Monday, April 27, 2015

Adult Colouring - Maybe It's Not For Me.... (part 1)

For the first time in just over 35 years, I have one - and my how they’ve changed!

But these days I now need reading glasses to use one, my youthful near-20/20 vision gone. And I don’t go outside the lines provided I have my reading glasses on – most of the time. On the odd occasion I DO gone outside the lines - a slip of the hand from too much caffeine or a nod-off too late in the night after too long a day at work - my peri-menopausal hormones practically send me into a crying fit, something resembling a toddler-like tantrum. Sort of.

So what is it?

It’s a colouring book.

No Little Red Riding Hood, Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse pages for me, however fun those might be. This is what is called these days as an ‘adult’ colouring book.

My first colouring book as a 40-something is Johanna Basford’s ‘Enchanted Forest.’ It’s the follow-up book to her worldwide bestseller, ‘Secret Garden,’ which was sold-out EVERYWHERE when I initially got wind of the pencil-crayon phenomenon a few weeks ago. Both books feature whimsical, charming black-and-white drawings just waiting to be coloured. Colouring for adults has long been reputed as a de-stressing activity, many adult-type colouring books featuring black and white zen-like mandalas having been around for years.

But when needing to fulfill the creative urge, and wanting to break-out of the repetitive, yet soothing, way of the mandala, these new colouring books (along with many others) have taken the publishing world – and suppliers of felts and pencil crayons – by storm.

And I’ve gotten caught up in that storm.

And I love it.

I’m a ‘creative’ so doing something like this isn’t new to me. I used to do a lot of scrapbooking and card-making which lead to ink stamping with shading and colouring-in of the stamped images. But I am no artiste. Colouring is for everyone; anyone can do it. If you can scribble, if you like adding colour to your life and, then the new-wave of colouring is for you.

But when I came home with my first colouring book a few weeks ago excited with my purchase, and confident in my colouring ability, closer inspection of the colouring pages sent me in to a panic.

There’s a lot of detail, big and small, I thought with a gulp as I browsed through the book that first night while curled up on the couch. And there’s only one of the design in the whole book! If I mess up, THAT’S IT!

What had I gotten myself into?
I tried not to cry. I thought colouring was supposed to be de-stressing, not STRESS inducing!

I never thought I would associate the word ‘intimidating’ with a colouring book….

But I was excited AND curious! I was in need of something de-stressing. I was eager for a new creative outlet (like I needed another one!). I had been in a creative slump lately, detrimental to a writer, and was looking for some new action - but between the pages of a different kind of book.

I could do this! I told myself. It’s JUST colouring!

So after taking a deep calming breath which is weird in itself given I was about to DO something calming, I picked through the zillions of old pencil crayons from my kid’s school leftovers eager for a few semi-sharp ones. Our pencil sharpener at home is awful, and I knew the one at work would do a better job. I would have to wait until the next day when I could sharpen them.
Okay, I thought. No problem. I was just in a ‘testing’ phase, anyways. (Yes, I am well aware I over-think things).

I swallowed my panic, opted for a least intricate design, and got busy with the few decently-sharp pencil crayons.

The reading glasses were on, the tongue was poised outside the corner of my mouth, the couch was at it comfiest, and I was colouring! What more could a girl ask for?

And then I went out of the lines – not once, but twice. I had to slow down – I had to calm down. And I had to remember it was OKAY to screw up – pencil crayons DO erase (but not felt, as I had learned). As I coloured – as I screwed up – I had to keep in mind this colouring page was ONLY for me. My intention wasn’t to frame any finished pieces – unless I wanted to. This was just supposed to be a relaxing venture – a calming activity.

But then I got so stressed out with my dull pencil crayons I had to stop and wait until the next day when I could sharpen them at work. It was getting to be too stressful colouring with dull ones.

So the next day I loaded up my BIG BAGGIE of pencil crayons, brought them to work, and got busy sharpening with one of those old-fashioned hand-crank sharpeners. Those hand-crank sharpeners are the best – truly, they are. But I had A LOT of pencil crayons, you see, which meant A LOT of cranking, turning, cranking, and turning.

Well, that didn’t work out as planned, either.

If you have read any of my previous posts you will see I have also taken up archery. Yes, I am a woman of the world.

But as I am relatively new in the sport of archery, my muscles - at least, the ones I have started growing in my arms since taking up the sport – are tender, sore, and easily tire. I have to baby them, you see, and take care of my precious arms for not only writing, but archery. My muscles ARE getting better, but so conscious am I of my archery-needed arms and their constantly sore muscles, that manually sharpening a zillion pencil crayons with a hand-crank sharpener with my ever-sore, bow-holding arm proved to be a bit taxing. Not only did my arm tire all-too-soon into my sharpening task, but I remembered that I had practice that night and couldn’t bear the thought of wrecking my important archery arm by over-sharpening.

I started to worry: would I have to eventually choose between archery, colouring and – GASP - writing to preserve my arm?
So stressed-out and concerned about my arm I became I took to the task in increments: sharpening a few – resting; sharpening a few more – resting; sharpening a few more – resting.

But what about my new colouring thing? I wailed. I had to get these sharpened! I moaned as I accidentally stabbed myself with a sharp tip.

Now before you start to think I’m a lazy lout at work, I did this all BEFORE my shift.

Finally done, all while pretending to have downed a few Valium to get through the stressful task, I was content with the fact that not only would I be able to colour, but my bow-arm would go on to shot another arrow. I would live to write another word.

But then...

I immediately realized because of archery practice later that night, which goes relatively late, I wouldn’t have time to do any colouring that night, after all.

My shoulders slumped.

That’s fine, I figured. I needed to give my archery/colouring arm a rest, anyways. A little de-stressing time away from the colouring would do me a world of good, I figured.

I have enough stress with archery, as is (and that’s another story in itself).

Finally, the NEXT night came around, and I was free to do all the colouring I wanted.

And then everything changed.....

(stay tuned for part 2)

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Nasty Four-Letter Word

I started swearing this year - yup, I did - and it’s a nasty four-letter word.

For some people, their New Year’s resolutions involve vowing to start, stop or at least cut-back on doing something. As for me, I planned a little bit of everything, but just not saying a particular word.

I had great plans of starting – or at least trying – something new this year. But I didn’t exactly count on adding a swear word to the mixture. But what bugs me most about my over-abundant usage of the word is that it’s a word I have often written about NOT using.

Plug your ears, close your eyes, and get out the soap to rinse-out my mouth.

The word is CAN’T.

So far 2015 has been a time of trying new things; but doing so has not always come easy for me. ‘Fear of the unknown’ was one of many roadblocks I often allowed to stop me, but age has given me confidence, and various life experiences has given me perspective to be more adventurous and less restrained. ‘Who cares about what anyone thinks’ and ‘who cares if I make a fool of myself’ are phrases I now frequent. Life is short; I want to do things and be able to say ‘at least I tried.’ And if there is any hesitation or second-guessing before trying something new, I never regret trying – even if I wasn’t exactly the greatest at whatever it was.

But lately my can-do/positive attitude I try to always portray has been shaky. I wonder if it’s because I’ve been attempting so many new things all at once – however exciting, adventurous and progressive they might be. Fear and uncertainty have been trying to knock me down, and can’t has been rudely – sinfully – uttered from my mouth one too many times; too many times, in fact, that I feel as though I am bordering on being a fraud.

Since January I’ve taken up archery. For four years I sat on the sidelines watching my son perfect his skill at the high-focus sport. ‘I’m a mom; archery is HIS thing’ was always my response when someone asked me if I, too, participated in the sport. But I now know that nasty word can’t had been hovering in the background. But on a whim one day last summer I tried it – and I loved it. I got my own bow for Christmas – although I panicked about using it when I opened it Christmas morning – but through support and assistance from my son and other members of the archery club we belong to I’ve been learning. There have been various hurdles to overcome, but I’ve persevered. Trying new equipment and subsequent equipment malfunctions, strength and endurance development, and skill and technique-perfecting have all played a factor in testing my confidence.

But true to my can-do ways I participated in a tournament – just to say I did it. Gosh – I COMPETED IN A TOURNAMENT?! What’s my problem then? What am I so worried about?

But still when new equipment or techniques are presented to me, I struggle/panic/stress about something new and that four-letter word can’t comes out, only to have me beating myself up for saying the horrid word in the first place. Then ‘I can’t’ and ‘who do I think I am?’ play tag in my head and some days they win, and some days I win, but I keep going – I keep trying.

I can’t do what I don’t try.

But it’s hard. That word keeps trying to bring me down.

During all this I was presented with a writing opportunity way outside my comfort zone, knowledge or experience; I was asked to write a short science fiction story. I gulped in trepidation but then looked at it as a chance to stretch my wings and figured: What the heck? I’m used to writing slice-of-life stories, as well as contemporary fiction for kids. I’m no expert in either and honing my craft is on-going – I get that. But I have never tackled writing anything science fiction, and my knowledge/expertise/experience is limited. Well, I figured, why not give it a try? It’s all part of my ‘trying something new’ mantra for the year.

Well, I’ve struggled and struggled with the piece I’ve been working on. I’ve wrote, re-wrote, started, stopped, stalled and re-started too many times to count. Can’t has been clouding my brain, and I have nearly given up a zillion times. But I can’t do it – I can’t give up, I keep telling myself. I won’t. The thought of doing so bugs me.

That word can’t has been really getting to me.

So I’ve decided to snuff it out – completely.

Archery and writing are each about intense focus. I can focus not on what I can’t do but what I CAN do. Maybe I put too many irons in the fire and got overwhelmed – I don’t know. So I have taken a step back and have done what I’m comfortable with; first thing first was writing this. I have further decided I will write what I want, when I want, how I want; I will shoot how I want, when I want, and progressing with what equipment I want – all in my own time. I don’t HAVE to try any new archery equipment or techniques. I can strengthen what I already know, and when I’m ready, I will try something new. It won’t kill me; it’ll only make me stronger.

Recognizing this nasty word usage and writing about it here has given me the much-needed boost. Whether it will be a new piece of archery equipment or a technique, or if it’s that writing project that keeps tripping me up, focusing on what I can do and not caring about anything else will only get me farther ahead. Focus, perseverance and mental strengthening skills learned from each archery and writing can be applied to the other, only enhancing my performance, output, and over-all enjoyment. It's all in the approach.

And if and when that nasty little four-letter word creeps back into my vocabulary just when I have gotten tough and have all but exorcised it out of my life, I will take a step back, remember to focus on what I can do, and then move forward again.

I realize now that part of winning the ‘battle’ has been in educating myself; knowledge is power, and all that. I realized I had to learn WHAT about trying something new in archery or writing was scaring me, preventing me from progressing and moving forward. I have taken the time to learn about the new piece of equipment or technique before trying it; I have taken the time to learn more about writing science fiction and have learned it doesn’t have to be any one certain way. And I have to remember I’m not competing with anyone else and I’m not doing any of this to please anyone. I can do my own thing – learn archery at my own speed and write whatever story my heart desires. It doesn’t matter what I do, just as long as I do it. As long as I follow through; as long as I finish. Arrow after arrow, word after word, I WILL get there. I WILL get through and surpass what’s slowing me down, and I WILL replace that four-letter word can’t with another four-letter word.


Bestseller list? ME?

So happy to share that my young adult ebook, 'Newbie Nick,' is FIFTH on the publisher's BESTSELLER LIST and I am a tad in shock - and for once speechless!

Check it out at Breathless Press(Breathless Press encompasses all their lines including those of their off-shoot, Lycaon Press, who published the book)

Thank you to everyone for your support and congratulations to all!