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

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 11/19/18 | 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

Monthly Update November 2018 | New Name, New Site, New Day Job

Hey all, it’s me…Taylor.

That’s right, I am changing not only my URL (the main one is now taylorjohnson.art), and my social media usernames – but I am changing the very name I go by online. Julian Jaymes has been a fun name, but it’s high time I started to blog as myself – as Taylor Johnson. No fancy fake name, just my boring real one, but I think that going by one’s own name online shows not only a level of professionalism, but also a certain level of integrity. And integrity is something I value above almost all else.

I realize there was no blog for October, and I do apologize for that. Things have been absurdly busy over here. I got the job I mentioned in my last blog, and subsequently realized that having two jobs plus all my freelancing and Etsy work was just way too much. So I spent most of October just giving proper notice and easing out of that previous job, and finishing up some freelance projects, while trying to manage the new job as well.

I am, at this point, entirely employed as an artist. My day job is art; my personal work is art; my Etsy is, indeed, a kind of art. But the kind of art, the medium as well as the creations, vary widely.

In my day job work…well, I can’t talk much about the end product, but I can tell you that I am learning to be a texture artist for 3D and VR design. It’s pretty crazy to be learning HOW to do a job as I am DOING the job, but really, trial-by-fire is sometimes the best way to learn. So I am enjoying it.

In my personal work, I am still going strong painting the watercolor illustrations for the Millennial Mystic Tarot. I’ve also been doing some songwriting to cope with the absurdity of living in the world that somehow exists right now. I don’t know if any of these songs will ever see the light of day, or in what form they would be shared – but they’re certainly therapeutic to write.

And in my Etsy shop, I’m continuing to sell traveler’s notebook supplies and inserts, Tarot and oracle deck bags, and now actually some handmade jewelry and prayer beads!

So really, not a whole lot is different. I just don’t have to go to a receptionist job 4 days a week anymore. 🙂 As much as I appreciate that job and the opportunities it afforded me, I’m really, really excited to be moving on into my full-time-art life.

I’ll keep you posted, as always, on what I’m doing and how you can follow what I’m up to online. Thank you all for your support and understanding as I redesign my logos and website.

~Taylor