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.
Winter is the toughest season for me. Sure, there’s snowshoeing (I don’t downhill ski anymore), but that’s only feasible on weekends since it gets dark so early. I go to work in the dark, I come home in the dark. The sky seems to always be gray. And especially right now, it’s cold, lung-searing, cheek-pinking, eye-stinging. I look outside, and I don’t want to go.
Somehow, January and February are harder for me than November and December, although in the fall the days are getting shorter and in the winter the days are getting longer. Perhaps it’s the span of time it’s seemed dark — my mind lumps together Fall and Winter as the Dark Days.
It feels fitting that we’ve picked Winter for our New Year celebration, the time of resolutions and reinvention. Winter is a time for reflection, which flows into dreams for the coming year. It’s a time for sitting in front of a fire and letting the fire pass its spark to you.
I’ve always been one for tackling problems with action, for laying plans. So what’s an artist and outsdoorswoman to do when the outdoors feels less than inviting?
I attended Sprout 8 over the weekend, a fundraiser dinner that provides a $1200 grant to one local artist, and a second, $600 grant. Over dinner, five artists presented their proposal in seven minutes, with access to a screen and sound system. Based on those presentations, all the people at the dinner voted on which proposal to fund.
Each artist had a worthy project, but each took a different approach to presenting it. I suspect that the presentation styles significantly influenced which artist received grant money. Whether you’re trying to win a grant for your creative project or launching a kickstarter campaign, there are some lessons to be gleaned from Sprout 8 about selling your creative project.
Today I begin a massive creative endeavor; in November, I’m going to write a 50,000+ word novel. The fact that I’ve completed the project twice before does not diminish its challenge, but it does improve my confidence in my ability to finish. Last year I jumped in last minute (actually, a couple days late), and found it even harder, so this year I’ve been conscious about preparing. And preparing not just for the novel itself — plotting and planning characters and inventing 100 years of backstory — but also for the act of writing, and living while writing. My plan to finish this big creative project without my life falling into utter disrepair hinges on preparing for the worst by recognizing the points most likely to fail. (What can I say, I’m a Murphy’s Law kind of gal.)
I’m on day 7 of my third creative staycation. Instead of taking a traditional vacation or even a traditional staycation, I took time off work and stayed home to catch up on artistic projects. (I have more vacation time than my partner, so I would have taken time off without him regardless; I chose to take advantage of the time for my own projects.)
I recommend a creative staycation for pushing through creative blocks or making progress on creative projects that require a lot of energy or a long period of concentrated time.