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 11/19/18 | 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 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