I’m Creating Again

Today has been a day off. I haven’t gone anywhere, or really done a whole lot. But, I have done one thing. I’ve been creating. (I also applied for my first car loan *shudder* and searched around online for cars within my pre-loan budget… b/c I haven’t been accepted yet, DUH!)

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Going analog with The Disappearance of Clara Summers, in the background you can see my Intuos Art sitting on my computer that I’m using to draw digitally.

(I also shared some work that I created previously. Here, here, and here.)

I can’t tell you how good it feels to create again, and not just because I’m sitting with a heating pad on my back, on and off, while I do it. I wish I could do this all day, every day. Sadly, I only get eight days a month to devote to creating. (That’s 25% of my month… less!)

This last week I’ve managed to talk myself into working before I go in to the day job, or to sit down after I get home late at night. Yeah, 10pm isn’t late to most people, but I’m like 80 years old when it comes to the time I want to be in bed. #DefinitelyNotANiteOwl

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do with my life. I’ve tossed around the idea of going back to school to get my teaching license, going to grad school like my friends from BSU English and getting my Masters in Creative Writing, and I’ve even considered just dropping everything, moving to New York, Seattle, or Chicago and just seeing what happens.

Teaching License: uhm… I like teaching Sunday school, but the education system itself is really screwed up and I’m just not ready to handle that.

Grad School: How in the world am I supposed to get the money for that/apply for grants/scholarships? I’m probably the most skittish person in the world about applying for things. It’s taken me a year to convince myself to apply for a car loan, and that’s only because I don’t have a lot of options at the moment. Let alone, I’d have to apply to actually get into the programs. (Let’s face it I’m a ball of skittish neuroses and I don’t like sticking my neck out there.)

Which is exactly why I can’t just up and move cities without like a decade of planning, some counseling, and a tub of ice cream – actually ice cream sounds really good right now, but that’s beside the point. In other words, that’s DEFINITELY not happening.

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Clara Summers – My latest and most favorite creation.

Yet, as my brain starts itself back up through the rust and dust, I can’t deny that it’s been a year (minus a few weeks) since I graduated college and I’m starting to feel antsy. I hadn’t planned to be living with my grandparents and still driving one of their cars by this time. I certainly hadn’t planned to have done so little creative work over this last year. You saw how I was at the beginning of 2018, I was all fired up for, like, the entire month of January! And then I fizzled again.

 

I feel like I need to do something, that I’m supposed to be somewhere else, doing something with myself. I’ve been blessed that God has not only given me a job, but the endurance to keep working that job – even if I complain a lot, don’t enjoy it like I did, and hurt all over. But, there’s more to life, to my life, than the garden center at Lowe’s. On top of it, just after this last weekend, with our season really starting with the break in crappy weather, I can’t help but ask myself how much longer I can keep up at this job before my body just drops.

Right now, looking forward to my daily creations and my daily devotions are the only things that keep me going to work every day and not giving in to the depression.

Knowing that there is something else I need to be doing – even if I don’t know what that is just yet – is pushing me out of bed in the morning. I may not look forward to going in for the day job, but I look forward to getting home and creating something, continuing the creation I began that morning, or have been working on for a while now.

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Charlie – My favorite doofus. (Don’t tell my brother.)

I have my favorites playlist going on my iPod every time I sit down at the computer. I’m getting into a routine with it. I’m getting to the point where I can shut off the rest of the world again. Well, except for doofus, he doesn’t like to be shut out with the rest of the world, so he hides under the desk while I work whenever he feels like he needs to be noticed.

 

I think he’s happier too, now that I’m creating again instead of lying in bed on my phone or watching Netflix all day when I’m off. Tomorrow morning I was even thinking of taking him to the park or to the pet store for a “field trip” with just the two of us before I go look at a car in Mishawaka in the afternoon.

Creating again is like a drug in its addictiveness. I’ve been focusing for so long on what I want to do with my life and where I’m at that I set aside my skills as a creator, as a storyteller, and let them get covered in dust. That was a dumb mistake, because I know one thing for certain: whatever it is that this drive to do something with my life is pointing me towards, I’m going to be creating when I get there. I can’t see myself doing anything else in the future. No matter what my day job is now, or in the future, whether or not I travel or go to school – in my daydreams, my creativity is always there, even if it’s not the main subject, it’s there.

Whenever I think about the future or about the past, I can’t imagine putting it aside, not after all the work I’ve put into it, going to school and getting my degree in writing, investing in art supplies, I can’t give up.

So, yeah… I’m creating again, and I’m excited, and I’m going to do anything I can to keep this going. I don’t want to let this go again. No matter how hard it gets to drag myself out of bed in the morning, it’s just not going to happen again. I can’t let it.

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My Side Quest Will Not Kill Me

The year is almost a third of the way over and I haven’t been where I wanted to be creatively for the last month or two. I haven’t even kept up with this blog like I intended. When I started the year I had intended that I would be looking for my passion again. My will to create, but it’s been harder than I thought. My depression and anxiety have fought me every step of the way and I’ve let myself fall into the trap of work and letting my job drain me so much that I can’t think when I get home.

These last couple of weeks I’ve been trying something. I’ve been trying to say no to my bosses, not taking on the burden of everything at work. There are ten other people in the department now. They have responsibilities too. They can take care of things. It’s not completely on me if things don’t get done. I’ve been beating myself up for months about things not getting done. I didn’t take breaks, I came back early from my lunches. I got frustrated and angry to the point that it was leaking into my personal life and I was snapping at people that had nothing to do with any of that. I let myself get so drained by the stress at work that I forgot to have a life outside my job.

I stopped writing. I stopped drawing. I didn’t really even read or watch T.V.; I spent hours and days surfing the internet and Facebook. When I did read anything or get into a T.V. show I got so lost in it I forgot what the real world was.

On the bright side, I’m starting to recognize the symptoms of my spirals quicker. I’m fighting to get out of it again. I’m trying to be more faithful in my devotions, and in my creativity. I’m forcing myself to keep going, to keep improving, and to let it all go. I’m forcing myself to let go of the world and cling to my God and the gifts He’s given me.

I’m searching for me again. I’m searching for my creative spark. The one I’ve had since I was a kid. I’m not going to let the daily life of my job and the world to beat me down. I’m not going to be some complacent cog in the machine.

I’ve started teaching myself to play the piano. My grandma has an old upright in the living room that almost never gets played anymore, but I’ve been practicing whenever I’m the only one in the house because I’m still shy about playing around other people.

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Clara Summers, my OC

The last few days I’ve been drawing again. I’ve been getting myself reacquainted with Clara Summers, the character that inspired me to start drawing so that I could see her face outside my head. I’ve even started working with my art on a digital level to see what I can do with these tools. I’ve been trying to do it without using too many functions beyond a charcoal pencil, just because I want to master drawing before I master the tech, but it’s proving to be fun.

I can honestly say that not letting my job, my anxieties, and my frustrations control my life has been the best choice I could make for my creativity. Sometimes it’s harder than I would like to be able to set it all aside and leave work at work, but I keep telling myself that it’s not my circus. I have no authority at work, and I am not the only one there so I am not responsible for picking up everyone else’s slack. I can pick up some of it, but I have my own tasks to accomplish and I can’t push myself to the breaking point anymore for people that won’t do the same for me if I’m sick or hurt.

My back has started hurting again and getting worse. I’m moving a little slower, refusing to do things that I know will hurt me. My boss had an issue with that because he thought I was telling people I was back on a weight limit, but I haven’t been doing that, just saying that I can’t lift it on my own and that I need help. I’m not going to beat myself up anymore. this is my day job. It’s just temporary and I’m not going to lose everything else for it.

I am a storyteller. I tell stories through writing and art. I’m learning to play the piano and eventually I will tell stories through music too.

I am not just some grunt laborer at Lowe’s. I have to keep telling myself that. I am going to be so much more, but only if I focus on my creativity. Only if I strive outside of work to achieve my goals. I can’t let it kill me, it’s just temporary.

Like a side quest in a video game, it isn’t part of the main story. It develops me as a person and it will build something in me. What, I don’t know. But it will help me on the long journey as long as the main story, the big journey, is what I keep on my mind because I’m better than that. My side quest, my day job, doesn’t deserve to kill me. If anything is going to get me, it better be a monster on the main storyline, not some side fight.

OFFICIAL Patreon Launch

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So, last night I officially launched my Patreon Page on Twitter. patreon.com/mkharlan I have a page pinned on my blog roll about it, but the official launch happened on twitter last night. I’m going to be promoting it more and more this coming year as I continue with my journey to rediscovering my passion for my work, and do my best to be the writer I want to be.

On Patreon you can subscribe just to get updates every month about how my writing is going, or you can get involved with my work and see more of it before the rest of the world sees it, possibly even some work that the rest of the world will never see because I want to give fun things to you, my loyal patrons. I have the rewards up for January, except for one… I mean, I launched it last night and the reward is literally about me overcoming my anxiety to make a video for you guys. I have no motivation to do this right now so my anxiety and I are quite happy where we are.

As the year goes on I will be focusing on creating art and writing, and getting better at both. I’ll be reading more, writing more, and creating more. Patreon is the front row seat for this journey. You get a chance to interact with this journey of mine on a more informal and personal level, and you’ll see more than the average readers of this blog see. You’ll get monthly updates, sneak peeks, and fun conversation and discourse that the rest of the world doesn’t get.

PLUS you get to claim the snazzy title: Patron of the Arts… along with several members of the British Monarchy, past and present, Elenor Roosevelt, and many other prominent historical figures.

The idea behind Patreon is to bring back the old system of patronization where artists, writers, actors, musicians are paid by people who appreciate their work to create more of it. You are not our employer, but you allow us to focus on our art and you get a first look at it before everyone else does because you are the reason we are able to create.

Shakespeare wouldn’t have been writing as many plays as he had if he hadn’t been patronized by people like Queen Elizabeth.

You can support me by following this link: patreon.com/mkharlan

If you decide not to support me, there are plenty of amazing artists, writers, and creators of all types on Patreon that deserve to be supported in their dreams of becoming full time creators. Who knows, you could support the next Maya Angelou or Ursula K. LeGuin… then you’ll get bragging rights to say that you knew them when they were just starting out. How cool would that be?

I know this is a long shot, and I’m relatively new to the literary world, and extremely new to the art world, but I sincerely hope you see potential in me to become an artist and writer that you can be proud of!

I hope to see you join me on this journey!

Best Regards,

M.K.

College Graduate Support

This article inspired by a recent initiative from DePauw University. Shared with me by a Ball State English Professor and amazing literary citizen.


So, a few days ago I went looking for something on the #bsuenglish blog. Back in October they were providing this really nifty page on the blog where every Monday they added a new prompt for blog posts. I wasn’t using it every week, but it did spark a couple of articles for me that you can read here and here. It also sparked my motivation to get this blog rolling again after a dozen false starts and a platform change from Blogger to WordPress in the last 4-5 years or so.

To my surprise, I found that the prompts page hadn’t been updated since October 2017. So I sent out a tweet…

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Because, let’s be honest, I’ve committed to a new blog post every Friday at midnight, I HAVE A DEADLINE, and sometimes I just can’t get the writing juices flowing for anything that isn’t supposed to be a short story and turns into another attempt at a novel. So, I was really hoping for a prompt. As you can see from the screenshot above, I got one reply. It was from Professor Cathy Day, an amazing writer and professor in the Ball State English Department. I never had the pleasure of joining one of her classes due to scheduling conflicts, but she was still an amazing help when the insane schedule I had caused me to break down in the library at 1am during my third all-nighter in a row in the second week of my last semester… so, yeah, I LOVE Cathy!

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When I saw this, I read the article and sent a reply.

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And that was the end of the conversation. This happened on Tuesday, today is Thursday. In all of my college education filled intelligence, I didn’t realize until about 9am this morning (It’s 9:21 as I write this part.) that Cathy gave me a prompt the same way the BSUEnglish blog had been doing last year. All I thought about was 2 things:

  1. What did she mean not a lot of participation? That was gold right there. People doing part of the work for you, providing topics and inspiration relative to today’s world! Why wouldn’t anyone want to jump on it and take advantage of the discussion provided right there?!
  2. Why doesn’t Ball State do something like this? I mean, as someone still working at Lowe’s and really in a rut with my art, writing, and really everything, this seems like an amazing opportunity and I wish I had access to it.

So first, let me state again: I LOVE Cathy! She is an awesome and supportive person, even if you didn’t take any of her classes. She is a literary citizen extraordinaire.

This article isn’t really a Cathy Day love fest, though. Maybe I’ll write one of those later this year when I’m strapped for ideas. 😉

Neither is this article entirely about the initiative from DePauw University she told me about, though I’m sure that’s what she thought.

In the link Cathy gave me, DePauw University is announcing to alumni, which Cathy is one, a new commitment they are making to parents and students. If after 6 months their graduates have not found employment or entered graduate school DePauw will provide “an entry-level professional opportunity for them (at no less than six months), or give them an additional semester of education tuition free to further hone skills and knowledge.”

One of my first thoughts about this was that parents should keep their noses out of it and if a student wants to pursue a liberal arts education rather than a STEM degree, let them. It’s their choice, their life. But it was the commitment that DePauw is making that really floored me.

As a recent graduate who did not go to grad school right away, if at all – I’m still thinking about it and would probably really love to, and I’m still working a retail job that is trying its best to make me physically incapable of performing the tasks it provides me, I would love it if there was a support like this for me.

I won’t lie, I’ve been really depressed lately, some of it is hormones, but a lot of it is that I’m watching people I consider friends from college publish, get jobs in their field, go to grad school, move to the city, travel, doing amazing things with their lives. Meanwhile I barely have a presence on social media, I’m in constant physical pain because the job I work is a manual labor job with almost no use of my degree outside of the critical thinking skills I learned… and I may soon be unemployed because I don’t think I can continue this job without permanently injuring myself if I can’t get my body to heal. I’m 21, that’s too young for a permanent back injury. I’m still living at my grandparents’ house, and while I pay rent, it just isn’t being independent enough for me to be a person.

And that’s enough of the pity-me-fest… I told you, part of it is hormones, I’m 21 and only just figuring out who I really am outside of the structure of school – what do you expect?

But, without the amazing support of the #bsuenglish community, the Stars to Steer by Facebook group that Cathy has going, and the amazing friends I made at BSU who are encouraging me, recommending books to read, and just generally being awesome people, I’d be lost!

This post is kind of a thank you to them, as well as a way for me to understand what’s been going on in my head lately with all of these topics.

Support after college is one of the most important things any graduate can have. Even if you don’t get the job, just having someone who is constantly sharing job postings, letting you and all the other alumni know that hey, here’s a position/internship/whatever you should qualify for after going through the department programs.

No, BSU doesn’t provide me with an entry-level position. Neither are they giving me an extra semester tuition free to further hone my skills and knowledge to get a job. But, they are all there as a support group.

When I’m feeling down or like I’m a failure. I message a friend that also went through BSU English and has been through the same spot I’m in and I find encouragement, a few laughs, and solidarity.

It all makes me wish I’d done more to get out and be a person in college. I would have loved to hang out with these people, get to know them better in class, and join the clubs and causes they were in. I let my introversion and fear of going outside my belief system keep me from that. It was stupid because these are amazing people. They support amazing causes, and they support each other. I really wish I’d done better to get out there and be more interactive, but these people support me.

Even if it’s just with a book recommendation… or a list of books, in reply to a Facebook post.

So, this is my long-winded and rambling way of saying thank you to the friends I made in BSU English and to the community that is #bsuenglish for being there, for supporting me, and for just being a group of awesome people. Community is so important for everyone, not just writers and post-undergrad students who are feeling more than a little lost.

I love you all, and thank you!

I Took Myself to the Movies

The-Greatest-Showman-HDThis year, my word is “passion”, so in learning to have passion, I am trying to learn who I am outside of other people and structured activities. I’m learning to play and to do things that I didn’t learn when I was a kid due to fear, anxiety, depression, and other factors.

Today, I went to a movie by myself and it was the best choice I could have ever made.

I hurt myself at work this week, my back is killing me, I’m going to the doctor tomorrow, and I needed to do something, anything, to take my mind off of it. What better way to do that than to lose myself in a story? I went and saw The Greatest Showman.

Not only was the movie just phenomenally written and performed, it was really just an all around wonderful experience for me.

With my word for the year being “Passion”, this was the best movie choice I could have made. (I’ll try not to give any spoilers.)

The movie was a bout P.T. Barnum, a showman, and ringmaster that existed in actual history. I don’t know much about Barnum in real life, so I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy and truth of the storyline, but I can vouch for the truth of the movie’s message. it told the story of Barnum’s passion for being a showman, for his  family, and for the world he wanted to see for his family.

It was also a sort of cautionary tale, warning of the dangers of letting your passions consume you so much that you lose sight of what really matters in life, family, friendship, and love.

In a way, though it didn’t directly relate to my faith, I found it to have a tone to it that I could agree with as a Christian. You should not focus on getting more and being more. Your passion for something should not come at the cost of what really matters, and definitely not at the cost of your  soul.

Altogether, the story was a good lesson in passion for me to start the year off with.

Moreover, going by myself was just a good choice for me. I had never been to the movies by myself before this afternoon. I was always told that it was more of a people thing, something you did with someone so you could have more fun. But, the people I always go with (usually family) like to make comments that I don’t care to listen to because I just want to lose myself in the story. Because of this, I tend to also start making comments, which detracts from the story and my ability to lose myself in it.

Before going, my mother and my aunt made sure to let me know that there is no shame in going to the movies with other people, even if it’s because I’m afraid to go somewhere alone where I’m not in complete control of the situation. But, I learned today, that going alone to something you might normally go to with other people, is okay. It lets you absorb something for yourself and determine if you actually enjoyed it, rather than accepting the opinions of others as your own.

I’ll say now, I don’t think I would have loved this movie as much as I do had I gone with other people. I would have listened to comments from them, and picked up their opinions of it before I could fully develop my own opinion. I have a bad habit of deferring to the opinions of others and if they don’t think it was as good as I did, I back off and almost feel ashamed of liking it more, like I’m wrong – even if there is no wrong or right.

Basically, I never get to fan girl because I’m so self-conscious about showing any enjoyment of anything that the people around me don’t enjoy.

I’m really excited now because I have at least a week to develop my own opinion before someone I see on a regular basis forms an opinion. (My aunt is seeing it next Sunday.)

Taking myself to the movies, was the best choice I’ve made so far this year, and it’s only day 7. I can’t wait to see how much more I can grow this year, what I can learn about myself, my faith, and the world I live in.

I’m excited to dream with my eyes wide open. 😉

Goals – 2018

Some of you may remember that around September, before the site update and rebrand, that I posted a set of goals for my writing meant to take place between Then and the end of August 2018?

However, with the new year starting I find that I very much want to be setting goals like everyone else. There’s something that appeals to my ordered nature (I heard that snort in the back, have a joke you’d like to share with the rest of the class?) about the symmetry of the year and goals. The fact that we mark a new beginning at this time is intriguing. I mean time may be just a social construct, but it rules our lives more than we care to admit. So, instead of setting completely new goals I’m gong to tweak a few of them and add a few to reflect my current state.

  1.  72 Poems total (adds 18 poems… don’t know if it’s one a week, I’m a little behind right now, so I’ll make it work)
  2. 17 Short Stories (adds 5 stories)
  3. 8 Essays Total (adds 2)
  4. 1 Television Pilot – Goal Unchanged
  5. 1 Fiction Novel – Do you think I’m crazy enough to add another novel to this whole mess?… You’re sort of right – keep reading for an explanation.
  6. Instead of a Non-Fiction book I’m working on a multi-media interactive project that may or may not include a Non-Fiction written element in the form of a book… but this project is already beyond a book with the way I’m seeing this.
  7. 1 Feature Script – Goal Unchanged

And here we get to the brand new goals… all shiny and freshly minted!!!

  1. 24 Paintings (2 a month): I feel this is a reasonable goal to achieve, painting is a new hobby, but I’m hoping to make more use out of it when telling stories
  2. Serial Fiction (Or Why I’m sort of crazy… but not crazy enough to add a second Novel to my goals for the year.) : I want to plot a serial fiction piece and start releasing it on its own site this year (So be watching.) I’m also hoping to do art for it as well. I don’t feel good enough – or fast enough – to start releasing a web comic, but I’m hoping that eventually I will acquire the skill, time, and ability to do that as well.
  3. I want to be happy… I have so many goals right now that I’m not including here because they’re long-winded and I don’t want this post to be too long, but they can all be summed up as, I want to be happy, closer to God, and doing what I love on my own terms.

These are my goals for 2018, I’m turning 22 years old this May, it’s exciting, but there are so many things I haven’t done or experienced. So many things I want to do in so many different aspects of my life. So, here’s to a fun, interesting , and creative filled year.

Yours Always,

M.K.

Adjustments

Yesterday marked two weeks.

img_0371Two weeks since we said goodbye to our beloved beagle, Toby. He was 13 years old and the BEST dog I have ever known. I never had a bond with him like I feel with Charlie, or like I felt with Max, a dog that died when I was eight. But there was something about Toby. I blame it on him being a beagle. Just the right amount of ornery and sweet mixed together in one adorable package.

We’ve all been adjusting to his absence. I don’t think we realized just how much our lives orbited around him. Late night barking sessions outside, needing to go in and out and in and out over and over again, baking pumpkin muffins to hide medicine in, setting our plates down to be licked clean, all of it – our schedules worked around him, just to make sure he received his medicine at the right times.

I ate an entire box of mashed potatoes by myself in just two days after he died and Charlie has helped me to eat my feelings, a little too enthusiastically, these last two weeks.

The day it happened, the day he died, I didn’t know. I knew it would be sometime soon, but I hadn’t realized it would be that day. As I was lacing up my boots to go to work only one phrase kept running through my head. “Es muss sein. Es muss sein. Es muss sein.” German for “It must be.” All I could think about was how ordinary everything was. Lacing my boots, turning the key in the car, driving the same route to work that I drive everyday. Going about my day. It was a rainy day and there was a double rainbow outside of work. The only thing out of the norm that day. It just felt wrong that the day wasn’t marked by something extraordinary, something earth shattering. Instead, at least from my point of view, the world just kept spinning.

There was no pause in the universe, no weeping, wailing, or great gnashing of teeth, none of it. It was just a quiet, cool, rainy day at work. I’d gone to my volunteer session at church and when I came back he was gone and I didn’t even realize it until Gramma told me. It felt wrong that I hadn’t known the moment it happened.

I came home that night and was greeted by Charlie, and I waited for Toby to show up at the top of the stairs like normal to investigate, but he didn’t. So I ate the mashed potatoes I’d picked up on my way home, watched Star Trek, and went to sleep. I woke up a few hours later and went down to let him out, assuming that was why I’d woken, and then I realized he wasn’t there. I went and cried myself back to sleep. In the morning I thought I saw him in the chair in the corner of my room, it was only a blanket. He wasn’t there. I started to call his name, even though I’ve known for a long time that he was all but deaf. And I remembered he was gone.

Just a few days ago I realized that we were out of pumpkin muffins and was about to ask if we needed more, got half the words out and said nevermind. When Grandpa asked me what I was going to say, I told him, and then tried not to cry again. Every once in a while I start looking for him, trying to remember where he is – and every time it hits like a knife to the gut. I’m sure my grandparents and my aunt feel the same way, I don’t know for sure, but I can’t believe that I’m the only one.

For the first few days I kept catching myself talking like he was still here, about to walk into the kitchen and demand his biscuit and Cheerios. I forced myself to start thinking in the past tense and every time I hated myself for it. I never wanted to write in past tense again – yet here I am, writing in past tense and present.

It’s been an adjustment, and it’s still something I’m working on. I think we all are.

There’s something about beagles, just the right mixture of ornery and sweet.