Andi Winter

Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Category: MAM

Mini Art Month summary

Mini Art Month was my attempt to regain some artistic control of my life. I lost the month of April due to Life Happening*, and I needed something to bolster my artistic spirit. I tend to get caught up in the myth** that I have to have huge chunks of time to do my “art,” and I’ve discovered time and again that’s just a way to procrastinate. Why am I procrastinating, especially when art is something I want to do?

The Critic*** warns me away or offers helpful suggestions like “you should research that some more.” Occasionally I call it “Perfectionism”**** if I want to make myself feel better.

So let’s just call it what it is: Fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of succeeding. Fear of wasting time. Fear of what others might think. Fear of discomfort. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change.

Fear. It sucks.

With Mini Art Month, my goal was to make the making of art as easy and consistent as possible: something small, every day. Did I achieve that? Nope, not every day, but over the course of the month, I did more art (esp. writing) than I did in previous months.

The numbers:

Days of Art:
24 out of 30
(started on May 2)

Types of Art:
7 different kinds
(poetry, photography, baking, planting, coloring, display making, and writing)

Takeaways:

  1. I need to set priorities and create limits. If something is important to me, then I need to make it a priority. One way to make it a priority is to do it early in the day before the chaos ensues. As difficult as it is for me,  I’ve found that I feel better (and actually write better/more) if I do my writing first thing in the morning. That gets the bare minimum done for the day, and anything else is tasty gravy. I also work better if I have tiny limits, like “Write for 15 minutes.” For some reason,  using time as the work metric frees me; I don’t have to worry about having enough words or if they’re any good. I just have to sit my ass down for fifteen minutes and write. Simple and effective.
  2. Writing is my path/practice. Writing is what I need to stay sane, and doing it every day, even in small bits, is good. While it often feels like I’m not getting anywhere, let alone fast, it all adds up. Until I reviewed my MAM posts, I thought I had only been working on one story (my current one). I didn’t realize that I finished two stories in May, and then started the current one, for a total of over 6000 words (20-ish pages). Huh.
  3. But I need to lighten up and have fun. For some reason, I get very serious about writing. Combine that with an innate need to create schedules/plans, and I set myself up for failure (oops! missed a self-imposed deadline. i am such a loser. i should quit), which is Not Fun. Since writing is something that I choose to do, maybe it should be fun. After all, should I really be taking the writing of fantasy/sci-fi short stories and novels seriously? Come on — werewolves, robots, zombies, talking dogs, time agents . . . is this really serious content? Here’s a strange thought: PLAY.
  4. Mini Art Month is a great way to get back into making art. Looking back at it, I can’t honestly call the baking, planting, coloring, or display making, “art” (and even the photography and poetry is a bit dodgy). However, they were helpful for jumpstarting my creativity and for getting me to try some new/different things. I’d like to keep trying my hand at photography because it’s good to actually see the world (and not just get caught up in my head), and I’m seriously considering a daily haiku exercise to get my brain thinking more lyrically and succinctly.

Was Mini Art Month worth it?

YES, because it gave me a structure to fall back on with tiny, easily achievable goals (make something small! every day!).

And most importantly, YES, because it got me back in the habit of writing every day. It feels good and I’m making regular writing progress, which feels even better.*****

 

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*Note the use of quasi-passive tense. It certainly didn’t feel like I had an active role in the chaos that was April.

**Which of course I wrote about earlier. Yes, it’s a lesson I keep needing to relearn.

***Call it the “Critic,” “Inner Editor,” or one I heard recently “Obnoxious Roommate” (one that lives in your head). It’s that internal voice that tells you to not bother, it’s not worth it, there’s no point to it, you’re going to fail, you’re not smart/talented enough, etc. Yeah, that voice.

****Elizabeth Gilbert’s description in Big Magic has stuck with me: “Perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat.”

*****I want to give a huge thanks to David Seah for inspiring me to try new ways of creating and then analyzing them publicly. It’s nice to know there are other folks out there struggling with similar creative/productive issues.

Mini Art Month 08

The final week-ish of Mini Art Month, which just happened to coincide with Hell Week at the place of employment (the annual last minute rush to get ready for Summer Reading), so I got my five hours of writing in, but it wasn’t pretty. Still, I guess I managed more art than I realized.

Monday (5/23): 603 words.

Tuesday (5/24): 608 words.

Wednesday (5/25): 509 words.

Thursday (5/26): 300 words. Did a fair bit of cutting of the story, and then added the 300 words. I usually just write fast and then edit after I’ve finished the first draft. Using the “Writing into the Dark” method, you treat the first draft as the last draft, so you edit and revise as you go. It’s a whole different way of approaching fiction writing for me.

Friday (5/27): 409 words.

Saturday (5/28): Coloring book. I needed some down time and pulled out my colored pencils and colored in a “meditation” page of a presumably Japanese temple. I will say that it was rather relaxing.

Sunday (5/29): Made peanut butter rice krispie treats. It was nice to be able to make a dessert that did not involve turning on the oven.

Monday (5/30): Planted containers of lettuce, basil, snow peas, radishes, and chives. Gardening feels like art to me — there is a creativity to it, some organization/planning, taking the time to actually do it, and then the fretting about “did I get this right?” So yeah, gardening counts as “mini art”.

Tuesday (5/31): Nada. What is it about the day after a holiday that gets the world all wound up? Did do some good work helping family, and there is certainly an art to that, but nothing that I can really point to and say, “I did that.”

Summary post to come soon. After I get my writing in for the day.

Mini Art Month 07

So life blew up last week and continues its blowing this week. And yet! I’m writing more new words of fiction than I have in quite some time. So yay! (Other than the chaos that is life currently.)

The catch up for last week:

Monday (5/16): Nada. I blogged and started the uphill climb that is learning to typeset manuscripts for print. Art-related, but not exactly art.

Tuesday (5/17): 358 words. Started writing a new story using Dean Wesley Smith’s “Writing Into the Dark” manner — start with a character in a setting, and no fretting about having an interesting character or fascinating setting. So I found a random name online, set her at the Oregon Coast, and started writing. I have no idea where the story is headed, but in that sense it’s like reading. It’s an exhilarating and frightening way to write, but I’m enjoying it (once I can sit my butt in the chair and start typing).

Melissa Bradley sat on a cold hard rock staring at the white caps on the incoming waves, marveling at the way the water wrapped around the behemoth of a rock standing in the ocean. The water enveloped the base of the rock then continued its forward motion towards the sandy shore.

That’s the way I should be, she thought. Adapt to what the universe hands me and keep moving forward.

Wednesday (5/18): 553 words. Started this session writing from a different (and new!) character’s POV. I really like the dog.

The Australian Shepard mix sat at his side and whined. Come on, the dog seemed to say. What are we doing just standing up here when there is all that fun sand down there?

Thursday (5/19): Nothing. Life chaos got the better of me.

Friday (5/20): 380 words. Written in 10 minutes while waiting in the car. I’ll take that.

Life in the army had drastically limited his ‘facial opportunities,’ as Kaitlyn had called it.

Leave it to a beautician to call a beard a ‘facial opportunity.’

Saturday (5/21): Zip. Spent the day recovering from helping friends move, and a chaotic week.

Sunday (5/22): Zip part 2. Took care of some life maintenance, but otherwise no art.

Mini Art Month 06

I’ve been doing stuff, but dang if I don’t get to posting about it. Argh. So now I’m playing catch up.

Monday (5/09): More words. (566 of ’em) for the short story.

She stumbled to the bed and felt herself falling like she was in slow motion. It seemed like forever before her body sank into the pillow top mattress. She tried to think through what was happening, what could possibly explain these sensations, when she saw him.

Tuesday (5/10): Photo. It was bizarre to see on the sidewalk, so I had to take a picture.

Dead baby bird on sidewalk

Memento mori

Wednesday (5/11): Baking. Made pumpkin-cheesecake bars and beer bread with Kona Brewing’s Golden Ale. Photo because I have to show ’em:

Pumpkin cheesecake bars
beer bread

 

Thursday (5/1): More words (700) and finished the story. Had to review Dean Wesley Smith’s excellent Writing into the Dark book to get my mojo running again, but totally worth it.

At least her death meant something, she mused.

Friday (5/13): Photo.

Early, but gorgeous roses.

Early, but gorgeous roses.

Saturday (5/14): Did some work on the novel revision course, but no real, or even tangential, art.

Sunday (5/15): Baking. Made a new recipe for French bread (need to not include the sugar next time), as well as some white chocolate-macadamia nut cookies and dark chocolate-macadamia nut cookies.

Bad photo, but decent bread.

Bad photo, but decent bread.

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So the good news is that I took my own advice and established some priorities and set some limits. Seems to have helped.

Mini Art Month 05

Yesterday I got 566 words in on the new story. I’m not sure where it’s going, but I liked this bit:

A car passed by, its booming bass music pounding so hard that she felt it press on her chest with the beating of her own heart.

Boom boom boom boom.

The booming kept coming.

Boom
boom
boom
boom.

Mini Art Month 04

As with most things, I had the best of intentions, but life got in the way. It seems to do that.

So here is the update of attempts (or lack thereof) to do the daily Mini Art:

Thursday (5/05): Mini Quasi-Art. I did get some time in thinking about the current short story I’m writing. This was good because I was stuck and needed to figure out where to go with it. However, there isn’t anything art-wise to show for it other than a bunch of scribbles on a tiny notebook.

Friday (5/06): A Big Fat Zero. It was a blank day. I can’t even remember what I did, but I remember feeling exhausted.

Saturday (5/07): An Effort. I made castella for the first time. It looked really good in the oven — the top perfectly brown — so of course I second guessed myself and followed the note that said if it was browning too soon, to cover the cake with a piece of aluminum foil. When I took the cake out of the oven and peeled off the foil, it took with it some of the top of the cake (the perfect brown top!), leaving behind a vaguely heart shaped crater. The funny thing is that the best tasting part of the cake was the not-quite-down doughy middle; the rest of the cake was dense and not at all what I expect from castella. Still, people took seconds, which I tend to think was out of kindness. The important part was that I tried a new recipe, had some modicum of success, and now have ideas of tweaks to try next time.

Sunday (5/08): An Old Favorite.  I made beer bread for a friend. I love tried and true recipes.

The takeaway from last week is that I need to set priorities and create limits*. If art is important, then I need to make it a priority, which means doing it first thing in the day. If I let resistance win (“I’ll get to it later” “I’ll do it when I get home”), then I generally don’t do it because the day grows increasingly chaotic. So if I want any chance at doing my art, I have to do it before the chaos truly ensues.

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*Create limits = determining the most amount of time/energy I will devote to an activity, esp. activities that are Not Art. A load of laundry? Sure. Seven loads of laundry? Not so much. Dust and vacuum the living room? Sure. Wipe the baseboards down and clean the switch plates? Not so much.

Mini Art Month 03

For May the Forth (be with you), I put together a Star Wars display at work. It felt “art-y” to me, and took a bit of creativity and research, so I am counting it as my Mini Art for the day:

Star Wars book display

Two of my loves combined: Star Wars and samurai

Writing-wise, I electronically inputted what I have so far for a new urban fantasy story. Not terribly creative work, but necessary since at some point I have to get scribbled words in a beat-up notebook into electronic form.

Mini Art Month 02

I finally finished the short story I’ve been working on since, oh, March. (Did I mention that April didn’t exist this year? WHOOSH it went out the window . . .)

So a last line from the first draft*:

 

“No mice,” she said with a smile.

 

<bows and walks off the stage*>

 

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*It is “Mini Art Month,” so one line is just fine. Although I did write 641 words total yesterday to finish the story.

**The bowing and walking is meant in jest, since it’s not a great line and it’s only the first draft.

Mini Art Month 01

I wrote 535 words of fiction today, and then came up with this Blackout Poem for my “mini art”:

Blackout poem 01

Short and simple blackout poem — and just about the way I feel

Taking inspiration from Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work.

May is Mini Art Month

Artists need habits. Let me clarify: artists need good habits.

Good habits involve making art every day*, and not getting all caught up with the mundanities of life like cleaning the house and doing laundry and when are friends coming over and oh god the flowers need arranging** AND I MUST DO ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW, and then procastinating on making art and thinking that it’s okay this one time because hey, I’m being productive, so that has to count for something, right? I’m making my house clean. I’m making my clothes stain-free and fresh smelling. I’m making preparations for a visit from friends. I’m making beauty by arranging flowers for the dining room table. I’m MAKING, so that’s good enough. Right?

Yes, we have to live in the real world (on occasion), and often that means having to do Grown-Up Things like vacuuming the floors, taking out the trash, and scrubbing the bathtub. However, that does not mean that the Grown-Up Things get to take all of our attention and energy. They may take a lot, but they cannot be allowed to take it all.

This was my situation in April. Sure, there were Events Beyond My Control, but I succumbed to the chaos and to doing the Grown-Up Things. Yes, the house needed cleaning before guests arrived (so they didn’t think we live in a dump), and yes, I needed to do the laundry (so I didn’t have to go out and buy more underwear). The crux of it is that those Events and Things really did not require all of my attention and energy. Hell, they didn’t require that much time, either. And yet, I let them.

This has to stop.

Mini Art Month is my answer.

Mini Art Month is my challenge to make (mini) art every day for the month of May. “Mini” means something small, like a haiku or a paragraph in a story or a Blackout Poem*** (it could be origami or a sketch or a flower arrangement or a bar of a new song, if you’re not a writer). The goal is something creative every day.

So take 15 minutes today and make mini art.**** See what happens after a month. I know I’m curious to see what the month and its mini artwork brings.

 

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*Because you are an artist. What does an artist do? She makes art. There is nothing in the etymology of “art” that indicates house cleaning. (This is something I have to continually remind myself. It’s not just you.)

**I really did not need to arrange flowers because nature does a darn fine job on her own, honestly. I just wanted to prettify the table, which was procrastination of the worst sort. Note to self: arranging flowers is not Making Art for me.  It may be for you, though, and that’s awesome.

***I’ve been playing with Blackout Poetry lately, and while it seems silly, it ends up feeling satisfying because it only take a few minutes and voila! Art.  Blackout Poetry = take newspaper or a printed page of something, pick out words that make a poem (to you), then black out the rest of the text. It combines the best of quick art and violent marker scribbling.

****This is another reminder to myself. Really, it’s not just you.

 

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