A Productive Kind of Self-Torture

I run on deadlines. My whole work schedule hinges on them. I've seen infographics that suggest the creative process is about 90% procrastination, that the panic of an approaching deadline propels creative sparks to fly. I don't design that way. I work beat-the-clock style, trying to turn projects in before the deadline as much as possible. It's a productive kind of self-torture and it makes for happy clients!

In other arenas, it's a different story. Unfinished shopping lists and unfilled school forms haunt my downtime. To-do lists pile up around the house until I know I'm a bad person for ignoring them. When my declining self-image can take it no longer, I spend a weekend being super-productive, blasting through all my yardwork and housework and paperwork.
Sketchy Charcoal Judges You

Turns out drawing, for me, is more like the latter. I had started this new mandala. I'd like to tell you I steadily worked on it every week, finishing at a reasonable pace. But, about halfway through, I set it on my table and left it. It kept staring at me, saying, "Get over here and finish this..." Its opinion of me slowly deteriorated with each passing day. For weeks I kept putting it off.

Every time I thought I would work on it, I ended up changing my plans at the last minute.
Oh, I need to do dishes.
Oh, I need to spend time with the kids.
Oh, I need to take a nap.
Oh, I need to read this magazine.
Everything else seemed more important. I caught myself lamenting that I never had time to draw. Other papers started piling up on my table, and I thought, "Well, if I'm going to draw, I'll need to clean up my office first..."

One evening, the kids went downstairs to watch YouTube and I started mentally preparing myself to conquer the piles of paperwork. Then, I realized that was just another excuse. If I was ever going to draw again, I needed to just do it. I had to finish this self-righteous, judgmental piece! (Turns out the threat of cleaning my office was enough to tip the scales.)

I took my paper and charcoal to the kitchen table. I sat down and finished it that night. Because there! Take that, judgy charcoal!

Perhaps I work better with deadlines.

A Fantastic Discussion of Fear

I recently transitioned from coloring pages to drawing mandalas.

Mandalas' drawback is the appeal to such a small section of people. They all look happy-feely, hug-a-tree trippy. And while that's a good time, I wanted to explore darker, more complex emotions. I thought, "Wouldn't it be fantastic to spark discussions on difficult experiences we can all relate to?"

I researched a bit on how to draw mandalas. It starts with a polar grid, to help the design stay symmetrical. From there, it's pretty much a free-for-all.

For my first one, I decided to use just pencil. I started from the center, sketching an outline one layer at a time. When I finished the skeleton (as I called it), I went back to the center and added detail and shading, again one layer at a time.

I would stare at a section of the page until it showed something to me, then I would draw what I had seen. I felt kind of oblivious through the whole thing. I didn't know where it was going. I thought it would just be abstract shapes. My subconscious, evidently, had other ideas. 

Here's the final piece:
Revelation of Fear

I'm still shocked by it. By the time I got to the barbed wire, I had thought it some kind of prison...until I drew the arrows pointing out. Adding those arrows terrified me. With their presence, it changed from a prison locking something in, to a fortress keeping something out.

I'm curious to find out what you think or feel when looking at it. For me, this image brings fear and sadness. For a few days, I didn't know what to think. I wanted to detach myself from it. This wasn't me. This isn't my life. It must be about someone else.

But honestly, it pertains 100% to my current situation.

I want to do this art, but I'm terrified of where it leads. I'm afraid it will get no attention, afraid it will get too much attention. Artists across all fields struggle with this dichotomy, the tension between wanting others to see their art and fearing the vulnerability such sharing brings. If I share this with you, you'll understand something about me that I don't understand myself. It reveals a weakness I don't want you to know I have. You might love it, or you might decide I'm crazy.

Here I am, struggling with these very concerns as I debate whether to share this or whether to put it on a shelf. Here you are, reading up on my uncertainty. Right now, I feel exposed. Right now, I'm afraid. I'm unsure about where this endeavor will lead me, whether to start another mandala, what it will reveal about me.

I'm certain everyone has, at some point in life, struggled with whether to trust someone, whether to let vulnerability show, or whether to appear strong and steady. How often does fear inhibit our full potential? How often is our need for acceptance a detriment to our creativity?

My Eye Starts Twitching

I just recently started coloring. It's OK, it's for adults. Although I was enjoying it (yes, I said was—keep reading), I couldn't do it for very long. I was possibly putting too much effort into it. I could only do it for 45 minutes or so. I can handle the hand cramps, but when my eye starts twitching, I know it's time to stop. Actually, that's good life advice for any situation.

The husband and the boys have been playing Batman: Arkham Asylum. Even though they enthusiastically invited me to watch, I politely declined. I'm sure it's amazing, but I had other graphics to attend to.

When I started this second page, I wanted it to feature variations on the primary colors, and their secondary families. Here's the finished product:
Batman Keeps the Boys Busy

It took me 3-4 sessions to complete. I'm pretty happy with it, but when I looked at the final piece, one thought came to mind: I'm putting too much thought into this. I want full credit for my work! But this is someone else's design. It's a coloring page, for crying out loud!

That's when I decided I would start drawing my own mandalas.

I feel like mandalas are a great fit for me, with my experience in graphic design, symmetry, abstract expression, and paisley. 

I'm a bit intimidated by color at this point. I'm drawing one in pencil. I plan at least two more in black and white, maybe with charcoal. I'm getting excited about experimenting with these now. Plus, I'll get full credit for all the finished pieces!

It works out, because it's going to take them more than one session to finish Arkham Asylum.

Hand Cramps are the New Pedicure

A few days ago I bought this coloring book for adults. I didn't buy any colored pencils. I thought I probably still had some from my art school days, hidden in my closet from the kids. Because I'm the type of person who would rather spend 20 minutes searching through boxes in the back of my closet than spend $5 on something I might possibly already have. Somewhere. From 15 years ago.

Turns out I did still have them. And, even though my youngest has already lost one of them (reason they've been hidden from the kids), I count it as a win!

So, I sat down with some tea and some Ed Sheeran and got to "work."  Here's my first coloring page:
Ed Sheeran Did Not Make Me This Tea

Was it relaxing? No. Not unless hand cramps are the new pedicure.

Did it relieve stress? Maybe. I only worked on it when I was alone. No kids interrupting me. No conversation being held in the background. No multitasking. It was phenomenal, actually, complete serenity. I can't believe I haven't tried this sooner. Where has coloring been all my life?

This is the kind of thing I could make time for. Sure, it helps that the husband and kids just started Batman: Arkham Asylum. But really, I'd like to think I could've work this in without that new ready-made space in my schedule.

I'll let you know how it goes...

Fighting Stress With Colored Pencils

Stress is an undeniable force in my life. People talk about reducing stress or eliminating stress, but I just look for ways to relieve it.

I used to think I could overcome it. I used to think I could just learn to trust myself more, learn to somehow rise above the triggers.

Then I started freelancing. Then I got married. Then I had kids. Then I moved out of state. Twice. And I just kept freelancing because I really love it. Who needs a stable income with benefits?

As a work-at-home designer-wife-mom, I can't get rid of stress. I can't stop it. I can't fight it. I just have to work through it.

I used to do yoga. I used to meditate. I studied them. I know if I make time for it every day, it will relieve my stress and make me smarter and happier and add years to my bliss-filled life. I still can't make time for it.

Zoning out in front of a TV works for a lot of people, but I look at a screen all day. Watching one to relax just gives me a headache. Plus, when binge-watching Sons of Anarchy reaches it's limit, I have to try something else. (Who decided Jax Teller's scene time should be finite?)

I'm learning martial arts. The drills and training certainly help relieve stress, but it's not exactly soothing. OK, when I get to really let loose on a bag, or husband, it does soothe the soul in a special way. But, most nights, I'm still looking for a way to wind down.

I've been on a Solitaire app a lot lately. My family wants me to stop. Apparently, playing Solitaire while listening to someone talk doesn't count as bonding.

So, it's come to this. Adult coloring books. And I don't mean adult in the exciting way.

I was at Barnes & Noble last week, buying a book for my son (a real, paper one), and I grabbed this adult coloring book on a whim. Adults are coloring now. It's a whole thing. Relieve stress, meditate, and find peace at the end of a colored pencil. So now, I'm trying out the meditation of coloring. Where did they come up with such an idea? Who knew coloring could be fun, relaxing, and trigger carefree feelings?

I'll let you know how it goes...

End of the Book Mode

My husband is in End of the Book Mode right now. I don't know if other writers do this, but it's something we came up with out of necessity. He writes fantasy novels, and at some point near the end, the story picks up so much steam, and he has so much of it realized in his head, that he just needs to keep writing as much as possible to finish it.

Through most of the book, he writes about two hours a day, five days a week. In End of the Book Mode, he writes as many hours a day as he wants to. He puts in three or four 2-hour shifts, and sometimes writes all night. He submerges his whole heart into the book.

He feels really selfish, and doesn't understand what I get out of it.

I feel a bit like he must have felt in the delivery room when each of our boys was born. All I can do is remind him to breathe, and witness as he pulls his world from that realm into this one. He points his soul through a prism of fantasy and the stories that come through are real and beautiful, terrifying and thrilling.

I get to watch. I get to be there.  

I get to feel the power, the pain, and the redemption of closure. It's like burning through a forest, needing to breathe the fire until it's out. It's like jumping off a cliff and waiting for deep water to appear beneath you.

I'm humbled to be present. I'm grateful for the backstage pass. I'll take the late nights alone and the early mornings with the kids. I'll gladly get up at 4 AM to read the last chapter the moment it's finished. It's breathtaking. It's real magic at work. It's actually my favorite part of his job.

Love Is Love

Today the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality for all. I'm overwhelmed by the outpouring of enthusiasm. I know some are disappointed in the ruling, but I really can't even hear them right now. I'm so happy about it. I can hardly focus on anything. I feel like we won! And at the same time, I'm strangely conflicted about my elation.

You see, I'm in a long-standing, opposite-sex marriage. We have two boys, both of whom seem to crush on girls. You might wonder where my unbounded joy is coming from. I wondered myself for a brief time.

I scrolled through Facebook all morning. The internet exploded into rainbows, and I was humbly reminded of God's promise to send the rainbow when the storms are over. In my own expression of joy, I wanted to change my Facebook profile pic to a rainbow of some kind. I searched the rainbow imagery online, finding several heartwarming examples, but nothing that personally echoed my sentiments.

I thought to myself, "Why am I being so particular about this? Where can I find the right image? Should I create one?" Then I glanced to my right and nearly cried. And I realized why this issue is so close to my heart. I had created one, years and years ago.

On the inside panel of my desk armoire hangs this mandala:

I painted it the summer of 1993, when I was 15. It's an illustration of Love. Back then, I was a budding idealist planning to save the world. Back then, I wanted to transform all the haters with a hug and a smile. Back then, I had the heart of a child and the mind of sage. Back then, finding the love of my life was a hopeless, romantic dream.

People doubted me and people judged me, but I found my soulmate. I held onto him. I would not let him go. And I am here to say Love is real. Love is a power I've built my life on. Love is pure. Love is selfless. Love is kindness. Love is inspirational. 

In this world of cynicism, division, judgment, and callousness, for Love to be held up and valued is a rare feat. In a world where people are growing up and deciding Love only exists in the movies, where disconnection and individualism are trendy, where falling into a fairy tale is viewed as naive, it's life-affirming to hear the highest court in the land embrace the value of Love.

Today is a fairy tale for so many. As Barack Obama said in his address this morning, "Love is love." Love wins today. Love wins. It's the greatest victory, and I'm proud to be alive to see it.

One Question Can Transform Your Hobby Into a Career

I always wanted to be a creative professional. I never wanted to be a starving artist. There's a misconception that creative people can't build a career, that they have to follow their passions, socialize at art events, and blindly hope to get discovered. It's not true.

When I was in college, I decided I wanted to be a freelance graphic designer. But first, I wanted to work at an ad agency for a few years to build some experience. My junior year of college, I got a part-time internship at a local agency. When I graduated, they hired me.

After a couple of years, a colleague referred a freelance client to me. I hadn't started freelancing yet, and wondered if it was premature. But, I checked with my supervisor for approval to freelance in my spare time (some agencies don't allow that), and with his nod, forged ahead.

Less than a year later, I quit my job to freelance full-time.

I'll be clear, I didn't have enough clients to keep me busy full-time. I didn't have a safety net. The economy was slow. The agency was struggling. I had tried to get another job without luck. I decided, if my finances were going to suffer, I wanted to be responsible for my income (having become quite irregular). I gave them two weeks notice and started panicking.

My first home office. We gotta start somewhere, right?

Work was very slow at first. I had one client and contacts at a few local vendors. I asked everyone to keep me in mind and spread the word. I organized my home office, bought a few supplies, and hoped I wouldn't have to move in with my parents. Then, something enormous happened. A new client found me. They were not happy with the agency's service anymore and wanted to work with me—shiny, new freelancer me.

From there, work became much more steady. Word-of-mouth referrals grew my clientele. Here I am, years later, supporting my family entirely with freelance design.

Most people attribute my success to the quality of my services. I know that's a big part of it. But there's another part no one really talks about, and to me, it's more influential than anything else. I took a chance, a huge chance. I leaped into this scenario without knowing it would work. I saw a goal and moved toward it, unaware of whether it would be attainable.

If you have an artistic hobby, and want it to be your livelihood, start treating it like one. Ask yourself this one question:

Where do you want to be in five years?

You need goals. You might need more education. You need a functional workspace. You need a schedule that provides recurring work hours. You need an online presence. 

Come up with a career plan. Figure out what your next goal is, and take steps to get there. As long as you treat your creative endeavor like a past-time, that's how it will remain. You have to treat it like a profession before it will become one.

Living in a Fantasy World

Jesse Teller is a dynamic writer working toward a publishing career. He's turned writing from a hobby and outlet to a daily endeavor. In addition to his focus on fantasy novels, he runs a weekly writer's group, manages a blog and Facebook page, and continues deeper development of his original fantasy world.

What do you do to recharge your creative energy?
It may sound strange, but not working helps me recharge. When I grow close to the end of a book, I usually make a break for the end. I call this End of Book Mode. My wife gives me license to work as often and as long as I want to in order to get the book done. It may last a day, or two weeks, but I write with few breaks until it is finished. When I finish a book, I take two weeks off. They are usually torture for me, because I feel most alive when I am working on a project. But by the end of EOBM, I'm pretty burned. I have found that denying myself for two weeks makes it so that when I do get back to writing, I am chomping at the bit. The ideas just come flowing.

What motivates you to keep writing?
My motivation to write comes from my absolute love of the work. The content, the genre, the characters and the process, all make me so excited and happy that I can't stop. I have a unique relationship with each of my characters. I know things about them that no one will ever know and that knowledge drives me to keep working, to get back to it, to never give up on them. The money and possible fame that might follow is not really the point.

What reaction do you hope to inspire in others?
I hope that others, when they read my work, will find the strength to go on. When I was a teenager, and into my young adult life, I was pretty miserable and falling apart. Fantasy provided an outlet for escape, but also a forum to discuss what was going on in my life, and the issues of my background and childhood. I hope my work reaches the lives of people that are going through the same emotions and experiences. The themes I deal with most are hope and despair. They are wrapped into every word I write in one fashion or the other. I hope these themes infused in my work help other people past the hardships of their own life. A truly great book can change a person's life.

Why do you prefer your genre?
Fantasy is a beautiful genre. It allows for anything, anything at all you want to talk about, anything you want to see happen, or anything you want to describe, can be done with fantasy. If you want a creature from ancient time, so terrible as to give a reader nightmares, where else can you go but sci-fi and fantasy? If you want miraculous beauty, intense enough to save a world, look no further. True and pure innocence can be set next to absolute debauchery, and neither is out of place. Fantasy gives me the colors vibrant enough to paint whatever I need to paint. It is freeing and life-affirming.

Any personal experience or moment that brought you to this craft?
The moments that brought me to writer are plentiful. When I wrote my first story, and my teacher, Mr. Olsen, told me I had a talent, I became a writer. That had almost died, when my freshman teacher in high school, Mrs. Hegg, discovered that I wrote, and pumped the love of it back into my life. Writing for the high school newspaper, work I did in college, bad poetry I wrote in days gone by, all of these things brought me here and kept me here. But the moment I decided to really take it seriously, the moment I became who I am today, was when I decided I was in love with a woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and I needed to take my life and myself more seriously to get that woman to see who I wanted to be, instead of who I was. That was the defining moment for me. Without it, I'm a hobbyist.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I would tell him to take it all more seriously. If I had really worked and cared about it all ten years earlier than I did, I wonder what I would be doing now. If I had worked before I did, it blows my mind to think about what I would be doing now. If you are dabbling in art, or writing, or any creative field, really judge whether it is something you want to invest yourself in, and get started as soon as possible. Find a reason and cling to it. Let yourself grow around it like a tree growing into a fence. The fence is now part of something that is natural and enduring. Art can change a person's life. It can give a person direction and purpose. If you are at all interested in it, embrace it as soon as you can, and get to work!

For more about Jesse Teller's work:
Facebook: Path to Perilisc

Additional creatives featured on Kreative Joose:
Mark Montgomery, illustrator

Five Simple Ways to Boost Your Facebook Traffic

Improve post reach and activity on your Facebook fan page. Here are five simple techniques you can start using right now.

1. Post during peak traffic times
Generally speaking, this is between 7-9 PM on weeknights (Sun-Thurs). You can also check your page Insights to see peak traffic times for your followers in particular. 

2. Encourage post interaction
- Anytime it’s applicable, add “Tag a friend you think would be interested!” When viewers tag friends, those tagged get a notification (which makes it more likely they’ll view the post), and the post shows up on their timeline, too (which means all their friends can see it).
- Another example: “Like and Share this post to enter our drawing for a $25 gift certificate.”

3. Share the same post more than once
With Facebook’s newsfeed traffic, people don’t see everything the first time it comes through. Especially with events you want to promote, share the details more than once. Remember to post photos from special events as they are happening.

4. Share words of inspiration or wisdom
It’s easy to find quotes about specific topics with a Google search. Plus, if it applies to life situations beyond your field, it appeals to more people and could get more shares. Make sure your graphics are fresh, and they coordinate with your brand’s personality.

5. Participate in community trends
- Caption Contest: Post a funny or unusual picture and challenge viewers to comment with the best caption they can.
- Throwback Thursdays: Sometimes people post old photos on Thursdays. Business pages can get in on the fun, too! This is a great way to share a bit of history and add more depth to your brand.

Remember, Facebook is primarily a social site, so that’s the kind of activity to focus on. Avoid using generic content or stock photos. Make your content specific to your business. Your posts should be memorable, fun, motivational, or easy for viewers to relate to on a personal level.

If you have any other suggestions or effective techniques, share them with us in the comments below!


Planning Website Content

How a Logo Helps People Remember You

A business is more than its name. It needs a logo. Why? Because generally speaking, people are focused on their own priorities and don’t pay attention to what’s going on around them.

You make people notice. You make people remember. How?

Use more than an icon. Include your business name in your logo. This helps people connect the image to the name. 

It takes at least three repetitions for people to remember something, or feel motivated to explore it. After noticing the same thing three different places, our minds click, “Maybe I should find out more about that...” A consistent visual reinforces the repetitive connection for viewers.

If they see the name in three different places, but it’s in different fonts and colors each time, their memory and recognition of it is uncertain. It weakens the repetitive power. Using a logo with your business name will strengthen viewers’ ability to recognize it again and again. Improved recognition will motivate them to take action and seek you out.


The Value of a Well-Planned Logo

Beyond Logo Design: The Brand’s Identity

A New Day Dawns

I walked through timeless windows,
Gazing toward each passing life.
They held so much old grief for me,
and such little delight.

While searching down each alley,
Between each passing pane,
I found a new direction
Along a guarded lane.

The window, cracked and jagged,
A danger to crawl through.
But deep across its landscape,
The horizon, I'm drawn to.

It's not a painted sunset,
And not a starry night,
But a thunderous concoction
Broken through by golden light.

The fiery clouds held purpose
I had yet to know.
So I pushed myself with gritted teeth
Through that dark window.

The storm soon overwhelmed me,
Quite unprepared to know
Its untapped power, its wild dreams,
The beauty of its glow.

But I can breathe the lightning.
I can drink the rain.
And wind and sleet and shock and cold
Have nothing on my pain.

Bring the thunder to me.
Blast it in my heart,
So I will know the awesome blow
Destruction can impart.

Storms won't last forever,
Their nature is to break.
So I will stand within this field,
Accepting what I take.

And when the downpour eases,
When the clouds do break,
I stand here still, with silent breath,
Ready for a second wake.

My heart is ever stronger.
My soul, wild as can be.
The blood rushing through my veins
Knows its destiny.

The golden light grows brighter.
The clouds soon disappear.
With outstretched wings and open arms,
I draw your old heart near.

Envelop me with sadness.
I drink it in like rain.
Infuse me with your tortured soul.
Infect me with your pain.

For I'm an ever-steadfast,
Unending source of light,
And I can trace your broken path
Throughout the darkest night.

When the tangled brush subsides,
I'll show you what I've found,
Where golden light conquers the sky,
And love is all around.

My heart is yours forever.
We are one and the same.
In any life, on any day,
You're in my window pane.

The moon will some day crumble.
The sun will fade and die.
So I choose you, my golden light,
To fill my spirit's sky.

When the thunder rumbles,
And the quake of change is near.
I pray you know this certain truth:
A new day dawns and I am here.