My Future Fund (supported by art and book sales!)

Recently I have been having quite a bit of success selling my artwork and I am so thankful! It means the world to me to know that people love my art and want to support my creative efforts! I do have something special I am doing with the proceeds I get from my art and I wanted to share that, so that if you are purchasing my art, you will know how you are helping me in multiple ways.

As many of you know if you follow my blog regularly, due to worsening chronic mental and physical health conditions, it has been hard for me to work outside the home for a while. I am hoping to get my SSDI benefits at some point in the future, but it can take years for that to happen due to backlog. I in no way feel bad for going after these benefits since they are not charity or welfare, but instead are the very benefits I paid into for years. I think it is ridiculous how long many of us have to wait to get a real person to make a decision for benefits we worked hard for over many years.

Due to my trouble working, I constantly fear that were something to happen to my husband, I would eventually end up homeless once the little bit of life insurance ran out. It is a terrifying thought that haunts me every single day. I am not guaranteed eventual approval of my SSDI claim, nor do I have any way to know for sure when I will find out since I am still waiting for a hearing date to even be scheduled.

So, I figured that instead of simply living in fear every single day without taking any real action to plan for the future, that I could take small steps to try to do what I can to provide any measure of security for myself. I have decided to start saving every bit of money I get from my art sales and book sales, to hopefully help build a nest egg to provide a little extra help if someday I need it. I have also been adding extra cash here and there that I manage to save to the “future fund”.

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Back Pain Troubles

Not feeling very good today. A lot of it has to do with physical stuff. My back has been really messed up for a few days now. I’m not sure if it is the degenerative disc disease or the slipped disc causing the awful pain in my neck and back, but it is starting to take a toll on my mental health too. I find that even when you are doing fairly well mentally, that if you are in chronic pain, it is almost impossible to keep your mood high.

I did hear back from our health insurance that they approved my epidural shots for my slipped disc, but I have to pay hundreds up front for the deductible, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to afford that. I’m also quite nervous about getting the shots anyhow. Having a needle stuck into my spine is scary.

Writing Prompt: $1,000 to Spend

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Today’s writing prompt: If you were given $1,000 to spend right now and you had to spend it, what would you buy?

My response: If someone gave me $1,000 to spend right now and I couldn’t save any of it, I would go on a fun shopping spree! The top things that come to mind to buy are books and toys of course! There are a bunch of books on Amazon I have been wanting to get for a while, so I’m sure I would grab up a bunch of those. Lately I have especially been interested in getting some of the poetry collections written by people who have bipolar disorder. I would also do quite a bit of shopping on Ebay, getting certain toys and collectibles that I have been wanting for my collections. The Funko mini Heroes series comes to mind since I have been collecting those recently.

I would also likely grab some new agey or pagan stuff. There are some t-shirts put out by The Mountain company that I would love to have that feature all kinds of cool designs. I would probably buy my husband that 3-D Star Trek chess set he has always wanted too. Pretty much, I would buy the stuff I always buy, just in greater quantities! Oh! And I would pick up the new Halloween candle at Bath & Body Works! And do some shopping at the PINK store at the mall! And Hot Topic! Man, now I really wish I had that $1,000!

Things I Don’t Understand about Income Inequality

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I know income inequality has become a sensitive issue somewhat with people on both sides arguing for their point of view. I don’t mind people having different feelings about the issue and what can or should be done about it. However, there are a few key things I just don’t get when it comes to the subject. I have heard many arguments that make absolutely no sense to me and would like to share my thoughts on them…

1) First off, I want to go ahead and tackle the elephant in the room when it comes to gender income inequality. I WILL NEVER understand why more women aren’t outraged at the politicians who fight against women making the same amount of money for the same exact work. The arguments I have heard from politicians who voted against this issue were weak at best. I do not see how paying women the same pay for the same exact work affects women who want more flexible schedules or who want to work part-time. You know, some men want flexible schedules and work part-time too….but that still has NOTHING to do with people getting the same pay for the same work and the same level of education, which is the real issue in the first place!

2) I have heard the argument many, many times that “people who flip burgers” shouldn’t expect to make a real living doing it. First off, let me say this argument tends to make people sound like real elitist jerks. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people making more money for harder work or work that takes more education. That is fine, within reason. However, I truly believe that ANYONE who works a full time job should at least make enough for the absolute necessities (food, clothing, housing, health care). Yeah, maybe people who work entry level jobs can’t expect a whole lot more than that, but everyone should at least be able to survive and take care of their family if they are out working a full time job. By the way, I’ve had many different jobs over the years and some of the fast food restaurants I worked at were HARDER WORK than the variety of other jobs I have held, including those that are considered more skilled.

3) Why are the people who say that the poor are that way because they choose to be and are uneducated, often the very same people who do everything in their power to refuse help to those who want to pursue education but can’t afford it? If you truly believe that education is the way out of poverty, why vote for people who constantly cut funding for education in all its many capacities? If you believe education is the way out of the income inequality issue, then fund it! Realize that those living in poverty may not have access to the same educational funds you have. Loans of any kind are hard to get (and pay back) when your family lives in poverty. Also, many people struggle with the ridiculous interest on student loans even if they do manage to graduate and find a job in their field. I know this first hand since my husband has a Master’s Degree in education, landed a good job and still struggles to pay back his student loans (and we live exceptionally simple lives, I don’t even own a cell phone!).

5 things that can suck about being an artist

"Beam Me Up God", watercolor 8" x 8"

“Beam Me Up God”, watercolor 8″ x 8″

1) No matter how many artworks you create or sell, there is always this niggling voice in the back of your head asking, “Am I really talented or is all this a fluke? What if my artistic muse abandons me and I never make another meaningful work of art?”

2) There is a point in almost every artwork that I start that I feel it is total crap and just want to rip it to shreds. Sometimes resisting that impulse is extremely hard. Often, even the best, most successful pieces of artwork I have created barely escaped the shredder.

3) The whole Money vs. Love issue. Do you create what you love, even if it doesn’t sell, or do you create what you know will likely sell? I have tried to do both but find it doesn’t work for me to try to create anything just because it is “popular” or will sell. I inevitably lose interest in the project and get depressed because I am not being true to myself. Luckily, my art is selling more and more even though I am following my bliss instead of the dollar signs. However, I realize that my situation is not the same as anybody else’s and some people have to do what they have to do to pay the bills and put food on the table. I respect them for that and hope they can also find time to do whatever feeds their soul.

4) People just don’t realize how expensive professional art materials can be! How many artists get the look asking why they charge so much for their art? I used to wonder that too when I would see a hefty price tag on a piece of art…but now I understand. Most of us really don’t make much profit from handmade things…even if they seem expensive. I’ve also noticed that people are often confused by how much it costs to ship artwork, especially if the object is large, heavy, being sent to another country or the buyer wants special postal services.

5) The absolute worst thing about being an artist in my opinion? When you go through a dry spell and nothing (or at least not much) sells. It can make you want to give up entirely and wonder how people like Van Gogh kept going when they never sold much of anything (of course then I remember that he did cut off his ear and eventually committed suicide – which doesn’t cheer me up much). In the end, I guess it is the passion and the obsession that keeps us going…and hopefully the depression from feeling unpopular even lends itself to a deeper display of emotion that improves our work or adds a new depth to it. At least that is how I like to look at it.

Should book reviewers charge fees?

money-backgroundI know many indie authors and others in the literary world have vastly opposing opinions on the matter of whether book reviewers should charge fees for their services. I struggled with this issue a lot myself as a book reviewer. On the one hand, you want your reviews to be unbiased, honest and taken seriously. However, on the other hand, as a reviewer, I know that it does take a lot of time to read and review books. Each book, depending on the length can take anywhere from 30 minutes (short picture books) to a few hours to read through, especially when you are reading with a critical eye to be able to give a fair review. Add to that the time it takes to write up the review, post it online and promote the post and you can easily spend many hours creating a good book review.

For a long time I did offer free or donation-based reviews. The trouble was that I became so overwhelmed with all the time and effort of reviewing everyone else’s work that I started to slack off on my own writing and book promotional duties. For a while I tried to balance it all, but eventually realized that if I were to justify all the time I was using writing reviews, I should ask for at least a small compensation for the time and effort on my part. I never did approve of those reviewers that charge ridiculous reading fees up to several hundred dollars and think that many of them exist simply to take advantage of excited indie authors who are having a hard time finding reviews. I decided right away I WOULD NOT be one of those guys. So I decided to charge between $15 and $25 for reviews, depending on the length of the book. I still generally don’t even earn minimum wage per hour for actual time spent reading and reviewing, but I’m ok with that because I do love the work.

I know not everyone agrees with my decision and I’m ok with that. I definitely believe everyone should go with their gut when it comes to doing what feels right, but I hope they can at least understand my point of view as well. I should also mention that I do sometimes still do unpaid reviews. I occasionally trade reviews with other authors if their books are in a similar genre and I still do some reviews just because I love a book or an author and I want to share my thoughts.

Even with the reading fee, I am still careful to pick books to review that interest me too, after all, there are some genres I just don’t feel like I can do justice to in a review, because I don’t know enough about the genre. That is why I tend to stick to children’s, young adult, women’s, nonfiction and poetry genres.

Well, that is my view on things. Feel free to leave a comment below and express your opinion.

A warning for those who want to be published writers

Currently I am reading a book entitled Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing and Life, written by Anne Lamott. This book is considered a classic as far as books about writing go, and now I can see why. It is full of truth, wisdom and encouragement for novice or even experienced writers. There is one passage in the introduction that really struck me, one that I think any beginning writer should be told –

“…I tell my students that the odds of their getting published and of it bringing them financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway. But I try to make sure they understand that writing, and even getting good at it, and having books and stories and articles published, will not open the doors that most of them hope for. It will not make them well. It will not give them the feeling that the world has finally validated their parking tickets, that they have in fact finally arrived. My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.”

Honestly, I’m not sure truer words have ever been spoken about the writing life. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, I would never quit…but sometimes the actual business of writing and publishing can make you as miserable as it makes you happy. Bad reviews, marketing failures, endless editing, lonely book signings (where you feel ignored), low sales…all of these things can bring a writer down quicker than you might imagine. Plus, for 99% of us (or more), it seems to be a struggle to pay any of our bills with what we make writing, let alone live a comfy lifestyle.

So why continue to do it? Why not throw in the towel and quit or just write for yourself? I can’t answer for every writer, but for me it is because…

A) I love to read & write

and

B) I really want to share that passion and my own creativity with others.

Next to those reasons, all the small stuff doesn’t seem quite as important. At least not to me.