Change is afoot.

Have you ever gone on a  trip only to return and feel like you may never catch up? That’s where I am right now, having just returned from a week in California to attend the fifth annual FOGcon spec fiction writers’ conference. The event itself only took up three of those days, but since I had to get on a plane anyway, I decided to pad my trip with a little extra time to see family and friends. Which was great, but a bit of a whirlwind. And the con? It turned out to be one of those experiences that has incited me to question everything. To review, rethink, re-imagine. And not just the specific projects, but my whole direction, my mission, what I want to achieve and how I go about achieving it.

In addition to that game changer (which I hope to post about soon, either here or on my apocalypse blog), my work schedule is about to change dramatically–evolving from something approximating 1.5 days per week plus intermittent freelance work, to 5 days per week, likely starting at the end of the month. After so many years drifting around employment, it’s going to be a serious adjustment. Then again, I have hopes that a more rigorous schedule might help me better manage my personal work time as well. But either way, a girl’s gotta pay her rent. And between now and then, I will be working hard to get my space, tasks, and time streamlined and organized, and revisiting my post about which things I need to #stop. Otherwise, I could be looking at a pretty rough transition.

Among the things that need catching up on: Quest posts.

#LiveTheQuest question 9:
What indicators of growth can you celebrate? #celebrations

Look back on your second month as well as at your reflections with prompt 5, #growth. What small indicators can you identify and celebrate that you have changed something positively in Month 2 or that you are moving the direction you need? For instance, are you acting differently? Are you thinking differently? Are you speaking about yourself as a business artist and your best work differently?

Probably the most important growth indicator has been giving up the Big Picture for Lent. I have always struggled with the project equivalent of my eyes being too big for my stomach. I load my plate with everything it can hold and then some, all the while envisioning the even more extravagant feasts I will create in my future. But the truth is, I can’t even decide which delicacy to put in my mouth first, so I try a bite here and another one there, until I’m too full and queasy to think about cooking ever again.

Having taken a step back from that vicious cycle, I’ve noticed a couple of important things. It isn’t just about how much I load onto my plate, it’s what. It’s easy to be lured by sweets, but they don’t work for the long (or in my case even the short) haul. To help counteract that, in part inspired by a recent post by Saundra Goldman, I have started focusing again on questions, the most important of which has become:

What do you most want to build?

Followed by:

Will this help you build it?

These two questions work for pretty much everything, from what I eat and how much I sleep, to which books, projects, and other activities deserve my time. Some items have easy answers. Too much sugar, bad television, and/or excess social media not only won’t help me build anything, they will pretty much unbuild everything.

The TowerBut other things aren’t so clear. And that’s because the answer to the first question hasn’t been so clear. And now that FOGcon has basically thrown a big fat Tower card onto the table, it’s even less so… except that, maybe, it’s not. Because there is nothing quite like having preconceived notions blown apart to reveal in stark relief, the inviolable things that remain standing. The foundation, of course… the west wall upon which I scribble incantations in invisible ink that only reveals itself when illuminated by a setting equinox sun… the outline of a once hidden box where years ago I buried my heart to keep it safe from harm…

Fire reveals the shape of things. What remains after we sift through the ash becomes the bones of a new beginning. Tonight the sifting begins. Soon after, I will draft a stronger plan on the foundation of the old. Which leads us to the next Quest prompt:

 #LiveTheQuest question 10:
How will you “publish” your project? #publish
Look back on your #burningquestion and #oneproject. How are you or could you get this project “out” into the hands and hearts of the people who ache for it? How will you publish it?

First, a reminder of my #burningquestion:

What if instead of having to choose, I could combine the things I love?

And then my #oneproject:

To create an object of art that incorporates:

  • Words
  • Pictures
  • Fabric
  • Inspiration from existing works of literature, poetry, and art
  • And dreaming my way through our world’s uncertain future

Because my path lies not in walking a straight or winding road, but in building a home at the place my roads converge.

A few posts later, I decided this project would take the form of a quilt. And I may still make that quilt.  But re-reading what I wrote about my questions and projects in light of #publishing, I realized that even before this quest started I had begun creating a work that incorporates all of these things, as well as a companion burning question about prepping for the best instead of the worst. This is already out there in front of the world–online, on Facebook, on Pinterest, and on my business cards. It’s my Apocalypse Garden–my home at the place where the roads converge. My own little Pantano Realty building (for those of you familiar with my hometown).

As for what impact my FOGcon experience may have on my little garden, that remains to be seen–perhaps a new tagline, a new posting schedule, improved content and social media plans–but the structure appears to be sound.

And in case you wonder why I referred to it as my little garden, I’ll just leave this here:  Why “Stop Playing Small” is Bullshit


#LiveTheQuest question number six:

What experiment for revenue or reach can you define? #experiment
What is one specific experiment you can define for growth and change for this month in revenue or reach? This experiment is similar to the one small project you defined before. But this time I ask you to frame the experiment in these terms, If I did X, then would Y result? If I wrote and published relevant content every week, would I feel better and reach # more people? If I reached out to 3 people this month for possible connection or collaboration, would one of them lead to an exciting new venture? If my business focused less on _____ and more on ______, would this lead to more customers? If I wrote poetry with no imagery for a month, would I discover another way to write poems? (Okay, that last one was not related to reach or revenue, but I include its ilk as an option.)

Because I so resist this topic I am going to keep this simple.

  1. Revenue: If I finished the unfinished sewing projects taking up space in my house and posted them for sale on my site and Facebook, would people buy them, and might it open up a more year-round stream of craft income for me?
  2. Reach: If I make and hand out five or more business cards featuring both of my URLs during FOGcon, would it lead to more traffic, engagement, and possibly story submissions or collaborations?

Because FOGcon doesn’t happen until the first full weekend in March, I won’t have results on the second experiment until next month, but since I so rarely socialize with my kind (or anyone for that matter), it’s worth the delay.

Best Self

Today’s Quest2015 prompt comes from author and speaker Sally Hogshead, whose work is all about finding our Fascination Advantage®.

What is your most valuable personality trait — and how can you bring it forward in your best work in 2015?

After a brief derailment over exactly just who it was the trait would be most valuable to, I realized I was wrestling with air because, at least in my case, it’s the trait that’s most valuable in my life and for being of service to the world: CREATIVITY.

But because language can sometimes be imprecise, I’m going to throw in a couple of more words to help pinpoint what I mean here. My most valuable personality trait is the sweet spot on the Venn diagram at the intersection of CREATIVITY, INNOVATION,  VISION, and INTEGRATION/FUSION/SYNTHESIS (or CIVIFS for short)–bringing together different ideas, media, processes, seeing how they can be combined to create something unique, and developing a vision for how to bring it into the world, ideally for the good of all. Which is interesting, because according to Sally’s Fascination Advantage Assessment, my archetype is ROCKSTAR, with a primary attribute of INNOVATION (keywords: creative, visionary, and entrepreneurial). So, just in case I needed validation, there it is.

Unfortunately, despite my million big ideas and the sky castles I build with them, it all seems to fall apart at the level of implementation. I get overwhelmed, I don’t know where to start, I don’t know how to ask for help, and when I do, I often find it hard to turn down help that draws me away from my original intention. I also have trouble figuring out which ideas most deserve my attention (clearly a recurring theme for me). Especially between the “should” projects and the “want to” projects. I mean, really, how many people are interested in using apocalypse art and fiction as a lens through which to discover ways to save the world (or at least ourselves in the event of SHTF)? Especially when living on part-time and freelance work that barely pays the bills (in a good month). But I digress…

Given that my most valuable personality trait is my own brand of CIVIFS, how can I bring it forward to create my best work in 2015?

Get out of my own way and just do it. Follow the passion. Dream the dream. Then wake up and write it, stitch it, build it, live it. Then share it. Without that last bit, how will our tribes find us?

Heart Leaps

Today’s Quest2015 prompt from author Pam Houston asks us to consider what makes our hearts leap.

Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask your self today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?

The list is longer than I expected, which shouldn’t surprise me. I have a lot of different interests.

  • Holding the finished 7 Blessings quilt top up to the light and watching it glow like stained glass
  • Having a fellow quester compare 7 Blessings to an Australian Opal
  • Finding, watching, and sharing Apocalypse Rhyme on Apocalypse Garden and on Facebook
  • Dreaming the future shape of the Apocalypse Garden
  • My near perfect Apocalypse Garden blogging streak (only one day missed since I started the blog on 9/30/14)
  • The Friends of the Library book sale and all its treasures, especially finding a $1 copy of the Book Lover’s Journal and a mint condition copy of The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Discovering, browsing, holding, sharing, reading books of all kinds, but especially having them in my space–more than anything else, they are my security blanket, my inspiration, my solace, and my joy
  • Finishing CS Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet (and sci-fi lit in general)
  • Watching some amazing, original, risk-taking movies, including Birdman, Twilight Angel, and an old favorite, Strictly Ballroom
  • Poetry class taught by Tony Hoagland (and his amazing reading last month)
  • Sharing and discussing poetry with my two poet cousins, MJ and Suzanne Marie. whose work and interests are uncannily similar to mine
  • Making connections with some amazing fellow questers
  • Napping in my casita’s only comfy chair with the man I love
  • The koala painting in my bathroom–every time I see it

So how can I arrange my life to get more heart leaps?

Spend more time in the bathroom? But seriously, the answer is simple–prioritize what’s important:

  • Quilting
  • Poetry
  • Books and writing (let’s just call this stories to keep it simple)
  • Movies (also stories)
  • Art
  • People
  • My blog (which is set to include all of the items on this list, plus prepping, my favorite OCD obsession)

And stop trying to second-guess what I’ve already decided to focus on in 2015–the Apocalypse Garden. Instead, I should spend my energy this month sorting out just how all that will manifest.

Gritty Compassion

Today we received our first Quest2015 prompt from visionary guide Jen Louden:

Grit without compassion is just grind. What would be most fun to create this year? How can self-compassionate grit support you in that creating?

Before I can answer that question I need to tell you about another project I’m working on besides quilts and poetry and attempted novels. It’s called the Apocalypse Garden. I first conceived of the Apocalypse Garden nearly a decade ago, back when I was still working in high tech and barely had time to sleep, much less create.

It started as the name of a type of garden I wanted to grow in the backyard of my then newly purchased San Francisco Outer Sunset house. I was already interested in prepping by then, and wanted to create a sanctuary of sorts. The garden would combine food, pollinator ecosystems, a few flowers just for beauty, and what I called survival plants which had multiple purposes, like bamboo which provided shade and screening, edible shoots, and strong stems that could be made into furniture or tools, or soap lilies the bulbs of which were used like soap by Native Californians, also had medicinal purposes, and were roasted and eaten by the Miwok people.

After I sold the house I found myself gardenless, but my dreams of an apocalypse garden went on–evolving from actual garden to apocalypse-based short stories to a broader vision that combined apocalypse fiction, prepping, history, and current events. This past October, feeling uninspired and stressed with the projects I was working on, I decided to mix things up by taking a month off to focus instead on something fun and interesting. And with a 31 day blogging challenge and a URL I bought in 2008, I took the first step toward transforming my apocalypse daydreams into a reality.

Now 62 days and 61 blog posts later, I have an ever-solidifying vision that looks forward through the lenses of speculative literature, film, and art, plus history and science, to take a closer look at what our possible future may hold, using it as inspiration for bringing to life our own visions, creations, solutions to help us survive, or better yet, avoid, the catastrophes that have already begun to plague our world.

So, with all that big context in mind, the most fun thing for me to create this year would be… harder than I thought to pin down. My first thought was:

  • Designing a line of reclaimed/recycled fashion, accessories, and other gear focused on meeting the challenges of a variety of possible future climates and cultures

But while it would be amazingly fun, it’s not really a priority. The priority for this project would be:

  • Creating an evolved version of my blog/site that meets the new vision

And of course I can’t give up my quilt making or poetry or finding ways to earn enough money to pay the rent. Maybe if I tie it all together, I can fit it all in…

And therein lies my biggest challenge–too many ideas pulling me in too many directions. Which means, the way self-compassionate grit can support me is by helping me find my true focus, determine and hold fast to my highest priorities, and let go of the time-sucks, outdated habits, and other distractions that no longer serve me, no matter how fun or interesting they may seem.