Weekly Blog 2/18/19: Beauty for Ashes: Receiving Negative Feedback, Processing Failure, and Starting A Period Of Study

Hey guys! It’s Taylor. I’m here with a bit of a difficult blog, on a bit of a difficult topic: some difficult feedback I’ve gotten, and the process I’ve gone through in integrating that information and figuring out “if I suck at the one thing I really want to do, where do I go from here?”

So, basically, a few days back I showed my latest creation, the comic Beauty for Ashes, issue 1, to a friend. He complimented the art and printing, but said finally: “I can’t follow the story. Like, at all.” It was a punch to the gut. I hadn’t realized that with all the corners I cut – reading lots of comics (but not drawing much), only practicing drawing females (to the detriment of learning to draw males), spending years practicing making comics but never really learning the theory behind it – I realized, after this difficult conversation, that my slacking and freeform study had not resulted in me being able to draw comics. It had resulted in being essentially a writer who can’t plot a novel, or a screenplay author who can’t format. I had the passion and the practice and NONE of the study.

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For a few days I languished in despair (intentionally using dramatic language there – I was being dramatic). My whole world felt jumbled. I had spent the past 15 years or so actively trying to become a comic artist, and, to my mind, had failed. Then a thought came to me – one of my favorite quotes:

“If you need a tree, the best time to plant one was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”

Meaning that yes, we may waste time, and yes, it may be too late for some things in some senses – but that doesn’t mean you give up. You still plant that tree, and you water it and make the best of what you can.

So I got thinking: What did I do with other art forms that I have gotten good at (novel-writing, painting, etc)? “Practice,” “study,” and “start small” came to mind immediately. With novels, I studied the craft (taking classes and reading how-to books), I practiced (I’ve written 8 or 10 fiction books depending on whether you count picture books), and I started small (the picture books were my first foray into fiction). With watercolor, it’s been a similar path.

For some reason, I guess I’d thought that my years of striving with comics would result automatically in learning. Turns out practice makes progress, but it works a heck of a lot better if it’s combined with academic study (or at least learning from experts) and starting super-micro.

Thus I’ve been coming up with a sort of course of study for myself, going so far as to also learn about “how to teach yourself stuff in general,” involving books and courses on how to make comics. It includes some of Eisner’s instructional works on sequential art, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Making Comics, Hirohiko Araki’s Manga in Theory and Practice, and other resources.

The important thing is…I’m going to study. I’m going to do the homework. I’m sad that it’s taken me this long to be ready to do it, but it takes what it takes. For me it took four comics that didn’t make sense – and some incredibly helpful but very painful feedback – to figure out that I need to do the homework, have beta readers, and study – the same as everyone else.

In the next year or so, I don’t plan to release much in terms of comics, but I’ll definitely still be making art, the Tarot deck, and my blog and YouTube content. It will be a year of practice and study, and that’s okay. I’m excited to tackle this, and I’m excited to see where I end up in 2020.

If you’d like to support this whole operation, please head over to my Etsy shop. You can purchase art, prints, even stationery and Tarot accessories, all handmade by me. And if you’re enjoying my site, please hit the follow button on the right to get notified whenever I post a new blog (about once a week).

Wishing you all the best,

Taylor

Weekly Blog 2/11/19: My Writing Journey, the Art of the Novel, and Future Plans

Hey guys, it’s Taylor and today I’m writing a blog all about novels and my love of them – and how that love figures into my plans for my creative life, going forward.

So, the story so far: I’ve been reading since beyond memory, which means either that I don’t remember as far back as most people or I learned to read before most people, or maybe both. According to my parents I was picking out word at 3 and reading at 4, but I honestly don’t remember much before I was 5 or 6, so it’s kind of all conjecture and “he-said-she-read” at this point. The important thing, though, is that I’ve been reading for about 25 years at this point, and that it started early.

I’ve always loved books, but novels are really my sort of cozy, happy place. You know that awesome commercial where Nick Jonas paired with Cigna to recommend talking to your doctor about your mental/emotional health? Well, if Nick’s happy place is a cozy little living room with a fireplace, music, and a puppy, then mine is just about anywhere as long as I’ve got a novel.

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(A few of my favorites. Image: a stack of paperback novels, including Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Half Life by Shelley Jackson, An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle, DUNE by Frank Herbert, and Book One of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.)

But at some point there was a big shift in how I viewed novels and what I thought of them – and that was the moment that I realized oh, there are people who actually write novels, for a living. The awareness of the existence of novelists changed me. I suddenly decided (at age 8 or 9) that I was going to be a novelist.

Over the subsequent 20 years, I got into art, comics, and illustration – and I do love those things, don’t get me wrong – but see, I’m not one of those people who believes you can’t do all your passions, that you have to limit yourself, and that even some things you truly love have to fall by the wayside for one or two to succeed. I do believe in prioritizing and working on a limited number of things at a time; but I also really believe in following all of your deep passions.

For me, art and comics and Tarot are a big part of my heart, but another big part – that hasn’t seen the light of day much lately – is writing novels. And that part of me is starting to come to light again.

I was on a trip recently that involved a lot of plane trips and airport layovers, and I am not exactly a comfortable flyer. I often half-joke “I like flying – I just don’t like airports, security, takeoff, landing, or turbulence!” So, despite it being a business trip (not much time to write), I brought a traveler’s notebook and pens and wrote pretty much constantly on my travel days.

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(I didn’t bring ALL of these notebooks – just the traveler’s notebook on top. Image: a pile of varied notebooks, planners, and journals, topped with an overstuffed, over-decorated traveler’s notebook.)

Now, I hadn’t made plans on what I was going to write, so I kind of just wrote whatever. Part of it was journaling, but a bunch of what came out was scenes for a rewrite of a story I’ve had in my head for several years. It was originally called Prysm and was going to be a straight romance, and it’s somehow morphed into more than just a romance, and definitely not straight. It’s also taken on the working title Freefall – or, as a friend of mine has nicknamed it, “Lesbians In Space.” (Hey, my friends are awesome, what can I say?)

So, honestly, I have to acknowledge that I have a lot of projects right now, and I’m shuffling them around a little. Some things are being back-burnered, some things are being shelved, but so far as I can tell, nothing that I’ve promised “coming soon!” is getting put on pause. I promise that the Millennial Mystic Tarot is very much still coming out – I’m actually working steadily on that; it’s just a big project that takes a long time to do regardless. The stuff that I’m shuffling around is mostly behind-the-scenes, in-the-works projects that I haven’t made public yet.

I have mixed feelings about shelving anything, and I’m not doing it without serious consideration. My experience with the Millennial Mystic Tarot has taught me that the key to completing a big project is to stick with it and not allow distractions to drag you away. But at the same time, I can’t deny that being a writer is still one of my dearest dreams.

So I’ll keep you posted – about the Tarot deck, the novel, and all other future plans. If you’d like to stay informed on them, please hit the follow button on the sidebar.

And until next time, I hope you’re having a fantastic day.

-Taylor

Self-Care For Creatives in the Month of Love

Hey all! It is February and I’m back!

I realize it’s been a couple weeks since my last blog, and I do apologize for that. I was on a business trip and it’s taken me longer to bounce back from the jet lag and altitude sickness than I expected…So, apologies. But honestly, it was worth it – check out where I went….

That’s right, Park City, Utah – for Sundance Film Festival, through work. It was an incredible experience and I am SO grateful. However, it was exhausting. I am anything but fit, and actually rather overweight and out of shape, so combine jet lag with that and being at 7,000 feet, and you get one very exhausted Taylor.

But I’m back now and settled and ready to get back to the blogging. I actually do have a specific topic today – I’m talking about self-care and self-love in the “month of love.” In the Western world especially, we celebrate love and Valentine’s Day in February, and it’s generally focused on romantic love, partner-love, soulmate love, things like that. I feel, however, that it can be a great opportunity to celebrate and invest in the most important relationship any of us will ever have in this life: our relationship with our own self.

It’s difficult, in our world today, to feel love for ourselves. Even when we focus in on it, it’s a challenge to love our whole self, or even any part of it. We are constantly told that we’re not good enough. And I don’t just mean the billboards telling us that we are too short, too fat, too dark, too whatever – I mean the pressure on us to “live up to the standards” for financial wellbeing, career path, academic achievement, possessions, and so on.

  • Massive student debt? We’re told we should have worked our way through college (despite the fact that no college kid can get a job that will fully pay tuition semester by semester).
  • Not in our dream career? We’re told that we shouldn’t be settling for a retail job. (The phrase “didn’t you get a degree in _____, though?” comes to mind.)
  • Didn’t make it through college? We are immediately questioned about our academic performance. (Never mind that some of us couldn’t afford it or don’t have the stability, health, or temperament for college. It’s truly not for everyone.)
  • Don’t have a car? People just stare and laugh. (I’ve taken the bus for the past seven years and it works fine for me for now, thanks.)

It’s sad, really, that we are, all of us, all ages and generations, so insecure that we have to trash people for the paths their lives have taken. But what can we do it?

Know thyself. And then love thyself anyway.

It’s not easy. It’s a big task. But it can start small: Spend a dollar more to get the body wash you actually like. Pull that one really comfy, soft T-shirt out of the closet, and wear it when you’re at home (or, hell, out and about). Replace some of your super-processed candy bar snacks with fruit. (I’m not being judgemental – this is just one thing that really helps me feel like I’m properly caring for myself.)

Then try bigger things. Treat yo self. Take yourself on a micro-vacation to a local park or lake. Sit with your favorite book, even if you’ve read it a hundred times, and read. Spend a little time every day journaling. Be gentle with yourself when you screw up at work. Clean up your act when appropriate, but don’t join the crowd of people who will beat you up about it. “The world is going to be hard enough on you; they don’t need you to volunteer to help with the task.”

In the past years, I’ve worked my way up to daring to do really big things for myself – daring to have a long-term relationship, learning to travel on my own, getting my dental repairs done, and, perhaps most dramatically, shifting into a more risky but incredibly more rewarding career as an artist.

But honestly, it started small. It started with body wash. It started with soft T-shirts. And before that, it started with deciding maybe I was worth good things. Maybe I deserved body wash and T-shirts and vacations and love. It wasn’t certain; I was not sure at all that i deserved anything good. I just was willing to consider that maybe, maybe I deserved better.

I started low. When I started my self-care journey, people had to teach me that you ought to shower every day (my parents had taught me, of course, but I had forgotten). I was lucky to have people around me to teach me. Since I know many of you don’t, here are 12 small ways to take care of yourself, that are actually good ideas:

  1. Drink 3 bottles of water a day.
  2. Brush your teeth regularly.
  3. Take a shower every day.
  4. Journal often. Yes, it’s worth your time, even if you’re not a writer, even if you never read them again.
  5. Wear what you like. I mean it. Screw the haters.
  6. Listen to music that makes you feel like you can rule the world. A few of my songs are “Jump” by Van Halen, “Shooting Star” by Owl City, “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, “I Love It” by Icona Pop, and “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera
  7. Read a few good books on the creative life. I’m personally a big fan of “The Right to Write” by Julia Cameron.
  8. Take selfies. You don’t have to post them. They’re for your, not the public.
  9. Do your creative work. Are you secretly a writer? Write. Are you secretly an artist? Make art. Again, you don’t have to share it with the world. It’s for you.
  10. Celebrate your birthday, or some other day that is special to you and which allows you and those close to you to celebrate the fact that you’re here in this world. It is definitely worth celebrating.
  11. Be gentle with yourself when you’re sick. Pushing yourself past the edge doesn’t help anyone. I know it’s not always possible to get out of work and such, especially when you have low income, but at least minimize the other extra stuff while you’re ill.
  12. A final note about more serious and/or specific health stuff: Make whatever health adjustments are appropriate for you (and okay with your doctors). For some of us, that means diet and exercise. For others, it means definitely NOT diet and exercise. And for some, it’s more about reconstructive work, or gender transition, or mental health management, or even reconciliation with parts of our bodies with which we have complicated relationships (hello to my fellow assault survivors – Me Too). Heck, for some of us, it’s just getting back to yoga, therapy, or support groups. Or going for the first time.

Sometimes self-care is difficult. I know for sure that I fight some days just to treat my body and myself with the very base level of respect that I deserve. The important thing is not whether I manage that every day. The important thing is that I try, and I believe I do deserve it.

Like anything worthwhile, self-care takes work. It is difficult but not complicated.

I love the old movie, Field of Dreams, that coined the phrase “If you build it, they will come.” The protagonist in that movie was given a task that seemed absurd, seemed illogical, seemed like a waste of energy. Who was going to use that baseball field? What magic was going to happen?

Well, go see the movie. And then remember that if you build the framework for self-respect and self-care, the self-love will follow.

It all starts with a belief that maybe the magic can happen.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for today. Thank you for reading this (very long) blog post, and thank you for being part of my little world here.

Go forth and love yourself.

-Taylor