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A Healthy Mindset for Starting a Business and De-bunking Stigmas

July 20, 2020-I’m so proud to introduce our guest blogger today! It’s our very own Erin Cutler! Check out what she has to say below: (We love you, Erin!)

Picture a young artist after 4 years of post-secondary education, finally receiving their Bachelor’s Degree of Illustration and ready to jump headfirst into the big wide world of opportunity. Looks hopeful right? Well for me, anxiety-inducing was a better word. 

A year ago today, thinking about my future in freelance illustration and starting my career triggered avoidance, negative thinking, massive anxiety and sometimes tears. When you dream big in a world of conforming and financially contributing to society, how do you start small? How do you take this beautiful, authentic and creative passion that is larger than life and turn it into a reality? If these questions riddle you and hold you back from going after what you love… then read on my friend, I was you. I sometimes still am you, and I’m reporting back with good news!

So, what’s the good news? First and foremost, the good news is that you are enough and you deserve success on your own terms. Society has a vision of success and a work till you break mentality to achieve it. Though that lifestyle works for some, it may not be beneficial for everyone and it may be the reason you feel held back. Starting your creative career is daunting enough, having expectations to conform to anyone else’s standards other than your own is crazy talk. Start with focusing inwards. Figure out who you want to be in the world and what success means to you. Take care of yourself and find a work-life balance that makes you feel good. 

I struggle a lot with anxiety and one of my most useful techniques is dreaming big but thinking small. The prospect of the future brings me great fear and uncertainty, it’s this giant unknown you just can’t control no matter what you do. Starting small means literally doing the very first step that you need to do to get to where you want to go. For me it meant walking into my office space, sitting in my chair, opening my laptop and writing down a list of all the companies I want to work with. Focusing on each step until it is complete, quickly took me from looking up companies to reaching out to companies. If I never focused on the next small task, I’d still be worrying about how I was going to make rent 5 years from now. Focus is everything.    

My last word of advice, for all my fellow creatives, is to be kind to yourself. Being an artist can come with the pressure to produce creatively invigorating work with every brush stroke. The reality is, sometimes you might be working on 100% and other times you could be giving it 50% because the other half of you is putting your energy somewhere else…and that’s okay. I’ve had breakthrough moments where I was producing amazing art and feeling really healthy at the same time. I’ve also had moments of anxiety, grief and health concerns that severely divided my attention from my work. It’s healthy to take a break from being the best artist that you possibly can be. When you work on yourself and put focus into different areas of your life, your career will flourish. A healthy mind and a well-balanced life will encourage creativity and a willingness for growth. 

So now picture this, a recent anxiety-riddled grad goes to therapy, adapts cognitive-behavioural tools, builds confidence in their abilities and redefines success. What we are seeing here is the beginning of a healthy, flourishing creative career. Big dreams take patience and tender care, they take love of oneself and the ability to prioritize the small steps.

Lastly, you got this! Go get that dream career, anxiety is real but it’s also manageable and you are strong and capable.

Erin Cutler is a Canadian Freelance Illustrator. She has illustrated 3 children’s books for Pandamonium Publishing House and works in editorial. Some of the books she’s illustrated include Pants, Miranda the Very Loud Mouse, and Grandma’s Table. Her work can be seen in Murze, Shameless, Geez and Harpy Magazine.

You can purchase Erin’s books here: 

Pants!

Miranda the Very Loud Mouse

Grandma’s Table

Check out Erin’s portfolio site at www.illustrationsbyerin.com. You can also follow her Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/illustrationsbyerin/) or (https://www.instagram.com/inkling.illustrations/).

 

 

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Cancelled

June 19, 2020– Things in the world are so weird right now, but at least some restrictions are lifting, and hopefully, the quarantine will be entirely over soon. I know that there are things that are more important going on than the festivals and events that we look so forward to all year, but these chances to connect with the community face to face are so special to us, and they mean a lot.

So, there will be no It’s Your Festival, no SuperCrawl, no fall fairs, and no Peach Festival, to name a few events that we would have been scheduled to appear with our books and authors. Although these events have been cancelled, here is a list of things that are not:

  1. Reading to your kids. This is the most sacred time between parents and children that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Kids will remember reading bedtime stories and snuggling with you forever; reading with them will ignite their love of literacy and create lasting memories for both of you.
  2. Virtual book clubs. Book clubs, oh how we miss you, but virtual ones still make them possible. We are revamping our international book club program as we speak, so check back here for more information in the coming weeks! We’re doing a read around the world program where we feature books from different cultures and countries. I’m so excited, so stay tuned!
  3. Virtual storytime and book launches. I’ve had the pleasure of reading my storybook, Panda, the Very Bad Cat for Frontier College online. What a great idea to help kids find new books! We also do online book launches for our new releases, and it’s a great idea because you can still connect with your readers and audience through Facebook Live and Instagram Live; it’s a new way of doing things, but still a lot of fun.
  4.  Reading outdoors. Nothing beats a cold beverage on a hot day, except adding a great book into the mix! Hit the deck or patio and escape into another world for a few hours under the sun.
  5. Writing. Now is the time to work on your novel or next writing project. If you’re working from home and keeping typical hours, consider waking up a bit earlier to have some writing time. Get inspired with ideas by reading blogs and writing in a journal.
  6. Spending time in nature. This is one of our most favourite things to do at Pandamonium. Nature seems to reset us and allow us some much-needed downtime. This is also where some of our best ideas blossom! Grab a notebook and pen and head out for a hike or a walk, you’ll be glad you did.

While it’s easy to focus on all the things we still can’t do at this point, it’s better to focus on what we can do. Enjoy these summer days, and stay positive! X LLB

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Lunch Lady Heroes

April 24, 2020– I was lucky enough to meet Jarrett when I was in New York attending the SCBWI winter conference last year. He’s a fantastic speaker and a lovely guy. Check out his Ted Talk about Why Lunch Ladies are Heroes and his graphic novel!

ted talk

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It’s Time

April 22, 2020– What if I told you that you could totally transform your life by doing one simple thing? Would you believe me? Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s true, but there’s a catch…You have to decide which one thing. As writers we are often absent-minded, disorganized dreamers who would lose our head if it wasn’t screwed on; I may be only referring to myself in that last sentence, but I digress. So, what is it that you must do right now to change your entire writing life? Here’s the secret: CHANGE ONE THING.

Yep, that’s it. That’s the magic right there. You know the areas of your writing life that need improving, but for ease of explanation, I’ve included some examples below. Pick ONE thing to change because studies show that making too many changes at once, results in failure. Once you’ve changed one thing and have stuck with it for 21 days, pick another thing to change while still adhering to your new habit.

1. Change your frequency. If you’re writing infrequently it’s time to increase your daily word count. Make a schedule and stick to it. Try to write as many days in a row that you can. It will help you develop discipline and a routine; before you know it, you’ll have finished writing that novel.

2. Change your mindset. Get away from negative thinking. I cannot stress this enough-what you focus on EXPANDS, so concentrate on what you WANT. See yourself as a professional and start showing up as her. If you’re not published yet or have received a bunch of rejection letters, welcome to the club, that just means that with every NO, you’re that much closer to a YES.

3. Change your space. Is your desk or writing area a disaster? Do you lose the same things over and over again, such as pens and pages of your manuscript? Do you spend more time looking for stuff than you do writing? If yes, it’s time to make a change and get organized.

4. Change your timing. Get up earlier or go to bed later if that’s what it takes to change your writing life. Don’t wait for inspiration to write because if you do, I promise you won’t write another word. Writing and being an author is a discipline that needs commitment. We don’t write when we’re inspired, we write and then the inspiration shows up. Set a schedule and stick to it.

Pick your area of weakness and change one thing about it. Old ways won’t open new doors. X LLB

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Get Punched.

January 22, 2020– I read a quote recently that said, “Wanting to be a writer and not wanting to be rejected is like wanting to be a boxer and not wanting to get punched.” (-David Barr Kirtley)

More real words have never been spoken. Of course, being rejected sucks, it hurts, and it makes us question our capabilities and sometimes even our sanity. But, I’m here to tell you to embrace the suck. I’m here to say, stick out your chin and get punched as many times as possible. Because the only way that you’re going to get a YES is by taking all of the NO’s that come before it and using them to your advantage. When we fail, we become better. We can see where we went wrong, and we can tweak things to improve our writing. No one is born as a fantastic writer. Nope, not even Shakespeare, King, or Hemingway. They’ve all seen their fair share of rejection, and if you don’t believe me, Google it.

As writers, we MUST write because it’s who we are, and we can’t imagine doing anything else with our lives. That’s why I’m telling you to get punched. Get punched and get punched hard, because it’s part of the process in making you a better writer, in causing you to wake up and change your strategy, and it will give you a much sweeter victory than it would if you’d never been punched in the first place.

Being rejected is part of the gig. You want to be a writer? You’re going to be rejected… a lot. But who cares? You’re in great company. The point is, you have to keep going. I personally have enough rejection letters that I could wallpaper the side of my house. And I keep them in a special box that I go through when I need motivation. I look at the comments that say, “Consider a different career,” “Too out of the box, not saleable,” “Go back to school and learn proper grammar,” and my favourite, “Your writing is unoriginal, and frankly, boring.”

So what did I do when I received these comments? I read them, thought about them for a few days, changed a few things in my storytelling approach, hired a professional editor, and then KEPT WRITING. There’s a big difference between arrogance and self-belief. Arrogance says that everyone is an idiot except for you and that anyone who criticizes you is a dumbass. Self-belief is when you take constructive criticism to improve yourself because you KNOW that you can do whatever you want to with enough hard work and practice. Do you think that the first time that Wayne Gretzky picked up a hockey stick, he was perfection? Don’t answer that, what a terrible example…You get my point.

So dear friends, today, I hope that you get punched. X LLB

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Wake Up!

January 6, 2020– You should be up early, especially if you’re are or want to be a writing entrepreneur. Yes, I’m aware that most writers have day jobs or work shift work or have families and responsibilities other than themselves, but that’s what makes this post so important. What do I mean?

  1. When you get up an hour earlier (or for my shift working friends, go to bed later), you have uninterrupted time. The kids are asleep, the dog is snoring softly in the corner, and all you can think about is the perfect silence that encompasses you at that very moment. No one is demanding more jam for their toast; no one is complaining that they can’t find their favourite hairband, no one is asking for anything from you. This is the ideal time to write with abandon because this time belongs to you and your characters.
  2. When you get up an hour earlier, you have a great sense of accomplishment. You train yourself for greatness. Look at everything you’ve completed as the world slept! Most CEO’s and business owners are up at 5 am. Why? Because they know the value of getting in their fitness time, the value of reading an article in their line of work, the importance of meditation, and the calm that comes when they’ve already shaved down the items on their to-do list. I get up at 4:30 some days, but mostly 5 am, and the first thing I do is hit the treadmill because if I don’t do it then, I probably won’t. Then I’ll write a couple of blog posts for the month or schedule some social media and review my daily list of things that need to be done. This puts me miles ahead of where I would be if I started my work at 9 am. It gives me a sense of control and helps me feel in charge of my day. Plus, at 1 pm, I’ve put in 8 hours, if I need to go to an appointment, or I want to visit with my nephews, I don’t feel guilty because I’ve already knocked off my daily items.
  3. When you get up an hour earlier, your life changes. You start to realize that you’re up chasing your dreams instead of letting them pass you by as you hit the snooze button four times in a row. You start to develop a sense of pride because you’re doing something that not everyone does. You learn more over the course of a year, you become a better writer just by using an extra hour a day to hone your craft, and you have the potential to get healthy if you use your hour to amp up your fitness routine or plan your meals for the day. The point is, this one extra hour can change your life if you want it to.

Don’t pound the alarm. Embrace the quietness of the extra hour of YOU time and use it to realize your potential. X LLB

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Inspiration is Sitting Right Next To You.

January 3, 2020– I’m sure that we’ve all had an excellent rest and a fantastic holiday. Time spent with family and friends is never wasted, especially if you’re a writer. We’ve all been there, gathered around the dinner table, enjoying a meal with our family when all of a sudden, our great uncle Larry decides he’s going to regale us with a hopelessly inappropriate story of when he was young and reckless. As your sister ushers her kids away from the dinner table and says a silent prayer that they didn’t hear about that time in Reno, I hope that you’ll keep your ears open for writing GOLD. Here’s how your writing can be inspired by the people around you!

1) Listen. Does great Uncle Larry speak with a German intonation, or does he pause for effect after every sentence? Does he swear a lot, a little, or not at all? Does he speak fast or slow or a combination of the two? Is he monotone and boring, or does he command the room? The way someone speaks tells a lot about them. The same goes for the characters you create; it shows their education level, their level of openness or closed-mindedness, it can show your reader which part of the world they’re from, and it sets the tone for who your character is.

2) Watch. Look at great Uncle Larry’s mannerisms as he speaks. Watch his body language and how he gestures. Is there a character that you can model after him ever so subtly in your writing? Are there things about his personality or the way that he tells stories that will make your characters more interesting? Maybe it’s how he raises an eyebrow or how he shakes his fist at the ceiling. Perhaps it’s how he leans forward or backward in his chair while reminiscing about the good old days. Is there a deep crease in his forehead from years of worry, or does he have an epic beard? Whatever it is, take note because gestures,  body language, and appearance help develop your character more thoroughly. We don’t want to read about wooden people who just sit there like untouched dolls on a shelf. And remember not to describe their physical traits so much that the reader gets bored or loses interest. We comment on the remarkable, note-worthy things about our characters and leave the rest up to our readers’ imaginations.

3) Combine. Does your Aunt Edna roll her eyes every time great Uncle Larry tells his story? Does she fold her hands or throw them up in the air as if to say, not again! Does your mother fiddle with her left earring when she’s uncomfortable, but trying not to seem rude, while deep inside, she’s hiding a burning rage that tempts her to tell great Uncle Larry to shut the hell up?  Combining character traits help deepen your characters and make them seem more realistic. Don’t go overboard, or you’ll end up doing the exact opposite.

Inspiration is all around us always. We just have to be aware of it, and as writers, I find that we are the most observational people on the planet. Keep a notepad close; your family and friends are a character development goldmine. X LLB

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Bullet Journals…What Are They and Why You May Benefit From One…

October 11, 2019– What is a bullet journal exactly? It’s a system of keeping track of notes, ideas, storylines, and anything else that is important to you. It’s an easy way to simplify things! It’s a quick and simplified way of getting a snapshot of where you’re headed in your writing life.

Here are some ideas of what you can put in your bullet journal should you choose to use this method of organization for your writing:

  1. Writing inspiration-write down story ideas as they pop into your mind.
  2. Tracking your submissions to publishers-when and who you submitted to along with guidelines if applicable.
  3. Organizing your storyline-plotting your novel and the important events that will take place in your book.
  4. Managing your time-jotting down most important tasks, deadlines, and projected release dates.

Bullet journals can work really well for some writers if they enjoy this method of organization, give it a try and see if it works for you! Happy writing! X LLB

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Fall Writing Challenge…

September 27, 2019- Fall is here! I absolutely love this season from the boots, to the wardrobe, to the colours, to the weather, I’m here for ALL of it.  Check out this awesome fall writing challenge below from our friends at shortandsincere.com. I’ll be working my way through this list too:) Enjoy!

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