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.)

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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! 

Persist.

Hey, you.

Yes, you.

I see you.

I see you working your ass off, doing your research, doing all the things, staying up late and waking up early. I see that you’re still waiting. I am, too.

And I’m telling you, persist. Because the struggle is where all the fun is.

You got this.

And even if you don’t, have as much fun as you can fighting for it.

Oh, the things you can do with ten minutes!

“I wish I could do that.” It’s the most common phrase I hear from friends when I show off my latest lettering project. There’s part of me that wants to hold on to this thought and think I am special and gifted and talented… But I would be lying. Because the truth is, this is a skill, and I practice a lot. I know for a fact that I’m not talented—the pieces by those who have true talent are miles ahead of any of my work—but I do know that I am committed. And that I can get quite obsessed. So when I tell my friends that they can do it, they always come back with the second most common phrase I hear: “Yeah, but I don’t have time.” Here’s the thing. You do have time. I started lettering because after about 8 months of breastfeeding and pumping to Netflix, I got tired of passively absorbing information. I needed to do something. So I started watching lettering videos and tutorials. I started applying what I learned in any spare time I could find: in the 5 minutes it would take for my husband to change a diaper, during a test I was administering at school, while my kid was slowly learning how to hold a yogurt melt and start feeding herself. What started off as just a few minutes a day developed into an obsession. During those mundane periods of my day, when I would usually spend scrolling through social media, I started watching tutorials and practicing. And it all started with just giving myself ten minutes a day. Ten minutes to myself. Ten minutes to work on something for me. For me, those ten minutes became thirty, and eventually turned into an obsession that could keep me up all night. I have loved developing my skills. I can now look back on pieces from a year ago and cringe with a smile… I was proud of what I could do then, but I have grown so much.  I mean, look at this before and after for proof: And it wasn’t talent. It was simply finding those ten minutes every day to practice, and sticking to it. You have ten minutes. Hell, if you don’t have ten minutes, you’ve at least got some passing time that you’re wasting away scrolling through social media and getting angry at the news. How about spending that time watching tutorials on mute and learning to create something positive for the world? Today, I want you to think about something that makes you say, “I wish I could do that.” And I want you to give yourself ten minutes to try it out. Not just today. But tomorrow and the next day and the next. Do it when you notice your thumb scrolling up your screen, searching for some new bland piece of information for your brain to grasp. Do it when you’re browsing through Netflix, hunting for the next show that will change your life. Do it when you run away to a corner of the house to hide from your kids and your spouse for just ten minutes to get your sanity back (oh, wait, is that just me?). It took me a whole summer to really get myself into the habit of developing my skills every day and see myself growing as an artist. And it took a lot of support from my friends and the Instagram lettering community. Find your people. Tell them what you’re working on. And start working. Keep at it and watch yourself grow. So here’s the challenge: Find that one thing that you can learn, practice, and grow in. That thing that makes you go “Man, I wish I could do that.” And make yourself do that thing from now until Christmas. And add me to your team of cheerleaders. Because I believe in you. You can do that. Let me know how you’re doing by commenting here on my blog, or tagging me on Instagram @nerdladydraws. I’m here to pump you up and say OMG THAT IS SO AMAZING as you go about your journey. Y’all. This gets me excited. Can you imagine what you can do with just ten minutes a day? Leave a comment and tell me what you’ve always wanted to do!

September Highlights

Greetings, nerds!

I’ve been listening to a lot of Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger Podcast lately. She’s got a personable voice and five minutes of it are more engaging than the other business/creative podcasts I’ve tried. (Also, if you know any business/creative podcasts that are actually fun to listen to, could you comment with a suggestion? I’m looking for more, but everything I’ve tried has bored me on my commute.) She’s inspired me to take on a new goal for this venture of mine: expanding beyond Instagram, because that algorithm cannot be trusted.

She’s all about mailing lists and email newsletters as a more trustworthy way of reaching one’s audience. Honestly, I don’t have the time to figure that out right now or to add it to all my other practices. So I’m going to focus on using my blog as another way of reaching people and spreading the nerdiness.

At the end of each month, I’d like to give you a few highlights: my favorite projects from the month, features of some cool pieces that I’ve seen from others during those hours I spend scrolling on Instagram, and an update on my reading life. You can always see me gushing about all of these on my Instagram feed and stories, but it’s so easy to lose it all in the algorithm. This is a more dependable way of keeping you up to date.

If you signed up for email updates — YAY, YOU! Thanks for being awesome! If you haven’t, the link is in the right column –>

And remember, you can always find me on Instagram @nerdladydraws. Let me know if you found me through this blog and we can be friends, like, NOW!

Enough blabbing! Here are September Highlights:

My Favorite Projects

#1: Acrylic Boards

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I added custom acrylic board lettering to my Etsy shop this month! I love the clear, glossy look that gives these handlettered pieces a level of sophistication.

#2 Nursery Decor

 

Two of my friends asked me to create canvas pieces for their kids. It started with a quote and vague ideas, and we worked together to make these beauties happen! I love collaborating to make pieces that I never could have dreamed of on my own!

#3 Library Art

 

My school librarian and I teamed up to decorate the library. She provided the words and chalkboards, and I lettered them. Can’t wait to do more pieces this year!


Featured Pieces by Fellow Insta-Artists

I love sharing work by fellow creatives. The images should have hyperlinks straight to these artists’ profiles. Check them out!

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My Reading Life

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I’ve gotten into a habit of reading 3 things at once: a physical book for in-class reading, an e-book for when I’m sitting in the dark and putting my daughter to sleep, and an audiobook for my commute. It’s made reading feel more like consuming my favorite TV shows, in a good way. It takes longer to finish a book, and I tend to finish all of them at the same time, giving me a bit of a literary hangover in which I binge on podcasts and Netflix until I’m ready to dive back into books.

This month, I’m in progress… I’ve been reading The Silkworm and The Astonishing Color of After as e-books, and Fahrenheit 451 as a physical book. I finished Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt as an audiobook (LOVED hearing him read it himself — it made the story that much more meaningful) and started The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Angela’s Ashes was Book #21 of the year! I think I’ll actually make it to 25 books for the first time since before my child was born!


Well, that’s it for now, friends! Let me know how your nerdy adventures are going by sharing your favorite podcasts, favorite artist accounts, or your most recent reads in the comments! I’m always on the lookout for new stories and art to consume. Until next time, stay nerdy, my friends!

On Banned Books

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It’s Banned Books Week! What are you reading?

This is my eighth year of teaching English at the high school level, and I am just now reading Fahrenheit 451 for the first time! I know. What is wrong with me?!

I’m absolutely amazed by this book. Bradbury’s perception into how the modern world views the act of reading and the “threat” of books is mindblowing. And, it’s justifying my experience as an English teacher.

I’ve fought to teach books every year of my career. Kids say they “just don’t read.” School administration questions teachers on the relevance of teaching the classics, and make teachers jump through hoops to add new books to the curriculum. Curriculum writers and colleagues argue that there’s no time to read with all the other things we have to cover.

But one thing is undeniable: books have power. Emerging readers put them away because within books lie words and phrases so profound that readers must grapple with them to understand them. Administrators are wary because books make readers question their world, challenging them to reflect on another’s perspective and think for themselves. Peers know that the only way to consume them is through time, and time is expensive.

But it’s worth it. It’s worth it to challenge kids to read and to challenge book lists. It’s worth it to create readers and thinkers. It’s worth it to foster a world that reads, thinks through what it reads, talks about what it reads, and ultimately acts on what it reads.

This week, join the resistance. Read banned books. Fight banned book lists. Get your kids to read, and pick up a book yourself. It’s worth it.

Comment below with your favorite banned book! My favorite is Harry Potter, because duh. But Fahrenheit is really climbing the charts here…

My Literary Whiteboard Lettering Project: Spring Semester and Final Reflections

I started off the 2017-2018 school year frustrated and motivated–a dangerously good place to be. I was frustrated because the current trend in language arts education seems to be moving away from literature. Nonfiction is more valuable in the real world, they say. It probably is, but I like fiction.

I was motivated, though, after attending a conference featuring the English teacher gods, Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. Gallagher, especially, was arguing for the value of fiction and literature. He proposed daily book talks and reading time to allow kids to build on their reading skills. Prepared for the usual teacher counterargument of “But we never have time,” Gallagher and Kittle even shared a daily time plan that outlined exactly how to make it work.

Gallagher and Kittle’s plan went something like this (sorry, I’m currently moving into a new home and my conference notes are packed away in a box somewhere):

  1. Opening 2 minutes: Book Talk
  2. 10 minutes of Self-Selected Reading Time (Students read independently while the teacher has private reading conferences with individual students, coaching them through their texts)
  3. Work on the current unit in 10-minute chunks of lecture, discussion, and independent work time
  4. Final 2 minutes: Share a strong sentence or excerpt written by a student.

I felt vindicated because they vouched for poetry and fiction in a modern world. I felt empowered because they gave me a plan to make it work. So I tried it out for a year. I edited it a bit to make it work for me, and to build in one of my new hobbies: handlettering. Going into the 2017-2018 school year, my goal was to start each day with a handlettered quote to start a book talk, then go into at least 10 minutes of reading time a day. I wanted to expose the kids to as many books from different time periods, genres, and types of writers as possible. I wanted to encourage reading, and I wanted to show my administration that fiction does matter.

I logged my lettered quotes on Instagram for a while, using the hashtag #literarywhiteboardlettering. I also kept a log on this blog, as well. I wasn’t really consistent with how I formatted the Instagram log and blog entries… that wasn’t the point. If you missed my earlier blogs on my Literary Whiteboard Lettering project, here they are:

And here’s my final set of literary whiteboards for the 2017-2018 year. I tried to mix it up with canon texts, fun reads, and necessary books for modern readers in a global, political world. I gave a few more book talks than this (e.g., Ready Player One; The Hate U Give; Love, Hate, and Other Filters), but spring semester got hectic and I didn’t have time to letter it all in the morning before class started. For the sake of avoiding information overload, I’ll restrain from giving synopses here. Check out these awesome books if these quotes entice you!

Day 61: Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)

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Day 62: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)

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Day 63: Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

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Day 64: Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

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Day 65: Every Day (David Levithan)

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Day 66: Stardust (Neil Gaiman)

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Day 67: Author Feature – Rainbow Rowell

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Day 68: Julius Caesar (William Shakespeare)

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Day 69: A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)

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Day 70: The Tempest (William Shakespeare)

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Day 71: Othello (William Shakespeare)

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Day 72: Medea (Euripides)

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Day 73: Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)

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Day 74: American Gods (Neil Gaiman)

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Day 75: The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt)

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Day 76: Animal Farm (George Orwell)

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Day 77: All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque)

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Day 78: Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

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Day 79: Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)

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Details: All of these were done on whiteboards, using Expo or some other whiteboard marker brand. Most of the lettering varied from 2-4 feet (0.6-1.2m) in length and width, with the exception being the Goldfinch quote. That one was on a ten foot whiteboard wall. I completed all of these in whatever time I had in the morning before class started. Sometimes that was 30 minutes; usually, it was only 10 minutes.

You’ll probably notice a bit of a trend as you go through the school year. My compositions got really intricate and experimental during periods when I didn’t have many assignments to grade or my administration decided not to have so many meetings… and then at the end of the year, things got pretty simplistic and I started relying on my regular handwriting. At first, I hated that I was “giving up” on my handlettering goal, but then I had to remind myself that that wasn’t the point. The point was to give my kids a chance to hear some cool stories, and inspire them to read. And I think it worked.

I saw ninth graders who challenged themselves with Jekyll and Hyde, Catcher in the Rye, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes, and The Great Gatsby. I saw kids who went out of their comfort zones, and others who were just trying to get at least one book read. I saw myself growing as a reader and a teacher. I wasn’t able to keep up with reading conferences this year, so instead, I decided to read with them and share my reading journey with them. I felt better as a teacher because, for at least 12 minutes a day, I was doing what made me want to become an English teacher in the first place: escaping into other worlds through the pages of a book… before I had to snap back into the reality of being an English teacher in Texas in 2018.

I have 180 school days in a year. I didn’t have a book talk every day. I didn’t have SSR (self-selected reading) every day. I only got 44% of my goal, maybe 47% if you give me a little grace for a few book talks without lettered quotes. But this is where math doesn’t really help me.

I’d rather look at it as 79 days I hit my goal. Seventy-nine days of reading and talking about books that I didn’t give myself before. Seventy-nine days when I got a little closer to the English teacher I wanted to be when I started teaching.

This next year’s going to be a bit more challenging for me. I’ll be teaching 10th and 11th grade, the years that mostly focus on nonfiction. I’m also starting at a new school… so I’ll be the new kid all over again. I’ve already told my team lead that I would like to continue my book talks and SSR time. I need it. It has helped me focus my classroom, and has even given me new energy to read for myself. I hope I’ll be able to keep it going during the nonfiction years. I think I can.