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New Year, New Me… in June

New Year, New Me… in June
The New Office

I think we all know by now that 2020 is just all types of fucked up. So I don’t see any reason just to hit the reset button on a number of things both personally and a professionally. It is time to pull out of this deep dive and get back on course. And no better time than now.

The year started off bad for me. Closing Factor Four Magazine was pretty hard on me. I was already in a creative slump with my personal writing, but when I lost the magazine it was kind of an end game for me. And that decision was made at the very end of 2019. Not the best way to close out a year and start another one.

The depression was real, but I made myself a couple of promises entering into 2020. Some plans to keep the depression at bay and to refocus myself and my life. The end goal was to return to my own creative spirit.

The first was that I’d run a 5K by the end of the year. I’d start my None to Run program in April with a hopes to be ready by summer for my first 5k. It is a 12 week program so I planned to be ready by the end of June.

The second was to make an effort to stay connected with my best friend by seeing her at least once per month. We used to work together and I saw her 5 days a week. When I changed jobs in 2017, that stopped and it wasn’t easy for me. I have a phobia of messaging people out of the blue, let alone inviting them out. I worry I seem clingy, needy, overreaching, and maybe even a pest. I never think that people think as high of me as I do of them. And I figured if I committed to one outing a month with her, I’d start to break down some of those walls. My job offers very little social interaction now, and I need the interaction despite my inability to break the ice.

Well, as we all know, COVID is a son-of-a-bitch. Working from home, everything is closed, and the general fear of the unknown all came slamming at us all early in the year. My wife is an essential worker and has to go to work every day. I used to work one day a week at home, and five days a week seemed great. No commute, even though I just bought a new car for a more comfortable commute, seemed like ideal.

Wear a mask, it isn’t that hard.

But as weeks went by it becomes obvious the impact it has on you to be at home all the time. I worked in my home’s “media room” and after awhile, working in there meant I didn’t was to be there after work hours. Which meant I didn’t want to do some of my favorite things like gaming and watching movies.

Of course, there was no way I was able to see my friend once a month and that goal was shot. It was a real bummer for me and kind of made me feel like I had nowhere to turn anymore.

My son’s hockey team was making a playoff run and that was canceled. I lost the interaction with my fellow hockey moms, which was a fun source of social interaction while enjoying my son’s hockey.

I was able to start my None to Run program early, but around week 9 my knee was injured and that put it on pause to heal. And I still really haven’t picked it back up yet. The lost momentum is more to blame than any injury now.

One of my first weeks on the None to Run program

In general life just seemed to be on pause.

I did decided to start a long needed home project. To take one of the really large rooms and create an office. Where once was my son’s really large bedroom and a tiny utility room, would now be a place for me to work that was separate from the other areas of the house. My wife and I decided it was a good use of the time and stimulus money. Plus we needed to fix some unsafe electrical work.

That project was longer, harder, and more costly than I expected. It drained my savings (which is a new source of stress) and took a lot of hard work. We added Ethernet and coax to the entire house and made the electrical safe again. It took two months to complete, though it felt like ages.

But this week I was finally able to work in the new office space and it has me suddenly inspired. It feels like a space to create, build, and relax. And despite working in it all day, I am quick to switch from the work laptop to mine at the end of the day and start creating.

Add that, my middle son, who is quickly becoming a very avid reader, has started to read my books as well. And talking books with him has been enjoyable. This combination has lead to a sort of “ah-ha” moment.

So this week I fired up my personal laptop for the first time in months. It took ages to power on and update. But once it was ready I needed to get the creative juices flowing. And I knew where to start.

I was right here at this website. I needed to bring the old blog over to the website for a more seamless experience. And I needed a website I could update easily. And so I’ve spent my week working on this website and I’ve decided I need to make some other promises to myself.

Ultimately I need to hold myself accountable, but I also hope that by sharing the journey with my friends, family, and supporters you can help me.

Here is what I need to do:

  • Get physical. Run again. Both my job and my hobbies are sedentary, and I need to change that.
    • Starting Monday I will go back to my three day a week regiment working to get myself back up to Week 9 conditioning for None to Run.
    • I will commit two days a week to injury prevention training.
    • I will find a strength training regiment that works for me.
    • I will get at least a Virtual 5k in this year.
    • I will find other group physical activities that I enjoy.
  • Read again. I need to read, I love to read, but somehow I never make time.
    • I’ve set a low goal of 8 books for the rest of the year.
    • My website as a currently reading section on the left, watch it to be sure I am reading like I should.
    • Rather than spending hours scrolling my phone, I’ll set aside a minimum of an hour most days to read before bed.
  • Write again. Oh how this one seems to be obvious, but also the most difficult.
    • I am going to get back into my once a week blog habit. When I blog regularly, I always wanted to write more.
    • I will go into the short stories folder of my remote drive, and get them submitted to places. Sure, I’d love to be paid for them but more importantly I just want to get them out there. Move on from them.
    • Set to work writing the third book in The Serenity Saga. It is overdue and needs to be brought to life.
    • Remain active on Twitter so I can stay connected with my writer audience and they can hold me to my progress on these goals.
  • Work out some ways to be more social despite trying to remain safe and healthy.
    • I have to work out a way to communicate with my friends and push aside the feeling that I am being bothersome.
    • Undoubtedly some of my friends will be reading this. Their support will be helpful in bridging the gap when I am too scared to do so.
    • Maybe a once a month video call with a few of my friends isn’t too much to ask after all. Maybe I can figure that out someway.
  • This one is the least measurable and probably the hardest one to obtain. But I really want to return to publishing in some form.
    • I don’t know what that looks like.
    • I should allow myself to continue to think of ideas.
    • Valid ideas should be fleshed out to see if they are possible. If they aren’t move on, if they are explore it.

So there you have it. It is a new year, new me… in June. I hope you’ll subscribe/follow this blog. Follow along on Twitter. And most of all, I hope you find your own ways to maintain your mental health during this unusual time. Please share you comments, thoughts, experiences, and tips below. I’d love to learn from you!

Being an Artist in Tough

frustrated_writer_200I’d like to start off by reminding people that writers are artists too.  This seems to get forgotten for some odd reason.  We think of painters, sculptors, photographers, graphic artists, and even musicians as artists.  But for some reason people don’t think the same about writers.  Writers are artists of words.  We paint pictures in your mind.  We sculpt characters into life.  We make music with our plots.  But, as any artist knows it isn’t easy to be an artist.

First, most people assume art is a hobby.  I’ve touched on this before in other posts.  But it really aggravates me how many people refuse to see my art as a potential career for me.  We are a corporate world.  We see a nine-to-five, cubicle bound, TPS report filing job as being “real” work.  If you think you want to be an artist when you grow up, expect to be frowned upon by friends and family (unless they too are artists).  Not all of them, no.  But you would be surprised how few of them will really truly support your work.  They will see this as a hobby.  They will see it as something you do when you are not working.  They won’t understand your desire to do it full time, it is foolish to expect to make money from creating art in your basement.

Which leads me to my second point.  Making money in the arts is hard.  Of all the artists out there, I think musicians and actors (performing arts) are one of the few to regularly command big bucks.  But even only a fraction of the performers out there hit the “big time”. If you paint, you probably won’t make a lot.  I’ve certainly made it clear how hard it is to make money as a writer.  From others in the arts, I have seen that it is hard to make money in most of the arts.  And to make good money someone has to “discover” you.

Hitting the “big time” is rare in the arts.  The reason is that you have to be discovered.  You have to find your niche and get someone’s attention.  Not just anyone’s attention either.  But the attention of the “movers and shakers” of your particular art.  If your a short fiction writer, that is one of the big time markets.  If your are a novel writer that is one of the traditional publishers out there.  This is if you really want to be the next big thing.  But, most artists out there want to be found.  And so many of them are shouting “pick me” to the people the hope will “discover” them.  I’ve seen a lot of excellent talent give up because they just can’t be heard among everyone else that needs attention.

Of course, you can simply publish your own art.  I see this in more than just writing.  Painters and Sculptors will sell there work online, or attend art shows.  Writers can now self publish with relative ease.  YouTube has allowed movie makers and performers to reach a large audience.  Just about all art forms can “self publish” in one way or another.

No matter if you self publish or get found, you will have to promote your own work.  That is the bigges pain in the ass of all this.  I struggle with it all the time.  You will beg for reviews, sales, mentions on on other blogs, and ask all your friends to please help you get the word out.  You will quickly find that most of your friends and family, or even your social media followers, will not do much to help spread the word.  Most of them won’t even bother to click the link you posted.  And even more will simply start to ignore you because of you are over doing it.  If you are expecting your friends and family to buy and review your art, don’t hold your breath.  So few people take the time to review anymore, your friends included.  You’ll count on your friends to support you.  Give you an opinion on your work.  Don’t do it.  Trust me, you have friends that will repost everything you say about your art.  But not nearly as many as you thought.  And so few of my friends have ever purchased anything I’ve written.  And those that have, less than half (maybe less than a quarter of them) have written a review.

You’ll try to advertise.  But finding the right audience is a talent that can be hard to perform.  You’ll have to attend conventions, art shows, and much more simply to get the word out.  And all this takes away from your time spent creating art.

You will also hit a lot of rough patches in your quest to make your art a career.  You’ll get a bad review.  You’ll have a lack of ideas.  You’ll get depressed and think you can’t possible make your art a career.  You’ll reach out to your friends for support and they’ll ignore you.  Or tell you that “they don’t read”.  You’ll get rejected by your favorite venues.  You’ll get rejected by a mentor or someone you looked up to.  Someone will bash you for your technique.  Someone else will say you lack the education to pursue your art career.  You’ll get so down that you’ll think you were foolish to ever give art a serious try.  You’ll think it is time to give up on this and focus on getting a “real job”.  You’ll cry at night because you just wanted that acceptance letter so bad, and you were shot down.  You’ll be heart broken because you hoped your closest friends would read your work and they don’t.  You will hit a point where you realize walking away is the easiest thing to do.

And that is when you have to make choice.  But, if you really are an artist to your bone you will realize that, no matter how easy it seams, you can’t walk away.  You will have a moment when you realize that even though it is tough, you know you have what it takes to be the next big thing.  You will realize that art was always something more than a career to you.  You will rise up and make the choice to push forward.

You will still be hurt when the people you love don’t see your art as more that a “hobby”.  But you will network and make additional friends that enjoy the same art you do.  You will make the effort to learn how to use social media without driving your followers away from over promotion.  You’ll learn how to advertise.  You’ll find conventions, and shows, and other ways to get your book noticed by the people that really matter.  You’ll learn that the “movers and shakers” certainly have an important part in the art world, but they are not who you create your art for.  Your art is for the people who want to see it.

You will work to put out more of your art so that while you may not make much per piece, you’ll have a wide variety of art to choose from.  You’ll also realize that money isn’t the real reason you ever made art in the first place.  And you will get back to making your art for yourself and let the money come second.  You’ll realize that you may have to work for years before you get discovered and that is okay.  You may need to work your day job and work on your art on the side.  But you won’t care anymore because you are still creating.

The rough patches will always come.  I hit them still all the time, even when I try to be rational about it.  But you will also hit some great times.  You will get excellent reviews.  You’ll have a moment of pure inspiration.  A friend you never expected will show up with a kind word and a helpful tip.  You will get an acceptance letter.  You’ll find a new mentor.  Some one will tell you how your work inspired them to try it. You will be reminded of why you really wanted to be an artist.

And that is the moment you will realize that being an artist is tough, but you can’t imagine doing anything else.

Updates: Moving, Depression, and Failing to Write

The Bad

I Don't KnowAs a pessimist, I’ll start with the bad first.

Some of you may know from previous posts, and if you follow me on social media, that I recently underwent a major move.  I moved from my hometown of Vacaville, CA to Auburn, Washington.  I’ve rarely left the State of California for vacation.  The farthest I lived from Vacaville was about 5 years in Folsom, CA about an hour away.  So needless to say moving two states away was a big move, and a little bit scary of one too.

To top it off, I’ve gone from a four bedroom house to a three bedroom apartment.  This is another big adjustment.  I am not used to neighbors walking around above me.  Or having to walk forever to the trash.  Or even the smaller size of an apartment.  My family has had to adjust to the smaller spaces and the lack of a yard, or other things we are used to having in a house.

Family is another thing that has changed a bit.  This move was originally planned for the middle of June.  When the kids would be out of school and there would be time for my wife to transfer her job.  But my landlord told us we needed to move right before the holidays.  I had already been fired from my job.  So after a long talk with my wife, we decided that it was practical to move twice.  Once locally and then again six months later in June.  So we had to accelerate the plans.

So Amy and I drove all our belonging up to Washington.  Amy flew back to California and I was left up here alone.  I got really sick (I had already been fighting a cold).  And in the end I didn’t get anything done in the first week.  Things like getting a job didn’t happen.  Then Amy brought our kids up after they finished out the schooling and started winter break.  Then Amy went back to California.  She has to keep working down there until her job transfers, a date that hasn’t been set yet.  So I spent Christmas with the boys.  This is the first Christmas Amy and I haven’t had together in over 10 years.  Even thought one of us always seemed to have to work, we saw each other.

So it has been hard.  I have been suffering form a bit of depression and though I know that is normal, I can’t really slip past it.  I find myself sleeping late, moping around the house.  I force myself to go out, but it isn’t as much fun as it should be.  And the main thing that has suffered is my writing.  I haven’t written anything in almost a month.  I haven’t even opened any of my projects to review.

There have been a lot of delays to add to a already depressed Richard.  For example, I had planned to have responses from beta readers on Broken Trust by December 1.  All but one reader bailed out on me and hasn’t even bothered to respond.  So now I am looking for a new set of readers to look over this.  If you beta read for me, I’ll send you a signed paperback copy of the book when it is released as a Thank You gift (US Residents).  Contact me if you are interested.

Dissolution of Peace CoverThe fixes on Dissolution of Peace are still delayed by the editor.  She is doing the absolute best she can, but delays keep jumping up all over the place.  Hopefully the second edition can be released in January, but I can’t make any more promises on that.

The sequel to Dissolution of Peace is slow going.  Perhaps I should explain why.  Aside from the depression and busy life I’ve had, I am not sure I like how the sequel is progressing.  Originally I wrote the manuscripts for three novels.  The first is now Dissolution of Peace.  The second occurred after a lot of time had passed since the end of the first.  I made a decision that I owed the readers the story that occurred during this time lapse.  So I decided that was what I would write as the sequel.  The problem is, it isn’t progressing the way I thought it would.  I think part of this is my own self being critical of my work.  Depression and a lack of interest in writing anything is probably a huge factor too.

What I really needed to to was to break the slump in my lack of writing.  With all this free time on my hands, I should be writing more not less.  And I should be writing for my own sanity.  Since most of my books are still packed, I need this escape.  As I have mentioned several times over writing is my stress relief.  But honestly, it seems to be the first thing I am distracted from when I get upset.

The Good

IMG_20131215_090428_086

I’ve wanted to move to Washington for over four years.  I’m finally here.  That part I am thrilled about.  This is very beautiful country.  I love the rain, the evergreens, the natural beauty, and the state parks.  Yesterday I discovered Flaming Geyser State Park which is only about 20 minutes from me.  I think I could spend a long time sitting there writing while listening to the rivers and streams.  And I’ll be exploring some more of the State Parks later this week.  My own apartment complex is nestled in the hills surrounded by trees and it is a beautiful setting.  I’ve posted a few pictures here.IMG_20131215_090431_970

The downsizing has also been good.  I’ve managed to purge a lot of stuff I probably should have thrown out years ago.  I made a lot of charitable donations before I left Vacaville with the stuff my family no longer needed.  It has also allowed me to better organize myself since my office has to be shared with my bedroom.  And when Amy does move up here, she won’t want my office clutter everywhere.  There are a few pluses to living in an apartment too.  Things like no yard to maintain, no trash or water bills, and generally lower electric costs.  The lower rent also helps.  Unlike Vacaville, the apartment rents in Auburn are cheaper than the house rents.  And the saved money will be going into our “buy a house” fund.  Something that is on my two years goal list.

There is good news from Broken Trust.  I have cover art for the novel ready.  Mallory Rock, a great cover artist, did this cover for me.  I had a lot of trouble with this cover.  I really wanted to see certain things from it.  But I couldn’t hit the mark.  Mallory managed to hit the mark with this one.  Even thought it didn’t hit all the check boxes I wanted, it did give me what I needed.  A cover that was amazing and reflects the feel of the novel.  Don’t forget, you can get a free signed copy by being a beta reader for this book.  Read an early copy of this book, give me your thoughts and suggestions, and not only will you help shape the book.  I’ll send you a free copy, signed by me.

broken trust

Dissolution of Peace got a very nice shout out on Twitter from @CWVanderReyden.  His rave reviews of my book led to another person buying the book.  This is the first time that I have known of a direct recommendation resulting in the buying of my book.  And it was a simple word of mouth review.  I appreciate those types of reviews and praise a lot.  In many cases they can be more valuable that the professional reviewer.  So please leave  a review of my books on Amazon and Goodreads.  And tell a friend.  They can really make my day when I find out about them.twitter shout out

I forced myself to blog today.  That means I finally wrote something.  I’m hoping that means that when I am done here (and done making my kids lunch), I’ll start writing again on the next novel.  I need to crank that out and get it going for release in 2014.  I had a lofty goal of releasing three novels in 2014.  I think it can be done with how far along Broken Trust is.  But it will be a challenge just the same.  But the only way it will be done it to write.

And though my wife is not here with me, I do have the advantages of Google+ hangout to see her.  And she will be flying up to see us to the end of January.  And we will just keep our fingers crossed that her job transfer comes quickly and we won’t have to wait out too much longer.  There are a lot of couples who have to spend countless time apart, and I just have to remain optimistic that this will all work out in the long run.

And that about summarizes this move for me.  We moved to Washington to make a change that we couldn’t do in California.  And now that we have made the move, I have to remain optimistic that this was the right choice and that it will all fall into place soon enough.