The curse of being a creative

Oooh, it’s another post time.

I promise, it won’t be too depressing. This is just a quick word-vomit thing to get this horrible, repeating thought out of my head.

Sometimes, I feel like I got cursed with creativity.

Allow me to explain.

Being creative is a valued trait. In certain contexts. Some of our highest-paid professionals in America are creatives–singers, actors, directors, etc.

Yet, go to school to be a film maker, a graphic artist, or a creative writer, and people are going to laugh when you struggle to get a job and say, “Well, you should have done something more practical.”

So you look at other options. The reality of the situation is that you probably won’t be the next Veronica Roth. E.L. James. Jennifer Lawrence. Or whoever.

You begin to realize that you really have nothing else to fall back on. You’re good at one thing: making things out of nothing. You’re good at getting lost in your own head, feeling at home among the clouds, your eyes staring off into nothing, as your brain paints a picture that you need to get out somehow–whether it’s through writing, drawing, singing, acting, or literally painting.

And when you’re out of school, you discover..

no one wants to pay you for that shit.

So you end up going off on your own, looking for ways to make your dream happen. We’re that generation, anyway. Your job doesn’t exist? Fucking make it up. Make your life happen on your own if you can’t find it on monster.com (or LinkedIn, I guess, whatever people are clamoring all over these days). You control your destiny, right?

God, no.

It’s such fucking hard work. You know what sucks? Knowing that you’re really going to struggle at the start. knowing that you’ll have to change your strategy time and again to pin down the formula that really, truly work–it’s a business, after all.

You want to sell your art online? You can start up a store, but good luck marketing your stuff and having it take off immediately. You can show people your portfolio, but they’ll end up asking you to make a logo for free or else they’ll “ask their boss’s kid–he’s good with that kind of stuff.”

You wanna write? Have fun begging people for reviews and trying to get your book to climb the search result ranks on Amazon. Pour your heart and soul into these words to have someone look at the cover and shrug and say, “next.” or worse–submit to a traditional publisher and get used to being rejected over and over.

You want to compose? Are you going to be stuck trying to sell little jingles for a piddly little fee while trying to write an album that you only hope will put food on your table?–it’s not like you’re asking to be a superstar, right?

Want to be in a film? Ha. Work for days on end for no money, understanding that the people who are making the film probably can’t afford to even buy water for everyone on the set, let alone offering you a fair wage. But hey, it’ll look good in your portfolio, right? Maybe this role will be your break out role.

It seems that no matter which creative route you take, if you’re not already connected, it’s a rough road to travel.

I’m not saying it’s not worth it. These jobs are laborious, tedious, and slow-moving for most people. But they’re done out of love, and that’s why we keep doing them.

What I’m sick of seeing is people who shit all over art.

A blogger I used to follow has made a platform for herself by being pretty. Literally all she does is take selfies and make her hair and face into cool art projects. I loved her style and reading her funny, weird posts. Then she started getting preachy about other people’s bodies. Then about their lives and choices. Then about the recent celebrity photo leaks.

I cut her out of my feed like a tumor.

A makeup artist I follow drew some pictures and shared them with her fans. people told her to stick to “looking pretty”. For fuck’s sake, she was happy and wanted to share it, and thousands of people tore her down for daring to do so.

I can’t read those comments anymore. Her feed constantly rips on her appearance, anyway.

My female friends stream their games online. They get torn apart for their appearance

sometimes–because they happen to be women just sharing something they love with fans. Whether it’s a comment about their bodies or someone just being an asshole for no good reason, it must get tiring to be the target of such negativity. It wears you down.

I don’t watch streams for that reason. Can’t stand the comments.

So I sit here, thinking of the talents that I have. They are all in the creative realm. I will never go back to school to get a STEM degree. I respect people who do this, but I don’t belong there with them. I will never go into something lucrative–I’ll never own a huge business. That’s okay, too.

But I feel discouraged because creativity is all I have.

Really. It’s all I have.

And I don’t understand the

Creativity is a blessing and a curse.

A Battle Not Easily Won: Part 2

fight endometriosis

Sure you can. By having surgery after surgery to laser scar tissue and blood-filled cysts from your organs, or going on drugs to induce a lovely, rage-filled menopause–the drug is also known to compromise bone density. FIGHT ON, SISTERS

Part 2: I have the insides of an 80 year old, and there’s nothing I can do about it because there’s supposedly “nothing” wrong with me.

Fuck Relationships and Endometriosis, Too.

Things didn’t get better fast. I bled uncontrollably. I could hardly function at work. I’d wake up with horrible headaches, and later be reduced to tears because of cramps and the fear of being unable to go anywhere without bleeding all over. It was debilitating. And in a job where I worked primarily with men, it wasn’t something I could really talk about much. I could talk to a few women, one of whom had looked out for me from the very beginning like a mother, but I knew she had her doubts about how well I was doing. I wanted to be okay. But I felt very isolated and, well, lonely. Even though I’d gotten married only about a year and a half earlier, I could see things unraveling. It began to put me into a very real, very deep depression. Between the pain, my crumbling relationship, and my growing anxiety and depression, I felt ready to quit my job. But I pushed through it because I wanted to save up money.

My husband started working out again and I decided to go with him, in the morning before we had to be at work. My hips and lower back began to feel better with working out, and felt better for a few hours during the day, but locked up at night and in the morning. He showed me some stretches, which I did regularly. He had to rub my back to force my muscles to relax so I could sleep. I got a sharp, nearly constant pain under my right rib, which I Googled and immediately regretted. I ignored it (great pattern, right?). I began to sleep less, waking up frequently, and eventually I fell into a cycle of 3 hours a night. My husband drank all the time. I knew he had feelings for my best friend. I couldn’t get him to admit to anything or change anything.

And then I fell apart.

In the end, I wasn’t a good wife any more than he was a good husband. He asked me, after I broke down, if we could ever make it work. I looked him in the eye and said, “No.”  Driving him to the airport was difficult. I felt like a failure. I felt like no one would ever believe me or think I was a good person ever again.

Journey Uphill

I started going to counseling. Living alone, I wanted to adopt a cat to keep me company, and I started talking to my friends online and tried to remain positive. It was difficult. No, actually, that’s being modest–it was nearly impossible. After about four months, I adopted a cat and got a roommate, one who I am with to this day–my boyfriend, Steven. He was supportive of me, but I pushed him to the limits of his patience. I was still climbing uphill, and I wasn’t moving very quickly. I began working on creative projects and focusing more intensively on my strengths, building a portfolio for my writing and learning how to do animation and video production. This proved to be a good investment of my time, as it helped me land my first writing job. I wanted to go to the doctor and see why I always felt so tired and in pain, and I was really stoked on the fact that this job offered good benefits, despite its shitty pay. We struggled with bills, and my sister moved in with us to help while she applied for PhD programs. It was helpful to have her around to talk to. After four months of hounding my boss and HR, and filling out paperwork 3 times because of ineptitude, I finally got health benefits.

It was only about two months later that I heard a radio advertisement for a medical study. This study called for endometriosis patients to test a new pain medication, and it paid a decent amount of money. Being poor and still suffering with bad cramps, I thought this would be perfect for me. So I enrolled.

A part of the test included a bone density scan, called a DEXA scan, to ensure you didn’t have osteopenia or osteoporosis. I asked if that was for the post-menopause participants, and the director said yes, and not to worry about it. The pill could compromise bone density, so it was just a screening measure that wouldn’t affect me.

Except it did. I found out the scan showed osteopenia and osteoporosis in different areas in my hips and spine. I was floored–growing up, my mom forced us to get our 3 glasses of milk a day. We ate so much dairy that it was impossible to have something like this, right? My mind drifted back to being vegan, to not taking care of myself during my stressful job. Did I do this to myself somehow? And thus began the doctor’s appointments to find out…

End of Hiatus

Although it was never officially announced (because I’m a terrible blogger) I took a short break from cross-posting all my articles at Beneath the Brand. Perhaps I’ll catch up and post them here soon, but in the meantime, I’d like to say that I’m looking forward to getting back to personal writing.

My break from personal writing was partially due to the number of commissions I’ve had to fulfill, and partially because I was so emotionally drained from dealing with everything else I’ve had going on. I have several pieces in the works that I am looking forward to sharing. Intense, yes, but not as difficult to write as the post on my sister. If I can write about that – the spotty, somewhat faded memories of my youth; the narrative of a child that must be relived and subsequently translated into a tale that an adult can relate to – then I can finish writing about the other experiences I’ve had.

If I can get past my self-flagellating tendencies, the posts will be done soon. I am inclined to build something that takes considerable time and effort, and crush it before I ever let another human see it. It needs to change, but I’m not sure how to keep myself from being so frightened of visibility… or vulnerability, for that matter.

5 Personal Branding Cues to Consider for Your Business in 2013

Cross-posted from [Beneath the Brand].

Let’s take a brief look at a successful personal brand that started off as something virtually unknown. Take Ray William Johnson, for example. He started out making videos for fun, but gradually amassed followers to become one of the most popular channels on YouTube. Now he is taking his brand to a whole new level — he announced recently that he’s starting his own production company! While there is no set formula for success like Ray William Johnson’s, there are a few tips and tricks we can follow to improve our representation of our brand and our visibility online.

1) Hone in on your skills. When you are trying to reach a wider audience, it’s important to recognize your strengths. For example, are you a talented speaker? Why not volunteer to be a guest speaker for your local community college? If you’re more of a writer, submit something to your local paper and send out samples of your work to your favorite blogs. Maybe you can guest post, edit, or even be a regular contributor! Are you good at teaching? Find out if you can instruct for a local adult education program — get to know people and network!

2) Use proper etiquette in everything you do. When you answer the phone or send an email, you’re still branding yourself. Do it positively. If you relay messages in an abrupt, rude manner, people will not perceive you as an open communicator or an approachable business contact. Do your very best to be courteous and considerate to others, and they’ll remember you and the brand you represent as a positive, rewarding experience!

3) Utilize word-of-mouth marketing. Tried and true, friends. Talk to your colleagues, coworkers, clients, customers. Nurture your crowd. When they ask questions or provide feedback — positive or negative — engage them. If someone is trying to cause problems or attack another one of your customers (happens a lot on Internet forums), moderate it. Make your space a positive one, and reserve room for constructive criticism. When you handle yourself in a professional and structured manner, people respect you as a manager and as a person. They want to participate in your brand, and they’ll spread the word for you!

4) Use social media. Be online. In 2013 there will be no excuse to not have a way for your customers to connect with you via social media. Promote yourself by using sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube. You don’t need to do all of the above, obviously, but choose a few of them and use them. Update them regularly, and connect with people who are similar to you. Consistency creates loyalty. I’ve heard people say that brand loyalty is no longer a thing, but I maintain that it still is. It’s just that the definition has changed a bit — it’s no longer blind loyalty to one of two major competing companies like so many businesses in the ’80s and ’90s. (For example: Coke vs Pepsi, Nintendo vs Sega, Ford vs Chevrolet, the list goes on and on.) Nowadays, loyalty isn’t defined as exclusivity to your business — but rather, by your company providing loyal services to your customers and employees, and of course to yourself. When you create a positive work atmosphere, your employees want to work for you, and do a better job at engaging your customers. The customers recognize and appreciate this. And by using social media, everyone can share their positive experiences in real time, which gives you more free, positive publicity!

5) Keep a line-up of projects. This is important. Have deadlines. Focus on bite-sized achievements. This gives you a variety of things to pull from for discussions, and you will always have something new to tweet, write, and learn about. You can easily connect with others on multiple levels when you have a constant workflow. Of course, there are a few don’ts as well: don’t overwhelm yourself, and don’t post about mundane things (save your Instagrammed lunch photos for your personal accounts)! But by breaking your habit of only posting when you have a major deadline due, you keep fans consistently in the loop. They’ll like keeping tabs on your progress!

These are only a few tips, but they are important things to consider for your personal brand and business going into 2013. It’s no longer enough to just put up a website and hope that the customers will find you. Be proactive, and find new ways to engage your audience on a regular basis. The hard work will pay off! Happy branding!

December Frenzy — Machinima, Blogging, and More

Nanowrimo and Aria’s Reprisal

So, November came and went.  I posted a few times about how I was falling behind on Nanowrimo.  Can you guess how the month ended?

If you guessed that I failed, you’re right. I only wrote about 12,000 words.  That’s more than I’ve written any other year for Nano (yay for mini-goals?), but I still failed pretty miserably.

I am still planning on working on this project, however.  It has been a ton of fun to plan, and if you’re interested in any plot points, quotes, notes on progress, world building, or soundtracks that I think would rock for a movie version of my writing (don’t hate; I make machinima for that reason…) then head over to http://hellystia.tumblr.com to see Aria’s Reprisal and take a look around.  You may find it interesting. Or, you might think, “What the hell is this? Now I definitely don’t want to read any of her writing.” Either way, if you are vaguely interested at all in sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, dystopian alternate worlds, and really intense descriptions of cold-weather landscapes, then you may find some of what I write on my tumblr interesting.

Machinima and Morningstar Episode 5

In the machinima realm, I’m slowly kicking off ep 5 of Morningstar.  I have a few things I’d like to address about this:

I am doing my best to keep multiple story lines going at once. It’s the way I prefer to tell tales. While I technically have a “main” character, I don’t see the point in focusing on narrating only her thoughts on the world. Azeroth is huge, diverse, and ancient. There’s too much opportunity to tell interesting as well as intersecting stories. That being said, I’ve heard some people say it’s a bit hard to follow. I will try to make sure that things are as clear as they can be at that point in the story, but the point of leaving the viewer hanging is… well, so that they want to watch more!

I have not made a final decision on whether or not I’ll use voice actors for this episode.  I understand that this was my #1 complaint about the series, and I also know that I’d reach a much wider audience if I did use voice actors. The funny thing is, I’ve known of quite a few people who’ve done their stories the way I do, and none of them get such terrible complaints about it.  I don’t know what it is about me that makes people want to point that out so much — I guess I’m just that socially-awkward nerdy kid that sits alone at lunch. 😦

I will attempt to keep the episodes around 10 minutes in length from now on.  I know the last one got ludicrously long.  I cringed when I saw the projected length, and for that I’m sorry.  I will keep it to 2 story lines per episode to remedy this, rather than three or more.  It’s simply too unwieldy at that point.

Yes, there will eventually be a ‘love’ story. I’ve also had a few people ask about this. I am aware that love is a common thread throughout the narratives of Azeroth; I, too, am interested in reading and writing about that. But love is not the primary focus of the story, because I want to tell a tale where my characters stand on their own as solid, well-developed individuals.  Too often, I feel love stories are used as crutches to avoid developing a character — who are they without their partner?  Characters, particularly females, can exist and be simultaneously intriguing, complex characters without a love interest. It can be done!

Beneath the Brand

I am a regular contributing blogger at Talent Zoo’s Beneath the Brand blog now.  I post under my real name there, so regular readers might see some discrepancy in the online personas I use.  I’m sorry if it’s confusing!

I will be linking my articles here every week (usually Fridays) so that you can read something fresh!

Other Projects

In addition to my day job of writing, and my night job of… well, playing World of Warcraft and doing more writing (as well as video effects), I am a — wait for it — freelance writer.  I take commissions  for a multitude of projects and genres of writing. If for some reason you’re interested in working with me on a writing project, get a hold of me on Twitter or shoot me an e-mail (ninja dot superwoman at gmail dot com). I’ve been busy of late, but I always love receiving new jobs.

I hope you guys have kept yourselves busy, happy, and creative!

❤ Helly

Nanowrimo Progress — Are you keeping up?

I am loathe to admit that maybe I’ve been too busy writing lately, but it would appear that this is a “problem” from which I am currently suffering — It’s day 5 of Nanowrimo and I’ve written 1500 words. Argh! I’ve finally managed to finish a medium-length commission tonight (at least the rough draft of it, anyway; waiting on its approval), only to find out I have another project for me within the next day, as well as one within the next week. Then I was approached today by a website that specializes in helping creative types find jobs; they were responding to a resume I had sent out looking for a blogging job. They don’t offer pay with their work, but they’re fairly well known, and I guess I could benefit from the exposure (plus it’s only one 500-word article a week!). I interviewed for a writing job at a start-up company today, and I received a lot of unexpected praise for my skills, so hopefully I’ve landed this opportunity as well.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging – I am just stunned. I have enjoyed writing for a long time, and I have only very recently begun to share my love of the craft with others while simultaneously getting paid to do it. I was silent on the internet for a very long time, meaning not posting on forums, blogging, or even commenting on videos or articles. I just hid from everything, hoping that I wouldn’t upset anyone or receive negative feedback. I’ve talked about all this before, of course, but it’s similar to when you step out of a dark room into the direct sunlight – it hurts your eyes, it’s overwhelming, and it feels incredibly intense. I’ve worked on flexing my creative muscles and getting back out into the world once more, focusing on being innovative and being active. My eyes are beginning to adjust to the light, but it’s still intense.

So with that, I want to post an excerpt of what I have accomplished in my first chapter of my novel here!

“I will find more later, I promise.” Aria looked at her mother, whose eyes searched those of her daughter. She knew that her mother sought something more than the comfort of words that would only serve to die in the air, mere moments after they had been spoken – she wanted a tangible token of hope instead: a method of transport away from their makeshift shelter, or the friendly hand of a soldier to lead them to safety, away from the desperation and ruin. But all the young woman could do was smile and kiss her mother on the forehead, as if that would seal away her doubts and fears, because presently, she could only offer words and kind gestures in place of their freedom. Then, before she had to listen to her mother refute her food in favor of feeding her daughter instead, she opened the scrap metal door to their home and stepped out onto the snow, into the quiet night, and closed it as softly as she could behind her.

As far as she could see, the white powder was blackened by the soot and ashes of the destruction. It had been three weeks. Nothing had changed; darkness still ruled their days, and their nights were yet ruled by restlessness and misery. They had to maintain vigilance against looters – they were thieves, all of them, but they were also desperate souls wanting kindling, clothes, or a weapon to protect themselves. How could she blame them for trying to take the things that would allow them to keep their lives?

Aria felt tears stinging her eyes, and her nose began to tingle – both from the cold, and from her sudden onslaught of melancholy. She sniffled. At the age of twenty-six, she had not expected to be living in a shanty town, with no reliable food source or a way of earning her keep. Her mother, in her mid-fifties, was not an old woman by any means, but she had lived a comfortable, happy life until the blackening, protected by naivety and, in part, by her complacency. She had married Aria’s father at a young age, and soon after lived a relatively quiet and sheltered life as a housewife and mother. Now, she was like a child, without the skills to take care of herself in the volatile land, or the gumption to attempt to learn how. Now Aria took care of her mother, without recompense or complaints, as her mother had done for her when she was a babe.

She took a deep breath, trying to calm her spirit. In moments like this, she didn’t want her mother to see how hopeless things were; how lost and small she felt pitted against the elements in the way they were. She shivered, not wanting to think of what could happen to them if they didn’t hear anything from their government soon, and turned to go back inside. Whether tonight would bring more broth made from their frozen stock, or perhaps the treat of a lost rabbit that had the misfortune of wandering into one of Aria’s traps waiting in the dark around the shack, she didn’t know. And presently, she couldn’t think clearly enough to care. She closed the metal door behind her, observing her mother cleaning the kettle and the bowl. Chantal looked tired, her eyes with bags underneath them, her face fixed in a frown, deep lines of concentration etched into her skin. She dipped a cloth in warm water that they had siphoned from melting snow, and rubbed the rag over the stone slowly. Steam rose from the cloth and wafted to the woman’s face; tendrils of vapor caressed her pale skin, making it glisten in the light of the fire emanating from their improvised stove – a sorry pit dug into the ground, stones surrounding it, and, above it, scrap metal twisted into a spit of sorts. Aria’s eyes followed the movement of her mother’s rough, red knuckles as she rubbed their dinnerware free from debris, so that they could eat another meal from clean “dishes”. Just like before.

“Mom, I’m sorry, I think I’m just gonna turn in for the night,” Aria said, offering her mother another smile. “I’m so tired. And it’s so cold tonight.”

“Wait for me, Aria,” her mother replied softly. “I’m tired, too. And I’d like to tell you a story about your sister before you sleep.”

Ah, Carivel. The girl who disappeared six years ago, after dad left. At least she didn’t have to witness this. I wonder if she’s still—

“Is that okay? Do you mind?” Chantal’s voice broke through her daughter’s thoughts, pulling the latter from her dream.

“Yes, of course, mom. Tell me a story.”

And now, I am going to go write more for Nanowrimo.  I’ve gotta catch up! 🙂  Again — good luck to all who are participating!

Writing for a Living: Or, an Exercise in Open-Mindedness

Are you a professional writer? If you’re not a professional currently, then maybe you dream of becoming one? Well, I know the feeling. I’ve wanted to create stories for people’s enjoyment ever since I was a little girl. I made stop-motion movies with my sisters. We also wrote and drew comics. When we weren’t busy with creating our own materials, we wrote reviews on anime and games on our own website. Even as an adult I’ve been experimenting with creating my own projects. Most recently I’ve been putting together a machinima series (http://www.youtube.com/user/xephirproductions if you’re interested) and writing a novel for nanowrimo (more excerpts to come soon!). But I’ve also put a lot of effort into offering commissions, and I’ve received a number of bids already – which honestly surprised me. But more on that in a moment.

I have always been creative, and my creations have taken many different forms over the years. But one common thread that weaves all of my interests together is writing. When I did my reviews, my sister and I spent hours taking notes and writing our thoughts down for other people to read. We wrote our own stories and scripts for our comics and short movies. Even with my creative endeavors now, I find myself enjoying the planning and scripting process, where I can bring all sorts of characters to life through my words. So because I’ve enjoyed this so much, I decided I would offer my skills to people who needed a bit of help. I am creative and I can follow directions easily, so I thought I would offer to write what other people wanted, if they gave me the idea, characters, and a direction they wanted to take the story.

Oh, naïve Helly! You forget that this is the internet; that people feed on the power they get from anonymity and all the bounds they can push with it. You also forgot that a lot of people like to find porn on the internet. And a lot of people want to read well-written porn, not just watch it. And most of all, when anonymity and boundary-pushing meets the art of writing pornography, well, apparently there’s no limit to the things people want to request from a writer.

My first job was for smut. And I mean extremely graphic, violent, snuff. But I have maintained a professional relationship with the client for over a year now, and he is always kind and pays me on time. I am now working on another commission with graphic scenes, perhaps a little heavier than 50 Shades of Grey (and I like to think the quality of the product is better, too!). I have absolutely no problems writing this sort of material for people in a professional environment; that is, when we treat each other with mutual respect and I am paid fairly for my work. I am just surprised that so many people are hungry for well-written erotica, which sounds so obvious to me even as I write it. But it’s true!

I don’t know how comfortable many aspiring writers are with producing this sort of material, but I am writing this blog entry to say that for me, it’s actually become a comfortable and well-paying genre to pursue. I usually ghostwrite, so my name won’t be on published materials (which is actually good if I want to go through my portfolio with someone in the future) and I use a pseudonym for other materials that I publicly produce. Even though I have said here that I’ve written erotica, I want to make it clear that I’m not ashamed of it, nor am I trying to hide it. I’d just prefer to keep those materials separate from my non-erotic titles.  All in all, I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is a highly-desired genre, especially for private clients.  As long as I am paid fairly and treated professionally, it is no different than if I were writing a science-fiction or action story.

Have any of you ever written erotica for a client? Is it something you would consider? What sorts of subjects would you write about to make a living?