30 May 2016

Day 19: Decorating my Creative Space with Inspirational Reminders

I thrive in space filled with organized chaos - it's the only way I can feel comfortable creating new awesomeness.

In the back room of a thrift store almost a year ago, I found a sewing machine. It was mint and cream colored and the wood was light and scratched up. Some drawers opened and were filled with even more treasures. Other drawers were missing handles; their treasures would be revealed later on.

Like any hipster looking to furnish their new space, I ran to it, claimed it by leaning on it (after taking pictures of course) and excitedly texted Roger. He needed to come now - I'd found the most perfect desk in the universe and it had to be mine this second. Nay - 30 seconds ago! 

I'm sure he rolled his eyes as he drove over to arrange the purchase. 
I was too busy clapping my hands, bouncing up and down, grinning ear to ear... 
you know how I get.

Then it sat in our living room for a year. We tried to make it desk-y, but failed over and over again. Mainly it just collected mail and dust.

Then today I noticed I hadn't done any real work all weekend. I turned to Roger and asked him to clear off my desk.

I got a face that was less than enthusiastic, but he lovingly obliged. 

We put away various pieces of crap from the last year and I got to decorating my creative space.

There's a tiny window I can look out where all I can see are leaves waving in the wind. Seriously - I don't even enjoy nature, but this is bloody gorgeous.

Sunlight through moving leaves with tiny birds flitting in and out of view seems something straight up outta Disney, yo! Nevermind the f*ckin' scampering squirrels! *dies of cute*

Little tokens of inspiration displayed on my window sill:
(right to left)
My lil Clyde, randomly thrifted chipmunk, Apple Hi-Chew from my bishop,
tiny vase with fake sakura blossoms, Ferdy the Felted Fox by Katy Kristin

The window sill proudly displays why I'm even creating. Clyde the Orange PacMan Ghost was one of the first things I've made and will be the first nerd JERK Crochet Pattern I debut in June. I know some of you are pretty excited for this. It's gonna be a minute (probably the end of June), but it's happening, dagnabbit! 

I gave Clyde as a gift to my autobio comic hero, Jeffrey Brown, back in 2009 at a comic convention for his son. I also left him my first comic book, Harry the Hipster Busts a Nut, to check out. I asked him to let me know what he thought of it, mainly because I didn't have much confidence in a comic I'd done in 24 hours. But he was gracious and wrote me a thank you card with a sketch of him and his son playing with my toy, which his son affectionately named "Orange Face." 

As my renewed entrepreneurial hustle is due to my own tiny son, Ellie, I wanted to look at "Orange Face" so he could remind me that when Ellie grows up looking at this in my space, there will be a meaningful story to go along with it.

The thrifted chipmunk is of no consequence. ;D I've just always felt he ought to be on my window sill, begging to go play with those other squirrely mo-fos.

The Hi-Chew is kind of a big deal. For those of you who know-know me, you know I'm LDS. Lately, I haven't been the best representation of a traditional Mormon. In fact, it has been said that I'm a bit of an "Oxy-Momon." I totes own that - I've never been traditional in anything I've done. But I also think that gives me some unique perspective in my beliefs. Something that LDS folks really like to focus on is service to others. My bishop gave me his favourite Hi-Chew to let me know he loves me and believes in me. I was super hungry, but I didn't eat it.

I kept that candy as a reminder that no matter how hard it gets and how much I f*ck up,
I still have someone who loves me.

Ferdy the Felted Fox was made for me as a gift from my good friend, Katy Kristin. I've always admired her art (even before I'd known who she was. She draws all the hand-painted signs back home at the Westlake Trader Joe's) and just worshipped the way she captured cute. So when she made me a bright red fox with a tiny mint collar complete with a teeny jingle bell, I just about bawled my eyes out. 

I have community of lovely supportive humans who want me to succeed.
This book is also for them.

This Book Nook is filled with stuff I love...
My tiny house is basically all cooking stuff and books. Any wall that has space for a shelf is taken up by a shelf & filled to the brim with old friends. Over the last year, I've organized the shelf immediately to my left with my very most favourite books (a separate blog post all on its own), but it seemed only fair to have a reference section on the desk for cool shit I would need to look at over and over.

When I saw Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa on the shelf at Rediscovered Books (click link for Staff Picks) in Downtown Boise, I just about whizzed myself. 

The struggle of combining the 9-5 with creative business-ing is f*ckin' real, my blog-bros.

While I've only thumbed through and read random snippets, it's hilarious and perfect for my specific set of circumstances. Chin up, mon'amie - we can make things happen slowly, but awesomely. ;)

I already talked about how f*ckin amazeballs Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is in a previous post. I won't prattle on much more - except to say it gets even better and makes me wanna be a better human.

When I was in the middle of a consultation with my new client, Rochelle Cunningham, I was checkin' out her amazing little house. One of the things she had on her desk was "The Writer's Handbook." When I picked up her self-published paperback & started flipping through, I found several quotes that spoke to me. I had no idea it was a book full of daily inspiration for writers of all levels. THAT'S the kind of thing my mom would love... so now I love it.

Here were a few that jumped out to me:

"In writing, you must kill all you darlings." - William Faulkner

"Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay rent." - Neil Gaiman

"Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they have an excuse to drink alcohol." - Steve Martin

AND MY FAVOURITE (not only cos I'm a geek, but cos I'm emo-ish):

"Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke!" - Joss Whedon

Working happily in my cozy corner of cuteness...
Then there's Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist (cos what creative human's desk is complete without that?!) and a thesaurus-rex so I don't bore you with the same words over and over.

Yes - I'm aware that thesaurus.com exists. But perhaps you didn't notice the Polaroid camera post-it dispenser? Maybe you're not familiar with my obsession for ancient "tech"... so I'm not gonna judge. But seriously - you started it.


I've also got my cute felt coaster from my sister from another mister, Rebecca Saylor, so I don't cause any additional damage to this poor ol' machine's surface and some tiny coloured pencils with trendy AF shades. It's a good time.

As you can see, I'm happy here. Like, SUPER happy in this tiny place. Surrounding myself with meaningful awesomeness actually made me work for the last 3 hours without complaining (which is almost unheard of)! 

More writing, more researching, more exciting/relaxing time ahead!

Love and hugs, home skillets.

- Steph

29 May 2016

Day 18: A poem I wrote called "Bruce Wayne: A Performance Review"

Remember how I said I'd never share any of my poetry?


I had brunch with my friend, Amanda Ranth, and we were discussing why we write poetry: to express ourselves. I was telling her about how normally my poetry comes from this deep, sad, twisty place of longing and that's why I don't share my work publicly.

But then I remembered going to a MeetUp group called "Poetry in the City of Trees" for #NaPoWriMo in April and using writing prompts for the first time. I started to tell her about this silly one I had written. 

"Dude," she smiled, "You need to POST that SHIT!" What can I say? The lady's got a point!

Writing Prompt 2: Write a poem about a superhero coming to your house and confronting you about something. Somewhere in the poem, you have to state what your superpower is.

"Bruce Wayne: A Performance Review"
by Steph Cortes

Somewhere on the ledge of the roof of my mind palace, there is Batman.
He moves through my dark yet illustrious city of shadows with nimble and ept precision
as if he's been there too long.

He appears at random, as a dark knight does
to bring to my attention the turn my Gotham-y mind has taken.

"It's far worse than it ever was," he rasps,
not quite a growl, but not far removed.
"No one should be expected to contain 
the havoc of this many villains!
Not even with my freelance vigilante brigade!"

The more he waxes on, the hoarser he rumbles,
the less patience I have.
No longer tolerating his nonsense, I turn toward him.

"You were brought in to protect, Wayne," I start,
my knuckle whitening, readying for battle.
"Are you not up to the task the headhunter
promised you were sooo qualified to accomplish?"

His mask hid his raised brow, but the micro-gesture of a lax jaw have him away.
Having pierced through his expensive armor, I went on:

"If I must, I can tell you in which order to 
bring each issue 'to justice'," I mocked his voice...
"As I know you won't kill them per your contract."

Smirking, I grabbed my phone to compile a list in a text.
"But make no mistake: if I have to use my deductive powers again to do your job for you,
I'm going with Joker."

- 2:54 PM
3 April 2016
depression/tackling issues

28 May 2016

Day 17: The Weird Living Arrangement with Fear, Desire & Success

In creating art, there seems to be this constant battle. Between what? - It could be whatever demons you choose, mon'amie.

For me, I've got a couple of monsters dukin' it out like that Imagine Dragons video

For those of you who haven't seen this amazing video (or don't click links, cos - duh DISTRACTION!), here's how it goes:

  • Illegal stuffed animal fights ref'd by maniacal Lou Diamond Phillips 
  • Bad ass chick brings her pink bear into the ring
  • Shit goes DOWN!!!

I'll just leave this riiiiiiiiight here...

So, I believe that as creative humans, we all kinda have this kind of a fight going on in our souls. Some good things trying to get out, some fear or doubt trying to keep us down. Some outside force seems to determine whether or not we succeed in the end.

My particular monsters are Fear & Desire. Both of them are scared of Lou Diamond Phillips (who plays the role of Success in my movie theater). Sadly, they all have to live in the same tiny apartment of my brain.

They're not into each other. It's like a Criagslist rental went horribly awry, but they're stuck in their lease until their landlord evicts them. But that greedy landlord don't give no shits.

Okay - that's getting a little dark, but "bear" with me...

Fear is really into controlling Desire. Like, obsessively so. He should probably get some treatment, but no one's really called him on it yet, so he's just gonna go with it.

Desire is a bad ass in her own right. She's determined to get the f*ck out of this shithole and is gonna do everything to make that happen. Or that's what she tells herself every time her eyes get all fiery and stoked.

But Fear knows her buttons intimately. He'll remind her of all the times her will wasn't enough to make things happen - because, y'know - life!

At what point does Desire make it happen? When does she go to Success and let him know she's gonna get her own apartment? He'd be into it - more money for him...

I don't know. But I suppose it starts with a conversation with ourselves.

The bigger the payoff, the more we're driven, right?

Or are we f*ckin' paralyzed at all the possibilities?

I'm currently staring a big pile of Success in the face. It's incredible and, frankly, against all odds of actually becoming completely realized. But there's no chance of realization without goin' for it, right?

But my feet won't move.
I open my mouth and words don't come out.
I stare at screens and hope 
something brilliant appears.

The only actual work I've done is transferred my book outline to index cards so I can get all crazy pants with it when I went to Shut Up & Write this week (which kicked MUCH ass as almost everybody was brand new)!

This Saturday morning's Shut Up & WRITE! Crew at the Roastere:
Not Pictured: Nick Szafranski & myself.

But it was something, right? There were a couple of steps taken in the right direction.

I suppose my wish for all of us is to be able to occasionally kick Fear in the balls and go get a room of our own. Then we can decorate that room and fill it with everything that makes us wanna create awesomeness.

Sure, that Fear-f*cker can come a-knockin'... but nobody's gotta answer.

- Steph

27 May 2016

Day 16: Mentors - Someone to Look Up To & Tell You "You Don't Suck!"

Greg Daniels yammering on about something super profound and Mindy Kaling hanging onto her mentor's wise words.

When you're in the throes of doing a bunch of scary things at once, your mind goes nuts with self doubt. This single sentence pretty much sums up my week. In the middle of that, all I needed was someone to look up to and tell me: 

"You don't suck. You're amazing and here's why..."

This is why mentors kick ass. 

One of my personal heroes (and, in my mind, future bestie), Mindy Kaling also has one such mentor. His name is Greg Daniels and they worked together on "The Office." She asked him to write a few words on what it means to be a mentor for her book, Why Not Me?, and he did.

In his essay for Mindy, one of my favorite tips Greg Daniels gave was how to approach getting a mentor. Insider info from the creator of the American version of "The Office" on how to succeed when I'm trying to break into writing? SIGN ME UP! He said:

"I have had the benefit of a lot of great mentors... I know a lot of people are probably thinking, good for you, but nobody has ever wanted to be my mentor. You take your mentoring where you can find it, even if it is not being offered to you.

"Have you ever used your neighbor's Wi-Fi when it wasn't on a password? If you have the opportunity to observe someone at work, you are getting mentoring out of them, even if they are unaware or resistant. 

"Make a list of people you think would make the greatest mentors and try to get close enough to steal their Wi-Fi."

I've been listening to Why Not Me? on Audible and I love how Mindy talks about Greg. I also love how Greg talks about Mindy. There's this level of mutual admiration that you can feel; this admiration is where the magic happens.

After a day filled with tiny panic
attacks, this was my face post-
nacho lunch with Liks.
Having come from a less than ideal childhood, I can vouch for the importance of having people around you who are looking out for your best interests, especially those pesky magical ones.

I've been blessed with more than a few people in my life that seem to take this role on willingly (why? I may never truly know). 

One of those people is my editor, Greg Likins.

The fact that anybody I just happened to meet at work wouldn't mind talking to me about his cool skills still kind of baffles me. But suddenly, there I was, talking about some amazing shit. And  in the middle of all that amazingness, I found out we have lots in common, but we're just on different levels on the ladder to where we wanna be.

That happens to be a great place to be when you're lookin' to up your game in huge and scary ways. And it seems that successful mentor-ships have a pretty decent amount of give & take.

This is how I imagine mentorship usually goes:
  • Meet a human
  • See other human struggle with something you've been through
  • Help other human
  • Get surprised when other human wants to help you, too

So when I was freaking out this last week, Liks calmed me down. He talked me through the things rationally, we brainstormed some idea for my book outline and came out with a solid focus. And it's usually pretty hard to get me to focus, so that's another skill he can add to the list.

Greg Likins Editor
Books on the brain? Always.
I hope that one day, when Mindy & I are downing a bag of chicharrones and gulping Diet Pepsi's on her couch, we'll both bring up something we have in common: We have mentors we look up to named Greg.

"The Gregs" (cos we're totally call them!) are crazy selfless humans who don't know how helpful they are when they encourage us to be ourselves.

"The Mindys" (yeah - I'd be open to changing my first name, if that's what it was down to) wouldn't be half as dialed in were it not for The Gregs knowing how to assist us without hindering us.

The benefit of the balance between a dose of reality whilst dreaming
is unparalleled... that is, if you're open to it.

Being able to take feedback well and really consider what your mentor is saying can be the key to whether or not they continue to put forth the energy in being your mentor. It's hard work, yo!

I hope to surprise Liks by introducing him to people who need someone with his particular skill set: thoughtful editing with an emphasis on encouragement.

May we all aim to be mentors with that kind of focus, especially when we don't realize our Wi-Fi is being tapped.

Love & junk,

- Steph 

26 May 2016

Day 15: This is my Excited Face!

Ha! I did the things and it wasn't a big deal. Well, it WAS, but I won't find out how big of a deal until I get my writing brutally pulled apart by new author friend.

I'm not sure if it's masochistic of me to look forward to this. I just know that after late nights, early mornings and hurried lunches, this was even better than the best I could do.

Writing a big book outline was the biggest thing I've done in my short writing career. 

I turned it into three editor friends and the first review is great.

  • I trust Liks when he says it's great because he's seen my shit writing & gives me helpful notes. I've also been kindly ordered to start writing chapters.
  • I trust what Mere says when she reads it because she was a more successful business owner than me and she will always call me on my bullshit. Her notes so far were awesome, but I asked her to tell me what's bad.
  • I will trust what Amanda says because she has not steered me wrong yet. And she laughs at my jokes. That part is kinda important for me. She also happen to know her shit.

So, you guys - wow. I'm kind of excited. 

You may not be able to tell, but this is a pretty big deal for me. 

Day 14: Emo to Awesome? On the Self Confidence Cycle of an Artist

Old comic I drew to keep myself out of the fridge
titled "Are Your Emo Eating?" - 2009
And from the emo ashes of yesterday, a hot zombie babe arises!


If you're planning of following this blog for a little bit, you'll probably have to come to terms with the highs and lows of my self-confidence. Luckily, this might be similar to the highs and lows YOU may feel as an artist.

Funny how that works, right?

Just because I've been successful before doesn't mean that I know every single trick in the book. Don't get me wrong: I know HELLLLLLLA tricks! But I'm also constantly learning about new ones, and if I find helpful ones, in trying to master the use of those new tools.

When we're taking the time to learn something, it means we're investing time we'd normally put toward actually accomplishing our usual tasks. And sometimes when we're not producing what our memory has told us is the norm, we feel lame.

Well, *I* feel lame.

It's not because we're not doing work (though that time watching "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" while scarfing down ham & swiss probably could've been spent more productively), but because we don't live up to previous expectations.

That's where that intrigue I was talking about comes in.

I often want things to work out a certain way. My challenge has been accepting when they don't gracefully, recalibrating accordingly by managing my silly expectations and shooting for NEW stars!

My self-confidence is shot down continually & I'm usually the one holding the smoking gun. Whoops.

LESSON: We will all feel shitty at times. If at all possible, it'd be great if we were 
able to pick ourselves up, shake ourselves off and get moving on the next time.

Not every dream is realized, but it's better to dream than to wallow in self doubt.

- Steph
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