CREATIVE LIFE AFTER A LONG HIATUS by Shykia Bell

 

How does one bring a career back from the dead?

Okay, perhaps that’s a little dramatic, but it’s what came to mind a little over two years after my daughter was born. By that time, I was nearly five years into my unplanned hiatus following a series of family tragedies and medical emergencies in addition to a personal battle with anxiety and depression.

The return to my art and writing has been a long and arduous process which was compounded with the brand new challenge of motherhood. For several reasons, I’ve very rarely enlisted the help of sitters. Therefore, I’ve had to make additional sacrifices in order to get any work time in. Most times I’ve had to sacrifice either my work or sleep. 

I’m sure many mothers can relate to the struggle of finding their identity after becoming a parent.  Society has long conveyed the notion that motherhood is a woman’s ultimate purpose, and once attaining that purpose all else should be sacrificed. And while I believe that my life’s priorities have been rearranged, my duties as a parent do not overwrite my passions as an artist.  If anything, the former fuels the latter and vice versa. 

By default, the creative process for authors and artists is lonely. Motherhood can magnify that loneliness in a way. Naturally, as a wonderful new life is celebrated, creative potential is sometimes overshadowed, dismissed, or forgotten. Some people have assumed that I had abandoned my creative endeavors altogether. And as my new responsibilities dominated pretty much all my time few people noticed that a vital part of my life had all but faded away.

It was seemingly of little consequence to them. Perhaps they didn’t realize that my aspirations, like my beloved daughter, are also a vital part of my identity. They are not mere frivolous pastimes. Yet, unfortunately, many artists face the same stigma where the legitimacy of their craft is solely judged upon their level of success. And given the fact that prior to publishing DUALITY: Poems, Essays, and Reflections, it had been seven years since I last published any writing, my success was questionable.

So, how did I go from a seven-year creative struggle to finally publishing my work again? A lot of sleepless nights, a lot of work, improvisation, meditation, and encouragement from a couple of dear friends and loved ones. Sometimes I’d jot down ideas (or even entire passages) on my cellphone as I rocked my daughter to sleep. I’d do the same during car rides. Most of the time I’d sacrifice sleep to work on DUALITY, new drawings, or my forthcoming sci-fi novel. However, in recent days I’ve learned that as my daughter gets older, there are other ways to unapologetically claim time for my work. Part of that means stepping beyond what others expect of me as a mother. Another part of it means getting better at delegating tasks whenever possible.

When I experienced a medical scare this past fall, it revived my desire to finish what I had started while at the same time invoking a fear that some of the words I had written might have been prophetic of my own demise. The process revealed the people who care most about me. It also left me grateful for my health and renewed my respect for the fragility of time.

In some ways it’s ironic that motherhood has provided both the greatest challenge and the greatest inspiration for me to get my work out there again. It’s important that my daughter gets to know all parts of my authentic self since that’s the closest I’ll ever get to achieving immortality.

Here are four tips that have helped me emerge from my hiatus:

1. No longer seeking permission to work on my craft.

I learned that my creative aspirations will never mean more to anyone else than they do to me. I also learned to value my work time without feeling guilty about occasionally sacrificing socialization in order to attain it.

2. Learning to forgive myself when I get off track.

Life intervenes our well laid plans. Often repeatedly and relentlessly. Yet, it can be tempting to blame ourselves when things don’t work out. Blame is unproductive and can prevent us from circumnavigating the cause of our delays and learning from the challenges whenever possible. Also, sometimes unplanned deviations to our schedule can sometimes work in our favor, allowing us to catch mistakes or coming up with ideas me might not have otherwise considered.

3. Doing my best with whatever time I’m able to get for my work. Even if it’s just five minutes.

Some people have the luxury of having a consistent schedule for their projects. Being a stay-at-home mom, I typically rely on the wee hours for productivity. Yet, even that rarely pans out as I hope, given the unpredictable sleep patterns of my beloved toddler. This means frequent interruptions. To cope with this, I work on what I can and make bookmarks and notations of where I left off. 

4. Understanding the importance of stress management.

Stress hinders the creative process and can discourage us from pursuing our dreams. Finding some method to decompress is vital to our recovery from stress. For some it’s meditation, yoga, exercise, music, reading, or other pastimes. In anticipation of stressful times, I created playlists of uplifting songs and speeches. Find what works best for you and incorporate it into your routine.

Shykia Bell is an author, poet, artist, and creator of The Bell Studio. Additionally, she is a freelance writer / graphic designer. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their daughter.

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Duality: Poems, Essays, and Reflections is now available at Amazon

Artwork from the collection is available at the author’s Redbubble shop

Medium blog: An Unexpected Diagnosis: How a Feared Ending Led to a New Beginning

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28 FANTASTIC AUTHORS YOU SHOULD MEET

 

 

Hello, Friends:

Thanks for visiting my writers’ chateau. Every Monday, I chat with a new author and have been very lucky to have so many talented wordsmiths visit my humble abode.

My staff, especially Henrietta (“Cook”) and Claude (my esteemed butler), work very hard to ensure that all guests get star treatment and that everything runs smoothly.

But…I have just learned that Henrietta and Claude have eloped (it was bound to happen!) and will be returning from a three-week honeymoon on July 7th. (Oh, dear…I should have paid more attention to the rumors going around.)

In the meantime, while Henrietta and Claude luxuriate in Luxembourg, dance their last tango in Paris, and waltz in Vienna, please check out my wonderful past guests whose interviews you may have missed the first time around.

And join me in wishing Henrietta and Claude a very happy marriage.

Eloped

FROM THE ARCHIVES

29 FANTASTIC AUTHORS YOU SHOULD MEET!

Shykia Bell

Maria Savva

Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick

C.A. Kunz

Dan McNeill

Eden Baylee

Tiffany King

Dean Mayes

Peter Carroll

Pat Bertram

Ann Swann

Cassius Shuman

Lorna Suzuki

Mike Roche

Molly Ringle

Brenda Sorrels

Dionne Lister

W.M. Driscoll

Dorothy Dreyer

Raine Thomas

Stacy Juba

Christa Polkinhorn

Deb Nam-Krane

Simon Hay

Julia Munroe Martin

Amy Sue Nathan

Uvi Poznansky

RJ McDonnell

Delia Colvin

Check back on July 7, 2013 when the Monday author interviews will resume.

CHAT WITH SHYKIA BELL

Shykia Bell developed a love for writing at a very young age and often dreamed of authoring books, but her career took several turns before she penned her first sci-fi/fantasy novel, Camileon. She is presently working several projects, including the third installment of her Camileon series. Shykia currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband Max, their cat and cockatiel.

Time to chat with Shykia!

What is your latest book?

Hi, Lisette. Congratulations on the launch of your brand new site and thank you so much for having me here at your lovely Writers’ Chateau! I’m thrilled to be your guest. My most recent novel is CAMILEON: Beyond The Veil. It’s the second in a series that chronicles the life of a young woman who wrestles with her identity and her past as she undertakes a harrowing task that could either help or hurt humanity in their fight against malevolent forces, both seen and unseen.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That all indie authors are lazy, which couldn’t be further from the truth. If I recall correctly, Sue Grafton recently faced heat for making such an implication. The truth is, there are talented and not-so-talented authors on both sides of the literary spectrum, whether traditional or indie. Even so, indie authors often have to work alone in various aspects of the publishing process. Not only do they have to work on the book itself, they also have to figure out what their brand is and how to market themselves efficiently in this highly competitive industry. It can be downright overwhelming, particularly for those who dare to go against the tide by producing something different than what the current trends dictate.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

My characters surprise me quite often. For example, in CAMILEON: Beyond The Veil, there’s one character who I intended to be gentle and nurturing, but he turned out to be the polar opposite. It certainly made the story a lot more intriguing as the reasons for his nature unfolds. It actually scared me, how easy it was to write him, though some of his actions were tough to process.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

A combination of both. I used to write a lot from elementary school through high school, but fell out of it during college. It wasn’t until years later that I rediscovered my passion for it. I’m so grateful that I did. It led me to meet some truly fascinating people.

Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?

My current novel is certainly my favorite for a number of reasons. It’s multi-faceted, and though it’s a sci-fi/fantasy novel, it contains situations that were inspired by some of the challenges I’ve had to overcome in reality. It was something I included subconsciously and I didn’t realize how truly connected I was to the characters until I saw fragments of my life in their experiences. That was actually kind of scary since I’m not the type of person who opens up so freely. For a while, I was apprehensive about publishing it, but figured by doing so I was somehow redeeming myself from some of my past mistakes.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

Negative reviews can be really tough to swallow, but in the end, everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s impossible to put forth a product the entire world will like, because not everyone perceives art, or life, the same way. The best way to handle a negative review is not to dwell on it. If constructive criticism is given, you don’t necessarily have to take it, but you can give it some consideration if you feel it may help you grow. I’m always searching for ways to improve my craft and sometimes paying attention to reviews can be helpful in this regard. Yet, not everyone writes reviews with noble intentions. There are those who simply seek to tear others down by writing scathing reviews, in some cases without even having read the book. It can be tough to figure out the motive behind a negative review, especially if it is written in a non-specific manner, but rather than exert valuable time and energy worrying about it, my advice is for the writer to use those resources to write their next masterpiece.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

I think presentation is extremely important. I’ve heard many readers state that an author’s lack of polish on their cover reflects the level of integrity they hold in their work. I’m not sure if that’s always a fair statement since there are people who care very much about their work, but simply lack the skills and/or resources necessary to put together a sharp-looking cover. I happened to be lucky; I used to work as a graphics coordinator and possessed the skills I needed to design my own cover. The photography, however, was done by my extremely talented friend.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are. What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

Reader reviews are crucial since fellow readers look for an objective opinion on products before putting their hard-earned money behind it. Not only that, but authors truly want to hear their readers’ honest opinions; at least I know I do. Whether the opinion is favorable or justifiably critical, it shows that the author was successful in making some sort of connection. Isn’t that what we all want anyway; some form of connection that reminds writers that we’re not alone, that the reader also walks the path of our words once the book is finished?

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

That’s a tough one. There are so many wonderful gifts I’ve received and I’m not referring to the material sort. Other than the gift of life, the best gift I’ve ever received was a second chance to live my dream and to find true love.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I never learned how to ride a bike. Embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. Don’t judge. It’s on my bucket list.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

1. Always keep an open mind. One of my mottos is a flexible mind isn’t easily broken. No one is right or wrong all the time and everyone, at some phase of their life or another, plays the role of student and teacher.

2. Find peace and happiness with yourself. Whether knowingly or not, we tend to project our unhappiness onto others, creating a terrible cycle of misery.

3. Be generous with your kindness and patience. It’s free and the more you give, the more comes back to you.

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