A Note Regarding The Value Of Persistence

A couple of decades ago, I was hanging out at a pizza place I frequented – I designed their logo, so I ate there for free – and I was talking with the guys there about the cool scene in Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” video where he starts the music by throwing a quarter across an entire room and into the slot on a jukebox. It was agreed that was an engineered effect, and further agreed that it would still be wicked cool to do in real life. I ventured the opinion that it would be really, really hard, but not impossible. The owner opened up the register, handed me a pile of quarters, pointed at the jukebox, and said “Knock yourself out.”

I spent the whole afternoon – whenever no customers were dining in – flinging quarters from across the room at that jukebox. Not a single one went in, although a few careened off in weird angles because they hit the little tab underneath. The guys laughed about the fact I tried so hard to do it, and did pretty much every day after. I figured if I was going to be hanging out in a pizza place – my hand was still healing from the recent car accident, and I stopped in there every day after therapy – I may as well be throwing quarters across a room at a jukebox.

The thing is, my aim got better. A LOT better. And I could now pretty reliably hit a very small area with the quarters. The guys were commenting on that one day as I patiently threw quarter after quarter after quarter, and then…suddenly…

*Swish-CLINK*

The quarter slid right into the slot and the jukebox cranked to life with a Guns “n Roses song at full blast.

Everyone stood there, stunned, then started yelling and applauding. One of the cooks commented that yeah, I’d gotten the quarter in, but only after a thousand tries.

The owner laughed and said “That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how many times he tried and missed. All he had to do was make it work ONE TIME, and we’re all going to be talking about it forever, for the rest of our lives.”

The Stories Behind StarChild & The Works of James A. Owen

The Meditations Kickstarter has 236 backers and just 30 hours left to run to raise $1922 in order to be fully funded. Four days ago, we were only 51% funded. Today we are 92% funded. I think we can find 14 more people who want to see these books in print, and bring us the rest of the way. Here’s the link – you know what to do. Show me something awesome today:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1401678214/the-meditations-trilogy

The Meditations Kickstarter: 85% Funded + Great New Rewards!

With 54 hours to go, the Kickstarter to publish hardcover editions of DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS and the other two books in the Meditations Trilogy is 85% funded, and this thing is going to go the distance. Thank you everyone for your support of this project!

We have also added some really excellent new backer rewards: an opportunity for some individual mentoring, signed books, and more! All the details are at the link. Go here to have a look:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1401678214/the-meditations-trilogy

A little more than two days to go – almost there!

With thanks,

James & Team Dragon




Purpose & Meaning

The stories I share in the three Meditations books are my mythology, and I am doing the best I can to ensure that they are worthy of inspiring others. If the things I write and speak about have touched or inspired you in some way, I hope you’ll help us put these books out in hardcover by joining our Kickstarter. We have six days left to make something extraordinary happen, and we need a lot of support to do it. Help push the cart here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1401678214/the-meditations-trilogy

The Meditations – Free Today Only!

I’m running a Kickstarter to publish hardcovers of the three books in my Meditations series: DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS, THE BARBIZON DIARIES, and THE GRAND DESIGN. But I’m not asking anyone to take a chance by backing books they haven’t read. So today and today ONLY you can download the ebook versions of all three of Meditations books for FREE.

Follow these links:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00O3VTCII/
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00O3VT5M6/
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00O4CQWNE/

You don’t even need a Kindle to read them – just click on the “Read on any device” link beneath the cover thumbnail of any one of the books. That will allow you to download the Kindle reader application.

If you haven’t read them, now’s your chance. If you HAVE and any part of them resonate with you, please join us and back the project, then share these links with everyone you feel could benefit from reading them as well.

Some choices can make miracles and magic happen. Some choices can change your day. And some might even change your life.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1401678214/the-meditations-trilogy

All Awesome Things Are Possible

Nine days. We have nine days to make something extraordinary happen. It’s a big challenge, but it is ABSOLUTELY DOABLE. It can be done, but I need your help to build the momentum. If you know someone who would love these books, call them. Don’t wait. If you’d been waiting to make a pledge or to level up to one of the more exclusive rewards, now’s the time.

Many people have expressed a desire to have these books in hardcover, especially DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS, and THIS is the opportunity. To those who are already backing it, thank you! To those still thinking on it, please don’t hesitate – throw your support into the project now, and share it with anyone else who could benefit from hearing the messages in these books. We have TEN DAYS to change the future. Please help me make it happen.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1401678214/the-meditations-trilogy

For fans of James A. Owen’s creative works

StarChild was my first great work in comics; the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica was my first great series in fantasy fiction. But the book called Drawing out the Dragons has been, I feel, the most meaningful thing I’ve ever written. It’s the first in a series of three books that I hope will help change your life, and how you choose to live it.

In its pages, I talk about all the choices I made as I learned what I needed to learn to write and illustrate the comics and stories that built my career; but I also talk about the things that I believe are most important in this life; about things I believe are true, and meaningful, and most worth sharing.

I tell stories drawn from my own life: examples about overcoming obstacles and adversity; stories about how making choices in your life is like drawing a Dragon; vignettes about how I came to do what it is that I love most in the world for my job. But most importantly, I tell each and every reader that they can make the same kinds of choices that I did – and that I believe in them.

Sometimes, being told that is the thing that we need most in our lives. And I think it’s the most important thing that I can say to anyone: I believe in you.

Since the Kickstarter campaign to publish the first version of Drawing out the Dragons took place, I’ve added to the stories and expanded on the original – and what was one book soon grew to become three: the definitive Author’s Edition of DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS; the followup book THE BARBIZON DIARIES, and the great conclusion, THE GRAND DESIGN.

These books contain the most significant stories I have ever shared. Many thousands of people have seen my presentation Drawing out the Dragons, or have read the ebook, or one of the published versions of the print book; and a great many more have responded to quotes and essays I’ve posted online. The best of all of the speaking and writing I have done is found in these three books: The Meditations Trilogy. They have been available as ebooks, but now I want to publish them as hardcovers, and I’m asking for my readers to help me do it. Click on the link and read more about the Kickstarter project, and then help us make some awesome books.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1401678214/the-meditations-trilogy

As always, thank you – I am very, very grateful for your support.

James A. Owen and Team Dragon

Working Smarter Instead of Harder Equals Working Happier

“Parkinson’s Law – work expands to fill the time available for its completion – means that if you give yourself a week to complete a two hour task, then (psychologically speaking) the task will increase in complexity and become more daunting so as to fill that week. It may not even fill the extra time with more work, but just stress and tension about having to get it done. By assigning the right amount of time to a task, we gain back more time and the task will reduce in complexity to its natural state.

“I once read a response to Parkinson’s Law insinuating that if it were an accurate observation, one would be able to assign a time limit of one minute to a task and the task would become simple enough to complete within that minute. But Parkinson’s Law is exactly that – an observation, not some voodoo magic. It works because people give tasks longer than they really need, sometimes because they want some ‘leg room’ or buffer, but usually because they have an inflated idea of how long the task takes to complete. People don’t become fully aware of how quickly some tasks can be completed until they test this principle.

“Most employees who defy the unwritten rule of “work harder, not smarter” know that, despite the greater return on investment for the company, it’s not always appreciated. That’s related to the idea that the longer something takes to complete, the better quality it must inherently be.” – Joel Falconer

With regards to creative endeavors, especially writing and drawing, I think there’s a huge amount of value to be found in the observations above. There are a few maxims about creativity which I absolutely believe to be true: one is that good artists are versatile, and so are good writers. The specific content of the work – genre, subject matter, etc. – matters far less than the will to bring it into being, because what is important is understanding that the ability is ALREADY THERE. You simply have to use it, and it shouldn’t cause anxiety and stress to use something you already have.

So much time is lost not because of an inability to do the work, but because self-doubt allows you to hesitate, to justify slowness or delays or interruptions until circumstances are ready, or you find that right reference, or you’re in a better mood, or FedEx arrives with the art supply order with that one brush that you like.

People ask me how long it takes to do the illustrations in my Imaginarium Geographica novels, and I usually tell them each picture took one to three days to draw. Some took far longer – but more than HALF of the drawings in THE FIRST DRAGON, fifteen of them to be exact, took just EIGHT DAYS. Because a deadline I hadn’t realized was there suddenly showed up, and there was no time for delay, or any excuses, or anything except productivity, at the peak of my abilities. I had to be in Flow, or in what the Chinese call “Wu-wei” which literally translates as “no trying” or “no doing,” which is actually about doing optimally, unconsciously, efficiently, brilliantly, and to all outward appearances, effortlessly.

The result was that fifteen of the twenty-four illustrations in that book took less time to complete than three or four of the drawings that had far more time for me to work with, but with NO noticeable differences. With perhaps one or two exceptions, I myself couldn’t tell you which all of them were, and if I can’t tell, then there’s a huge truth contained in those illustrations: the ability was already there. I simply had to choose to use it.

I think Parkinson’s Law is correct, but if so, it’s because it is also largely a choice, made to work because we allow it to. And if that’s true, then I think it’s just as possible for the inverse to be true: that given the ability and the will, a way can be found to do quality work in far less time than you thought you needed, and with calm,unhurried contentment instead of anxiety and worry. Working smarter, not harder. Working with confidence, not fear. And simply DOING IT, because you believe and know you can, instead of spending all of your time trying to convince yourself and others that a visible struggle equals a visible effort equals a greater quality equals a greater value.

The value is in simply doing the work you have the desire to do as efficiently as you are able; the Flow, the Wu-wei, comes from knowing you have the ability to do it; and the happiness comes from being engaged in a process that is about doing what you love instead of being anxious about it.

This doesn’t mean that you can paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling in a week, or write Anna Karenina in a day – the lines are the lines and the words are the words and the work still has to be done (I wanted to do those fifteen drawings in SEVEN days, but it just wasn’t going to happen.) And not everyone’s skills are going to be up to their ambitions – yet. But you DO know the things you are already good at, and those are the things that you shouldn’t doubt or hesitate over. Some things are hard, and may take time to figure out. But some things aren’t. You get to decide. So set a goal, make your choice, and show the world something AMAZING. I believe in you. And I believe in me, too – so I’m going to get out of my own way and go get some awesome things done. I hope you all have a great weekend.

– James

Coloring Books For EVERYONE!

For those of you who may have missed out on the Kickstarter for the coloring book ALL THE COLORS OF MAGIC, you can now order them (and some other cool goodies) via our BackerKit page, which we’ll be using for fulfillment. The stretch goal Dragons inserts and digital downloads were exclusive to the Kickstarter backers, but you’ll still receive the main 22 illustrations in your coloring book. These are basically preorders, as we’ll be shipping copies to the Kickstarter backers first, but it’ll be the best way to make sure you can still get your hands on copies of your own!

Just go to the link to order your books: https://all-the-colors-of-magic-a-coloring-book-for-all-ag.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders/