Structuring Life to Support Creativity is Funded!

My book project went live yesterday morning and funded in less than a day. (You can see the project here!) That first day of crowdfunding is always a flurry of hope and fear. I felt anxious all day yesterday as I watched the numbers increment. I worried that I would lose heart if I had to spend a month trying to convince people to buy it. Instead I am sitting here with the tremendous gift of knowing that people trust enough in what I have to say that they’ll buy my book based only on my name, a summary, and a pretty cover. I am humbled and grateful even further by how many people spoke up and vouched for me that I’m worth listening to. I feel the weight of that trust, like a deeply comforting weighted blanket that calms my anxiety and lets me feel at peace for the first time in months. I get to make my book and people want to read it. I am so fortunate to get to have this experience, one that not every writer gets to have.

Of course, anxiety will absolutely return, especially as I work through my final revision and copy editing passes. There will be ample opportunities for imposter syndrome to make me doubt the power of my own words. When that happens, I hope I can remember the feeling of today. In the meantime, I still have lots of work to do, both to help this project reach stretch goals and to make sure I can deliver on the trust I’ve been given.

Book title: Structuring Life to Support Creativity A resource book for creative people by Sandra Tayler. Image shows a charming watercolor drawing of a house and building, but the colors fade away to reveal the black and white sketch underlying the art. In front of the house colored pencils, thread, paint brushes and other creative tools are lined up like a fence.

Writer’s Retreat in Minnesota

The birds outside my window are not the ones I am accustomed to hearing. The regular drizzle of all-day rain is unlike the storm bursts that come and go in my high desert home. The ticks are certainly not at all a familiar hazard. I’ve come to Minnesota to be with other writers, to talk, to think, to create words. Yet when I’m alone with my thoughts I am distracted by difference that my brain wants to notice, evaluate, understand. I don’t mind. I’ve learned that for me writing retreats are rarely my most productive moments if you’re measuring in word count. I’m too drawn to the newness of being outside my regular patterns, to the oddity of only consulting my own schedule rather than considering the entwining net of habit and obligation that holds me fast at home. I always accomplish things, but they’re rarely what I expected to accomplish when I packed for the trip. I’ve learned not to judge myself for that. And I’ve gone on retreats often enough that this is a familiar flavor of unfamiliarity. I know how to approach it and when to retreat into the comforts I brought with me.

This retreat is in Minnesota at a location with miles of walking trails and a small marshland lake. I’m on staff in a supporting role that hasn’t been particularly heavy because everyone is taking care of each other. This means I can sit off to the side and observe as our little pop-up community connects and coalesces. I love when they self-organize around activities, some of them playing games that they packed along, others gathering in groups to read aloud to each other. I am not the only one pulled out of her usual context. We all have the opportunity to experience something different, to collect new thoughts, new connections, and new ways to interact with the world around us.

Yesterday I spent sunset hour at the marsh sitting on a bench. I’d doused myself in mosquito spray, but my seat on a floating dock was in full sunshine and the mosquitoes weren’t a bother there. It is not often in my life that I take an entire hour to just watch birds and the changing light on water. I listened to frogs drumming and even was surprised by a raccoon who got within five feet of me before either of us noticed the other. Once we did, the racoon immediately decided to have business elsewhere. I was impressed with how healthy and fuzzy the critter looked without the harried and desperate look that I see in city wildlife.

This evening I plan to go in search of fireflies. I’ve seen a few, but I went out too late in the evening to see their full show. Today I’ve set an alarm and I know where to go. I’ll spray against mosquitoes, defending against one bug while deliberately seeking another one. I have two and a half days left to experience new, then I return to familiar.

The Whys of Structuring Life to Support Creativity

Writing a book requires force of will. I’m feeling that as I push forward on the work necessary to bring Structuring Life to Support Creativity into being. I have to believe enough or care enough to push past all the speed bumps and road blocks. I’ve had many on this project. The most recent being when a freelance editor turned the project down and within 24 hours I had researched and sent out a contact to a different one. One of the questions that lives in my brain is “why now?” Why am I so confident and persistent for this project when my writing career was back burner for so long?

 Some of it is clearly necessity. This is the project I believe has an audience that will show up for it, an audience I have within my reach. An audience that will buy the book so that it can be self funding and potentially also fund some of my life expenses as well. This is the project that builds a platform which can boost other opportunities in my creative life. I definitely have financial and career urgency that is helping me keep going in the face of obstacles.

But there is something beyond that. Because writing a book is definitely not the simplest or lowest stress path to financial stability. A job with a paycheck would be much more guaranteed to provide that.

There are people who need this book. I know that because every time I give a presentation around one of the concepts in the book, I have audience members come and thank me. More impressively there are the people who come to talk to me years later and tell me how something I taught was transformative for them. Those moments aren’t about me.  I was merely the conduit for a piece of information that sparked change inside that person. They then put in the work and organization to turn that spark into transformation. In that moment I bear witness to the change, the work, the transformation and I’m always honored that people choose to let me see. To participate in helping others grow is a wonderful work that I want to do more of, and a book can reach much farther than an in person presentation. It persists in the way that a class doesn’t unless it is recorded.

In addition to participating in the growth of others, I’ve grown myself. In the past five years I’ve learned how to step forward and claim space rather than simply occupying whatever space was left available. I’ve learned to own my accumulated expertise even though most of it doesn’t come with official certifications or degrees. I’ve learned to value myself and my work, which has allowed me to put that work into the center of my daily schedules instead of allowing it to be pushed aside by other things. Centering my work in my life is how I have a completed book draft that is ready for funding and editing. The existence of the completed book is evidence of those daily centering decisions.

Joy is the last reason for “why now.” I’m going to get to have a book. I’ve got a cover that I love. I’m going to get to work with an editor to make the book better. Depending on funding, I might get to work with an illustrator for interior. Then I’ll get to have my book on the table when I run a booth at conventions. All of these are joyful experiences that I get to have as part of making this project happen. In the flurry and stress of the project it is easy to lose track of the joy. I’m so happy that that I get to make this book.

Structuring Life to Support Creativity: Marketing Incoming

This week I finished my draft of Structuring Life to Support Creativity and put it into the hands of an editor. I also met with a cover designer and will have draft covers to look at next week. I spent a whole day feeling much lighter and excited that I can turn my writing attention toward new projects. Then I remembered that if I want to launch the crowdfunding for SLSC in June, I need to start making marketing noise now. At the moment the noise is lightweight, just making sure I mention the project and drop links (You can sign up right here to be notified when the project launches.) But I need to be doing advance legwork on interviews, blog posts, and other tasks I can do to support the project during the funding period. I also need to develop strategies for which information goes into what location. I have so many social media accounts, a Patreon, this blog, a newsletter, and probably other locations that I’ve forgotten.

In some ways Crowdfunding is incredibly familiar to me. I’ve run so many Schlock Mercenary projects, but the audience for this project is different. That changes the strategies. It means that my giant marketing list may not net me the click through that I see when pitching something Schlock related. I don’t want to really start pushing marketing for the project until I have a good cover. My current mockup is … not good.

I’m rambling. Dumping thoughts here about this project in sort of an anxious haze when I should probably be crafting focused messages instead. I will be focused, but I also think that acknowledging the inherent creative messy-ness is worth doing. Especially when you’re preparing to take a leap you haven’t taken before. In order to promote this book I can’t hide behind the brilliance of others. I can’t talk up other people’s art and writing as reasons to buy. This book is my words, my ideas, my brilliance or lack thereof. I have to find ways to speak confidently about my own work and say “this is worth buying.” Even when I did picture books in the past I could hide behind the brilliant illustrations and talk about those. This one is all words I wrote that I hope will be useful to others.

So I’m breathing deep and laying track in the hope that I can get this project to fly.

Recovery Day

The bill for borrowed spoons came due this week. Unlike every week for the past three months, I didn’t have the energy to file the paperwork to borrow additional spoons to pay the bill. In the long run, this is fine. I’m due a reset. What it means is that I’ve canceled a lot of things I meant to do and I’m spending significant amounts of time staring at walls or out windows. The things I do manage to accomplish are either very simple or very urgent. During all of my staring I’ve discovered that I’d like to gently write a State of Things post to orient myself as to where things are.

Our twenty-year-old cat died on Monday. We’ve seen it coming for years as she slowly declined in mobility, eye sight, and cognition. On Saturday she stopped eating and began to rapidly fail. Sunday night she was dying. Monday morning she was gone. It is odd to speak clinically about this experience: declining, failing, dying. Yet to speak more emotionally, to really explain how I experienced this passage, would be to relive my distress and possibly cause distress for some reading. So I retreat into the clinical, the bare facts, and I bury the lede under a discussion of energy and spoons. As if somehow I could shuffle this in, make it more routine, less impactful. Safer. Easier. But I don’t think death can ever be easy. Not when we really sit with it. The only way to make it easy is to not look. No judgement. I’ve chosen that path for myself before. I don’t think self protection is inherently wrong. This time I sat with my cat so she would not be alone.

Kikaa was a good kitty. I rescued her from under our deck. Then we had to give her back. Then she started coming back to visit. Finally she became officially ours. She was supposed to be outdoor only, but that lasted less than two months. She was fully integrated into our lives when I wrote about her being a gift cat. There are more stories, but mostly she was interwoven into the sorts of habits that don’t stick in the memory as stories. I can either write thousands of words about what she meant to our family or I can keep it very brief. For today I’m choosing brief. But know that this briefness covers a huge depth of significance. I can either spend all day trying to find the bottom (there isn’t one) or I can bridge the depth and continue onward to describe what else is happening in my life. Continue the process of disentangling what is now from what was last week.

Today is a pause. I finally have no urgencies to drive me forward. It is the day when I feel the sluggishness of my thinking after months of being sharp and on point. After a weekend of crisis care for family members (both human and not) who were going through big life experiences. I sit here spoonless letting words flow or not. (This post has had multiple long pauses in the writing). I am tired. Projects feel too heavy. Fortunately I know that if I grant myself rest and space, then energy and enthusiasm will return. Up there in the first paragraph I planned to list out things I’ve got going on and what efforts I plan to launch, but I’ve discovered that writing the list would require more focus than I want to spend today. So instead I’ll let this post drift gently to a stop.

Clover Lawn: The Greening

In the summer of 2022 I was very busy. This is not unusual. I am frequently busy. In this case it meant that I did not notice that my sprinklers were failing to hit a large section of lawn. Or rather, I did notice early in the summer that maybe I should figure out what was going on. Then suddenly it was August and the middle of my lawn looked like this:

Lawn with a crispy yellow dead patch in the middle.

The next spring I got the sprinklers fixed and decided to use this as an opportunity to change up that section of lawn from grass to clover. A clover lawn uses less water and is lower maintenance while also being better for local pollinators. I scattered seeds everywhere. Some of them sprouted, but mostly that section was a big patch of dirt for a year.

The section of lawn which was crispy yellow is now a patch of dirt with a few tiny green things in it.

This is the view today, two years after my failures:

The entire lawn space is green with only a few scattered, small dirt patches

It is a little hard to see in the distance image, but the vast majority of the filled-in space is thriving clover. The remaining dirt patches have tiny green sprouts from the seed I tossed down a month ago. Re-seeding has worked beautifully. Now I just need to keep throwing clover seed over the rest of the lawn so that the clover can gradually win. There are so many other things I also need to be doing for my garden space, but I’ve got so much on my plate that I suspect this is going to be a benign neglect sort of year for gardening.

Grape hyacinth and dandelions growing in lawn.

For today I’m going to enjoy the sunshine and the fact that sometimes mistakes are the catalyst for new ways of doing things and surprising new growth.

Digging Out

It is a strange sort of drowning to be buried in tasks, more like digging sand than being underwater. Each scoop of progress sends more sliding down into the area I’m trying to clear. But today I have cleared a little bit of space. I can tell because I am typing a blog post instead of scrambling to get things done. Tomorrow will contain more scramble, but today, for a moment, I can sit still and remember that sometimes I get to be a writer. My goal for all the scrambling is to earn enough money so that I can have more writer time. More gardener time. More nothing-in-particular time. Since those are the point of it all, I have to make sure that the endless sandslide (or mudslide, or flood) don’t hopelessly bury the very thing I’m hoping to save.

LTUE 2024 Schedule

I’m going to be at LTUE this week and I’m teaching classes. My classes are available to anyone with a membership at no additional charge.

Thursday

  • 12pm Kaffeeklatch – Come have a small group conversation with me. Sign up is required and seats are limited.
  • 4pm Supporting Your Writer – This is a class for all the people who want to know how to support the writer (or other creative) in their lives.

Friday

  • 3pm Successful Crowdfunding – I’ll talk about setting up your crowdfunded project to be successful whether or not you make the money you hope for.

Saturday

  • 10am Introverts Unite! Finding Companions for Your Writing Quest – a class about how to build connections and community in ways that work for you and for your friends.
  • 1pm Marketing as Storytelling – a class designed to de-mystify and reduce anxiety around marketing your work. Your storytelling skills can be very useful in marketing.

There will also be a table in the dealer’s hall where you can buy my books and sign up for my Structuring Life to Support Creativity crowdfunding campaign. I’m not sure how much I’ll be at the booth, but it is a good place to go and ask where I’m at. If you’re going to be at LTUE, come find me and say hello!

Joyous Mirage

Yesterday I had a reason to go sorting through my files and re-read several of my short stories. It was nice to revisit the ideas in those stories and the feelings I wove into them. It reminded me of the beauty and power of short form writing. Right now I’m in a drafting and editing push on a non-fiction book. Once that is complete, I’d like to play with poetry and short stories for awhile. They’re so lovely and full of potential.

I’d hoped that February would be the month for playing with poetry, but I am still drafting. And preparing for a convention. And running crowdfunding. And helping a couple of young adults through some life transitions. February is too full of lists to unfold my brain into word play. Instead of trying to shoehorn this into the spaces between, I will let the plan drift forward in the calendar like a mirage on the horizon. A reward after the busy month is done. Yes, I know that “mirage” implies unreachable, it suggests that my month of playing with words will never arrive. That may be true, but hope on the horizon has value in itself. A value that is separate from the joy of arriving at an oasis.

Right now I feel joy in looking ahead toward a (possibly imaginary) month when I get to play with words in short formats.

January Almost Gone

The month is almost gone and I haven’t blogged a thing since I wrote about shifting my priorities on January first. This is because my month has been very busy. Most of my word brain was thrown at revising Structuring Life to Support Creativity which is almost done. In early February I’m going to toss it into the hands of an editor and focus on other things for a bit. My admin brain has been taken up by a series of freelancing and household tasks. I’ve completed a bunch of things which have been lingering in my life for months. That feels good. I’ve also been prepping for the crowdfunding of the Seventy Maxims reprint and putting things into place so that I can crowdfund for SLSC in the spring. All of my efforts went sideways for two weeks mid-January when I caught covid for the first time. Fortunately we were able to quarantine me in a single bed/bath and no one else in the house caught it. Unfortunately pushing all of my household tasks onto other people meant that they got very little else done. I had to miss Authors in the Dungeon which I’d been looking forward to, but I declined to be a possible disease vector.

Odds are good that February will also be quiet for blogging because I’ll be bouncing between running crowdfunding for Seventy Maxims, prepping to teach at LTUE, recording presentations for Patreon, I have a significant amount of freelancing work, and I have this hope that I might get to play with poetry a little during the month. Mostly though I just need to take each day as it comes and do the work in front of me.

I’m pleased to report that January was far less anxious that the months before it. I feel like I successfully quieted the noise in my head for at least this month. That is the main reason I was able to accomplish everything else. I didn’t waste energy on planning, re-planning, building contingency trees, and re-re-planning. Hopefully I can continue this conscious practice because my months are packed until at least April.