Brandyn Blaze

Life Between The Scenes

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

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!

 

Rethinking Your Schedule: Cut Stress and Find Your Path

I’m not sure if I’ve let you in on this before or not, but I love lists. Lists, schedules, file folders…I love to feel like I have everything together.

Lately, I’ve been trying the bullet journal thing, and I have to admit it’s made a huge difference. Keeping all my lists in one place and being able to combine my diary entries and daily planner has been a great move. However, this isn’t really what I want to talk about today. At least, not entirely.

Because of my love of a well-defined routine, I decided to set out my blog schedule for 15 months. The idea was to use the time between books to write a ton of posts and schedule them out, so that I wasn’t trying to juggle both parts of my writing life at once.

This worked well for awhile. At the beginning of the year, I wrote 15 or so posts and scheduled them out. I focused on my next book, and it ran like clockwork. Then I stopped writing posts to add to the queue. Now that my book is ready for release, I decided it was time to get out in front of the blog posts again.  Until I looked at my schedule.

A few of the ideas no longer felt like a good fit, and even more of them seemed too time consuming. I know I’ll get back to the “harder” ones once my brain has made the shift out of “book mode”, but it still highlights a very common struggle in my life: overestimating what I can do.

 

de-stress, get rid of stress, bullet journal, unclutter your mind, overestimate what you can do, relax

 

One of the things my bullet journal forced me to do was shorten my daily to-do lists. I have my progress trackers for long term goals: daily word count, exercise, guitar techniques I’m working on, and so on.  I also have longer lists of various projects I want to tackle and things I must do. This cuts down my daily to-do lists considerably, so that I can focus on two to four things I know need done.

Somehow, I stayed locked into my old blog plan, though, and it seemed to be causing me more grief than necessary.

Today, I was “supposed” to share a short story I’d been working on. Because I’ve been focusing on my impending book release, it obviously didn’t get finished. I still felt that I needed to put something out, so I started this post, hoping I would find something I wanted to say.

And I did.

After thinking about the stress my rigid schedule has caused, I decided to let go of it. Instead, I have a list of possible post ideas that I can pull from. I can still write them in bulk and schedule them out like I have been, but now there’s more room for new ideas. There is also more room to move things around as needed.

The other day, I posted on Facebook that despite the fact that nothing major had happened, I was feeling very blessed. Everything has been humming along rather smoothly lately and I am constantly amazed at how much love fills this house. I can’t help but think that this new shift in my prioritizing has had a big hand in that.

Instead of constantly thinking about all I have to do, I’m focusing on what I can do today. I’m giving myself permission to relax and to let go of the guilt I’ve always felt when I don’t check off every single item on my list. I do what I can and catch up the next day if I need to, which is a big change for me.

 

don't stress, relax, all i can do is all i can do, rethink your schedule

 

I’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on getting rid of stress and mental clutter lately, and I have to say, it feels great. I’ve also been trying to focus on using the inevitable stress we all feel to propel me into action, which is tough when you’ve always used it as a reason to avoid something.  Reminding myself that doing something now will cause less stress in the long run has really gone a long way.

And that’s the point I want to get at. Never stop looking for a better way. We weren’t meant to spend our lives stressed out to the max or pushing through things that bring us no joy. Sure, there are times we have to do things we don’t necessarily like (scrubbing toilets, anyone?), but we can always change our perception and focus on the payoff instead. And if there is no payoff? We can change our course.

 

less stress, relax, change your path, quote, thousand wrong roads

 

This journey has been incredibly eye-opening. Each and every day I am working towards building the life I had always dreamed of, and I know each one of you can do the same. The trick is to not get discouraged and keep trying new methods until you land on something that works. Don’t fret over what hasn’t worked, or things that have epically failed, just keep charging forward.

Two years ago, I would have told you my dream was to own my own home, to have a happy family, to write full-time, and have time for my music. Today, all of those things are a reality. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still some kinks to work out, and the steps towards those goals started many years before that, but we got here. Now it’s time to focus on the details to bring that picture into focus.

I wrote about dreams awhile back and how important it is to have a clear vision of what you want. I still believe that’s true. You need to know exactly where you want to go so that you can create a roadmap. However, sometimes the only way to figure out what you truly want is to start hacking away at the things you don’t want so that it can reveal itself. You also have to be prepared to take the scenic route and get lost a few times along the way.

Have you figured out where you want to go yet? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

How To Write A Terrible Blog Post In 20 Easy Steps!

So, you’ve decided that you want to run an experiment and create the world’s worst blog, but you keep coming up with quality content. “How can I write the worst possible blog post ever?” you ask, peering over your stylish spectacles whilst scratching your head.

Perhaps you write for a living and have decided you want to get yourself fired.

Or, maybe you’re just kind of a flake and missed your self-imposed deadline and feel pressured to write something–anything–ASAP. It’s okay, I won’t judge you.

Whatever the reason, your quest for suckitude has brought you here. Rest assured that by the time you finish this article you will be armed with the knowledge you need to go forth and write…terribly.

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, terrible blogging is the result of hard work. It’s much more than covering the basics (poor grammar, spelling errors, or WRITING IN ALL CAPS), it’s a sophisticated sequence of events, a carefully choreographed dance, if you will.

Follow these steps in order. Do not attempt to switch them around, as doing so may result in accidentally writing something of value.

 

write a terrible blog post in 20 easy steps

 

  1. Spend nearly a full day writing a post you think is actually good. Put it away and have a glass of wine to celebrate, all you have to do is post it the next day!
  2. Re-read the post you wrote yesterday. Decide it needs more work.
  3. Check out some of your favorite blogs. Realize that someone else has recently written something very similar to what you planned to post next. Decide to put it away, fearing a case of accidental plagiarism.
  4. Decide that maybe the posts aren’t really that similar. You’ll just rewrite it to include a link to their post, just in case.
  5. Open the draft and stare at it for 5 full minutes. Feel that knot in your stomach? Congratulations! That’s doubt you feel and it’s a sign that you are well on your way to writing a terrible blog post. Keep up the good work!
  6. Grab a sheet of paper and start brainstorming ideas for a new article. Just write down whatever comes to mind, don’t worry about whether the idea is good or not.
  7. Hear your toddler crying in the next room. Vow to come back to the desk as soon as you find out what her problem is.
  8. Return to your desk approximately 4 hours later, once your child has finally decided to take a nap.
  9. Waste an hour or so researching ways to increase traffic to your blog.

    computer, blog tips, funny

    Or take notes on Youtube videos, I guess?

  10. Waste another 2 hours or so adding your blog to various directories and social sharing networks that may or may not bring you any clicks.
  11. Remember that you haven’t checked Facebook for a while. Waste another half-hour “Liking” everyone’s posts.
  12. Realize that you still haven’t made dinner and that your family likes food.
  13. Come back to your computer and spot the sheet of paper where you began brain-storming ideas.
  14. Realize you hate all of them.
  15. Open a new document and begin free-writing.
  16. Re-read what you’ve wrote, shrug, and say “Good enough.”
  17. Post it to your blog.
  18. Don’t forget to share it on all your social media sites!
  19. Have a glass of wine.
  20. Promise yourself that your next post will be better.
And there you have it. With the proper mix of determination and procrastination, you too can write a worthless blog post!

 

Things Every Writer Wishes You Knew

A while back, I gave you a list of ways to support the creative people in your life. Today, I’d like to expand on the most important aspect of support: understanding. Specifically, understanding the writer in your life.

Writers are a unique bunch. We’re the people who can stare off in silence for hours, lost in thought as we dream about knew plot lines or ponder human nature. We get excited over fresh notebooks and the possibilities they represent. We have a thing about how certain pens flow while writing. We buy books faster than we can read them, and can never have too many.

But these are all things I’m sure you knew.

Let’s dive a little deeper and look at some things writers wish you knew about not only our personalities, but the work we do.

what writers wish you knew

 

We need space. Writers are thinkers. We need time alone to reflect and ponder, and dream. We need to be free to explore our thoughts well before putting them on paper.  Likewise, writing in and of itself is a solitary activity. Whether it’s an office, a bedroom, or a certain place at the table, if the writer is in their writing space, leave them be!

While we’re on the subject…

Interruptions can be the kiss of death. Nothing is more frustrating than being on a roll and suddenly having those perfect words in your head replaced by the rambling of someone else before you can get them on paper.

Creativity is not a faucet that can be turned on and off at will. There’s a specific mood, a vibe that must be present in order to create. Not to say this feeling can’t be cultivated, but, much like making love, if you don’t do it when the mood strikes, you’re liable to lose it all together.

You will probably end up in a book.  Writers are observant people. We study the human condition. Everything we see, hear, do, and feel gets filed away to become fuel for future characters and story lines. That said, it’s fiction. A character may have something in common with you. It doesn’t always mean it is how we view you.

It’s harder than it looks. On one hand, writing is as simple as dreaming something up and putting it on paper. The simplicity of the act leads many to believe that it’s something anyone can do. However, there is a lot more that comes with it.

It’s still work, even when our office looks like this.

It’s hours of plotting out your story, deciding what events occur to move the tale along, developing your characters’ personalities and growth, creating a certain feel and vib for your readers, and then finding just the right wording to bring it all to life. It’s realizing a scene you’ve spent time and energy on doesn’t work and deleting it all. It’s having the strength to stand behind a silly fantasy and present it to the world with the hopes that it resonates with someone else.

This is especially true if you’re self-publishing. Everything from editing and proofreading to cover design to promotion all falls on you.

Not doing it feels like torture. I firmly believe that no one chooses to be a writer. Writing chooses you. I don’t know that there is a way to accurately describe the gnawing urge to sit down and allow a story to pour out of you, but can tell you that it is quite an uncomfortable thing to sit with when there’s no relief in sight. While getting paid to write is a dream, most of us see that as an added benefit to doing something we would continue to do for free anyway. We couldn’t stop if we tried!

Sometimes doing it feels like torture!  I’ve already mentioned how much work goes into creating a story, so I won’t get into how tedious and draining that can be, or how frustrating it can be when you can’t get a scene to come out right. The thing I want to point out is that writing is an emotional experience.

For many of us, there is a familiar cycle that starts with loving what you have written, followed by hating every word and idea you’ve managed to put down. You kind of alternate between the two until it’s finally finished, then continue to feel a bit of pride tempered with thoughts of “I should have done ______ instead”.

As you can imagine, that aspect of it can get a bit maddening. Add on bouts of writer’s block, and it can pile up!

It takes time and money to succeed. While an established writer with a traditional publishing deal may have the advantage of marketing deals and press coverage, those things still have to be paid for. Additionally, a traditional deal doesn’t always equate to bigger sales.

A lot of times our income looks like this.

For those of us who are independently published, we have two options. We can hire people to do the leg work for us, or we can put in the time ourselves. Either way, this results in spending money. Computers, photographers, cameras and photo editing software if you’re doing the images yourself, ad campaigns, copies of your book to sell or give away as promotions, hosting for your website, all of these things add up.

A fun fact, even getting people to see the things you post to Facebook can cost money! With the way the Facebook algorithm is set, your posts will not be shown to everyone who follows you. If you want to reach a wider audience, you’re going to have to pay to promote it.

With so many writers and other artists vying for attention across social media, you have to work to stand out. You have to be consistent and engaging to grow and maintain your following, which is time consuming.

Speaking of promotion…

We rely on word of mouth. People don’t buy a product they don’t know exists. Our success is contingent on our fans spreading the word to other people who may be interested in our work. In today’s world, this can be expanded to include mentions on social media and reviews on product listings or sites like Goodreads. It’s just the nature of the beast.

We don’t want blind praise. As much as we want to hear that you love our work and want you to share it with others, we don’t want our family and friends to be a sea of yes-men. Honest feedback is important if we are going to grow and improve at our craft.

We also don’t want you to feel obligated to read what we’ve written. It’s totally fine to decline, as long as you’re not rude about it. If it’s not for you, just say that up front. You can still be supportive in other ways, so don’t feel bad!

We know we’re weird, and we’re fine with that. Really. There’s no reason to remind us. In fact, we embrace all the things that make us oddballs and hope you can learn to do the same. It’s all those differences that make the world such a wonderfully vibrant place, after all!

And there you have it. Now that you understand your the writer in your life a bit more, put your new knowledge to use. Give your creative friend a hug, spread the word about their work, and respect the boundaries and idiosyncrasies that shape their world.

If you yourself are a writer and have something to add to this list, be sure to add it in the comments below!

 

 

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