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Personal Experiences, Personal Musings, Writing Advice

A Room of One’s Own: The Importance of a Writer’s Environment

Virginia Woolf believed that in order for a woman to write fiction, she needs two things: money and a room of her own. Woolf lived during a time when women rarely had their own income or a space they could call theirs so this was apt advice at the time she wrote her famous essay on the subject.

Now, times have changed and while equality of the sexes still has a long way to go, women have come a long way in securing those two vital things that Woolf believed was essential for writing: money and property. Nevertheless, Woolf’s observation remains relevant to all writers today. Writers need an income to support themselves while they are working on their manuscripts and they need a space of their own to work without interruption. In a world of constant interruptions and financial uncertainty for many, these can still be difficult things for today’s writers to acquire. Even if a writer does have her own space to work, it may not be the perfect space that she would choose if she had the option.

What would your perfect writing space look like? Mine would be a small home library. The room would be just small enough to be cozy without feeling cramped. The colour scheme would be pastel blues and yellows accented with white and wood floors of a light colour, perhaps pine. Floor-to-ceiling white bookshelves in a sleek minimalist style would house all my precious tomes. There would be a white desk with plenty of storage for my gadgets and notes sitting in front of a large window with a nice nature view. I’d have a new, high-end laptop sitting on the desk, equipped with my best friend, Scrivener. There would also be a cozy armchair with some sort of vibrant floral print and a coffee table for my reading sessions. Maybe I’d even have a Keurig or Tassimo in the room for easy access to caffeine, but now I’m just indulging in flights of fancy.

In reality, I write sitting on my bed with my old clunker of a beat-up laptop resting on a makeshift portable desk in my lap. The walls are a hellish hot pink, the carpet old and stained, there is minimal storage and my bookshelf can’t hold all of my books. I have rows of books in front of rows of books just trying to cram them all in. I do, however, have a large window with a beautiful nature view, so it isn’t all bad.

I imagine many writers just like me struggle with having to write in a room that may technically be theirs, but doesn’t feel like theirs because it doesn’t suit their personal style. Being in that room doesn’t make them happy. How does a writer reclaim a space they don’t enjoy being in to make it more conducive to their writing? I’ve struggled with this myself for a long time now and it was only recently that I started developing some small strategies for claiming ownership of a room I’m actually not very fond of.

Of course, I would love to paint the walls a nice eggshell blue like I dream about, rip up the carpet and replace it with pine wood, and install floor-to-ceiling shelving units for my books but that takes a lot of time, money and DIY know-how. I needed a simpler, easier solution. Here are the two main things that helped me the most:

Keep Your Space Clean

The first solution might seem obvious but you’d be surprised how many writers forget about mundane things like cleaning when they’re invested in a manuscript or struggling with mental health due to being in an environment they dislike all the time. Clean. Your. Writing. Space. Often. Every week, at least. Vacuum or sweep the floors, dust off all the surfaces, organise any scattered objects lying around the room, wash any fabrics like throw blankets, infuse the room with a pleasing scent of your choice using incense, candles, or synthetic air fresheners. If it’s a nice day, open the windows and let the scent of fresh air and greenery permeate the room. Trust me, the nice smell makes all the difference. When my writing space is dirty and cluttered, my mind feels dirty and cluttered, too, which causes my emotional state to suffer, which decreases my motivation to write. Cleaning my writing space helps keep me focused and feeling good in my surroundings. Own your space by taking care of it.

Add Your Personal Touch

Having a clean space to write in is wonderful, but does it really feel like your space if it doesn’t have anything of you in it? My writing space had bare walls for years, leaving my eyes with nothing but that horrid bright pink that I imagine Lucy from The Heaven Corporation would coat the walls of Hell with. I decided if I couldn’t paint the walls a different colour, I could at least cover them up with artwork that I actually enjoy looking at. I’ve started putting up both my own artwork and art from local artists that I’ve picked up at various local festivals and artisan markets. It makes a big difference. Now looking at my walls doesn’t make my eyes bleed anymore. I actually smile when I see all this art that I picked out or created myself. It makes me feel like this room is mine and not just four walls I happen to spend time in. I didn’t stop at wall art, either. I’ve also adorned my bookshelf with small trinkets that make it feel more personal and added faux flowers for some extra colour. The bottom line is, whatever makes you happy on this earth, fill your writing space with it. Make it yours.

I’ve attached some examples of little personal touches I’ve added to my writing space to truly make it my own so feel free to click through the brief slideshow for some inspiration. Click on the circular thumbnails to get the full view and captions about why I added that piece to my writing space.

I hope I’ve helped you find a room of your own to write in this week.


Copyright © 2017 A.A. Frias

Personal Musings

What I Do When I’m Not Writing

When I set out to write a novel, I usually get about 20,000 words into the first draft before I sputter out and just go into mush-brain mode for weeks. I’ve been talking about this stagnant period on the blog quite a bit lately, but what does a writer do when she is not writing? How does she spend all that down time before getting back on the draft horse and charging forth into the next 20,000 words? I can’t speak about all writers, but I can speak for myself. Today, I’ll share five not-so-writerly things I get up to in my not-so-productive streaks.

Read

This is actually still pretty writerly, but I love to read. Sometimes reading books can burn me out, too, but I find I get mopey when I haven’t read anything good in a while so my book breaks don’t usually last too long.

Play The Sims

Nothing provides me with excellent fictional drama fodder quite like The Sims. Constant cheating, secret whirlwind affairs, illegitimate children, unfortunate pool “accidents,” undead monsters stalking innocent Sims in the night to feast on their delicious plasma… ahem. Wait, you mean you don’t play The Sims like that? Well, this is awkward.

Netflix and Binge

If you’re in your twenties and you’ve never watched more than three episodes of your favourite show in a row on Netflix (or any other streaming service), you’re probably lying. The one I’m obsessed with right now is Once Upon a Time, but I’m a big fan of Supernatural, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Merlin, and Stranger Things, too.

Colour

I love colouring books. They’re so fun and so relaxing. I have a big stack of colouring books for every occasion and a large plastic container filled with a variety of colouring supplies. Pencil crayons, gel pens and markers in glitter, metallic, milky, matte, neon, pastel and any other kind you can think of. I’m stocked up. I even have the Recolor app on my tablet so I can colour on the go whenever I need some quick colour therapy.

Cats. All the Cats.

I’ve accepted my fate as a single crazy cat lady. I prefer the company of cats to the company of most people. Cats live in a permanent state of aloof superiority and they hate everyone except their human slaves whom they’ve trained to give cuddles and treats at their every beck and call. I understand cats and cats understand me. We are one. Nothing makes me happier than a long snuggle session with one of my feline furbabies. I even dedicated my debut novel to them!

What do you do when you’re not writing? I’d love to hear all about your hobbies in the comments.


Copyright © 2017 A.A. Frias

 

Personal Experiences, Personal Musings

Stop Being Pretentious about Inspiration

This week’s blog post is going to be a short one (I’ll be honest, I got a new video game this week and I really just want to play it all day). This brings me to the topic at hand.

Many of us have this pretentious idea in our heads that writers shouldn’t enjoy themselves; rather, they should only enjoy doing things that relate to writing in some way. When a writer isn’t writing, we think they should be reading or taking a stroll through the park on a rainy day with a notebook in hand, scribbling down inspiration from the weather, from people-watching, or from some daemon that wriggled into their ear. We don’t think about writers sprawled out on the couch binge-watching Netflix, hunched over a video game console or playing Candy Crush on their phones. If we do see a writer doing something that we don’t deem “writerly,” we look down on them. We tell them they’re not a serious writer or a real writer. We accuse them of being a sellout or too mainstream, as if writers are part of some secret hipster club with a strict code of conduct. If there is such a club, I didn’t get an invite.

Thankfully, this is starting to shift with so many new, young writers coming onto the scene who grew up in the digital age, but social stigmas take a long time to dismantle. We’ve been told that things like TV and video games rot our brains out and choke creativity but every recent study on this matter seems to prove otherwise. You were probably warned about the dangers of TV, video games and the Internet by your parents. These warnings stem from the previous generation’s fear of technology. It was new and unknown and that made it a scary thing they wanted to protect their children from, but today’s children and young adults are finding a plethora of creative inspiration in the digital media they consume on a daily basis.

The truth is that TV and video games are a gushing wellspring of ideas for writers. There are so many excellent TV series on Netflix with complex characters and intricate plots. There are so many video games that are more like an interactive story than the shallow level-grinders you might remember from your childhood. Last week on the blog, I talked about how writers need to take a break from writing sometimes to recharge their batteries. I mentioned that I regularly get new ideas from watching TV shows on Netflix. In fact, years of watching the popular show Supernatural led me to writing The Heaven Corporation. It’s where I developed my interest in angels and the lesser-known details of Christian mythology. Was my inspiration less valuable than the inspiration another writer got from traveling the world with a notebook? I don’t think so. I’m not the only one, either. Suzanne Collins, author of the hit series, The Hunger Games, said that she was inspired to write the series from watching television. She was flicking the channels back and forth between a game show and footage of the war in Iraq. The two images combined gave her the idea for a world in which the suffering of the vulnerable is treated like a national spectacle and the world of Panem was born.

So the next time you see a writer indulging in a Netflix binge, playing with their phone or button-mashing a video game, take a moment before you judge and consider that they might be working harder than you.


Copyright © 2017 A.A. Frias

Personal Musings, Writing Advice

Why Writing Every Day Kills the Writer

We’ve all heard that time-old advice. Write every single day. It sounds good in theory. If you write every day, you’re guaranteed to finish your manuscripts in timely fashion. If you write every day, you’ll improve your skills as a writer every day. “Write every day!” sounds like the perfect advice to give writers, but it isn’t. It’s actually pretty awful advice.

The problem with writing every day is that it’s just not doable. Sure, you can write every day for a long stretch of time, but what about that week vacation you planned in a few months? I doubt you’ll want to be working on your vacation from work. What about those times when a friend shows up at your door for an impromptu visit or the kids all come down with a bout of the flu at the same time or the family pet escapes the house and you end up having to spend hours or even days looking for them? My point is that life gets in the way of writing and if you don’t live your life, you’ll have no material to write about. I used to panic when my friends made plans with me, especially if those plans involved overnight stays somewhere. I was worried about when I would find the time to write and how many words I’d need to write the day I came back in order to make up for the days I wasn’t home. All that worrying about how behind I was going to be stopped me from enjoying the time I have now with the people I care about. I can write when I get home but I can’t get back that valuable time with my friends. It’s irreplaceable. Besides, I always return with new ideas after getting out of the house and experiencing life for a while.

This may not be true for everyone but for me, nothing burns me out and dries up my creativity more than forcing myself to write every day. I would describe my writing process as a series of waves. There’s the initial huge wave of overflowing inspiration and passion for what I do. When those waves hit, I want to do nothing but write and read and daydream, then write and read and daydream some more. I can ride this wave for months at a time and it shows when I’m on one of those waves. I tear through books on Goodreads like a gluttonous toddler gorging on candy. Scrivener can hardly keep up with how fast my fingers are flying across my keyboard. My notebooks are filled with feverish scribbles and inspired ramblings that bleed into the margins for lack of space. It’s a wonderful, productive period of time. The problem? Working in an inspired fever like that for an extended period of time wears me out. Eventually, I crash. Hard. It’s like I left my screen on maximum brightness with two hundred apps running in the background and now my batteries are drained.

When the wave dies, there’s just still water. I float listlessly in it in a state of exhausted apathy. I want to do nothing but indulge in mindless activities like video games and Netflix binges. The idea wellspring has dried up and my creative juices are running on empty. These periods can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months as well. I used to get down on myself when I hit the dead water of creative exhaustion. It used to make me feel like I wasn’t a real writer or a serious writer or a good writer. To combat it, I would force myself to write anyway but all that did was make me resent my work and want to do it even less, which would make me feel even worse about my abilities as a writer and the vicious cycle would repeat itself. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered this “dead period” was just as much a part of the writing process as those glorious months of constant inspiration. I wasn’t giving up on my dream or being lazy. I was just recharging my batteries.

This realisation hit me while I was binge-watching a television series on Netflix. I found myself thinking “Oh that’s a good storyline. I could use that idea somewhere,” and “What intriguing character development. I wonder if I could incorporate something similar into my book.” I was absorbing new ideas during my down time. In other words, I was gathering inspiration again in the everyday activities I do for fun that I previously thought were mindless. As it turns out, I was subconsciously seeking out other forms of inspiration and storing up ideas to ride that next big wave.

Of course, it’s all too easy to fall out of the habit of writing regularly and just stop completely. How do I avoid the temptation to just watch Netflix and play video games for the rest of my life instead of going back to work? This is where I think of a quote by Elizabeth Reyes:

“I write because I must. It’s not a choice or a pastime, it’s an unyielding calling and my passion.”

Sure, making money from my writing is a pretty good motivator. Everyone likes to eat and be able to buy nice things, but it’s something bigger than that. I always know when I’m recharged and ready to go back to work because something inside me wakes up again and roars. It’s when I wake up in the middle of the night with shaking hands and a story screaming to be told. It’s when I scramble out of bed at 3:30am on a weeknight to grab the closest writing device I can reach because I have this urgent feeling that if I don’t write something down right that minute, I will lose my mind. It’s when I start feeling like I have a growing itch inside me that can only be scratched by telling stories. It’s when the imaginary people inside my head scream so loud that they drown everything else out and the only way to silence them is to write down what they want to say.

When I feel like I’m burning up inside with untold tales that are slowly driving me mad, that’s when I know I need to hop onto that wave and ride it until my batteries need another recharge.

I must. I have no choice. If I don’t, I’ll die.


Copyright © 2017 A.A. Frias

Writing Advice

10 Easy, Affordable Tools for the Self-Published Author

If you’re a self-published author, you know how hard it is to publish and market on your own. Writing a book is challenging enough without worrying about all the other things that go into publishing and marketing a book. Some authors are fortunate and can afford to hire help, but many aren’t. It’s exhausting being not just the writer, but also the editor and the agent and the publicist and the publisher and the designer and… well, everything, really. It all falls on your shoulders. That can be a crushing burden, especially if you don’t have the skills to create professional-looking content.
 
I would not have been as successful publishing and marketing The Heaven Corporation if I didn’t have the following tools at my disposal. These affordable tools help make everything easier, so I’m going to share those tools with you now.

 

  1. Snappa

    Snappa is a free online tool for creating custom graphics for social media, ads and blogs. It eliminates the need for graphic design expertise and expensive software like Photoshop. Snappa makes it easy to create professional graphics to promote your books and blog. Choose a size template, select one of the free premade designs and edit to your liking. Snappa will allow you to download five of your graphics per month before you’ll need to buy a premium plan at $10 a month. This works out fine for me because I only need Snappa to create featured images for my blog. I update my blog weekly, so I’m only downloading four graphics a month.
     
    Besides unlimited downloads, the subscription comes with other features, like saving graphics and unlimited access to all design templates. If you think Snappa is something you’ll be using frequently, it might be worth your while to subscribe to the premium plan.
  2. Stocksnap

    Stocksnap is partnered with Snappa so if you notice that the images here are the same ones that Snappa offers, well, that would be why. Stocksnap is a fantastic resource for thousands of high-quality images that are free from copyright restrictions. You can freely use, modify, and distribute all of the images on Stocksnap, even for commercial purposes, without worrying about getting caught up in a copyright infringement battle. The images on Stocksnap are great for a variety of purposes. Authors may find them especially useful for book covers and social media graphics.

  3. Canva

    Canva is a free online tool for creating professional book covers. I don’t actually use this one myself. I have some experience with Photoshop so I make my book covers from scratch, but I know this isn’t an option for everyone. For those writers, Canva is the next best thing. It works much the same as Snappa. Choose a premade template you like for your cover, then edit to your liking and save. Some of their templates are free. Others cost money, but the cover designs are sleek and professional. Canva is better suited to ebooks since it doesn’t support back cover designs or spine designs which are needed to produce paperbacks. If you’re an ebook author with no design experience and limited funds, Canva could be a lifesaver for you.

  4. Hemingway Editor

    I will always recommend hiring an editor over using a computer program. At the very least, have several well-read friends look it over. Human eyes are always more reliable than a computer algorithm but if that isn’t an option for you, the Hemingway Editor is a great tool. You can download the desktop app for both Windows and Mac for about $20. You can also use the in-browser editor tool for free. The Hemingway Editor will point out sentences that are difficult to read and let you know if you’re using too many adverbs or passive voice. It will also offer simpler alternatives for complex phrases and tell you what grade level your writing is suitable for. It helps make your writing clear, allowing you to get your point across more effectively. I use this tool all the time for my blog posts.

  5. OpenOffice Writer

    In truth, I recommend Scrivener over OpenOffice Writer, but Scrivener costs $40. OpenOffice is free. A program as flexible as Scrivener is worth $40 but OpenOffice Writer is a good, free alternative. OpenOffice Writer is a word processor with some added features tailored for authors. Custom trim sizes, title pages and support for chapter breaks are just a few of these features. It eliminates a lot of the headaches that come with trying to format your book in a word processor. If Scrivener isn’t an option for you, OpenOffice Writer is the next best free writing tool.
  6. Social Jukebox

    I discovered Social Jukebox through Victoria Griffin’s blog and never looked back. Social Jukebox is a free tool for managing your social media accounts. This leaves you with more time to do what you do best; write your books. Social jukebox allows you to schedule your tweets. Your followers will see daily content from you even when you’re busy writing your next novel. Social Jukebox goes beyond other scheduling tools because it can post a tweet more than once. Write up your tweets, throw them in one of your jukeboxes and Social Jukebox will take care of the rest. I find this useful for promoting my blog posts and book reviews. Once it’s in the jukebox, I never have to worry about it again. It will post to my Twitter feed all on its own. I also have a second jukebox of inspiring tweets for writers to keep my feed balanced. The variety avoids spamming my followers with constant advertisements for The Heaven Corporation.
     
    Social Jukebox’s free service allows you five tweets per day with a maximum of two jukeboxes. There are a variety of paid subscriptions that will allow you to have more jukeboxes and posts per day. Check out the different plans to see which one suits your needs.
  7. Later

    I discovered Later while looking for a way to make bookstagram easier for me to keep up with. Shooting, editing, uploading and tapping out captions on my phone was exhausting. Later saved my bookstagram. If you use Instagram and Facebook a lot to market yourself and your books, you need to be using the Later app. You can schedule your Instagram and Facebook posts so you don’t need to worry about them every day. Install the app on your phone, upload your photos, then use your computer to schedule all your photos at once. You can even save your most used tags and captions to make the process faster. I spend all Sunday shooting, editing and scheduling my bookstagram posts for the rest of the week. After, all I have to do is tap a few buttons to post to Instagram when Later reminds me. By design, Instagram does not allow third party apps to post to your account for you. All Later can do is remind you to post what you already had scheduled but it still saves hours of time every week.
     
    You can make 30 posts a month with Later for free, which allows you to keep your Instagram active on a daily basis. If you want more posts, you’ll need to buy a subscription. The subscription comes with several other perks, like collaborating using groups.
  8. Vistaprint

    If you’re looking for cheap author swag like bookmarks, coffee mugs, t-shirts, tote bags and more, look no further than Vistaprint. Almost anything you might want to sell or give out to readers can be ordered through Vistaprint. You can also custom order promotional posters and signs for your next author event. Take advantage of Vistaprint’s professional design services or create your own designs. I have yet to find another company with such high-quality custom products for such a low price. I order my author bookmarks from Vistaprint and plan to branch out to coffee mugs and tote bags in the future.

  9. 1001 Fonts

    Most people recommend DaFont for free fonts, but DaFont is not suitable for authors. Authors sell their books for profit. The majority of free fonts available on DaFont are only licensed for personal use. You could get yourself into a lot of trouble by using those fonts in your books and on promotional images. The great thing about 1001 Fonts is that many of their fonts are licensed for commercial use. You can filter your searches to only show fonts that are free for commercial use. 1001 Fonts’ commercial fonts also have a green dollar symbol next to them when you search. This makes it easy to find a great font to make your next book cover or promotional image stand out from the crowd.

  10. Write or Die

    This free tool saves my life every year during NaNoWriMo. It kicks me into high gear when I’m reluctant to write. Write or Die forces you to write as much as you can as fast as you can by punishing you for not writing. There are different punishments you can select, like a scary image or a shrill alarm sound. Choose kamikaze mode to pack on the pressure. Kamikaze mode will start erasing what you’ve already written if you stop writing. If you’d rather reward yourself for writing, you can opt for that too. Rewards include pictures of cute kittens, pleasant nature sounds and congratulatory messages.
     
    The basic version of Write or Die is free but for extra options and more fun, I recommend buying the full program for $20. The full version offers a wider variety of punishments and rewards. It also allows you to compete with your friends in word wars to see who can write the most in an allotted time frame. I love my full version. It was worth every penny.

 

So there are my top ten free and/or affordable tools to make self-publishing a stress-free experience for authors. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me. Do you use any free or cheap online tools for your writing that you absolutely swear by? Tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Advice for Readers, Personal Experiences, Personal Musings

The Secret to Reading Fast

I’m often asked how I manage to read so many books so fast. If you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll know that I can usually finish a book in under a week. It is true that I read fast, but would you believe me if I told you that I don’t spend all day reading? I don’t sacrifice any enjoyment or immersion, either.

When people give advice on reading fast, it’s usually “Skim over everything as fast as you can! Time yourself so that you never spend more than ten seconds on a page!” or “Take your books with you! Read every spare moment you get throughout the day; on the bus, waiting in line, having a coffee on lunch break. Read all day long.” I’ve come to find both of these to be terrible advice. It might help you finish your book faster, but it takes up too much of your time throughout the day. Even worse, it makes you sacrifice the full, immersive experience of reading a novel. If you can’t feel like you’re there with the characters, there’s hardly a point in reading at all. If you finish a book so fast that you can’t remember what happened, there’s definitely no point in reading it at all.

So what’s my method? It’s pretty simple, actually. When I sit down to read, I never read less than fifty pages in a sitting. Ever. No matter what. I read at my own pace that’s comfortable for me, which allows me to immerse myself in the story. I make sure I don’t put the book down until I’ve knocked out fifty pages in that sitting. Most of the time, I aim for one hundred pages but some days, I’m not feeling well or I’m too exhausted to read that much. On those days, fifty pages does well enough.

How do I find the time to sit down and read that much without interruptions? The key is to pick a time in the day when you don’t have anything else to do for a good long while. This will be different for everyone. For me, it’s an hour or two before bed. I don’t need to go anywhere or see to anything. All that stands between me and my reading is bedtime and reading a book is a great way to wind down for the night. I curl up in bed with the lights off and my book light on and settle in for a nice long reading session. It is my firm belief that a novel cannot be fully enjoyed in less than fifty-page chunks. Any less than that doesn’t allow you to lose yourself in the book. Make sure you pick a time when you have no obligations or responsibilities waiting on you. If you don’t, you’ll end up paying too much attention to the clock. You’ll be worrying about finishing your fifty pages on time which is counterproductive. Finding the right time to do these reading sessions is crucial.

If you pick a good time every day to read fifty pages uninterrupted, you can finish a 350-page novel in about a week. If you’re reading one hundred pages in each sitting, you can finish that same book in 3-4 days. One hundred is better but fifty is fine if you can’t manage one hundred.

The best part about this method for me is that it doesn’t come at the price of immersion. When I read those 50-100 pages, I’m reading at my regular pace because I don’t have a time limit. I don’t need to rush. Whenever I reach my page goal is whenever I’m finished. This gives me the opportunity to soak in what I’m reading even though I’m reading large chunks at a time. I’ve also come to look at those long undisturbed reading sessions as “me time.” It’s enjoyable and I look forward to it every night. It’s a time that I set aside to do something for no reason other than my own personal enjoyment. It’s become a sacred time that I try to avoid sacrificing at all costs. Better yet, it leaves me with plenty of time during the day to handle my other obligations.

I’m not reading constantly, but I am reading every day and when I do read, I make it count. I throw my whole self into it.

If you’re having trouble getting through your to-read list at a brisk pace, give my method a try. I would love to hear about how this worked out for you. Feel free to share your own tips and tricks for keeping your reading pace on track in the comments.


Copyright © 2017 A.A. Frias

Personal Experiences, Personal Musings, Writing Advice

Process over Product: What Makes Art Worthwhile?

I wouldn’t consider myself an artist. I do artistic things, sure, but I’m not an artist. Mostly, I colour in colouring books and design book covers in Photoshop. I colour to curb my anxiety and I design book covers out of simple necessity. I don’t generally take up artsy or crafty things without having a need to for some kind of practical purpose. I don’t create art for the sake of art so I am not an artist, even though I have artistic hobbies.

Sometimes, I end up creating more frustration for myself than anything else when I’m doing something artistic. It ceases to become enjoyable and starts feeling like an unwanted nuisance; a tiresome chore I can’t wait to be finished with. I never could explain why art was fun for me on some days and an aggravating waste of my time on other days. If you enjoy something, you should consistently enjoy it, shouldn’t you? It wasn’t until a few days ago that I figured out the explanation while colouring a contest entry and it was a laughably obvious and simple explanation, too. I was embarrassed that it took me so long to figure it out.

Art is only enjoyable when you’re not thinking about the end result.

Creating art is a lot like writing a novel. You start out with nothing but a vague idea in your head of what you want your creation to look like and then you start filling up a blank page or canvas with your thoughts and emotions. The problem is that there is a lot of painstaking, thankless work involved in getting your creation from a blank slate to that finished product you have in your minds’ eye. The process, if I’m being perfectly frank, is miserable. You really need to have a passion for that miserable, arduous process in order to get any enjoyment out of what you’re creating.

Art is not glamorous. It’s not easy. Art is sleepless nights, messy workspaces, paint and whatever else stuck to your hair and your skin and your clothes, hours and hours of careful lines and brush strokes and blending that no one appreciates or thanks you for. People will only care about your creation when it’s finished but in the meantime, they’ll be all too happy to mock you and your vision during the messy creation process when they can’t see the end result that you can see. Writing is much the same way. No one cares that you’re writing a book; all they care about is what books you’ve already had published. No one cares about that year you spent clacking away at your keyboard running on nothing but coffee fumes and passion for your work. They only care when it’s done. They like seeing the results but they couldn’t care less about all the work that went into creating that finished product. You as the artist cannot afford to think like that. As soon as you start getting impatient to see the finished product before the process is complete, you’ll want to quit, because you’re wanting a masterpiece without wanting the work it requires to make that masterpiece. That’s when you will fail and when art and writing will cease to be something you enjoy.

In order for art to be worthwhile to the artist, the artist must enjoy the process. The artist must enjoy the daily toil with no reward beyond personal satisfaction. The artist must consider each new word written and each new stroke of the brush a success in itself and not a step towards success.

My high school philosophy teacher once told me that true friendship is when one sees the other as an end in him or herself, rather than as a means to an end. I’m pretty sure he was quoting Immanuel Kant when he said this but either way, the advice stuck with me. I’m reminded of that when I think about the creation of art. In order to be a friend to your creation, you must love it for what it is. You must love it when it’s an unpolished mess. You must love the daily routine of carefully nurturing it without worrying about what it will become later. You can’t look at it as something imperfect that you must make perfect. People shouldn’t be treated as a means to an end and neither should your art.

If you want to make sure you love your art for the rest of your life, be a good friend to it and love it when it isn’t pretty or fun.

Love your art when it’s difficult to love.


Copyright © 2017 A.A. Frias