Kids love trick-or-treating for a number of reasons; you're allowed to be out at night, you wear a wacky outfit (often of your own choosing), and you never know what you will collect.
Yes, there is typically candy. A lot of candy. But their bags also fill up with microwave popcorn packets, spider rings, stickers, and one year, a plant.
No lie, last year, or was it two years ago, I can’t remember, but one year, a neighbor gave out clippings from a spider plant.
I loved this idea and laughed, smiling at the neighbor with grateful appreciation as my daughter ran to the next house. One, I’m guessing, she was anxious to collect chocolate from.
Fast forward (one year or maybe two) to now. I’m on the porch admiring a plant. Suddenly, it occurs to me that this is the plant. Larger, leafy, and rooted, yes, but it is still the Halloween treat.
I so appreciated this unusual Halloween handout and wanted to thank them again, for the fun memory and a thriving porch plant. But, I’m not in the habit of ringing the doorbells of neighbors I don’t talk to regularly. I’m not up for an awkward conversation about passing time.
So, I drew the plant. Colored it with watercolor pencils. Then, I taped the drawing with a short note, thanking them for the Halloween treat, to their mailbox.
Maybe they’ve forgotten that Halloween, or maybe they have a flurry of spider plant thank you notes flooding their mailbox. Either way, it was fun for me to create and then give that creation away anonymously.
Whether it’s a plant that had to be trimmed back or a watercolor ripped from a drawing pad, it is satisfying to give away something that might bring a small smile, Halloween or not.
It was obvious, but it took talking to someone else to realize it. If you want to do something, you need to do it.
Like so much advice, it is so simple. Yet so difficult.
But I’m doing it. I'm increasing my output, creating more space so I can find more stars.
My first step in this journey is spending a bit of time in the morning, outside, doing a quick sketch, before logging in to work and write.
Today, as I trolled the bottom of my bag for supplies, I realized I only had a pen and a highlighter.
Yes, a highlighter works. But why not give myself the tools to do better?
In fact, why am I not fully supplied for my freelancing, too? A better camera? Why not. Upgrade my computer? Yup, it’s time. I need to give myself the right tools for the job. Like any good business, the needed tools have to be budgeted in.
Because here I am, talking about making stuff, dreaming about making stuff, and obsessing about my freelancing. Yet, I’m heading out to do a drawing with a purse filled with a lipgloss, a highlighter, and a phone. Then I return to an office that is functional, but in need of upgrades.
I think my personal output (and my desire for tools) waned as I chased paid gigs. I felt flat, and that dullness lingered, because I wasn’t doing the work that nurtured me. You have to do the work that makes you good at what you do. Does that make sense?
When I’m being creative, I’m primed to give my clients the best writing and imagery possible.
And here’s the cool part: Now that I’ve been taking some time for myself, to draw and write stories, I’m happier. I’m more productive. Plus, I’ve had more client work come my way than I have in months.
So, my advice to myself (and to anyone reading) is don’t chase the dollars. They’ll come. Truly, they will.
Go easy on yourself. Do what you love. And get yourself to the right tools for the job.
A friend of mine always says yes to work. If a project knock on his door, he takes it. He takes the work if he’s overbooked. He takes the work if he hasn’t seen his family. He does the work on little to no sleep.
I’m not sure this is a good idea.
This is mulling in my mind as I’ve gotten two offers this week I’m hesitant to accept. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be asked. But I’m also grateful to be in a position where I have enough work that I can say no to projects that aren’t the right match.
Work is work, it’s not a party, but at the same time you have to spend your time doing the things you love. Doing work that fills you up.
I’m learning that busy and productive don’t mean the same thing. Being productive, working on projects I believe in and learn from, helps me grow. I can be busy and not productive. Busy can take all of your time without much reward. What you do right now has an impact, why not spend your time on what matters to you?
So, I’m going to turn these projects down. And simply typing those words is a relief. I’ll have more time to do the work that matters to me. Goals and dreams are worth fighting for, so do the work that will get you there. Right?
There is nothing wrong with the projects themselves, they just aren't the right fit for me right now. Even if I would have been thrilled to be asked a while ago, I’m not thrilled now. So I’ll pass. Hopefully someone else will be thrilled when their email chimes with the prospect.
Time is valuable. Remember that, and use it wisely.
**Photo from a beach walk. Glad I took the time to take it!
After I dropped off my daughter at school, I had to stay in the spring sunshine a bit longer. When you live in Chicago, you learn to embrace sunny, warm weather when you can.
On our walk to school, I was talking about the power of practice. How you improve with effort, even if a skill doesn't come easy at first. Advice, I realized, that I should heed. My drawing skills are rusty and I miss having notebooks filled with sketches. So, armed with my own practice speech, I opted to stop for a cup of coffee and put my advice to work (while soaking in some sun).
Yes, I'm writing every day (have to, need to) but that doesn't mean I can't do some drawing, too.
I let this project go a long time ago, but I've decided it's time to finish it.
Drawing is something I think about doing a lot, but haven't been doing nearly enough of. If I want to improve, the best path is to do more drawing...I think.
More to come!
Just picked up three comics I'd never heard of, thanks to Free Comic Book Day.
This spring tradition—also known as a marketing push, if you are looking at it through another lens—is an opportunity to sample new works and mingle with others fans of art, storytelling, and illustration.
I highly recommend participating in Free Comic Book Day if you are interested in the form, curious about pop culture, or are simply looking for something new to do. Last year, I picked up a Riverdale comic, which led to me watching the show, which led to this post: 3 Things I Learned from Riverdale.
Plus, you can see a browsing stormtrooper! (I must admit, I couldn't help thinking about how hot it must be in the suit.)
This morning, writing in my journal, I realized I’m writing the same story over and over again. Thinking about that, I remembered an interview I read with Paul Auster, where he shares a similar idea. So, I leaned over to my bookshelf, found The Art of Hunger and sure enough, there it is:
“Like it or not, all my books seem to revolve around the same set of questions, the same human dilemmas. Writing is no longer an act of free will for me, it’s a matter of survival. An image surges up inside me, and after a time I begin to feel cornered by it, to feel that I have no choice but to embrace it. A book starts to take shape after a series of such encounters.”
I’ve never written a book. Do I want to write a book?
I have my work writing, which takes up most of my time, but there is story that has been creeping in to my private writing. It shows up, goes away, slowly seeps back in. It is taking over my journal entries. I see the characters in people on the street, thoughts of how it could be constructed pass through my mind as I walk the neighborhood.
So, I’m writing it.
Will it ever be a published story? Who knows. Will it be good? Impossible to say. The truth is, I’m not at that point yet. What’s important right now? Writing.
Have you read “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen? I read it as an adult, since every kid around me had consumed it. I wanted to be in on the cultural conversation. After reading it and talking to fans of Paulsen’s work, it was clear the undercurrent in all of his survival stories is the same: it’s about the food.
Our desire for food is, of course, attached to our survival. But once our daily nutritional needs are met, it’s so much more. Food can be pleasure, entertainment, and a way to display socio-economic status. Enter “The Taste of Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World” by Lizzie Collingham.
The book is detailed, full of dates and stats. Written by an academic, it is a bit dense at times but I still found myself returning to the book again and again. Gulping down chapter after chapter. There are so many tantalizing insights connecting what we eat today to a past we rarely think about. Collingham breaks down how although we think of a cup of sweetened tea as British, the English tea time is actually a result of slavery, trade, political power, agricultural innovation, and more. “By the mid nineteenth century there could be nothing more British than a cup of sweet tea. And yet the drink was an infusion of a Chinese plant acquired in exchange of opium grown in Bengal.”
Recommended for history buffs and lovers of culinary creativity, “The Taste of Empire” is an intriguing look at who we are, what we eat, and how Britain created a global food trade.
I think people crave being a part of history. We learn about historic events and wonder what it would be like to live through it. Think about (or rather guess) how we might have behaved given the same circumstances.
Of course, this is a romantic notion. Because living through a pivotal event can be difficult and messy. In hindsight, we might be a percentage of the person we hoped we’d be. But we are human. Humans make mistakes.
These are some of the ideas that rolled through my brain while reading "What Unites Us" by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner. The book is a collection of essays, reminders of the past and telling observations on the cultural and political landscape of America today.
While I appreciated and enjoyed many of the sections—Freedom, Community, Responsibility, and Character—the section of the book on Exploration particularly resonated with me.
I realize I’m biased, that is clear from the impetus to even do this book-a-week project, but "What Unites Us" made clear to me is that I’m on the right path for my own development. I’m still reading the news, seeing movies, and generally being a part of popular culture, but the commitment to reading a book a week is about taking the time to fill my own creative well. Consulting books and art exhibitions and theater performances is a way for me to see different interpretations of what is happening around me. To expand my view of the human experience.
So, as I took this book in, I am again reminded to do what is in front of me. I’ll remember the essay titled Steady in the Character section. How there are times of anxiety, worry, and fear in life. When these happen, I'll remember to steady myself. To stay balanced, to be sensible. To do the things I can to make my life, and the lives of those around me, positive.
Read more. Create more. Participate more. Keep my senses attuned to what is happening. And, of course, vote.