Thursday, 27 November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Americans. I'll be officially celebrating on Saturday due to geographical location.

Gratitude is a good thing to remember.

Her Grace is grateful for all with which she's been blessed.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Create an Artistic Life - Part 3 - Behave like a Pro

Professional behaviour will help further your career. Consider developing these habits.

Treat other people well. This is one of the biggest marks of professionalism. Even if you disagree with the other person, treat them well, treat them respectfully. This will take you far--even if not in the other person's eyes, it will in someone else's eyes. This aspect of your reputation may tip a balance in your favour.

Be serious about your craft. Your dedication will show in your work. Constantly work towards improvement.

Be organised. Don't believe the adage about "controlled chaos". There is no such thing. Chaos will suck your creativity. Trust me. There is no art to chaos.

Actively seek out opportunity. Because it ain't gonna come find you.

Don't be a dick. This may seem obvious, but sometimes people act like dicks without realising their dickishness. Develop the awareness of how you present. If you're consciously acting like a dick, think twice. Do you really want to be known as a dick?

Be proactive. Especially in kindness. Be proactive in all positive aspects of your life.

Her Grace says "you", but what she really means is "me".

How to Listen Properly

How to Listen Properly

  1. Use your ears, and nothing else. Simply listen. Take in everything being said. See what is there, hear how it affects people, realise these are fellow human beings.
  2.  Do not judge. Everyone’s experiences are unique and their own. They will have come to that experience on a different pathway from you. You don’t know the whole story. Do not assume so. The more you listen, the more you will learn, and the more you will understand.
  3. Do not attempt to solve the problem. This includes saying something in an attempt to change someone’s mind. Above all, do not attempt to “correct” them.  That stupid AllLivesMatter hashtag was NOT proper listening. The only time to offer a solution is if you’re invited to help. Sometimes people express themselves not because they want someone else to solve the problem but simply because they want to be heard and understood.
  4. Do your best to understand where the other person is coming from. You don’t have to agree with their stand or support their ideals. But you do need to understand why and how they feel the way they do. Humanity’s destiny is not homogeneity, but excellence through diversity.
  5. Practice respect. There is a time for respectful, constructive dialogue, but that time is not necessarily Right Now. Simply listening with the aim of understanding is one of the most respectful things you can do. It’s the best way to start. Sometimes it’s the best way to end.

The Value of Listening

Yesterday I popped on Twitter to announce some personal promotional news. So, like everyone else on Twitter, I burst into the room with a handful of noise, then settled down to read.

One of the first things I saw was some advice from Mary Robinette Kowal advising (generally) that now might not be the best time for promotion. Why? Because now is not the time to be saying stuff, but to be listening. 

Something serious was going down, so I read on.

In August Michael Brown was shot dead by a police officer. This week the grand jury did not indict the officer responsible for the shooting. 

There was a whole lotta people justifiably upset over his death and the court’s refusal to indict. They are angry. They are frustrated. They are openly voicing that disappointment.

Also, as you get on the Internet, there are too many fools  (either deliberate or accidental) who just had to say something stupid or incendiary or ignorant.

That is the last thing you should be doing at a moment like this.  So after I spent a moment feeling embarrassed over posting my rather insignificant announcement, I thumbed over to the #Ferguson thread and simply listened.

When I was young, I had much to say, but nobody ever listened to me. I remember my frequent frustration over not being listened to. So yeah. I completely understand where these people come from.  The best thing you can do is to listen, truly listen.

Her Grace spent quite some time listening to #Ferguson. She hopes others are listening enough to enact positive change. If you are interested in my news, go right ahead and check it out. Otherwise, carry on.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

For Richer, For Poorer available for pre-order on Amazon

It's driving you nuts. You want a copy now, but you'll have to wait.

For Richer, For Poorer is available for pre-order on Amazon.  Pre-order now, get it before Christmas when it comes out 22 December. Otherwise, you can wait and get it from The Wild Rose Press. But why wait? ORDER NOW!!

The Deveraux line is famous...for a family curse. The rich must marry the poor or lose their prosperity. Peter Baring is the last of the Deveraux and sinking slowly into poverty. But will marriage to his icy business partner save him?

Beatrice Nottham dreams of leaving Earth for a fresh start. But only married couples are allowed to move off-world. Marrying a man she’s unsure she loves will solve that problem...but at what cost?

When Beatrice visits England to research her branch of the Deveraux family tree, she meets Peter and sparks fly. Both question everything they ever believed would fulfill their dreams. If they dare to be together, will the Curse follow them beyond the stars? The answer to breaking its power could lie in the heart of a crumbling tapestry...if they have the courage to try.

Until then, I'll post regular blogposts regarding fun aspects of this book and the world it lives in.

Her Grace is one up on y'all, because she's already read the book.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Create an Artistic Life - Part 2 - Want to be a pro?

When I was young, I received the following bits of advice:

"Hang out with those you want to be like the most." and it's corollary, "Whoever you hang out with, that's who you'll become."

I also received, "Act as if you are already where you want to be."

When I was young, I was also stupid and didn't fully understand these pearls of wisdom for what they truly were. Fortunately, I have gained some wisdom as I age. (Man, why didn't anyone tell me [convincingly] how stupid I was how not to be stupid when I was younger?)1

So how does this relate to being a professional artist?

It's all about the mindset.

Professional isn't about what you do or where you are, it's all about how you act regarding your craft.

I only truly figured out professionalism about five years ago when I realised I needed to take my craft seriously. Until then I had dreams of being a pro author, but I had the habits and attitude of a hobbyist.
Serious cat is serious.
So here I was, watching my fellow OWW peeps' careers practically skyrocketing while I was lucky to get a handful of short story sales here and there. I sat around with my thumb in my mouth wondering what was going on.

What was going on was they were focused, dedicated and serious about their craft. It really meant something to them.

1. It's not a game. It's real. You gotta ask yourself: do you really want to be an artist, or are you just playing? If you're just playing, then don't be surprised at the tepid little results.

2. Your Art is a priority. You've got stuff you need. Sleep. Food. Supportive human relationships. You do what you gotta do to ensure you have the needful stuff. Your Art should also be a priority, if you want it bad enough. Don't try to fit Art in around the other stuff you have to do. Do your Art first, and fit in other stuff around it.

3. What would a professional artist do? Sit down, make a list, put some thought into this, ask a pro. Know what they actually do, because you need to be doing it as well.

4. Have a plan. Pros always have a plan. Spontaneity, good vibes, sheer dumb luck and "I'll get around to it" are not good plans. "Being published in five years time" is also not a good plan.  "Finish a novel, crit a novel, pitch an agent, write another novel" -- that's a plan.

Her Grace regrets the time she wasted not being serious about the craft.

1There is a difference between saying "Hey, you're stupid!" and "Here's how not to be stupid." At least I had enough sense in my youth to recognise the difference and listen to the latter. It's a shame their advice was few and far between.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Create an Artistic Life - Part 1 - Financial Independence

After Wednesday's post, I realised I wasn't finished saying everything I needed to say. I've gotta lot to say, in hopes that my words will make someone else's life better.

Over the past couple of years I've been putting in some serious thought regarding my writing career.

I want to be a full-time career author.

I work the day job (same place for nearly fifteen years), but dream of the Career. (Doesn't every Artist?)  Wouldn't it be nice not to have to work a day job and to be able to focus solely on my writing?

I owe some thanks to a cousin who's smarter than me, who pointed me in a direction I wish I had known about twenty years ago. If I knew then what I know now, I very likely would have been financially independent today, free from a day job, and indulging full-time in my writing career.

Want to free yourself from a full-time job so you can pursue your art more? Want to give up the day job entirely? Become financially independent.

Financial independence is the key. The reason we get jobs that have nothing to do with our chosen careers is because--let's face it, honey--we gotta eat. Unless you enjoy being a GOSH1, living in your parents' basement and under their rules, a job is a necessary Adult thing. You've gotta admit, money's nice. Working for the money, maybe not so much. But if you had your money working for you, that'd be so much sweeter.

So, I would like you to meet MR MONEY MUSTACHE. He's a financially independent badass who freed himself early from the Rat Race so he could pursue what he truly loved.

Admit it; that's your dream as well.

If you want to be free to pursue your art, go read his blog from the very beginning and put his principles to work. You don't have to completely adhere to every single thing he does, but he will put your feet on the path of financial independence.

Stop being financially foolish!

I wish Personal Finance & Investing 101 was a primary requisite for anyone pursuing any Arts degree. We'd have a far fewer financially frustrated artists/musicians/writers. Far too many of us artistic types aren't wise when it comes to money, saving and investing when we need to be, especially if we want the independence to be able to pursue our art without starving.

For the Aspiring Artist who's at the beginning of their life, I recommend this simple plan:

  1. Get a job. At this point, it doesn't matter too much what it is, because you're not going to be there forever (see this illo to keep you motivated).
  2. Keep your spending needs to a minimum and invest every spare cent you can.
  3. When your investments are returning enough income to meet your spending needs, quit the day job forever and indulge in your art.
  4. Do not dabble. you are not a dilettante. Treat your artistic career professionally. Otherwise, you might as well stay in the Rat Race and keep your art as an occasional hobby.

I might be entering the game twenty years later than I should be, but at least I'm getting into the game.

Her Grace has a plan. She shares this with you so you can also have a plan.

1Grown Offspring Still Home.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

How difficult it is NOT to be an artist...

It's finals week for me at school. It's also the penultimate week for NaNoWriMo. It's also the week before Thanksgiving, and five weeks before Christmas.

I cannot concentrate on any of that.

Saw this cartoon today, and it reminded me of a recent lawsuit involving an acquaintance of mine. I can talk about the lawsuit now, because it's over, though I'll keep various details vague.

A certain person with a BA in something arty applied for a non-arty job with a particular company. During the interview the departmental interviewer (not someone from HR) expressed subversive prejudice against this person. The certain person left the interview with a bad taste in their mouth.

They didn't get the job.

The certain person called up the company for a bit of feedback over why they didn't get the job. As HR had no idea, they put CP through to the departmental interviewer. In short, DP told CP that they didn't get the job because they had an arts degree, and people with Arts degrees were unreliable.

Well, CP was in the habit of recording all their phone calls for an unrelated reason. They took this conversation to a pretty good lawyer, who agreed they had a case.

So, off they go to court.

During the proceedings DP's side of the case presented evidence that showed that employees of this particular company with degrees in the Arts tended to be dissatisfied with their work and leave their jobs sooner, whereas those with Engineering degrees or related fields tended to stay long and be happier.

CP's excellent attorney countered this with evidence that people with Arts degrees, when hired in related fields not only stayed longer in those fields and expressed greater job satisfaction, but tended to remain in those jobs well past the retirement age.

In the end, CP won their case because of the prejudice expressed by DP. (I wonder what happened to DP and the company. If they found dissatifaction with Art majors, I wonder if they would have changed their job criteria?)

The case is over so now I can talk about it.

It did get me thinking: It's not that Arts majors are unreliable as a whole, but that their passion lies in certain areas other than Engineering.

If someone loves Engineering and studies Engineering and gets a job in Engineering, naturally, they're following their passion and they'll probably love their job. But stick that engineer in a Front-of-House job in the local Repertory Theatre, and they'd probably hate it.

This is what happens to all the lovely Arts/Theatre/Music majors. There simply aren't enough Arty-type jobs to go around, so we're stuck having to take the tedious little soul-sucking positions such as Data Entry, Accounts Receivable, Call Centre, Receptionist, etc.

There is no art here. It's hard to find joy in such a job. Can you blame us for not staying on a career path we are not suited for? I had several of those early on in my working life.

At least the technologies of the 21st Century succors the Artiste. Thanks to places such as Etsy, iTunes and Smashwords, there are creative outlets that can bring in some money, maybe enough to supplement or even replace the dreaded Daye Jobbe.

If only we didn't have to eat while we built up sufficient income from our Art.

Her Grace is involved in the glacially slow Publishing industry. She works hard, but it may be years or even decades before she sees the financial fruits of today's labour.