What Am I Doing?

To say life has felt manic recently would be a gross understatement, and I haven’t really been documenting any of it here, so let’s catch up.

What am I doing? Such an excellent question. One I’ve actually been asking myself.

I’ve been editing books (for myself and others), formatting books, building websites, filling in applications and reports, juggling some tricky personal life things, dabbling in a lot of art, and writing very little.

Things have been scattered. I’ve been scattered. Sometimes it’s felt like my brain is going to explode.

Last week I released two books (poetry pamphlets Linchpins and Flinch) and a lot of last-minute technical issues meant that I was running around putting out fires when I should have been celebrating. As it stands, I’ve barely mentioned the books since they went live. I need to get on that, obviously, but I also want to make sure that I step back and do really take that time to celebrate.

I’ve been doing so much, and so much of what I do is incredibly enjoyable and rewarding for me, but sometimes I get so caught up in the action, I forget about the reward entirely.

It’s the 4th of October and I find myself not even able to think about NaNoWriMo this year. There’s just so much I have to do between now and then.

On top of that, I think the turn of the seasons is playing with me, and my thoughts have gotten all existential. I’ve been asking myself if I need to rebrand to include art somewhere in my tagline/bio. Then I’ve been going beyond that and asking myself just who in the hell I am anyway.

If you’ve followed this blog for any real length of time, you’ll know I’ve gone through similar phases before. And I trust from those past experiences that things will calm down again and I’ll regain focus and it’ll all be okay. At least until I end up in this place again––which I can laugh at, writing that sentence. I know I don’t have to take everything so seriously.

There’s a quote playing in my head that I can’t quite place this moment. Something along the lines of, ‘Jeeze, relax. Take a siesta or something.’

Not terribly bad advice, that.

10 Things I’ve Learned About Art

As I said in last week’s blog post, I have been starting to get back into art––to get into it properly for the first time ever, really. I also said I’d been watching a lot of YouTube videos on the topic, and so I have gleaned a bunch of useful info. This post is just to document that. It will likely become a series, as I continue to learn, but here’s what I have so far:

  1. Kneaded Erasers are a thing. They kind of look like a lump of Blu Tack and, as the name suggests, can be kneaded into different shapes to suit the artist. They’re preferable to regular rubbers (as they’re called in the UK), as they absorb the lead/graphite rather than rubbing it (and sometimes the paper) away, leaving those annoying bits behind.
  2. Paper Basics
    • Acid-free paper won’t fade/yellow over time.
    • The quality of paper is often denoted in a numerical ‘GSM’ value, which stands for grams per square meter.
    • Sketchbooks might also mention ‘tooth’ on the cover, which means texture.
  3. Harder pencils draw lighter lines
    • Draw with H pencils (harder wood)
    • Detail with HB pencils
    • Shade with B pencils (which are softer wood, and therefore create darker lines)
  4. Draw on a tilted surface, not flat, to avoid distortion/elongation of your lines.
  5. If you’re drawing at night, the warm glow of electric lighting can affect how the colours look. Daylight bulbs get around this.
  6. You should prep your canvasses before painting by putting on a layer of primer first.
    • In the US, the most popular brand of primer is called Gesso.
    • Some canvasses come pre-primed. It will say this on the label, if so.
    • You can add a layer of sealer to your painting when you’re done (Mod Podge in the US, PVA in the UK).
  7. Types of Paints:
    • Oil
    • Acrylic
    • Watercolour
    • Gouache (Which is opaque watercolour, though apparently Acrylic Gouache is also a thing.)
  8. Acrylics dry fast and are therefore not good for blending.
  9. You should dry brushes upside down, where possible, but not in something that lets the bristles rest on a surface, as that will make it lose shape faster.
  10. Most of us know what it means when ink or paint ‘bleeds’ through a page onto the one underneath (or onto your table/desk), but I have recently discovered that it’s called ‘ghosting‘ when you can clearly see what’s you’ve drawn/painted on the opposite side of the paper, but it hasn’t bled the entire way through.

Feel free to share your favourite art facts or tips in the comment section below!

The Formal and the Informal

I am a chill, casual person––except for when I’m not.

Sometimes I like rules just fine––especially the ones I make myself––it’s just rules that have lost sight of why they exist, or rules that exist just for the sake of existing that drive me nuts.

For example, I am against homework and school uniforms because studies have shown that they not only don’t work, but actually further disadvantage families that are already struggling.

And I hate pointless pomp and circumstance at formal events.

But I love lists, and colour coding, and diagrams. You know, useful sh*t.

Do I mentally correct people’s grammar in my head as they’re talking? Absolutely. I have this need to fix the words, even if the other person never knows. It’s how I keep myself right, for writing later. (Hear something said incorrectly enough times and let it go unchecked, and you’ll find yourself adopting the error.)

When it came to our wedding, my husband and I decided which traditions we wanted to follow and which ones weren’t for us. (Most of them weren’t.)

All that to say, I think there’s a balance to be found, between rules and order. And that balance is probably different for everyone.

Some people positively thrive in chaos––but I am not those people.

Recently, I got the urge again to do some art*. It’s an urge I’ve spoken about here before, and one that comes around periodically. Because the thing is that I love art, but so rarely do it. Because I have so very few skills yet (because I don’t do it. Vicious cycle, I know). I also wasn’t sure where to start.

Instead of starting, I stopped and thought. What would I need? I asked myself. And from there wondered what I already had. So I set out to make a list of all the art supplies I currently own. And then I realised that everything I had was completely disordered, mixed together and spread across several different drawers and storage boxes in my office. From there, I tried to put all the like items together (all the pens in one place, all the paperclips in a single tub etc), but soon found it was a losing battle, as the drawers and storage boxes would only let me do so much.

They weren’t fit for purpose.

So I did some online research (i.e. watched approximately fifteen thousand YouTube videos of other people organising art supplies) and decided I needed a new drawer unit. I picked one out, wrote down the details, went to Ikea, spent the morning in a queue, the afternoon assembling pieces of wood, the rest of the day resorting all of my art supplies.

The day after that, I finally sat down to colour in.

That probably sounds crazy, right? Entirely excessive. Except do you know what? It made me so, so happy! Continue reading

Thinking

I’ve been thinking again about my past projects (pictured above), now have a bit of distance from them. They haven’t been out in the world for a while – I unpublished them over a year ago – and, in fact, one of them never even made it out to begin with. I killed my micro-poetry project before it ever really saw the light of day.

But anyway, I’m thinking about it because… because I’m kind of itching to start something new.

And I’m nervous.

I don’t know if anyone has been able to tell, but I’ve been finding it hard to blog, recently. Hard to motivate myself to do it. The words you’re reading now are the first ones I’ve written this month. Maybe I’ve lost momentum. Maybe I’m burned out. Maybe both?

Either way, I think I need a break. Which is funny, actually, because I’m not sure if I know what one looks like. A lot of the time, a break for me just means switching gears to do something else rather than stopping entirely. And it’s kind of the same here. I don’t want to stop entirely so much as I… well. This might sound weird, but I want to draw.

I’m not actually good at drawing, but I want to learn. I want to try.

I actually think I want to try Inktober, and I’m itching to put together a somewhat rough and ready zine from what I create.

…reading back over that last sentence, I am relieved that I still want to create. Maybe it means everything isn’t so bad as it feels right now.

I’m just tired.

I don’t know when I’ll blog again, but words will most certainly return in some way at some point. Maybe it’ll be in a month. Maybe it’ll be a few hours and I’ll then feel silly for having written this. Regardless, I’m gonna doodle in the meantime.

A zine is a fun idea, but I’m playing with it as just that; not committing myself to anything just yet.

I have mixed feelings about putting another thing out into the world, because of the aforementioned past projects. They all took so much time and energy (some more so than others) but, ultimately, I was unsatisfied with them. My standards kept rising and the books kept falling short.

No wonder I’m a little gun-shy.

…I’m not really sure where I’m going with all this. Maybe that’s my point.

I’m just thinking. Musing. Having a little doodle.

I’ll be back.

Embracing Norn Iron

I have lived most of my life in Northern Ireland. I was born here. My parents are from here. My husband and his family are from here, too. You could say I’m kinda invested in this place.

But this place is complicated. Geographically, it’s complicated. Politically, it’s really complicated. Culturally, it spends most of its time confused and upset.

Because of this, and for a whole host of more personal reasons, I have always felt conflicted about good ol’ Norn Iron. (As the locals call it.)

It’s quite possible I’ll always feel a range of emotions about here, but what I have come to terms with is that this country – this land – is part of me, and I am part of it.

I used to see being in Northern Ireland as being the worst of two worlds, almost literally. And there is a little basis for that viewpoint even now, but you don’t need to be a genius to see how pessimistic that is.

As I have gotten older and discovered how much I don’t know (about lots of things, not just regarding N.I.), I have learned that the choices we make and the opinions we hold have power. If I stayed stuck in my previous mindset I wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, but I would be worse off for it.

These days, I’m actively choosing to watch out for positives because, yes, they do exist if you look for them. Not everything has to be doom and gloom. And being aware of positive things and appreciating them helps to encourage further positive things.

Prime example: the literary community, like all of the other communities, is divided in a lot of ways. There are opportunities open to the UK, and there are opportunities open to Ireland. This used to frustrate me, because my heart would pull one way, my head would push the other, and I never knew which way, if either, I was actually supposed to go. I was caught in the middle, foolishly thinking I had to pick a side, wholeheartedly dedicate myself to it, and cut myself off entirely from the other.

And here’s what I took way too long to figure out: I don’t have to be either/or, I can be both!

That’s liberating. That’s revolutionary. That… probably should have been way more obvious than it actually was, but that terrible mindset I was talking about had blinded me like it blinded – and still blinds – so many others.

All of that to say this (because, yes, I am coming to a point here and it will explain the photo I’ve picked to accompany this blog post): back in the day if you had asked me to take part in a project celebrating Northern Ireland, I may not have said anything, but internally I would have cringed. Now, though – with my new found acceptance of this place and my place in it – I am more than happy to take part in such a project. Ecstatic, even. And asked to take part I was!

When lockdown first started and ‘social distancing’ was still a relatively new term, Angeline King – the lady currently at the helm of Women Aloud NI – hatched a plan to give WANI members a project to distract ourselves with.

“Let’s write a book!” she said, and we only went and bloody did it!

North Star is an anthology of short stories and poems that celebrate the six counties of Northern Ireland, and has a specific section for the city of Belfast, too. I am in there and I am proud to be so.

Again, national pride can quickly become a thorny issue, but this isn’t about that. This is about representing the best of our communities and pulling together to make them even better.

From here on out, that’s certainly what I’m hoping to achieve. Who’s with me?

Writing Update – December 2019

So, NaNoWriMo is over for another year.

In the run-up to November, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to take part. I’ve consistently attempted NaNo for several years, and I wanted to try again this year, but I didn’t know if it was possible with everything else going on.

To begin with, I was starting the month in England for the annual SCBWI Conference, and I wouldn’t have my laptop with me. (There would have been no point, I didn’t have a spare minute for the whole three days.) I was also trying to keep up with my studies. But, despite this, I decided to go for it in the end anyway. I wasn’t really expecting to hit the 50,000-word goal, but I wanted to write as much as possible.

I signed up –– and then promptly got sick. (Typical, right?)

Even so, I managed 21,000 words total across thirty days.

That was:

  • 2 Poems (200 Words)
  • 5 Blog Posts (4,200 Words)
  • a 600-word story outline (for Death Girl: a project that’ll either end up as a novel or novella)
  • 16,000 Words of Fan Fiction

Going in, I thought I’d be mainly working on one project (Death Girl) but, as you can see, I actually ended up mostly writing fanfic. I’m okay with that. Given the craziness of the month, I’m happy with how I did.

Going forward, I thought some of you might be wondering what works-in-progress I have left after recently abandoning a bunch. So, here’s the breakdown of that:

Right at the top of my list is the fanfiction I was writing in November. Originally started in October, it’s now at 24,000 words and I expect it will be done at 30k. I aim to have those final six-thousand words done by Christmas.

My two main projects for the first half of 2020 are the third book in my trilogy (which I will be working on during CampNaNoWriMo in April) and a draft of Death Girl (now scheduled for CampNaNo in July). I also want to finish three short stories: Prepared, The Change, and Wingman.

Back Burner Projects:

  • A non-fiction book about my childhood
  • Short Stories: Drama Queen and Subterfuge
  • Y.A. Novels: Rain After Fire, Family Secret, and Holes
  • Adult Novels: Sasha and A Man Convinced
  • Ella and Vin – a standalone comic book
  • A random academic essay I have an idea for (not actually part of my current course)
  • The twenty-five fanfic WIPs I have ideas for, that I mentioned in part two of my ‘Idea Graveyard’ post

What writing projects are you in the middle of, dear reader? Please tell me in a comment below.

2019 Goals Part Two: Summer

Back in January, I changed things up a little and only set myself one goal for the entire year. That was my 2019 Goodreads challenge to read sixty books. By the time this post goes live, I should have completed twenty-two of those, which means I’m on track.

With regards to other goals, I wanted to focus on things in the shorter term so I decided to plan things a few months at a time and no further. Although it’s not fully accurate, for the sake of simplicity, I’ve split my 2019 into three segments which I’m calling Spring (January to April), Summer (May to August), and Autumn/Winter (September to December).

My Spring was pretty good, all in all. I had my second wedding anniversary in February and my thirtieth birthday in March. I spent a lot of January catching up on all of my accounts for my freelance work so I could get my tax return in before the deadline (which I did!). The rest of that month and part of February was spent doing voluntary work and, when I stepped back from that, I threw myself into decluttering the house following the Kon Mari method.

It felt good to get rid of things and, in the process, simplify my life (simplicity being a big theme of mine, the past few years). The end tally was: 4 bags of clothes (between my husband and I), 1 bag of bedding, 1 [big] bag of books, 8 boxes of komono/miscellaneous items and an untold number of trash bags and recycled things. I also paired down a lot of my social media profiles. Continue reading

Breakdown

For all my talk about this being a new era in which I’m going to really believe in myself and promote my work better, I was a little worried after my previous blog post that I was maybe asking too much or coming across as arrogant asking for people to support me at all.

There’s a delicate balance to be made between blowing your own horn to let people know you’re doing a cool thing and taking that horn and bashing people over the head with it, making a big noise in their ears at the same time.

Out of fear of being counterproductive and turning people away from the things I want to tell them about, and with a big dose of impostor syndrome, I try to err on the side of caution.

I’d rather be too quiet than not loud enough. Even so, I’ve gotten some feedback and, apparently, I’ve done little more than whisper to myself so far. That’s maybe a bit too much towards the other extreme, not being productive at all.

So, here’s the plan. Today, right now, I am going to explicitly break down what it is I’m asking for, how people can help, what people will get in return, and what I’ll do with the funding. Then, at the end of this week, I will be putting up a further blog post about my novel so people can get an even better idea of what they’ll be helping me to create if indeed they choose to help.

Here we go…  Continue reading

A Leap of Faith

In my previous blog post, I said that I’d been turned down for funding by the Arts Council. Since then, I requested feedback on my application and, what they essentially said was, I’ve got a good history of artistic practice and made contributions to the local arts community but I didn’t really sell my current project.

Not believing in myself has been a problem in the past, and it’s something I’m actively trying to overcome. There are a lot of opportunities that I haven’t taken advantage of, thinking I’m not good enough or established enough yet. I tell myself I’ll go after them later, when I’ve got some publication, award, or official recognition.

I know being “established” and “successful” are subjective goals at best, whereas trying to gain specific certifications can be arbitrary. Well, no more. I’m done minimizing all the hard work I’ve done so far and no longer standing in my own way.

One of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but not felt worthy of yet is setting up a Patreon account – a place where people can support me for as little as $1 per month.

I’m not expecting anyone to donate, and I won’t be offended if people don’t want to give me their money, but the option is now there for if you do wish to help. I figure, there’s no harm putting myself out there. If it doesn’t take off, no harm no foul.

Click here to read more.

Glow!

Meet Glo.

Glo is an artist. Or she would be, if she ever got started.

She has all the inspiration.

All the plans.

 

Glo gets caught up in doing lots of little, unimportant things.

Glo frustrates the f*ck out of her friends.

They can see everything she’s got to give, but all they hear are her excuses.

I’m gonna stop being like Glo.

 


My name means light. I have a coaster somewhere that says that. It also says that I have so much potential, I can’t be pinned down, and I never get anything finished. Well SCREW THAT!

From here, every time I get pissed at people like Glo, I’m gonna use that energy to go out and hit my targets and stop being such a damn hypocrite.

Yes, I love art. And photography. And animals. And precisely six-point-two-five million other things.

I know logically I can’t become an expert in all of them, so the logical thing is to stop and focus on one thing, maybe dabbling in other things along the way, and maybe giving something else my full energy and attention when I’m done making it as a writer. But I’m gonna be a writer first.

Now begins the season of quality over quantity.

Glo’s gonna keep me right.