Fiction writers – take note!

If you thought getting that first draft out was hard, then try editing it.

No, I mean really editing it!

This doesn’t mean just reading through it making sure everything lines out okay. This means looking at the actual text and evaluating how to to do it better. Trust me on these two points: your every word is not golden and you can make it better.

I’ve filled my book, The Write Edit with lots of 1st draft examples and followed them with edited examples so you can see the process. Learn how to get rid of “was.” Learn how to control the pacing of your story. Most importantly, learn how to blend in information without stopping your story.

The paperback edition is available for $7.99 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Kindle and Nook editions are only $4.99. If you buy the paperback from Amazon, you can get the Kindle addition for an additional $0.99 (prices are all in US dollars). Consider this as part of your continuing education as a writer.

May we never stop improving! At least I know that’s one of my goals. How about you?

The Change — Part 2

So here I stand, with the transformed painting mentioned in my last blog, and either I have another failure or a success. I admit, I’m a little nervous. I get nervous easily! Grin.

I fully accept that every painting is not necessarily a masterpiece, nor would I want it to be. If they were, I wouldn’t have a challenge. I like to see my skills growing. I came across a quote some time ago about if something was still growing, you knew it was still alive — I’ll blog on that sometime in the future I’m sure.

Okay, here it is: Raising a Buck transformed into a new painting…

He Who Holds the Key 20″x24″ acrylic on wrapped canvas Dawn Blair ©2014
He Who Holds the Key
20″x24″ acrylic on wrapped canvas
Dawn Blair ©2014

The flowers are gone and a more fall atmosphere has claimed the stage. The deer is basically the same through I did brighten him a bit more. The biggest change is the key hanging from his antlers.

A key?

Yes, you see that golden key there. Ah, yes, there’s a story.

I sat for days looking at this painting, wondering what I could do to this painting. I knew I had to do something to make it my own, something with my fantasy style to finish the transformation. It was right there, so close…

So elusive!

I had an idea for something mysterious, but when I sketched it in with charcoal on the canvas, I didn’t like it. It didn’t feel right.

Then I thought about a key, similar to the ones I’ve been painting recently with the vines, which would hang from his antlers.

Before I even got it painted on, I realized that this key held more symbolism than I had originally thought. It feels like so many people in our world today are looking for the golden key to make everything perfect in their life. If only they had the time to figure out what they need to do, or figure out who to be with, or figure out how to have more time. We feel as if something special is locked away from us. We just need to find the key and then everything will be wonderful and fixed.

The reality is that “our key” is always right there beside us. We don’t have to go looking very far. Many gurus even say that we never have to look outside of ourselves for our answer, that what we need is already inside us. I don’t disagree. But this deer is symbolic of how we look around and the answer is forever elusive. We can feel it, maybe even catch a glimmer of it, but can we grasp it?

So, for what it’s worth, my painting transformed and I found a new piece of myself within. I hope you like the change too.

The Change – Part 1

Failed paintings… all artists have them and it seems like the more you “learn” the more failed paintings you have.  Remember this painting:

Raising a Buck  20X24X″ acrylic on canvas Dawn Blair ©2010
Raising a Buck
20″x24″ acrylic on wrapped canvas
Dawn Blair ©2010

Okay, I admit, it was called “Raising a Buck” for more than one reason. I thought if I painted something a little more “normal” that I might be able to sell it out here in Idaho.

Then came the embarrassment. I had it hanging at shows and person after person kept telling me, “Nice deer. Too bad they don’t really have antlers like that when the spring flowers are out.” I so obviously didn’t know my subject!

So I shoved the painting away. I knew some day I could paint over the canvas and do something new. I just had to wait for the right day — you know, the one where the Muse comes and taps on your shoulders and says, “Hi, honey, let’s get to work.” Yeah, that day.

I was starting to wonder if it would ever come.

Then I came across Brandon Schaefer’s YouTube channel. Since you already know that I love to know how other artists work, you’ll know I was fascinated by the videos he has of his working and thoughts. One of those was a video on what to do with failed paintings. Yeah, I have one or two (or fifty) of those! So I watched and I’d like to share with you now:

Well, that’s when the Muse settled in on my shoulder and said, “Hi, honey! Let’s get to work!”

Coming up next: Raising a Buck transformed…

Seeing Beyond

Cosmin Eye  4″x 2″ acrylic on canvas Dawn Blair ©2013 Sold Other works available at http://www.zibbet.com/dawnblair
Cosmic Eye
4″x 2″ acrylic on canvas
Dawn Blair ©2013
Sold
Other works available at http://www.zibbet.com/dawnblair

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there. You must go beyond them.” — Bruce Lee

What are you seeing in your life today? Do you need a new way to look at things, a new perspective? Climbing up to the next level is rarely easy or fun, but if you don’t push your own limits, neither will anyone else. Like happiness, pushing your skills is something only you can do. 

Do you want to know just how high you can fly? Do you want to know how good you can be? Or are you done, never daring to push on? 

I can understand being tired, wanting to throw in the towel. But in the end, I know I can never stop being a creative person. It’s in my blood. I will always have to writing, or painting, or doodling, or whatever calls to my soul at any given moment even if I never share it with the world. I’m just thankful I live in a day and age where I can share my thoughts and ideas with you without the gatekeepers that use to be in place. So, when I really think about it, I hope I keep doing what I love until it’s my time to pass from this world into the next. May I never rest too long on a plateau. Let me keep learning and growing until my last heartbeat. With my last breath, may I whisper, “Thank you” to the world that supported me throughout. Even then, I hope my stories and artwork will live to inspire generations to come. 

If I could see into the years beyond, that is what I would wish for.

 

Vulnerable

It’s hard to put yourself out there when your heart is in what you do.

Rejection stings the worst when you do your best and someone tells you it’s not good enough. That criticism can tear you down.

Hate to tell you this, but that’s exactly what you need.

You have to keep putting yourself out there, testing and pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone. Adventures were never taken by those who wanted to play it safe. When was the last time you heard a successful person say, “Oh, I just stayed home, never went out, and the success just spilled into my lap.” No, chances are the stories you’ve heard are about risk and failure. Inspiration comes from hearing how people overcome their obstacles.

As for rejection and criticism, those make sure that next time you try harder and learn more. These make you grow beyond what skills you have. If you aren’t seeing progress, seeing yourself getting better, then you aren’t pushing hard enough. If someone is telling you that you can do better, there’s probably a reason it’s being said. (This is not to take into consideration the advice of ‘Trolls.’ There is a difference between criticism which will help you grow – at least after the initial sting wears off — and the venomous hatred of Trolls – who tear down only because they wish they were out doing what you’re doing.)

So, I thought I’d show you a picture which shows my progress. No one was ever supposed to see this picture. It’s horrible! I knew it from the moment I painted it. I tucked it away. I found it this weekend when I was cleaning my office. I almost threw it away, but I hid it away because I know that it shows my progress.  Unfortunately, I don’t even have it dated (bad me!) but I’m guessing it’s sometime between 2007 and 2009. Okay, here it is. Don’t laugh!

Practice Painting

Bad, bad painting
12×9 Acrylic on Bristol
©  Dawn Blair

Look at that hair! What was I thinking. And what’s she got in her hands? Terrible, huh? Oh yeah! This painting was never meant to see the light of day. Back to the nether realms it should go.

But, if I’d never tried that, would I ever have done this following painting?

Windswept Angel 20x16 Acrylic on Canvas © 2010 Dawn Blair
Windswept Angel
20×16 Acrylic on Canvas
© 2010 Dawn Blair

If I’d never done Windswept Angel, which wasn’t perfect but definitely progress forward, would I have gone on to paint this?

Manifest the Magic book cover
Holding What Matters
20×16 Acrylic on Canvas
© 2012 Dawn Blair

Let yourself be vulnerable.

We all learn as we go. If we fear the process, the world will never see us shine.

Make your magic.

Sparkle.

Three easy steps

1. Do more. Whatever your passion is, keep creating it. It’ll keep you happy.
2. Do better. Never stop improving your craft and yourself. These two knit together. A skill you’ve learned because you wanted to try something new will grow to help you in another area. Life just works that way.
3. Listen to heroic music. If you feel swept up, empowered, and ready to take on the world, you will automatically do more of Step #1. As the tagline on Two Steps From Hell’s website says, “Music makes you braver.” If you don’t know where to start with heroic music, obviously they are a good place to start!

Keep repeating. If you don’t know what to do next, start at Step #3, close your eyes, and let yourself imagine– it’ll reveal your heart and take you in the right direction.

Why not to listen to the 10,000 hour rule.

I’ve recently been engaged in a lively discussion about the 10,000 hour rule from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. I chose to take a stand against this rule because I believe it to be flawed and discouraging. When you willingly play devil’s advocate on a site where you know you’re going to get flamed for your thoughts, it’s interesting to see how your own thoughts develop. Knowing I’d be wasting my time continuing the discussion there, I decided to move my thoughts here where they belong. Maybe I’ll find a few of you playing devil’s advocate against my ideas too! 🙂

I imagine how this is how Seth Godin felt when he challenged Vince Lombardi’s advice that “winners never quit and quitters never win.”

Pick up a copy of Outliers and at least skim the chapter on the 10,000 hour rule. You’ll find real quickly that it’s not a happy chapter. It talks about how child prodigies start young and put in time (it doesn’t say they were willingly doing the time — the choice to do something is a lot different from doing something your parents want you to do!). It also says that the true “greats” are born within a certain period of time and anyone outside of this calendar analysis has missed the boat. To me, that’s really discouraging!

Fortunately, I don’t believe that one must be a child prodigy or be born within a window of opportunity. So come along with me on this journey to debunk the 10,000 hour rule and let’s prove that success comes to those who work for it without counting “billable hours!”

Smaller projects

Awhile back I said in one of my blogs that I was working on something but I wasn’t ready to say what yet. Now I’m ready.

I’ve been learning animation. Mostly just messing around and tinkering. I’ve always loved cartoons. My parents didn’t understand why I could jump out of bed at 6:30 on Saturday morning without trying to have my waffles ready by 7:00 when cartoons started — boy doesn’t that date me! — when the rest of the week it was a struggle to get me up. With computers, I see great possibilities.

All these were done completely with Anime Studios Debut 6 — more great software from Smith Micro, the same company that makes Manga Studios.

So here’s one that started off as a tutorial that I expanded. I had a lot of fun with this one. Watch for the rain!

Here’s another modified tutorial.

Okay, last one if you’re still up for it. This was actually their character from the start-up screen that I played around with.

I see many great things coming with this new skill I’ve been working on. I have a couple promo videos I want to put together for Sacred Knight that I’m really excited about! So much so, I want to have them done now! Alas, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly in the beginning. I hope these aren’t too terrible. I did have fun with them (I’m sure I’ve mentioned that). To me, that’s what counts — having fun outweighs other people’s opinions of my “student work” attempts. I do hope that you enjoy seeing an artist’s early attempts — I feel too many artists only want to show what they feel is worthy which gives an unrealistic opinion. I’d rather show what I’m enjoying doing.

Okay, there’s a lot more there that I should save for another blog someday! Grin!

Anyway, let me know if you enjoyed my first animation attempts. I certainly hope you got a laugh.

One more thing I want to share which I hope you find as much inspiration as I did. This video is what gave me the courage to try out animation. I’ve just included it as a link here because it has sound — so if you’re able, turn up your speakers and Get Busy Living. If you can’t turn up the speakers, come back and play it when you can. Enjoy.

Learning Lunch

I just had a most fascinating lunch.

Strangely, it’s a lunch that added a new dimension to my thinking. Let me step back and explain.

Since I also work a full-time job in addition to working on my artistic career, I always feel my limited time is extremely precious. Extremely precious! I don’t play games on Facebook and I try to avoid things that aren’t in my focus. Okay, my one fault is that I do like watching tv with my children and we probably spend far too much time doing that. I like to know what they are watching (making sure it’s appropriate) and we have a lot of discussions about life based on what we’re watching. I hate stupid tv; I’d rather watch something that someone has put some thought into rather than watching what dumb things people will do or how they… Wait! I’m not ranting about that! Maybe another time.

Okay, back to topic.

My lunch time is one of those things I value. Except for the occasional lunch with a friend, I want to spend my lunch alone — preferably with food that is quick and easy. Normally, I spend the time reading or meditating (after eating of course), or painting, or writing — something.

Today, as I said previously, was different.

Today I’m off work (All praise the day after tax day! I do think it’s become my favorite holiday). Anyway, I was making myself a sweet potato for lunch and as I heard the microwave announce that it was done, I wondered what I was going to do while I ate. I’ve been writing and doing housework most of the morning, so should I take a break and sit down and watch something (oh no, more tv!). I decided I really didn’t want to do that. I didn’t feel like reading.

Quite frankly, I wanted to use my time efficiently. After all, that’s what I’ve trained myself to do.

I decided to work on a tutorial. I’m in the middle of learning something new. Sorry, I can’t say what I’m learning at this moment, but let’s just say that I am trying something out to see if I like it or not. I have a shiny new curriculum for what I’m working on, but I haven’t had time to sit down yet and start going through it. I knew today was going to be the day for Lesson One, but I didn’t realize my lunch time was about to become part of the moment.

After fixing up my potato, I realized that I really wanted to work on the tutorial now. As I went back to my office, I said to myself, “I’m going to have a Learning Lunch.” <>

But as I sat down and called up what I was going to work on, I realized that I do try to have Learning Lunches every day. I’m always spending the time reading or learning something whether its something about myself or my art. This time is valuable to me. It’s just never been so formal in my heart as it was today.

It will be a tradition I continue.

How about you?

Putting forth the work

I’ve been working with Manga Studios (or I was before I got taken down with this awful cold that’s been going around). I’ve said in prior posts that a person can make great strides in accomplishing whatever they want to do even if they only work on it in 15 minutes a day.

Well, as proof I put forth some *beginning* examples of some of my coloring attempts from Manga Studios. I say *beginning* because I feel like I teach myself how to color and then I “forget” and have to teach myself again. I keep feeling like I’m not leaving the starting block.

So, this first example, I was going to start with a circle, but then I remembered that I’ve done the circle, square, and triangle before when I was “learning” so I wanted to branch out. I picked on my next favorite circular thing, the pumpkin. Mind you, this was after watching one of the coloring videos and thinking about it in conjunction with some other coloring videos I’ve seen. I really wanted to try out some of the tools. This took me about 15 minutes to color after doing the initial sketch.

Okay, not great. Hey! Are you laughing? You are! Right, so much for “great” art — how about just creating something decent! Ha, ha. <>

But that’s not the point here. Improvement is the purpose. That was 15 minutes of work put in. Now I wanted to see how far I’d come, which meant I needed a comparison piece. So, what to draw now? To decide, I started drawing and just let the shapes guide me into my drawing. As soon as the puzzle came together and I knew what I was drawing, I also knew how I was going to color it. Here’s the second piece — which took me about 20 minutes:

Yes, better than the first. I did actually feel like I’d accomplished something, like I’d put in my first steps on the path to coloring my digital work. Still, I couldn’t help pushing it just a little further:

Aw! Isn’t he just the cutest?

Well, it’s a start. I have so much more to learn. Someday I do hope to have something worthy to post to Manga Studios’ website, but for now with my first attempts, I’ll just show them here. When I started drawing these pictures, I didn’t intend on them to be for anyone but me and my own practice. However, after seeing the growth I (believe I) achieved in less than an hour, I thought it would be worthy to share. What do you think? Do you have a favorite?

What do you think you could do or learn in 15 minutes?