Weekly Blog 6/3/19: Prep Week, Launch Day, and Other Schedule Struggles

Hey guys! It’s Taylor, and today is Monday so it’s time for the weekly blog and video digest. I write a blog every week here on my homepage about what I’m doing, what challenges I’m facing, and what you can expect to see in terms of content from me in the next few weeks.

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This is prep week. Launch day for my  Millennial Mystic Tarot is 6 days away, and I am doing my best to be as ready as I can be. It’s a little terrifying. A lot of people have posted early reviews and/or helped to hype it up, and I am SO grateful for that! It has been amazing to see the community come together to share and support this deck, and I am forever in your debt. All of you.

I’m also currently working on creating the illustrations for my next deck, the Sacred Storyteller Oracle. I’ve got a few done and they’re posted here. I’m working on Arches and really enjoying the benefits of that paper.

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I’ve joined a journaling challenge, the #hbnotebookchallenge by Sarra Cannon over at HeartBreathings. Sarra is an incredible indie author and also a stationery fan and has started this awesome challenge to help people use up their unused notebooks, or boost their journaling practice. My participation is going to be using up a 64-page standard Traveler’s Notebook insert every month for the rest of the year. I’m enjoying it so far and I love having a reason (ok, excuse) to journal way more than I had been.

Finally, here’s an overview of this week’s videos over on my YouTube:

Painting an ATC | “Doll in Shadow” + Anxiety Chat

This is a video I’ve wanted to make for a while. It’s just a little chat about my experience with anxiety disorders and how they’ve affected my life – plus how I’ve managed to deal with them.

Setting Up a 52 Pan Palette | 1hr Palette Setup Tutorial

This is an epic palette setup video where I set up a full 52 color palette! I’ve never used pans before, but since making this video and this palette, I’ve used it a lot, & it is now my main palette for EVERYTHING. I love it!

June 2019 Card Reading | Look to the Light to Heal the Dark

Finally we have my monthly reading for June 2019, featuring the Millennial Mystic Tarot as the main Tarot deck for this reading!

That’s about all I’ve got for you this week. Until next time, I hope that you’re having a truly excellent day, and I’ll talk to you again very, very soon!

-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

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!

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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