Shut Your Monkey | Book Review

Hey everyone! I’m starting a new series of book review posts. There’s a bunch of inspiring books on creativity stacked on my nightstand, and I thought it’d be helpful as I read through them to share some highlights with you. It'll let me sort out and apply their lessons while letting you know why I think you’d LOVE these books!

I’m kicking things off with a book that I know some of my friends are excited about: Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Done by Danny Gregory. I snapped this sucker right off the bookstore shelf during one of my ‘I need help with procrastination’ moods. Now I’m really glad I did! I'd recommend this book to every creative person out there, especially those who struggle with being their own worst critic.

Author Danny Gregory refers to the negative voice inside your head as "The Monkey." The monkey picks apart all of your new ideas, then tells you that you suck. It says that you shouldn’t even try, and then distracts you from getting anything done. We all have this voice inside our heads, and for me, it’s really hard to shut it up. My monkey got the better of me in 2016, which is why I've struggled so much with productivity and motivation. But this year I’m silencing that damn simian once and for all, and so should you.

There’s a lot of relatable content in this book, and it provides for a fun and quick read. The sections on perfectionism and overthinking stood out the most in relation to my inner critic, and I thought the advice was very helpful.

If you’ve been following along with my previous posts, then you’ve noticed I have a huge problem with perfectionism. Gregory talks about perfectionism quite a bit in the book. Your monkey insists you do everything perfectly, but will make sure perfection is always just out of your reach. My monkey nitpicks everything I do, and if my work isn’t 100% perfect it tells me I suck and should just give up.

What Gregory says might seem like common sense when you read it, but I struggle to remember it whenever perfectionism starts to take hold of me: When you try something for the first time, you’re more likely to fail because you don’t know the rules, don’t have the tools, and haven’t failed enough to learn the lessons. Perfection isn’t natural; it’s boring, so be more realistic with your capabilities. Even the Mona Lisa has cracks. Maybe you’re just a flawed major masterpiece (to me, this was the most powerful phrase from Shut your Monkey).

Another area of self-criticism I struggle with is thinking too much and not actually doing. My monkey makes me procrastinate, telling me to forget about that new idea I have and instead go hang out on the couch to watch some trashy TV and eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. It says tomorrow is another day, and that great idea I have can just wait.

Gregory’s advice for silencing the moneky this time? Beat it with the habit of work. Don’t focus on the results, just focus on being productive. Work hard and give yourself a sense of purpose. A lame idea beats no idea every time. Just make something, anything.

Ok, so I shared just a SMALL snippet from Shut Your Monkey, and I could go on and on about how helpful and relevant this read is for creatives, but I don’t want to give away all of Gregory’s good advice! I highly recommend checking this book out if you can. Not only is it a quick read, but also I find myself going back to specific sections to re-read whenever I’m in a creative funk. It’s a mini mood booster and a tiny shot of confidence (just look at all these great reivews). See if your local library has a copy, or pick it up here. And please let me know what you think after reading it by leaving a comment below!

Inspirational Friday #3

Whoa! I took a long break from Inspirational Friday monthly posts, but it's finally back! With politics on the mind and having just participated in the Women's March, it's pretty obvious what's been inspiring me in January.

Gotta thank  Jessica Hische  for sharing this lovely and relevant piece on Instagram.

Gotta thank Jessica Hische for sharing this lovely and relevant piece on Instagram.

Frolik  is one of my absolute favorite designers from South Africa. I've been wearing  this pin  every day since the Women's March.

Frolik is one of my absolute favorite designers from South Africa. I've been wearing this pin every day since the Women's March.

As usual,  Mary Kate McDevitt  seems to know just what I've been feeling.

As usual, Mary Kate McDevitt seems to know just what I've been feeling.

This  was me most of January. I love  Julia Bereciartu's  illustrations!

This was me most of January. I love Julia Bereciartu's illustrations!

And last but not least... We participated in the march and now it's time to  start taking action !

And last but not least... We participated in the march and now it's time to start taking action!

So there you have it, I've been feeling very inspired this month by what's happening in our country. I know I'll continue to be inspired by activists, rogues, revolutionists, and bad-asses in the following months to come, so we'll see where that takes me. What's been inspiring you? Happy January!

Women's March | Seattle

I am so glad I was able to take part in the Women's March this past weekend, and very inspired by the huge numbers of people who marched all across the globe! Seattle was estimated to have hit between 130-170k participants!

I spent the night before the march cutting up construction paper to create my sign and was excited to show it off! But let me tell you, holding a sign in one hand and a camera in the other is not easy, and trying to snap photos of the crowd while walking was challenging.  'Event Photography' isn't really my cup of tea, but I gave it a shot (haha, shot, haha) and tried my best. I feel I was able to capture some of the energy that was bouncing off the huge crowds.

Directly below is my co-worker Susie and me with my big blue sign. We marched with my boyfriend, his co-worker, and her husband. It was great seeing a lot of famiilar faces along the way!

Did anyone else march? I'd love to hear about your experience. I know it's a day we won't ever forget!

Sayonara 2016!

Happy 2017 everyone! I can’t believe A Bird of Passage is already over a year old! Where has the time gone? With the death of 2016 comes the birth of a fresh year, and the chance to once again start anew. It’s time to make new goals!

Reflecting on this past year, I asked myself several questions to help reveal my new route and organize priorities for 2017. Have you sat down and thought about what you want to accomplish this year? It might seem daunting at first, so here are a few questions to get the juices flowing.

What were your 2016 goals? What was challenging?

When you look back at your previous year’s goals, it’s hard not to get extremely discouraged by the ones you didn’t achieve. That’s why it’s taken me HALF the month of January to reflect on my 2016 goals and think about what I’d like my 2017 achievements to be. Eeesh, talk about procrastination… (I THOUGHT I’d resolved to stop doing that…) Thinking about my failures really got me down, but listing out new goals for this year was a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Speaking of procrastination, that is the one word I would use to summarize my creativity in 2016. Last year I talked about being productive in 2016. My focus was to create more and be routinely active with my blog. 12 posts in a year isn’t exactly the activity I had hoped for. I spent a hell of a lot of time thinking and planning fun new ideas for my blog and personal projects, but did I actually DO them? No. Why? Several reasons really, but mostly I just had trouble staying motivated. This was a challenge.

What achievements are you proud of, and what did you learn in 2016?

Last year’s failures also came with a few major accomplishments, and I’m trying to focus on these going into the New Year. Working my ass off to get promoted to Associate Art Director at my company. Not giving up during extremely tough times. After years of living here, I almost gave up on Seattle and seriously considered moving back to Minneapolis… But I didn’t, and I’m still here. These were huge highlights of twenty sixteen. Being scrappy with my budget and planning a trip to South Africa was also a big event (post and photos to come). Supporting Jeff during his first and second comic convention as an artist was an amazing experience, and finding a bigger space to rent (a house!) at the end of the year was a much-needed check off my to-do list.

2016 was the year I finally realized my value as a hard-working woman, and that fighting for yourself is the only way to get the advancements I deserved (no one else is going to do it for you). I learned to stand up for myself and take action for positive changes in my life.

What do you want to prioritize this year, and what do you want to make happen?

For 2017 I again want to focus on creative progress, spending more time DOING and less on thinking. This year is round two; another shot at accomplishing important goals. I want to work on personal pieces for my portfolio, actively update my blog (at least 3 or 4 times a month!), and learn some new artistic skills while reconnecting with some much-neglected ones. And I’m serious about it (I was serious last year too, but life gets in the way and goals shift). It really helps that I have a home office now, a creative space of my own to get to work uninterrupted (details and photos to come).

So yea, more doing and less thinking. More trying and less holding back. That’s my motto for twenty seventeen (good-bye procrastination). I hope I’ll be able to document this journey here with you and have an audience to hold me accountable this time around!

What are your goals for the New Year? Good luck in 2017, time to make it happen!

Photo by Jeff Carpenter.

Bad Ass Ladies of Lettering

Hand lettering is a skillset I’ve been drooling over for years, a talent I’d like to add to my creative tool-belt. Last year I enrolled in Hand Lettering for Designers at School of Visual Concepts (if you live in the Seattle area, I HIGHLY recommend taking some classes here), and got a first-hand introduction to lettering. My passion for beautifully drawn letters started to grow, full speed ahead!

Hand lettering is the illustration of letters, not to be confused with calligraphy or typography. It’s the art of drawing letters, as opposed to writing them. Calligraphers write words, type designers make fonts, and letterers draw words. As a graphic designer and typography lover, it seems natural to desire this skill. Hand lettering brings an impressive element to both personal and professional projects. 

Over the years I’ve curated a nicely sized collection of hand lettering books and followed some EXTREMELY (seriously) talented letterers, who inspire me to keep at it and continue practicing my lettering. I’m really excited to share my very favorite letterers, bad asses Jessica Hische and Mary Kate McDevitt (who are also the authors of my favorite lettering books, go figure). These ladies are not only crazy talented, but also hard working individuals who’ve found something they love doing and were able to turn it into a full time gig. If you're interested in lettering, or just like looking at pretty art, I hope you'll find some inspiration and resources below!

Photo from The Everygirl

Jessica Hische, also fondly known as ‘The Drop Cap Girl’, was the first professional letterer I started following. I saw her gorgeous Penguin Drop Cap series online, and then years later, stumbled upon her book In Progress. If you’ve had the pleasure of holding this book in your hands, then you’d understand why I simply couldn’t leave the store without it. Once I got home and looked through the pages I realized I’ve actually seen several of her projects before, without even realizing it! Most notably, her Barnes & Noble Classics book cover collection, her logo re-design for Mail Chimp and Retail Me Not, the film titles for Moonrise Kingdom, and the cover of Elizabeth Gilbert’s second novel Committed, a Love Story.

Jessica’s work is very clean and controlled, with a touch of elegance. Her lines are precise, whether they are delicate and flowing or ridged and bold. She is a versatile designer, able to create vastly different styles of art. Jessica’s Daily Drop Cap series is quirky and fun, and I have to say that no one can illustrate intricate drop caps like her!

One of the most inspiring lettering books out there, In Progress is not only informative, but visually stunning from cover to cover. Lovers of lettering, typography, and striking layouts need to add this book to their collection. Jessica goes through her entire process, from the early stages of research and sketching, to digitizing and vectorizing her letters. She gives a behind-the-scenes look at her big-name projects, talking about conceptualizing and brainstorming, then sharing her sketches. This book is full of tips and tricks for aspiring letterers.

"I think most people that have a lot of sucess early in their careers don't see what they do as 'work' - I would make art whether or not anyone was paying me to do it. If you can see your career as your calling more than your job, it's easy to devote your life to it." - Jessica Hische

 

Mary Kate McDevitt entered my life when I randomly found her Hand-Lettering Ledger in the design section of Barnes and Noble. I noticed her distinctive style at once, and started following her online. Soon after I enrolled in her lettering classes on Skillshare.

Mary Kate’s work has a vintagey, slightly rough, sketchy, non-perfect look to it. She uses a lot of illustrations mixed in with her lettering to create bold and playful pieces of art that show her sense of humor and highlight her personality. I admire her unique style, which is easy to spot among a pile of other letterer’s pieces.

One thing I love about Mary Kate is all the fun projects she’s done for Chronicle Books. I’m a sucker for this type of stuff, and really want her Mini Goals Notepad, Carpe Diem Journal, and The Big Ideas Notepad, just to name a few. I also enjoy the super crazy (in a good way) covers she’s illustrated for Mental Floss magazine. Look at that color!

 

Hand-Lettering Ledger is half informative guide and half workbook. While I’d never write in one of my design books, you can easily photocopy the workbook pages for personal use. Mary Kate goes over a handful of primary lettering styles and provides us with helpful tips while using bright and exciting examples. This book is packed FULL of character, and is less about her life and career and more about teaching and guiding aspiring letterers, something I really appreciated.

"Hand Lettering takes the simplest form of communication and transforms it into an expressive art form." - Mary Kate McDevitt

 

I hope your creative juices are flowing and these bad ass ladies have inspired you as much as they’ve inspired me! If you’re looking for additional lettering resources, I’ve pulled some more books from my collection that are worth checking out: Hand-Lettering for Everyone, Draw Your Own Alphabets, and Drawing Type. I may even put together a ‘lettering tools’ post in the near future, featuring some of my favorite pens and inks.

Because this was so much to write, I’m toying with the idea of turning this post into a series, where I’ll focus on inspirational artists with specific skillsets. Maybe I’ll do letterpress next? Or screen printing? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below!