Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: Creative work

This quote image from Thomas Kinkade says, "Balance, peace and joy are the fruit of a successful life. It starts with recognizing your talents and finding ways to serve others by using them."

Struggling to balance

The Artdog Quote(s) of the Week

If you’ve been following my blog this month, you know I’ve been struggling to balance a range of unusually urgent demands on my time. As January draws to an end, I can close the book on several of those tasks, but the underlying challenge persists. always have a lot to do.

This quote image by an anonymous writer says, "The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you've lost it."
(Image courtesy of EnkiQuotes)

Don’t get me wrong. like it that way. But it makes me vulnerable to overload, if I need to take on extra stuff. Whenever I can, I try to anticipate when I’ll be most busy. Then I’ll either work ahead so I’m prepared, or cut back some obligations so I don’t drop any balls.

This quote image from Gary Keller says, "Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls--family, health, friends, integrity--are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered."
(Image and quote from Gary Keller courtesy of EnkiQuotes)

Working ahead is great in theory, but in practice it doesn’t always go as I hoped. Rescheduling till later isn’t always an option, either. Then I end up struggling to balance all the stuff I need to do.

(Image and quote from Betsy Jacobson courtesy of EnkiQuotes)

There are lots of demands to balance

Balancing the demands of family, friends, and health needs with work is especially difficult when you’re doing work you’re passionate about. Or even work that’s necessary to support the work that you’re passionate about. Support work includes things like running Amazon ads to sell my book, or supporting my platform by blogging.

When you’re struggling to balance everything, even doing the research that will enable you to outsource some of it may take time you don’t feel you have!

This quote image from Jessye Norman says, "Problems arise in that one has to find a balance between what people need from you and what you need for yourself."
(Image and quote from Jessye Norman courtesy of EnkiQuotes)

Thing is, nobody can “do it all.” Many of my friends have begun to retire. They don’t always understand why I can’t just spontaneously drop everything to do something fun, even though I’m “home all the time.” 

Do you get enough sleep? Eat nutritious, healthy food? Exercise enough? All of those things take time. All are essential to health. How does a person on deadline after deadline prioritize?

When I was younger, in the season of my life when I was rearing small children, I couldn’t write or make artwork as much as I do now. Anyone who thinks it’s easy to keep up the creative work when you’re also the primary on-site caregiver for a small child either has never actually done that, was guilty of child endangerment through neglect, or didn’t get as much creative work done as they claim.

A seasonal balancing act 

No matter what season you’ve come to, in my experience you’ll still find yourself struggling to balance the load from time to time. But the struggle is worth it. For a person who does creative work, the creative work can be the thing that keeps you going in tough times.

This quote image from Thomas Kinkade says, "Balance, peace and joy are the fruit of a successful life. It starts with recognizing your talents and finding ways to serve others by using them."
(Image and quote from Thomas Kinkade courtesy of EnkiQuotes)

The creative work keeps our juices flowing. But the ultimate creative challenge is how we meet the challenge when we’re struggling to balance the demands.

How do you meet that challenge? How do you manage the balance? Please share thoughts, tips, or questions in the comments, if you’re so inclined.

IMAGE CREDITS: All of these quote-images came from the same source, for once! I am deeply indebted to EnkiQuotes’ page of quotes about work-life balance. I literally couldn’t have created this post without them! Many thanks!

A book can seem all-consuming in the homestretch for NaNoWriMo.

Into the homestretch for NaNoWriMo

The Artdog Quote(s) of the Week

We’re closing in on the end of November, and also the end of NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month)All month I’ve posted things to encourage writers, whether or not they’re specifically participating. But for all who are participating, this week you go into the homestretch

The toll that project fatigue exacts

Against a background photo of steep mountains, this Dale Carnegie quote says, "Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration, and resentment."

You’re so close! But sometimes, as we near the end of a long project, exhaustion sets in. Especially if you’ve been extending yourself to make your goals, you may be short of sleep or creaky from bending over your keyboard too long (Take time to stretch!).

Remember, the most important thing you’ll get out of NaNoWriMo or any sustained effort is not necessarily the draft you write (although acclaimed published works have originated from NaNoWriMo first-drafts). 

The most important thing

This quote from Octavia Butler reads, "First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice."

No, the most important thing is developing the habit of persistence. And here in the homestretch is where it comes most fully into play.

More important than talent. More essential than a genius idea. More crucial than the classiest styleThe secret to writing success is persistence. Keep trying. You’ve come into the homestretch for NaNoWriMo. Last-minute brain glitch, and can’t think what to write? Write anyway.

This Philip Pullman quote says, "If you can't think what to write, tough luck; write anyway."

Formula for success

Create the habits that put your butt in the chair (or wherever you write) and your hands on the keyboard (or however you interface with your word processor) and the words being written.

Create and sustain those habits. Eventually, you’ll succeed. Going into the homestretch and beyond, you’ll have developed the most essential requirement for any successful writer. Simply don’t let anything stop you.

This quote from Timothy Zahn reads, "A lot of brilliant writing minds out there will never be heard from because they quit. Persistence is a major part of all of this."

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to BrainyQuotes, for the illustrated Dale Carnegie quote on fatigue. And my deepest gratitude to Early Bird Books and their feature “15 Inspiring Writing Quotes for NaNoWriMo.” Their article is my source for the quotes by Octavia Butler, Philip Pullman, and Timothy Zahn. Finally, many thanks to 123RF and “Bowie 15 for the featured image.

this painting is "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog," 1818, by Caspar David Freidrich

Seeking purpose in life

The Artdog Quote(s) of the Week

In Friday’s post I made the point that people won’t fare very well if they have no purpose in life. But where and how can they find such purpose? For your consideration, I offer a very short discussion, in the form of somewhat-dueling quotes.

This image shows a fair-weather sky with a quote from the Dalai Lama: "The purpose of our lives is to be happy."

Pardon, Your Holiness, but that seems a bit short on practical details. Could you please elaborate? How do we get to happiness as the purpose in our lives from where we are today?

Here's a second quote from the Dalai Lama, printed above a photo of a person's hand holding a small animal, which I believe to be baby mouse, lemur, or shrew. The quote reads: Our prime purpose in this life is to help other, and if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.

That’s a bit clearer, thanks. But not everyone agrees with His Holiness’s original point that “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” Here’s a counterargument from Leo Rosten:

The Leo Rosten quote reads: "I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all." The background is a detail from a painting by Caspar David Friedrich, "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog."

Rosten, a noted writer, humorist, and observer of the world, had an outlook very much in tune with many of the creative people I’ve known. For him and for many others of us, our purpose in life consists of more than just being happy. It’s even more than just making others happy. We want “to have made some difference” that we lived at all. How future generations will realize that purpose in life remains to be seen.

IMAGE CREDITS:

Many thanks to PictureQuotes for the first Dalai Lama quote, and for turning me on to the second one, although their coverup of the credit line irked me (the image originated from an entity called One Voice, whose online presence apparently has ended. It was reposted by “Raya” on Forsti’s Soup and has since spread from there). 

Finally, I want to thank Pass it On and Values.com for the Leo Rosten quote image. Please note that the background image for the Pass it On/Rosten quote conveys a message of its own, if you recognize it.

The painting from which the background of the Rosten Quote on the purpose of life was drawn is "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog," (1818), by Caspar David Friedrich, a famous European Romantic masterwork.

Art history buffs among my readers will have recognized it as one of the masterpieces of 19th Century European Romanticism. The painting is Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818) by Caspar David Friedrich – The photographic reproduction was done by Cybershot800i. (Diff), Public Domain, and is available courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Interruptions

I’ve been trying to wrap up my final draft and get it to the last editor since the beginning of December. My plans were clear, my goals laid out with pristine exactitude.

Yeah, that. 

The details–although I’m sweating them currently–don’t really matter to the big picture. What does matter is that at any moment something else WILL demand my attention. So instead of a long, wordy post I thought today I’d offer a handful of thoughts on interruptions.

When is it okay to interrupt reading groups or conferences? Aliens are invading. You are on fire. Tornado. The classroom is flooding. Peyton Manning enters the classroom.
As a former teacher, I can relate–although the interruptions during my classroom presentations or discussions were almost as often announcements on the intercom, or calls from the office on the classroom phone, as they were interruptions by students.

This topic yielded a multitude of cartoons and memes from office settings, medical, legal, and other fields. I certainly don’t feel alone in my plight. If you share it, you have my heartfelt commiseration. If you live blissfully free of interruptions, just wait

You’ll get yours, soon enough.

IMAGES: Many thanks to QuoteFancy, for the Allen Saunders quote-image; to the Teaching in Blue Jeans Facebook page, via Charlotte Jackson’s Pinterest board, for the guidance on when classroom interruptions are okay; to Comforting Quotes for the observation by French writer Andre Maurois; and to Kjersti Berg via SlidePlayer, for the “interruptions gestalt” image, though I couldn’t immediately confirm the $$ estimate.

Retreat to Paradise Point

I’m writing this post from the edge of Table Rock Lake, in the Hollister, MO area, at a resort managed by Bluegreen Vacations called Paradise Point. I’m enjoying a mini-writing retreat there with my friend Dora Furlong, who set up this trip.

Here’s the view (across an arm of Table Rock Lake) from our balcony at Paradise Point.

Neither of us is officially participating in Na-No-Wri-Mo, but both of us are trying to make progress on our current projects. And what a beautiful setting for our efforts! The physical beauty of the land is sometimes absolutely breathtaking.

Fog rose from the valleys in southern Missouri  on our trip to Paradise Point. Photo (complete with unavoidable bugs on Jan’s windshield) by Dora Furlong.

We drove down from the Kansas City Metro Monday, and were startled by the thickness of the fog in the valleys at dusk. I remarked to Dora that it was like the fog that comes up each evening from the Sirius River on Rana Station in my stories. From there, we launched into a discussion of ways to create greater drama with the fog (writing retreat; it’s what we do!).

The lights and the fog held an interactive dialogue on the grounds of Paradise Point after dark.

After supper we wandered around in that selfsame fog on the Paradise Point grounds, both to get a sense of our surroundings and because it was good to take an after-dinner constitutional. And of course I collected more great resource material!

It’s a mini-retreat, so our time is limited. But I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse. If you’re a creative person, I hope you’ll consider taking some time away (with a friend or alone) to concentrate on immersing yourself in your own creative work. Not all of the rewards show up on the page, but I think you’ll find those rewards are both real and enriching.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Dora Furlong for sharing her photo of the fog along Hwy. 65 in southern Missiouri, and giving me permission to use it here! The other two photos are by me, Jan S. Gephardt. As ever, if you wish to use an image from this post please include a link back to your source and an attribution to the photographer, when you do! Many thanks!

Shifting focus

I hope Mr. Escher was right, because right now I’ve got a big, chaotic pileup of things that I’ve had on “hold” for weeks on end, and now it’s time to deal with them. So far, producing order hasn’t been all that lovely a task.

Why the pileup? Because something had to give. For these last many weeks, my primary focus had to be consistently, obsessively, compulsively, on One Important Thing.

I spent the weeks between Fourth of July and Labor Day this year embarked on a massive push to fix all the myriad little oopses, flaws, continuity issues, and plot holes large and small that had beset my science fiction novel What’s Bred in the Bone as it went through multiple drafts.

It was daunting, challenging, and ultimately quite exhilarating to see it all come together at last. It helped that I had that wonderfully clarifying imperative, a deadline.

Actually, I try to focus on what matters, as a matter of principle, as much as possible. The exercise of seeking out the most important things and focusing on those can be quite rewarding, and it can make your life amazing.

But practical reality will take its pound of flesh eventually. Every once in a while you simply have to stop and do the dishes. Or feed the kids. Or get up and move your body around. Or pay bills. Everybody’s got something.

My family, it must be said, is amazingly supportive. They’ve stayed busy with their own things and gone off in their own orbits, certainly. But they also covered for me A LOT.

Now it’s payback time.

Shifting my focus is proving to be a bit like turning a battleship, in no small part because I really got used to writing all the time with no other responsibilities, and a large part of me just doesn’t wanna “adult” today. What I really want is to go back to Rana Station.

Soon, I’ll get my chance. But not yet, dang it!

IMAGES: Many thanks to Brainy Quote for several of the quote images used in today’s post: M. C. Escher’s hopeful quote about bringing order to chaosAlexander Graham Bell’s thoughts on focus, and Abraham Lincoln’s advice on the hazards of evading one’s responsibilities. I also appreciate the 101 Inspirational Quotes for Designers post from Web Designer Depot, where I found the “Focus on what matters” graphic. I love you all!

Breaking out of patterns

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

When we look at creativity’s value, it’s everywhere.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Pinterest, and Professional Artist Magazine for this image. 

The ‘medicinal art’ of Ricardo Levins Morales

I’ve been wanting to round out my mid-week “Social Justice February” posts with art–and I’ve found the perfect “poster man” for the topic. He is Ricardo Levins Morales. You may find that you recognize his work, but even if you don’t I hope you enjoy it.

Trayvon Martin-Ella Baker
I had seen this image before, but never knew who the artist was.

Posters have a long history in art. They haven’t always been appreciated for the art form they are, of course–Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, for example was scorned by other artists for his commercialism when he created what are now considered iconic images. And Alphonse Mucha tried to distance himself, later in life, from the Art Nouveau style he helped create with his marvelous posters.

Budget Priorities speaks to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Ricardo Levins Morales, by contrast, has embraced the art of the poster-style image in his own unique way. The artist/activist has turned it into what he calls “medicinal art.” What does that mean?

History’s Perspective offers hope in an unjust world.

“when I work with any community I start with a diagnosis,” he explains in his online biography. “I ask what it is that keeps this group of people from knowing their power and acting on it. Not what has been done to them but wounds, fears or ways of thought keep folks immobilized.”

We Are the Mainstream

His work embraces social justice, the environment, empowerment for a variety of minority groups, and labor issues. I’ve collected a “mini-gallery” of some of my favorites here, but you can see many, many more wonderful pieces at his Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio website.

Environmental Justice

IMAGES: Many thanks to the Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio for all of the images shown in this post. I’ve linked each back to a page where you can purchase the image if you wish. Many are available in at least two formats.

When is it play, and when is it creative work?

A much-belated Artdog Quote of the Week!

I’ve been playing a little more than I “should” this week (always with the “shoulds” [insert quiet groan here]. You’d think I’d learn).

Last week, I finished my final editing pass on Going to the XK9s. It’s the (eighth draft of the) first novel in my planned “XK9 Series.

I sent it off to my editor, took a deep breath, and . . . OMG! Really wanted to get going on the next one!

I don’t know if this is a good thing, or a bad thing. I’ve been told that one should take a vacation, or at least a nice, relaxing break, after finishing a novel manuscript–especially after finishing the kind of fine-toothed-comb, line-by-line editing process, where you sweat ALL the details.

My problem with that? I’m bubbling over with ideas and energy for the next book. My XK9s are a pack of sapient police dogs who shake things up on their adopted space station home, while sniffing out bad guys. Writing about them is a lot of fun (as I hope reading about them will be).

I’ve also had enough experience to know that “flow” like this doesn’t happen all the time. It’s wise to hop on and ride it out, when it comes, which is what I’ve been doing, instead of writing blog posts (sorry). Every job feels like “a job,” sometimes–just not right now, for me.

So, then, am I relaxing? Am I working? Is it okay to say “yes”? If your work feels like playing, do we have to draw the line somewhere?

Gosh, I hope not.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Pinterest, via Betype, for the John Cleese quote, and to Marine L. Rot for the “creative flow” banner.

Who needs labor unions?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

On this Labor Day, I wish both relaxation and a moment of thought to all of you. I know that in this country there are many people who think labor unions are the worst thing possible, so for you folks, here’s my trigger warning.

As a teacher who will forever be grateful that my labor union went to bat for me when I was being unfairly treated by an employer, I have a very positive view of the need for labor unions. 

I believe strongly that all human beings who work bring something unique to their work, and that they should be treated fairly, respected–no matter what their job is–and paid a living wage.

I’m a student of history. I know that not all labor unions have been positive influences at all times. Some labor unions have functioned like political machines in a corrupting way. Some labor unions have overreached and been intransigent when perhaps they should have been more flexible. Some have been controlled or heavily influenced by organized crime.

But I also know that labor unions have been deeply involved in helping to empower everyday people so they can take part in creating safer, fairer, and more free and well-paying job situations. My theme this month–a creative look at labor–will explore the positive aspects of the labor movement, and the need to keep on cherishing the right to help create better workplaces for tomorrow.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Wheniscalendars for the Happy Labor Day logo, and to Quotesideas for the image and quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

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