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! 

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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!

Goal Setting: Lauren Graham’s Kitchen Timer Strategy

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my most recent book recommendation: Lauren Graham’s Talking as Fast as I Can. If you’re a fan of Graham, Gilmore Girls, or Parenthood, you have got to read this book. And I suggest on audiobook, because Lauren Graham is such a delightful voice to listen to.

When it comes to celebrity books, I usually expect some sort of ghostwriter to be involved. And maybe there was one, or an amazing editor of some sort, who worked behind the scenes in Graham’s book. But she really seemed like she wrote this one herself.

Why? Because, in addition to mentioning how smart she was, she had this amazing chapter about making time for writing.

It has completely changed the way I look at making time for my passions and hobbies.

Graham called it “Kitchen Timer Writing.” One block of time completely devoted to your craft. And as long as you keep yourself away from distractions (THE INTERNET!) and keep your appointment with yourself, you’ve succeeded. You’ve passed. You can go on to Day 2, and 3, and so on until your passion becomes a habit, and your habit becomes a way of life.

The book’s been out for two years, so naturally, there are plenty of blogs and articles about this life-changing chapter from her book. If you’re curious and can’t buy the book or find it at your library, I suggest you check out this blog (which copy/pasted the strategy, but not the whole chapter) or this article (which boils down the big ideas).

For me, these were the big takeaways:

  1. Make an appointment with yourself to devote to your craft.

  2. Keep your appointment. When you sit down for that block of time, you are to put away all distractions and only work on your craft. What really got me was that it is OK to just sit and think, or to sit and be stuck. As long as you give yourself that time to just sit and be with your craft. And if you’re stuck, you may as well work on your writing journal — write and practice until you get your groove back and you can get back to your project. For those of you who are joining me for the 10 Minute Challenge, but you’re working on other skills besides writing: if you’re feeling stuck or uninspired, use this time to learn. Watch/read the masters. Do drills. Do something that is devoted to your craft, even if it is not actively working on your project.

  3. Celebrate the keeping of the appointment.

  4. If you missed your appointment or couldn’t stick to the entire period of time, don’t punish yourself by making yourself do more the next day. Start fresh. Either try again the next day, or adjust the commitment. Maybe you can’t do an hour–but you can do 30 minutes. Or maybe just ten. Do what you can, as long as you’re doing and moving forward.

  5. Repeat: Honor the appointment. Celebrate your accomplishments. Adjust if necessary.

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This has completely changed the way that I look at goal setting. Instead of punishing myself or “owing” myself hours, I am allowed to forgive myself, adjust, and move on. Instead of forcing myself to meet a daily word count or post artwork everyday, I am allowed to practice my craft by learning, meditating, and experimenting.

It has been so very freeing.

By focusing on celebrating my accomplishment and adjusting when I fail to meet my goal, I am encouraged to keep going despite failure. I develop grit and confidence when it comes to pursuing my goals.  

When it came to lettering, I realized that I sort of naturally fell into Graham’s strategy… because it was purely a hobby for me when I started. My appointment with myself always fell around 8pm, when my daughter fell asleep and when I needed a mental break from a long day of being an adult. After a year and a half of practice, 8pm is now drilled into my brain as time to practice lettering.

Now, I’m trying out writing. Fiction writing. Again. But I’ve got a better gameplan this time. I’m going to forgive myself and I’m going to keep my appointment. I’m not going to punish myself with word counts. I’m just going to keep my appointment.

Now, my new time to watch is 11:30. It’s when my husband has gone to bed, and about an hour before my daughter wakes up and wants me to cuddle her back to sleep. That’s my new magic hour.

What goals are you working on? Have you tried making an appointment with yourself? Leave a comment with your goals!

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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!

Mission: Lettering Literature

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If you follow me on OneFifty, you know I’ve got a bit of a branding problem. Namely, it’s hard for me to commit to just one idea because I want to do it all! Any rational human being would say, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” Oh, wait. That was Ron Swanson.

But branding can also be difficult when you’re still in the process of discovering yourself as an artist, or “a creative,” which may be a better term for me. I’ve always had a penchant for writing and for words—it was my first passion. Lettering, art, and crafting are things I do to unwind, and things I happen to do pretty well, too. But while I’m an experienced teacher in the world of words, I’m a kindergartener in the world of visual arts. And like a child, I want to do it all, learn it all, and be all of the things.

After nearly a year of being engaged in the Instagram lettering community and studying the crafts of lettering, calligraphy, and typography, I feel like I’m starting to get a focus. I had grand ideas of wedding signage and birthday chalkboards (I’ve actually gotten the chance to do the latter over the past year!), but I think my passion lies somewhere smaller.

I had to remind myself of why I started. I had to remember that I started a public lettering journey not just to reduce stress, but because the source of that stress angered me so much that I wanted to create a voice for myself.

I’m an English teacher in an education system that is shifting to becoming entirely career-centric. I was told that the books I wanted to teach were antiquated and had no more value in our modern world. I was nudged in the direction of more practical reading and writing that would be better suited for the workplace. And maybe that’s where education is now. Practical work-related tasks. But that’s not what drew me to being an English teacher. I believe in the power of reading, the value of beautiful words, the magic of those rare moments of connection that we find in the words of others. I believe that the arts and humanities do have a place in the modern workplace–especially now, when we are suffering from a lack of empathy and connection. It was that belief that brought me to lettering; it was that rage that drove me to find a creative outlet.

As I continue learning and practicing the craft of drawing stylized letters, I want to focus on my true passion: literature. Books are where I started, and books are what I want to highlight. I dropped off on my Literary Whiteboard Lettering project around February because school got hectic, but I’ll be moving forward along the same lines: handlettering lines from books and sharing their stories. These books will range from “the classics” to modern capital-L Literature to popular YA series. My goal is to encourage people to see the magic within stories and their ability to show the power of the human spirit. To me, this is far more valuable than any practical, work-related texts or writing that I would be told to teach at school.

My blog will finally have a focus: books and lettering. It will go hand-in-hand with my Instagram (@nerdladydraws), where I post my daily adventures in art and lettering. I already started a new series after refocusing: #alphalitbooks is a passion project in which I highlight different works by the alphabet. Currently, I’m working with the names of women writers. I’m also hoping to continue with #literarywhiteboardlettering once school calms down a bit (after our state test ends in two weeks). I hope that pairing my Instagram and blog–the former for all my artistic exploits, and the latter for my Lettering Literature project–will give me both the versatility and sense of purpose I need.

As always, thank you for following me on this journey. Creativity can light a burning desire in you, and it can be really scary to share it all and announce a purpose. It helps to have a supportive group of people when you’re trying out new things. I’m looking forward to exploring new books and styles as I delve into literary lettering! Leave a comment with any book recommendations! I’m always on the lookout for a new book.

January’s Literary Whiteboard Lettering: New Year, Old Plays, Fantastic Discussions

January was a time to set the stage for the new year, a fresh start at the semester, and to delve into my favorite genres to teach: drama and poetry! I loved guiding my kids through difficult texts–and I always love a good excuse to say Don John the Bastard or gush about Lady Macbeth!

Day 54: “Burning the Old Year” by Naomi Shihab Nye

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What It’s About: This is a poem about burning the minutiae of the previous year and holding on to the few things that last.

Read it Online.

Day 55: Macbeth

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What It’s About: My favorite Shakespeare play! I’ve already summarized it, I believe, so here’s an explanation of this line: Lady Macbeth is coaching Macbeth to commit evil acts by looking sweet, but being venomous. Gah. Love that woman.

Day 56: You Can’t Take It With You

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What It’s About: This is a depression-era play that is a basic meet-the-parents dilemma with a rich, conservative family and a tax-evading family of misfits. Think “The Birdcage,” but for the Depression. The lesson? You can’t take “it” (money, fame, glory) with you, so you might as well enjoy the little things and avoid taxes. A good story for those struggling with money.

Day 57: Much Ado About Nothing

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What It’s About: Don John the Bastard’s first speech. I love thinking of Keanu Reeves performing this in the Kenneth Branagh version — he is such an emo Don John!

Day 58: Twelfth Night

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What It’s About: One of the big themes in Twelfth Night is a question: how much do we really know the people we fall in love with? In this excerpt, Olivia hints at her love for Cesario (Viola disguised as a man), and Viola hints back that Olivia is barking up the wrong tree.

Day 59: “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

What It’s About: OK, this isn’t a book or a poem, but Adichie is a writer so I’m counting it as literary. In this TED talk, she speaks of a “single story”–when people go by the one-sided narrative that they have been fed about a people, instead of understanding their complexity as human beings.

Watch it online. 

Day 60: The Kite Runner

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What It’s About: This poignant novel tells the story of Afghanistan through the friendship of two boys. I can’t say too much without spoiling it. It will make you cry.

Coming up in February: World literature and more poetry! Hopefully. If I don’t get so stressed by my to-do list that I neglect my book talk goals.

Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Week 3

It’s always the short weeks that feel the longest.

With Labor Day off, I only had 4 boards to do this week. And I felt rushed through 3 of them. Now that we are getting deeper into the school year, I’m feeling time and obligations pulling me in every direction. The time I spend lettering in the morning is helping me stay grounded.

This week’s boards:

Day 11: Flowers for Algernon 

Day 12: Oliver Twist

Day 13: The House on Mango Street

Day 14: The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride board was the only one that I actually had time to perfect this week! Love that one!

Favorite thing this week was hearing students and teachers share their opinions of the books and authors they’ve read from this week’s boards. I’m loving how much this project is encouraging discussions about Books!