Blog

for the Writers

The myth of 2 options: starving artist or household name

Ya know that myth of only two options, where in books & films any author is either a starving artist or a bestseller household name, no in between? Of course that comes from a scarcity mindset, but more specifically I’ve been thinking…

I think this comes from humans just not being able to grasp super large numbers easily, like for instance, how big a population of 8 billion people really is. Let’s break it down.

If you get $5 for each book you sell & want $100,000/year for the next 80 years, you only have to sell 1.6 million books in your life. You might be like, that’s A LOT! Or thinking “those numbers are way off from what I need or what I make per book.” You’re right.

I can’t get the numbers exact for your or anyone’s situation, but the point is: That number is roughly the population of Phoenix Arizona. One large city. Out of….lots of large & small cities, not to mention countries. It’s much less than 1% of just the US population.

This doesn’t account for box sets, audiobooks, & other offerings. It also doesn’t factor in business costs. But it shows there’s a third option. It may be the odds of winning the lottery to become a bestseller, but it’s still way achievable to live comfortably off your work.

You don’t have to be a household name to make a living as an artist. Hey, technically you could just become known in your region and make a living. Or spread it out a bit to find your ideal customer across the nation or globe of course.

You might not be making a living yet. But don’t buy the lie that you have to become a mega-bestseller or have the next franchise to make this work. Hold on to your dream. Each sale gets you closer. This has encouraged me lately, & I hope it encourages you too.


*Note: These numbers came from googling and calculating by my non-math-whiz self. My apologies if you find an inaccuracy somewhere.

Uncategorized

Let’s be real for a bit. Thank you.

As I’m preparing to go full steam ahead in the new year, I don’t want to pretend these past couple years didn’t exist. I don’t want to pretend that I’m some machine that will keep churning out things all the time.

I have been seriously MIA thru 2020-2021. You know this, I know this, so let’s not pretend. With all the Covid stuff, I completely stopped all in person events and moved fully online. I say that, but actually, I also stepped back from online spaces a bit because of all the things.

And hey, if some creator steps away, you have the total freedom to move on too. You can unsubscribe from that email, you can unfollow and disengage, you can find other things to spend your time and money on especially in this economy, right? And yet, you’re here.

Even with fewer posts, my blog traffic stayed steady. I saw sporadic sales of my book and clothes with few marketing efforts where I honestly just figured I’d take a loss. And for these two years of quiet, I’ve had patrons continuing to contribute consistently so I can have funds to keep this website up and continue working on my novel. I am blessed to have a faithful community around me. I am excited to jump back into the thick of things in 2022 and publish Unfixed so you all can see what has been built in this quiet season. Thank you.

for the Creatives, Showcasing other Creatives

The top 6 planners & systems for creatives to tackle their dreams

We all need a new planner to try every now and again, right? Here are some of the top planners for creatives in my mind: My favorites that I’ve tried, plan to try, or that I think are a super cool system even if they don’t work for me.

(Disclaimer-y thingie: Most of these are not affiliate links, it goes directly to the small business I’m recommending just because they have a super cool thing I gotta geek out about with you. If there’s a specific option on Amazon I love, I do use an affiliate link and will receive a small portion of sales made through that link.)

1. The Makers Yearbook

This is the one I’m excited about digging into next year!

Me holding a box saying the "Maker's Yearbook" on it. I'm sitting next to a christmas tree, but don't be fooled, it's not an early christmas present. I just decorated early :)

It includes strategizing for the year, social media and sales tracker, goal setting and review areas, and probably about ten other things I didn’t mention here. If you’re a creative, you should take a look. (Oh, and I share some pics of the inside in this blogpost, too.)

2. The simple & ginormous deskpad weekly planner

(That’s an affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales thru that link). And here’s another option if you like the wooden look instead of the bold designs.

View of weekly planner with various tasks and appointments scribbled across. It's sitting on a desk, with coffee and roses in view as well.
pic from Amazon listing. This is an affiliate link and I may receive a portion of sales from purchases thru this link

Sometimes simple is effective without all the fluff. This was my go-to as I was juggling dayjob, publishing I Know You Like a Murder, plus regular home and family to-do’s. I didn’t need some complex system, I just needed a quick view to keep each piece moving in small ways. It took up half my desk and I had an area to list what I planned for each piece of my life.

3. The Finish calendar by Jon Acuff, for when the ginormous deskpad isn’t ginormous enough

View of large markerboard yearly planner propped up on an office desk. At the top it says "FINISH 2022".
Pic from sale listing at link above.

You got big plans for the year, and now you can track it all in one view. It comes in paper or markerboard option with both portrait and landscape views, and super reasonably priced.

4. The home planner, money planner, and student planner

Because creatives gotta stay on top of other stuff too.

Pic collage of various home planners and journals
Pic from sale listing at link above. This is a referral link where you’ll receive $5 off your purchase!

This year I used the home planner from Passionate Penny Pincher. (The link is a referral link where you’ll get a $5 off coupon, and I’ll get one too!). She also has a student planner and this money planner (this is an Amazon affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales).

5. The Hero’s journal, for the less structured, more go-with-the-flow adventurer

To document all your quests for future generations, or, okay, just to keep track of it yourself 🙂

A grey hero's journal with gold embossing and an elastic band around.
Pic from sale listing at link above.

If all the dates and structure of a typical planner just boxes your dreamer spirit in too much, this may be the solution for you. Put on your (metaphorical or literal) hero hat and document your hero’s journey because you’re the main character of your own story. Includes both print and digital option. It’s an undated journal with a section to list your 3 tasks to “seize the day”, as well as allies, threats, and more.

6. Trelloing

Is it officially a planner? No. Does it help me stay on top of to-do’s and track my tasks with start dates and due dates and everything? Absolutely.

View of my public Trello board for what I'm creating currently. You can see cards about my various creative endeavors, items on my to-do list, what's scheduled and launches, and what's one step completed of a bigger project.
This is my public Trello board for what I’m creating currently. You can set up Trello in a way that works for you, even if that looks different than what’s working for me 🙂

Plus, it’s free and user-friendly, available on web and mobile app, and lets you invite members to your boards to manage family or business team tasks all in one place together. So versatile and still simple. Try it out!

And bonus planners if ya just want more:

You can also try out these amazing looking planners that I’m digging:

  • The Practice Planner, a great tool for any artist looking to consistently work on their craft.
  • The Passion Planner, for structure and creativity all in one space
  • The All-in-One Planner, with a unique layout to see the weekly and monthly view at the same time
  • The Clever Fox Planner (affiliate link), with multiple versions to scale up or down as you see fit. This planner is built to build harmony in all the pieces of your life coming together in one clear place for you.

Tell me about your fav planners!

I’m always on the lookout for a new planner tool to geek out over. There are too many planners in the world to choose just one, am I right? So what’s your fav? What’s been working for you, or what are you excited to try out next year? Tell me in the comments, I wanna hear all about it 🙂

for the Creatives

When your old planner suddenly no longer works for you

This is an ode to yearly planners of all sorts.

There’s something to be said about consistency and routine that builds momentum toward your dreams, whether that’s dreams of keeping up with juggling all the appointments and a clean home and work tasks, or dreams of publishing a book, building a creative business, or [insert your dream here]. Trusty old planners and systems are comforting.

I’ve had plenty of things thru the years that have worked for me (and, things that fizzle out or bomb outright).

In terms of yearly planners, I’ve went from a daily planner, to a weekly planner, and I’ve always despised the monthly views. I’ve went from ones that I can carry here and everywhere, to ones that are ginormous and fill up my desk. I’ve tried mobile apps, and I’m still absolutely in love with Trello for task management. I adore discovering a good new planner, but haven’t yet found one that I buy _every_ year. Inevitably I find something different that will work for the next.

Someone recently said* that because our brains crave newness, sometimes something that previously worked no longer works, and finding a new system is exactly what’ll help. That’s a comfort to this person right here, who craves routine and consistency and follow-through, and freaks when something no longer works when it “should”.

The new planner tool I’m trying this next year

This new year, I’m so excited to be trying out this Makers Yearbook Planner. I’m geeking out over every last bit of it. Take a look at these pictures and just _try_ to not click the link above to buy one of your own.

If you’re looking for a small business to support as a belated Small Business Saturday (or ever) and this planner interests you, go get it!

I have systems that are working this year, but I’m excited for this detailed plan to take me along the next steps of the journey as I work to publish my paranormal circus novel. Every year I think “Ahh, this planner is _the_ planner I will use forever, it’s the best system for me.” This year is no different. I’m convinced I’ll shell out the cash every year into eternity to have this beauty.

Granted, every year so far after thinking that, I have switched it up later for something new and shiny. But now, I kinda know why, because science 😉

So besides this shiny new planner, where does this leave us?

While drafting this post I began geeking out over just about every planner I’ve fallen in love with ever, but I reeled it in here. So, be looking for that post next if you want to see more amazing new options 🙂 And share your favs in the comments below!

If you have a system and it’s no longer working, maybe try switching some piece of it up – buy a new planner, try Trello, move your workspace around, or whatever change is beckoning you. (And hey, if you don’t have a consistent routine and that’s not working for you, maybe try making one – after all, that would be switching it up.)

Overall, let’s not be afraid when our systems no longer work, and let’s remember it’s not indicative of our work ethic or commitment. We can stick with it, lean in, and see what happens. But we are also free to let it go with gratitude for where it’s brought us thus far, and step into something new for the next season.


*Btw, hey, on that vague “someone recently said” thing above, I don’t remember who said these wise words, and I can’t find it. There’s a whole bunch of old publications related to it when googling, but I heard it from an individual’s website, social media, etc. If you recently posted about it somewhere or know someone who did, please post below or message me as I’d love to give proper credit here!

Exclusive Content, My Creative Projects

On completing the first draft of a dream come true

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for the Creatives

Nothing is wasted

I’m envisioning this post like a lighthouse. Only, this isn’t your typical lighthouse analogy. It’s not a lighthouse showcasing all the rocks you’re on the verge of crashing into and saying, “Wait, danger, you’re going the wrong way!” This isn’t that lighthouse analogy. It may be the same lighthouse, but look at it a different way with me today. Instead, think of it as the lighthouse beaming amidst the tumultuous waters, reminding you of the cozy shelter you’re heading towards. The lighthouse that beckons, “See, you’re on the right track. Keep moving along, you’re getting closer.”

If you feel like you’re stuck in the wrong place, or living the wrong life, or just 20 steps behind where you planned, treading water while reaching toward that elusive dream… (like, say, a dream of being a full-time author making a living off her writing, hypothetically speaking…)

Shes The Man GIF: "speaking as a completely objective third-party outsider with absolutely no personal interest in the matter"

(Note: the subtext in the movie this quote is from, and here, is the entire discussion is because there is a WHOLE BUNCH of personal interest in the matter))

I’ve been seeing reminders lately that nothing is wasted, and I thought I’d throw that reminder out to you, too. Nothing is wasted. Like a lighthouse or a floatie or at least a piece of driftwood, this is something for you to focus and grab onto amidst the waves. If your plan for your life is a little more zigzag than a straight line, let me tell ya: nothing is wasted.

I don’t mean this as some sort of “smile when bad things happen” mantra. Just because we land somewhere doesn’t mean we were meant to land there. But I take hope that I’m not necessarily derailed forever, that each intricacy is knitting together a life I’m pursuing.

You may be learning administrative or customer service or leadership skills that will translate to your own entrepreneurial endeavors one day. You may be learning what not to do. You may be taking the time you need to recover and rejuvenate to go full steam ahead next year. You may be passing on a legacy or a dream to those around you. Look closely at your past circumstances, at your present circumstances, and see what you can glean to move toward your dream better than before. If you look closely, you might see something to take with you on your journey. Or, you may not. I sure don’t sometimes. We don’t always get to see what’s happening until hindsight.

Emperor's New Groove GIF: Kronk says "By all accounts, it doesn't make sense," while showing a map where one party had no way of beating the other party to the location and somehow they did anyway

The more I look at the dreams of others around me slowly coming true, how all the detours and pieces of their lives come together into this moment…. It’s something that can be happening for me too, for you too. If you can’t yet see it for yourself, look at someone further along the journey than you. Sometimes we can see it in others before we can see it for ourselves. Whether you call it God or destiny or providence or purpose or… It’s conspiring for you as you dream. Keep dreaming, keep following that light, and sooner or later we’ll see the convergence.

Faith, for the Creatives

Being a Christian writing really nonchristian work

Though my faith is important to me, my work doesn’t fit into the rules of that genre. If you’ve read books from the Christian market, you probably picked up on that 😉 Sorry, but my murderous psychopath protagonist isn’t gonna go to church and convert.

And yet, if you stick around long enough, you may hear about my faith on my blog and social media. It doesn’t make sense for marketing or branding purposes, I know. But here’s a peek behind the curtain of why. (Note: it’s not some sort of cheesy “hide it under a bushel” answer either.)

The problem:

There’s this perception within pockets of Christianity that if your art isn’t explicitly Christian in theme – if you’re not painting pictures of Jesus or writing Scripture on your artwork, if you’re not singing worship songs or at least angsty churchy themes, if you’re not writing clean Christian-themed books that wrap everything up in a tidy Jesus-saves-the-day bow – then you’re not using your gifts for God.

What further perpetuates that mindset is that it’s hard to find Christians who are doing their art in the general marketplace, not because they’re not there, but because their websites understandably don’t scream “Christian alert!”. It’s arguably easy to connect with artists in the marketplace. And it’s relatively easy to find Christian artists making Christian art. However, it’s hard to find Christian artists in the secular market. Their faith is not their branding, so they’re inconspicuous.

A solution…?

Kiera Cass was one of the first writers I found who has nothing to do with the Christian market but still mentions her faith. Matt Tommey and Alex Marestaing have both spoken at Karitos Christian Arts Conference about believers working in the secular market instead of separating ourselves into this Christian bubble. And I recently finished a book by Marlita Hill about “represent[ing] the Kingdom while…making ‘that kind’ of art,” (that’s an affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales through that link). The book is an encouraging and hopeful book for this weirdly taboo topic in Christian circles. One day, I want to be what those people have been to me, an example to some artist who wonders if they can create nonchristian work and still honor their faith and their God.

I’m still learning how my faith plays into my writing. What I do know is: There’s not the Christian Amy and the writer Amy. It’s not two separate Amys, two separate lives; all pieces of me are intermingled. My writing, and my faith, together. They play into each other, perhaps in subtle ways rather than overt. If you look really closely, you just might see my faith as you read about my murderous psychopath protagonist. And when you look at faith really closely, it may not tie into the way you envision a Jesus-saves-the-day bow. It doesn’t always look like a good story, but it could still be a good story.

Musings

The trope of the wise and emotionless character, ughh

The more knowledge and wisdom you gain, the more emotionless you get….right? At least, that’s what stories seem to be selling.

In my recent watch of Game of Thrones (affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales through this link), it has this one trope that makes me wanna shake my fist or pull out my hair or do all the emotional things the trope claims I shouldn’t be doing. Spoilers ahead, stop now or forever hold your peace.

Gosh, Bran. The “super wise, nearly-all-knowing figure who then loses all feelings” trope. I adored how Game of Thrones speaks to our various perceptions of power and challenges our assumptions, and this is one place where I in particular pondered deeper than where the TV show at least ends (and maybe it goes further in the books, or maybe it’s supposed to leave it hanging for these exact sort of ponderings outside the story; either way, I’m on board). So while I don’t like this trope, it’s just one way the show approaches the concept of power and how the world sees it.

"I'm not angry at anyone." - Bran Stark, Game of Thrones
Yes, this is a horrible resolution photo, it’s the only one I could find, bear with me here 😛

I think it’s such an unassuming trope, one that kind of sneaks under the radar and makes ya think “Yeah, if I just had more discernment and understanding of the grand scheme of things, I’d freak out a whole lot less.” And that could possibly partially be true, but then it kind of makes it seem like those in-real-life people who deny having emotions and think about everything “calmly and rationally” and analyze everything are just better than those trying to lead with their emotions along for the ride as well. This is how we get leaders who don’t demonstrate compassion when someone is pouring out their heart and struggling. It perpetuates this idea that “If victims of oppression would just let go of their anger and see the big picture, that’s the real problem here.”

Good, wise people, and good, wise leaders who do see the big picture, I’d like to think they are willing to enter into lament alongside those they serve who are suffering. That righteous anger leads to enact justice and demonstrate mercy. And I think someone who sees the grand scheme of the universe, maybe could possibly have learned something about being in touch with their feelings and others’, would react strongly to injustice or pain because they’ve seen the results of that, they’ve seen where it leads.

That sounds like I’m just hopping on some social justice bandwagon, and sure how this trope contributes to privilege is an important component at play here, but more selfishly it’s personal too; I’d like to think my tears can be a strength, not just a weakness. And I’d like society to think that sometimes emotions come from a place of wisdom, that they’re not opposite ends of a spectrum but inseparable pieces of being human.

As far as I remember, that trope tends to show up as a “good guy” thing across most stories that use it, it doesn’t tend to lead anywhere bad. (If you know an example I’m missing though, let me know!) And I’d love to explore that more in a story, to see it viewed positively at first and then turn sour, similar to how Daenerys’ bent towards justice goes too far.

So kudos to George R. R. Martin and all the team that put this story together, especially in exploring themes of power. I don’t yet know if this is further explored in the books or will be as more is written there, but these are my musings I ponder of a possible other story, a possible other theme to explore in a separate character and realm even.

"God isn't asking you to be OK all the time." Quote by Abby Norman from "You Can Talk to God Like That"
Faith

The spiritual practice of lament

In Christian culture there’s difficult Biblical qualities we joke about being painful, like patience. “Don’t pray for patience or you’ll get a whole bunch of waiting ahead of you, hahahahaha….” ha. ha. But something big in the Bible that we try to completely hide away and forget even exists is lament. I don’t think I’ve heard a message on lament in….. *crickets* *looks at watch*…. nope, never.

We prefer to think about the fruit of the spirit is love joy and peace, and God works things together for good, and we don’t grieve like those with no hope, and the joy of the Lord is my strength. We like to skip to the “happily ever after” in the Bible stories, the red sea parting and the restoring doublefold and the resurrection – not the centuries of slavery or losing everything as a pawn in a supernatural contest or the crucifixion. We don’t want to sit in that place.

And Abby Norman‘s new book “You Can Talk to God Like That” is a breath of fresh air for the church and the world and for me.

"God isn't asking you to be OK all the time." Quote by Abby Norman from book "You Can Talk to God Like That"

I’m only half way through so far, reading about lamenting to God and lamenting in community, and it’s reminding me that moments and seasons of lament are okay, and even spiritual. It doesn’t have to be all happy happy joy joy.

Here’s one piece that drew me in, where I’ve seen individuals in my own life embody this with and for me:

When it is too hard to hope, that is OK; your community can hope for you. When it is too hard to believe that the light will come in the morning, you don’t have to. You can have someone else hold your hope for a while. Or your faith, or your anger if you know you should be angry but are just too tired. This is why we recite the creeds together, why we take time in church to chant all at once about what we believe. We believe in the Holy Spirit. We believe in the virgin birth. It is a reminder that when all of it is too much, there are other people who can hang on. When someone else is tired, it can be your turn again, like the way the trumpet section of the marching band can hold the long note forever. Lamenting in a community gives us more space to feel whatever we need to feel, to say whatever we need to say, while other people hold our life and our society together for us. Communal lament teaches us that we don’t have to hold the whole world in our hands, because God does.

Abby Norman, in “You Can Talk to God Like That”

"You can talk to God like that" by Abby Norman, book cover. "The surprising power of lament to save your faith."
(affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales. But more importantly, Abby Norman would receive your support.)

"Grief is the price we pay when we love someone, when we love something, when we have fully embodied and embraced a season and are sad to see it go. It is important to acknowledge that grief. It is necessary if we want to fully embrace the next season." - quote by Abby Norman from book "You Can Talk to God Like That"

Choosing to sit with the times and seasons of grief, of weeping, of anguish instead of brushing it to the side, that’s where we can really fully embrace the times and seasons of rejoicing and laughing and celebration. Limiting and dampening our emotions isn’t a big win. And I’m thankful for voices speaking to that, especially amidst the whole COVID thing, but really in general. If any of us have been waiting for permission, for reassurance that our faith isn’t any less when we’re not okay, this can be that. The door is open.

I’m honored I could be part of the book launch team, and I recommend you check out her site or her book or just try talking to God “like that”, whatever that looks like for you today.

for the Bookworms

A belated GoT post on the power of story from a behind-the-times creative

“Stories matter.”

When googling an image for a Game of Thrones quote, “stories matter” is a different [and non-Game-of-Thrones] quote that popped up. It’s applicable too, compelling.

I think that’s what drives (all? most?) storytellers. And I think it’s the reminder that storytellers need to keep going. Especially at the point of economic difficulties and essential activities, we need that reassurance that what we’re doing matters. I’ve seen those reminders throughout this pandemic in many a post, so this isn’t something new and big and profound I’m mentioning; it’s just another reminder to hopefully hit the feed or inbox at just the right moment for an artist who needs it.

"What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There's nothing more powerful in the world than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it." - Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones

I just finished Game of Thrones – I know, wayyyy too late, but I was waiting for the final season to release so I could buy the full series set, and then I was waiting for the full series set to be on sale because I wasn’t ready to spend $200. You either understand, or you’re a Game of Thrones afficionado that now thinks I’m wayy behind the times and have my priorities out of whack, which, fair 😛 I’m usually the person that watches a show much later than everyone else, and I still haven’t figured out why, it just…happens…

I love complex plots and twists and worlds full of characters with depth and themes and foreshadowing and nuance… and of course GoT didn’t disappoint. It brought to mind the power of story, and then of course Tyrion Lannister really came through with the quote above in the final moments to drive it home and bring some sort of semblance of cohesiveness to my thoughts on the show. (Just a semblance though.)

And it must have really been time to fill up on this inspiration, because I stumbled across this other quote in a book I was reading:

Stories are the only thing in this world that are real. Everything else is just a dream.

Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell (affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales from this link)

So now you ask, when is Amy gonna take all this inspiration and bundle it into all that writing to get that circus story of hers across the finish line? Or, if I had been keeping you in the loop the past year you may have asked that, but by now you’ve probably forgotten. And the answer is, now. I’m easing back into things after a lot.

And I hope whether you’re in a season of rest or a season of creating (or both), these quotes remind you that you can always come back when the time is right. Stories are always there for you, whether to binge and stream, or to string together in the imagination, or to share between friends & family. And all of that matters, whichever one is “your thing” right now. Turn on Netflix, call up a friend, cozy up with a book and chai, or get that pen and paper ready – it all matters, it’s all interconnected, because it’s all story.