Hi there :)
So this book/art project/show I’ve been working toward is a little over half done, and I’ve got some thoughts I’d like to share about it. Like a lot of creative endeavors, my own understanding of it wasn’t solid the minute I started it…it had to stew awhile before I felt like I had the words to explain what it was all about. And once I did, I started sharing them more and more with people when they asked how it was going, and I realized how much I truly enjoy that. I feel like I light up when I talk about it, and that light gets stronger the more I work on it and understand it myself. So I’ve decided to make a blog post to share some of the coolest things about the process and the story so far, and I would really love to hear other interpretations or thoughts about it as well. For anyone who hasn’t yet read it, there are no real “spoilers” here, so no worries. I so appreciate insight into the thoughts and creative process of other artists, and I’m making an effort to share more of my own, so I encourage you to share this post with creative types and anyone else you think might get something good from it.
Also! Between now and April 6, I’ll be giving away 3 print copies of Qualia. Enter your email address below to be entered to win. All current and new subscribers will be included in the drawings, which will take place on the last days of January, February, and March. Winners will be notified via email and announced on social media. I promise I’m safe with your information, and I only send emails to let you know of cool things happening and chapter releases.
I have always wanted to write a book.
The plot of Qualia is an idea that had been in the back of my mind for a year or so before I started it, but in truth it was one idea of hundreds and really wasn’t any more special than the others. In fact, I’m guessing now that I could have picked any of them and they would have just served as a different vehicle driving to the exact same place Qualia is headed.
I’ve always struggled with getting started on creative projects, in part due to just not knowing which idea to choose, sometimes resulting in stalling altogether. I know I’m not lazy…in fact, I have often procrastinated by doing something ten times harder than the task I’m avoiding. A recent transition to self-employment exacerbated my typical anxiety level regarding this feet-dragging habit of mine. I knew that disappointment wouldn’t be the only consequence if I didn’t have squat to show for my time. I could very easily fall face first into a vat of failure stew if my work is sparse or sub-par, and I hate linked in and monster.com almost as much as I hate normal jobs.
I published the prologue of what was to be a serial novel, released one chapter per week, on my website on August 5, 2018. I had spent the previous year moving forward as a working artist, but was very unhappy with things/myself/my work/my pace. I had already started to do what I tend to do when it’s getting down to S or get off the P time…make external commitments. This time it was a big one…I scheduled a solo show on my birthday, which brings me to the real core of what Qualia is about to me. Well, it’s about so many things, but here’s the biggest one: Change. Getting out of my comfort zone and trying to change the things I’m not happy with, and challenge my ideas about things that I’ve always wanted to do but have felt afraid of or uncomfortable with.
Here are some of the goals I’m tackling in this 243-day project:
The book!: One way to set a deadline and make sure I prioritize is by paying good money for a class and showing up. I took a fiction writing course from the talented and perfect Sheila Redling. You can check out her books here. It was pretty early into that class that I had finally had enough screwing around and just decided to do the thing. I wrote a list of goals, both personal and professional, and published my prologue as a promise to myself from the future (If you didn’t know this, read the prologue below with your new insider info. It is full of symbolism). I gave myself 243 days to reach my goals, because that’s how many days I had left until my show. All of this shows up in the book, which at this point is basically a symbolic diary of my experiences. Art imitates life, yo. The book will be available in print at the show opening, and can be read weekly until then on my website.
Singing: I’ve always wanted to sing, but I thought I didn’t have a “good voice”. Ironic, considering I’ll argue with anyone who says they “can’t draw”. I just never realized good singing could be learned…but I’ve learned a ton! I’m taking voice lessons weekly, and even writing my own music. The real challenge with this one is that I’m going to sing for the first time ever at my show on my birthday. Go big or go home. Speaking of…
My birthday: I have never liked my own birthday, and I don’t know why. It makes me feel shy and sort of sad. I always thought it was sweet when people got all excited about their own birthday and had parties. I’ve declined to have one just because it feels weird to me. So we are gonna party it up on my birthday and see what all the buzz is about.
Healing my old shit: We all have it. Much of my life has been affected by anxiety, and I’ve been making an effort to just calm the hell down already. Yoga is really wonderful for that, especially super old-fashioned brain yoga, which allows me to flex my philosophy muscles and examine myself uncomfortably under a microscope in front of other people…bonuses abound. (If you like a challenge and are intrigued by this type of self-inflicted emotional waterboarding, I cannot recommend Jenn Brooks Yoga highly enough.) I’ve been attending yoga classes and retreats, doing some cool art projects with wise yogis, and even became a certified Reiki practitioner.
Connecting with others: I am in constant danger of becoming an actual hermit. (Seriously-I recently cancelled my Amazon subscription for toilet paper.) My favorite social engagements, historically speaking, are the ones that get cancelled, which is like Christmas morning to me. I absolutely love people, but I do tend to shy away from them, so I’m working on that. Before I would have been likely to try to learn to write or sing or do yoga online, but I’ve made an effort to take actual classes from really real human beings and it has been very good for me.
I’m also sharing more of myself in other ways, like a recent interview for a super cool podcast, being featured in a local writer’s blog, and posting process photos and videos of my work online. Check out the links below if you’re interested in that type of jazz.
A sped up video of a two hour long oil portrait painting…my attempts to make a daily ONE hour painting have rarely been successful, so I’m still working on that. Baby steps, right?
So, what the heck does all this personal growth have to do with art?
I am often asked questions regarding when I decided to be an artist, or how my life as an artist differs from my normal every day life. There is no Artist Me that is separate from Daily Me. This has, at times, proved challenging in terms of making sure I keep time for other things, but it is wonderful in that I don’t really view most aspects of my job as a job at all. I really can’t separate my life from my work, so if I make changes in my life it is really interesting to me to see how those changes manifest in the work I make.
So interesting, in fact, that I’ve just started intentionally making work that directly addresses personal change and growth. Since my artwork feels so intricately linked to me as a person (which has also been a source of shyness for me-a solo show tends to feel like reading my diary sans pants to a crowd of strangers), for the time being I’m very intentionally allowing my life experiences to be represented in all of it…the book, the paintings, everything. I feel that now is a great time to do this, because this is the first period of my life that my art has been my “job” in terms of income, and that is a scary transition for sure that requires a lot of self-reflection and difficult change in order to work. I also feel like it’s a great way to share with others, and as someone who is drawn to teaching in general I really love the idea that opening up about my work could possibly influence or help others on their own creative journeys.
At this mid-point in my project, I can honestly say that I am loving all of it. It has been extremely challenging to hold myself to a weekly publication schedule for a book that is literally being written as it is published (I started with a basic outline of events, but am absolutely allowing myself to be flexible enough for my life to influence the book in real time), but I am doing it! And will have a published book to show for it on April 6 :)
If I had waited until I was ready, I’d still be waiting.
If you’re interested in symbolism in literature, personal change, conceptual art, meditation, yoga, or just enjoy the voyeuristic act of watching to see if someone totally flops on their big, scary goals in a public way, I’d love for you to read along with me and come to my show. Bring some popcorn for the singing part and hold your breath and hope I don’t screw it up too bad.
Check out my show information poster (Come celebrate my birthday with me!) and Instagram info below, and feel free to find me on Facebook, or email me questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org