Weekly(ish) Blog 12/7/18 – Poetry, Prose, and Project Management

Hey everyone!

Taylor here. I’m blogging today very late in the week, and this is the weekly blog that should have gone up on the 3rd; however, I was going through a lot of mental crap in the early part of this week, and really felt I couldn’t come up with a good blog that I wanted to share. So in the interest of “the right message late than the wrong message on time,” here is the blog, late as heck but it’s here!

I’ve been really enjoying writing lately. I posted about this recently and shared my experience of the joy of the written word; I should really do a video about it, and I’ll make a note of that now, so keep an eye out for a discussion of my writing history!

For now, though, I’ll tell you that I’m writing poetry for the first time in 10 years. I’d been a poet from age 13 or so (who isn’t, really, in those teenage years?), and had written prolifically, but had not written any for most of my 20s. Most of my 20s were spent dealing with my mental health crises and getting myself into recovery, and I had all but given up on my writing, thinking that the brain damage and trauma had somehow removed that part of my brain, the part that’s always been in love with the written word.

But that part has been resurrected, and I’m writing. I’ll share here my first recent poem; it came to me while I was in the library, actually, picking up (what else?) a book on poetry, and the poem came into my mind so suddenly and so clearly that I had to hurry to pull my laptop out of my bag and type it up at lightning speed. It’s called Pomade:

This is not the man I faced
as a child,
yet even still
he smells of pomade.

He does not have the slicked-back slick black hair
of my attacker;
he does not have
his smile,
full of teeth that were
all the better to bite me with.

He does not have those cruel hands;
that cruel mouth
which demanded an apology
for his own sins; he does not have
that cruel mouth.

He does not have the raging beast within him
beating against ribcage-bars;
trying to get out
to roar, to rage, to rape
virgin lambs like I was.

No, this one is not him;
and yet
even
still –

he smells of pomade.

It’s not a literal story, but it’s close enough to give me shivers. It just came to me and I had to write it down. (If you’ve seen The Kindergarten Teacher, a fantastic Netflix film about poetry, among other things, I would have been saying “I have a poem.”)

I cannot express my gratitude at getting my poetry back. I’ve always journaled, even during my difficult years, and I’m still doing that and am very glad that I kept that up, because I think that’s what allows me to write my poetry – I never stopped writing, it just changed to a form that is (for me) easier to maintain even during bad times.

I plan to put together a zine of my poetry at some point next year. I don’t know when; it could be February, could be July, could be November – depends on when I accumulate enough poems to put together a good-size (60-page, hopefully) zine. So stay tuned for that. 🙂

Before I go, I wanted to say that I am so grateful for everyone who has been shopping at my Etsy shop since my return! It’s fantastic to have people ordering things, it makes it all worth it for me (and the money helps more than you probably realize). I appreciate you all so, so much.

Also, yes, I am still painting my Tarot deck. Slowly. It’ll still be out in June!

13Death_Paint_Smol

Until next time, guys, I hope that you are having a truly excellent day, and I’ll talk to you again very very soon.

~Taylor

Weekly Blog 11-26-18: Morning Pages, Sweater Weather, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and Other November Things

Hey guys, it’s Taylor! And it is the last week of November. As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk, wearing a cozy warm sweater, with my therapy light next to me. Yes, it is definitely the last week of November.


Morning Pages

I’ve started to do Morning Pages, a journaling practice presented by Julia Cameron in the classic The Artist’s Way. The idea, put generally, is to write three full pages, longhand (that is, handwritten, not typed), without really editing or curating what you write about. You don’t have to make sense, spell things conventionally, or have good handwriting – hell, you can burn the pages after if you want.

The trick with Morning Pages is that you devote some time every single day, without skipping unless absolutely necessary, to centering yourself and getting in a creative headspace; it also gives you a chance to pour out whatever needs to get OUT of the creative part of your brain, so that you can function better as an artist. I’ve been doing them for about 10 days without missing any, and they are helping me a lot. I seem to be more effective in my creative efforts, more creative in my thinking, and more productive in general. More boxes are getting checked than not, and that’s an improvement.


Etsy Changes

So recently, Etsy changed their search algorithm. Again. They now almost entirely direct traffic to “the shop that people are statistically most likely to buy from” – which is really sad, because they override things like relevancy and good tags, and just direct people to the most popular shops. Which is fine if you’re the most popular shop in a given tag…but if you’re not, you’re kind of SOL. I am not a huge shop by Etsy standards – I’ve had about 90 sales in 2018 – so I’m really being screwed over by this issue.

Now, I had closed up shop on Etsy after the latest algorithm change; I don’t usually mind the changes they make, but this one killed my sales off entirely, so I had no reason to stay. I was disappointed; I liked selling things and helping people. But like I said…no sales, no reason to stick around on there.

However, my mom and I recently had a cool idea for some health and wellness-related stationery items, and they would be more of a charity project than anything else; this is a product that would help people, not just something I’d sell. So, after just 2 weeks closed down, I am reopening my shop. I’m also having a massive Cyber Monday sale, with many items 30% off or better, and this is actually going to run all week.

Plan2Heal Stationery will be launched soon, so stay tuned for that. It does have its own page here on my website, so you can bookmark that if you’d like to be able to come back and look at what’s going on there!


Seasonal Affective Disorder

I have one last announcement: For many of us, November to February are not just the winter of our calendars, but also Winters of our Discontent. Seasonal affective disorder (“seasonal depression”) is incredibly common, but because it is so often confused with the “winter blues,” it often goes undiagnosed. I’m certainly not advocating for everyone who feels “down” in the winter months to diagnose themselves with SAD, but I am advocating for those people who find that a lowered mood during the winter months is interfering with their daily life or making them consider harming themselves or others, to seek help.

This is just your yearly reminder that SAD, while a challenging disorder, is like any other illness in at least three ways: 1) it is not a moral failing or personal weakness; 2) it is a valid disorder, never to be minimized because it’s “not real depression” or “not a severe illness”; and 3) it can be treated. You deserve to experience the best life possible, and that means you deserve help if you need and want it.

In closing, I would like to express appreciation for everyone’s support through my name change, and apologize for any broken links. Thank you for your patience, and thank you for your support. Whether I am Julian Jaymes or Taylor Johnson, I’m me, and I appreciate you so, so much.

~Taylor

Weekly Blog 11/26/18 | Changing Mindset, Altering Self-Image, and Paradigm Shifts

Hey all!

We all reach points in life where we, naturally and appropriately, question how we view ourselves in relation to the wideer world. We ask, am I primarily a parent or a worker? An employee, or an employer? Mostly working at building a career, or mostly holding down a day job to fund a passion project? Winner or loser? Someone or just one amongst many?

Personally I don’t believe that any of these are inherently good or bad, right or wrong. Nor do I believe that any one quality, status, or identity need fit one person for their whole life.

When I was ten, I would tell everyone that I was going to be a writer when I grew up – a novelist, specifically – and to please tell me off if I ever even CONSIDERED being anything else.

At fifteen, I insisted I was going to be a graphic novelist.

At eighteen, a social worker or art therapist.

At twenty-three, I probably would have shrugged and said “I won’t grow up, I’ll probably be dead sooner than that.”

And now, at twenty-eight?

Technically, I’m a 3D modeler, VR engineer, artist, and writer. I do both less and more than I had planned as a younger human.

I have never published a novel, but I’ve written a few, and I am currently writing a novella that I plan to self-publish. I have never finished a graphic novel, but I’ve done a few one-off comic books. I have not gotten a degree, so I’m not a social worker or art therapist, but I’ve had the opportunity to run groups and do workshops and presentations about my recovery from mental illness. Unexpectedly, I’ve gotten some training in 3D/VR software, and I do 3D model design and VR engineering. I also run a small YouTube channel, something I’d said was definitely not for me.

I am not dead, and am hoping not to be anytime soon.

So basically, I guess my point is that you never know where life is going to take you. You’re going to gain interest in, stumble upon, and learn about things that you hadn’t even been aware of ten years ago – so how could you know where you’ll be in ten years?

And that is totally okay. Dream like you’ll live forever, live like you’ll die tomorrow. Do what you love, even if that’s never the same thing twice. Be yourself, whoever that happens to be today.

Change is not inherently good or bad. Our reactions to change determine how we experience that change. I used to hate the idea of “me” changing. I wanted to have a single identity, never changing, something I could lean on. I wanted to just be so passionate about something that I could point to that one thing and say “That’s what I do, that’s who I am. I eat, sleep, and breathe that.”

But to be honest, in practice, I don’t actually think that’s healthy. If you have something that consumes you to the detriment of you being you, it…well, that doesn’t work for me.

Much as I may resent it, I’m just a human. A complex, flawed, multifaceted human with a lot of interests, a lot of hobbies, and a lot of skill sets. Sometimes I’m happy about working in 3D/VR, other times it feels like “why am I even trying to do this?!” Sometimes I feel that ache of need to just be a writer or just be a comic artist, but really, if I just did one thing, I’d miss the others.

Am I easily distracted? Do I have focus issues? Am I scattered? Am I just really, really a Gemini when it comes to work?

At this point I don’t really question it. If it’s a noveling day, I work on a novel. If I feel moved to work on art, I pull out the paint and brushes. If my heart is crying out for 3D modeling, I boot up Blender.

It’s okay to have a lot of interests. It’s really okay. Most people are more complex than we realize, or indeed give them credit for. Very few people can be defined by one vocation, especially if you include all the years and seasons of their lives.

It’s romantic to think that we can just love and be one thing forever, but not realistic. And that’s okay. Be who you are today, do what you love today. Sleep, dream, wake up, and take tomorrow as it comes.

~Taylor

Weekly Blog 11/19/18 | Fountain Pen Collections, Notebook Management, and My Thoughts on “Noveling”

Hey everyone!

It’s Thanksgiving week here in America, so to anyone involved in this holiday, I hope your Thanksgiving week is going very well. Whether you are engaging in a huge Thanksgiving meal, warming up your credit card for Black Friday, or fasting in protest of the entire holiday’s bloody, genocidal history, I wish you the best in you ventures.

If you are in the rest of the world, I hope you benefit from Cyber Monday.

I have spent the past few days writing, writing, and writing more. I have been a novelist far longer than I have been an artist or blogger or painter; my novel-writing actually goes back to age eleven, if you can count a 12,000 word document as a “novel.” (Hey, it was a children’s chapter book! I was aiming for a realistic goal for the time.)

I wish i could say I never stopped or looked back, but I did falter, in 2010 or so, when my health was getting bad. I just couldn’t write, for years, even after getting into recovery. I had written off writing (no pun intended) as something lost to the Crazy Years, something that wasn’t ever coming back. I made my peace and started drawing more instead.

And then, very recently, I just picked up a notebook and a fountain pen and started writing a novella based on an old idea I’d had as a teenager. A story of love, losing touch, and letting go; a story about risking reality for something better; a story about a girl who existed only in a reflection, and the boy who knew she was no mere mirage.

The result so far? 30 pages and about 2ml of fountain pen ink used up in two days. I’m so excited to see how this develops.

I’ve changed my notebook system. For a year, I was doing all of my journaling, to-do’s, and planning in one place – a Traveler’s Notebook. It worked great for the past year, but I’ve gotten so damn busy that I can’t really fit it all in a standard TN. So I’ve switched into…a bullet journal!

Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. I never saw myself as a bujo person, but here we are. I don’t do the super fancy style that a lot of people do, but I do use some of the standard features, mixed with my own planning systems, and it’s in what many people refer to as a bullet journal – a hardcover, dot-gridded, A5 notebook with a vertical elastic closure.

It’s helped me a ton, especially the habit tracking. I use a “Calendex” style habit tracker, and it has helped me a lot in the effort to track both my work and my self-care, because it lets me see at a glance how I’m doing in a certain day/week, and also lets me see which habits seem to be falling by the wayside more often than they should.

As for my other writing, I’m mostly using the same notebook in different copies/versions: my diary is housed in an A5 lined notebook with a soft cover, and my novella – the one I’m currently working on, anyway – lives in a bullet-journal style A5 hardback lined notebook.

My creative writing has always been on the computer, typed, but honestly, I think that the sheer novelty of hand-writing a story is challenging my mind to be more creative. I’m writing in fountain pen, and the romance of that alone helps me to get into a daring mood. Some people, when writing in pen, think “It’s ink, I can’t erase it…I can’t write at all.” Me, I think more along the lines of “It’s ink, I can’t erase it…might as well just go for it!”

It’s November, which means NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo, if you didn’t know, is National Novel Writing Month, a project intended to challenge people to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. It (or its surrounding community) is also pretty much, as far as I can tell, the source of the term “noveling,” a much-reviled word meaning, in rough terms, “to write a novel without really being a novelist.”

Now, I’m the first to admit that I used to hate the term “noveling.” I thought it implied that literally anyone could scribble down any 50,000 words and call it a novel and call themself a novelist. I still don’t agree with that ideology – but I don’t hate “noveling” anymore.

Honestly, my feeling is that any creative effort, however half-assed, is valid and valuable. So if someone wants to casually pen a 50,000-word YA romance, not let anyone else proof or edit it, publish it on Wattpad with poor formatting, and call it a day, that’s their right. In fact, I applaud it. Because the next novel – or the fifth one, or the tenth, or the twentieth – after their debut might be amazing. And if the pressure of being a “proper novelist” would otherwise keep them from writing at all, then maybe “noveling” is a saving grace, not an atrocity against the art of the novel.

So there are my thoughts on my latest novella, notebooks, and noveling. I’m going to close out and get writing. 🙂

~Taylor

Weekly Blog November 5, 2018 | Looking Ahead: What’s In The Works

Greetings all! It is now the first Monday in November, and now that I’m not quite as absurdly busy, I’m going to *try* to do weekly blogs again. I’m working on getting back into my social media game (loud snort, raucous laughter), and I do want this blog to grow, so I’m going to be at least trying to blog weekly here on Mondays.

It’s just been Samhain (Halloween) and is about to be Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Year’s…and then it is TWENTY NINETEEN. So this month and next month, I’m working on composing lists of what I’m going to be making for you guys in the next year (2019). I am forever coming up with ideas for art, comics, decks, books, video series, etc, and while not all of them end up seeing the light of day or being published or made available, I love that idea-birthing process. It’s so much fun to just write down ideas and brainstorm and try to figure out what’s going to work, what’s plausible, and how I can get more things out there.

The biggest thing I’d like to make happen in the new year is a video course on reading Tarot cards. I have been reading and studying the cards since 2002 and I am feeling finally ready to share what I’ve learned – and I do see some major gaps in what’s available in terms of free online courses. So I’m going to be providing a course by the end of 2019 that will go over EVERY CARD IN THE DECK in a balanced way – not focusing 90% of the “Card Meanings” section on the Majors and then mostly skipping over the Minors. It will also go over basic things like spreads, combinations, and reversals – but also detail some more advanced things like creating your own spreads, using different systems of interpretation, and even ethical and legal issues around card reading for pay.

Whether the course will be free or not is going to depend largely on how my finances are looking as we go into 2019. As previously mentioned, I quit one of my jobs, and so while some things are a lot easier, financially things could be quite tight for a while. So, I apologize for not being able to promise right from the beginning, for sure, that it will be 100% free, but I just can’t make that promise at the moment. However, I will do my utmost to make sure that it is FAR more affordable than most (I’m thinking $50 or less for unlimited access to the entire course).

I’m also preparing to do a Christmas/Yule themed Tarot/divination challenge, over on Instagram, called #SimpleGiftsChallenge. It contains 31 prompts for the 31 days of December, and you can do it with Tarot, oracle, Lenormand, or angel cards; Oghams, runes, or geomancy; stones, bones, sticks, what have you – even a pendulum reading of some sort would be awesome. I would adore hearing from you, so tag me (@taylorjohnson.art) and hashtag #SimpleGiftsChallenge and I’ll check out everyone’s posts each day! I will personally be using the Moonchild Tarot, which is my new fave, but you’re not required to even limit yourself to one form of divination, let alone one particular deck. Use whatever feels right for each day.

These are, for reference, the actual questions, in image style:

Okay guys, I have to get this blog out so I’m going to go ahead and post, instead of writing more and more and more ad nauseum. If you’d like to support this whole operation, please do head over to my Etsy shop (http://artbytaylorjohnson.etsy.com); to contact me, please use the contact page.

Until next time…

~Taylor

Weekly Update 5/14/18 – Working in a Grimoire: Stationery, Studying, and A Touch of Magick

So, some of you may know (or not know) that I am rather esoteric in my spirituality. At my core, I follow Christ, but my path has been Pagan as often as it’s been Christian, and at this point I’m mature (and comfortable) enough in my spirituality that I don’t feel the two are mutually exclusive. I’ve always said that God is far too big for any one religion to fully define or understand Him/Her/Them, so why not use multiple traditions?

One thing I love about Pagan traditions is the practice and process of keeping a Book of Shadows, also termed a grimoire – a book of magick. [NB: Magick with a K is to differentiate spiritual, occult, esoteric magick from stage magic.] A grimoire, I always thought, had to be a book of rituals, written out in arcane prose; however, I’ve learned that a grimoire, really, is just a spiritual notebook. It doesn’t have to be ANYTHING other than a book that we write in (and even then, people have long kept Floppy Disks of Shadows rather than bound books).

On the eve of the New Year in 2018, I took a 110-sheet, 220-page sketchbook and carefully tea-dyed every single page. It was exhausting and took a good 8 hours or so (not kidding) and two days of focused work. My hands were dyed completely brown-orange, but it was worth it; I now have a gorgeously aged-looking blank book. I sat down and planned out what would go on each of those pages, and prepared to work on it.

And then, for five months, I didn’t touch the thing. Not a jot of ink has hit those pages yet.

However, I am re-committing to finishing that book this year. I am going on a trip this week – won’t say where, except that it’s a gorgeous, remote locale where I can get away from the NoVa craziness – and WILL be working on at LEAST pencilling in some text and titles in this book. I intend for it to be a Magickal Manifesto, a book of my experiences and the wisdom I’ve gained in my path so far.

We’ll see, of course, if I follow through. But as I’m going to be away from technology, cell service, and wifi for quite a while, I’m hopeful that I’ll eventually work on it.

Speaking of which, the Etsy shop is closed for now and will not open again until I’m back and settled back into my life. It’s still there, you just can’t order anything while I’m on vacation. I did this because I don’t want anyone to have to wait a week for me to ship their stuff! So thank you for understanding.

I’m off to sleep now, but I hope y’all are doing very well, and I send you all the best wishes in the world.

~Julian

Weekly Update 4-30-18 | Time Off, Game On!

Hey guys, it’s Julian. And I have been away.

Well, not really away. I’ve been right here, mostly making and packing and listing stuff for my Etsy shop. I hit 25 sales and I think Etsy’s algorithms must have (for some dumb reason) rewarded that, because all of a sudden I’m hecka busy and getting 3 orders a WEEK instead of 3 orders a month!

Like I said. Hecka busy.

I’ve been actually taking time off of my Tarot deck, and “artsy art” in general. I say artsy art because I NEVER want to say that things like design and bookbinding are not art. Making traveler’s notebooks and inserts is no less art than painting, so if you’re more a craftsperson than a painter, don’t ever say to yourself that you’re not an artist! But yeah, I’ve been working on bookbinding more than sketching or inking.

But it’s time to get back to it. My deadline for the inking of my Tarot deck is (hopefully) in mid-June, and I just found out I’m going on a super remote camping trip in May, so I really don’t have time to be taking a break.

I don’t really regret the break. I didn’t draw for about a week, and that’s okay. I was in the middle of losing a job and re-negotiating a lease, so I was emotionally exhausted and just couldn’t face the blank page on top of all that. All’s well now, though, and I really feel that it’s time for me to get my head back in the game.

Deciding when to take a break is not something I put a huge amount of thought into. If I’m too exhausted/overwhelmed/emotionally fried to deal with art, then my art is going to suffer anyway and I’ll have to take a longer break later, so unless I’m really close to a deadline, I don’t tend to think much of taking a break. I don’t take long breaks – rarely longer than a few days or a week – and I don’t plan my break. I don’t plan the end of it, at least. I just tell myself “I’m on break right now and I don’t need to think about work until I’m back to work.” Then, once I’ve been on break long enough to be able to think straight, THEN I think about getting back to work and when I should do that.

So that’s what I did this week. Monday I just said to myself “I feel dead, I’m working on losing a job and getting a new job, plus I have to deal with the leasing office, I’m exhausted. I’m going to take a break.” And it is Monday again and I didn’t really think about deadlines or workload or what percent I’ve finished, until yesterday. At which point…yes, I did freak out a bit and hurry back to work and inked 3 pieces.  And that’s freakin’ great! As long as I can finish my work, as long as the project gets done, I’m happy.

My point being: As much as possible, take breaks when you need to, and as much as possible, don’t stress while on break. But don’t let yourself STAY on break too long. I’m in a bit of a luxurious situation in that right now, at least, I CAN take a break from my art job for 5 days in a row. Not everyone can do that. I can’t break from my day job, but I can at least take away the stress of assigning myself 7-10 art pieces a week too.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. And that goes for caring for yourself, too. 🙂

Anyway, thank you to everyone who’s been reading along, watching YouTube videos, buying from my shop…it’s awesome to have this much support. 🙂 I’m really excited about upcoming videos (and yes, there are upcoming videos!), and am going to continue to do 2 a week whenever possible. I really do appreciate everyone’s support, though. You guys are the bestest. 🙂

~Julian