Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - May 2017

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - May 2017

While I do not believe in "dream jobs," I have waited all of my adult life to be able to do work that I enjoy, work that is challenging, work that is creative. I do now. But loving my work (being an artist) and loathing the context it has to occur in (extremely abusive and exploitative social media spaces that are infinitely worse than any corporate job office) is a resistant impasse.  Each month I try to figure out another way and hopefully after more conversations with artists who understand this, as there will be so few who do, I will come up with a plan that works. I have to. My well-being and survival depend on it. 

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - April 2017

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - April 2017

This year, I altered how I pursue deadlines, no longer engaging a rigidity that does not account for the fact that I have four blogs, I am working on 3 different sets of publication projects (that include multiple eBooks and other photographic/writing products in each) and have multiple social media accounts for four different projects, on top of any extraneous publishing that I do. It is a lot and it is one person doing it all. However, being "on target," so to speak, did not prevent me from reaching burnout. I am...tired. However, it is not the workload that exhausts me but the conditions I deal with to work at all that does.

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There Is No Competition

There Is No Competition

Competition and those endlessly seeking it can go elsewhere. I am not threatened by younger/less experienced people "taking my place" because they cannot. I am not threatened by older/more experienced people "making me look bad" because they cannot. There will always be people who I view as peers, or people with equal levels of experience, proficiency, insight and respect for their crafts. They are peers though, not competitors. Ultimately, teaching less experienced people, collaborating with peers, learning from more experienced people, and traveling my own path is what matters most to me. 

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - March 2017

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - March 2017

I am doing much better with short-term rest, sleep, and leisure woven into my schedule. I can see the clear differences from 2016 and especially from 2012-2015. However, it will take more time and practice to be able to schedule and mentally relax during longer periods of time off. See, though I know I need time time off—especially because of how stressful social media is as a "workspace"—at the same time, economic anxiety (the real kind, not the euphemism for being a racist) is something that will never leave me. I work independently; if I do not do it, then it does not get done.

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Not All Requests To "Collaborate" Are Worth My Time

Not All Requests To "Collaborate" Are Worth My Time

For a collaboration to actually be successful, it requires that the parties: 1) know each other (or get to know each other), 2) respect each other, 3) have shared goals, 4) have equitable skills across the board, so that the collaboration does not become a stereotypical version of the dreaded collegiate group project where the division of skills and labor are unbalanced. There are five types of people who request to collaborate and only one of them is an authentic collaborator... 

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Beauty 101: Personal Stories

Beauty 101: Personal Stories

Everyone has a beauty 101 story. How people treat them based on their appearance (and how privilege/oppression impact these perceptions) and how they perceive, express, struggle with and celebrate their own appearance. It is important to me to discuss beauty in an honest way, even if some people will have a difficult time accepting this honesty. I am not interested in people's "positive" projections on me regarding my "perfect skin" nor their incorrect perceptions of my unflappable self-esteem; I am human like everyone else. I am also not interested in people's negative projections on my looks or facile and inaccurate claims of "self-hate" simply because I do not express myself within their limited terms. 

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - February 2017

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - February 2017

A big misconception about time off or time to rest is that as long as you are not spending money, then it is "free" to have such free time. Well, as an indie creator, any time that I am not working (excluding things that create residual income), then I am not earning. There is no paid vacation time; there are no sick days. Thus, I have to be able to afford to take time off to take it in the first place, which means balancing reasonable deadlines with positive physical and mental health.

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - January 2017

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - January 2017

In a capitalist society, the amount of work someone does is not what determines if they get to be well-off or even "middle class." I decided that a reasonable work schedule, plenty of rest, and valuing my time off is what I want for 2017 and beyond. I am trying to both enjoy the moments as they happen but also be organized enough for long-term projects, all while having a reasonable schedule with reasonable deadlines, all while maintaining reasonably good mental health and all while earning enough money to survive. This is difficult; this is life; this is being an artist. Artists make art.

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2016: 100 Favorite Essays, Reviews, Photographs, Recipes & More...

2016: 100 Favorite Essays, Reviews, Photographs, Recipes & More...

Art is my career. Art is my hobby. Art is my life. Art saves me. Though 2016 was a terrible year for me in so many ways, it was also a year where I created art that I love, art that I feel proud of and art that has sustained me.

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - December 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - December 2016

In my commitment to reasonable deadlines—for someone who does the work of 6-7 people on a shoe string budget for some projects and zero dollars for others (unless they generate sales/funding after the fact)—I decided it is okay to take my time to do my best work (and most importantly, take care of my health) without self-imposed deadlines that create anxiety.

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My Top 15 Favorite Albums Of 2016

My Top 15 Favorite Albums Of 2016

I love my genre-diverse list of 15 favorite albums of 2016; true. But I must say that Black women especially showed up for music in 2016. I mean, Beyoncé’s album alone carried me through 2016. Solange made me so proud. What a tremendous contribution to Black music and culture. Rihanna defined what risk-taking is in music and is definitely receiving the benefits of doing this well. These 3 artists, let alone the other Black women I named made such an impact in 2016. Black women as creators sometimes seem to give the world more than the world deserves. I am grateful for these creations, nevertheless.

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - November 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - November 2016

In November, I had several re-realizations about how little people think of independent artists, of Black women online, of hypervisible Black women online and people like me who are both independent artists and hypervisible Black women online. I dealt with so many paternalistic people second-guessing what I do, offering unsolicited advice or requesting free work. I do my best to not let it be stifling to me. It still affects my mental, emotional and physical health though. The ‘cumulative’ stress is real. 

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History, Symbolism and Representation: Examining The Meaning of Hillary Rodham Clinton's Rise

History, Symbolism and Representation: Examining The Meaning of Hillary Rodham Clinton's Rise

History, symbolism and representation came to mind for me over the summer when I thought about what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidency would mean for me.  Examining history with a critical lens is more important than a hegemonic one. It does not invalidate the truth of a notable moment in history but instead provides subsequent context and nuance that evades the urge to solely support the ruling and the dominant. Interpreting symbols critically is more important than superficially and solely based on the perspectives of the powerful. Representation that pushes for structural change is ideal in a society where representation as a form of tokenism to buttress the existing status quo can end up backfiring and not being healthy or liberating at all. I have difficulty emotionally connecting to the meaning of this moment. Nobody has any room for the brokenhearted Black women though.

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - October 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - October 2016

Recognizing my need to rest is as important to me as recognizing my desire to create. When I looked over my Artists Make Art series, one thing that I realized is that I am not making logical deadlines where the time allotted matches the time needed to complete something. I am working alone. There is no team. There is no assistant. Thus, I am interested in making more logical choices and decisions about the actual time it takes for me to complete projects and not feel guilty about that longer time span since again, I am doing a lot and doing it alone. I look forward to really re-evaluating my deadline setting and making sure it is in a productive way that always centers my time, my physical/mental health and my need for relaxation and rest as well. 

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I Am Tired Of Being Expected To Work For Free

I Am Tired Of Being Expected To Work For Free

The people who demand free work from me are not in "survival mode" where exploiting me will "save their lives." I have seen some of them respect other indie creators' work and time, especially when those creators are "ally" Whites/men. Some of them get paid at their high-paying jobs with benefits that I do not have and often with salaries that I do not make. I make less now than what I did in corporate (by tens of thousands), even as I was still underpaid there. I do not deserve to be treated as someone in a consistent state of arrears to privileged, monied and inconsiderate people where I always owe something new or something else.

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - September 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - September 2016

Some people cannot stand to hear me say this but in some ways, using social media as an independent creator is worse than corporate. There are so many types of abuse that I experience now that I never did in corporate. It is difficult being an independent creator, especially as a Black woman, especially as someone who has to use social media as a "workspace" in order to earn and survive. This is a reality that I am not interested in hiding just so that I can be someone else's "career fantasy."

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I Rarely Trust People That Say That I "Inspire" Them

I Rarely Trust People That Say That I "Inspire" Them

Inspiration in of itself is not the problem. The way some people express "being inspired" as a pathway to rendering me an object to use, abuse and discard is. So many people are "inspired." So few people are ethical, honest and kind. I wish that these people thought of my labor as valuable enough to be paid for, cited, respected and consumed with temperance or respectfully disagreed with. I rarely trust people that say that I "inspire" them. I wish that this "inspiration" was rooted in kindness, not greed, envy and/or exploitation. 

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - August 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - August 2016

Not every day is easy, but I try to be aware of my limitations, my physical, emotional and mental health, and just try to take each day one at a time. Easier said than done, but so far, I still try. But people still continue to hover around the work that I did with Gradient Lair and refuse to stop the plagiarism and erasure. They are desperate for "wealth" in a social media "economy" where performing "wokeness" is "currency," and they will acquire this "wealth" by any means; ethics be damned. Part of this is either erasing my work and my role in how people know certain concepts today; another part is simply lifting the work and pretending it is their own. They will even assert that this abusive behavior is being "woke" itself. Despite all of this, I was still able to get some of my projected work done in August, and so much so that I still have a good feeling about the rest of the year in terms of a few things that I want to publish.

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The Painful Side of "Role Models," ''Mentors" and "Goals"

The Painful Side of "Role Models," ''Mentors" and "Goals"

I do not want to kill people's fantasies. But, I do not want to be one of them either. I am not your "goals." I am not who you want to be or are trying to be. You think I am. You also think you know me. You do not. However, this does not mean that what you do know about me becomes a lie.

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Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - July 2016

Artists Make Art: Personal Stories - July 2016

I decided that I do not have to rush to complete things that I previously set a deadline for. I want to pause sometimes and at least enjoy my work itself since I do not have the luxury of enjoying the context (primarily because of how a lot of social media is awful) in which I share this work, as an aspect of income/survival. Let me at least enjoy the process if I do not enjoy the post-publication circumstances, right? I have to be accountable for my work since there is no one to tell me what to do as an indie creator; I simply have to get it done. At the same time, I have to balance my own self-care and creative process over time.

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