The Morning vs Evening Artists

I recently had a conversation with a friend about artists working at night and the stereotypes of the creative night owl.

Many artists slip into the habit of working at nights to avoid the distractions of the day and all of the annoying, loud and demanding people in it.

I was saying how ‘I’m not a morning person so to speak, but I really hate being a night person.’

I have discovered over the years, that this is not because I don’t think it’s fun to stay up late, weather it’s for the sake of having a good time, or for work, or just being creative. Nor is it simply because I’m getting older or I find it hard to stay up late. On the contrary I think that there is something magical about staying awake through the hours of darkness. It is an enchanting time, a bewitching time, a time when our decision making is not necessarily at its best, but this can often help us to achieve things we never would in the daylight hours. Some of my best and most inspired creations have happened late at night.

But I just cant do it all the time, or I go nuts!

I have discovered that when you develop a creative process that flourishes during the day, you can achieve results that are perhaps more consistent, productive and healthy.

This is what I said to my friend. “I’m finding that I’m a morning person these days just because I’m enjoying being healthy.”

Being creative during the day is something that you really have to just deal with  if you are working on someone else’s project. So when I shifted from being a lazy afternoon working guitar teacher and late night gig performer, to an all day sound editor on films, I really needed to be able to get up early and fly into that creative head space with little prompting other than a hearty coffee (or three).

So, even when I am not working on films now, I feel a compulsion to go flat out all day on my own creative projects.

I like getting up in the morning and getting stuck into my work, creating and achieving a lot before the day is even half over. Once I have already achieved something in the morning, I feel better about the rest of the day.

This goes hand in hand with finding time to exercise. So many colleagues of mine who work in film say that they are too busy to exercise. But I find it is the opposite. I find that taking time to exercise somehow creates more time and makes me more productive. It’s like magic.

As soon as I have gone for a run, or done a work out, all of a sudden, my enthusiasm lifts and I feel that I have so much extra time, simply because I don’t waste time by feeling bad about myself. I feel less like eating bad food to comfort myself.  I feel proud of my achievements and if I do splash out and eat bad food, I don’t feel as much like I need to punish myself because I have already done something positive with my day. So the earlier I get out there and just do it, the better.

At this point in the conversation I told my friend that I want to be a Nike artist. – “Just do it!”

Forget about excuses, forget about image, just get your arse out of bed and go make art!

I know it is harder for musicians, because you have to perform at night, but in all things there must be a balance. As my favourite Greek god Apollo said ‘practice all things in moderation, including moderation.’

So, even though I love my mornings and my days and getting the most out of my creative time, there should always be time for the late night creative burst of inspiration. Or a crazy jam with some creative friends while drinking bunch of fruit cocktails!

I found this article, which suggests that people who are night owls tend to be more intelligent, but more susceptible to addiction and generally less reliable, hence the typical muso stereotype. But is it really that simple? Are people who stay up all night working on crazy schemes really smarter or do they just like to think that they are?

http://theweek.com/article/index/209165/night-owls-vs-morning-people-whos-smarter

Other articles I read, suggested that morning people, ‘Larks,’ are often happier, but I know plenty of people who are  forced to get up in the morning, and they are anything but happy about it.

What do you all think? I’d like to hear your opinions. Especially in relation to your creative habits?

Are you early risers, conditioned to the  9-5? (or in my case the 8:30- 7:30)

Or are you chronic night owls, chugging away in the hours of darkness? Clinging to the romantic fantasy of the manic artist while insisting that you can’t get up in the morning because you’re ‘simply too intelligent for all that nonsense.’

Which ever way you want to go…I say just be Nike about it. – smash that art and enjoy yourself.

JUST DO IT!

 

The Artistic Journey

I am on a journey. Like my characters who are sailing off into space with a collection of misfit aliens on a dangerous and often mismanaged quest.

I am on a journey of my own. A journey of discovery. I’m learning how to take the reigns of my creative project and slay the dragon of resistance.

Self publishing is all about being the creative director of the book, its not about finding an easy way out of traditional publishing paths, it is about taking control. It’s about having choice.

I have always loved art, and Turner was one of my greatest inspirations. The work above is one of his. A painter, like a writer is subject to the styles and tastes of the period he or she is in. Likewise, the state of the artistic ‘market’ will always determine his or her success. However, when an artist paints a picture, do they then submit the work to a bunch of other people, (some of whom are not even artists themselves), to shape it before it goes into a gallery or is put up for sale. At least I don’t think it usually works this way for Artists. Why should writers have to jump through such hoops in order to see their work on the shelf?

I understand that publishing by traditional methods sometimes works great and can be very rewarding. But I also wonder why has it taken so long to accept that if people want to produce written works by themselves, then they should be given the opportunity to.

If you have put the time and the effort to into your work, you should be allowed to TRY and sell it. It seems that in many ways the notion of self-publishing has only just become a viable option for authors. I knew about self publishing about a decade ago, and like many people, I thought it was just something that people did if they really couldn’t get published NORMALLY…i.e. they weren’t that good. Now though, in the last couple of years, we see evidence on the net and in the media, that the stigma associated with not being traditionally published is slowly becoming alleviated. It seems absurd that publishing has taken so long to catch on to this concept.

However, I think it is critical  to realize how important it is to not do it all yourself. Have your writing properly edited by a professional. Get the cover and formatting done by a professional, and take the time to revise things like structure to ensure that the book is the best it can be before it goes out into the world.

This is where the indie-author is not just the creator, but the director of a creative processes. Getting other people involved in the development of the project, editors, designers and revision peers who can give critical feedback, gives the project more strength. More people become invested in the project and their interest in it’s success will propel it forward.

So, this change in my thinking has somewhat alleviated my fear of – “what if I don’t get published?” because I know, that no matter what, I will start to think of myself as an Author – or else! I will publish my books – or else!

Now that I’m not worried about failing, I can focus on writing and write for myself and what I want to read, not for some pigeon hole in a market.

Regardless of how I choose to do it – self publishing – traditional – eBook – audiobook (heck as a sound designer working on films, you bet I’m going to try this out.) My books will take over my world!

Now, if I could just finish that first pesky manuscript.

Everyone’s journey is unique, on the high seas of artistic adventure. There are currents that flow faster than others and their are courses that are easier follow, so I can choose my own path without having to worry about compromising on what I feel is important about my story. Through the internet, it has become even easier to share our journeys with each other and to see what our options are. We can learn from others mistakes and celebrate in their victories. So tell me your story…fellow adventurers. No matter what your vessel is, painting, music, dancing, Kung Fu…whatever! We all have a tale to tell.

‘Once upon a time…’

Happy writing everyone!

Self Doubt and Emotional Roller-Coaster of the Artist

What if I fail? What if I actually stink at my art?

Anyone who is an artist in any vocation will know what the emotional roller-coaster of the creative person feels like.

We switch from thinking – “Man I love this…this is awesome….I can’t believe I created this, it is amazing!” – to – “How can I be so delusional, how can I think that anyone else would like this? I can even afford to buy the things I need to live, why do I persist in believing I can make a living off this rubbish?”

Sometimes this polarization of mood can happen in the space of a day or even an hour! Sometimes we use devices to try and actively switch the mood; stimulations like coffee or relaxants like alcohol.

There is nothing worse than getting stuck in a cycle where you think; “I write my best stuff at 2am after 5 glasses of wine.”(Believe me!)

Then of course there are those moments when we wonder; “Maybe I’m bipolar or something? Maybe my mood swinging is not healthy?”

I think it is.

To love and doubt oneself is completely normal and actually a healthy step in the artistic process. We are evaluating ourselves. We put ourselves temporarily in the shoes of someone who might hate what we do. This is so we can imagine how we might confront such criticism if someone else throws it at us. An important step in being able to confront doubt and criticism from others, is to first rehearsing it with ourselves.

Sometimes we simply take this rehearsal too far. I myself have been guilty of verbally abusing myself in the kitchen over coffee, or while violently preparing a meal.

When you live with another artist, our fragile nature can become really apparent and you both constantly have to prop the other up when the self loathing sets in.

Or if you have collaborators or peers who can help critique and support you, it makes us feel like we are not alone, spinning around in these mad cycles of ecstasy and despair.

I read this article just now and it made me feel better, as it always does, to see other artists struggle with the same self doubt.

How to Flip Your Self-Doubts as a Writer

The author, Suzannah Windsor Freeman, gives some really good examples of how to turn negative thoughts like

  •  “A little voice in my head would always be saying, “You are not a writer. You are a person who says you’re a writer.”

to positive ones like:

  •  “Writers are people who write. That’s all.”

Harboring negativity is inevitable and important for us artists, so we don’t develop an over-inflated ego. It’s important also to be able to see the positive effects of combating real problems and issues in our craft.

For me the hardest part comes when the writing is done and I don’t know what to do next. Learning about the publishing industry and networking platforms is the hardest part. Admitting to people that I’m not just writing for fun, but that I want to take my work seriously…that is also a difficult step.

Having this blog seems to be helping, as I know with every new post, I take a tiny step forwards in thinking of myself as an active professional writer. I know that if it is like any of the other art-forms I have thrown myself into (music, painting, sound, dancing) it simply takes time before it becomes a component of myself; as clear and definable as a personality trait. Some of my personality traits I can identify within myself very strongly, other traits people think of me, depending on how much time I have spent with them. Some people who know me may think I am kind and decent, while others might think me rude or selfish. I really don’t know how other people perceive my personality, but their regard of me can always be attributed to how much effort I have put into each relationship. Art is just the same I think. The more you invest in a creative aspect of yourself, the more honest and comfortable you will feel about sharing it with yourself and others.

Regardless of how good you are at something, if you do it, you become it. Art should be for everyone.

Happy writing everyone!

 

Life is Art – This is My Day Job

It’s been a while since my last post…is this because I have been so busy writing?

No. My father has been visiting me from Australia and so I have been occupied with drinking coffee, going for bush walks and painting. Sounds rough I know…all that ingesting of cake…

Now that he has gone home though, I’m left to try and motivate myself to get back to my work.

Work for me at the moment is two fold – writing my books and sound design.

It pains me to admit that I’m struggling to crack into two separate industries. I have had a few really good sound gigs that have given me some decent credit and I love the work, I love even more that I can earn a living off it. But at the moment I’m busy on a number of short films and it’s hard to find a solid income from it and hard to find mental space to work on my writing. When I’m on a sound job, it absorbs a huge chunk of my creative thinking power and a good chunk of my time.

Short films can be incredibly rewarding, especially as the short film director is fulfilling a little dream of his or her own that they have been working on for years and as the sound designer, I get to be there to put the finishing touches on, the icing on the cake. I get to see how excited they are when their brain child is delivered on the mix stage and all the effort is finally paid off. It is a great feeling for them and for me and I always feel so glad to be a part of some art that goes out into the world. I am blessed to have work in this industry.

However, more and more I am aware of my desire to finish my book and establish myself as a writer and I feel jealous of the directors that hire me to work on their near complete film. While I’m working on someone else’s project that is coming to fruition I am aware of the fact that I’m not working on my own project. I realize that wanting to be an author has more to do with a desire to fulfill my own creative ideas and projects than it has to do with me preferring writing over sound.

As a child I was never sure about what I wanted to be, because I wanted to do so many things. I would write my own little books, draw the pictures and staple them together, I would write little songs on the piano. I loved drawing…I loved writing…I loved music, I loved dancing. I wanted to do ALL art without having to just commit to ONE and I wanted to be free to just create whatever I felt like.

So, as much as I love working on sound, at some point I want to see myself putting my creative energy into my projects 100% and I see writing as a good outlet for that.

I have to just keep at it and stay positive. Finding a balance between doing work for myself and working for others is an important part of being in an artistic community in any medium and ultimately, every job we have in life adds character and experience to our lives that is invaluable. I don’t want to think of sound as my day job; the thing that gives me money and writing as my pie in the sky dream job. I want everything I do to be done with passion and conviction and all my work must reflect my belief in the power of creativity to realize dreams.

Job is a nasty word people use to describe something that should be a manifestation of their life’s energy. I was passionate when I was a guitar teacher, I was passionate when I was a student…I don’t think I could admit to being a passionate shelf stacker, but even that job gave me insight to all the jobs I would rather be doing.

Sound design, painting, singing, writing, composing, running, sharing, gardening, cooking, playing, loving. There are so many different ways that I can express how wonderful it is to be a human in this world. Why should my career be any different.

Life is art.

Indie Publishing Offers Creative Independence

I was wondering today if I have writers block. I have time to write, and yet I don’t. I re-read and re-edit my manuscript over and over again. I do endless research on publishing, agents, ebooks, and other writers blogs etc to try and gauge where I am at. But when I really want to just sit down and get the words flowing again and come up with something new, I struggle. Is it because I feel that if I start on the sequal when I don’t know that the first one is finished will I waste work? I started book number 2 last year and 40,000 words into it, decided I needed to seriously rework book no. 1.

Looking back, even though the first book is better now, I could have easily just abandoned it and started with something new. I see a lot of writers, who seem to strike better luck on book no. 2 or 3. But still I really like the story and I think that I’m not done with it. I think it has potential and this leads me back to my initial question…do I have writers block? Why can’t I move on, start something new?

I have come to the conclusion that no…I don’t have writers block. I am constantly writing in my head. At this stage book number 2 is stewing in my cranium and so is the background stories for all the characters and the worlds in which they come from. I’m constantly writing in my journal and drawing diagrams of what my creatures look like and I would love time to do more of this, but I guess it is just a slow process. The story is extremely complex and needs time to evolve.

Now in my research today I had another revelation.

I have been doing a whole lot of reading about e-books and self publishing. At first I was skeptical of this process, simply because of what we all grow up learning. We are told that only a really special and great quality book that is chosen by publishers will make it to publication. It is very hard to get published and it is an extremely competitive industry. I was not daunted by this, since the publishing industry seems similar to the film industry in this regard and I seemed to have cracked into that reasonably well. So I didn’t think too much more about self publishing and thought I would use it as a last resort.

However, after hearing about different people’s experiences with self publishing on Amazon etc, I have decided that the publishing industry and the protocols associated with getting published is also very similar to the music industry and the challenges associated with getting signed to a record label. Now, back when I was an aspiring muso and guitarist, I came to the conclusion that there is no WAY that people working for the record labels could possibly anticipate what is really going to sell any more than they possibly find everyone who has real talent and deserves a career in music. You just have to listen to the top charting musicians to see this. So often I hear people say stuff like ‘that guy I saw playing at the pub last year was way more talented than (insert random famous musician name here)’ etc.

Public opinion is really hard to predict and at the end of the day, the indie label band sometimes has way more street cred/ artistic integrity and soul than a lot of the music being churned out through traditional paths. Now, this is not to say that I think the literary professionals in publishing are churning anything. I think that the level of quality that is maintained in printed work by writers is an essential part of our human history and culture and I hope it never is abandoned.

The only reason I draw a parallel to the music industry is that I made the same realisation that, just because someone has to do it on their own steam and through an independent pathway, doesn’t mean it is a cop out, a lazy option or a last resort AT ALL. In fact, sometimes it is the best option to reach the audience that is looking for the art that a writer has to release. Some work just can’t fit into a predictable mold, or has to remake/ reshape or reinvent old genres to make them work for new ideas. Now is a very exciting time for humanity, there is so much more opportunity than ever before to let people choose, promote, finance and build their own career than ever before.

People like Joanna Penn  make it easy for us to see proof of how this works. She has so many amazing podcasts and video interviews that provide a wealth of information to anyone interested in hearing other peoples success stories as well as letting us learn from their mistakes.

OK, enough watching other people’s work, time for me to get back to my writing.

 

It’s Not Just Easy Being Green, It’s Better

Just to prove that I’m not just pretending to get all inspired about gardening, the other night we made our first meal from foraging. Nasturtium Pesto!

Who would have thought that an overgrown weed could be so delicious. Mixed it with walnuts and the regular pesto ingredients and voila!

Yum!

I feel like a real human, fossicking for food on the hillside. Well, actually to be fair, the man went out in the cold and the dark to do the picking of the weeds, but still…I ate them.

Nasturtium Pesto

Speaking of greens, the whole point of getting into the garden, is to try and find a way to support our reckless addiction to green smoothies.

http://www.greenforlife.com/

I can’t recommend it more, I have them for breakfast almost everyday. (Almost…lets face it…sometimes eggs win.)

Today, I have in my breakfast right here, kale, celery, banana, kiwifruit, spirulina, flax seeds, blueberries, 1/2 a cup of organic apple juice and water.

We have been doing this for over 6 months now, and I totally notice the general all rounded improvement of my health and energy. Sometimes I even forget to have a coffee cause I’m not craving that pick me up.

Speaking of which it is definitely time for coffee!!!

 

Food is the Solution

Easter weekend was great, but 3 days of eating bad food has left me feeling very slow and clunky.

Time to turn it all around!

All I can think about is cooking dinner tonight and how great that is going to make me feel.

A colleague of mine showed me this link just now;

I am so thoroughly inspired to put in some effort to make my limp, sparse garden produce some real food. My problem is that we have only got a little patch of ground that is safe from the wind and it doesn’t get much sun, so I think; ‘well, I can’t grow a full on garden at this house, I’ll just have to wait till I move somewhere better.’

But NO! I can grow my garden anywhere. There are plenty of places around Wellington that are just wasted land where I could set up a guerrilla garden. There are so many hillsides that are just crying to have some food brewing on their lovely sunny slopes.

In my book, I am constantly dealing with issues surrounding the destruction of planetary ecosystems through the neglect and selfish ignorance of the species that inhabits it. The truth is, that we aren’t in any danger of destroying our planet, just ourselves. The planet is a big chunk of rock that could be destroyed by some phenomenal cosmic event, but really, it’s pretty safe from us and our lame inability to recycle. What we really have to worry about is abusing our natural resources to the extent that a that we kill off a large portion of the diversity in the natural world and by extension, kill off ourselves. So while this is a hugely important part of the message in my books, so is the actual act of trying to reverse that. Rather than writing a story that simply warns the reader of the dangers of abusing our planet, I want to show the actions of a few, trying to overcome that danger.

I have really noticed a change in peoples mindset  in the last couple of years. Instead of people merely complaining about the destruction of seas and rainforests and such, people are making a concerted effort to find solutions. This guy, is just one guy doing his bit to bring an idea of sustainability to the people of his community. Interestingly though,  social media is now making it easier for people all around the world to feel that the ideas of the few are connected to the actions of the many. It is now more feasible than ever, that a thought I have about being positive and proactive and trying to make a difference can be felt from anywhere else across the globe.

Thoughts are really physical and tangible elements of our life that can completely influence the actions of others.

It all starts with a seed.

So now, I’m going to go chop some veggies for dinner.

Peace xo

Finished Draft 5

So, draft 5 of ‘Wandering Stars‘ is complete. Well at least I have had a full pass through with the corrections I made starting back in October. Mostly this was about sharpening my point of view, keeping it more solid and consistent. I also made a few huge plot changes towards the end that came with a plethora of character modifications etc. So, basically I did a whole lot of stuff that I could have avoided if I had done more planing from the outset and less ‘winging it’.

But, that was sort of the whole point, I guess. I started this project as just something fun to do and it has become increasingly more serious and the tone of the book reflects that. At first, it was very light and silly at times, whereas now it is certainly a lot darker and more intense. Though I feel the whole piece still has a positive and uplifting vibe. I know distopia is all the rage at the moment, but by the time my book is really finished and ready to put out into the world, that fad will most likely be over anyway. The bottom line is, no matter what the industry is doing or what trends the world is going through, a good story is always worth telling and finds its way into peoples lives. Whether or not my story is what people would consider to be good or not, is beside the point…at the end of the day, my book won’t make it out into the world until I am completely happy with it.

I know that it still has a long way to go with editing. It stands at about 92000 words now and I know it is probably still 10000 words too flabby. Cutting out the last 6-8000 words was a hell of a mission and took its toll on my story arc, but now I know how much tighter it is.

There are a few more sections that are suspiciously superfluous, I know I have to go back through and floss them out.

I got a lot of tips from this guy, Larry Brooks, and his blog;

http://storyfix.com/

He talks about making sure each scene of the story is mission driven. Trying to make certain that every scene has a goal and drives the story forward, as well as revealing character development. It’s hard to be so ruthless when some of the really fun stuff that you love about your story, suddenly is revealed to be arbitrary, but it definitely makes a difference in the long run to shave it all off. Like a big messy beard that would look much nicer as a little goatee.

Brooks says that if you can’t sum up your story in 9 sentences, each one dealing with one of the major plot points then your structure needs revision.

Hunger Games (9) – The Entire Story in Nine Sentences

When I tried to do this with my book, I came to a grim realisation that my story is suffering from overflow…I needed at least 2 sentences at times to explain what happens and at the end, I kind of had two climax points.

Hmm…well this is what I will be looking at in draft 6. (I call it draft 6, but really it is all one long never ending draft that makes me feel at times that I will never be happy with it.)

My goal is to get it down to 85000 words, and be able to sum it up in 9 sentences with a nice solid plot summary. Then, maybe we will be ready to move forward.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get on with writing the short stories to build the back world and think about publishing them online.

OK, enough for today…I’m going to go eat more Easter eggs. Happy good Friday to all!

Crazy Animal Wednesday

Since my book is set in space, I spend much of my time thinking up weird creatures that could inhabit other worlds. I spend a lot more time than I should perhaps on this, I think it is just about the funnest part of the process. Maybe one day, I should start to introduce my catalogue of creatures onto the blog.I should do proper illustrations first.

I like to think about how the planet my creatures come from could have produced such an organism. How gravity, temperatures, topography, sunlight and chemistry etc, can influence their evolution. One of the best ways to get inspired for creatures though, is often just to take a look at what we have on Earth. There is such a variety of life on our own planet that you don’t have to look far to really find something bizarre. The amount of people posting videos on You Tube of their ordinary cats and dogs doing ridiculous things is a great example of just how alien things that we think of as ‘common’ can sometimes appear.

But if you want to go full alien…this is a pretty good place to start.

http://wtfevolution.tumblr.com/

Updated weekly, this tumblr page constantly gives me examples of really kooky animals that have some extreme features of adaptation. Often with some pretty funny captions too.

For example, this is the piglet squid. I have never heard of or seen anything quite like this, and if I came up with a creature like this in my book, everyone might think I’m crazy…but see…anything is possible.

Could I go a year without looking at words?

I don’t have very good eyes anymore. I used to have fantastic eyes. I used to be the person who would pride themselves on having better eyesight than anyone else.

“Someone has lost an earring – step back…I’m on to it!”

Not anymore…now I have astigmatisms and all kinds of floaters drifting around, waging imaginary battles as they dance across my ever moving sight. My eyes are bad, and my increasing involvement with computers in the last decade have been so heavily responsible for their on going deterioration.

I have a fantasy, I wonder what it would be like to live somewhere remote and spend an entire year without looking at a single word of print. Somewhere where there are no sign posts even…nothing…in any language. Not to take any books, nor write any thoughts or ideas. To live one full year without so much as looking at a calendar. Would it be possible? Would I go insane? Or would my eyes regenerate themselves from looking only at 3 dimensional spaces. It would be a great feat if I could go just one week without touching my mobile phone.

I think so many humans are deprived daily of the chance to see long distances. We are crammed so close together in our cities most of the time, we are lucky if we can gaze a few blocks away. I am fortunate here in wellington that there are many mountains and rolling hillsides that it is quite easy for me to climb up and look out across great distances. One of my favorite runs takes me up the top of a great big hill where I can see the coastline on both sides of the harbor. It is stunning and I am so grateful to be here in this amazing landscape.

I don’t know if I will ever get around to trying out living a year without looking at print, but it is still an interesting thought. To spend a year like our early human ancestors, living with no means of documenting one’s thoughts and also gaining no insight in to the thoughts of others. It might sound like a horrible scenario, but it’s still a notion that I often daydream about on those days when the computer is ruling my horizon with a menacing glare, and all I can think about are those hills and forests and oceans that I would rather be looking at.