Brandyn Blaze

Life Between The Scenes

Category: The Care And Feeding Of Creativity (page 1 of 5)

The Best Stick Figures Ever: Dealing With Criticism

As many of you know already, I firmly believe there is no such thing as bad art. No matter how skilled you may or may not be, there is always room to grow and we should always strive to improve our skills. We should also celebrate where we are in our progress and focus on doing the best we can with our abilities. Waiting until your work is “good enough” is a surefire way to ensure it never gets seen by the people who would appreciate it the most.

If you enjoy doing something, whether it’s writing or drawing or making music or whittling or what-have-you, sharing your work with others allows you to take credit for the time and effort you’ve put into a project and deepen your sense of accomplishment. It can also bolster your confidence as others give you positive remarks, making it easier to continue on your path.

Unfortunately, it can also bring criticism, which is what I want to talk about today.

Criticism, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. Aside from outright abusive statements made purely for the sake of negativity (trolls, anyone?), criticism can be an important tool in our growth as artists. Sometimes the lesson is that everything isn’t for everyone and that we need to focus on a different audience. In other instances, it can show us where we need to work on a particular technique. It’s up to us to suss out the positive aspect of a comment that feels negative and take the necessary steps towards improvement.

Recently, I received a comment that I struggled to find the positive in, and after weeks of contemplation I finally stumbled upon the lesson, which I would like to share with you today in hopes that it may help somebody else down the road.

First, allow me to give you some context.

I’ve always been the sensitive-type. I have a tendency to take things to heart, and while this is largely a strength, there are times when it manifests as a weakness. Every now and then, I forget the lessons I have already learned and allow words to hurt me instead of rising above. After all, I am only human.

I am also a person who loves to create for the sake of creating. While my main focus has always been on writing, with music as a close second, I also enjoy reworking furniture, scrapbooking, sewing, and cooking, among other things. In the last year or so, I have also discovered that I love to draw, which is where this particular story begins.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a doodler. If I wasn’t writing stories in class, I was doodling in the margins of my schoolwork. In adulthood, I kept a pad of paper on my desk to avoid doodling on important documents at work. Once I became a full-time mom, I found myself doodling as I watched TV or as I waited for inspiration for a story. At some point, I decided I wanted to improve on these skills and began drawing more often.

Eventually, I decided to share my work on Instagram every Wednesday and got quite a good response.  My confidence soared and I began to draw more and more, pushing myself to learn new techniques. After a while, I even released some of these designs as t-shirts, tote bags, and more in my Zazzle shop.

 

criticism, drawing, bad art, embrace your talent, we all start somewhere

All the drawings I’ve posted to date. I’m still pretty proud of them.

 

Pretty awesome for someone who’d never seriously considered herself an “artist” before, I think.

At least, that’s what I thought.

Soon, I encountered a piece of criticism that stopped me from drawing altogether.

I know, it sounds silly. Letting the thoughts of others dictate what we do is far from ideal and denotes a sense of weakness. However, it is also a very human response. When we create something, it is an extension of ourselves. Having that mocked very often feels like a personal attack, particularly when it comes from someone close to you, which is precisely what happened in this instance.

While sitting around with a bunch of family and friends, I was introduced to a young lady, who incidentally turned out to be an amazing artist. The person introducing us was someone I had known for over ten years and felt very close to. She turned to the girl and said, “you just have to meet Brandyn, she’s an artist too.” Then she paused and laughed. “Okay, so she draws stick figures, but she likes art.” She laughed again as she turned her attention to someone else.

My face grew red as a mixture of anger, hurt, and embarrassment shot through me. As I looked at this kid’s work, I immediately started hating myself for being foolish enough to share my cartoony creations with the world. Were all the likes I’d received on my images simply given out of pity? A silent “oh, good for you trying to be creative” while they laughed behind my back?

Defeated, I put away my sketchbook and completely gave up.

Fast-forward a good month or so to a typical afternoon with my daughter. She was drawing pictures and asked me to draw with her. I declined. “Mommy can’t draw, honey, but I love seeing your pictures.”

She, predictably, was not happy with my answer. To this sweet four-year old, mommy’s drawings were wonderful and she wanted to create something together. To be exact, she wanted to draw mermaids. It sounded fun, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

Later, I confided to my husband that I really wanted to draw a picture of Ariel for her, but that I didn’t think I could. I reminded him of the stick figure comment and he rolled his eyes.

“Because that’s in line with everything you know about perseverance,” he said.  “The right thing to do is prove ’em wrong.”

I gave a small laugh and shook my head. He was right, giving up because one person doesn’t like my work is certainly against everything I believe in. If all the artists I admire most had given up because of a few mean-spirited words, none of the things I enjoy would exist.

With this in mind, I thought about my own work a little bit more. Sure, I don’t draw in a realistic fashion, I’ve never set out to. I love cartoons and doodles, so that’s what I create. And while I’m not a mind-blowing artist, I enjoy what I do and it’s not cringeworthy. It is what it is, and some people may dig it and others won’t.

The next day, I grabbed some paper and a mechanical pencil and sketched out a picture of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, then dug out my colored pencils and filled her in.

 

Fan art Ariel the little mermaid, ariel holding a mirror, mermaid, colored pencil, dealing with criticism, no such thing as bad art

Can I just say I’m extremely proud of her hand? I’ve always hated drawing hands.

 

She may not be perfect, but this is the way *I* draw her, and I think it’s pretty damn good.

My husband apparently agreed, as he took one look at it and said, “And you think you can’t draw?!”

I blushed and put it up on Facebook. I was shocked when it got a ton of likes, and in that moment I realized that it had been ridiculous to allow someone else’s words to keep me from doing something I love.

And that is the lesson I want to impress on you all. Never let anyone get you down. If you draw stick figures, draw the best damn stick figures you can and be proud of them. Someone out there will get it and appreciate it. Take all criticism with a grain of salt, and learn to differentiate good criticism, which can be helpful, and worthless criticism,  which does nothing but bring you down.

Wherever you are on your creative journey, you’re doing great. Keep learning and growing and honing your craft. One day you’ll prove them all wrong.

 

Linked up at: Wine’d Down Wednesdays

Embracing Your Song: A Story Of Personal Growth

I have always been the kind of person that is easily embarrassed. I prefer to keep things to myself and have never been one to show off.

It seems weird to say that. After all, I regularly spill my guts out for strangers to read on the internet and have released 3 smutty romance novels to date. I’ve put a few videos on YouTube, and used to use Periscope pretty regularly (which is something I’ve recently gone back to). I get drunk and sing karaoke whenever I get the chance and I used to be in bands.

By all accounts, people could be forgiven for thinking I’m an outgoing person. However, the fact remains. I’m not a very open person in the real world. I tend to shy away from sharing my talents with others.

With this in mind, I would like to tell you about a very recent breakthrough in my personal life.

For years, I have refused to play guitar in front of anybody.

There was this very real fear that I wasn’t good enough. I know a lot of guitar players who are much better than me, and I just knew I was opening myself up to comparison and criticism. Knowing that I’m a sensitive person by nature, I didn’t want to put myself in a position to have my passion ridiculed to the point where I could no longer enjoy it.

 

fear quote, embrace your song, be you, small step towards happiness, playing in front of others, guitar

 

Now, the logical solution to that problem would have been to practice more and get better. Yet, fear once again dampened that impulse. I didn’t want people to hear me struggling to learn something new. I figured it would be offensive to force the soundwaves on others and I figured no one wanted to hear the same few songs over and over, day in and day out.

To combat this, I resolved to practice only when I was home alone. Occasionally after a few drinks I’d play in front of my best friend or my husband, but I mostly kept that to myself. I’m pretty sure people began to think I just kept my guitars around for decoration.

I always had these simple goals in my head. I dreamt of playing guitar and leading sing alongs around a campfire or in my backyard with all my friends and family. I dreamt of entering open mic nights and playing in little cafes. I dreamt of playing in my living room without fear.

Every now and then I’d go through spurts where I’d play more often and learn some new songs. I’d build up a little confidence and pack my guitar for family camping trips. This time, I’d play. Inevitably the guitar would stay in the car and I’d be hit with an intense wave of disappointment. I could never bring myself to shake off the fear that held me back.

After a while, I gained a little bit more confidence and decided to put a few videos up on Youtube. Let me tell ya, that was a hard thing to do! I was nervous about sharing that part of myself, especially knowing that I’m not exactly a virtuoso. Still, it was invigorating to put myself out there. Sure, they never got any shares or anything, but I didn’t get horrible comments telling me how bad they were either. That’s a win in my book.

 

embrace your song, small step towards happiness, fear, ralph waldo emerson, quote, quote about fear, playing in front of people, guitar

 

However, even with the little bit of confidence that such a leap brought, I couldn’t bring myself to play in front of people in real life.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to visit his parents. A couple friends of ours were there and they got out a guitar. I watched with envy as they played for one another and discussed techniques and influences. Both of them are far more talented than I, and I longed to be included.

After a while, one of them handed me the guitar. With shaking hands, I accepted the instrument and began playing a few songs I knew I couldn’t possibly mess up. That’s when my mother in law said something that shook me to my soul.

“You know, I’ve only ever heard you play 2 or 3 times in the 10 years I’ve known you.”

I looked at her like she’d grown three heads. I’d lived with her for a significant amount of time, surely she’d heard me more than that. She disagreed and pointed out that she’d seen me play more in my videos than she ever had in person.

Of course, I found myself slightly embarrassed at the comment and it got me thinking. Why had I hidden it away for so long? All these years  I had waiting for an appropriate time, when I could have created those situations for myself. I had let fear win and rob me of great memories.

A few weeks later, I found myself sitting on the dock at my in-law’s pond. A guitar was placed in my hands and I fulfilled a small dream of mine as I sat there and played through some of my favorite songs. My mother in law walked by and gave me this proud-mother smile, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

 

brandyn blaze, embrace your song, playing guitar on the dock, small steps towards happiness, journey, growth

I could spend my whole life playing by the water and watching my daughter swim.

 

 

It’s a small step for sure, but it’s a step that will lead me further in my personal journey.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog blathering on about following your heart and being your true self, and yet I was still denying a large part of my soul. While I have always believed that there’s no such thing as bad art, somehow deep down I thought that didn’t apply to me.

Clearly, I have more work to do in order to let go of all of the insecurities that have held me back. Fear does nothing but steal our joy and hold us back from truly living. In order to live authentically, we have to be willing to open up and be vulnerable. We have to do things that scare us a little bit and learn to quiet that voice that tells us we’re not good enough, that we’re not ready, that things could go wrong. We have to run headlong towards our goals and embrace where we are at every stage of our development with pride.

So embrace your song, take a small step towards happiness, and stop hiding away!

With that said, I have recorded a new video and put it up on Youtube to share with you all and to mark this moment in my journey. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it!

 

 

Linked up at: Thinking Out Loud, No Rules Weekend Blog Hop 

Scrabble Writing Prompt and Short Story {Fun With Prompts}

 

If there’s two things I love, it’s writing prompts and a good game of Scrabble. Something about trying to fit words together brings a smile to my face like none other.

Of all my Scrabble opponents, my husband has to be my favorite. We’re pretty evenly matched with our vocabulary and, of course, he doesn’t mind if the only word I can make out of my tiles happens to be vulgar. So many of my treasured memories come from the nights where we just put on some music and pull out the Scrabble board.

So where do the writing prompts factor in?

Well, my husband and I have a tradition of jotting down all the words we play as the game goes on. Once the game is over, we take that list and each of us tries to write a story using all the Scrabble words.  It’s always so fun to see the different associations each of us form, and I love taking a moment to write something different from whatever project I’m working on.

For any of you writers who are looking for a challenge, I highly recommend this twist on a classic game! I think it would also work well as a fun family activity with children. You could even write the story together and pitch suggestions to one another. There are so many possibilities!

Today, I thought I’d share a list of words from a recent game and include a short piece of fiction I have written with this Scrabble writing prompt.

 

short story with scrabble words scrabble writing prompt

 

Scrabble Words:

Misty          Torn             Taint             Fat             Pleat

Trek             Hair              Hungry      Dijon         Old

Kiss              Shut             Raw             Queen       Self

Belt             Crawls         Neon           Vogue       Pricey

Belt             Evil                 Zip

 

The Short Story:

Her headlights cut through the misty darkness, lighting the way as she sped away. She could drive as fast as her little old car would allow, but she couldn’t outrace the memories. They clung to her heels, rubbing her raw. She wished she could zip that part of her mind closed. She didn’t have the strength to deal with it right now.

She wiped a tear away, cursing under her breath. She should have seen it coming. She should have sensed something off in his kiss. She shouldn’t be left to start over in the middle of the night.

With a heavy sigh, she cranked up the radio, hoping to drown out the thoughts that ran tired circles in her mind. A neon sign a few blocks ahead caught her eye, the call of the bottle promising comfort. If only momentarily.

She pulled into the lot, thankful to find it mostly empty. She didn’t have the strength for much socializing tonight. She just needed a good stiff drink. And maybe a nice, fat burger. When was the last time she’d eaten? She couldn’t remember, but she was definitely hungry now. That had to be a good sign. Soon she’d be rid of these evil little feelings.

She shut off the car, taking a moment to check her appearance in the rearview mirror before undoing her seat belt. She was far from looking like a beauty queen today, but at least her hair looked good. Her torn jacket certainly wasn’t in vogue, but she liked to think it added some character.

She chuckled softly as she climbed out of the car, smoothing the pleats in her skirt before hiking her purse up on her shoulder.  He’d always chided her self-depreciating banter, and it had lifted her spirits.

With a shake of her head, she pushed the thought away. Thinking about him was the last thing she needed to do.

She took a deep breath and began the short trek to the entrance of the bar. She needed to get him off of her mind before she lost it completely. There was a hotel up the road, she’d stop there next. Then she’d be back on the road. Maybe once she’d put enough distance between them it would all fade away.

She pushed through the doors and made her way to the bar, taking a seat towards the end. She examined the menu, suddenly wanting one of everything. She scanned the offerings quickly, thinking that this place was surprisingly pricey. She’d have to tighten up the purse strings tomorrow if she was going to make it very far.

The blonde woman behind the bar smiled warmly as she stepped in front of the customer, taking in the young woman with a mixture of curiosity and concern. The sad-looking  girl didn’t seem familiar and she wondered how she had stumbled upon this small town.

“Hi there, what can I do for ya?”

The younger girl looked up, pasting a smile on her face. “Is the grill still open?”

The bartender nodded. “For another hour,” she assured her.

She nodded. “I’ll take a bacon cheeseburger, fries on the side, and a bottle of Bud.”

The blonde took down the order. “Any sauce for your fries?”

The other girl screwed up her face. Normally she’d order ketchup for herself and dijon mustard for him. He’d always decline fries of his own, but would eat about half of hers. She shook her head. Would he always taint her thoughts?

“Just ketchup,” she replied, her voice strangled with emotion.

The bartender smiled once more. “Coming right up.”

 

***

 

I know, I know. It cuts off rather abruptly. Honestly, as I typed this up from the paper I’d scrawled it out on, I had to fight the urge to turn this into a 10 page piece. Unfortunately, longer bits like that don’t generally make for good blog posts. However, I just may expand on this in the future.

In the meantime, I would love to know what twists your family puts on traditional games! Tell me all about it in the comments below!

 

How Revamping A Dresser Changed My Outlook On Life

My basement and office are both full of random objects I’ve saved for future DIY projects. I tend to come up with ideas faster than I can complete them, and it’s turned into a bit of a hoarding situation. Lately, I’ve been motivated to complete as many of them as possible to free up space, especially since my husband and I have been kicking around the idea of moving out of state. I definitely don’t want to drag so much junk along with us!

Aside from the space saving benefits of finishing these projects, there is a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from taking old junk and turning it into treasure. This is something I’m reminded of daily when I take clothes out a dresser I refurbished a couple summers ago.

Since I can never do anything without writing about it, I had posted the following piece on my old blog and I decided to share it with you today as it was originally posted on April 12, 2015.

***

Every now and then, I find myself battling envy as I’m confronted with photos of beautiful homes, expertly decorated with the latest trends. I look around my home and dream of the day when I can afford to choose the things I surround myself with. Nearly everything we own has been a curb find, thrift store bargain, or a hand-me-down. There is no “theme” to speak of in any room in our house and our worn-out furnishings serve as a constant reminder that we’re not quite there yet.

A few weeks ago, I was in one of these funks. For days all I could see was the negative. I was fixated on all the things that were wrong. All the dilapidated furniture, the leaky ceiling, the dryer that has to be run 3 times per load, the bills that are always stacking up…all of it was just eating away at me. I felt stuck. Trapped.

As I was wallowing in self-pity, I looked at my beat-up dresser and began to imagine what it would look like with a few modifications. Soon, the thought occurred to me to stop complaining and do something about it. We may not be able to buy new things, but we can certainly make the things we have better!

ugly white dresser, cheap refurbishing

 

I became fixated on this idea. Suddenly, the project took on a sense of urgency. The only thing that I needed to figure out was how much it would cost to get the necessary materials.

Luckily, I happened upon some adorable contact paper for a little less than $3 at Dollar General while I was picking up pull-ups for my daughter. I snatched it up immediately and began formulating my plan.

About a week later I picked up some blue spray paint and a small bottle of gray craft paint at Wal-Mart, bringing my project total to just under 10 dollars!

refurbishing a dresser cheap
I had Almost-Husband scrape off all the old, cracked wood veneer while I painted the knobs gray. While he was working on the top of the dresser, I spray painted the drawers. There was a little ridge around the drawers, so I taped that off before we sprayed it, then I painted it the same color as the knobs. Finally, we lined the drawers and top of the dresser with the contact paper.
Beautiful blue and gray dresser refurbish, diy project

 

It turned out even better than I had envisioned it! I finally have something in our home that I can be proud of!

So many good things came out of this simple project. I had a blast working alongside Almost-Husband while our daughter ran around the yard, and it was amazing to see one of my many ideas finally come to fruition. I had previously believed that I had no eye for design, but I managed to create something I love!

If I could take an eyesore like that and turn it into something beautiful, then I can do the same with anything in my life. Starting with all our run-down furniture! It may sound superficial at first, but I feel like surrounding ourselves with nice things will motivate us to keep working our way up. Each project we complete will serve as a reminder of what we are capable of and that if you put in the effort, you’ll see results.

Making do with what you have doesn’t have to mean settling!

 

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