Brilliance, Darkness, and Quotes from Van Gogh

I went searching for a quote from Van Gogh that someone quoted to me recently. This one:

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
Vincent Van Gogh

It has a lovely thought about the importance of creating even in the midst of self doubt. In searching for that quote, I found an entire wikiquote devoted to Van Gogh. I began to read Vincent’s letters to Theo, and discovered they were full of the amazing thoughts of a brilliant mind who battled depression and other mental health issues without recourse to modern pharmaceuticals.

This one in particular cried out to me:

Well, right now it seems that things are going very badly for me, have been doing so for some considerable time, and may continue to do so well into the future. But it is possible that everything will get better after it has all seemed to go wrong. I am not counting on it, it may never happen, but if there should be a change for the better I should regard that as a gain, I should rejoice, I should say, at last! So there was something after all!
Vincent Van Gogh

I’ve spent the past several years dwelling in a place like the one Van Gogh describes; keeping going, but not counting on things getting any better. Except lately it feels like the endless gray is beginning to clear. I’m beginning to look around and feel that there was something after all. Many of Van Gogh’s other thoughts speak to me as well.

I tell you, if one wants to be active, one must not be afraid of going wrong, one must not be afraid of making mistakes now and then. Many people think that they will become good just by doing no harm — but that’s a lie, and you yourself used to call it that. That way lies stagnation, mediocrity.
Vincent Van Gogh

I cannot help thinking that the best way of knowing God is to love many things. Love this friend, this person, this thing, whatever you like, and you will be on the right road to understanding Him better, that is what I keep telling myself.
Vincent Van Gogh

What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.
Vincent Van Gogh

Seeing his words, seeing the darkness and light that he struggled with in his own mind brings a new dimension to the paintings. I have a new found respect for who Van Gogh was, and a new grief that he struggled for so long with no societal support and without the resources necessary to continue.

I know so many people who are like this: brilliant, shining, thoughtful, good, and swamped by darkness generated by their own minds. I wish it were not so. And even as my world begins to feel brighter, I am aware that storms will come and go in the years ahead. But I can’t let some imagined future storm stop me from enjoying the sunshine today.

Supporting Creativity

I picked up Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert months ago. I read it a bit when I first acquired it, but, while I enjoyed it, the book was not grabbing me. This is in part because it is a book that wants to be read in snatches. I want to read a few sections and think about them. Unfortunately this leaves me time to get distracted and forget to come back to the book. Also there is the fact that I don’t completely agree with the ways that Gilbert views creativity. I’ll be reading along and feeling in rapport with the text, but then hit a sentence or a paragraph where I want to argue “No, it’s not quite like that.” Her viewpoint isn’t invalid, it just makes me want to discuss with her, except that she isn’t here to speak to, just the book, and books aren’t good at listening. So I wandered away from the book for several months.

I guess I just hadn’t hit the right section of the book yet. I picked the book up again yesterday and found passage after passage that I underlined and bookmarked. One section in particular I’ve been turning over in my head ever since I read it.

“I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life. I knew better than to ask this of my writing, because over the years I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay their bills.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

I had never before considered creation from this perspective, as if it were a shining and joyful thing that I get to support. I’d somehow assumed that my writing paying my bills was the goal. And it is, in a way, but not at all in another. I want my art to be able to support itself. I want it to be able to pay for the time it takes away from bill paying activities. I also want it to be valued and people do not value things that they do not pay for. I am fortunate. The job that pays my bills sometimes gives me creative joy, which is more than some people ever get. But my personal creative works, this blog, my short stories, the picture books, they all cost more in time and money than they have returned in money. They’ve given me many things and allowed me to give many more, but they aren’t lucrative. Gilbert’s quote reminded me that this is in no way a failure. Just as the point of raising children is not for them to support me later, the things I write do not have to support me to prove their worth. What I write has value both to me and to others who get to consume it. Creation adds to the world. That is worth pouring time, energy, and money into without expectation of financial return.

Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a full-time creator. Howard is one, and in a way, so am I, though many of my hours are spent on administrivia. We have lots of friends who are full-time in their creative careers. But I think that many of those who long to go full time, don’t realize that being a full time creative person doesn’t mean more time spent creating. No one gets to write day after day without interruption. The more that your creation earns, the more it comes with obligations to publishers, fans, events, etc. Every single creator I know—both full time and part time—laments that they don’t have enough time to be creative. Gilbert’s words helped me see it. She says it outright in another section of her book.

“For most of human history, the vast majority of people have made their art in stolen moments, using scraps of borrowed time—and often using pilfered or discarded materials to boot.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

If everyone struggles to make space in their lives to create, then why is being full-time creator always assumed to be the dream? For those who have the skills and enjoy the business aspects of a creative career, then yes it is a dream job. There are those who are invigorated by the challenges of freelance work. But there are also people who have much to give to the world and who are happier when they have a steady paycheck. There is nothing wrong with having a day job you love and a part-time creative career that you also love. There is much to be admired in art that is squeezed into the nooks and crannies of daily responsibility. Not just that, but daily responsibilities are often dismissed as mere chores without recognizing the myriad ways that chores create order out of chaos, beauty where there wasn’t any before. Many daily responsibilities are hugely creative and worth the center space they take in our lives.

As an example, I give you our postman. He has been delivering mail to our house for fifteen years now. He’s retiring this week, and messages have been posted in neighborhood Facebook groups about this fact. It was amazing to me how many people responded and had stories about this him, about his kindness in bringing mail to the door of those for whom walking to the curb was difficult. About how he knew when a family had suffered a death and helped to sort out the junk mail to ease the pain of that passing. I know that when we had big shipping events which piled up hundreds of packages for him to carry away, he always smiled and was cheerful about doing so. Such small things, just a tiny bit of extra kindness and service, what a beautiful gift he made out of his ordinary daily work. He will be missed, but hopefully he’ll have a lovely retirement where he’ll get to do some new beautiful thing.

I need to own all of my work and creativity, rather than feeling like the parts of my life are doing battle. Yes I prefer writing to shipping packages, but shipping packages feeds my family. With the family fed, my mind and heart are free to go play with words. And I can recognize that the packages I ship are received with happiness when they arrive. I get paid to send couriered joy to others. That is an amazing job to get to have. I will not complain if at some point in the future my writing does begin to help pay for my life, but it is fine if it never does. To quote another wise woman, my sister:

“Either the money will come, or it won’t. Until then I’m just going to keep doing this thing that I love.” Nancy Fulda

We have a strange job

“I just need you to verify information on some people you made payments to.” The guy asking was from the Utah Department of Workforce Services. His job was to make sure that I was paying Utah unemployment taxes for any Utah residents who might be considered employees.
“Who is X, and what does she do for you?”
“Ah that’s one of our artists, we contract work from her. She lives in Canada.”
“Okay.” He checks her off the list. Not a Utah resident, not his concern. “Tell me about W.”
“He’s an editor we hired to help with a book. He lives in California.”
“What about G?”
“He helps us with website design and management. He lives in New Zealand.”
“Oh.” This time there is some surprise in the man’s tone. “And K?”
“Artist, lives in China.”
“Artist, lives in Brazil.”
The man paused. “Wow, you really work with people all over.” This surprise came from from a man who spends all of his work hours interviewing business owners about their employees and contractors.

I was standing in a copy shop waiting for color prints of the latest Schlock book when another woman came to stand in line next to me. The first pages were delivered and I began to turn them over and look for errors.
“That’s really cool looking.” The woman said “What is it?”
I’m always a little stumped to answer this question, because I don’t know where to start or how to summarize. I can talk for hours about what I do and what Howard does, but casual conversation isn’t supposed to turn into a lecture. Yet any answer I give that is short of a lecture tends to provoke more questions, not fewer.
“It is a comic that I edit and publish. My husband is the artist and author.”
“That’s really cool. He drew all these pictures?”
“But he must draw on a computer. people don’t draw on paper anymore, do they?”
At this point I recognized I was talking to a person for whom a creative career is so far outside her worldview that she literally did not have the necessary knowledge to comprehend the work we do. She asked three times, in three different ways, what our real jobs were, what did we do for money when we weren’t working on the comic. The idea that a comic book was our full time job simply did not compute.

I so often forget what a strange thing it is that Howard and I do. We live in this strange little niche that only exists because of the internet. Sometimes we’re not sure ourselves how all the things combine to bring enough income to pay all our bills. I try to forget about that, because when I contemplate it, anxiety rises up to remind me that it could all go away. I forget that most people don’t have plot conversations over breakfast, and copy-edits over lunch. For us it is routine to answer fan mail and to sign a contract to print 5000 books. It is routine to communicate with people on far flung portions of the planet about things that we are creating together. Then there are these moments where someone reacts to our job description and I remember. What we do is weird and we’re really lucky that we get to do it.

Starfish Story

I’ve been thinking about starfish. The thoughts started when I read this article
about how to keep writing when no one cares
. Halfway through reading the article, after a litany of evidence that people don’t care (for which I had all too much sympathy), before she got to the part where she explains why she writes anyway, I began to think of that story about starfish.

You know the one. A quick google search brings up a hundred versions. The beach covered in starfish and a single person throwing them back into the ocean one by one. When someone asks why the person bothers, what difference does it make? The person throws one more starfish and says “I made a difference to that one.”

I wish I knew who first wrote that starfish story. I wonder if that writer was in a place of pain, trying to convince herself to keep going when the effort seemed futile. It seems likely to me that she was. Only a person who has struggled with futility could understand why helping even one matters. I’ve heard this story since I was very young. It has been around forever, attributed to everyone and no one. It is likely that the original writer is long gone. Did she have any idea how far her words would go, carried on the currents of an internet she probably never imagined? Perhaps this starfish story also seemed like a futile cry into the void.

That gives me hope. It is not only when I’m alive and chucking starfish that my actions or words can make a difference. The good things I put out into the world can spread out far beyond my reach. They can last longer than my life. They can change and transform so that no one will every be able to trace them back to me. I may never get full credit for them, but credit is not the point. It never was, even though our egos want it to be. We don’t expect the starfish to come back and say thank you. It is the throwing that matters, the attempt to use action to help another.

Time for me to get to work putting good things out into the world. That is how the world becomes better.

Making Art

Art museums take my breath away. I am always awed by human creativity, the ways that people choose to express themselves, and how often they make simple objects needlessly beautiful. Then I stand in front of Greek marble sculptures and know that people have been doing this for a very long time. I wander to the next gallery that has ancient stone statues and I realize we have been creating art for even longer than we’ve had recorded history. That long ago sculptor was driven to create by a very similar creative impulse that leads me to write. Standing in a museum I can see all of this and I feel connected to all of the best of our history. Humans are amazing. It is nice to be reminded of that, because wading around the internet and watching the news so often shows me how humans are terrible.

I sat at the table and listened to my friend Mary plan her birthday dinner. It was to be a multi-course formal event. She picked anchor items then she planned complimentary courses. I listened to her discuss with her husband the merits and detriments of various pairings. Once the dishes were selected, they talked at length about the order of presentation. I squelched my impulse to reassure them that their guests would be happy with any order. This wasn’t about appeasing guests, they were discussing the artistic presentation of food as part of a formal dinner. I was watching art in the planning stages. Later this evening I will get to participate in the culmination of the planning, shopping, chopping, and cooking. This is not an art that will ever end up in a museum because it’s very nature is ephemeral. It is my friend raising a necessity (food) to an art form and I’m honored to be able to participate.

Dinner settings

We began our tour of the Chicago Art Institute in the miniatures gallery. In the 1930’s Mrs. Thorne took dollhouse decoration to an art form. She commissioned teams of artists to create accurate miniature replicas of period rooms. Every single one was stunning. I was most charmed when there was a doorway or window that I could peer through into a back bedroom or a garden. I very much wanted to shrink myself and go explore those gardens. I suspect that Mrs. Thorne was ridiculed on more than one occasion for wasting her time and resources on so frivolous a pursuit as miniature rooms. I think that every artist or creator has their work belittled at least once. Yet her creation is marveled at today. Her rooms are carefully preserved by museum staff so that they will be available for my great grandchildren to admire. I am grateful to the museum conservators for this and for the Greek marbles that they tend, and the impressionist paintings, and all the other things that fill my soul when I look at them.

The last gallery we wandered through at the art museum was the Folk Art gallery. I looked at weather vanes and homey little chairs. I pondered why Folk Art is different than Art. The sign on the wall implied that the difference was in training and skill. I don’t quite buy that. Some of the folk art pieces were every bit as lovely as pieces found elsewhere in the museum. Then I thought of Mary’s planned birthday dinner and of the thanksgiving dinner I created for my family last November. Mary’s dinner is an art, mine was a folk art. Mine sought first to be comfortable and pleasing. Mary’s seeks to be beautiful and esthetically pleasing both to eyes and educated palettes. There is intrinsic value in both sorts of creation. It is true that Mary and I laughed at some of the items in the Folk Art Gallery. There was one clock case made of layer upon layer of wooden strips cut into zig zag shapes. It was busy and while not exactly ugly, definitely not something I’d want to look at often. Yet I could see how much loving work had gone into the creation. Some artist loved making that clock case.

In the Thorne Miniature gallery the European rooms ran along one wall while the American rooms were on the other. Stepping from one side of the hall to the other provided a distinct contrast. The European rooms were all large and highly decorated. The American rooms were smaller and practical. Yet both were beautiful. Just as Mary’s elegant dinner and my homey dinner are both beautiful. Just as folk art and fine art are both beautiful, even when they are kind of ugly. I love that humans make things needlessly beautiful. I love that we are all artists, creating in different mediums. Some create books, others well-run classrooms. Some make buildings, others sandcastles. Some embroider tapestries, others knit scarfs. Some create with expertise and skill, others with skill-less fingers but a strong desire to make something anyway. That is how we all begin, with pure desire to create. The skill comes later.

Art museums remind me that we are all artists, we all create in our own way. I think if we spent more time remembering that, the world would have more of what is lovely about humanity and less of what is not.

Keliana Tayler Freelance Artist

Fifteen years ago I knew a little girl who got a broom for her birthday. She was delighted because it meant she could pack a bag, load up her stuffed cat and play Kiki’s Delivery Service. This is why, when I began this blog and was looking for an online nickname for her, I picked Kiki. Over and over again we came back to the Kiki’s Delivery Service story because it was one about learning to fly and finding your own voice out in the big world. My little girl no longer runs around with a broom. Instead she has taken flight for real. She’s off at college, living on her own and starting up her own business. So in a way I guess she’s still playing Kiki, but then aren’t we all?

One of the things my Kiki is doing is beginning to claim an online identity for her professional self. This is why in the past few months I’ve begun using her real name when I’m speaking of her in a professional context. Though I still use Kiki when blogging family or personal stuff. She is both, really. She is my Kiki girl and she is Keliana Tayler, freelance artist and college student.

Keliana’s art is amazing to me. She does brilliant things with flow and with color. I’m always excited when I hear that she has a commission in progress because I love to see the results. She does everything from quick line sketches to fully-colored character sketches. She’s done book covers and illustrations for stories. Last year she did all of the interior illustration work for a Kickstarted pathfinder book.

All of the images in this post are hers and are used with permission. My job in her story is to be the Mom who waves farewell as she flies off into her adventures. Though in this case I may be the Mom who casually mentions to her friends that her daughter Kiki Keliana has a delivery service freelance art business and could probably use some customers.

If you’re looking for pretty art for your wall, She has an Etsy shop.

If you’re looking for line art for a book interior, she can do that.

If you want an amazing painting. She can do that too.

In fact, you should go look at her gallery on deviant art. She’s amazing and she wants work so that she can fly.


The sun was setting out the window to my right sending warm rays of light through the wind shield and into my eyes. Link was napping in the seat next to me. He was along on the road trip to fetch his sister simply because he likes road trips and he likes his sister. Three hours to her college dorm and then three hours back so that we could have her home for ten days of spring break. On the other end of those days we’ll make the trip again. But I was not thinking about the drive, I was measuring the height of the sun. Link had a digital photography class and his current assignment was to shoot sixteen photos by the light of sunset. We’d hoped to arrive in Cedar City in time to shoot photos at the historic cemetery there, but the sun was fast vanishing. It would be gone before we arrived.

“Hey Link, if you want sunset pictures today, you’d better take them out the window of the car.” Link blinked himself awake and mumbled that he would just take them some other day. My head filled with unspoken arguments. After being sick for four weeks, Link had lots of assignments to make up. Photography was among them. My task managing brain wanted him to knock out all the assignments as quickly as possible so that they would be done. But they were not my assignments. They were Link’s and I had to get out of his way and trust that his more measured approach would result in work completed by the end of the term. It was a careful dance, sometimes nudging him to do a little bit more, mostly trying to keep my hands off. The sunset was right there. The camera was in the car. Maybe pictures taken from a moving car would all turn out bad, but it was worth a try. I said all these things to Link and he pulled out the camera to humor me.

The sunset hid behind some mountains and then peeked out again. Link began to revel the challenge of trying to catch an object, a tree, a passing vehicle, in relation to the sunset. Once a flock of birds flew across the glowing sky and he attempted to capture that.
“It’s like Pokemon Snap!” he said to me smiling. “Only I need a better camera.” I watched him managing the low batteries by turning the camera off between shots. Unfortunately this meant he was not always ready when a shot appeared. We definitely need to upgrade the batteries, or figure out why the camera manages to drain batteries dry in less than ten minutes. Photography would be more fun for him if he could just shoot without having to worry that the batteries will run out.

Link reviewed the shots on the camera screen and claimed that some of them are good. We planned another photography outing to a park for the next day, just to make sure that he’ll have sixteen good shots before the due date. Going to a park with ducks and a pond at sunset sounds like a lovely way to spend a Saturday evening. We’ll probably bring the other kids with us. They won’t care so much for the photography or the sunset, but they’ll like the park and the ducks.

The light dimmed and Link put the camera away. We sat together in companionable silence. I thought how different this March felt compared to last year. Back then so many things in our family were shifting. We did some relationship recalibration with Link because somehow our love for him was not getting communicated to him in a way that he could see it. Gleek was just headed into the descending slope of her meltdown and stress which would result in major school interventions and some necessary diagnoses. Kiki and Patch were both picking up on the general stress and also dealing with grief over the fact that life was aimed irrevocably toward change. Kiki was going to leave for college. Life was going to be different, and none of us knew how that was going to feel. The emotional landscape of our household in March of last year was a rocky, treacherous, messy place.

This year March arrives with a sense of things coming together instead of falling apart. We’ve passed through the transition year and arrived in a place that is different, but better in many ways. Kiki’s life is hers to direct and she does it well. Link has begun to take the helm and steer his life. Gleek still has many things to learn about emotional management, but we’ve got the right structures in place for her to learn them. Every day I see her unfolding and engaging instead of curling tight to keep herself safe. Patch has discovered his own strengths and how to face anxiety by teasing himself out of it. Everywhere I look, I see growth and family members aimed in good directions. I am no exception. I am less afraid than I was and more ready to embrace the joy that already dwells in my life.

We arrived in Cedar City just barely too late to photograph in the cemetery. The sky was still light, but Link pointed out that the magic hour was gone. Colors and sun had faded from the sky. We still drove into the cemetery to take a look at the generations old headstones and the looming trees. Link was somber at the quantities of grave markers. I felt a little of that too, though I noted that almost every single marker had flowers or decorations of some kind. They fluttered in the evening breeze. These people were not forgotten. I would have liked to get out and walk around and read some of the stones, but Link was ready to see his sister and he was hungry.

Once we collected Kiki and got back on the road, I listened to Link, who often doesn’t talk much, tell her in detail all about taking pictures on the road. I thought about the road ahead, and not just the one we needed to drive that day. Truthfully, we have as much transition ahead as we’ve just weathered, but not all at once. We know how to survive transition and we know that good things come after. Next March will be different, but I don’t need to worry about that now. All I need to do is catch some moments so I’ll have them to remember later, like sunset photos snapped quickly out the window of a moving car.

Strength of Wild Horses, Funded and Beautiful

They arrived in a priority mail envelope heavily reinforced with cardboard and bubble wrap. Thirty two hand-drawn illustrations for Strength of Wild Horses. I was not here to open the package, Howard was, so he got to see them first. This is fine, since it is my desk they are currently resting on. I’m the one who is going to get to move these images around on the pages, placing words, and making it all come together into a book. I get to do that because the project funded. That statement deserves repetition and bold text.
The Strength of Wild Horses project is now funded.
I’d have put the text in all upper caps, but that is too much like angry shouting. I feel like happy shouting, but I wouldn’t want any of you to feel yelled at. But you can click on the link and see it all funded.

See Amy, Kari, and Evan? This is how they’ll appear on the back cover of the book. Flying together into an adventure. Seeing them makes me happy. Holding the final book will make both Angela and I very happy. It gets to happen because over 250 people agreed that Amy needs a new adventure.

There are four days left before the funding closes. My emphasis for these last four days will be on spreading the word even further, because every Kickstarter creator I’ve ever known has people who say they’re sad that they missed it. Next week I’ll be trying to get the best possible images I can of the originals. It is hard, because there is an iridescent quality to Angela’s pencil work which can’t be replicated by printing. I’m going to do my best.

This Kickstarter project has felt like a gift. Over and over again I have been moved to tears by the kindness of friends who blogged, tweeted, shared, linked, commented, emailed, messaged, and liked. People spread the word much farther than I could have done by myself. That is a gesture of trust and friendship that I will always treasure. So many people believe in this project and what it can be. They also believe that Angela and I can deliver something worthwhile. I leaf through the pages of originals and know that Angela has truly delivered. Now I’ve got to complete my part. I need to arrange words and pictures. I’ve got to collect order information from my backers, most especially those names which will be printed in the book. I’ve got to prepare the files, send the book to print, and be ready when it comes back. Each backer is a person to whom I’ve made a promise and I’m excited to fulfill those promises. The closing of the Kickstarter is a beginning, not an ending.

Kickstarter Observations

There is an increase of interest when days left in the project drops below double digits. This is nice because the project has been sort of idling its way through the middle span of time, which is normal, but can feel discouraging after the frantic energy of the first ten days.

In theory I should nurture that swell and use it to build toward the end of the project.
I have a long list of things I should do to build interest and spread the word. I’ve got people waiting on me. I don’t want to let them down, not when so many people have been so kind and expressed so much enthusiasm for the project.

I am exhausted. Not just from the project, but also because of all the other things that landed in this same time.

My life is made out of “other things” and I don’t know that any other time would have been better. In any case I waited for years hoping for a good time to show up. Instead I had to shoehorn it in even though the timing was not ideal. The truth is that if I wait until there is a “good time” before I reach for my own creative dreams, I’ll be waiting forever. I had to put a stake in the ground, launch the Kickstarter, and declare “this thing is happening now.”

I hope.

Thanksgiving is in two days. Everyone will be away from their computers. Any momentum I build Today, tomorrow, Wednesday is going to vanish. I’ll have to start over again on Monday.

Note to all would-be Kickstarter folks: Dodge holidays, putting them in the last 10 days of your project is not wise.

I’ve heard that December is an abysmal month for Kickstarter. I believe that. I am worried that everyone will have moved on and be otherwise occupied. It is possible that December will prevent me from getting that final 30%.

Running this project has already given me many things. All the support and kindness will not go away even if the project fails to fund. I get to treasure all of it. I’m already very grateful. Very glad. The originals from Angela arrived today and they deserve a joyful post of their very own. I so very much want them to be in a book that I can share over and over again.

70% funded. So close. So far away.

Strength of Wild Horses Links

The Strength of Wild Horses Kickstarter is 62% funded. That’s a good place to be with two weeks to go. Please pass the word around if you have the chance. One of the reasons I chose Kickstarter to fund this book was because I saw it as the best opportunity to spread the word about these books to families who might need them.

I’ve been out and about the internet working on spreading the word. The lovely Mary Robinette Kowal gave me a chance to tell her blog readers about My Favorite Bit of Strength of Wild Horses. I had to do quite a bit of thinking to narrow it down to my favorite-most part, which I discovered is a moment of transformation.

Then Lou Anders of Pyr Books and the Thrones and Bones series asked me why picture books matter. We both were certain that they do, but he wanted my take on why. I loved digging into my thoughts to find the answer to that question. The result can be read over on Lou’s blog. Why Picture Books Matter.

Doing interviews and writing guest posts has been one of the most enjoyable parts of this Kickstarter process. I’m stretching my thoughts in new directions and it is fun.