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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Inspired by a Traveling Red Dress

Jenny "The Bloggess" rockin' her red dress
Over the last couple of weeks, I've actually been doing something novel. I've been limiting my work hours to 8 a day/40 a week just like other people do. I've also been taking every Saturday and Sunday off. At first, I was really just doing it because I was fucking tired and needed a break. However, I've also begun to realize how many incredibly awesome things I've been missing out on while I was too busy overworking myself, so I'm now doing it because of that, too.

This project about a red dress that travels around to different women in desperate need of something impractical in their lives is apparently one of the awesome things I missed. I'm most likely the last person on the planet to actually hear about this since it's been going on a while, but whatever. I'm as enchanted by the idea of this as I would have been had I known about it from the get-go. I've probably spent the better part of the last hour or two reading all the red dress stories people have shared with Jenny since she first made that post as well.

I've also been realizing that my life really needs a lot more "red dresses" in it. I don't mean literal red dresses of course, because I have at least two I can think of right off the top of my head collecting dust in my closet right now.  I mean impractical things that are done, purchased, or experienced just to bring a little bit more magic into your life and possibly by proxy, the lives of other people around you whether you know them or not. I haven't had any magic of that particular variety in my life in a long time and I sincerely doubt I've been spreading much around lately either.

The sad thing is I used to be someone who was considered something of a magical person, both in my own eyes and in the eyes of a lot of people who knew me. I used to have zero problem with identifying potential "red dresses" and acquiring them simply for the hell of it. If I wanted to wear an actual red dress complete with matching red lipstick on a given day, I just did it. I didn't need to be going anywhere special.

If I felt like learning French, it didn't have to have any practical application to my life at all for me to decide it was worth making room for in my schedule. I just put Rosetta Stone on my computer, started learning it, and had a blast in the process. Years ago, I read a blog post all about how to make cheese from scratch, so I made the damn cheese even though they obviously still sell ready-to-go cheese at the grocery store. Then there was this one day when I felt like buying a sword for no reason other than I wanted one and I had the money. Did it!! Still have it, too.

Somewhere along the way though, I let the world convince me that every second of every day should be about working, trying to make money, and striving to "become somebody" in a professional sense. Also, every choice, every purchase, and every thought you have has to be practical in order to be worthwhile. Ironically, that attitude only really became part of who I was when I started doing things I actually care about for a living. Before, yeah... maybe I was just a retail slave with a shitty job that made me feel about two inches tall the minute I punched in for my shift, but something about being "nobody" and not seeing any potential for that to ever change also freed me up to pour my real energy into making magic and being magical more of the time.

I thought that people who were "normal", and scheduled, and planned, and practical were better than I was, so I wasted a lot of time wishing I was like that, too. Now that I am them to an alarming extent, I'm realizing how much I hate it. I have always instinctively disliked people who are like that and I'm beginning to remember why for the first time in a while.

I felt irresponsible at first drawing some boundaries and taking back even a couple of days a week of my life for the sake of re-devoting them to actually having fun and doing things I enjoy, whether that's playing a game or catching up on my blog reading... or my blog writing, for that matter. However, I'm realizing that those were (and are) the days that count the most. When else are you going to wear your red dresses... or have a chance to discover other people's?

I don't know how to "see" red dresses anymore and it's been depressing me... quite literally. It's also really destroyed my creativity. Without red dresses, swords, impromptu French lessons, and homemade cheese made for no reason, I have no stories to tell and no pictures to paint. That's no kind of life for a free spirit. I'm hoping that the balance will begin to restore itself naturally. I can tell that somewhere inside myself, I'm still the vastly creative person who did all those wonderful things once upon a time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

State of the Cat -- Powering Ahead into 2012

Fractured Thoughts by Ray Toh
You know how they say that if you want to change something about how you do things, you should just fake it until you make it, right? Sooner or later, you just kind of forget that things were really ever any other way. I think that's how I'm getting with my deep-seated need to be a control freak when it comes to my writing and I couldn't be happier about it, to be honest.

Also, since we're still in the first month of another new year, it only makes sense to reflect at least a little and ponder how far I've come. Probably doubly appropriate considering I haven't updated this blog in a while. Time really does have a way of getting away from me!

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As some of you no doubt noticed before I removed my 2011 NaNo badge, I didn't really get very far with NaNoWriMo this past November, but to be fair, I knew going in that I probably wouldn't really pour that much of myself into that this time around. I just decided to throw some spaghetti on the wall and see if it stuck, I guess. Eh... maybe a noodle or two did, but that's about it. 

Being a NaNoWriMo participant gave me the excuse I needed to spend some of my time on my own ideas for a change though and really that's all I hoped to get out of it going in. I wrote a couple of flash fictions and dicked around with a couple of ideas. I didn't even bother to update my word count on the site or anything, but I probably wrote at least a few thousand words regardless. 

I've said this many times before in the past, but really. Every year I even attempt to participate in NaNoWriMo anymore, I'm reminded of how much I've really grown since the first year I did it. In that span of time, I started writing professionally. I've done professional advertising copy, creative writing, and web content for I don't even know how many different clients by now. I've had chances to cover things as a journalist and as a professional critic. I've been part of projects that I've seen grow into massive accomplishments. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that writing 50,000 words of anything really isn't a challenge to me anymore. I probably do that in my sleep these days. Hell, the fact that I've got so much to do as a writer anymore is the main reason I don't blog anywhere near as often as I used to. And that brings me to my next point.

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I've been doing a little more writing for clients and whatnot lately to bring in a little extra cash. However, I'm really working hard to try to strike a better balance between work projects and personal projects this time around. Last time -- as you know -- I just got really burnt out on that stuff and it wasn't long before I started feeling really resentful of clients and whatnot for pressuring me to take on more responsibility and more work than I really wanted to. 

I like to stay busy and I like to make money, but I'm not a workaholic by any stretch of the imagination. The whole point of going into business for myself was to have more time to spend actually enjoying my life, but there I was working 12-14 hour days with no days off instead. I also wanted to gain know-how and connections that could help me actually get somewhere with my real writing. Not much good when your money-making stuff takes up all your time and damn close to 100% of it doesn't even have your name on it, so in the event someone does see it and like it, you don't even get to reap the possible benefits of that.

So, yes... I'm still taking copywriting and content writing gigs for clients. I'm still doing the occasional book cover, graphic design, and so forth. Those things are also still very much where most of my money comes from. However, I'm no longer allowing it to take up every last second of my time. I don't pour any of my free time into trying to advance that part of my life past where it is right now the way that I used to either. At this point, I can tell it's something I'm going to outgrow one day, so for now it's a living... that's all.

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I've been investing myself in More Horror a lot more lately as far as actually writing more reviews, blogging there, contributing articles, and other things along those lines instead of simply being the silent partner no one really hears from like I've been in the past. That's proven to be a really great way to strike a balance between the benefits of writing for clients (making money to keep the bills paid) and publishing writing that actually has a piece of me in it (getting real opportunities because of my skill and voice as a writer). 

I've had some truly wonderful things happen to me because of More Horror over the past six months to a year. I've been getting to know the most wonderful people in the horror/suspense film business -- actors, directors, other writers. They're surprisingly like me in ways I don't think I expected and I consider myself quite lucky to know them. Astoundingly, they seem to consider themselves lucky to know me as well. If Seth and I lived closer to Hollywood or had a means of getting down there on a regular basis, we'd have already been to red carpet events and participated in all sort of sickeningly exciting things! Mind... blown.

Prior to More Horror, I'm really not sure I ever thought seriously about script-writing, media criticism, or journalism as a possible serious avenue for my writing to eventually take, but the more toes I stick into those waters, the more I discover that I really like those outlets and would love to do more of that type of work in the future, so we'll see where it leads. 

All in all 2012 seems to be shaping up to be a pretty good year. Sure, I've outgrown some things, but I'm growing into others just as swiftly and I'm excited about all that, to be sure. I still hope to find some more time to create and post some creative writing or art sometime soon, but you'll probably hear lots more about my adventures as a journalist and as a critic as those fields become a bigger and bigger area of focus for me.