by robin gayle howard

Monthly Archives: January 2012

Every day a challenge is set before me.  Some days are more challenging than the next, especially when the day starts with the eyes refusing to allow the first morning rays to be reflected upon the retinas.   The greatest challenge, however, is how to best use the time I cross paths with, without letting it just run through my fingers.

With this challenge before me each day, what is the most successful way to filter the best choices for the use of my time?  Well, during the work day that answer is pretty easy–attend to the necessities and the situations at hand.  Do all of the must do’s and have to’s.  Communicate, clarify, simplify, and do what is best and right.  Easy?  Not always.  Especially at those junctures when I am not in control of the time.  At those moments my thoughts must turn to making the most of every opportunity.

Once I arrive at home, it is so much a different story.  There are many choices of what to do with the very small amount of time I have left until the cycle begins for the next day.  I have really developed a distain for time-wasters, stupid television (as opposed to educational programs), games (unless shared with another in developing relationships), shopping (without purpose) . . . whoa!!  Sounds like I belong in the 19th century or in a cave!  How do I choose what is best to do for the rest of the day?  Not just what is “good” to do, but what is “best.”

Thus far I have kind of set a schedule of what could be accomplished each evening, i.e. spending time with hubby & kiddo; domestic chores, researching and writing, drawing and painting, etc. with hopefully no more than seven categories.  I really need more days in the week or more hours in the day.  Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep in anymore.  I thought it was just those blasted hormones! 

So, what will help me make the correct choices for what is best to do?  Through writing this I’ve come to realize that I really need to rework my personal mission statement.  Yes, the glories of the writing process.  It has probably been over 15 years since I wrote my last mission statement.  My life has changed sooooo much since then and I am way overdue.  Anyone else have a mission statement that they’d care to share?  I’d love to hear from you.  And if you’ve never ventured into the land of mission possible, let me know.  I have a challenge for you!

Digging for gems

Yesterday was a full and rewarding day at the SCBWI Keeping It Real Non-Fiction Intensive.  There I was able to  bask in the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of  all of the wonderful speakers.  When I started on the journey of writing and illustrating picture books I had absolutely no thoughts about non-fiction.  None! 

While soaking in all of the information that was shared, I remembered something very long forgotten.  I love doing research!  That is where a majority of the time is spent for non-fiction writing, even for picture books.  Facts are facts and they need to be accurate.  In days  and jobs gone by, one of my duties involved research.  I used to spend hours in the library using their databases to dig up information during those B.I. (Before Internet) days.   Just being in a library was a joy for me.  While the internet does hold vast riches of information, it is just not the same as excavating book after journal after article to discover the rarest of gems.  The stacks, the smells, the enjoyment . . . I really miss those days! 

So what do I do about that?    A few months ago I started a story about someone in my family tree, but that story is more historical fiction than non-fiction.  I guess I will have to start digging to see what can be unearthed about the background story, and perhaps discover some little known facts or people that have a truly interesting and encouraging story that needs telling.  On to a new challenge, so . . . let the digging begin!

Today I felt pulled in many directions . . . finishing the afghan for my husband, watching the Broncos game, working on my draft 1 of 12 for the 12 x 12 challenge, and working on refining my color samples in order to submit my first book by the end of January.  Prioritizing the aforementioned tasks led me to one conclusion . . . I need FOCUS.  I did work most of the day yesterday on my color samples, leading me in a new direction for applying the color.  I did jot down notes on Friday for my first 12 x 12 draft.  I could always listen to the Broncos game while I was working on whatever.  So what is the best strategy?

What can be finished most quickly?  I sat at the computer, typed in my jottings from Friday, made a few revisions, and draft #1 is well on its way.  That was easy!

Next, what is the most important?  On to the color samples.  Not so easy.  I have been struggling beyond belief with the colors on my characters, so I decided to try a different technique.  I am using acrylics and I know that you can always repaint something you do not like, but I didn’t like my first tries very much at all.  Instead of using a gradient wash of the color from pale to dark, I decided to do a complete undercoat of the lightest grade of color and then dry brush on darker layers.  I do like the result and think that is the technique I will use.  I finally finished one character today . . . let me know what you think!

By the way, I did complete a few more rows on my husband’s afghan, and the Broncos with Tebow are the bomb even though I am a dyed-in-the-wool Bears fan.  And I did get to see the final overtime play.  Hey!  That was the only one that really counted ;o)

I love challenges!  I have sometimes been compared to a pitbull when it comes to something I can’t  that takes me a while to figure out.  So the challenge for 2012 . . . dundunDAH . . . 12 new drafts of picture books in 12 months.  Thank you to Julie Foster Hedlund and the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge.  You can see a link to this in the sidebar.  If you’d like to join, you have until January 29th.  Along with committing to the challenge come prizes.  Who doe not like a chance to win prizes?  Click on the 12 x 12 badge and come join the fun!

With this challenge comes the need for clarity.  Right now I am working with the lovely ambient tones of football crowds and announcers in the background.  (Love ya honey!  An episode of Bones is waiting in the wings ;o)  hehehe.  So, a few nights ago the constant bantering in the background while I was working on consistency in my illustrations saturated me to overload.  My mommy ears just were not working.  I couldn’t see clearly.  I couldn’t think clearly.  On came the wool sweater and I joined the lovely East Sacramento quiet of the evening.  Don’t get me wrong because I really enjoy a good football game, but that night it was not working for me.  Taking a walk in the chill of the night was refreshing and energizing.  I could think about what I was working on and roll things around in my mind and change the perspectives and size and tone as I enjoyed the remaining Christmas lights and the occasional passerby.


I can see clearly now . . . for all of us boomers . . . the rain is gone.  Knowing when you need to change things up for yourself is invaluable. You are the only one that truly knows what you need and what will work for you.  If your first attempt does not work, don’t give up, just move on to the next one.   You are worth it!