Category Archives: Experience

The Year (and counting) of The Medical Mystery

It’s been months since I’ve done much of anything creative. I’ve worked at keeping it alive in my heart, even if I haven’t had time, energy, or inclination. The past year has been medically strange. What I thought was going to be a straightforward diagnosis has led to a year without an answer. I’ve experienced progressive and sporadic symptoms of what I feared was a neurological problem.

My hands and head sometimes shake, my muscles twitch, and my legs lack the stamina and feeling they used to have. My hands have been numb for weeks at a time while doing something as simple as holding a pen. Yet, I have muscle strength and there doesn’t seem to be any urgent problem. I’ve been to three specialist doctors besides my GP, and have performed easily a dozen tests. Potential diagnoses that have been posited include: conversion disorder, essential tremor, small fiber neuropathy, and fibromyalgia.

I had months in which I couldn’t stop researching, trying to figure out something. Does someone else have this? Is there some piece of the puzzle I am missing? Can I figure this out by myself? What do I need to have in mind so I know what tests the doctors should be running? I have developed a greater sense of insight regarding people who don’t have answers for their medical symptoms, and for people dealing with a life-changing diagnosis.

My body going haywire opened me up emotionally. I wrote pages and pages in my journal about my feelings, my worries, running through the logic of what the diagnosis could be. I admit, I was in despair and spinning psychologically, running every possible scenario.

One day, after being exasperated and realizing I was actually stressing myself out and causing my symptoms to worsen, I stopped. I stopped exerting energy toward a problem I couldn’t solve myself. There was no amount of reading on the internet, or putting my symptoms into a spreadsheet, and hyper-focusing that had made my life better. My happiness, and my creative energies were empty, because I had been obsessing about my health for so long. I forgot how to be myself. I forgot what I really cared about, and what I used to spend my time doing.

In the time to come, there are more tests. I will seek answers. There will still be visits to doctors. This mystery ailment will continue to occupy some space in my life. But it doesn’t have to be my life. Maybe it’s a big thing, maybe it’s small. Maybe it’s physical, maybe it’s mental. I don’t know. I don’t have control of that outcome. I do have control about my time, my resources, and what I think about. I choose to think about poetry, writing, and drawing. While spending what functionality I have on what builds me up and makes it all bearable and worthwhile.

With extra doses of love and insight,

Why My Creative Goal Failed

I posted toward the end of December, rather hastily, that I would draw and write a poem-a-day until the remainder of the year. In celebration of the arrival of 2018, and to spur myself onto productivity greatness, I declared my intentions to Facebook and social media. I was met with enthusiasm and encouragement, while dopamine-dumping and happy-feeling, was not enough to keep me motivated. In fact, a few days later, on DAY FOUR, I FAILED.

Why did I fail, you might ask?

I failed because I stopped. I stopped creating. I stopped working toward my declared goal. I just, plain, didn’t do it. There are many reasons for this. Here is a list of some of the reasons, most of them I discovered in hindsight, after thinking about WHY I didn’t do what I said I was going to do. Let this be a lesson, to myself and others for the future.

  1. I neglected to consider my timing. Nearing the end of the year, with lots to do, what made me think adding pressure to an already pressured time of year was the answer?
  2. I didn’t monitor my resources. How was I feeling? What was going on in my life? What other things were taking up my attention?
  3. I set unrealistic standards. Performing two creative endeavors each day? TWO?
  4. I made it too complicated. Requiring that I do two creative things in a set period of time = not brilliant.
  5. I put a time limit on it. Ever enjoy playing a timed quest in a video game? Or had to meet that school paper deadline? Um, why did I do that to myself?
  6. I gave into perceived peer pressure. The drive for the New Year, Facebook Friends posting their creations, art and inspiration for 2018 abounded, and I bit that poisoned apple. Hard.
  7. I was doing opposing activities. Art-making and word-making do not go together for me. I know this. Why did I think I could do right brain work and left brain at the same time?
  8. I failed to self-assess.  Asking questions such as: How has my mental health been lately? Or my physical condition? What could distract me from this work?
  9. I didn’t look at my creative track record. Have I created anything lately? How did it go? How has my creative health been? I haven’t created in a long while. Why is that?
  10. I wasn’t invested. I declared an activity without thinking. I was riding on enthusiasm of the possibility of productivity, not being rooted in the reality of it.
  11. I didn’t plan. All too often, I have to remind myself that inspiration is great, but as I age it is not not not how I get creative work done. Set aside time. Focus. Make it work. Anything else is wasteful.

So, what does this come down to? Basically, I woefully neglected to care for myself as a person living my life, AND as a creative person.

They are two separate jobs. But, they feed into each other, demanding the same resources, and the same time. And the same mind, body, heart.

Do yourself a favor, and before you jump into the next big activity, ask yourself some real questions:

How are you? ♥
How are you feeling? ♥
And, What Makes the Most Sense for Me Right Now? ♥

Take care of yourself!
Best wishes for you this year, with hope and happiness,


Persistence: Learning to Ride

I know I’ve been distant the past month. This is due to many factors—visiting friends out-of-town, which was refreshing, working through abuse memories and healing (always), but the last few weekends it’s been about learning how to RIDE A MOTORCYCLE.

This is something I never thought I would be capable of, having been told since childhood that was so too dumb, too uncoordinated, or just plan incapable of anything! These thoughts have been plaguing me, creeping in—I realized I was experiencing a lot of self-doubt and hurt because of this self-image I still carried.

Recently, I was talking with a friend about working on being more present and connected to my body, and he said, “you should try doing something in your life that demands presence and connection.” After some thinking, I thought: I’ve always wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Thus, the idea was born. I signed up for a local safety class, and over the weekend I took their written and riding exam and passed!

This may sound straightforward and simple, but for me it wasn’t.

On Day One, I dropped the bike, and snapped a piece off it of. I fought a lot of emotions, crying briefly, as other people whizzed around me. I took a deep breath and determined not to quit. Whether I passed or not, or had more difficulties, I thought, “no one could say that I was a quitter.” On Day Two, I had trouble with an exercise and had to reign in my emotions again. Sweaty, sunburned, and bodily fatigued, I carried on. I failed my riding test. I was discouraged and sad, “maybe what my family said is right—I am dumb and uncoordinated.”

But, I communicated with the riding school, and they were very willing to allow me to take the riding classes again and the test free of charge. I reasoned that likely I wasn’t dumb, but was tired, nervous, and it was a new concept to me. I had never even really used a manual transmission before, so what was I expecting? I gave myself some love in my heart, and became resolute, thinking, “if average people can ride a motorcycle, so can I. I have two arms and two feet, and two eyes, I can learn.”

The bike I learned on—Kawasaki Eliminator 125

This past weekend I took the classes again and the riding exam. Everything was smoother. The fear factor I had before was gone. I was more comfortable being with a group of people (something that was panic attack-inducing to me not too long ago), I was connecting to my body (I suffer from dissociation, so this is a big deal), and working on active listening (asking others for clarification—which also used to cause panic in me, because I used to feel so small and inhuman).

I’m going to be writing some more about what I learned and experienced, and I’m going to be writing about my adventures in motorcycling.

By telling you about my experience, my message is, if you want something, keep persisting. And remember, if average people can “get it,” you can, too.

Show Up and Draw (design+motto)

Show Up and Draw (design+motto)

I’ve been meaning to write a more in-depth post for some time. My head space has been a bit scrambled, and I’ve been wading through a lot of current life sideline emotion and the more nebulous backlog of emotion from the history of abuse. Abuse sucks, plain and simple. It is a powerful force that for huge segments of my life has been a drain of resources, time, energy, focus, drive, even willingness to live. Never mind having to do more things in a day besides just existing. Existing was the hardest thing for me do—when the abuse was happening, when it was becoming known to me in my consciousness; as the veils and distances of time and space fell away in my healing, it made everything get closer. More personal. Harder to deny, impossible to run away from. I tried to hide physically, emotionally, mentally, and when I was all done exerting myself from that, the truth would sit there, unamused by my antics, and ever-patient, telling me this happened to you.

So, here is my new goal. This isn’t a healing-focused blog, as I’ve had them before and they have been very beneficial, but also enabled a lot of wallowing. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in being, and in making space and saying Yes to what is left of me, and what is growing from this point forward.

This is my grounding tactic—my tether and my answer to loss, to shame, to new memories, to all manner of uncontrollable. This, I can control. I can come here. I can be here.

So, here’s my new motto, and life goal—


I love you all, I hope you will continue on this creating journey with me—of fortifying self, and creative skills. ♥

Love, Penney

Dead King Magazine: Two Poems Accepted

Dead King Magazine: Two Poems Accepted

Dead King Magazine

I sent five poems to Dead King Magazine two weeks ago. A few days ago I received a lovely acceptance letter. I leaped out of my chair. I have been sending out submissions pretty regularly the last few months, processing lots of rejection letters, just waiting for the eventual good turn, and it happened.

Out of the five poems listed, they decided on two, “Waiting for the Anger to Stop,” and “A Phone Call Unanswered.” I’m pleased because they were recently written, within the last six months — and one of them within the last few weeks — which reassures me that I’m on an encouraging growth path with my writing. I’ve worried over time that I’ve lost my sense of direction, gotten rusty, clumsy, out-of-touch, or too experimental, or, worse, not experimental enough. I’ve been writing for 14 years, fairly steadily; I’ve put in a lot of time and heart. I know that writing poetry has expanded from the realm of interest, past hobby, and is now into “work” territory — where I can hardly think of doing anything else, aside from drawing.

It’s nice to see some response from that effort — even if it is just a magazine acceptance, and in the grand scheme of things as awesome as that is, it doesn’t amount to much in the scope of it all. The strange thing is, I can’t even answer why I’m sending out my poems. It’s not to be well-known, because that’s unlikely. It’s not for recognition, or acceptance, or fellow poet acknowledgements — I think it’s what I hinted at before — challenging myself and seeing what sticks. After all this time, and development, wouldn’t it be nice to know where I stand in skill?

After all, what is creative growth but pushing and pushing? Reading others who are in your field of interest? Learning, contributing among them, and seeing what comes back to you — fully-formed, or split? What is there to take away? What expansion can be had? Who sees you? Who can benefit from the words? The observations? Other people who see as you do. Other people who know what it takes to make the words work — and those people are poets — and the people who are poet lovers. I know of no other art that seeks for the distillation of truth at this intensity. And it does. Originally starting as a therapy for me — and it still is — poetry is where I turn to first. When I try to make sense, when conflict and emotions scatter in mid-air, are hard to catch and hang onto, I pin them down the best I can with poetry. It’s what I have. And it’s what I want to give to others. That peace. That distillation of experience, tangible, and distant, but close enough to look at, interpret.

Beginning the Year + Three Roses (digital art)

Beginning the Year + Three Roses (digital art)

I’ve posted parts of this small work on my new WIP page.

Three Roses, colored


I’m working on keeping my hands and brain going. I’ve got lots of ideas for the upcoming year. How have things been going for you? Have you set some goals for the year ahead? Instead of setting goals this year, I’m sticking to some core values and working my way from there.

1. Love and be loved
2. Kindness, kindness, kindness – toward self and others
3. Patience
4. Art is play, poetry is play, life is play

(A great article I read along these lines is here.)

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with creative pursuits. I have poetry goals, artistic goals, book goals, learning various programs and getting-proficient goals. The task list can be eye-boggling, but taking it a little bit at a time is helping to steady me. I can take small steps everyday. That’s a thing I can do. Over time, those small steps will lead to a large progress. It’s the One-Day-At-A-Time Mentality. I can do this. You can do this, too.

I’m rooting for you and thinking of you in the days ahead.

Keep doing what you’re doing, keep your goals in the forefront of your heart and go for it.

Much love,


Overcoming Self-Criticism

Overcoming Self-Criticism

Self-criticism, doubt-imgBeing new to concept artwork, and working outside of a reference photo has been quite a challenge for me. All too often I’ve found it frustrating.

I have been battling with doubt and rhetorical questions of doom, such as: How am I supposed to make this look? Am I on the right track? Does this look right?

Note the condescending, scary words I use in my own mind: “supposed” and “right”. Those words, my friends, are creativity killers.

Paired with judgmental, stern remarks, such as: This looks ugly. This looks like nothing at all.  I’ve wasted precious time.

Insecurities and self-doubt have been plaguing me, but I have just kept on working, trying to get into the flow of it. It’s hard to get immersed and have fun with all that pressure. Fortunately, I am in full control of that pressure, because I am the only one making demands on myself!

I’m not the first or the last artist to struggle with this. Surely, this isn’t the end of struggling for me, either. But seeing the problem and identifying it is more than half the battle. I must remember to keep my positivity up — being kind to myself is important, but positivity also has the added benefit of keeping the work flowing. By being happy and meditative while doing my art, and enjoying my time, I gain momentum for future works and future progress — which is what I’m after.

Here are some things I’ve been saying to myself, maybe they can be of use to you, too:

1. The process is the process. You can’t skip it.

2. Stuff takes as long as it takes, and that’s okay.

3. Frustration is a wasteful emotion; try “I’m being challenged” instead.

4. The more you work, and figure stuff out, the more reward.

5. Time spent doing art is time spent well.

6. It makes me happy, and the progression is really inspiring.

7. Self-growth is amazing; and it happens when I invest time and thought.

8. I want to make art, and enjoy it.

9. I would rather be here, now, doing this, than anywhere else.

10. This is a healing space and time for me, and is precious and loving.



Articles that inspired this post which you might find interesting: 

“Life of a Project” (info-diagram) by Austin Kleon:

Unnatural Light (blog) commentary about Kleon’s diagram and creativity:

Fujitsu Lifebook – My New Toolfriend

Fujitsu Lifebook – My New Toolfriend

Because I am so very loved (and am the luckiest girl in the world) by Liam Kincaid (author of Operation Break Ironand Lon Boder, <3 I received a happy little present in the mail yesterday!

Presenting the Fujitsu Lifebook T5010.


We’d been talking about getting me a Cintiq for some time, but the price was more than we were comfortable with, particularly since I wasn’t really even sure yet that I was going to enjoy working on an on-screen drawing tablet.

Even though I am only Day Two into owning this lovely thing, I can tell we’re going to have a fantastic working relationship. After installing some Wacom drivers for the tablet sensitivity and pen, the Fujitsu ran Autodesk Sketchbook, Krita, Photoshop, and Illustrator smoothly, with a speedy responsiveness to my sketching on-screen demands.

The Lifebook has a rotating top that lies flat as a drawing tablet surface.
The Lifebook has a rotating top that lies flat as a drawing tablet surface.


The Fujitsu Lifebook is a little old, and I got it used, but it’s a great start for someone like me who is just getting herself figured out in the age of art prints over the internet. I am excited about what freedom I’ll have, being able to take this laptop/tablet combination anywhere, being able to draw and sketch easily without fuss.

My appropriately-themed Van Gogh desktop.
My appropriately-themed Van Gogh desktop.


I am currently reviewing sites online that sell prints and other merchandise based on artwork you provide — Redbubble and Society6 to name two. I am super thrilled to see how all that is going to turn out.

So, here’s another step in the right direction — getting tools to facilitate the creativity, and the courage to look into possible reality of making my art marketable! Yay!

The Chapbook Challenge: a poetry playlist

The Chapbook Challenge: a poetry playlist

I have seventy poems selected for my chapbook, all approved, edited, and ready to be finalized! They date within the last five years. It’s hard to look at my life in terms of title, theme, and symbolism, and not feel a little self-conscious. I have been exclaiming to myself, “Did I really write that?” and “Wow. I must have been going through some serious mood swings.” The dates and oscillations are profound to me. It’s odd, having to be critical of what are for me highly-emotional expressions. My poetry is confessional, and seeing my life stamped out in poem form, cumulatively reviewing with an editorial eye, has a third-person quality which makes my skin crawl.

I have reached the ordering process, the placement of each poem within the book. The best advice I’ve heard pertaining to this involves printing out every single poem, spreading them out on the floor, reviewing and ordering them, something akin to sequencing a mix-tape for a friend. What themes oppose each other? What titles merge well, making additional symbolism? Where is the low point of the collection? Where is the climax? On what emotional note do you start and end the work?

Within seventy poems, and the additions of some drawings, I have to craft an entire experience. I like that this has fallen on me to do this. It gives me a great sense of control, but also connects me to my potential reader. It forces me to re-experience my work (and by extension, myself) in a tactile, loose-but-stitched-together way.

I like this idea a lot — after all, what could be better than a ‘mix-tape’ of poetry?

The Beginning

The Beginning

just-the-beginningA month ago, my editor at LBME Publishing set this blog up for me. He said it would help my readers get to know me. So, here goes. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Frankly, I spent an entire month being intimidated by the mere existence of this site, contemplating and agonizing over what I was going to say, what I was going to do. Sure, I write poetry and dabble in some other creative forms, but what makes me qualified to talk about it and share my emotions and process with others? Qualified is such a strong, off-putting, knock-the-courage-out-of-you, authoritative word, isn’t it?

Even though my two decades of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse are many years in the past, I still have great difficulty waking up in the morning and regarding myself as human. Sometimes, I think I am incapable of breathing, but then I see the demonstrable evidence; I am irrefutably alive. Yet, in spite of all the insecurity inside of me, I feel an immeasurable joy.

So, what am I going to blog about? Well, during my darkest days, I spent countless hours searching desperately for someone to speak for me, through a poem or a story, someone to give voice to my hopelessness, anguish, loneliness, and despair. I needed the comfort that could only come from a fellow-sufferer. Sadly, apart from a couple of artists whom I now call friends, I came up remarkably short. Worse, many of the resources available focus on descriptions of blood, gore, and atrocities, which are anti-healing.

We all cope with the effects of our own past-life, every day. This site will share how I cope with mine. It is time for me to open up, to share my poems, artwork, and writings, in the hope that others will find in them what I searched for so long: a voice for the heart and a hope for the future.

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