Tag: writing life

On Connection

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Groovy, baby.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–Carl W. Buehner

Ever since writing my 2018 report the other day and putting thought into 2019, I’ve become increasingly aware of a theme woven into the music of my life and now coming to the forefront: I must develop my ability to create connection, both on a personal and professional basis, and within my writing.

Because when I look at what isn’t working in my life right now, I see two sides of the same coin: needing to learn how to network in order to build my coaching practice on the one side, and being told repeatedly, “Your writing is crisp, clean, and professional, but the book just didn’t grab me…” on the other. Both of these things are about creating an emotional connection with people, whether directly or indirectly.

I’ve always been vaguely aware of this in terms of watching the audience for Suburban Jungle (and my place within the furry fandom generally)– it’s just like my friendships have been over the course of my life. SJ has a smallish knot of devoted fans, some of whom are intensely devoted to it. (NeverNever was like this too, only moreso.) As long as I can remember, I’ve had a few very close friends, and often been very challenged around getting outside of that group.

Those tight friendships (and very devoted fans) mean the world to me and I don’t want to downplay them. But it is increasingly clear to me as time goes on that I need to widen my circle. A small number of tight friends can make a handful of referrals in my client hunt, but their potential is quickly tapped out on that front. A very devoted fan might buy all of my books and support the highest tiers of my Patreon, but they are only one fan and cannot subsidize my life (nor would I want them to).

And besides the straightforward inability of the math to get me what I need, these small circles also don’t give me what I want. I want to help people with my coaching. I want people’s days to be better because I was in them. I want to have crowds at my table, and people writing fanfics or doing in-depth analysis of my work on Tumblr. As nice as it might be to be recognized as a genius posthumously? I want my work to be loved now.

When my Aunt Iris died, half of Fairfax and Loudoun counties came to her funeral, and everyone– everyone– had something to say about the way she’d connected to them. By comparison, when my father died a year later, his funeral was attended by maybe twenty people, including his three children, their spouses and children, and some of my friends.

That stuck with me.

I loved my dad. Everyone there did. But there is no denying that his life was, in its way, small and limited. I don’t want mine to be.

So what am I going to do about it? I think I was starting to come to awareness of this gap when I came up with my writing goals for 2019, because I listed my goal as “Create self-satisfaction, expression, and meaningful impact in others’ lives by means of becoming a successful and widely-read author/artist.” I added as one of my goals to change my relationship to, say, my Patreon, by focusing not on the dollar amount it brings in, but by the number of subscribers who sign up and the amount of comments that are left.

Similarly, I tweeted last night, “I’ve got ~1500 followers on Twitter and ~450 on Tumblr, and I would like to double those numbers by the end of January. But I’m looking for, y’know, real people who will like my work, not bots. Any suggestions on what I should do, real people?” And that’s an important distinction! I don’t want fluffed up “metrics” that don’t mean anything, I’m not some dot-com-era middle manager looking for clicks.

How will I do this? By finding ways to make my writing grab people. By making more genuine connections with the people I meet. By being with people, instead of either up on a stage or hiding at the back of the room.

If this past year was finally learning how to be friends with myself? This coming year is going to be learning how to be friends with the world.

Gneech’s 2018 Report

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My best self.

As I write this, I’m sitting at the drawing table pictured, wearing the headphones and necklace pictured. The rest is a bit harder to pull off. >.>

So! How was 2018? On the grand social scale, of course, it was a dumpster fire. This is hardly news. All the worst people, frantically trying to destroy not just the USA but the whole world, before it all comes crashing down and they end up shooting themselves in the bunker. It’s as inevitable as it is sad. But those of us who are working to build something better will keep working.

On my own personal front, by comparison, it’s been what you might call a challenging year– not in a drama and angsty way, but in the form of taking on difficult obstacles and working to overcome them. This came mostly through the coach training, which was a deep dive into 49 years of mud and gunk that needed cleaning out, but was also singularly more effective than decades of counseling had been on that front. (Which is not to bag on my counselors over the years, but they just didn’t have the intensive focus of the coach training.)

So, looking back on my plans for the year, how did I do?

  1. Gneech, Life Coach. This is up and running! I have passed my exams with Accomplishment Coaching and I’m about 2/3 of the way to my first ICF certification. Right now I’m working on fluffing up my client base a bit more, and I expect to go on to become a Mentor Coach for next year’s program. I’ve got a coaching blog up and running, and I’m looking forward to big things on this front in 2019.
  2. Help Laurie Get Her Business Running. Well, I did help! She’s still working on it. >.> The business exists, we’re getting our insurance through it, so that’s good! The rest of it is up to her. 🙂
  3. Stable and Reliable Income. This piece is still under construction. As the coaching business grows, it will naturally come to pass.
  4. Figure Out What’s Up With My Writing. Honestly, I just didn’t have time to work on this with the coach training going on. I have a project in place to take this on again in 2019.
  5. Sell. A. Book. Didn’t happen, ‘cos above.
  6. Issues Seven, Eight, and Nine. Seven done. Eight 1/2 way done. Nine will have to come next year.
  7. Continue Fixing the Country. I’ve marched, I’ve voted, I’ve campaigned, I’ve called my reps a million times. It’s an ongoing process.
  8. Take a Vacation. Alas, did not happen.

It essentially boils down to “the coach training was huge and intense and took most of my mental energy.” So a lot of other things didn’t get done while that was happening. I have no regrets, though– this was something I badly needed.

What did happen was that for the first time since I can remember, I really and truly became friends with myself– like, all of myself, even the parts I had not been willing to talk to since I was four. There was a specific moment that I had never forgiven myself or let go of the pain and shame from, which I confronted and processed… finally. Only forty-five years later! But better late than never.

Confronting this moment led to the birth of Nii-chan, about whom I’ve written at length elsewhere. In a lot of ways, she is the best version of me, and whenever I find myself wondering what I want to do about something, or who I should be in a moment, I ask myself “What would Nii-chan do?” She’s like the integrated version of the Three Lions and an Otter, but even her version of Business Guy is a lot happier. (Nii-chan is also practice for my next incarnation, so I can hit the planet running when that comes to pass. I don’t want to waste forty years of my next life trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.)

So, yeah. It’s been a big year on that score. But where do I want to go in 2019?

  1. Bring Rough Housing to Its Conclusion. 2019 will be the 20th anniversary of Suburban Jungle, and it seems a fitting place to bring that chapter to a close. My current plan is to finish the story at the end of issue ten. As my hand tremors get worse, it is becoming harder to keep up with what was already an ambitious production schedule, and honestly, I think that story-wise, RH will be done at that point. So I’d rather finish something and feel good about it, than to drag it out to stay within the familiar.
  2. Writing Goals. My goalposts on this front are two short stories sold, an agent secured for Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, a furry novel written for NaNoWriMo, and an anthology project created with FurPlanet.
  3. She-Ra Writing Gig. Seeing Seanan McGuire geek out about landing the writing job on Spider-Gwen made me realize that I wanted that experience in my life. Spider-Gwen is a character that Seanan was pretty much born to write, and honestly, I feel the same about Catra and myself. I have no idea how I’m going to convince the She-Ra writing team to let me on board, but I’ll find a way.
  4. Full Coaching Client Roster. My goal is 14+ clients by this time next year, including five Creativity Klatch clients and three Mentor Coaching clients.
  5. California Trip. I miss Big Sur like whoa.
  6. 222 Pounds. Something that wasn’t on my 2018 list was losing weight– so naturally I made big strides on that! XD Specifically I lost 30 pounds since May, bringing me to my lowest adult weight yet. I have another 50 pounds to go to be at my goal weight of 222, but I am confident that I will hit it this year.
  7. Continue Continuing to Fix the Country. Keep going ’til it doesn’t suck.

So, yeah. That’s where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. I think 2019 is gonna be a great year. 🙂

Why Am I Awake? Oh Well, Have Some News

One of these is a sweet and loving feline, forced by circumstances to seem mean. The other is GrumpyCat.

First item of news! I passed my coach training finals! 😀 This means I will graduate from the Accomplishment Coaching training program, and I’m about 2/3 of the way to an Associate Certified Coach certification with the International Coach Federation.

Now… just to earn a living with it. >.>

Second item of news! Yesterday I was so inspired by Seanan McGuire geeking out over her Spider-Gwen gig that I decided– with no plan how or even idea of the feasibility– that I wanted to get involved in working on She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, on the grounds that as Seanan was basically born to write Spider-Gwen, I was basically born to write Catra. >.>

So I have spent all day canvassing anyone and everyone I know even marginally related to the animation industry looking for referrals or leads, as well as just flat-out e-mailing Noelle Stevenson via the address on her web page and saying “I want in! What do I do?”

In all of my years of creating comics, I never wanted to connect directly to a larger franchise before. As much fun as I’ve had banging around in the My Little Pony fandom, it never occurred to me to try to actually get involved in the show. Heck, LevelHead once offered to finance the creation of a NeverNever pilot to shop around back in the day, and I just didn’t think I was ready for it.

Why She-Ra, and why now?

Well, like I say, Catra is a big reason. She’s basically the Leona/Langley/Tanya/Brigid archetype I’ve been writing for 20 years. Another reason is something I described on Twitter a few days back, of having spent 20 years thinking I was being Tiffany Tiger in my career, when I was actually being Leona instead. For various reasons I’ve been going through my life with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake, sabotaging myself without realizing it and feeling defined by the wins other people were achieving that I felt like “should be” mine.

The transformative process I’ve been going through in my coaching career has really opened my eyes to this, and it’s time for me to change it. Part of that includes putting down the ego-driven “Must create it all from scratch!” mindset and connecting to other creators (and other projects) outside my own little corner of the universe.

Wish me luck! This is a scary, ambitious undertaking for me. Not the actual work of the writing, that part is easy! But changing who I am, moving into a much larger world… that’s hard. O.o

 

The Blogosphere Is Falling Down, Falling Down, Falling Down…

So, Tumblr has famously splinched itself. Patreon is trying desperately to serve its most dedicated users against the will of every bank in the universe. Facebook is and always was a dumpster fire. LiveJournal was Russianized ages ago. Twitter has a Nazi problem in its upper offices. And now WordPress is “updating” itself into unusability.

I don’t mind telling you, I am frustrated.

For a shining window of time (say, 2000-2005ish? I’m terrible with dates), blogging was AMAZEBALLS. There was so much cool stuff to read! People just expounding on any nerdy thing that interested them! People would actually have discussions about stuff! Flamewars did happen sometimes, but they were considered a breakdown of the system, not an inescapable fact of life.

There’s no point in saying “What happened, man?” ‘cos we know what happened. Bots happened. Apparatchiks looking for targets happened. A bunch of broken sadboys happened. Corporate pettiness, short-term thinking, and mendacity happened. The religious right happened. A ton of bullshit happened.

Well I also don’t mind telling you, I’m not giving up. The human capacity for creativity, beauty, and deep thought is limitless, and humanity’s desire to connect, share, and grow is limitless as well. Once there were storytellers, then there were poets, then there were philosophers and playwrights, then there were writers, then there were bloggers. The mode evolves, but the drive remains.

I don’t think that the heat death of the blogoverse is inevitable, and I fully intend to rage against the dying of the light on that front. But I also know that even if the form completely chokes, that drive will manifest again in another form. And I will be watching, ready to pounce on it.

Categories: Gneechy Talk

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So What’s the Deal With My Patreon?

Me and some of my best imaginary friends.
Me and some of my best imaginary friends.

So yeah, my foray into the world of adult art has in fact doubled my Patreon income, which is awesome! Bringing it all the way up to… $176 a month? O.o

Mind you, I’m grateful to all of my supporters, especially those at the top who have gone above and beyond all of the reward tiers and stuck with me for nearly half a decade. You folks are amazing!

But I look at “comparables” doing similar work to mine, and I see…

Clearly, my Patreon is underperforming, and I need to figure out why, and how to change that. Suburban Jungle Boogie was the first step, and it certainly had an impact! The next few months will be building on that success. My Patreon growth goals for 2018 are:

  • June 30: $200
  • July 31: $300
  • August 31: $500
  • October 31: $600
  • November 30: $750
  • December 31: $1,500

How am I gonna do this? I have no idea! So I’d love to hear any input or suggestions from anyone, ranging from creators who have succeeded and how they did it, to supporters who would be willing to tell me why they chose which artists to support and at what level. And once I have it figured out, you can bet I’ll be back here to report how I did it, because I love you. 😉

Meanwhile, please enjoy a word from Leona Lioness…

Leona is not safe for work.

Operation: Awesome!

By no longer showing Looney Tunes, we are failing future generations.

The rest of this year will be a time of big changes for me. I have a plan, which in my usual humble way, I have dubbed Operation: Awesome! It’s designed to integrate my coaching practice and my creative pursuits into a unified, sustainable, and, y’know, lucrative profession, because I cannot very well make the world a better place if I can’t even put food on the table.

Operation: Awesome! has four major components:

  1. The coaching practice itself: paying clients at various tiers, pro-bono clients, and side projects such as speaking engagements
  2. Blog income: ProudToBeAFurry.org; a coaching blog I’ll be launching later this year
  3. Art/comics/convention income: AnthroCon, Midwest Furfest, book sales, etc.
  4. Patreon: new goals and reward tiers, expanding my reach

Creating the plan for Operation: Awesome! was much like planning a car trip: I decided where I wanted to be, and when I wanted to get there, and then worked backwards to figure out the route, creating “milestones” along the way that would let me know I was on the right track.

Next, I made a list of the resources I had on hand to get me started on the journey– including my own skills and material resources; my network of friends, family, and social contacts; and services I could call on. Since I was planning from the future, this part was particularly important because it showed me what I didn’t need to “go shopping for” as part of the plan.

Finally, I created a timeline based on my milestones. Here’s a chunk of it:

Project Awesome! A small piece.

Notice the “income source TBD” chunks. This is a working roadmap, not set in stone, and I fully expect to tweak, alter, or revise it as things change. I don’t know where that “$2,200 TBD” in August is going to come from yet, just that I intend to figure something out by then. I might be making that much in blog income by then. I might come up with a great idea for group seminars. I might have blown the doors off my $300 Patreon goal. But the point is, now I know that I will need to work on that.

At this level, the project plan doesn’t include “action items”– that’s deliberate, because it’s where a lot of people get mired in details and sent into overwhelm. The plan is a roadmap, not a turn-by-turn set of instructions. Once you have the plan in place, you only create action items for the next milestone.

July is two months away, and my situation or needs may very well have changed by then, so coming up with action items for then might very well be a waste of energy that I could better spend on what I’m doing today. Right now, I’m aiming for the May 31st milestone, so I have created a “to do” list based on that and started to put thought into June. August and September aren’t even on my radar.

Anyone can come up with their own project plan, but honestly I recommend getting someone to go through it with you. Project: Awesome! was a collaboration between myself and my own coach. It requires a certain amount of time and brainstorming, so in my own coaching practice I like to devote two sessions to it. But the benefits are huge, and well worth the time investment.

With my project plan in place I am more confident of success, I am more aware of potential pitfalls and how to avoid them, and I have a clear vision of what “success” will look like. By planning it from the future, it feels like “Future Me” has reached backwards in time and told me how he got where he is, and that I am now calling that into existence by putting in the work.

Let’s rock this thing. 😉

-The Gneech