Let your path unfold around you.

Take a deep breath.

Feel the pressure – feel it, deep in your expanding lungs.

Let it rest there awhile.

Know the pressure. Understand the pressure.

Visualize the pressure within the expanse of your lungs as the stress of 2016.

When you are ready, exhale. Let all of your stress built up from this previous year spill from your lips and your nostrils, the invisible force that it is, as your lungs rest back to their natural shape.

Take another deep breath. And this time, pay attention to the muscles in your arms, in your thighs, all of the muscles in your body.

Feel the tenseness – feel it, deep beneath your clothes, beneath your very flesh.

Know the tenseness. Understand the tenseness.

Visualize the tenseness in your muscles the stress of your artistic craft. All of your “shoulds”, all of your “wants”, all of your regrets, and all of your failures.

Exhale, and with your exhalation, feel your muscles relax.

Relax, and know that a brand new slate surrounds you. You can do anything you put your mind to. You can do anything, so long as you put in the effort, and care for yourself in the best way you are capable of.

It is a new year. It is a new now. Self pity does not serve your soul; it serves the ego.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and let yourself go.

Art. Art is what serves your soul. Art is what drives you. Do not close your heart this day, this month, this year, to the wonders of creativity, to the desire of your artful mind.

It is who you are. It is what you are. So stop reading this, and go make something.

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The Art of Self Forgiveness

Last week, we discussed matters of regret as an artist, and how everything would eventually be okay and work itself out. This week we’re going to delve deeper into this hopeful notion with the first in a series of companion pieces.

When I wrote that all of us artists are in this journey together, it wasn’t coming from any hokey place of optimistic naivety. The fact is, no matter the medium, no matter the level of expertise or apprenticeship, we have all faced the mental and external obstacles of insecurity.

Mental illness is a hot button topic now, and artists tend to be notorious for self sabotage and destructiveness to their own well being. Depression and anxiety are among the top noted symptoms among struggling artists. Despite what you may think, what the media and masturbatory social platforms such as tumblr and reddit have told you, these symptoms are in fact beatable, if not manageable. All it takes is a little self awareness and a push in the right direction.

So over the next little while, we’re going to work together to explore a few steps that are easier said than done, in order to achieve successful artistry. Remember: you cannot be truly successful in life unless you build from the inside, outward.

During this time, I will be compiling a resource page that has aggregated various online utilities and mentors that will help you discover your innate creative self, and build confidence to stem from that.

Let’s begin.

Step one: The Art of Self Forgiveness

This is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to achieving your true potential. For most of us, it feels impossible to even fathom such a thing as self forgiveness, because we are so used to living an existence of constant internal and external criticism,  lacking self confidence and self worth, and torrents of disappointment despite our output of effort.

One of the most important first steps in this process of self forgiveness is to recognize that everything that has happened to you in your life is a result of your own doing.

When we are faced with failure in life, it is easy to blame our parents, blame our business partners, spouses – even children. We blame mental illness, financial insufficiency, the very cultures we were born into or assimilated with. It is so easy to pass the buck onto other people when faced with the reality of our own undoing.

But the fact is, the only person who put you in those situations is you. Despite what you want to think, the gun pressed against your head is in your very hands.

And most people will refuse to believe this. They’ll scoff, and maybe write a comment down below to justify their detrimental behaviour, and close the browser tab to move onto Facebook or YouTube or something else completely vacuous and unproductive. And that’s fine. Hopefully they will come to the realization a little later on.

But for those of you who want to take responsibility for yourselves, there is nothing stopping you from personal growth; from pushing yourself out of your comfort zones – to stop, take a breath, and say aloud, “No. No. I deserve better than this, and I will not settle until that happens.”

We are our own obstacles in life, and as you sit on the edge of your bed late at night reading this, feelings of guilt and regret are sure to have set in. The inner critic comes around and shows you everything that has gone wrong in your life. But you’ve made plenty of excuses to last an eternity – it’s time to forgive yourself and push onward to greater things.

The first step is self forgiveness. And self forgiveness is responsibility for the self, to reflect on one’s own actions without anger, without remorse, without guilt or judging. See your actions for what they are, and learn from your mistakes.

The mistakes you’ve made will serve a great illumination for the path you must follow. And from that, self forgiveness.

 

 

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Everything is going to be okay.

“Knowing is not enough; we must Apply.
Willing is not enough; we must Do.”

Bruce Lee.

Do you ever, just, I don’t know – sit down on the edge of your bed late at night after a real long day and just reflect on how far off-course your life has gotten, compared to where a younger, more idealistic, version of yourself thought things would go?

When you sit there on the edge of your bed, just allowing yourself to trance out into meditative head-space, what comes to mind when you think back on your life up ‘til this point? Are there feelings of accomplishment? Memories of regret, or possibly anger? I’m sure a lot of people could say confusion often comes to mind – What happened? Where the hell am I? Who have I become in all these years since then? God, how about the future? Is this my future? Oh, my God…

Not many folks can say they look back on their lives with much praise. Oh, sure, there are absolutely events that have happened that have filled our souls with a speck of self-respect, or admiration. But the overall product, though? How many people can honestly say to themselves, as they reflect while sitting slumped over the edge of their bed, that they are truly happy, and have achieved complete fulfillment in their lives?

Almost none, I can guarantee you.

When I was ten years old, I wanted to be was the CEO of my own video game company. “Virtualplay Entertainment” would helm the coming of the upcoming [predecessor] to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which – naturally – would be called the “Mega Nintendo”. Virtualplay would be right in the fray, holding its own alongside other big-name third-party companies responsible for cultivating what would become the “Golden Age” of video games, with an extensive library of cutting edge role playing games that rivaled the likes of Square Soft and Enix.

When I was twenty years old, I wanted to be the CEO of my own comics and animation studio. “Sterilized Dirt Productions” would helm the peak of the booming Japanese animation craze here in North America. I would write, illustrate, and produce a visual adaption of my anime/manga-inspired novel, Monster Slayer (now called Master of Monsers) – first in comic book form, with an animated series to follow, both of which would inspire the likes of a new generation of English-speaking otaku.

I’m now thirty years old, and I sit on the edge of my bed late at night, writing this blog post with barely anything to show for those last twenty years of moon-sized dreams and aspirations. When I think back on these memories, a dull pain forms in my heart. I’m a strong enough woman able to easily deflect temptations to crumble into self pity. Self victimization and passing the buck on personal responsibility are not values written down in my playbook. I’ve done a lot. I’ve accomplished plenty. And yet, thoughts that I’ve become a disappointment to my younger selves sets in – and quite quickly so does guilt.

So if you’re reading this, and you’re still sitting on the edge of your bed like I am as I write all this out, there’s a fairly good chance that you’re open to suggestion – reassurance of some kind, maybe a magic train ticket that will some how reverse your history yet keep in-tact your wise, worldly, mind in order to finally create those memories you will be proud of in the coming years.

Whatever it is you look back on and feel pain in your heart over, I’ve some good news for you: despite what your mind wants you to believe – it’s never too late to achieve a damn thing. If you put in the work and take the idea of your personal fulfillment with utmost seriousness – you will be amazed at the things possible.

Take heart that if you put in the effort, giving up will never be an option. There will be times where you continue to “fail”, there will be times where you are impatient for results, there will be times where the temptation to give up is right on the edge of your false sense of intuition. These things are going to happen, but it’s important to not let these things consume you, like they have for however long you’ve allowed them to up ‘til now.

I am here to at least try to help you – as I strive to help myself. Consider this a contract of fiery wills. Sure, the passing of time has perhaps shifted the trajectory our particular paths in life – but you need to understand that it is never too late, though it’s true that time is not our friend. But time doesn’t matter anymore. We could die at any time. We could continue to live on into near-eternity. What does matter is this: if you put in the effort to make your life better, to go after what you desire and deserve –  action, patience, and perseverance will always pick up the tab.

In the mean time however, don’t sit and stagnate. Take initiative and dedicate your time to progress. Start to ingest inspirational content in the areas of your life you wish to improve upon. Utilize YouTube for guided meditations (these are amazing and have done a lot of good in my own life). Research local meet ups (or online communities) where you can network with like-minded people who will inspire and ignite your fire.

It’s so important to take small steps. Small steps lead to big results. Don’t believe me? Let’s take the process of writing the first draft of a novel or memoir. That’s a huge commitment, yes? A daunting task that, at full scope, seems a monolithic impossibility for most people. But what if we broke that down? Keep it simple, attainable? What if you committed yourself to 300 words a day? Hell or high water, you wrote 300 words a day – – every day – no matter the quality of those words. 365 days later, you have yourself a novel or memoir with a stunning word count of 109,500.

It’s that simple. Please trust in this.

Everything is going to be okay. Just don’t give up on yourself. Please.

 

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Quitting NaNoWriMo

Not so much conceding; not so much viewing the whole ordeal as a failure; but stepping back in order to re-prioritize.

That’s the way to think about it. And from one writer to another – doing so is completely a-okay.

The fear of failure is so prevalent in the world we live in. Many people regard a notion such as failure with scorn, revile it with such reverent disassociation to anything normal – as if success is the only thing we have in our lives to strive for. As if anything less than success is death, itself.

One of the main characters in my upcoming YA novel, The Quest for the Crystals: The Book of Wind, states such fears with eloquent honesty:

“Every mammal fears death,” said the heretic. “Death is weakness. Death is dishonour. Death is the relinquishment of what we strive to protect: our livelihood, our legacy – our place in the order of tribal hierarchy. Once upon a time, these lands were not so kind … though the Wolfen Empire no longer stands, the tenants of its foundation still very much exist today: only those who with the will and wits to survive unto another day matter. The fear that death brings is innate within almost all of us.”

– Chapter 19, “Trial of the Toecutter”

So many of us fear failure, that we would risk living out the rest of our lives in mediocrity, pushing ourselves to do things that our hearts simply do not yearn for. Anxiety sets in. Over-thinking, and then soon enough, we crumble from the inside, out.

I’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo four times. 2010, 2011, then in 2013, and finally 2014. Three of which were written from scratch; the second one a “rebel” cause. None of those books have yet seen the light of day. Each experience was trying and amazing in its own right.

The prospect of jumping back into NaNo this year in 2016 would have continued the novelling pattern seen above. Incidentally, it would have been another rebel cause, dedicated to revising the already-written sequel to Book of Wind.

Writing and revising Book of Wind had been a grueling, rewarding, two-year process. After sending it off to a handful of beta readers, it was time to work on something fresh, something on the back burner for a long while. I was looking forward to NaNoWriMo all year for this.

But then ideas came for the sequel, and the decision to hop right in was made. Logic told that letting the story stagnate for too long would only kill the momentum. Not a bad idea, but the problem came down to organization of the chapters already written.

Long story short, I became overwhelmed with the process of revising a story in as little as thirty days, especially when additional content needed to be written in lieu of processing older content, and my brain went kaput.

Thirty days is a generous amount of time to revise a currently 45,000 word novella. No doubt about it. But it was the pressure. The pressure of NaNoWriMo, everything it encompassed, exhaustion of things in my personal life, and the egoic need to succeed just shorted everything out.

So I decided to step back.  And that’s a good thing. Revising your novel shouldn’t be a hap-hazard, messy, race to the finish. That’s what first drafts are for. The process of revision is to deliberately slow down and analyze everything you’ve written – see what’s great, what’s redundant, and how many darlings there are to slaughter.

For first drafts, NaNoWriMo is an incredible asset. You sit down, you turn your brain off, you write, and write, and write. It’s such a raw, emotional roller coaster of a thing to do – that more often than not, you’ll end up pleasantly surprising yourself upon reading the manuscript.

I’ll keep working on my project throughout the month. Whether I finish it or not isn’t the point. Reaching the word-count goal – that’s not the point.

Yes, writing 50,000 words in thirty days, from scratch, is an incredible thing to accomplish. But don’t let that daunting number hang over your head. If you’re struggling this month, please know that “winning” NaNoWriMo shouldn’t be the basis for an end-goal.

Sitting down and getting into the habit of writing every single day – that’s the goal. That’s the real test. In essence, that is what NaNoWriMo is setting you up for, if you’re a writer who wishes to take their craft with upmost seriousness.

It doesn’t matter how long you write for each day.

It doesn’t matter how many words you write each day.

Just so long as you make the effort, get into the habit, to write at least a little bit, each and every day. It adds up, man. Believe me.

So if you’re feeling the pressure of NaNoWriMo, feeling the urge to quit – that’s just fine. If it’s too much pressure to keep up with, that’s just fine. NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone, and quite honestly, life gets in the way, our self-destructive minds get in the way. And that’s totally fine. Just do your best, and know that you at least did your best. That’s the important thing. Take your time, go at your own pace, and things will work out just fine.

 

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NEW: Motivation Monday

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Image Credit goes to Bridget Mc Dermott.

Embracing an artist’s life isn’t always roses and daffodils, no matter the field you’re called to. There are so many obstacles in our way: lack of time, family and work obligations, among other responsibilities. Even when we do finally sit down to hone our craft, the inner demons that are The Inner Critic and Artist’s Block rear their ugly heads.

Over the weekend, I met someone who confided in me that she is “a writer who doesn’t write”.

Well then, you’re not a writer, I thought.

All of us have that grand opus in our souls that, if only the world could see, we’d die fulfilled. It’s easy to let life distract us, take us for a ride, all while creative expression is pushed further and further away from the forefront.

But if you are determined, dedicated to pursuing the life of an artist – no matter your motivation for doing so, be it stress relief or entrepreneurship – the best, most healthiest, thing to do is become surrounded by mentors and like-minded creatives.

Introducing #MotivationMonday. Your weekly kick in the pants to  spend some time on whatever projects you are struggling with or have dreamed of, via famous quotes from the masters who have come before us.

You can do whatever you set your mind to. We all can. Let this be the start to a week of change – a week of productivity and success for you. No more excuses. Find the time and just do it.

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Admiration of the Self

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I’ve never quite taken the time to admire my body before. You see women and young girls alike do this in the mirror all the time – it is, at least in movies and TV, one of our most favourite past-times, second to chasing after abusive relationships and in deep meditation over which brand and colour of shoes we should buy this week (thankfully, this ugly trend in media is starting to shift, to great degrees of empowerment).

 

But this particular expenditure of time – admiring myself – wasn’t something I really allowed myself to do. Oh, sure, you look yourself over when doing your hair, or makeup, or whatever. You look yourself over when you’re obsessed with finding that invisible (and likely non-existent) speck of lunch between your teeth – but never have I really stopped to look at myself. To confirm myself, let fall away the flaws, to look myself seriously eye-to-eye, smile, and mean it.

 

When you’re going through a personal transformation, be it something major like realizing you’re transgender, or even something super-minor like “what would my hair look straightened today?” (okay somewhat-minor, not really), it can be difficult, sometimes near impossible, to see the bright side of uncertainty.

 

The fact is, life is full of uncertainty. People try to beat this out by indulging in the constant chase that is “knowledge”, in preparation for everything and everything. But what does this produce? Just a bunch of know-it-alls (I’m sorry, apparently they’re called experts) who, despite all their research on various topics, will still find themselves in the midst of “fight of flight” when the very realness of uncertainty comes to knock at their door.

 

On the same coin, we’re so busy as a culture self-fellating when it comes to everything “wrong” with our lives and how we don’t have enough as it is. The consistency in which we compare, contrast, judge, resent, and envy those around us, that we don’t stop enough to really look at ourselves in the mirror and accept where we’re at and, most importantly, love ourselves for where we’re at.

 

Gonna tell you a little story. So buckle in and get your Dollarama-certified reading glasses out. Ready? Got your tea or water in hand? Snacks all good? Aight.

 

Little Glass House

I was born prematurely, with a bucketful of medical issues. My mother’s cesarean brought forth an inky-dinky seven-month fetus so small, I just fit the length of my father’s hand. Underdevelopments, surgeries, complications, all to spend the first two months of my life in an incubator. Doctors were so skeptical of my survival, that my baptism took place at the hospital, with only my parents, my godmother, and the staff present – just in case.

 

But, obviously, things worked out. Whew! Turns out this 2-pounds, 5-ounce premie had been scooped out a fighter, and kicked some major ass, despite all odds.

At the time of this post’s original draft, back in 2014, I found great difficulty in confiding to friends and family about my journey to transition from male to female (which I termed “regeneration”, after binging Doctor Who episodes on Netflix), because, deep down, not being a cis-gendered woman brought me great shame. In the original draft, I wrote: Even when I do eventually come to fully regenerate, I still won’t be a cis-gendered woman. And that really kills. I had become ashamed of the body I fought so hard to keep alive.

 

Journey of Self Acualization

During that time, I’d just delved into the surface of personal development, consuming all superficial forms of “growth”, from personal Facebook feed quotes, to base self-help books, to even shows like FX’s Wilfred, starring Elijah Wood.

 

But it wasn’t enough. Fear had kept me rooted to the ground for a long time. No matter the amount of inspirational quotes, the number of personal pep rallies I’d hosted in my mind, I couldn’t move forward. Even though it was clear what had to be done and what my desires were, when time came to “fight or flight”, I couldn’t budge, couldn’t free myself.

 

Then one day, while scrolling Facebook for daily inspiration, a particular quote macro roved into eyesight and changed my attitude forever:

 

Knowing is not enough; we must Apply.
Willing is not enough; we must Do.
– Bruce Lee

 

Bruce Lee. Master of self discipline. Contemporary of self empowerment. That guy knew what had to be done, wasn’t afraid to get shit done, and didn’t care who was around to see or judge.

 

The fact is, uncertainty got the best of me. Even though I wanted more out of life, and knew I was meant for greater purpose, I was not applying myself. I was not putting into practice  tools like vulnerability that, deep down, would help me to grow in the way I needed to.

 

It’s true. I do talk to Wilfred – He’s the only one actually helping me

The best example of this is the season 2 episode of Wilfred, when Ryan consumes that imported self-reflection weed when he’s trying to figure out why Kristen’s baby freaks him out.

 

In the episode, Ryan’s high brings him to a plane of subconscious existence, where he’s met by a spirit guide. Ryan is very willing to allow himself to be led by the spirit guide. But Wilfred appears, representing Ryan’s resistance and denial, self-hate and pride – fear of the unknown – so desperate to tug Ryan back to what was safe, what was known. It’s a strange dichotomy, considering in the reality of the show, Wilfred constantly pushes Ryan out of his comfort zone, hell or high water, to guide him on a path of self acceptance and authenticity.

 

For most people, letting go of yourself is drowned out by  the torrential need need for control, the sense of fearful self-consciousness, the want to be liked and validated. It’s like attempting to keep atop a bucking rodeo bronco. But what it all comes down to is self-confidence. And most of us, while confident in certain areas in our lives, are not at all confident when it comes to our souls, our personal expression, who we truly are in the presence of others – especially in the presence of uncertainty.

 

So one day after having read that Bruce Lee quote, I made a vow to at least try to exorcize these inner demons. People do this in a dozen-thousand different ways: blogging, making art, meditating (which is a wonderful habit that you should really consider investing in).

 

What did I do? I smoked a load of weed and decided to get dressed.

 

Seriously. When it comes to the ideology of personal development the quote that “weed shows you who you are” stands firmly true in most every case. I’m not going to wax poetic on the benefits of toking – because, let’s be honest, Cheech and Chong’s fan base do enough of that already on the duo’s respective Facebook pages – but what I will say is that marijuana put me in tune with me – intense negative feelings, insecurities, self-destructive thoughts – complete awareness of depression. These were the demons that needed to be tangled with.

 

The Power of Self Compels You

My choice of wardrobe had every little bit a part in this downward spiral of toxicity in my life. Usually I throw on jeans, a t-shirt, and sometimes some plaid flannel. I’d fall into “guy mode” and automatically fit the behavioral bill in an attempt at “survival”, whatever that meant.

 

But that day, I decided to wear whatever in the blue blazing hell I damn well wanted to. There were old goth clothes I’d only worn a couple of times, that no longer really fit anymore. I said fuck it and put them on, anyway. When I took a look in my parents’ full-sized closet mirrors, I froze for a moment. Paused, like a movie.

 

The person who stared back wore a fearless expression. Her eyes were confident, hard-set, with a resting bitch face that could send Agatha Trunchbull, herself, out a classroom window. This reflection wasn’t anybody I’d recognized before. She looked damn good. A smile broke across her face. She was confident as all fuck.

 

I’ve never felt confident in my life, and I could see it so clearly in my eyes, my posture. I looked like a strong woman. An empowered woman. I looked myself in the eye. These were my eyes. They were not sad eyes. These were the eyes of confidence. I saw before me a woman who was sure of herself, who accepted herself as she was – flaws and all. Despite the “threat” of uncertainty, this woman didn’t even bat a goddamn eye.

 

My reflection smiled at me, and meant it.

 

Just Leap off the Edge, My Love – and Fly

If you’re a person who struggles with self acceptance, who wants desperately to find fulfillment in self-love but doesn’t know how to achieve it, don’t despair. We’re all in this together. All it takes is a solid look in the mirror. It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of our bodies, be we cis-gendered or transgendered. But that sort of focus doesn’t help. Work towards seeing yourself for you, not judgmental of whatever stares back in your reflection, and stand tall in that.

 

Stand tall in your you-ness. Accept yourself for who you are, for where your at. Don’t let the fear of uncertainty get you between its claws. It takes a lot of hard work and a ton of dedication, but it IS POSSIBLE to break free, to shine in your you-ness.

 

All it takes is the courage to stand in front of the mirror and tell whatever stares back that self-appointed love and acceptance are readily available.

 

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