Friday, March 17, 2006


This week has been extremely productive... and that got me to thinking about the difference between creativity and productivity, especially in our insanely achievement driven society. This week was all about facing tasks which needed to be done, even though part of me wanted to stay in “vacation mode”. The more I tackled, the better I started to feel as a bag of clutter went out the door on garbage night, laundry from the trip got done and everything got put away. Yesterday and today are devoted to spreading out every receipt I’ve filed away by category all year long , totaling them and putting them into large, brown manilla envelopes to hand over to my accountant for corporate taxes. Hey... at least I’m not a shoe box full of paper kind of girl. My mom always filed things away and could find things when she needed them. I have a very deeply buried inner Virgo (supposedly the tidiest of the zodiac) and clutter still tried to win the battle, but I like knowing where things are. I have come to one important conclusion in the past year... it would be much easier to find things and keep track of them if I had less STUFF!

Productivity is all about accomplishing tasks... and when the tasks seem too overwhelming, it is often tempting to avoid them, but that really doesn’t help in the long run. So I have had my itunes blasting on my eMac while I try to carpet the floor with odd bits of paper and sort them out again. My files were easy enough to sort through, keeping the current year bits in there and putting the others into the assigned envelopes, but dealing with THE BOX was harder.

Do you have one of those “throw it there now and deal with it later” holders? Mine is a photocopy paper box on the floor of my office that has been there since we redid the place last year. Instead of reams of paper, it holds all the fiddly little bits of paper, receipts, notes, statements and stuff that I “meant to get to”. Often stuff piles up on the kitchen table or counter upstairs. When it gets to be too unbearable, I sort it out, toss out the junk, sort it further into Dragon Dreams stuff and family stuff, then the business stuff comes down to the office. In theory, it should get sorted right there into what it needs... but this past year as I wrestled with fear and procrastination, it often just got chucked into THE BOX. The warped logic behind having it all in one place was that if I lost something, I had one place to rummage through instead of several.

So now I am tackling THE BOX, just in case there are receipts that could be important to this year’s corporate tax return. I am absolutely hating every minute of it, except for the sense of accomplishment and freedom it is giving me as stuff goes where it belongs... or into the trash.

Creativity isn’t about how much you get done and sometimes recharging your creative batteries is all about taking time to be... but creative types also need to remember that accomplishing important tasks is part of treating this as a career, a calling and a business... instead of just a hobby.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Pictures in My Jam Blobs and Drawing With Ketchup...

It’s funny how getting something off your chest can make you feel so lighthearted! Today was a busy day of running around to the bank and post office, getting copies for a Hoffman order picked up at Staples to batch tonight during the American Idol results show after choir practice, but it all felt very productive as well.

This morning, once I got the girls on the bus for school, I made some toast to munch on while I checked e-mail. I know, I can hear the groans about crumbs in the keyboard! In my rush to get the jam spread quickly, I dropped a blob on the counter and then stood transfixed at the cool little whale shape it made. I was about to run and get my digital camera, when I suddenly realized how odd that might be to try to capture a jam blob in pixels. Was I going to show it around like some crazy ink-blob test to see what others saw? Maybe one of the things about being an artist is to see things in almost any shape or groupings of patterns. I can remember being transfixed as a child by marbled floors, foam ceiling tiles and linoleum because I would see all kinds of things in the random patterns of the tiles.

For me, that sudden, swift desire to capture what I’d seen and show it to others is one of the cornerstones of being an artist. It is the seeing of things that others might otherwise pass by... the way the light hits the surface of a texture, the colours, the shapes or the patterns of something in the world around us. I have a whole sketchbook that is pasted full of things like that so I can sit and look through it from time to time.

This is also one of the reasons that I always try to have a tiny sketchbook in my purse and a pen to doodle with. Once, when Erin was younger than Bethany is now, we were at McDonald’s eating supper and I looked up to see a spectacular sunset with a cloud shaped like a dragon’s head backlight by the setting orange sun. I searched through my purse and pockets in vain for something to draw on and came up completely blank. Undaunted, I grabbed a white napkin, stole one of Erin’s french fries and proceeded to sketch the cloud shape onto my napkin with ketchup. I left the restaurant with the napkin held carefully on the palms of my hands so as not to blot it before I could get home and copy the shape into a sketchbook. As I walked through the restaurant and out the door, to the puzzled stares of fellow restaurant-goers, Erin just sighed behind me and said in her loudest voice possible. “Mom, you are SO embarrassing!”

Artists really can draw with almost anything and see images almost anywhere... even in jammy blobs!

Monday, March 13, 2006


There’s something about getting away from home, especially on a vacation, that gives you the time to really think, dream, reflect and deal with things that otherwise might remain shoved to one side during the business of life’s daily task.

Getting away to Austin with my family was very soul-restoring. Teaching wonderful stitchers at Ginger’s and spending time with one of my favourite shop owners also gave me a renewed enthusiasm for cross stitch that has been feeling a bit stale lately. Both of those things gave me the courage to finally write this blog.

I probably should have shared my doubts here months ago, but in a way, I was afraid of letting too much spill out onto these pages. Some of it has made it into my private journals, but much of it just stayed bottled up inside. Now that I am finally learning to work through these challenges, it is time to be more honest here in case it helps someone else down the road face the same paralyzing fears and insecurity.

I’ve always been an optimist and a dreamer. Maybe that’s why the doubts and terrors took me so completely by surprise. It went completely against the grain of who I am and how I have always pictured myself. I just thought I was at lose ends or that cross stitch was in transition and therefore so was I. But every now and then would come a day when I knew I should be designing or working on other artwork to send off to publishers. and the fear or self-doubt would be so great that I would let myself get caught up in busy work, laundry or even invent tasks to keep myself from picking up a pencil.

I think that is why I tried to start my other blog Candles In The Darkness... I wanted to surround myself with positive images and words in the hopes that they would lift up my soul and I would feel that soaring wonder again. Instead, too often, I felt like I was having to sift through so many stones to find one gem of wisdom to encourage myself and others with. Meanwhile, since I thought of Dragon Musings as only a glimpse into a CROSS-STITCH DESIGNER’S world, instead of the world of me, I avoided writing anything at all. Who would want to read about doubt and fear?

In the end, it was preparing for the Dragon*Con jury deadline on March 1st that brought me out of this long tunnel. It was facing the cold hard fact that I had to draw and try or just admit how crippling this self-doubt had become and let it win. It was tempting... very tempting. Far easier not to apply at all and cheer Teresa on this year, as she supported me in my She-Hulk adventures last year, than to face the fact that I might get another letter thanking me for my time but telling me that I wasn’t chosen for the Art Show (ie. not good enough). I was just about convinced that since I’d been drawing with needle and thread in squares and Xs for so long that I could no longer draw the way I had a dozen years ago when I was sending stuff off to publishers on a monthly basis, trying to break into children’s books while working at an ad agency during the day.

What if, when push came to shove, I really wasn’t “good enough”?

The first few days of drawing were torture. Half of my pages ended up scrumpled in the wastebasket because I just couldn’t get past the fact that they all looked like “my stuff”. I began to get a little deadline crazy and decided to just go ahead and finish some of the drawings. I even spent a day close to tears on the final weekend because of a painting that had been sitting half completed in my office for over 6 months. I’d reached the point where I no longer had time to build the painting up in misty layers to make it look realistic. Instead, I opted to finish it in my bold, outlined style and reached a point where I was convinced it was ruined beyond saving... but the next day I came back and finished it off, bringing it back from the point of disaster to something I could live with and even be a bit proud of.

I also learned a valuable lesson about being a role-model to my kids. They would stand there looking at the finished pieces and tell me how cute or beautiful they were with wonder in their eyes. When I looked at the pieces, all I could see were the places where I’d made tiny mistakes or drawn the line just a bit too thick or thin... It just looked like MY stuff, not the many styles I’ve seen out there that I admire so much. I watched my girls draw beside me and noticed how they still drew for the sheer joy of it, not caring if one leg on the princess was longer than the other, not worrying if the composition wasn’t just right... just drawing and giving their hands and eyes the practice they need to improve their skills.

I learned to let them know what a struggle I was having. That I still had doubts and got frustrated when my hands wouldn’t create the exact image that I’d seen in my head. The hugs and support that I got from them and Nick as I finally admitted my fears and worked through them helped more than they will ever know. It also helped to know that a friend I very much respected had her own share of doubts from time to time.

It has also helped to know that almost every artist or creative person goes through the same kind of doubts. I am sure that writers, actors, singers, composers, dancers, news anchors, designers, DJs all face the same emotions at one point or another. Wondering if you’ll be “good enough” to get noticed or famous or respected...

What finally brought me to write this entry... and to transform the subtitle of the blog... was the realization that someone else may find it comforting or even helpful to know that they are not alone. I am learning that the best cure for those fears is just to pick up a pencil and get right to work being creative. To listen to music instead of those little whispers of self-doubt in my head. To stop measuring myself to some impossible standard and just work at producing the best drawing, painting, design or image that I can at the time then dream about the next one. To explore the thoughts about what it is to be a creative soul... which is what Dragon Musings will now evolve into. I started the blog to show those who thought little of stealing or sharing my designs that a designer’s life was not all glamour and glory. Cross stitch will always be an important way in which I make images to share with others... but it will not be the only one I need to muse about. What this blog can really only be is about my journey... with all its hills and valleys.. and my life as an artist... because grown ups really can draw pictures as their job!