Inertia and Creativity

Ever since I learned the term from Bill Nye the Science Guy, I have loved the concept of inertia as stated in Newton’s First Law:

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force 

(Source: Physics Classroom)

I’ve loved it because it is so true in life–not just in terms of physics, but in terms of motivation, goal-setting, and goal-getting. 

It’s hard to get started. So that’s why, when you start, the goal is to just start. Because starting from a state of rest and moving to a state of motion requires force.

And it’s true the other way around, too. 

You see, two weeks ago, I was hurtling forward with epic speeds. I had picked up my pace as a creator to a point where, in addition to creating practicing my art and creating custom pieces, I could comfortably add on blogging regularly, creating a challenge, expanding to Facebook, and even trying NaNoWriMo. I couldn’t be stopped.

Until my kid got a cold. 

And then I got it, too.

I pretty much turned into Chris Traeger with the flu.

Except, I had a daycare cold. And I was dying

.OK, not dying, but losing sleep because I was coughing through the night. I slowed down in creativity and completely lost all my momentum. 

About four days ago, I started feeling better. But I still couldn’t make myself create.

It was inertia.

I was at rest. And now I have to slowly get myself back up. 

I’m going to give myself a bit of my own advice by forgiving myself for all my missed days of creating and building up this little side gig known as The Nerd Lady. And I’m going to take those first forceful steps to gaining momentum again. 

So. HI! I’m Swapna. I’m an English teacher. I like blogging, reading, and lettering. The more I can mix those three passions, the better. If you want to know what I’ve been up to this fall, check out my most recent post: October + November Highlights. You can find me on Instagram @nerdladydraws to see my work and recent projects. As part of picking up my pace, I even added some new designs to my Society6 and RedBubble shops. I love you forever for checking them out. 

And I love Parks and Rec. 

I’m going to say this counts as my creative pep talk for this week… because I need to feel like I accomplished a thing in order to pick up my momentum.

So, my fellow creatives, here’s my advice and insight for you this week: Inertia is friggin powerful. But remember you can overcome it with force. Force yourself to start, and keep fighting until you pick up momentum. It may take you a few days (or even a weeks or months) to feel like you’re finally in motion. But once that motion hits, nothing can stop you.

(Except a cold from daycare, because those are demon pathogens born in the very depths of hell.)

(But yes, you can overcome that, too.)

October + November Highlights

What happened to fall?! 

The past two months went by in a flurry. Work got crazy, then I switched focus to practice writing again, now I’m sick… if you’ve had an insane fall, too, chances are that you missed something fun I did on The Nerd Lady. Here are some highlights from my last two months!

Personal Projects

10 Minutes a Day

I’ve had so many friends tell me they wish they had time to read, create, or do something that would make them feel more fulfilled with life. It’s funny because I’ve got a toddler at home, a new job teaching Pre-AP and AP, and a million other things I have to do. So I try to steal ten minutes every day just for myself. It’s a lifesaver. It’s what keeps me sane. It helps me be a better mom and teacher–and that’s why I think everyone should do it, too.

I started a challenge and a series to encourage people to steal time for themselves. Check out my weekly pep talks here (I took a break the past two weeks because I’ve been sick!): 

STEAMotype

I was officially added to the STEAMotype team! STEAMotype is an amazing #scicomm account and community on Instagram (@STEAMotype). Their mission is “to inspire appreciation of and engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) through art.”

I’ve been actively participating in their challenges and helped host them quite a few times this year. In October, I hosted two challenges: Dinosaur Week and Monster Mash (for Halloween)! This means that I helped construct the art challenge for the week, then I helped find artwork to feature during that week. It’s exhausting, but a lot of fun! Check out @STEAMotype on Instagram if you love seeing STEM mix with the arts!

Writing!

I got really into creativity/business podcasts over the last two months, and they all make you ask yourself what your one true passion is. For me, it’s always been writing. And because it’s NaNoWriMo season, I sort of let myself get swept in by the hype. For my Ten Minutes a Day personal challenge, I’ve taken on the task of learning how to write a novel, plan it, and actually carry out the plan! Much of my creative energy went into learning the craft, and I am loving it! 

Chalkboards

Because I got so deep into developing my other passions — encouraging others to take time for themselves, hosting STEAMotype challenges, and learning how to write fiction — my artwork took on a different focus. Much of my work was practice… and my favorite medium to practice on is chalkboards! I did some fun pieces to help me de-stress during an insane time of year for teachers. 

Featured Work from Other Artists

Buy Your Friend’s Art by @elloisemae

It’s the holiday season. I’ve got to encourage you to support your friends as you shop! Love this piece by Elloise Mae Foster!

Perspective Collective

I have LOVED listening to Scotty Russell’s Perspective Collective podcast! He encourages you to pursue your creative goals with an authentic voice. He just hit 100 episodes. Check out his work here: https://perspective-collective.com/

My Reading Life

Fahrenheit 451

This was my first time reading this book… I know, I know… It’s ridiculous that I’m an English teacher and it took until now for me to read it. I was practically underlining every other line because IT IS SO TRUE. My reality as an English teacher is not simply censorship, but the overall devaluing of books and literature — oftentimes from my own peers. Gah. This book was so good and just what I needed to read. 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Honestly, I did not think I would enjoy this book. It’s about science, which I love, but I never imagined that I would enjoy reading a whole book about cells. But this story is riveting. And so very, very important. This brings up the controversial issue of human subjects. Henrietta Lacks’s cancer cells were taken from her body without her permission. They ended up being the first “immortal” cell line–cells that could reproduce and survive in lab conditions ad infinitum. Her cells were vital in the formation of the polio vaccine, the HPV vaccine, and countless other medical discoveries. But it was without her permission, and her surviving family still has limited access to healthcare. This book was a page-turner… although I listened to it on audiobook… so an ear-turner?

Dashing Through the Snow

If you know me IRL, you know that I love Christmas. And I love cheesy Christmas stories. I’ve been dying to try a Debbie Macomber book (she is the queen of cheesy Christmas stories, with 4 Hallmark movies to boot). Since I’ve been an on an audiobook kick, I tried it out. The story was ridiculous and cute, but it was pretty much Harold and Kumar 2 with an all-white cast, no hint of politics, and CHRISTMAS. Plot: Girl wants to go home for Christmas, guy has an interview to get to in the same city. Girl finds out she’s on the no-fly list, guy can’t get a seat, and they both travel from San Francisco to Seattle by (the last) rental car together. Hot on their trail is an unreasonable Homeland Security officer who is positive that she is a terrorist with the same name. I don’t think I’m spoiling it by saying everything worked out, and they kissed in the winter. 

Whew! It was a busy season! I’m exhausted just writing this. Thanks for hanging in there and supporting me through this creative journey. Creativity is what keeps me sane, and you’re what keeps me grounded. Thanks, friends!

Remember that you can find me on Instagram @nerdladydraws to see what I’m up to. I’m also working on upping my Facebook presence… so if you want to find me there, click here

Now, time to get deep into my favorite time of the year: Christmas!  Happy December, and stay nerdy, my friends! 

Calligraphy 101: Lowercase Letters

So you’ve been practicing your basic strokes and you’re ready to move on to actual lettering! Let’s do baby steps: this week, it’s time to focus on lowercase letters.

If you’re joining me for the first time, this is Part 2 of a short series in which I curate the best of the best lettering resources for beginners. See Part 1 here: The Basic Strokes. I know you’re busy; I’m busy, too. But I promise it is so worth it to have a creative outlet to escape from that busy lifestyle, if only for ten minutes. In this series, I will provide no more than 5 resources that you can consume at work, at home, or anywhere in between. Let your new hobby begin!

Resource #1: Loveleigh Loops

This is a pretty long video, but an informative one. It shows you how to build a lowercase letter from the basic strokes. If you’re practicing at work or while the baby is sleeping, you could put this video on mute and start at 1:37. Take note of the building blocks of each letter, then see how she lefts her pen/pauses between each stroke in order to perfect the letter. 

***Bonus Resource: @loveleighloops on Instagram***

Twins Jillian and Jordan have a ton of good information on their Instagram feed. Search #loveleighlessons to see their instructional information, or just scroll through their feed to see videos and tips! (This is not a paid advertisement. I just appreciate good information.)

Resource #2: The Lemonade Store

I’ve already said it once: I love lettering with fat Crayola markers. I think they’re the best beginner calligraphy tool–as well as my preferred “brush” lettering tool. This video is much shorter than the Loveleigh Loops one, but it doesn’t break down the letter by basic strokes. This is a good one for those of you who just want a fast(er) overview of lettering each of the lowercase letters. 

Resource #3: Stephen Bradbury Design

Stephen’s lettering style is a bit different from modern calligraphy, but some of you may like to try it. This style is like when calligraphy meets graffiti. I love it!

Resource #4: One Artsy Mama – Free Lettering Practice Sheets

(Image from One Artsy Mama)

There are a ton of lettering practice sheets and workbooks that you can buy through artists’ websites  and Etsy stores. I wanted to find something free, though.  On this page, you can print off free practice sheets and letter directly on the page, or use tracing paper to letter over the page.

Disclaimer: The sheets that you can purchase have more information about the motions of lettering, and how to go about drawing each letter. With this free one, you’ve got to be aware of how the basic strokes fit in yourself.  

Resource #5: My Stories @nerdladydraws!

OK, shameless plug here. But really, I was trying to find more lowercase lettering sources and found them all boring, repetitive, or incomplete. Keep an eye out on my Instagram stories @nerdladydraws over the next few weeks for quick videos on how to letter each of the lowercase letters with the basic strokes. If you miss anything, I’ll save each video in my story highlights.

In these videos, I’ll use a different color for each stroke so that you can see how to build each letter. They will be muted so that you can watch them when you’re supposed to be quiet (because otherwise you’ll here my child screaming or the latest Hallmark movie I’m watching). 

That’s it! Now go practice lettering! Let me know how you’re doing by commenting below or finding me on Instagram @nerdladydraws! 

How to Find Time for Your New Passion

You’re curious, maybe a little frustrated with the everyday, and you want to try something new. Maybe it’s that new trendy hobby that you keep seeing everywhere; maybe it’s your lifelong dream. But no matter how many times in your life you say, “I should try that,” you always stop at the same thing: time.

“There’s never any time,” you say.

Friends, let me tell you the most annoying, truest thing you’ll hear about that argument.

There is time.

The real question and problem is: how are you managing yours?

I don’t mean to sound like my parents, the typical Indian parents who would go to the bookstore in the summer to find study guides so I would stay sharp over the long summer months. They were the kind who would wake me up at 8am on a Saturday and tell me not to waste my day, or who would assign homework when it looked like I wasn’t busy enough with work from school. They made me feel guilty all the time.

But, now that I’m an adult, I can regretfully admit that they sort of had a point.

It’s true, our responsibilities take up a lot of our time. And it’s true that we need to rest. But between our obligations and our personal time, we leave a lot of wasted space. We have missed opportunities to learn, create, and grow.

Before you totally blow me off, I need to state that I’m busy and stressed like no other. I’m a full time high school English teacher and toddler mom. I couldn’t survive it all if I didn’t make time for creating.

Making time to letter, write, and learn about business are the things that keep me floating every day, and that’s why I’m so passionate about sharing that with you. I promise — carving out time, even if it’s just ten minutes, every day to pursue a passion is so worth it. Here are my top four times in the day to pursue my creative goals:

#4 Deep Shower Thoughts

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All my good ideas come to me in the shower. This is a chunk of time that is perfect for thinking, reflecting, and even doodling! I love to draw and letter on the tiles and glass… But maybe that’s just me.

Goals that can be achieved if you maximize this time: brainstorming and planning for your daily goals… maybe even a little doodling. If you’ve got some kind of shower speaker system (or in my case, a sink nearby that can amplify your phone), you can also use this time to listen to podcasts or audiobooks.

#3 Time spent waiting

I’m writing this while I’m waiting for my perfect pan-seared chicken to become perfect. I started writing this while waiting for my toddler try to get bored of one activity and ask for another. We’re constantly waiting. Why not use that time?

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Me too, Inigo. Me. Too.

This window of time is for those of you whose goal is developing a skill, or whose goal is a cognitive one. Waiting is the perfect time to learn and think. And learning and thinking counts as time put toward your goal — so be sure to celebrate the time that you spend doing this!

Goals that can be achieved if you maximize this time:

  • Reading! Either audiobook or actual book. I use waiting time for audiobooks.
  • Podcasts: I learn the tricks of my trades through my favorite podcasts: Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher, Perspective Collective by Scotty Russell, Write or Die by Claribel Ortega, 10 Minute Writer’s Workshop by Virginia Prescott, and Create If Writing by Kirsten Oliphant. The best time for podcasts? When I’m stuck in traffic or walking my dogs!
  • Studying and reflecting: This is crucial for so many creative fields. When I was really into watercolor, I would use my waiting time to study the way light played on plants and clouds, then brainstorm how I could practice that when I had my paints at night. Now that I’m in the NaNoWriMo zone, I’m using my waiting time to study humans and brainstorm possible interactions that will go into my book.
  • Meditating: One of my friends has taken on meditating for her Ten Minute Goal. Talk about a way to make waiting time feel less tedious!

#2 Brain breaks at work

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No matter how committed you are to your job, no matter how fulfilling it is, you probably need a break every now and then. In fact, taking breaks can boost your productivity. Check out this Forbes article and this Psychology Today article if you don’t believe me.

Whether you’re a teacher, a CEO, a stay-at-home parent, a cashier, or one of the fortunate few who is living their dream job, you could still use a brain break. Use this opportunity to develop a new skill. I’m lucky enough to have a pretty fulfilling job and a decent-sized conference period. I tend to use at least one of my conference periods a week to work on a personal goal. I know that giving myself the chance to take a break from teaching and parenting actually makes me a better teacher and parent. It’s worth it!

Goals that can be achieved if you maximize this time: Anything that could be achieved from your workspace. Because of my work restrictions, I use this time to develop lettering skills and take care of writing goals.

#1 Time spent searching for a distraction

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Want to know what my personal hell would be? Flipping through Netflix ad nauseam, trying to find a new show or movie that will distract me from my mundane life. This was actually what spurred me to practice lettering every night. I got so tired of going from a full day of teaching and parenting to a night of flipping through Netflix. I mean, we could end up spending thirty minutes searching, only to pass out from exhaustion twenty minutes into whatever we chose! I *had* to do something better with that time.

How much time do you spend trying to get distracted? Flipping through Netflix movies? Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook? Searching for something to get mad about on Twitter?

Well, stop. Use that time for your goal. This is the number one, biggest time-waster in our time. We have too much information and too many distractions at our fingertips, and we let technology dictate our lives. Time to take that time back and use it toward your goals.

Goals that can be achieved if you maximize this time: ALL OF THEM.

 

I know you’re tired, and I know that some days, you are just so braindead that all you can do is flip through Netflix until you find a cooking show that will help you fall asleep. I have those days too. That’s OK. 

But believe me when I say it feels so good to give that tired brain of yours something fun to do, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. It rejuvenates your brain and your soul. It gives you something to work toward and be proud of. If you haven’t tried my goal-setting challenge, try it out this week. See how long you can go:

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My personal goal-setting update: I’m almost done planning for NaNoWriMo! I’m starting late because #ITeach. I’ll start writing during Thanksgiving week, with the hopes of finishing by Christmas. I am so proud of myself for keeping up with my daily writing goals (at least 10 minutes every night, but now I’ve got enough momentum to do at least 30 minutes every night)! I have had a few days where I dropped off, but I’ve been sticking to my own tips by forgiving myself for missed days and celebrating the days that I do achieve my goals.  

I hope you’re able to find some time to pursue a goal this week. As always, let me know how your goal chasing is going by commenting here or by contacting me via Instagram @nerdladydraws! I love hearing from you!

A Pep Talk from Kurt Vonnegut

For this week’s creative pep talk, I’m going to let the master of creative pep talks take over:

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“Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funky or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it. Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood, OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and . you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut”

 

A powerful message in a world where sharing is everything!

Have you created for just yourself lately? I would ask you to share in the comments, but I guess that’s going against Vonnegut.

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So… go out and do! And enjoy the doing today, not so much the sharing. 

Calligraphy 101: The Basic Strokes

This one’s dedicated to my girl Lindsay. You may be like this magnificent woman yourself: tired AF because life kicks your butt every day, and you need a creative outlet. You’re interested in calligraphy and handlettering, you’ve pinned a few things and followed a few Instagram lettering artists… but it’s all overwhelming and you don’t know where to start.

Let me get you started with the basics.

And because I’m tired and busy, too, I’m going to curate for you. Instead of adding to the noise on YouTube and Instagram, I’ll distill the most useful resources for you and give you my suggested steps to learning the art of handlettering.

I’m planning on this being a short series to introduce you to the basics and get you started on your lettering journey. I’ll keep it under five resources so that you can consume, then go ahead and start practicing! Today, you’ve only got three to get through. So let’s get started!

Lesson #1: Learn the Basic Strokes.

Calligraphy is different from cursive. Cursive is all about efficient writing in one fluid motion. Calligraphy and handlettering is about drawing — so that means you’ve got to pick up your pen between strokes, and really practice the shapes of lettering.

All the letters can be formed with the following basic shapes:

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You don’t need to know the names. Just the shapes.

Now, before I show you some videos, let me give you a disclaimer: I’m cheap. I don’t have the money to spend on all the cool tools that these videos will recommend.

My suggested tools:

That’s it. At least until you feel like you’ve gotten the hang enough of it.

Today’s Top 3 Resources

#1: The Basic Calligraphy Strokes

Watch how Becca forms each of the shapes, then try it out yourself! I promise, this works well with Crayola markers. You don’t need to spend a ton on Tombow markers.

#2: Common Mistakes

Maybe this is a 102 lesson, but if you’re like my friend Lindsay, you’re probably ready for this lesson.

#3: Drill Worksheets

There are tons of free worksheets on the internet. It’s the magic of the internet. Here’s a good one to practice your basic strokes. It’s from Dawn Nicole – check out her full blog post on drill basics here!

Two Bonus resources:

  • Becca at The Happy Ever Crafter has an entire Teachable course on practicing your drills (for free!). If you have the time to watch her videos on each of the strokes and practice each slowly, go to showmeyourdrills.com.
  • I learned by watching a ton of videos on Instagram, then trying it out myself. I also needed the videos to be silent, or easy to follow if muted… I was watching them while I was putting my daughter to sleep or feeding her during her first year. If you want to see simple, mute-able videos that show you how to do each of the basic strokes, stay tuned to my Instagram stories this week! Find me @nerdladydraws. I’ll save the demonstrations to my stories in case you join me later.

That’s it, friends! Now go and practice! Next up, I’ll share resources to help you learn how to put the basic strokes together so you can draw the letters. But as Mr. Miyagi showed young Daniel, you’ve got to learn how to wax on and wax off before you can kick ass. Learn your drills!

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It’s NaNoWriMo Season!

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Who else is doing NaNoWriMo this year?

For those of you who don’t know, this is an annual EPIC writing event! Writers around the world join in the tremendous task of writing a novel IN ONE MONTH. The NaNoWriMo website offers discussion board support groups, resources, and tracking tools to help you stay on top of your goals.

I’ve tried it three times. Each time, I tried to “pants” it–as in, fly by the seat of my pants. I was trying to follow Stephen King’s advice on letting interesting characters write the story for me.

Yeah, I’m not like that.

I should have remembered all those successful college research papers that I wrote–the ones that took pages and pages of outlining!

This year, I’m going about NaNoWriMo with a much better mindset:

  1. I planned a lot. I’m still planning, actually. I learned that I always stopped writing after I finished the first act. So I’ve been deep in figuring out the details of Acts Two and Three. Now that I’m learning how they work, it’s no wonder I stopped writing in years past!
  2. Instead of the suggested word count, I’m doing the Kitchen Timer Writing strategy I recently wrote about. The goal for NaNo is to get past your inner editor so that you can complete that 50K word book. My goal, however, is to make writing a habit. I don’t have a lot of time to write 1667 words per day during the month of November — I teach! But I can do a little at a time until I’m addicted and I can’t stop writing and hopefully one day I’ll have a novel.
  3. Instead of trying to do some epic great American novel, I’m just going to have fun. I’ve never written a novel. So, while I hope to create something so good that it can be published and free me from my mundane existence, I’m really just hoping to learn from the process. And maybe once I get this crappy first draft done, I’ll be able to grow in my second draft.

I’ve been going a bit Pinterest crazy with all my research. Check out my board here! 

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this month, comment below! Let me know your favorite strategies and resources so I can add them to my list!