Creative Advice, Pickle Lemonade, Writing Tips

Pickle Lemonade: Getting Blocked

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It was delicious, fyi.

This is a new series of posts that will deal with making the best out of a bad situation. Because when life gives you lemons, you can definitely make lemonade. But when life gives you pickle juice…wtf are you supposed to do with that?

If you’re a creative individual, you have probably run yourself into walls on several occasions. The dreaded ‘block.’ Sometimes it’s a full on creative constipation: nothing comes out no matter how much you try and you’re just stuck in an uncomfortable funk. Other times, you start a piece, get halfway through and then have no clue how to move forward.

No matter which one you’re dealing with, it sucks. Nothing, short of a nasty rejection or an asshole-ish piece of ‘constructive criticism,’ feels worse than just not being able to create when that’s all you want to do. But there is a particularly fresh hell to the latter. You’ve jumped into a new project with all the vim and vigor of a newborn god, you’ve gotten right into the thick of it and then…you have a half-made mess of meat and gunk that it supposed to turn into a life. You stare at it, completely at a loss as to how to breathe air into this amalgam of half-formed gobbledy-gook.

What do you do now?

Here are a few tricks you could try to loosen up and get to that sweet, sweet place of completion.

  • Re-establish the end goal: This works with both writing and visual art. For a story, it can be, “I want this character to die and this character to parade over his corpse.” For a painting, it can be, “I want this red wet wheelbarrow with white chickens.” Sometimes you have to know the end destination before you get on the road.
  • Work backward: Once you have an idea of where you’re ending, think about what needs to lead up to that. This doesn’t have to be fully formed or permanent, but just decide what needs to happen to get to that place you established as the end.
  • Give it some space (but not too much space): Maybe your piece needs to do its own thing for a while. Maybe you’re suffocating it with your constant dialogues about ‘what it should be’ and ‘why don’t you love me enough to finish yourself.’ That’s annoying me just thinking about it. Step back and do something else. Even an hour away can make a big difference. And when you come back, bring chocolate. On that note, though, don’t give it so much room to itself that you never come back. That way leads to tragedy.
  • Get back to your roots: Ultimately, no matter what ‘audience’ you’ve decided you are creating for, your enjoyment and personal fulfillment comes back down to what you would want to consume. Look at books, movies and pieces of art that touch you. Think about what makes you come back to them time and again. Is there an element there that your own work is missing? Build off that. Just make sure you don’t copy. Then you’re being a dick.
  • Write about it: Get out a piece of paper, open up a new Google doc, or just turn on a voice recorder and start talking it out. Be frank and open with yourself about your goals for the piece that’s giving you problems. Ask yourself why you got into it in the first place. What was the ideal scenario for after it was finished? What scenes did you really want to show? Where is your life going? Actually, keep that last one for another project entirely otherwise you might be stuck there all night.

Have you gotten stuck on projects you’ve started? What finally kicked things loose? Did you keep going with it or did it turn into something else entirely?

 

355 Poetry, Poetry, Poetry, Writing

We’re Back With a Big Announcement!

UPDATE: today’s leg of the festival has been cancelled because of the weather. See you all tomorrow!

Hello again! I know it’s been a while, but we’re officially back in business with a new, cute urban design! If you’re reading this in RSS, you should pop by and check me out.

Also! I’m here with an awesome announcement of a new venture getting kicked off this weekend.

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I tried this out during my book event for ‘Pickled Miracles’ — someone gives me any three words, $5 and five minutes of their time, and I will write a one-of-a-kind original poem. The customers who took part were very pleased with the results and I had a great time with it.

This will be available online soon, but in the meanwhile, if you’re in the Greater Pittsburgh area today or tomorrow, I am going to be at the Plum Community Festival with Rust Belt Creations selling these tailor-made pieces of writing in several unique notecards. Stop by and see me!

Plum Community Festival
Friday, June 23rd 5 to 10 pm
Saturday, June 24th 4 to 10 pp

Larry Mills Park Plum Soccer Fields, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15239

 

5 Things, Creative Advice, Self Dare

Writing Against the Bad Tide

Despite how much solitude involved in this kind of craft, writing is also very much plugged into working online. There’s the social media aspect, networking, blogging, posting pieces for people to see, all that good stuff.

And right now, the entire Internet can be quite…

Draining.

And that’s putting it lightly.

Scary shit is happening in the world. We are perpetually bombarded with new Bad News about what certain high-powered individuals are doing to fuck over the population. And as if the news itself wasn’t bad enough, there’s also seeing the reactions and horror stories and opinions, and the responses to that, and…

Now more than ever, it’s important to understand balance and taking care of yourself.

Here are a few tips I’ve been using to help stay productive while also staying informed about current events:

  1. Decide when and how much you are going to expose yourself to the news: I am trying to limit myself to one particular point in the day to get a rundown of my news around the world. I’m also trying to move away from first thing in the morning, because it can easily set the tone for the day.
  2. Recognize when it’s time to unplug: You may need some time completely away from the computer, the phone, etc. Fall back in love with the pen and paper. Or…
  3. Disconnect from the Matrix: Sometimes it can be as simple as losing your Internet for a while. Check out programs like Freedom to allow you to work without the temptation of surfing.
  4. Mind your physical traits: eat, sleep, drink water, meditate. Go outside and stand in the sun. Even if it’s cold. Make yourself exercise (I just got a small fitness stepper for my office and it has been awesome).
  5. Keep creating things: just by putting things out into the world, you are doing a great service to many. People need art right now more than ever. People need to escape. People need to be inspired and to see characters doing the things that they may not be able to. Don’t stop. Don’t give up.
mental health, Self Dare, Uncategorized

Powerlessness and You

Today, someone messaged me and asked how to deal with the feeling of being powerless, and the ensuing emotions that resulted from that feeling. They also said that they would feel so bad that they weren’t pursuing anything else, out of solidarity for those suffering. I answered the inquiry, and I wanted to share with you what I said to this person:

First of all, I totally understand the feeling. When things are happening on a greater, grander scale (like national or even global decisions), it’s natural to feel like there isn’t anything you can do, and that leads to feeling frustrated with yourself, getting depressed, etc. And I don’t want to say that it’s “good” that you feel that way, but it’s a better response than not caring at all.

And sometimes it’s not even on such a big scale. When we see someone in our life who is in pain, we want to make it better. We want to fix the problem. And when we can’t, it feels like a failure. We take on their suffering because we believe that somehow it balances out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. I mean, put yourself in the other person’s shoes: if you were to find out that someone was suffering on your behalf, would that make you feel better? Probably not.

Ultimately, though, it’s about balance and finding a direction to turn your emotional response.

For me, personally, regarding the bigger scale issues, after the election and after the first few weeks of just feeling like the world was ending, I started getting more involved with activism in my area. Nothing huge, but this week we met up with some people and wrote to our local and state representatives. Next, we’re planning an event to help raise money for local organizations. That feels good. It feels like something, and it keeps me rooted in knowing that I am a part of the ‘good side.’

On a smaller, more personal level, I’ve also been getting back into the mode of creativity, because I know that people need something good to look at when things in the world seem pretty dark. This is the time people need art and words and anything to make them feel a bit better. If I can use that to bolster the spirit of someone who is suffering, I will.

And really – take care of yourself. Feeling bad in and of itself will only wear you out. Enjoy the things that you love and be grateful for them, and look for ways that you can reach out and be there for people having a rough go of it. Remember, you need to secure your own oxygen mask before you can assist others with theirs.

Once again with regard to the bigger stuff, this is a particularly good read that a friend posted on Twitter this week, and it was something I absolutely had to read.

I hope this helps. Hang in there!

Creative Advice, Goals and Ambitions, Self Dare

Ducks in a Row: Getting Shit Straight

This year, I have been trying to get more organized.

And it’s strange because whenever I think about clearing out clutter or time management or goal-setting or habit-picking-up, it always seems like this daunting task. Like glacial spelunking or digging out your own hobbit hole.

It seems to be even worse when you’re a creative person (and, in my case, one with a variety of interests and a short attention span), because life is a damn sundae bar of options. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. I feel like the first two weeks of January were essentially spent staring at the wall going, “I can’t do everything. Why can’t I do everything? This is bullshit!”

Then, I tried a different tactic. I dropped the endless list of ‘I Want To’ and instead asked, ‘What do I wish I had done?’ I started breaking down the things that I realized I wanted to do last year and then for whatever reason didn’t do. Then, by narrowing it down, I acknowledged that I wish I had:

  • Gotten more published.
  • Written more original pieces.
  • Finished editing my novel (or at least getting a chunk of it done).

Surprisingly, this one minute of hindsight gave me the guidance I needed to put wheels into motion for the future. And once I had those pieces in mind – that I wanted to especially do those things, among all the others in the Pile of Peculiar Pleasures – opportunities and ideas blossomed.

I’m also going to be continuing to use my blogs to document my work and inspire others. bohemian.on.rye will continue to be where I will post new pieces of writing and writing-related stuff worth sharing. Meanwhile, I will focus SelfDare on creativity, living a fulfilled life and being happy.

I know things may seem crazy out there in the Real World, but we’re all here. This is all happening. We’re in this together. Time to Evolve.

And because it needed to be said on here, if you were out marching this weekend, you are a freaking rock star and I love you.

motivation, Personal, Uncategorized

2017 is EVOLVE

I’m not going to mince words here: 2016 was not fun for anyone. I spent the second portion of December sick as a dog – including on Christmas, as if I needed to be punched in the boob one more time for good measure – and I fell behind on everything. 2016 was stressful and difficult for me personally, and there are tons of listicles and tweets out there with reasons why this was the case for most other people too.

But 2017 is here. We’re moving on. We’re starting fresh, and it’s going to be great.

So this year, I’ve chosen the word EVOLVE.

Anyone who knows me knows that for roughly the last six months, I have been really, really, really into Pokemon, especially Pokemon Go. And although Pikachu still holds a precious place in my heart, my mascot for this year is this little guy:

eevee

This is Eevee. Isn’t he cute? Eevees are considered “Normal” Pokemon but they are extremely adaptable. Under different conditions, Eevees can evolve into eight different forms that are all unique, powerful and really freaking awesome. But the thing about it is that an Eevee that remains an Eevee is still fantastic! Look at that face! He’s good just the way he is.

I want so much to be better in 2017. I want to take the things that I do and kick them up a notch. I want to be better, do better, make better and give better to the world. When something challenges me, I want to take a step back and say, “Here is the bare minimum I could do. But how can I do more?” But I also want to recognize and be confident with the person that I am in the present. I want to choose to be happy and honest and comfortable with the ‘me’ that I am now so I know that the changes I’m making are just to enhance that goodness.

So how about you guys? What are you looking forward to evolving into in the new year?

Goals and Ambitions, Uncategorized

2017 is EVOLVE

I’m not going to mince words here: 2016 was not fun for anyone. I spent the second portion of December sick as a dog – including on Christmas, as if I needed to be punched in the boob one more time for good measure – and I fell behind on everything. 2016 was stressful and difficult for me personally, and there are tons of listicles and tweets out there with reasons why this was the case for most other people too.

But 2017 is here. We’re moving on. We’re starting fresh, and it’s going to be great.

So this year, I’ve chosen the word EVOLVE.

Anyone who knows me knows that for roughly the last six months, I have been really, really, really into Pokemon, especially Pokemon Go. And although Pikachu still holds a precious place in my heart, my mascot for this year is this little guy:

eevee

This is Eevee. Isn’t he cute? Eevees are considered “Normal” Pokemon but they are extremely adaptable. Under different conditions, Eevees can evolve into eight different forms that are all unique, powerful and really freaking awesome. But the thing about it is that an Eevee that remains an Eevee is still fantastic! Look at that face! He’s good just the way he is.

I want so much to be better in 2017. I want to take the things that I do and kick them up a notch. I want to be better, do better, make better and give better to the world. When something challenges me, I want to take a step back and say, “Here is the bare minimum I could do. But how can I do more?” But I also want to recognize and be confident with the person that I am in the present. I want to choose to be happy and honest and comfortable with the ‘me’ that I am now so I know that the changes I’m making are just to enhance that goodness.

So how about you guys? What are you looking forward to evolving into in the new year?

Uncategorized

Holiday Affirmations: Day 18

I just got power back after 24 hours, because someone hit a pole in my neighborhood. I also lost my computer profile. I am freaking exhausted. It feels like the universe is conspiring against me. But I’m still kicking. I finished my Christmas cards in the dark. I wrote a lot. I had a friend who could come and pick me up and give me a place to recharge my phone and get work done. It could always be worse. Keep looking forward, y’all. You can do it.

Physical Challenge, Uncategorized

Holiday Affirmations: Day 17

At this point, as we’re making the mad dash towards the finish, it’s tempting to say, “I’ll just eat whatever I can get my hands on” or “I can sleep after this is all done.” Although there certainly are concessions that have to be made, it is even more crucial during crunch-time to take care of yourself as much as possible. That means eating some damn vegetables, and getting to bed each night. Sure, this may not be the best time to try that juice cleanse that your aunt keeps bringing up, but you should at least try to keep your body from double-crossing you when you need it most.