New year, different challenges

And I started the new year with a break from blogging and so closely managing my life. Which was good, because work is super busy right now and I think I would be way overwhelmed if I was also trying to *do* something every day. I’m feeling overwhelmed as it is.

I have been incorporating different things into my downtime and my daily habits from last year’s experiment, though, when I can. I think that the experiment broke some of the road blocks in my head about the amount of time needed to do The Things, or maybe just loosened up my approach to them. It funny because I remember spending more time working on something on-and-off in my student days. Maybe someone convinced me somewhere along the line that I didn’t have enough time to work on things in the evening.

This weekend, I’ve been painting again, which is nice. I’m working on a sunrise over the Mediterranean from December. And I’ve been having tickles of writing urges – poetry or thoughts about a couple of my existing stories. I’m thinking I’ll take my laptop into the living room in a moment and work on something (I’m currently waiting for a layer of colour to dry on my canvas so I can build on it).

I’m looking at my journaling exercise writing and trying not to lose that plan. I have to keep doing my self-care so I can continue to move forward and build toward my goal of taking a new chance and reshaping my career.

I took some exciting training last week at work that made me remember one of my potential options for career reshaping – knowledge translation. I might look into getting more involved with it, and practicing it, so that I have a solid basis. I feel like it’s one of the things I’ve been working towards without really realizing it – communicating appropriately for appropriate audiences to help people access more knowledge.

But first, I have a big project to see through, which is stretching me in uncomfortable ways, and I have another big task to do by the end of the month. I will be asking for at least day off at the beginning of March to maintain my self-care.

Just a quick update with some hope, some struggle, and a reminder that we all need to take care of ourselves. Especially this winter with the cold and the snow, which can wear on the psyche, especially in the dark months. Keep looking for the light, and incorporate some hygge to see you through. I’ll be putting on a stew this afternoon, and maybe some fresh beer bread. :) Happy Sunday!

So long, September

In a nutshell, I’d say that sugarless and sober was a success. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the month was so stressful. But I think I’ve proved to myself that the discipline isn’t what I lack.

Sober was easy. In my life, I don’t think I’ve ever really felt like I “needed” a drink (unless I’m forgetting something). When I’ve been stressed or grieving, alcohol hasn’t been my vice of choice.

Sugarless was a bit more challenging, but again, the discipline was there. Even if I was going for a coffee with a friend, I’d opt for the straight milk and coffee latte, rather than the fancy one with syrups and whatnot.

But during the power outage aftermath of the tornado, I did stop being strict about it. It was just so that I wouldn’t be avoiding perfectly edible food that otherwise would be fine, except for there being sugar as one of the ingredients.

Also, I was tired. This month was a lot. There was a lot going on, and a lot of exhaustion, stress, and then having to throw out everything in my fridge and freezer after 53 hours without power. That sort of just broke it for me. I decided that Sugarless September was done last week. And I enjoyed that Blossoming Rose tea latte.

But again, funnily enough, as I’ve come to realize at the end of most every month – the change had felt good. I will probably maintain a fairly sugar free diet, focused on fresh fruit and vegs, with good protein sources, and light on the breads and pastas.

What’s on tap for October? I had been toying with the idea of Educational October, where I’d sign up for those courses I had planned on doing (and finish the one that has been languishing for years). Except I’m still tired and there are still two weeks to go on a big deadline at work. So I think I’m going to go with Optional October.

Optional October will mean that every day, I will choose one thing to do – yoga, meditation, reading, art, journaling, gratitude exercise, heavy workout, staying off social media, sugarless, sober, and yes, even working on a course or two. This way, I’ll be able to work in some of the things I’ve learned this year about what makes me feel better, and I’ll still have a goal, it just won’t be as strict.

Journaling June

Mindfulness May wrapped up with a few stressful days, and more scattered-feeling meditations, but I really liked practicing observing the thoughts running around in my head. It was really amazing to see myself following my breath, counting them even, and then realizing that I was suddenly planning what was coming next or reviewing what had happened that day. And then to be able to shift back to counting my breaths again and not getting upset with myself was really good. A weird aspect of the Headspace meditations was that they give you a moment of just releasing the focus and letting your mind do whatever. Almost every time, my mind just kind of went blank when I could “let my mind wander”. It was neat.

This month will involve journaling every day. I signed up for Chookooloonks Glow e-course, where she sends a journaling prompt every day to lead you through an introspection exercise to work on recognizing strengths and maybe even making room for changes to happen in your life. She also recommends to use your journal for everything – writing down notes, shopping lists, ideas, doodling. I’ve enjoyed that today already. I’ll probably play with my writing utensils, but I started with my fountain pen and a number of coloured ballpoint pens for fun doodling, outlines, and checking things off my to do list.

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Of course, these month themes aren’t the only things going on in my life these days. My husband has been dealing with lower back issues, which have been really debilitating. It’s funny how you can take your relative mobility or lack of pain for granted until it gets ripped away from you. It’s been a good reminder for us both to not ignore those initial signs that something has been tweaked. He’s heading to physiotherapy now, and I won’t be far behind him, once I check with my doctor about a stubborn hot/pulling sensation in my quad. Unfortunately, I figured out another yoga pose that it’s showing up in today – “sleepy pigeon”, but when that leg is straight back, not the bent one that you lean over, so that’s annoying as pigeon is one of my favourite poses. It seems very related to trying to release my hip flexors/psoas… like I say, annoying.

This month is going to be busy, with family visiting, solo trips, and travelling to visit family. I’ll try to blog my work trip to Norway at the end of the month, though I still owe a quick post about my February Quebec City trip… or is it too late now? Hm.

And sprummer is upon us here, after a pretty typical winter. Today, it’s humid and hot and the clouds look like they could storm, but the sun is out as well. We’re well into blooming season. :)

Some little irises I found on my sweaty walk home today from errands. :)

Another month theme done?!

And so ends Artistic April. I wasn’t able to rouse any creativity while I was ill, so I lost a week, sadly.

But even so, I got a short story finished, another one almost done, and some writing done on two existing long stories as well.

I also worked on my one canvas and made some good progress that I’m happy with. That was what I did on this final evening. I did four sketches, and attempted a fifth while I was feeling ill that didn’t really get very far.

And lastly, something that I did count towards creativity was building some Sylvaneth miniatures – my Spirit of Durthu and some dryads. Although I didn’t entirely make them myself, I did choose which bits went where so there was some creativity associated with it.

So, all in all, this month seemed more challenging, surprisingly. I think because I was fighting against my normal deprioritizing of doing my art, and because it is work to create things. It takes energy, and sometimes I didn’t have much. It helped that I mostly had a plan for what I wanted to do, so I didn’t have to think things up on the fly too often. The couple of times I didn’t have a plan were tougher to get through, and I wasn’t as happy with the results.

And May? I’m going to do a Mindfulness May. No, not every month has to alliterate. But I’d like to challenge myself to incorporate meditation into my daily life. It’s another one of those things that I have been deprioritizing.

One of my sketches, inked and cleaned up – a replica of one of the pages in a quest item from Skyrim. I really enjoy the designs they developed for the game.

Back to the grind

I’m on my second week back at work, and I’m feeling much better today than I was all last week. For some reason, I was very sensitive, overwhelmed, anxious and emotional all last week. I theorized that I wasn’t used to being surrounded by so many people and so much noise, or something – a bit of habitual agoraphobia? It was really uncomfortable, and led to some bad days and bad evenings. I ate about 1000 calories in emotional eating at work during the first four days of being back. My poor husband ended up bearing a lot of the brunt of it, and he was having a terrible week too.

So basically, we both had terrible, no good, very bad weeks, and now we’re trying to have better ones.

I didn’t look at my writing at all this past week or even weekend, and I didn’t touch a bit of paint. I read a book, I played a video game, and I talked a lot to my husband about how I was feeling. I cried. I knitted a bit.

So tonight, I opened my story and I looked at where I’d left it. And then a question my husband asked me last week occurred to me, and because I couldn’t figure out how to make my word processor tell me a specific thing, I highlighted everything I had written since the beginning of my time off and I copy/pasted it into a new document. And I looked at the properties.

My word count for my time off was 31 374 words. My current word count in my entire novel is 131 585 words. That is Not Too Shabby. I’ll take it.

I also came in to the office/studio and looked at my canvases, and I definitely need to do another layer. But I’m just too tired tonight. I’m actually thinking that after I finish this blog post, I’ll probably go rest on the couch and knit or read again.

I’ll probably spend some time tomorrow night painting those canvases. I need to make the base colours more opaque and less streaky. The painting can be streaky, because it’s supposed to match another painting with high cirrus clouds in it. The streaks will help with that. But the doodle canvases I need to be flat.

Then we’ll work on getting my characters into Act 5, the exciting conclusion of this years-long journey!

Here’s what I’m listening to tonight while on the computer. Satie’s Gymnopedies and other songs.

Final Creative Friday

  
Alas, the day has come. This is the final day of my eight weeks of being a full time artist. To celebrate, I took myself out for a sushi lunch at my favourite sushi restaurant – a little six table, plus lunch bar place in my neighbourhood, Sushi Umi (for the record, that’s 2 pieces of hamachi and 2 pieces of sake sashimi {with a free third piece of the sake sashimi because that’s how they roll}, plus a spicy tuna roll and the Yummy roll which is filled with all sorts of deliciousness and topped with tempura tai and avocado). If you get a chance, do go there. The people are wonderful and the sushi is delicious.

I’m determined to make it past page 300 today (in a word processor – not sure how that converts to actual printed novel pages). I am in Act 4 of 5, and expect the story to flow much more easily, I think. I already have the skeleton of these next two acts sketched out.

I will definitely look to do this again in coming years. Maybe another two years from now, I’ll be in the position to be able to justify it.

The adventures continue this year. I might try to fit in NaNoWriMo this year since I had that idea for an entirely different book – more of a hard sci-fi too. Completely different from my current adventure fantasy-horror that I’m writing.

Then there is our Christmas honeymoon coming up too, heading to Paris, France for Christmas and Reykjavik, Iceland for New Year. :)
Back to working downtown on Monday. It has been worth it.

Canvas prep is messy work

  
Outside again, on my comfy blanket in the shade and the gorgeous breeze. Finished a weird chapter that will likely change significantly after editing but that is for later. Starting a new chapter to try to get them to their next destination and thought I’d give myself some time outside before my social evening #2 starts.

One week left in my eight wandering weeks. This time has flown by. I’ve gotten through almost 50 pages in my novel, written a short story that will be followed up with another, and started what I thought was a short story that is apparently another book. Plus, I finished and delivered a painting, and started a new one. Just today, I completed a doodle canvas and prepped six more smaller canvases. One will be a painting and the other five will be doodles.

I still have lots of other things I’d love to do (enumerated to my friend last night, it seemed suddenly like a tsunami of creativity). But reality does have to be acknowledged at some point. My job does still need to be done. ;)

Late writing with wine 

  
Just to end today on a more positive note – after some nature therapy and comfy blanket lying, I got through the emotional turmoil (for my characters) and mine subsided too. I started writing up a short story idea that is developing quite well. I’m even tempted to turn it into a novella in order to develop it that much further. We’ll see.

Good night… Dream of cheerful orange flowers and good red wine, a trusty purple pen and clouds drifting by…

  

Writing al fresco

  
Too many Things I Should Not Have To Deal With are popping up inside, so I decided to grab my stuff and a comfy blanket, and write out in the fresh air for a bit. Complete with a new jasmine white tea that I picked up this morning.

I’ve been feeling very pressured, stressed and frustrated for the past two days, and part of it is linked to work intruding into this time off. I am disappointed in this because I have taken a large pay cut, including other benefits, in order to have this time. I am not being paid right now. That is how I’ve “paid” for this time. I know it’s due to timing (particularly: bad) that this is coming up. And I know it’s out of respect that the work is even mentioned. But it’s an emotional response to it right now on my part.

I just finished reading Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking (see my Reading page) and in it she talks about the inner Fraud Police. These are the voices who taunt and torment you from your own mind, saying that what you’re doing isn’t worthy of respect and recognition, that you’re a fraud and shouldn’t expect to be able to do this creative work. That creative work is playtime and you should be Working A Job Like A Grown-Up.

Having work intrude on my creative time… Hell, having a lot of things intrude on my creative, unpaid sacrifice time, feels like the Fraud Police have become real. That the voices exist and are supported by those people who are causing the intrusions. And it makes me want to cry. I cried last night from the feelings, although I wanted to growl at them and drink whisky and tell them to fuck off. A part of it is that I have expectations of myself for these weeks and I feel like little things like errands are frittering away my time, like I’m not taking this seriously either.

Yesterday afternoon, I was slammed back into my stressed-from-work emotional eating, and I was shocked. I still have time and I’m already feeling the high blood pressure, tight chest, emotional eating stress of work that has caused me to pack on 40 lbs in the last few years.

I want to cry now as I sit in the park near my house trying to escape.

I’ll try to use the emotions to flesh out the turmoil my characters should be feeling. I don’t like crying in public.

Gritty downtown writing 

  
It’s muggy and it’s been hot for days. The sky is overcast and threatening to rain and I don’t have an umbrella. But I had to pop by work quickly to leave instructions for some work travel coming up in November that we need to get approved ASAP. So I went in. And didn’t stop to talk to anyone and said “I am not here…” to everyone who did see me.

I don’t think my Jedi mind tricks worked on them either. But I was in and out in half an hour.

But this way, I get to stop by my new favourite downtown coffee shop, Morning Owl, and enjoy their dark roast and do a bit of out-of-the-house writing. And hit my local art supply store to pick up a couple of appropriately sized canvases for upcoming projects.