Category Archives: creatives

Winning

Home Office, Workstation, Office

Here’s an interesting post from Nathan Bransford that asks the question are you really doing what you love, or just trying to win?  For someone who is quasi-competitive (when I feel like it, basically, which isn’t all that often), it brings up some good points. The last few years have been a whirlwind of writing & promotion & connecting with readers & traveling and it felt like I hadn’t taken a deep breath in a long time. I write 2 books a year, which is a great pace for me. But I’ve been reading about authors getting caught up in the whole, “you need to publish 6 books a year” (or 3, or 12–take your pick) or readers will forget all about you and you’ll fade into obscurity.

And I thought, “In the great scheme of things, does that really matter?”

Don’t get me wrong. I love having people read my work. LOVE it. But I don’t want this gig to become just another day job. Because boredom. Because unfulfilled. And if I gave myself over to “winning” this game, that’s what would happen. (YMMV) It would become just another thing I did, rather than a vocation.

When I asked myself the questions at the end of Bransford’s post I realized I seriously love to write and will do it as long as I can string words together in a coherent fashion. I have goals that I’ve achieved and some that I haven’t. I’ll keep working toward them as I’ve always done–that’s just how I roll. But it’s good to occasionally remind myself why I do this–yes, most definitely for the wonderful relationships that have come from being a writer (readers, other writers, etc.)–and yes, for the money I earn from creating something out of a seriously twisted imagination–and a big, huge hell yes for the love of the craft.

Not the love of the game.


The Theme of Your Life

Alphonse Mucha - Fate

Alphonse Mucha – Fate

Here’s a particularly interesting piece by Steven Pressfield about theme–specifically, what is the theme of your life? He posits that by looking at the books you’ve written, or the art you’ve created, that you should be able to make out a theme for your life, and/or understand your destiny. “…we discover who we are, not just by our actions … but, if we’re artists, by the works we produce.”

Pressfield’s blog post was sparked by watching a documentary on Tony Robbins of “Walking on Fire” fame. Years ago when I lived in northern California, I participated in a fire walk (on two different occasions. I never said I was sane…) although not as part of Robbins’s massive event. The workshop (for lack of a better word) was more personalized, and extremely powerful. Every participant walked away (pun alert) from the experience with the belief that they could accomplish anything.

And no, none of us had to go to the hospital 🙂 I was working at a winery in the Dry Creek Valley at the time and mentioned it to some customers the day after. One of them, a big, burly dude who was obviously a skeptic asked if he could see my feet. I showed him. I’m not sure he believed me, but he was surprised there weren’t any blisters.

Anyway, back to theme. I’ve always been passionate about human rights, protecting the innocent, and choosing courage over fear, even when fear is the predominant emotion. I’m also interested in exploring forgiveness and unconditional acceptance, and why so many seem to have a problem with putting those concepts into play (myself included). And, when and why do people “do the right thing” over the most expedient thing. These themes have all emerged in my writing, and I’m even more committed to exploring my relationship to each. Part of this is certainly based on the way I was raised, and part is from what I’ve experienced so far in life.

Eleven years ago (give or take) I began work on my first novel. Since then, I’ve discovered more about myself through writing than I probably would have from a daily psychotherapy session. Let me tell you–it’s been an interesting trip.

Not all of it has been pleasant. But all of it has been valuable. I realized that I do my best work when something pisses me off, igniting a fire inside of me. Talk about having access to a LOT of raw material these days…

So my question to you is, what is the theme of your life? What’s important to you, and do  you bring that out in your work (whether you consider yourself an artist or not)? Do you believe you’re here for a reason? Or are we all just a bunch of random cells smashed together in this space and time and will all disintegrate when we die?

Remember: there are no wrong answers 🙂


The Clean Reader App Uproar

Censored stampUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock (or editing your manuscript, or are on safari in the depths of the DRC) you’ve probably read about the uproar surrounding the Clean Reader App. I’ve read several posts about it and thought I’d share the two I enjoyed most: Charlie Stross and Chuck Wendig.

Gotta say, Ernest Hemingway’s turning in his grave right now. I remember picking up a used copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls years ago and being puzzled by his word choices (unmentionable was used several times in place of his original text. I freely and somewhat sheepishly admit it took me a couple of pages before I realized I had a censored copy as I’d never run across one before.) The replacement words absolutely destroyed Hemingway’s intent, not to mention totally messed with my reading experience. Talk about jarring…

Thankfully, Mark Coker over at Smashwords has requested all SW books be removed from the app. Personally, I’d love for the Clean Reader App to disappear in a flood of legal challenges. I choose the words I use in my work specifically for rhythm and flow and effect, and if that includes profanity, well, then that’s what I’m going to use. If you don’t like it, then PLEASE don’t buy my books.

UPDATE*** Thanks to authors around the world flooding these folks with take down notices and comments against this insidious app, they’ve removed all books from their online store. A small victory, but a victory for literature nonetheless.

 


Indie Music and Indie Publishing

Music note EPhenomenally good article over at the Guardian (listed by the Passive Guy) by Steve Albini on the state of indie music today. It’s similar to what’s going on in indie publishing and worth a look:

Original Guardian article


The Nearsighted Narwhal — A New Kind of Bookstore

Ossain and Christina

Ossain and Christina (credit: TNN website)

The Nearsighted NarwhalA new bookstore named The Nearsighted Narwhal recently opened in Tacoma, Washington in the 6th Ave district and I’ve got to tell you, I’m stoked. Why? Because Ossain and Christina, the fine folks who run the store, celebrate all things DIY, including self-published books.

 

Interior of Nearsighted Narwhal

Self-publishing extravaganza!

Imagine my wonderment as I walked into the funky and unassuming yet awesomely eclectic space and saw shelf after shelf of self-published books, local fiction and non-fiction, graphic novels, zines and comics, along with an exciting mix of locally made art.

lo-fi options

Lo-fi recording options

They hold workshops on everything from travel sketching to teens making zines to grant writing for artists. There’s a strong sense of community radiating from the place and I instantly felt welcome when I entered the store.

I don’t know about you, but The Nearsighted Narwhal tells me self-publishing has arrived. Giving indie published books this much shelf space says something about our culture and how it’s transforming the way art is perceived. Not to mention the whole collaborative, helping-each-other-succeed vibe that permeates the DIY/Indie movement as a whole.

If you live nearby or plan on visiting Tacoma, do yourself a favor: stop by The Nearsighted Narwhal and try it on for size 😀

Jenni and the Nearsighted narwhal

Jenni and the narwhal

The Nearsighted Narwhal / 610 6th Avenue / Tacoma, WA 98406
Facebook Page

self-published sign


Destiny?

Alphonse Mucha - Fate

Alphonse Mucha – Fate

Lately, I’ve been thinking about destiny (or fate, if you prefer) and what it’s meant in my life. Imagine my delight when I read not one, but two blog posts this morning regarding being in the right place at the right time and seizing the opportunity presented. I imagine destiny is part what you make it, part blind chance. But there’s a small voice inside of me that whispers of mystery and magic and refuses to cave in to total and precise logic.

And really, what fun would that be?

Now, of course there’s an obvious explanation to that train and it goes something like, “Well, she writes fiction–what do you expect?” But it goes far deeper, I think. (Maybe it’s because I saw the movie Lucy last night, but I’m in a hella philosophical mood today…)

John Atkinson Grimshaw - Spirit of the Night

John Atkinson Grimshaw

Long ago, people believed in magic, in forces beyond what they could see, and ascribed what they couldn’t explain to gods and goddesses, faeries and other supernatural beings. Or, in the case of Feng Shui, to the effect of energy, or chi, on space and time. Along came scientific inquiry and religion, both advocating that theirs was the only way, blowing the shit out of centuries of beliefs (although, in many [most?] instances religion jacked the original festivals and belief systems, modifying them for their own use. Science just rolled its collective eyes and ignored these belief systems, assigning the moniker of superstition to the practice.)

But centuries of belief in forces beyond ourselves created that still, small voice in each of us and is represented in the modern world by our little quirks: like the writer who lights a candle every time she sits down to her computer; or the pitcher who circles the plate three times before throwing the ball (I’m sure you can come up with more, but you get my drift). Many of us pray, others meditate–all trying to connect with something outside (inside?) ourselves. Some people prefer to call this voice God, some call it by a different name. Some don’t believe in anything other than themselves (which in itself is a belief system). I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t believe something. So, for the sake of argument, can we admit human beings are defined (at least somewhat) by their beliefs?

Okay, now that we’ve got that established. Where was I? Oh yeah, destiny.

Personally, I believe in destiny, or fate, or whatever you want to call it. I also believe in science. And stuff we can’t see or explain (I simply label that “energy”). What I don’t believe is that there’s only one way of looking at the world, one narrative. The universe is far too ginormous to hobble it with one true explanation. To me, it’s like saying my friend who takes belly dancing lessons is only that: a person who belly dances–when she’s so much more. Why limit our thinking?

Especially when it comes to the universe.

When Fate DecidesSo I choose to believe in destiny. But I also choose to believe destiny likes a little help now and then. Like putting yourself in the way of the freight train of fate. In regard to writing, maybe you’re not where you ultimately want to be at the moment. I’m convinced that if you act like you’ve already achieved/received what you want, put yourself in the way of success, meet others in the industry, network, believe in yourself and persist, eventually you’re going to get it. “It” may surprise you, though. The universe is so much more intelligent than we could ever imagine…

Case in point: I never would have met my husband Mark if it weren’t for putting myself in the way of the destiny train. Several times. Until it took. Back when I was in senior high, I came out to Washington State to visit my sister and she tried to get me to transfer to a local high school. I didn’t, but if I had, I’m pretty sure I would have met Mark then rather than 18 years later, when I went white water rafting with the same outfit he did. Back then he worked as a chef and owned a French restaurant in the same town where my sister lived. He often ate at the cafe  where she worked. They even remember each other, vaguely. The really weird thing? Back home, I was dating a guy who was the spitting image of Mark at the time. Years later, I showed my mother Mark’s old passport and she asked why I still had my ex-boyfriend’s I.D. Seriously, they could’ve been twins. Over time, we’ve compared timelines and events and have found many, many instances where we could have/should have met, even though we lived in different states or even countries.

What I’m trying to get at, (and this is quite a ramble, sorry) is that I believe there are forces at work that we know nothing about, and to be aware of what you put out there in thought and action. And never give up. Especially if you have a dream, whatever it may be.

Some day, you just might find yourself in the path of destiny.

 


Spotlight Series–James Radcliffe

photo of the artistToday I’m right stoked to  introduce you to indie artist/musician, James Radcliffe. I became aware of James after he connected with me here. I visited his award-winning blog and read a few posts, listened to a couple of his tracks and bought his album. His music struck me as ethereal and unlike anything I’d heard before, and I was interested in finding out more about him. Turns out he’s living the dream of creatives everywhere by making a living through his art. Here’s his bio:

James Radcliffe is a 100% listener-supported, independent artist based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He writes an award-winning blog that boasts over 4000 followers, and released a solo digital album in early 2014 priced at £5 that listeners now regularly choose to pay over £30 to download. Spotlight Series logo

He pretty much lives in his home studio, and will be releasing new music very shortly in a new and experimental way.

[Note from DV: James has just released a limited edition CD of his album. It can be found here.]

Some listener quotes:

Unapologetically, disarmingly, impossibly beautiful.

Haunting

…not just heard, but felt.”

STUNNING. BRILLIANT. It’s like an indie film for your soul.”

Genius.”

And now for the Spotlight questions (a sample and links to James’s work are below the short interview):

D: When did you first realize you were a musician?

J: Doing music has felt natural to me for as long as I can remember. I was in the school brass band and orchestra when I was a kid, and did my first solo performance when I was around 7. So there wasn’t really a: ‘bolt of lightning from the heavens now-I-am-a-musician’ kind of moment. It was much more prosaic than that. Music was just something that I did, like drawing with crayons, eating, or going to the toilet. It’s always been there.

D: What do you hope to convey through your music?

J: There is a feeling I get when I make music that I can’t express in any other way. Time stops and I totally lose any awareness of myself. It’s very ecstatic for me. It’s the closest I’ve ever been able to get to pure freedom.
The people who really connect with my stuff say that they have the same kind of experience when they listen, but this communication is not something that I consciously strive for. It’s more like a happy by-product of me doing what I love to do.

D: What’s your favorite part of working in a creative field? Least favorite?

J: I really love what I do. And I’m fortunate enough to make a living at it, so I don’t have to do anything that I don’t want to. I love the process of making art, I love sharing it, and I love connecting with the people who resonate with it. For me, there isn’t a downside.

D: Where do you see yourself in five years?

J: I don’t really think in those terms. I just focus on: each days practice; each little project. I am not working to some Masterplan here. My life is the Grand Experiment. 😉

I do whatever work has energy for the moment until it’s done. This approach seems to be working pretty well, and I like being surprised, so I’ll stick with it for now.

D: What would you like readers of this blog to know about you?

J: That I exist. That I am real. That my music is out there should they want it.
And that I am readily available thru my website should they want to connect with me.

The Blog: http://jamesradcliffe.com/
The Music: http://jamesradcliffemusic.com/album/i

James Radcliffe

 


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