Self-Care and the Creative

So, I’ve been spending this weekend launching a Patreon page as well as launching the book project YouTube Channel, and also revising the business plan and creating the first draft of my Grad school essay and…

All of these things, I’ve needed to do for a while now, and it felt really good to finally check them off the list, but something I’d stumbled across several weeks ago keeps coming up for me…what am I doing so that I can sustain all of these projects and sites and pages and greater connectivity and all the things that I’m trying to establish to be able to finally afford to be able to not only launch this book project, but also successfully promote it and establish the foundation for my writing career beyond this book project?

Well, something you should know about me: I tend to thrive on chaos. By which I really mean, I tend to find myself trying to occupy my time and my mind as much as possible, because in reality, I don’t do well with boredom or idle time, and I’m much better as a person when I can be intentional about my downtime, and when I can plan my time.

So, while trying to get this book published and launched and then also trying to start a business so hopefully I can sustain and grow my connection and support of other artists and writers, there has been an endless supply of things to occupy myself with, which has been good and bad.

However, if I wish to continue at being a decent person, who can continue to maintain my day job and start grad school and still be a decent husband and father, then that means I’m gonna need to build in some safety nets and curated “me” time, time to just take a walk or take my boys to the park or just sit for five minutes without a laundry list of everything I SHOULD be doing right at that moment running on repeat through my head.

This will be hard for me, but it’s also what I NEED to be able to build into my system, my process and my life. I’ve learned the hard way, being someone in the social services field for all these years, that it’s not enough to just wish or hope for a reprieve from all the world’s demands, but to be intentional about that shit.

Also, what I am doing and sharing and attempting to get out there into the world is heavy shit, MY heavy shit. This creation of mine is all about the ups and downs of my life, and some of the darkest conjurings of of my mind and soul, and while writing and creating these pieces was liberating, it’s also a reopening of the wound each time I come into contact with them.

I imagine it’s probably like that for a lot of you out there as well. It could just be the dark and heavy matter that I’ve decided to delve into and explore within myself and then share with the whole wide world, but even my happier pieces are steeped in previous times or loves or more innocent parts of my life, which on any given day, could cut just as deeply as my heaviest stuff, if for no other reason, nostalgia and longing for that ‘first-love’ feeling again.

So, all this to say, I need to build in some parameters and leeway for myself while I’m building up and out.

I wish I could just say that I’m just going to start running again or eating healthier, but if I’m gonna try to build something that could potentially last for the rest of my life, be it 10 or 20 or 50 more years, that’s gonna require me trying a few things out, discovering what works and doesn’t work for me, and getting into a good routine, and then doing the whole search and discovery process all over again in 6-8 months, because I get bored easily and while I like being able to anticipate my day, I also don’t like being stuck doing the same things day after day after day.

So, while I am trying to figure out what self-care means as someone who writes or creates written content all the goddamn time, in both my professional and personal life, I encourage you to work on your own self-care needs and techniques as well. What are you doing currently to take care of yourself? what do you think you need to do to recharge and step away from it all for just a little while so what you are doing doesn’t become the bane of your existence?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.

Also, I was able to attack and whittle away at the massive to-do list thanks to my dear friend Anh for opening up her home to me for this weekend, which has allowed me the focus and time/space to finally buckle down and do all these things, and then some, like sleep without a child’s elbow or knee in my back all night.

See? one of the things I know I need more of is quick and simple weekend retreats so that I can focus and work and dream or just veg out. There, that’s a self-care thing that I will be keeping around going forward 🙂

Pigeon-holed or Just Right?

As I’ve been delving more into the guts of crafting a business plan (actually TWO: one for ‘Shadowland’ and one for being an author overall and the next several projects) I had to reconcile two different things that I honestly hadn’t taken into account before: Who is my audience, and who am I?

As I’ve been discovering throughout this process, there is what’s considered your natural audience, such as friends and family who will automatically support and likely purchase this book simply because of their connection to me, but there is also the greater audience: the folks who I would like to get this project in front of who might enjoy it and maybe even purchase it.

For some reason, who that greater audience is has been hard to answer, and I’m realizing that it’s because I haven’t quite figured out how to articulate who I am, as a creative and as a person, that would draw and inform the casual browser of who I am as an artist and why they should keep reading the description for more then two seconds.

Basically, I have to figure out my “Brand.” I know, I’m cringing right along with you.

The past several months, I’ve been trying to figure out how authors and writers have been getting the word out about their books and I, like many have become sucked down the inevitable rabbit hole of what I’ll term “business wizards.” These of course are those individuals that have popped up everywhere with their “five tricks to selling a million books” or some such other tagline to entice you into watching their slickly-produced, peppy videos regarding how the process or methods or programs they’ve developed will lead you to an endless stream of ways to expand the reach, grow your followers on social media, and consequently, your wealth.

Don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate folks out there that I’ve discovered who are genuinely excited about sharing with others what they’ve learned about the industry, and who aren’t trying to sell you everything and anything under the sun that they can monetize. They want you to actually get better at your craft and have a better handle on how to improve yourself as an author and as a business owner, if that’s in fact what you are aiming for.

Anyway, all of that to say that, I’m generally turned off and irritated by the whole “Branding” and marketing thing in general.

Why should I have to try to trick or dazzle you with piffy catchphrases and slick photos to entice you to read my book? I’m an Iraq War Veteran who’s chronicled his metempsychosis from a placid, idealistic Christian to a disillusioned, bitter and often cantankerous Antiwar Humanist, with some love-sick vignettes for a little pick-me-up to break up the acrimony and heaviness! I’m the shit, man, just ask my neighbor Gary.

And that’s when I realized: this is why I need to figure out my “Brand”: my poetry isn’t meant for everyone, this project isn’t meant for everyone, and how unfortunate would it be if someone stumbled across it who was ready or prepared for it?

While writing this post, I’ve just realized that this was perhaps the first time I actually wrote down what I somehow assumed that others would just know about me. This is why I need handlers.

So, I think some big takeaways from this post should be that, yes, as some point you need to figure out who is and isn’t your audience for your book or art, and perhaps like me you will also discover what your “Brand” is as well in the process, because it’s very important to find the way you are going to present yourself to your potential audience and the to the world. Will my “Brand” likely shift and expand if I’m hoping to write something that doesn’t necessarily fit into the niche that I’m currently writing within? It sure as shit will, and hopefully my “Brand” will be something that works for me across the entire spectrum of artwork I intend to create, from poetry to children’s picture books.

Also, when you start searching around for ways to build your business and write that business plan, stay away from the smarmy, slick business men and women out there who insist that they can make you a bestseller over night or some such bullshit. Find some good people who, even if they have a subscription program or something that’s not too outrageous are doing it for the right reasons and are providing what you actually need as far as advice, resources and community goes, not a bunch of bullshit that a little extra googling for free could have gotten you to. It takes time and patience to avoid the pitfalls out there, and time and experience will tell I’m actually learning the right way to go about this whole process, but at least I’m trying and sharing what I’m learning along the way FOR FREE.