Dreaming for Hope and Destinations

Make Art Not War Challenge October 2017

This month’s theme for my Make Art Not War Challenge is SELF-CARE, and today I want to talk about the importance of having dreams. First, some background.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I tend to err on the practical side. I often use key markers to focus on the work, because the emotional aspects of the job can derail my productivity–and they have. Beyond dealing with rejection, when you work freelance there are a number of things that can and will go wrong. Sometimes, despite all your planning, the cardboard house you’ve built falls apart–and now you’ve got more work to do, because you’re busy picking up the pieces.

Here’s what I’ve learned: though not everything will go your way, it’s healthy to recognize and mitigate that to a point. But, it’s also important to have dreams that you pin your hopes on. Otherwise, you’ll be sitting around waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop, wondering when something else is going to happen. As my friend Meredith would say: “Trust”. We can, and do, learn by our experiences, but I’ve found we also condition ourselves and add a thin (or thick) veneer of expectations that color our views.

Yes, it’s true, there are systemic issues that impact your chances of success; any industry filled with people will have them. At the same time, I’ve found that your personal mindset can influence what happens next. If you work on a project, for example, convinced you’ll be rejected or fired, then you’re in danger of sabotaging yourself. Even if you do so subconsciously, keep in mind that most people are very, very smart. While it’s true they may not vocalize their feelings, they make judgements just as much as you do. That said, I do feel we should be helping each other, but the entertainment industry is extremely competitive and often based on what you’ve done as opposed to your potential. Still, I believe you’ve got to find a way to say “Yes!” to yourself, and let that feeling, that emotion pass through everything you do. Success, in other words, often breeds more success. Only, that “overnight success” story you hear about? It’s not uncommon for that moment to be the culmination of ten or twenty years of hard work. Sometimes, all you need is a chance.

Doing the work is the only means of moving forward as an artist. I’ve said it a thousand times, and I’ll say it again: you can network all you want, but if you can’t produce it doesn’t matter who you’re friends with. Even so, luck and timing are uncontrollable. You can help yourself mitigate all the bad stuff, and position yourself for good things to happen by doing one thing: dream.

Creative Challenge: Dream a Little Dream

Dreaming is an act of self-care, because without hope–or a reason to write, paint, draw, etc.–we don’t have anything to look forward to. We don’t have something positive to offset the bad. You need that emotion, even when your situation feels dire, because it can serve as fuel for your inspiration and future self.

[That said, if you’re already dreaming about what you want to do? Don’t forget you can get stuck in the dream, and never write. That’s partly why people are wary of those who talk about writing and business plans and social media followers and such. There’s so many who simply talk and don’t write.]

So that’s my challenge to you today: DREAM. What good things would you like to happen in your career? What do you really want? Describe them. Write them down in a letter to your future self, or scribble a list on a sticky note. Put a reminder everywhere you need to see it, or tape it to your monitor. It can be big, small, modest, or bold–but be specific. It’s your dream. What do you want? Get that vision clear in your mind, and you’d be surprised how your focus will shift in a good way.

If you’re lost or stuck, please know that it does take a lot of energy to steer your proverbial boat if you feel you’re headed in the wrong direction. Dreams are a tool that can help you, because they allow you to choose where you want to go. How you’ll get there, if you’ll ever reach your destination… That’s all part of the journey.

Your journey. Your dreams.

Good luck!

Mood: It’s Monday. Engage cyber-meeting mode.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Uh, enough I was up super late.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walking, walking, sitting.
In My Ears: P!nk’s new album Beautiful Trauma
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: Loads for work. Loads. LOADS MORE. MOAR.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: The Magnificent Seven YUS!
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War Challenge eBook now available!
Latest Releases: Over the Edge for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Dagger of Spiragos for Scarred Lands.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.

Dreaming for Hope and Destinations was originally published on Monica Valentinelli


Pardon My Violet Dust


Back in 2010, I launched a website called www.violetwar.com and I realized an enhanced eBook called The Queen of Crows shortly before the iPad launched. Yeah, it’s been that long. (Hell, I don’t know if I’d write that story all over again or not.) Seven years later, I’m finally ready to start sharing what I’ve been working on as time allows.

I’ve come into a bit of good fortune, recently, and that means I’m juggling work-with-passion once again. There is no question about it: Violet War, for me, is a labor of love. No guarantee you’ll enjoy it; I, however, am deeply in love with it. Violet War is a massive, massive global setting with a huge cosmology, dozens of characters, and several subplots. The stories in this world need to come out, however, and I have no other choice than to move forward on this by revising/submitting and offering some stories for free. The rest will be wait-and-see, for sure.

More on this as time progresses. There’ll be further site updates as I start wrangling the existing content into submission, and possibly a new theme/art.

Are you ready for a war? I guess we’ll find out.

Mood: I have had a beignet. Your argument is invalid. (Been waiting ALL day to say that!)
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Oh, so many.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walking, walking, walking.
In My Ears: How Far I’ll Go from Moana (Alessia Cara version). Now on repeat!
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: Loads for work. Loads. LOADS MORE. MOAR.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: The Magnificent Seven YUS!
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War Challenge eBook now available!
Latest Releases: Over the Edge for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Dagger of Spiragos for Scarred Lands.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.

Pardon My Violet Dust was originally published on Monica Valentinelli

An Itty Bitty Status Update

Wonder Woman Avatar

Phew! It’s been a whirlwind of a summer, and now we have a new season: Summall. Or, possibly, Summinter. We’re experiencing unusually warm weather[1], and that has put a significant dent in my combat boot-wearing capabilities. Great for Pokemon hunting, though, and getting steps in. I’m pretty stoked because I hit the first leg of my goals, and am amping up to the next phase.

Part of my good mood right now, is because I took my own advice and did several things on my tips for self-care list. I am devastated and upset by the news, but I keep coming back to what I can do. What can I provide? Make art in all its glorious forms. Give back as I’m able to. I know it won’t be enough, but I’m not an island either. I work with fabulous individuals, and we’re all doing the best we can and will continue to do so.

My workload is insane at the moment. There is no way I can participate in NaNoWriMo, either. Timing, such as it is, means my focus has to be very narrow right now. Some exciting bits I’m working on, for sure! I’ve had a lot of conversations about launching additional aspects, too, such as Patreon or Etsy. Next year is going to be awesome!

I am a little concerned, however, that social media engagement is changing because it directly impacts the discovery of creators and our art. It’s a lot more work to promote a book or game than it has been in the past; people are getting offline and definitely adjusting their usage. Can you blame them? Every time something blows up in a headline, social media is saturated with commentary about it. It’s inescapable.

Despite this, I’m not worried about marketing. To be honest, that hasn’t been on my radar for a long while. When I have blogged about social media/marketing in the past, it’s partly because I feel that sharing stories about my journey might help others in my position. Too, there’s really no “one way” to promote yourself or your books, and there are plenty of experts in the field–many already work in publishing, already. I’m lucky in the sense that I’ve logged some time in the marketing field before, and know who to ask if that responsibility falls back on my plate. Often, however, making art has been a higher priority than selling it.

Some immediate changes to my schedule: I’m back to blogging, at least twice a week, for the time being. I’ve also found that compartmentalizing my To-Do lists has been a life-saver. And, it has really helped me prioritize what needs to be done as well. Really slick! I’ll also be taking photos at events and whatnot, and I have a lot to share from past shows/fun bits! I played around with how I log my time, and I’m definitely blocking social media during business hours. It’s a huge relief, and those mini-breaks I normally take are a lot more productive and fun. Great fuel for writing. This technique has also been helping me compartmentalize how and when to channel my energy, too.

And with that, I need to get back to my list. Keep on, keepin’ on. Be well!

1] A former co-worker used to call it ‘global nicening’ as a terrible joke. Climate change is the new Flat Earth.

Mood: Have devolved into sarcasm. Or evolved? Hah.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Wait… That was Sunday, right? Three.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Steps! Steps! Steps!
In My Ears: How Far I’ll Go from Moana (Alessia Cara version)
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: Loads for work. Loads. LOADS MORE. MOAR.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: The Magnificent Seven YUS!
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War Challenge eBook now available!
Latest Releases: Over the Edge for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Dagger of Spiragos for Scarred Lands.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.

An Itty Bitty Status Update was originally published on Monica Valentinelli

[Announcement] Guest of Honor at Capricon 38

Capricon 38 | Expanding Universes

I am pleased to announce I am the Gaming Guest of Honor at Capricon 38 in Wheeling, Illinois. The theme for 2018’s show is “Expanded Universes”, and I love it.

From the website: “Capricon 38: Expanding Universes, will be a celebration of the infinite loop from the written word, to the screen, to games, and back again. When fans find a universe they enjoy, they can’t wait for the next book, episode, movie, or game. So, these universes are expanded across a variety of media.”

This philosophy, that the art we make and enjoy is part of an infinite loop, is one I hold very dear to my heart. It’s one of the pillars for my business plan, and it’s also the reason why I’m continually inspired to keep chipping away at different points on that loop.

I hope you’ll join us in February!

[Announcement] Guest of Honor at Capricon 38 was originally published on Monica Valentinelli

Make Art Not War Challenge: 75 Suggestions for Self-Care and Improvement

Make Art Not War October Challenge

This month’s Make Art Not War Challenge theme is SELF-CARE, which is one of the essays I pubbed in my new Make Art Not War Challenge: Rules, Essays, and 31 Creative Tips eBook! To celebrate this fun and necessary theme, I’ve cooked up seventy-five suggestions for you. Woo!

1. Get a facial or use a face mask
2. Set up your annual doctor’s visit
3. Schedule your dentist’s visit
4. Watch a comedy
5. Re-read your favorite book
6. Listen to your favorite song
7. Wear your favorite color
8. Buy yourself flowers
9. Schedule a sexual health screening
10. Get a massage
11. Get your nails/hair/toes done
12. Change your hair color/style
13. Do that One ThingTM you’ve been putting off for months
14. Clean your desk
15. Make your bed
16. Sleep with fancy sheets
17. Spray stress-reducing fragrances (lavender, peppermint, etc.)
18. Light a candle
19. Take yourself out on a date
20. Bake! Fresh bread is fabulous
21. Meditate or pray
22. Plan a New Year’s celebration!
23. Indulge in your favorite hobby
24. Get some fresh air
25. Take a nap
26. Cook an elaborate meal
27. Find a new theme song. (I like Survival by Muse)
28. Read a new story by your favorite author
29. Watch a feel good movie
30. Have some delicious tea
31. Color! There’s swear word coloring books, too!
32. Eat your vegetables
33. Do a second thing you’ve been putting off for months!
34. Check your water intake and up it, if needed
35. Find a safe space and scream
36. Play with your pets! (Or go to a rescue and see ’em.)
37. Track your mood with smiley faces. (Sometimes, you need to know where you’re at, before you can help yourself!)
38. Set up a savings plan that’s affordable for you
39. Take a class or tutorial
40. Get glam/silly/spooky/etc. and get photographed!
41. Take a long hot shower/bath
42. Use some fancy lotion
43. Specify an event or date you’re looking forward to–then count it down!
44. Schedule time to disconnect
45. Do some breathing exercises
46. Wear excellent socks
47. Put up holiday lights in your office — I did! Mine are purple!
48. Visit a planetarium
49. Cull your social media lists/followers
50. Use a worry stone
51. Vent. Journals work great for this!
52. Visit a planetarium. The vastness of space is an excellent reminder how small our planet is!
53. Plan for the holidays early. Save yourself some time and space to enjoy them.
54. Sitting on an application/submission of any kind? Submit it!
55. Putting off that body art? Plan and do it!
56. Watch the sunrise/sunset
57. Visit your local arboretum or park
58. Do that computer/phone maintenance you hate doing
59. Organize/sort your photos
60. Create a vision board–a digital version works fine, too!
61. Forgive yourself
62. Plan (and do) a new self-help morning routine
63. Geek out! Write fanfic or make fan art
64. Get your personal library in shape
65. Take a self-defense class
66. Seek out guest lecturer opportunities–try your local library!
67. Have a good cry
68. Level up your writing instruments. I adore jetpens.com!
69. Have a planner? Pretty it up with fancy stickers.
70. Plan a trip and go cloud watching
71. Create a wheel spinner to do something fun. (Then do it!)
72. Learn ASL, Morse code, or a foreign language
73. Sign up/plan a longer-term fitness goal with a trainer
74. Prioritize your wants/needs/goals
75. Say buh-bye to toxic people and deepen your relationships with those who matter.

Mood: The future is yet before us
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Addiction? Oh yeah. Too embarrassing to admit.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Steps! Averaging 5K a day work-out wise, and ready to up the program.
In My Ears: A whiny Muse song
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: Loads for work. Loads. LOADS MORE.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Westworld
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War Challenge eBook
Latest Releases: Over the Edge for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Dagger of Spiragos for Scarred Lands.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.

Make Art Not War Challenge: 75 Suggestions for Self-Care and Improvement was originally published on Monica Valentinelli

A New Alchemical Addition to a Rare Auction

Dear readers,

Today I am happy to share with you that I have finished my preparations to ensure a mysterious book called the Mythica d’Argent(1) will be included in book filled with similar listings for other, enigmatic tomes of the occult.

This new book, called The Dagon Collection, will be a follow-up to The Starry Wisdom Library edited by Nate Pedersen.

More news will be forthcoming!

(1) Mark this as a momentous occasion, for reasons I’ll get into later.

A New Alchemical Addition to a Rare Auction was originally published on Monica Valentinelli

Struggling to Make Art? 25 Tips for Getting Your Shit Together

Yuna Final Fantasy X-2

The news sucks. What’s more, it’s not just the news, because so many people are affected by what’s happening — and there’s a lot going on. If you’re an artist of any stripe, you may feel unmotivated right now. Why make art when things are so awful? It might even feel selfish. But, right now, we’re in danger of losing two things: ourselves and our ability to help others either through our art or by falling into depression. Here’s something I learned the hard way that I want to share with you: sometimes, the best way to help others is to help yourself first, so you have more to give. It’s hard to do that if you’re not doing well yourself, because you’ll burn out emotionally and slow down work-wise. Unfortunately, many of us cannot afford that financially, emotionally, etc. And, if you want to know the truth? If you’re struggling you are not alone. Some people can voice that frustation while others can’t. But, this current state of the world is affecting everyone in so many different ways.

So, how do you keep making art? Have a life despite this crushing social zeitgeist? Plan for the future? I don’t know your personal situation, but I’d like to offer some suggestions to help you retain your focus and stay motivated. Your mileage may vary!

1. Participate in a theme month. Inktober is just around the corner! If you can’t draw with pen and ink, don’t be afraid to modify the requirements to do your thing. Small, motivational themes like flash fiction or knitting squares can help pump up your artistic volume.

2. Set tiny goals. When you’re feeling great and everything’s rolling your way, your normal productivity might be 1,000 words a day. If it’s hard to achieve your typical goals right now, set the bar lower. What you’re looking for is consistency. After you accomplish those tiny goals, then raise them up bit by bit until you’re back up to speed.

3. Change your morning routine. I started doing this a few weeks ago, and it’s made a huge difference. First, I make the bed. Then, I go for a walk, and following that over coffee I write my morning pages. While sometimes morning pages are challenging due to work constraints, identifying things I do in the morning before work helps keep me grounded.

4. Try meditation. I tend to do this at night, and I’m not great about getting into a practice. I tend to do this during yoga, which I know I don’t do enough of. Heh. However, I have other friends who swear by this. There’s a few apps you can try that are perfect for beginners, including Headspace.

5. Maintain your creative space. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that my office has been… Well, a disaster. I get halfway through cleaning it up, and I dive into another project… Then poof! It all goes to hell. I spent a solid week going through stuff again, this time assigning smaller projects and goals to the tasks I didn’t finish. Having a clutter free space makes a huge difference! I now have a functional office and, what’s more, I don’t feel like I need to drop what I’m doing to clean it up.

6. Revisit your To-Do list methodology. Okay, so the trick I found was to have separate lists for home, work, and personal. I keep them all in a dot matrix notebook separated by tabs. What separating the lists has done, is keep clear categorizations of my tasks by generic subject. This allows me to have a visible, running track record of what I’m doing (or not as the case may be)! There are apps, too, that can help you with this including Wunderlist and a fun list-turned-game called Habitica.

7. Plan to reconnect. Are there people you haven’t talked to in a while? Friends, family, or peers? Acquaintances you’ve meant to write? Instead of putting that off, turn names into items on your To Do list and reconnect. If you’re not sure where to start, try updating your address book or use your phone to aggregative data. It’s one of the things that’s on my list!

8. Manage your social media time. There’s a couple of online tools you can use on your browser to help you limit distractions. Hard to use them if you have news to share, of course! Other methods of helping you manage your engagements: a timer (or a set time when you’ll check in), limit social media during work hours (see below), only log in during the weekends or special Q&A events, etc. You can also use tools like Hootsuite to wrangle your accounts as well. I find that this is two separate tasks, though, because one is about focusing on the time you log in, while the other is about managing your content.

9. Schedule regular work hours. This is a tip I picked up from Robin D. Laws. Freelancers like myself often taxed with working long or even irregular hours. One method of dealing with motivation is to “go to work”. A 9 to 5 schedule may be unrealistic for you, but I recommend career-minded artists to seriously treat your art as a job — because it is a job. The more you value what you do as an artist, the stronger your motivation will be to continue making art.

10. Check out pro/semi-pro organizations. Organizations like the SFWA can be incredibly valuable to you, because they allow you to connect with other like-minded individuals. While they’re not for everyone, they can be a wonderful way to feel part of your genre or field. Plus, they can help you fill in the gaps in your knowledge. Many of them have resources and downloads to help artists.

11. Schedule a mini-retreat. If you need to get away and completely change your environment, consider doing just that! Often, a retreat can be cost prohibitive so here are some other ideas: go analog and have fun camping, buddy up and visit a friend you haven’t seen in a while, check out deals in off-peak travel times (e.g. Tuesday through Thursday),

12. Take a workshop or class. Many, many authors like Cat Rambo and Writing the Other have online workshops for writing that are of variable fees. YouTube! has a fantastic selection of hands on art classes and tutorials you can dive into as well. Plus, there are workshops you can apply to, such as Launch Pad, Viable Paradise, etc. or workshops at conventions, too.

13. Try a new medium or genre. Sometimes, to get a fresh perspective, you have to get out of your comfort zone. If the words just aren’t coming out, turn your artistic self upside down. If you design and write games, try your hand at a novella. If you normally digitally paint, try singing. New methods of making art are beneficial in other ways, too, because as you try something new it allows your core focus to rest a bit and helps shake up your creative mind.

14. Set Quarterly “New Year’s” Resolutions. One of the things I learned with my Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge, was that most participants dropped off in March. Knowing this, why not set a quarterly resolution instead? By taking that same “I will” or “I pledge” resolution and breaking it off into quarterly increments, you’ll have a better chance accomplishing it.

15. Write a Letter to Your Future Self. What do you want to do as an artist? And, more importantly, why do you want to make art? It can be hard to think of yourself sometimes, which is why I suggest writing a heartfelt letter that only you will read. Why the future? One of the things I’ve found, is that you need to give yourself something to look forward to otherwise you’ll burn out. Setting goals and resolutions do accomplish that, but a letter is about how you feel. It’s about your hope, your desires, your wishes–which are all important to making art.

16. Find an Artistic Hero. There’s something to be said for finding an author, artist, etc. whose career you’d like to emulate. Mind you, and I do say this with gravitas, do this in a non-creepy or problematic way. Finding a hero doesn’t mean hounding or expecting them to help you, nor does it mean this person is necessarily pure and perfect in their own right. All artists are human, after all, and we are flawed. What it does mean, is that you identify positive attributes of an artist who exhibits what you’d like to do. This is another source of inspiration to help you through your blocked state.

17. Identify a personal mantra. Speaking of hope, one of the common mantras I hear is: “Fake it ’til you make it.” I tend to revise that statement to: “Fake it ’til you become it.” One of my personal faves is “I got this!” Then, write that sucker down and post it above your monitor. Remember: YOU GOT THIS.

18. Make art as gifts. The holidays are a great time to give your art as gifts. Yes, I do think it’s appropriate, and yes I absolutely think it’s an awesome idea! If you’re not comfortable with this, consider making your own cards instead. It’s a little bit of “you”, and you still get the benefit of giving a piece of yourself.

19. Donate a percentage of your sales to charity. If you’re a pro artist and you’re selling your work, think about setting up a charitable donation where ten percent of the proceeds goes to charity. You could do this for an item or across the board. If you have the means, this can help you feel as if you’re doing something to help. There’s a ton of charities out there to pick from. For artist-facing, you could check out Hero Initiative or the RPG Creators Relief Fund for starters.

20. Assign Dollars to Your Time. In this list, I’ve covered emotional and mental aspects of the work. This last tip is about the financial aspects of your work, whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional. If none of the above tips help, you might consider taking a fiscal approach and assign yourself an hourly rate, rate per piece, per word, etc. By assigning a financial value to everything you do, you can get a sense of where you’re placing your efforts.

21. Use a Productivity Timer or Timesheet. Along those lines, you can categorize and track where you’re spending your time with a productivity timer like Toggl or MyHours. You may need to account for the time spent inputting data into the app, but to get your shit together give yourself three months. The first month sees how you’re spending your time, the second is to adjust for any changes you make, and the third is to see your time in practice.

22. Change your deadline visibility. If you are tracking deadlines with milestones or other dates on your calendar, try using colored lines with markers or (my favorite) Stabilo pens on a physical calendar or planner to indicate when a project stops and starts. That can help you see, very clearly, how many projects you’ve got going on at the same time. Another method that can help you, is to try your hand at bullet journaling to get a sense of how much you have on your plate.

23. Buddy up! Find someone to check in with on a semi-regular basis. The goal of a buddy is for you to help each other. This type of arrangement works great if you have boundaries and expectations clearly established ahead of time. A mutually beneficial arrangement like this works wonderfully if your goals are aligned and you’re in a similar frame of mind for your creative efforts. It can also work well if you don’t create in the same field, because the whole point of a buddy is to be a cheerleader for each other. Plus, you get to learn something new and interesting from someone else!

24. Interview other Artists – One way to break past the isolation and frustration you’re experience is to interview other artists. Interviewing other artists for your blog or social media also offers both of you content; they get to promote their stuff, and you get to highlight them for your readers. Interviews can also be tailored or small, too, you could do three-question interviews as opposed to ten or fifteen. Or, alternatively, you could simply reach out privately and ask other artists how they’re dealing with the current political atmosphere.

25. Get Professional Help – If you’ve tried everything there is to try and you’re still not able to produce art, please consider getting professional help. Be kind to yourself! It matters! That may be a sign something else is wrong, and I encourage you to get the care you need.

Mood: Hovering in my chair.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: A LOT.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Pokewalk.
In My Ears: Air conditioner
Game Last Played: Final Fantasy VIII
Book Last Read: Loads for work.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: Over the Edge for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Dagger of Spiragos for Scarred Lands.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.

Struggling to Make Art? 25 Tips for Getting Your Shit Together was originally published on Monica Valentinelli

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