Back to work

ROW80This past week went better, as I managed to put in about 90% of my goal time. I’m still struggling with the final bits of this artwork, because of course as usual I’ve left the messiest bits for last. But I’m slowly getting through them, bit by bit by bit.

And this morning there is sunshine again, which makes me really happy. Colorado is supposed to be sunny, dammit, and day after day of gray gloom is not normal here. But that’s what we had for the past week, and it didn’t help my mood at all let me tell you. If only it stays sunny, perhaps we can finally get the new roof put on, and maybe I can get out to work in my garden beds some more. Planting time will be here soon, so digging time is now. Or will be if it doesn’t start snowing again.

Meanwhile, here is today’s blog hop link. I hope there’s sunshine for everyone!


Battling self-doubt

ROW80Hello, everyone. Last week I only worked for 60% of my goal time. Once again I face my own doubts about my ability to finish a project, or finish it up to my standards. And once again, when faced with that doubt I struggle to keep plugging away at the work, as I want so much to do.

My response when faced with these internal struggles, what works for me, is to try to view myself with kindness. To give myself credit for every small step I take, even if they are smaller than I would wish. One foot in front of the other, one word or sentence on a book, one line or node on a drawing.

It all has to count, because this is the task in front of me: to learn how to cope with my anxieties and how to continue to work in spite of them. So that’s what I’m doing.

I even posted my check-in late this week! But here is the blog hop link for the Wednesday ROW80 checkin. I hope the work is going well for everyone.


Almost finished…with one picture

ROW80I came up short in meeting my goal time this week. We are in the middle of getting a new roof for our house (the old one was damaged in a wind storm), and also got involved in our neighbor’s landscaping project which included replacing our mutual fence. I’m very happy with how things are going so far (the fence is awesome; the roof is not replaced yet but we’ve dealt with the insurance part), but it took up a couple days of my week.

So my spreadsheet shows that I only hit 60% of goal this week, which is, well, weak. Must do better this time, and in fact have already done today’s scheduled time.

The good news is that this incredibly intricate drawing is close to finished. I may even finish it this week if I push a little, and that’s my hope. This is only one portion of the entire project of course. Not only writing and editing still to finish but several more pictures as well (though much simpler and therefore quicker ones). But at this point I’m very happy with the look of this illustration. And finishing any sub-project is always positive for me, and helps me continue working.

Here is the blog hop link for today’s check-in. May everyone finish their goals in satisfying ways!


For the love of spreadsheets

ROW80I love spreadsheets. I know this is an unusual thing, but it’s true. Maybe it’s because in the distant past I spent some years doing accounting of one type or another for various cooperative businesses I was involved with. Back then, accounting of all sorts was done by hand on wide pages of carefully lined accounting paper. Everything was added by hand, and double-posted so that you had a check on your original tallies.

Hand-written ledgers could give you the information you needed to run the business (How much of widget X did we sell this week? How much cash do we need to cover next week’s bills?), but they were labor intensive and, in the end, still limited in what they could do for you.

On the computer, spreadsheets do all the math for you! I love this about computers generally, you know, that they do all the math. So I keep spreadsheets for our household bills, and for my garden, and for my small personal businesses, and of course to track my writing.

For a while I tracked my writing by word count. That came pretty naturally when I was doing NaNoWriMo back in 2012. But tracking my work by word count quickly faltered. My own way of writing is not a sprint but instead is more of a two steps forward, one step back process where I edit and cut as well as write new words. When I was using the steadily-advancing word count as a motivational tool, any day when my word count went backwards was hard on me. Even though it was necessary for my work, it felt like a failure.

So I’ve switched to counting hours spent on projects, and that’s what I track in my spreadsheets now. I still have a list of current word counts on my various projects, but using hours for my daily tracking gives me a sense of progress even if I’ve spent the hour deleting words instead of adding them.

Here’s today’s blog hop link for this Round of Words check-in. I hope everyone else is progressing towards their goals, whatever form those goals may take.


Checking in for the new ROW80

The second Round of Words in 80 Days starts today. My goal, once again, will be to spend one hour each weekday on writing or artwork. I’ve continued this during the brief break and overall I find slow and steady works. So I’m sticking with that.

Last week I only met about 85% of goal, as by Friday I felt a bit worn out and didn’t work. But I’d done extra drawing earlier in the week, so overall I wasn’t too short of goal. I’ve already done my stint for today, so this week should be better.

I found a new game that I love a lot. It was recommended by some friends online, and it’s called Stardew Valley. It’s a lovely farming simulator that is based on the old Gamecube game, Harvest Moon. I was a huge fan of Harvest Moon but I think this updated version is even better.

It’s still a bit cold and snowy here in Colorado for me to be out in the real garden very often. So if you can’t find me on Twitter, I’m probably down on the farm.

Stardew Valley

And here is the first blog hop link for this Round. Best wishes to everyone!


Art sample

The final week of A Round of Words went well, as I once again reached my goal time for the week. I’m very happy with how I hit my goals this entire Round, in fact. I also feel okay about how this illustration is turning out. I almost believe it will be finished someday! That would be nice.

Here is a sample of one portion of the picture I’m currently working on. This shows just a few leaves. There are many dozens of these gradient-filled leaves. In fact the layer where I’m drawing them tells me it contains 822 objects as of this moment. The layer with the brush strokes for the pistils tells me it has 114 objects. There are many more to go.


The photo I’m working from isn’t visible here but much of my sketching has been done using a Turcom drawing tablet over a visible photo behind the working layer. (I lower the opacity of the photo so that I can see the lines as I draw them.) One thing I’ve learned is that when I’m sketching with the tablet I rarely get a smooth single line. My hands are not that steady and so the line will instead have several segments. And in places where the photo is dense, I often end up with a jumble of line segments (as you can see in this example, in the parts not yet finished and colored).

Much of my time is spent teasing out which segments belong together to form a full object (stem, leaf, or pistil), and which need to be culled or combined. It’s fiddly work, and slow, but I think the outcome is worth it.

Okay, there is no blog hop this week, but I am back to work. I’ll check in again next Monday.


Never gonna stop

ROW80This is my final check-in for the first iteration of Round of Words 2016. My plan is to continue with my current five-day-a-week work goal during the ROW80 break, and I will still check-in here on Monday mornings.

For me, this Round has been an unqualified success, even though on a small scale. I’ve learned quite a lot by doing more drawing than writing. The two forms of creation are different but the acting of creating has a lot of similarities. I learned about myself and how I go about composing, the ways in which I am drawn to small details and have to learn how to fill in the bigger picture. About how little faith I have in myself and how hard I have to work to keep bolstering my confidence.

I kept up with my goals during this Round of Words. Each month I did a consistent number of hours of work. I actually managed to maintain something like a regular schedule without balking and running away. This is a great, good thing for me, and something I can build on.

Many thanks to the various ROW80 peeps who have shown up offering encouragement. I appreciated it very much. I plan to continue on through the break, but it’s definitely easier when you have a group to share with.

Once again, this is the blog hop link for today’s check-in. Good luck to everyone this week and through the break!


Back to work

My trip to the Monte Vista Crane Festival was a wonderful experience. I plan to write more on a few subjects that came up for me, but I’ll do that over at Fierce Planet, my politics blog.

Greater Sandhill Cranes and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Photo by Jennifer Powell

For this post, it’s enough to say that the San Luis Valley was full of Greater Sandhill Cranes, about 20,000 of them overall. Even when they weren’t within sight, you could hear their echoing ping-pong calls all around the place. I was part of tours to two other wildlife sites, and also saw many elk, pronghorns, raptors and lots of other birds. The whole thing was a delight.

Highway 285 in Colorado is my favorite road in the state, winding through the mountains across very high desert basins. There are incredibly beautiful views on every side, and I enjoy the drive very much.

Before I left on Thursday, I did manage to keep up with my (reduced) ROW80 goals and worked more on the cover art for my book. That continues to go okay. I’ll have more to say next week.

In the meantime, here’s the blog hop link for today’s check-in. Off to see how everyone else is doing!


This week there will be Cranes!

Last week went fine, as I continued to work on my cover art. I seem to have gotten past that sense of eternal disappointment I have with everything I create. So while it was finicky work with lines and nodes, I was able to enjoy the process again.

This week I am shorting my goal a bit, as I will be away on vacation from Thursday to Sunday. So only three days of work this week instead of five.

On Thursday I drive off to Monte Vista, Colorado, for the Sandhill Crane Festival. I’ve been through Monte Vista several times, and I’ve seen the crane migration in different places, but I’ve never been to the Festival before. Along with viewing the cranes at sunset, I’ve signed up for two different wetlands tours and plan to sit in on a workshop about owls. Evening entertainment will include a birding movie, “The Big Year”, and a dramatic reading of the works of Aldo Leopold. For a long-time birder like me, this will be a big treat.

These cranes were actually in New Mexico.

Mr. J has to work so he’ll be at home taking care of the cats, and I’m traveling on my own. I used to travel around the country by myself all the time, but it’s rare now since we usually travel together. I suspect he’ll have a good time with the house to himself. I’ll have my laptop with me, so I will be able to work if I want to. I’m not counting on it though.

So, vacation check-in next week. Meanwhile, here is the blog hop link for today’s check-in. I hope everyone has had a productive week as well.


A thing I learned this week

ROW80While working on an illustration this past week, I had an odd experience. The picture I’m working on has been going well. It’s the first illustration that will have color in it, as it’s meant to be part of a cover. So I spent some time watching tutorials and reading through my software manuals and then started to play with color on a copy of the pic.

I decided on some brush types and gradient fills and started to work on my actual picture. And that went well, except that all of a sudden one day I looked at the picture and it looked terrible to me. I hated it, I was sure it was awful, and I became convinced that there was no point in continuing.

I recognized the emotion at once, of course, because the same damn thing has happened with every piece of writing I have ever attempted. Somewhere in the middle I loathe the piece, no matter what it is, and I am sure that there is no point in continuing to work on such trash.

Who knew that drawing would bring out the exact insanity in me? I never expected it, until it happened anyway. But that’s what I learned, that I’m able to hate on my own work no matter what kind of work I’m doing.

Fortunately I was able to keep on working but it gets much harder once that doubt is kind of planted in the project. I can draw back to a more detached view and continue with the illustration, but it’s almost like some dirt has rubbed off on the thing and it never seems quite free of it again. Though I did manage to reach all my goal time for the week, which is great.

Anyway, that’s one insight down. I have another that I’ll try to write about in next week’s check-in. For now, here’s the blog hop link for today’s check-in.