that rises and falls based on how your work is received. Similarly you can't get discouraged if you don't make tons of money or become famous. You can make a living off of art, and I'll do my best to give you the tools you need to do it- but it's hard work. Having good reasons will make things easier.