Creative Advice, How to Have a Day Job, Writing Tips

The Simplicity of Giving Advice with Neil Himself

This weekend, I got to watch something really cool on Twitter.

As a bit of background because you may be new here, I think Neil Gaiman is a pretty cool guy (and the Award for Understatement of the Year goes tooooo…). His fiction is great, the people in his life are awesome and inspiring (I interviewed Cat Mihos for How to Have a Day Job, and she is a really fantastic lady), and he is a wellspring of cool.

On Sunday, while waiting for his plane to take off, Neil took questions on Twitter. About anything: writing, love, publishing, John Hodgman (well, I think John just showed up to the party), etc. And I found myself really moved by the simplicity of his answers. Not even in that ‘you only have a thimble’s worth of words to use on Twitter’ but just how straight to the point it was. It felt like finding little stones at the bottom of a rushing stream. I found myself moved and inspired.

A few of my favorites included:

“I have a lot of ideas, and even more unfinished stories… How do I pick up the pencil from here?”

“When’s the best time to write?”

“And advice to someone who want to start writing?”

“Advice to self-doubting writers-in-training who got extremely rusty after a long time of not writing?”

Notice a theme?

Always write. Even if (especially if) you don’t know what you’re doing. Make it happen. Let the words come out. Make the art. Your hands will learn what to do, but only if you hush up the brain and let them move.

And remember, whether you’re an artist or a human being:

“How do you get over heartbreak?”

 

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5 Things, Five Favorites

5 Best Things from 2015

Holy crap, guys, is it seriously 2016? Oh God, I typed 2015 there originally. It’s already too much for me. But don’t get me wrong, 2015 was kind of crazy. Here are the big five awesome things that happened to yours truly this year. My Five Favorites of 2015 (in no specific order) are…

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  1. The Travel Weekend, in which I went to Bard to see Neil Gaiman and then drove to DC to see Amanda Palmer the following night. She signed my hippo. It was magical.
  2. My First Book Event, in which I read from my poetry chapbook, Pickled Miracles, at Rickert & Beagle in Pittsburgh. I also sold custom poetry.
  3. Our First House, in which my husband and I bought a house in Pittsburgh. It was one of the most stressful processes I’ve ever gone through, but now…we own a freaking house.
  4. Ask Me Another, in which I was a participant on the NPR quiz show. Such fun. I didn’t win, but it was totally worth it.
  5. Crafts, in which my visual art game became stronger. I did monthly doodles, photography, felting, papercrafts…it’s been fun to have something more tactile to balance my writing.

Honorable mentions: The Chuck Palahniuk and Rainbow Rowell events, Picklesburgh, Welcome to Night Vale, Mudderella, the Priory Hotel, the Pittsburgh Botanical Garden, NaNoWriMo

Has this year been a journey? Absolutely. But even though that was my word of the year, it’s not over yet. Is it ever?

Tomorrow: the word for this year and what I have planned.

How to Have a Day Job

How Cat Mihos Has a Day Job

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Good evening! Hope everyone is feeling awesome. I am very, very excited to introduce a new segment to How to Have a Day Job, in which I interview people who have tread the line between living passionately and paying the bills.

My first virtual guest today is Cat Mihos. I had the extremely amazing honor of meeting Cat when she visited Pittsburgh in January for Tatter East/Glitter West, an event held at my favorite local bookstore, Rickert & Beagle. She and the bookstore’s owner, Chris Rickert, sold prints, crochet dolls, jewelry and much, much more.

Even if you don’t know Cat personally (your loss, she rocks), you have probably seen images from a website she runs over on Neverwear.net — a home to many pieces of art bearing the writing of Neil Gaiman. Did I mention that he’s part of her day job?

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What is your current career? This what you love doing that, if asked, you would say, “Oh, I am a ____.” Do you have a day job that supports your career?

I am, first and foremost, a writer. In my “day jobs”, I work with author Neil Gaiman, and he has shone a light on much of the writer’s life for me. I am very lucky.

My other “day job” is a touring production coordinator, where I am paid to travel with different bands and get paid to see the world while listening to great live music. Lucky stars on repeat.

What is the worst job you ever had? How did you get through it?

The absolute lowest low of my touring career was working the Woodstock ’99 festival.

It was my first experience at touring on that level, and things went very wrong at a top organization level. The crowd set several trailers on fire. Some of the protesting was brought about because of the high price of basic needs, such as water, among other things. You really shouldn’t put a huge number of people into a space and tell them they can’t bring their own water, but over-charge etc. The lines at the pop-up ATMs were horrendous. The amount of waste in catering struck my heart; they would throw the food away rather than give it out. I saw this giant catering company turn away a group of Tibetan monks, while throwing away food as they watched. Witnessing that level of karmic disservice dropped my spirits to their lowest.

The silver lining was that I feel I can do any job now with a strong spirit and now would challenge that in attempt to make changes. I was just a dumb kitten then.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when you first started working, what would it be?

Good question! I would be less hesitant in my actions, less fearful of doing the wrong thing. “Fortune favors the bold” is a true statement. As Neil says, “Make beautiful mistakes.” Also I would have counseled my younger self to be less worried about asking for help. People inherently want to help one another. Speak up!

What would you say has been your master tool for getting through difficult times when working? Is there something that is your go-to tactic for dealing with best-of-times-worst-of-times scenarios?

There is something about a certain level of self confidence that gets me through anything. Hold your head up when you walk into a new situation and remember that everyone started somewhere, even the masters. Don’t let fear hold you back. Be interesting and engaging. Stay in the present. I used to hide in books (ok, still can do) and now I try to interact with my surroundings as much as possible. “Be where you are” is one of my main mottoes.

With where you are now and what you are doing with your life presently, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from working day jobs? Is there a skill that you’ve picked up from a work environment that you would not have otherwise?

Hmmmm. A little synopsis of my touring day, we roll into a new city and set up a show, do the show and then pack up and head to the next town. The days can be 20+ hours long, you need the local team of whichever venue you are in to want to help you, so you have to be patient. It is important to be clear and direct with your needs. After a long load out and a shower in the venue dressing rooms, which are usually locker rooms of some sort,  you are on a bus with your co-workers, so you are in close quarters with the people you have just spent those long man hours with.

Live kindly, be thoughtful, let anger be your last resort. My skill is survival in all things, but with kindness.

Are you interested in being interviewed for How to Have a Day Job? Comment below or shoot me an email with a brief description of what you love to do and what you do in the off hours!

Art, Personal, Writing

Freakin’ Weekend

This weekend I drove from Pittsburgh to Annandale-on-Hudson to Maryland and back to Pittsburgh.

In Northern PA, I passed alternating signs for rabies clinics and llama farms.

I stopped in Scranton to go to the Mall in Steamtown, hoping for an interesting small-town experience that would make me think of one of my favorite shows. Not so much. But it’s a story, and that is what counts.

I saw Neil Gaiman talk to Laurie Anderson about art and personal experience and creativity. I talked to people from Bard College, and I was struck by their kindness and their welcoming campus. The talk ended with a question I had submitted for Q&A; I had asked for Neil and Laurie to talk about their creative processes. I was expecting something about their day-to-day creativity, but instead listened as Laurie talked about her next project, how it was born out of tragedy, and how she was trying to push for legislation that would help soldiers decompress after active service. It was amazing and moving and very, very real.

In DC, I saw Amanda Palmer laugh and cry and sing about how fucking scary it is to face life. I didn’t get a chance to tell her how much I get scared of becoming boring, too. I didn’t get to tell her how much it meant for me to hear her admit that she was terrified of what lay ahead. I didn’t get to tell her how grateful I was for her music, for her experience, for her strength. I just told her that she was going to be an amazing mother. And she smiled tiredly and said, “I’m going to try.”

I stayed with my amazing aunt who I feel closer and closer to every time I see her. I drove home in beautiful, glorious spring.

It was amazing. I’m so happily exhausted.