Category Archives: Work Stuff

We’ll See What Happens

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The view out the back of my new home studio in Indiana.
The view out the back of my new home studio in Indiana.

When I worked through The Artist’s Way almost 3 years ago, I had an idea of what the book and 12 week program might offer me in the short term – some insight into my creative strengths and weaknesses and hopefully renewed energy for my creative pursuits.

What I wasn’t sure about was how it might affect me in the long term. What would stick? What would be cast aside, like so many other creative coats I’ve tried on over the years?

Well, here it is almost 3 years later, and I am surprised to report that what has stuck with me the most are the morning pages. I write them nearly every morning. Sometimes life gets hectic (I’m looking at you, stressful cross-country move) and I set them aside for a few days or even a few weeks. There’s a lull in the conversation between my psyche and me. I just can’t be bothered, or I’m too overwhelmed, or I’m so focused on a big project that I don’t want to sacrifice that precious morning time. Those handful of magic minutes first thing in the morning where I’m most positive, enthusiastic and ready to get down to business.

But I always pick them back up.

Mostly, they are a laundry list of what I did the previous day and what I’m hoping to accomplish on that day. I list my worries, my complaints. I think the phrase I use most often (usually several times in one sitting) is “We’ll see what happens.”

And then there are days like today, where I plunge a little deeper. I shine some light on some of the darker places. I don’t just write down that I feel kind of shitty or disappointed or tired or overwhelmed. I ask myself WHY I feel kind of shitty or disappointed or tired or overwhelmed.

This move from Los Angeles to Indiana has taken my almost complete focus for the last six months or so. I knew this would happen. Which is one of the reasons why I was so resistant to it for so long. I already feel like I’m behind in my life. Like I’m racing to catch up with everyone else. I didn’t want to get even further behind.

Now that we’ve successfully packed up all of our stuff, shipped it across the country, took our two nervous and drugged cats on a plane, lived with my parents for a month, closed on a house, moved all our stuff and the cats into the house, totally redid the plumbing, painted some rooms and have mostly unpacked, I’m starting to feel a little restless.

Restless?

I suppose that’s kind of weird to feel restless after such a huge expenditure of energy. But I haven’t put any energy whatsoever into any of my creative pursuits for the last six months, and I feel it. I think that’s why I feel so shitty. I’ve been neglecting that part of myself, and it’s ready to come back out.

I’m a little overwhelmed thinking about all the pieces to pick back up again. What will I focus on? Writing? Acting? Creativity coaching? Something else? I’m hoping that as I continue to get settled, that I’ll find the focus.

In the meantime, I’ll get back into my creative routines (morning pages, weekly blog posts, sending queries out for my first novel, working on the second). I’ll start some new routines (walking on the beach, joining a local writers group, seeing theater in Chicago). I’ll see what rises to the surface, what clamors for more attention.

We’ll see what happens.

 

 

 

 

A Call to Creative Women Over 40

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Friends!

Many of you know that I’ve embarked on a journey towards becoming a certified Creativity Coach through the Creativity Coaching Association.

What the hell is that, you say?

That’s a good question, and one that I’m working to answer through this certification process and my own life experience and perspective. What I do know is that as a creative person I have faced challenges that I wasn’t sure how to address. That in my life I’ve become blocked, or bored, or hopeless, or even experienced a crisis of meaning. I’d ask myself, “What am I doing? Where am I going? Is any of this worthwhile? Am I wasting my life?”

As I get older I see I am not alone in these kinds of challenges or obstacles. I’m not the only creative person struggling to answer what seem like unanswerable questions, like, “What does this all mean?”

I happened upon the idea of coaching when I was researching ways I can expand my skill set and to use my creativity to be of service. At this point in my training I’m beginning to see not only how difficult the coaching can be, but also how valuable and rewarding – both for any potential clients and for me.

In our training, we’re encouraged to consider different ways we might specialize in our coaching. This could be exclusively offering services to writers or painters, or working with artists who have anxiety issues, or coaching creatives who struggle with marketplace problems. There are so many ways to specialize, it can be tough figuring out where to focus!

One area, though, that has come up again and again as being important to me personally and potentially valuable to others like me, is to offer coaching specifically for creative women over 40. We are a group of artists who face our own particular sets of challenges, and I’d like to be of service in this area.

If you are a creative woman over 40, I’d love to hear what some of the struggles or obstacles are that you face.

What gets in the way of having a satisfying creative life?

Where do you feel most vulnerable?

What types of struggles do you face?

What is most important to you in your life, what are your priorities?

What kind of help would be valuable to you?

What looks like success?

I’d like to begin crafting an online workshop and e-book that address specific issues related to you (and me!), so any stories or thoughts you’d like to share with me would be incredibly valuable.

Please feel free to write in the comments or send me a personal message at amy.clites@yahoo.com.

Thanks, and happy creating!

It’s Time to Go

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"You Are Beautiful" sign welcoming people to the Miller Beach neighborhood of Gary, where we are planning to move. Part of the You Are Beautiful public art project https://you-are-beautiful.com/pages/public-art
“You Are Beautiful” sign welcoming people to the Miller Beach neighborhood of Gary. Part of the You Are Beautiful public art project https://you-are-beautiful.com/pages/public-art

I’ve been a firm believer in trusting my intuition for many years now.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t as easy as all that. There’s much hand-wringing, and forehead-rubbing, and stomachaches, and internal arguments that go on. I hear that inner voice telling me what to do. And sometimes I rationalize its arguments away. Sometimes I ignore it. Sometimes I listen to it for awhile and then get distracted by other things.

But I always end up going back to that voice. I’ve learned that it tells me what I need to know, whether I want to hear it or not. And I’ve learned (and am still learning) to trust what that voice says.

And right now that voice is telling me it’s time to go.

I know. It’s scary.

It’s been telling me this for awhile, but I haven’t been listening. Well, I’ve been listening, but I haven’t been trusting. I’ve been explaining it away. I’ve been rationalizing arguments not to go.

But I now trust that it’s time to go.

After all, I’ve chosen this life. I’ve chosen a life of creative adventure over financial security. I’ve chosen wildness over stability. I’ve chosen to satisfy my curiosity, not to stock my coffers. And because I’ve been listening to that unpredictable inner voice, that intuition, I’ve found the adventures I’m looking for. I take risks. I uproot myself and start over. I take a fresh perspective. I upend things, even when it appears they are thrumming along quite healthily.

So, now is that time. I’m uprooting, upending and relocating myself.

I am going back from whence I came.

I am moving back home.

It feels REALLY WEIRD. I’ve spent more of my life away from home than I have living there. I have loads of worries. Will I fit in? Will I even want to fit in? Will I make new friends? Will I be depressed? Will I get really fat? Will I be unhappy? Will I hate it? Will I think it’s a mistake?

Will I feel like a failure?

But, amidst all those (VERY LOUD) worries, that inner voice says, loud and clear, GO.

GO HOME.

IT’S TIME TO GO HOME.

So, hubs and I are packing it up and moving from Los Angeles, my love affair of the last ten years, to Indiana. An hour outside Chicago. On the lakefront. In Gary.

Yes, Gary.

We are moving to Gary, Indiana.

I can’t hardly believe I’m typing that, let alone DOING it.

But that voice, loud and clear, has said “IT’S TIME.” And for some reason it’s also saying “GO TO GARY,” which, if you’re from the area, you know that’s just UNHEARD OF. Who moves to Gary?

Apparently, I do. And hubs. Even hubs trusts my intuition, which is practically screaming “GARY, INDIANA!!!!!” at me all the time now that I’m listening and trusting.

I’m in for a major course adjustment. But every other time in my life it has been exactly the thing I’ve needed. But I’ve never moved away from someplace I’ve come to love so intensely.

I love it here. I love Los Angeles. And I will miss it terribly. And the friends who have become more like family. I will miss them more than I could ever possibly express. I will miss the life I have created here.

But new adventures await. I see a world of possibility before me. My spirit, even though it is scared shitless, is also exhilarated about what the future might hold.

There’s much work to be done before the move happens. I’m exhausted just by the thought of it. But it must be done. The wheels have been set in motion, and it is time to move forward with their momentum.

More to come. So much more to come.

Tidiness and Creativity

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The Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, totally gets it.
The Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, totally gets it.

There’s a polarizing topic trending in my social media feeds these days, and I don’t mean Democrat vs. Republican, pro-gun vs. anti-gun or the Great Bathroom Debate of 2016.

I’m talking about tidy vs. messy.

Normally, I don’t care too much about whether someone is a tidy person or a messy person.

OK, that’s a lie, but I’m trying.

What kind of irks me about the topic is that there’s this idea that creative types are messy while non-creative types are tidy. That might be putting it too simply, but there have been studies done and articles written about how messiness is inherently tied to creativity.

I call bullshit on that idea.

I am a tidy person. I am also a creative person. I do not think those two things are mutually exclusive.

Yet the idea persists in our culture that you cannot be tidy and be creative at the same time.

Case in point – a couple of years ago I had a smallish party at my house. As sometimes happens, a guest will bring along a friend or two.

In this particular case, my guest’s friend happened to be a rather well-known musician of the rock star variety. Very interesting, cool and friendly guy. Obviously super-creative. Accomplished. It was humbling and exciting to have him at my house in my very un-posh neighborhood.

At one point during the evening, he noticed my little workspace. I have a tiny house, and I’ve cordoned off a corner of the living room and made it my “studio.” It is very tidy. Nobody is allowed in my space. Leaving something on my desk without my permission is a punishable offense. At that time, I had a tall set of drawers next to my desk. Each drawer had been labeled with a label maker with its contents and the drawers were alphabetized.

“What’s this?” he asked me, in his perfect rock-star British accent.

“It’s my supplies,” I answered. I mean, fuck, wasn’t it obvious? They’re labeled.

He looked at me incredulously and said, “But it’s so organized. I thought you were an artist.”

The tall set of drawers in question...
The tall set of drawers in question… It looks a little messy in this picture, but I assure you, in real life it’s quite tidy compared to the rest of the house.

I won’t lie. My heart sank a little. It’s hard enough being an artist without having other artists question your credibility. And it also kind of made me a little mad. He told me how he couldn’t create unless things around him were a little chaotic. And I get that sometimes you need a little upheaval to spark the imagination and see new connections.

My mind is constantly in motion. I am always thinking of the stories I’m creating, working out plot points, figuring out the characters. Or I’m thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner with the disparate bits of this and that in the kitchen. Or I’m thinking about how I want to paint the hallway. Or I’m thinking about a craft project I’d like to do.

I’ve always got creative ideas bubbling around in my mind.

And here’s the thing – if my environment is messy, it’s distracting. I can’t fully focus on my thoughts or feelings or what I’m trying to create. A messy studio makes deep and meaningful thought almost impossible. I tame my environment so that my mind and heart have the freedom they need to explore.

So yes – I am tidy and I am creative. I can be both.

What about you? Are you a tidy creative? Or do you thrive in a messy environment?

 

 

 

 

Exploring Creativity

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creativity einstein

Woah! Where in the world have I been since April?

Sitting right here at my desk, actually, caught in a whirlwind of work. I’m afraid I had to set aside some things in order to focus and finish, and posting updates from the fray was one of the casualties.

But here we are, the first day of summer, and things have quieted down a little bit. Seems appropriate for summertime, no?

One of the things that has captured my attention these last few weeks is exploring the idea of creativity.

I’ve been thinking about its place in my life and how it affects my happiness. I’ve noticed that at times where I’m disconnected from my creative wellspring, I feel “off.” My happiness levels plunge, I feel less in tune with my internal barometer and more disconnected from the world around me.

It’s gotten me to thinking about how creativity plays into everyone’s lives, regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a creative person.

I’ve been thinking back to times when I’ve connected with other people over their similar detachment from their own creativity. Talking about it and helping each other through those times have been enormously rewarding for me.

I’ve also been thinking about ways to expand my freelancing business, looking for other opportunities that align with the skills I have and how I’d like to spend my time.

Lo and behold, I stumbled across the idea of becoming a creativity coach.

What? Does that even exist? Apparently, it does. And a person can take classes and become certified in it.

I’ve signed myself up for the introductory class, and I can tell you I am blown away already. The entire thing is conducted through email (a Google Group, to be exact), and there are about two dozen creative souls taking this course along with me.

What surprised me is that the other students are from all over the world – various places throughout the US, Canada (including the High Arctic!), the UK, Australia, Switzerland, South Korea, Greece, Cyprus, and even an aide worker in Turkey who lives about 100 miles from the border of Syria.

Reading everyone’s stories, hearing about their creative lives, where they struggle, how they want to help others with their own creative struggles, is even more inspiring than I thought it would be. I feel re-energized and excited to pursue this so that I can confidently add “creativity coaching” to my skill set as an artist.

Along with the class, we need to do 100 hours of private coaching to become certified. I’ve secured my first client (yay!) and will be looking for others who might be willing to give it a go with me. For a limited time, while I’m getting certified, I’ll be offering private coaching for FREE. If you’re interested, drop me a line either in the comments or through the “Hire Me” page on this blog.

I’m really looking forward to this adventure, and I’m excited to share with you all some of the insights from the journey. Stay tuned!

3rd (and Final) Draft is (Almost) Complete (For Now)

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I’ve reached yet another milestone in the saga that is writing my first novel. I have finally slogged through a third draft. I say slogged because this draft was by far the hardest.

When I completed the second draft, I had five beta readers look it over. Each one then answered a five-page questionnaire (I found a really great one here and tweaked it a little bit for myself). Have I said how much I love my beta readers? It was a tall order but I have really good friends and the thoughtful feedback they provided was invaluable. Thank you Adam, Lita, Kristina, Kristofer and Jeff. You guys rock.

After reading through everyone’s responses, I then sifted through them again to find out what issues came up more than once, those clearly needed to be addressed. For the remainder of the feedback that wasn’t as crucial I spent some time sitting with the ideas and decided which ones I thought I should incorporate. I then made a list of all those things.

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After that, I sat down with the second draft and basically made a beat sheet – a list of everything that happens in each chapter. It was about 40 pages long. But that was INVALUABLE to me, and I’m really glad I had the idea to do. With that beat sheet and my list of notes, I went through with a red pen and marked all the places where I needed to make changes. In some cases, chapters just had a few things, details that needed to be polished or some dialogue that needed tweaking. Other chapters got a big red X through the whole thing because the entire chapter needed to be rewritten.

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Once that was completed, I took the beat sheet with the notes on it and started back at the beginning of the novel and slowly, SLOWLY, worked my way through to incorporate all the notes. It took me one month to write the first draft. It took me three months to write the second draft. Good lord, it took me about six months, on and off, to complete the third draft. It was hard. It made my brain hurt. It was time to agonize over lines and dialogue and to make them as sharp as possible. Most of the sentences were rewritten. Entire chapters were rewritten, condensed or expanded. I took out about 8,000 words but added in 15,000 new ones.

On Saturday, I finished. I printed the fucker out. Here it is. 58,000 words of a young adult novel.

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This week, I will read through the whole thing again, hopefully in one or two sittings. I’ll make notes as I go, and polish when I’m done. I’ve got someone willing to read it, so it’s time to send it off. That day will be very, very soon. Perhaps as early as next week.

I realize that if anything comes of this, I will more than likely be rewriting the whole thing yet again. And possibly several more times after that. I have come to the realization that I think most writers finally come to, which is that when writing a novel, you will probably rewrite the entire thing from beginning to end. By the time this thing is ready for publishing, I’m not sure any of the original sentences will appear in the manuscript. This is painstaking work, but I keep seeing ways to make it better, and I want to serve the story and these characters that I’ve invested in. They’ve taken on a life of their own, and I want to get their story out there.

Here we go!

Projects, Projects and More Projects

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While I do make a serious attempt to publish at least one post per week here on ZeitClites, occasionally life dictates otherwise. These last couple of weeks have distracted me greatly from that purpose, but it’s all good. What it means is that November is shaping up to be an intensely creative month.

Just what does that entail? Well, for those of you who have been following my progress on my first novel, you’ll be happy to know I’m about halfway finished with the 3rd draft. I’ve given myself a deadline of October 31st to finish. Truth be told, I don’t know that I’ll make that deadline, but I do want to finish soon. Can I just say – rewrites are hard! Holy crap. My brain gets tired out easily trying to unweave and re-weave this story, but I shall persevere. My goal is to start sending out queries at the first of the year.

Secondly, I’m throwing caution, planning and an outline to the wind to begin my second novel on November 1st. That’s when NaNoWriMo 2015 begins, and I know that hitching my wagon to that steam train helps me to be uber-productive and pump out 50,000 words in 30 days. I have the idea and the world in my head, but there are many details to work out. I’ve decided to use the month of November to just write, write and write some more, so that I can get this world and these characters on paper. Here’s to shitty first drafts! (And if you’re planning to participate, let’s be writing buddies! You can find me on the NaNo site as addiechance).

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been asked to co-write a screenplay for an indie feature with some long-time collaborators whose work I greatly admire. Though I’m not at liberty to discuss any details as of yet, I can tell you – I’m excited! I was on a conference call at 8 a.m. this morning and it was an energizing way to kick off the week. I can’t wait to get started!

Meanwhile, Halloween is this weekend, and being that it’s my favorite holiday I will be devoting the day to getting my spook on, dressing in scary costumes with my husband, and terrifying the local children while handing out candy. I’ve got my fog machine, my strobe light, and my soundtrack of terror all lined up. It’s one of the best days of the year, in my book!

Thought I'd just go as myself this year.
Thought I’d just go as myself this year.

Sadness

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sadness

There’s so much sadness in my world right now.

Well, maybe there isn’t more sadness than usual, but I’m noticing that my friends have more of a willingness to share their sadness.

Folks are sad for a myriad of reasons, all of them perfectly good, tangible reasons to feel sad – a break up, a sudden and unexpected career shift, a life-changing illness.

There’s also a deep well of sadness for those things that aren’t so tangible – disappointment with oneself, a perceived sense of failure, a lack of meaning with one’s life, a feeling that one just isn’t quite enough.

I look around at my friends, my family, at myself in the mirror, and I see sadness reflected back at me. Defeat. Anxiety. Fear. It has many names, this multi-headed beast.

But I think that’s okay.

I think it’s okay that we’re all a little sad right now. A friend of mine who is going through a career shift, a life-defining transition that was self-imposed – wrote a beautiful piece on it today that I thought was absolutely lovely.

Which got me to thinking about where we are. Where I am. I have sadness, too. Sometimes it’s pretty heavy. I’ve had storms of tears over the last couple of weeks. I’ve had crushing disappointment with myself. With my mistakes, my failures, my stubborn insistence on following this path I’ve forged for myself, which is pretty rocky at the moment. I actually said, “I hate myself” out loud more than a few times over the last few days.

Then I got tired of it. I just got tired of hating myself. It serves no purpose other than to set me back. It depletes my energy. Hating yourself takes so much energy, it burns up your resources. It tires you out quickly. And I realized that’s just bullshit.

So I decided to stop hating myself. Seriously – I made a decision to not do it anymore. I decide how to treat myself, and I decided that I deserved better than that. You do, too.

Don’t hate yourself because you’re sad, or you feel defeated, or you made a mistake. Even in you made a really, really big mistake.

Instead, practice self-forgiveness. I’m quick to forgive others, why can’t I treat myself the same way, right?

So I’m going to sit with the sadness for a little while, hold its hand, tell it that it’s okay for it to stick around as long as it doesn’t mind sharing space with happiness, joy and excitement. Because I feel those things, too. Sometimes all at the same time! Our emotions can co-exist. Sadness is just one part of who we are.

So, if you feel sad right now, know that I feel sad, too. And that it’s okay.

We’re human.

 

 

Happy International Stage Managers Day!

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/10/14)

Did you know October 10th is a holiday? (Stand by Sound Cue 1 hand-clapping)

Well, you do now! It’s International Stage Managers Day! Woo hoo! (Sound Cue 1 hand-clapping GO).

Those of you in the theater world know just how invaluable a good stage manager is, and how the success of a show is largely in their hands.  For those of you not in the theater world, here’s just a small sampling of the kinds of things that stage managers do:

  1. Setting up rehearsal schedules and making sure everything runs on time, which means constantly reminding actors when and where they need to be.
  2. Scheduling costume fittings and making sure actors remember to show up.
  3. Overseeing all the physical attributes of a production such as lighting, sets and costumes, and making sure actors don’t mess those things up by doing stupid things like eating in costume or touching props that don’t belong to them.
  4. Writing down all the blocking for the director during the rehearsal process, so when an actor forgets where they are supposed to be someone can remind them.
  5. Being “on book” during rehearsal in case an actor forgets his next line, so he can be fed the line after calling “line”.
  6. Taking line notes during rehearsal so that when an actor says a line incorrectly they can be reminded to say it correctly.
  7. Preparing a prompt book for all the lighting and sound cues during the show.
  8. Calling a show during performance (i.e. being in charge of all the cues and telling board ops and backstage crew exactly when to execute each cue so things run smoothly).
  9. Being in charge of all the backstage and on stage areas during the show.
  10. Ensuring the welfare of the entire cast and crew by knowing safety regulations, laws, health codes, etc.
  11. Keeping track of actors’ valuables during the show.
  12. Basically being a superhero that the production could not possibly live without.
Everyone involved in a production has a relationship with the stage manager, they are the hub of all activity. It’s a tough and often thankless job, especially when they have to deal with egomaniacal actors or directors (not that I would know anything about THAT of course).
If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment today to thank and maybe even hug a stage manager. You should also buy them a cup of coffee and even bake them some cookies, because they are the first ones to come in and the last ones to leave each night. They deserve some damn cookies.
Thank you to all the wonderful stage managers whom I have worked with over my 20 years in the theater. You guys are all rock stars!!
stagemanager

Free the Artist, Not the Art

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/29/14)

i_am_an_artist

Show of hands – how many of you out there are willing to pay for art? How many of you believe that an artist should be paid for her output, whether it be a musical performance, an essay, a graphic design, or a painting of your dog?

Alright, another show of hands – how many of you have gotten these things for free? Have you attended a free concert in the park, or gotten free tickets to a show, or shared a music download with someone for free, or asked a friend for a favor to create a little logo for your blog?

I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of free art. But I’ve also been a giver of free art. For far, far too long. I daresay our culture has given us a sense that art should be given for free.

As I struggle to embrace the idea that I deserve to be paid for what I create, I’m surrounded by messages that it has little value. That art is a hobby, not a vocation.

If art is a hobby, why did I spend over $100,000 for my education? Why did I earn an advanced degree? Why do I continue honing my craft in endless classes? So that I could get a job as an administrative assistant and pursue art on the side? Fuck that.

I’m so tired of working for free. I’m tired of being expected to work for free, even from my own peers. I’m sick that our culture allows us to perpetuate this myth that it costs nothing to produce art, and that it is easy – anybody could do it at an expert level. How many plays have I been in where I haven’t gotten a dime? Or if I did get the union stipend of $15 per performance, I was expected to give it back to the theater, just so they would survive? How is my time of no value?

As artists, we’re encouraged to work for free, in the beginning. It’s a way to establish contacts and gain some experience. But I’m almost 40 – when does that stop? When will I actually be able to start paying on my student loans? Is it only when I give up what it is I trained to do? What I’m good at, and what makes my heart happy? The thing I feel I was put on this earth to do?

I’ve been told, time and again, that I undervalue myself. But how do I find value in myself if other people don’t think there is value in what I offer?

I’m making a promise to myself today. If you are an artist that is struggling as I am, I hope you will join me in this. I refuse to keep working for less than what I am worth. I refuse to “give up” because society thinks that is the responsible thing to do. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is the work I am meant for, and I will no longer undervalue myself. If someone doesn’t want to pay for what I have to offer, then I will move on and look for someone who does. They are out there, somewhere. I won’t find them if I continue to settle for less.

I am taking back my life today.