No one is self-made. Everyone benefits from the help of others, whether simply being inspired by their work or creations or getting direct assistance from them. There’s a risk to self-improvement, that we could become so focused on ourselves that we forget about improving the world for others. As I realize more and more clearly the privileges I’ve had in developing my career and life, I think about how I can give back to the people and places that have brought me to the happy space I am now. I’m not formally-trained in graphic design, aside from a few no-credit community college classes – I’m community-trained. What can I do to give back to my fellow creatives?
As a graphic designer, I owe other creatives for their inspiring work, generous free textures and stock photos and typefaces, and helpful tutorials. As a writer, I’m learning from writers who share wisdom about the craft as well as business advice.
Giving back is an active form of gratitude, a way to make my appreciation public. Staying silent about the help I’ve had shaping my skills and lifestyle devalues those contributions. It might go without saying, but don’t make it go without doing.
Place directly influences both ecology and culture – even people, much as we resist admitting it, are shaped by where we live. Land masses affect climate, leading to rain shadows where the oceanward side of mountain ranges are much wetter than the landward side; oceans moderate temperature. Resources like minerals and plants depend on appropriate geology and climate. Americans traditionally fence our properties because we came to a vast country where wood is easily accessible (whereas Europe logged their forests far earlier). Tribes from Western Washington have cultures far different from Native Americans in the midwest, southwest, and east coast, based on varied climates and resources.
Drawing conclusions from the real world – past and present – helps writers and artists create more realistic science fiction and fantasy universes. I attended Norwescon for the first time this year, and spent the weekend immersed in panels that shared lots of insights about creating realistic worlds.
This fall, I took the biggest, scariest leap towards the life I want to lead.
After six and a half years, I left my first professional job and accepted a part-time position. For now, I have Fridays off, and I’ll likely also have Thursdays off midway through 2015.
A woman of many passions, I’ve always lamented my lack of time. Working full time, I made more than enough money to live on, but never had the time (or more importantly, the energy) to pursue my creative endeavors to the extent I wanted. My consulting job, structured around billable hours, stressed me to the point of insomnia and anxiety. Harried, I dropped lifestyle choices that matched my ideals in favor of creative work – I had no energy to wake up early enough to bike to work (honestly, only twenty minutes earlier), I no longer experimented with new recipes and we started eating out more frequently, I quit baking, I couldn’t be bothered to go to the bulk grocer. I felt myself drifting from the life of voluntary simplicity I want, falling into a cycle of indifference.
I may be quiet, but I have never been indifferent.
What was I doing to my health in service to a life I didn’t even want?
As Chris Guillebeau says, in order to live the life we want and avoid getting lost in daily life, “we must work on our lives the way we would work on any other project.” I didn’t want to lose sight of my vision for my ideal life. I didn’t want to run out of fucks to give.
High in the mountains, it’s different. Wildflowers flourish in the cool wet air. Wood weathers to a moody gray-white, its stories writ in the scars on its skin. I’ve collected textures from the Teanaway area near Cle Elum, Denny Creek, and Snoqualmie Pass. These textural photos are free for use under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Enjoy designing and creating with these textures of subalpine Washington!