Creative consistency

When I’m low, I don’t write. I know this. When I’m ill, I also don’t write and I know that too.

Currently, I am neither ill nor low, so I should probably write. But it’s getting on for 6 pm and I’m expecting my sweetie in the next hour or so, which makes it hard to settle for anything. I’m looking forward to reinstating the daily morning practice that had me writing well over thirteen thousand words in three days back at the beginning of October. Then everything changed. Again. That happens a lot in my life.

So it occurred to me that putting all my eggs in one this-is-how-I-consistently-access-my-creativity basket is probably a fail, as ideas go. I am, if nothing else, NOT consistent. So it’s silly to think that I can stick to one practice, one routine and that will be the key to everything.

(I’m always looking for keys to everything. You’d think I’d know better by now.)

And consistency is *so* not me. I’m the Queen of Inconsistency.

(It’s awesome there, by the way. The sky is never the same color two days in a row. And sometimes the pigs fly, but they also like to row around in little boats.)

So it’s probably time to try other things. Like just opening up a damn doc in Word and flipping well writing in it. *sigh*

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Who gets to label you?

Anyone can be crazy (/ˈkreɪzi/)
Anyone can be creative (/kriːˈeɪtɪv/)
Anyone can be labelled.
Anyone can label you.
Anyone can define you.

But why let them?

Instead of asking how others define you, ask yourself.
How do you define you?

No one knows you better than you. After all, you’ve been you all your life. You’ve spent an entire lifetime (and counting) in your body, your mind, your heart. You know what you like and what you don’t, what you love and what you hate. You know what you’re good at and what you could do better, if you wanted to.

You even know if you want to.

And if you don’t.

The hardest truths to find can be the ones about your own self. They can take a lifetime to discover but once you find them, you’ve found your story.

[Totally irrelevant sidenote: Please note the correct use of ‘you’re’ and ‘your’ above.
Moving on…]

Once you know who you really are, you don’t need to worry what anyone else says about you, how they define you.

You don’t even have to know.

The only person who can truly define you (ie, in terms of what is true about you) is you.

So do it.

Decide who you really are, what you really are and own it. Be proud. Tell the world the truth about you.

You’re the only one who can.

Bye bye, boxes

Fifteen minutes ago I opened up a blank Word document and started typing. Two hundred and fifty-six words later, I know I’ve made yet another huge change in my life. These are the first words I’ve written since the beginning of October.

There’s something to be said for picking up a character who isn’t yet part of anything you’re actively working on. This girl, this superhero, is a first for me. Haven’t done any superheroes before. There are a few waiting in the wings but this one is the latest addition to the tribe of projects-in-waiting. There’s probably some jealousy back there that she’s getting a story before the others. Sorry, guys. That’s just the way it is. Had to work on someone I hadn’t already started writing about and she was it.

That said, as I sit here and think about what the point of this post is, I realize that I’ve always been writing about the same thing and this one page of words has reinforced that. It’s about being trapped. And by extension, about my own life. Society expects certain things of its members and it seems that artists of any stripe are generally least able to fit into the required boxes. I’ve struggled against those boxes for a long time, or rather I struggled to fit myself into them. Tried a few different ones but nothing worked. Money boxes, job boxes, property boxes, relationship boxes.

Maybe all stories are, on some level, about being trapped. Trapped by what you should do and what you need to do, what you’re expected to do and required to do. What people around you need and what you need. Hollywood endings are all about ignoring the boxes, but how many of us choose to step out of them and/or ignore them entirely on a daily basis?

Considering my network, most of the people reading this probably ignore the boxes anyway. Which is good. They enable me to do the same. I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes. But hey, I’m here now! Ignoring the boxes. Or rather, walking past them on the other side of the street, carefully not making eye contact…

Bye bye, boxes. I have writing to do.

Taking the big leap. And BADASS UNICORNS.

There are times in your life when you have plenty to say but none of it is really appropriate for public consumption. Let’s just say the last few months have been rather stressful and leave it at that.

I am now self-employed (not quite officially yet – I still need to register for taxes) and find myself more at peace and yet more productive than I have been for a while. For one thing, I’m blogging again. I won’t promise it’ll last but it’s not like I have a job to go to except for the work I do for myself so I think it stands a better chance this time around.

The part-time job I took on back in April wasn’t the solution I thought it would be. It was very full on and tiring, leaving little mental or emotional space for creative endeavours. I am no longer there, hence more space for blogging and so on.

The ‘and so on part’ is probably the most important. Mhairi gotta eat, after all, but the problem with the kinds of services I can offer (formatting, proofreading, editing, etc) is that I’m fairly sure everyone I know already has people who do that for them. So I don’t really know where to go on that one. There will be writing, of course, and arting and the super dooper massive project involving lots of images and cards that I keep referring to online, Be A Bard. I have plenty to do – getting paid for it is something else entirely. It actually requires publication, for a start. I hope to have THE WATER GUARDIAN out this month – it’s another short story but in yet another world. Once I’ve finished edits, I’ll send it back to the awesome editor lady, S.J. Higbee herself, for another look. And then I’ll start showing people the cover art. Eeep.

And because, presumably, I felt like I needed a bigger challenge, I’m putting together an anthology. About badass unicorns.

Because, you know, I think unicorns are underappreciated. The general mainstream view of unicorns seems to be what I’ve come to think of as the Harry Potter view – “you have slain a creature so pure, so innocent” – and I thought, well, there might be some unicorns out there who aren’t that pure or innocent. Maybe they like to go picking fights in bars on a Friday night, or they regularly defy their dad and leave the forest to update their gang tags on the walls of the underpass.

Alternatively, they may be looked down on by their fellow unicorns as not as graceful and pretty as the rest and formed a support group for less-than-perfect unicorns and now they hold parades every full moon, complete with bat dancers and werewolf singers, so that the other unicorns can’t ignore them.

There are, after all, many different kinds of badassery.

On a more serious note, this is what it comes down to (I was trying to explain to Alec McQuay why I thought it would make a good charity anthology and this is what came out):

Cos, well, maybe this is just how my convoluted mind works, but unicorns are seen as these delicate adorable magical creatures, and people often think kids are like that, or should be, and they’re not always. But they’re always strong, even if they’re not quite understood, even if people think they shouldn’t exist at all, like people with disabilities or who come from poorer backgrounds… I guess it just seems to me that a badass unicorn is a way of showing that just because something is expected to be meek and adorable and sweetness and light, doesn’t mean it has to be, nor that it can’t be just as or even more awesome if it embraces its strengths.

Just because people think you should be a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to be, and that goes for everyone, regardless of age, sexuality, race, ability or any of the other things people like to judge other people for.

Badass Unicorns isn’t just aimed at children, by the way. With the help of Twitter I decided that horse therapy centres would be the perfect recipients of proceeds from sales, and we’ve selected three – all proceeds will be equally shared between them. At least two of these centres cater for adults as well as children – everyone needs a badass unicorn in their life.

There is the question of a home. In short, Badass Unicorns doesn’t have one. Or rather, it does but with me. I actually cannot think of a publisher who might be interested in publishing it (Fox Spirit is jam-packed so they can’t take it on at this time) so currently I plan to self-publish it. All sixteen authors who have expressed solid interest are fine with that, and I have two proofreaders and a couple of bloggers standing by for help on the back end, which is lovely.

So, if you would be interested in contributing, please do let me know. The practical guidelines are as follows:

No minimum word count, maximum 10,000 words.

No excessive gore or sexiness – I want this to be appropriate for early teens and up.

No genre limitations – stories need to feature a badass unicorn but beyond that it’s entirely up to the author.

Currently I haven’t got a deadline but as this would be unpaid it wouldn’t be fair to make it a short one, so I’m thinking about some time in (or at the end of) February 2015.

And if you’re interested in helping out with cover art, please also drop me a line. I currently put the “budding” in “budding artist” – I wouldn’t know where to start with cover art for this!!

On the one hand, I feel like I’m taking on an awful lot of challenges at once by taking the leap into self-employment and immediately setting up a charity anthology which won’t bring me a single penny. The thing is, the badass unicorns have been on my mind for a while. So why not? If it makes me happy and makes others happy, why not?

This is the question I’m currently living by and I hope to continue living by it for the rest of my life: If it makes me happy and makes others happy, why not?

Besides, making me happy will also frequently encompass ‘allowing me to eat and pay my bills’ so it’s not entirely dreamweaving 🙂

You know what this world is?

It’s AMAZING.

And TERRIFYING.

And HIDDEN.

But OVERWHELMING.

And because of all those things, we like to hide away from it. In our little, limited, familiar bubble, there is nothing unknown. We can handle what we find there because it’s normal. Expected. VISIBLE.

Of course, it can also be terrifying but one is better than four, right?

And yet we miss so much, hidden away on our little island. Some of what reaches us seems so terrifying, why would we want to seek out more?

But there is much more than terror out there. Last Friday I realised I had been afraid. Last Saturday I decided to face my fear. Today I have over nine and a half thousand words written on a new book.

The hardest part came just before the easiest part. Stepping up to that ledge, preparing myself to look down into the abyss – that ranked among one of the hardest things I have ever done. What if I looked down and found it bottomless? Would I fall? Would I have the courage to leap?

In the end, I never found out. Steeling myself to look was the hardest thing. Because when I looked and truly opened my eyes, I found it was deep, yes, but not bottomless. I could see the bottom and it was closer than I’d believed. Because I had sunk lower in my fear than I had wanted to admit.

Which was, in the end, a good thing. When you’re already close to rock bottom, there is very little that can scare you.

So I looked up. And remembered a story. And started writing it.

And it’s… fun. And terrifying and in some ways overwhelming but mostly… fun. The terror and overwhelm stem from the fact that I’m actually doing it. I’m writing. Today I went to work after the weekend and feared I might not write. So I decided to write this morning so at least I’d have done something. Then I feared the words wouldn’t come. They came.

Then I feared I wouldn’t be able to write this evening because I was tired. I did a bit but it was slow. So I shouted out on Twitter for anyone interested in doing a writing sprint. They came. We wrote. My demons were conquered.

For today, at least. Tomorrow is another day. But victory begets victory and I’m… I’m starting to feel like a winner. Like a writer.

[NB – this was written last night – by now I hope to have even more words :)]