That one where I need to work more.

• Monday, September 26, 2011 0 comments
Lost some time this week. Got a couple hours of writing in on Wednesday, Thursday morning, but I had plans Thursday night that went until dawn, and a full day of things scheduled, not my things, until... five or six in the evening on Friday. After that, I pretty much passed out. Saturday was pretty full too, again with not my stuff, and though I thought I might get some work in that night, I opted to catch up with a friend instead.

I got my business cards in the mail during all this. Nothing special, just bare bones, Vistaprint special kind of things, but I've needed some forever, and too often have wound up jotting a bunch of contact information down on whatever was handy, which does not scream professionalism. I was pleased with the way my cards turned out, despite their simplicity, and my only real complaint was that the font was a little smaller than it appeared on the preview. It's readable though, and that's pretty much all that matters - of course, now that I have them, I imagine I won't be any place where I can make use of them anytime soon.

Haven't worked on anything too noteworthy in the past week. Mostly just toying with some memoir stuff, though I'm still not sure to what end. High school, early college have been on my mind a lot, lot of people I haven't seen anywhere other than Facebook cropping up in my dreams. I actually wrote a lot in high school, even though my heavy-handed poetry didn't always make it clear what I was writing about, so it's not hard to dig up a lot of old impressions of people, stories about them. I mean, yeah, some of the stuff about me is pretty mortifying, but it's still more palatable than ten minutes of "Glee."

Had an interesting conversation with a friend about how I use sex in the things I write. The funny thing, or maybe funny isn't the right word, is how often anything sexual I put in my stuff is either transactional, or tied in some way to death. Or some combination of both. I don't think there's much to say about the former - I feel like in those cases, what I'm doing is fairly straightforward. The latter is kind of embarrassing to me, I guess, not just because of any necrophilia jokes it might make way for. I think with sex and death, what I most commonly think of is that whole "after a funeral, the most common thing for people to do is go home and fuck" the idea being, I think, that it's some middle finger to death, by going out and doing that one thing that seems to prove that we're so alive. And I think there's validity to that, but I also think it's a bit of a cop-out to say it's all just some kind of "life affirmation bullshit," as my convo partner so succinctly put it. It also implies an order too, death, then sex, though I guess without sex we could have never gotten to the death part.

It's like moving two pieces of furniture around in the room. Trying to figure where they look just right.

I have a lot of email to catch up on. It feels a little ridiculous that I let that of all things get out of hand.


I also didn't have a book to work on reviewing last week. New one now. I don't like not having one in the queue - it seems like I get them fairly regularly, until I start talking about getting them fairly regularly.

Mm. Superstition.

"We are unfashioned creatures..."

• Tuesday, September 20, 2011 0 comments
Spent today trying to catch this one particular moment in time. Nailing down a single memory is... difficult, actually, I'd call it much harder than putting together a whole series of things that happen to you, because that's more straightforward narrative, and it's easier to fill in the gaps when you're not getting something quite right. Creative license is the embalming fluid of memoir and history.

God, if I was fifteen, that would sound so deep.

Funny thing is, this little bit of prose I keep toying with was just an exercise, something I just wanted to see if I could put together. I call it "writing as portrait" when you try to capture a single moment, or an aspect of someone. Usually it only takes a sentence or two - I have a couple of pages of "self-portraits" here and there, tucked away in moleskins, on the backs of restaurant place mats. Of course, looking at yourself is a lot easier, and I try to push, do the same with friends, enemies, my heroes. It... varies in success. Occasionally you might end up with something that would really flatter someone, or really offend them. I don't trot them out much.

Trying to do one of these for a particular moment in time felt a little more ambitious, but I got stuck on it. Not that I couldn't do it, just that I couldn't let it go, and just when I get satisfied, I bounce back to it. I've hit three or four people today with the "Hold on...one second..." and then manic typing or scribbling. It's obnoxious, and I may wake up tomorrow and not care at all. Today, though...

I might post it here. It depends on whether or not I think the person who its about would see it. That can end badly. But I can't imagine what else I'd be able to do with it.

Other stuff. Did some work on "Cherry Stone." I was looking at someone else's project recently, a comic they were working on and asked me to give some impressions, crit on, and they lamented how poorly most monologue and narration was in comics these days. They were absolutely right, of course, and in most cases heavy narration in comics is clunky, exposition-centered garbage, to be avoided at all costs if possible. So, naturally, when I started toying with my own scripts again, I wound up adding to the narration. It's just my way.

I partly blame Kieron Gillen's and Jamie McKelvie's Phonogram - I've been reading both "Rue Britannia" and "The Singles Club" lately, more poring over them actually, and they really are some of the best comics I've ever read. Gillen's narration in them is incredibly infectious, and both books, though "The Singles Club" especially, are exactly the kind of comics that got me excited about writing for comics in first place, and sort of represent the... timbre of what I've always wanted to do, add to, in the medium. They're great. Consider buying them, if you haven't read them. Cannot recommend both works enough. They're my new favorites, for sure.

Anyway. This is all stuff that if I decide I hate, or is unnecessary, I can easily cut [some would argue that's enough reason to do away with it]. Characters talking to themselves in their own heads is dangerous territory, that can quickly become tedious or masturbatory if not careful. But right now I'm just trying things out.

Wrote several of the flashback scenes for "Nerd Love" too. Threw them all out. I kept slipping, and indulging sensationalism. It's not that kind of script, and I really want to keep everything that has happened very much rooted in the real world. In "I don't miss the green" that was easy - I could fall back n pop culture, and brands, and other things to anchor me to the real world. But I never really had to show the real world in that, just suggest it. Things during the flashbacks in "Nerd Love" have to be a bit more mundane, so the stuff balancing it will really drive home what has and hasn't changed.

I think this is the first time since my self-imposed hiatus that I've tossed a significant chunk of work out. Writing everyday and then chucking the bulk of it was a pretty standard habit for me once upon a time, and I have mixed feelings about getting back into that. The practice was great, the repetition and structure were helpful, but it's hard to start deleting stuff again with my last creative dry spell still so fresh in my mind.

Let's start at the end, and work our way back.

• Wednesday, September 14, 2011 2 comments
Sunday and Monday I got a bit sidetracked with things. No big.

Yesterday I spent a little more than three hours working on "Nerd Love." I'm having trouble feeling accomplished about that, for a bunch of reasons. The first, most obvious is that working on "Nerd Love" in any real way, and it being a project with so little done on it, feels cheap to me, when I have things almost finished, and possibly could have gotten done in three hours. I can never tell, in those instances, if I'm being cowardly, or just following my muse. I'll also add that I'm still a little shaken by the "Dia de la Vida" incident - I'm used to writing things, and thinking they suck, and then them turning out to actually suck all the time - I'm not used to writing something, thinking it's good, enjoying working on it, and then coming back to it and finding it a fumbling mess. It's just not happened to me very often. Very disconcerting, so I'll probably take a look at what I did on "Nerd Love" today or tomorrow, and hope that its as good as I remember it being.

There are other reasons, but those seem like the two big ones right now. If something more pressing comes up, I'll probably come back and write about it later.

"Nerd Love" is a weird project for me - one of those stories that the ending came first. I'm always worried that anytime I have an ending in mind right off the bat, one that seems so important to the entire story, that the story itself is in real danger of becoming a one-note joke - which I should preface, I don't mean in a funny way. And I think that's a realistic worry, because the good writer who starts at the end and works back is always going to be wondering if his ending has been earned. This isn't a bad thing to worry about, it's an important thing to worry about, because even if you're not starting with an ending and working towards it [though I guess we all, more or less, work towards the endings], making sure you earn everything you get by the last scene, chapter, panel, or whatever you prefer to call it is so damn important.

I also think - and I want to stress this is just me - that the ending of story is not as important as it's sometimes made out to be. Don't get me wrong, if you have the ability, the chance, to write an impressive ending to a story, then you should, and you should make sure it satisfies in every way humanly possible. But the old saying about the journey being the most important part isn't total bullshit, and often times a non-ending ending can say as much as an ending wrapped up in a nice, neat looking package. The Cohen Brothers, for instance, have a real knack for this - so much so that I'm starting to believe non-endings really are, themselves, proper endings when done well.

And I suffer from what I call a... moralistic leaning. I'm a big fan of cautionary tales, morality tales [you know, things where you find out the morals of the story], tales that sometimes impart a slightly heavy-handed message to make a point. I've been working on that, because I'm not sure it's a very worthwhile endeavor [I go back and forth on this - I don't think it's particularly artful or elegant, but I'm not sure if that invalidates what I have to say - I'd be interested in hearing what others think] but there is something about coming from a place where that is the major school of thought in your head that sort of predisposes you to actually having endings for things. I think anyway.

So, I'm outlining a lot, playing with dialogue, and digging up a lot of old memories which are a little raw, and makes me wish I had money for a good bottle of scotch to have sip from at the end of it all. Christmas is coming, folks. Though really, I need a new gray hoodie, and maybe a scarf, more.

"Nerd Love" is one of those projects I've had on my mind a long time. I think there's something from my high school, college years I really want to address, even though it's not entirely about me, it is tide to a world I was very entrenched in, and in many ways still am. My friend Savannah, she really deserves thanks for this project, because it was actually talks with her, talks she probably just thought were idle conversation, and I did too, which gave me my "in" into this story, and a way to look at some of these more complicated issues. A special thanks will be in order there.

My only reassurances that I'm not using this project to run from things I could actually get done is by how on my mind it has been lately. "I don't miss the green." was sort of a piece of this story, just bursting to get out, even though what I ended up with in that short won't likely resemble much of what "Nerd Love" will hopefully be in the end. There will be one or two important, and striking similarities, but still. I was exploring something - and I'm going to keep exploring.

I'm worried a bit about subconscious plagiarism on this one, if only because there are side aspects to the story which resemble other works I've read/seen, two of which I really love, one I will admit to enjoying, but not being crazy about. My sole reassurance there is that neither of those stories gave me what I wanted, not entirely, and I'm not even approaching the subject matter in the same way. I do worry about the shallow reader/viewer/etc. looking at this and seeing something derivative, but again, as I feel like with "Nerd Love" I'm trying to address something I haven't seen or read before, and in a way that I would like to see, that I kind of want to show to people. It's easy to let this kind of doubt creep in, though. I think I'll leave it for now.

Besides, if you end up with things inspired by enough things, an original idea is probably going to grow in such fertile soil. I hope.

It's a weird project, though. The kind that, at the end of the three hours working yesterday, it was hard not to call folks I hadn't heard from in forever. It makes me wonder how long I've been wanting to just sit down, and work out what's been in this.

Anyway, lots of thoughts. There are other things to look at while I give myself a day or so's distance.

I haven't been feeling well lately. It's nothing I've been advertising, but my sleep schedule is sort of righting itself, which my mind and body are both for in principle, but against in the transition. I've also had some sinus problems that I thought I could shrug off - bad call. I've also been having some soreness, sometimes straight-up pain - in my neck, then my back, and now my leg on the right side. I'm hoping it'll wear off quickly, because otherwise, something like that could seem serious. I've also had a mad upset stomach, and some acid-related problems which have left my mouth raw. I've been drinking a lot of tea. Hoping that will help.

Few things for some friends - this is older, but I just never got a proper chance to link it - lots of good, Ander Sarabia goodness on his blog, where he shows off the CD/album artwork he did for the rock band COBRA - it's amazing art, and definitely tune-age you should consider checking out. Ander hooked me up, and I enjoyed it mightily. The art for the inserts is exactly what you'd expect from Ander, too - top-notch stuff, with lots of great details and a little bit of a throwback to a style not seen as often anymore. Absolutely spectacular.

More recent, John Wiswell did this great 9/11 post called "Do Not Post Until 9/12." I did my best to stay away from 9/11 baiting, because it's always been my contention that grief is something no one handles in quite the same way, but societally, we've sort of only made a handful of reactions "okay." That John felt the need to wait a day, in hopes of not offending others who was mourning was incredibly thoughtful, but I also feel bad that John's method of coping is somehow one that he would have to put off talking about. You don't hear about these reactions enough - and you should, because they are perfectly valid, important, and normal.

Yet more recently [re: yesterday], is Eric Esquivel and crew [that'd be Godlewski, Cody, and Barajas] all popped up on Warren Ellis's website yesterday, with their entry into Ellis' "Three Panel Open" event. Go check out their excellent entry, along with all the other comics that have went up. It's absolutely worth your time, and their entry "Magic Words" is, well... more tip-top work from Eric.

Don't forget to keep checking what both Eric and Dave are up to these days on the ModMyth blog too, and some other websites you should definitely check out are Peter Wonsowski's blog, who has always been a supporter here, and does amazing work as well, but if you want to talk exciting every new entry from PW is more exciting than the last.

Finally, one of my favorite web comics from back in the day, Mitch Clem's punk rock three panel called "Nothing Nice to Say" has returned. If it's not your speed, it's not your speed, but it was one of those comics that hit me in just the right way, at just the right time, and seeing it back means the world to me. Been excited every since he announced he was back in the saddle.

More soon.

Death or Glory

• Saturday, September 10, 2011 0 comments
Heady reading yesterday.

I read a lot. I'm not saying that to be like "Oh ho! No one reads anymore but me, ye god-fearing, X-Box playing, printless heathens!" because I really don't have an opinion on the Middle America culture war that wants to fight about whether reading, television, news, video games, etc., are more or less worth your time than something else in that list. I tend to think down time and entertainment, decompressing, are a lot like vegetables - whatever way you can get them in you, that's just fine. But because of my day-to-day responsibilities, I have what I'd say is probably an inordinate amount of free time in little bursts, and what I tend to do with that is read. My life here, a lot of it revolves around waiting, "hurry-up-and-wait" waiting, a lot of errands that usually involve five minutes here, five minutes there of - you guessed it, waiting. So I read a lot.

I suppose I could use the time for writing. I have tried that before, though I'm always incredibly disappointed with the outcome more often than not. I always feel like I get more, better, focused work done when I sit down, and just pour things out on the page, uninterrupted, and don't have to worry about losing a funny line or a major plotting point because a prescription is ready, or the poodle's treatment is finished. So, yeah, I'm not saying I never jam some writing out in there, but I'm saying, mostly, in those little moments between things, I prefer to read.

Because I read so much, I think I probably don't absorb things as well, or as universally as I should. I'm not crazy or happy about that, but wet, saturated soil floods more easily, and not everything I read is going to get more than a "huh" or a acknowledging nod. Sometimes, there will be anger, sometimes, there will be a little outrage, but I've noticed more and more that's not too much different than the "huh" or the nod - and if I take my time, it'll pass pretty quickly. I've been trying to be better about this, to come away from things I read with as much as was imparted to me as possible. But it's kind of... eh, right now.

Still. Some things just hit you at the right time. In high school, it was "The Great Gatsby," a very visual work that hit me during a time when I feel like the visual part of my imagination was firing almost 24/7. When I think of "Gatsby" I think of Jay, and Nick, and Daisy, and Tom Buchanan and the wasteland between West Egg and New York, and that immutable [shut-the-fuck-up-it's-only-as-heavy-handed-as-it-needs-to-be] green light, and I actually see it, in my head, as this sprawling epic drawn by John Romita Jr. Anyone else ever completely fabricate an American Classic as drawn by J.R. Jr. in their own head? No? These things just hit me, like a re-read of "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail" hit me at the height of the 2008 presidential primaries. How "Tristam Shandy" and "So Long See You Tomorrow" hit me when I was trying to find my voice, and my place [respectively] in college.

How "Clerks" hit me when I didn't think I could do what I wanted in my life. How "Strangers in Paradise" hit me, when I so desperately needed to know if the stories I wanted to tell were worthwhile. How "Watchmen" hit me when I wondered if they could be art.

I mean, there are a lot more examples than these - many of you saw when I went "Riot Grrl" crazy [hell, I'm still Riot Grrl crazy], partly because I needed an outlet for some of my anger at all the social bullshit, and partly because I'd had enough time for hindsight that I realized, looking back, the kind of man I'd been just wasn't good enough. And "Girls to the Front" was there. And when I wanted someone just as awkward and screaming to get noticed as me, I found Mia Zapata. There are others, some private, some not, but the point is, a lot of things can hit you, and when you read as much as I do, those things tend to be things in print. And all you need is that right timing, and ding, they hit you.

I took a short hiatus not too long ago. I actually considered it a pretty long hiatus, and a lot of it was about clearing my palate, and trying to get back into something that resembled a healthy work structure, not with responsibilities that I'm called on to perform in my day-to-day, but with my writing, which had been jammed into places and was suffering for it, or worse, wasn't getting done at all. Coming back has been difficult, because I'm still trying to eek out that groove, and there are new things - good things - along with the same old challenges I need to try and circumvent.

The hiatus also gave me a lot of time to think, and while most of that has gone into some sort of ordering, trying to form habits that are healthy and productive, it also made me realize there are a lot roadblocks in front of me for what I want to do, and some of them I either have no idea how to overcome, or am just incapable of tackling myself. I'm not... ashamed to say that last part either, there are some things that I just don't excel at, probably will never excel at. And some of that might be more integral to writing, to making my art, and to getting it out there for people to see. Definitely for making money at it.

So I guess I had my knees taken out from under me a little bit when I popped on Twitter and found the article "Two Voices of Experience on Comics as a Career" by Johanna Draper Carlson on her blog "Comics Worth Reading." I'm a big fan of Johanna's blog, sort of swear my limited comic book-funds by CWR's reviews of things, even use it to find comics I wouldn't normally read, but would work as gifts for other people. It's all about spreading the love, as a friend of mine would say. Can't recommend the site enough.

But "Two Voices..." was complicated for me because of the blog posts by creators in the industry that they linked to. Each contain first-hand, real-life comic industry advice, creating as a profession advice, the kind that, as Johanna so succinctly puts it, "you either listen to and take to heart or you suffer through yourself." [I find this statement rigid, but not entirely unfair.]

The first is by Steve Bissette, probably best known for his legendary run with Alan Moore and Jon Totleben on DC's "Swamp-Thing." His posting "Looking for Magic Carpets - An Open Letter to My Fellow Writers (& Artists)" covers a wide variety of topics, not to mention a great deal of common sense-but-not-so-commonly-shared rules when it comes to things like collaboration, ownership, and people who are deluded enough to think that guaranteeing success is some sort of incentive anymore. If you're a person who wants to do something creative for a living - writing, drawing, film making - you should read it. It's a cutting indictment of those out-of-work screenwriters who have a script that they want to take to paneled world of comics, in hopes of exploiting the current popularity of the genre to nab lucrative intellectual property rights and stepping stones to movie deals [I always thought this fair-weather pursuit of comics reminded me too much of the attitudes behind the speculation boom of the 90s - but that's probably a post for another time] .

But more importantly than that, it busts the notion that comics as a medium are somehow easier, that one can be thrown together with little work and come out as a great monument to storytelling, or at least something that will sell high to some Hollywood executive looking for the next big thing. It's hard work, often arduous, often stressful, and always time consuming. And even more importantly than that, it's a reminder that a professional artist or illustrator, that is [to be clear] an artist or illustrator looking to do art for a living, isn't going to be eager to sacrifice that time and stress for next to no compensation. And that's entirely fair.

Now, that being said, I could quibble with some of Bissette's lesser points, but I think in most of the cases that I want to say "wait... but that's not how that works!" it just means I haven't reached his level yet. I did find the way he treats the different mediums - film, novels, comics - as more or less interchangeable a little lackadaisical - as how you go about telling your tale, the way in which you choose to tell it, is just as important as the other aspects of the story. I just don't believe that a screenplay can anymore easily be switched to a comic or a novel, and as someone who works in many mediums himself, I'm a little shocked he implied that would be viable in certain circumstance. Though I guess there are certain circumstances it would.

But this is all parsing. There's more to take from Bissette's single blog post about collaboration than, in most if not all, books on the subject of "Making Comics" that are out there, and I think any creative person is going to take a lot away from it. I think what I most importantly took away from it, what's most applicable to me right now, was bullet #2:


"Cartoonists have their own projects they’d dearly love to afford to do, many of those lengthy works."


I also quite like how Johanna put it - that if "he had the time to work for little or no pay, then he’d be working on his own projects." And that is a smack-across-the-face fair point. And it wasn't something I didn't know, quite the contrary, it's the problem that's frustrated me to no end of late, and finally, I have a name for it. And yes, I've been complaining quite a lot lately about how hard it's been for me to find artists interested in working on comics with me - even gotten to the point if perhaps it came down to just not being very good at selling my projects to them, but in this case, the answers a lot simpler.

So. I think I'm going to stop. Not writing comics mind you, not even asking artists that I can't afford to pay to work on them for me [and I think most encouraging about Bissette's post is his adamance that you should "never be afraid to ask"], but rather complaining. I'm done bitching about how this isn't happening, or how that isn't there, because that's the nature of the beast. And while maybe I haven't been successful, I've been lucky, lucky enough to work with Justin, to work with Ander.

When it comes to my writing, I've really only ever thought of myself struggling with rejection once, but I think in a round about way, the not being able to root out an artist to collaborate on this project or that, well, that's not much different, and I'm getting over it. I'm going to get okay with it. Just, you know... not okay enough to stop looking. Stop hoping.

Which leads me [roughly], into the other posting CWR featured, "If you’re not happy, comics won’t make you happy" by Colleen Doran. Doran is prolific [just look at her Wikipedia page, which is far from comprehensive, and say slowly "Jeeee-zuuus..."], an artist and a writer in both the comics and animation industries whose name may not come immediately to mind, but who has done so much great work that if you're involved in fandom at all, I'm certain you've brushed up against her work more than a few times.

Her article is more of a cautionary tale [seriously, go read it for the same reasons as Bissette's. It's great, and important.], looking at someone who I'm not going to name here who struggled with depression, and a lack of success and fulfillment, and blamed everyone else for those shortcomings and failures. There are parts of it that... they cut me very deep, and it was one of those situations where I almost needed a mantra of "this is not about you, you are not the center of the universe, this is not being accusatory" because let's face it, creativity and a lack of success and fulfillment, in my case just a basic lack of acknowledgment that I'm even on the right path to be creatively recognized for anything - that's me all over, and it's difficult for me to not take a lot of what she was saying to heart, and as, specifically, discouragement. I mean, let's face it, her words here, a little over half way through the article - this, to a point, this is very much me:


"When things go well as a creator, there is nothing like it. It’s a high, an emotional drug. Some people get addicted to it. They don’t look at any payoff except the payoff of seeing their work being seen. Eating, medical care, roof over head: tertiary concerns. Until the day they wake up and realize they are fifty-years-old, they have no savings, nowhere to live, and their teeth are falling out."


Except, of course, my standards of what "going well" is are much lower, and I guess thankfully I still have time to come around to those tertiary concerns. And I don't know if this means me, that I'm one of those people who should, as Doran puts it, "get as far away from the art and entertainment business as possible." I mean, comically, I don't think you can get much farther from the entertainment business than where I am now, but in a self-reflective sort of way, the point stands. And what this is challenging is going far beyond my concerns as to whether or not my work is good, and whether or not I have something important and worthwhile to say.

There are a lot of other things in the article that are hard for me, for anyone I'd imagine, to take - it's hard being told by a pro that it's okay to not be a pro. Advice from someone who has found success, but now pauses to call back to the rest of us to let us know that what we're clamoring for, it's just not all a tea party up top. That said, it's a kind of benevolence that's very common among writers, I imagine less so among artists, but I don't really know, the constant reminder of what's lost, sacrificed, all the bad stuff you should be looking out for, and making plans to tackle [seriously, name the last thing about writing or other kinds of art you read that didn't profess to give you the cold, hard, no-nonsense facts of what you're trying to do. Name the last time you read a something by a professional telling you how wonderful and fun their profession was]. And the posting itself strikes a difficult tone too, because any challenge to it is setup as a fairly indefensible position - disagreement with it is just petulance, a lack of maturity. And rightfully so, if I'm being honest.

But like before, none of this parsing changes the absolute validity of her point. And not just to those who go to the extremes, like the older creator who had fallen so far, but to anyone who is committing to this path. I hope I'm not doing this just for validation. I only include the "just" because I'll admit, the lack of success at 26 is getting to me [yes, this would be a good time to make fun - in writing, 26 is when you should be nowhere near success, yet I still interact fairly regularly with those younger, and more successful in the things I'm pursuing, that I want to do]. Yet I'm not quite there with the "know yourself" part, for the writing, or for the greater part of my life. And that's frightening.

Other things seem in the article I'm not so willing to embrace completely. I've never done this out of some sort of pursuit of happiness. Fundamentally, I've always seen that sort of reasoning as flawed, as though a fulfilling, exciting life can only come out of attaining this thing we call "happy." Don't get me wrong, my writing makes me happy, as much as it makes me angry, or frustrated, or sometimes even sad, but all of those reactions I'm okay with. And while I support the fundamental idea of pursuing wellness, taking care of yourself which the post heralds as some of the most important things a creative person can do [and things I will admit to at times being negligent in], I'm not sure happiness is something necessarily worth actively seeking out. If, for no other reason, than to me it always seemed like those who chased happiness the hardest rarely really find it for themselves.

There's a lot to be gotten from Doran's post [I think the not tearing others down part is so important, and I regret that I won't be touching on it here], and again, I can't encourage people enough to give it a read. And I'd encourage scouring the comments too, as even more than the post-proper I find myself caught on some of Doran's additions, further down the page:


"You don’t get to sit around and create all day. If it is that difficult to handle a day job and create on the side, there is no way you will be able to handle the creative business."


Coming out of college, I kept a pretty standard 9-to-5 retail job, for about a year. It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't an environment that I could work around - this, what Doran describes here, is very much me, unable to create side-by-side while working the day job. I was on my feet all day, and when I got home, I crashed. There was no place, or no time to jot things of worth down. It wasn't like college, where things could be creatively scheduled - I was on someone's else's schedule, they expected me to a do a job, and it could pause because I had an idea, or pulled an all-night working on something.


So I've actually taken a bit of a stance that is "anti-day job," and have been "lucky" enough that my current living situation calls on me to not really take up that kind of work again, because of the necessity of me being as present here as possible. But at the same time, I have a sizable amount of debt hanging over me, and I know that I'm playing fast and loose with some aspects of my life - a certain kind of tragedy or one ill-timed bill, and the day job is an inevitability. Less inevitable, but highly possible going by my short history in retail, that could mean the end of my creative work.

As is, I'm currently struggling to balance being of assistance here at home, doing my freelance work [mostly the book reviews for Kirkus], and also making sure I have time for my writing. It's constant. It's hard. And I'd like to think if there was some success, if I suddenly had to step up and "handle the creative business" I could - because it would be something I loved, and I cared for, and my excitement and my ability would get me through. Maybe, just maybe, something about me has changed from that person before. The thought of finding out is disconcerting, because I know what kind of situations I'd have to be in. But what Doran says seems to make sense to me, and like my inability to sell myself, I fear I've come across another aspect of what I want to do that seems to have so little to do with what I love - creating, story-telling - and seems to be so outside my wheelhouse as to doom success from the beginning.

The one thing I have so long focused on, the one thing I've believed, that getting good, tearing myself down, rebuilding myself, being the best storyteller, being the best writer I could be, that would be enough for people to take notice of, to recognize, that maybe not being the case? That likely not being the case? The very idea that you can be great at something - I'm talking barn-burning, genre-busting, Ulysses-writing great - at something, and you may not be able to do that professionally isn't so much news to me, as it is just more frustrating each time I encounter it. More frustrating that it's repetition is due to it being true.

The thought that talent is not enough, that refining and perfecting your craft is not enough, it's something that I struggle with daily, because the long and short is that a mediocre story with a good salesman behind it is almost always going to beat out a great story from someone who sucks at being a shill [this neglects those who excel at both - I'm not one of them, but I've recognize them, among those I'd be hubristic enough to call peers]. And I'm not really sure how to fix that - I'm not even sure there is a fix for that. And what I am left to struggle with is the very basic concept that no matter how good I get at this thing I love, it's unlikely, maybe impossible, I'll ever actually be able to make a living off of it.

I don't know what to do with that. It overwhelms me sometimes, but I also don't view quitting as an option. Still, time and time again I seem to run into these entirely reasonable indicators that I have no business being on the field. I mean, I am a writer. It's the only thing I've ever felt the least bit of confidence saying about myself, and while I do sometimes have doubts, that still feels true, and real to me.

So I don't know. I don't know what to do with it, or if it even really matters. Again, I know I'm not keen to quit, even if these are all signs that is what I'm supposed to do. But I'm not even sure about that.

Despite the timing [no one can be blamed for my moods but me], I'd like to thank Johanna Draper Carlson for posting the links - my RSS is so backed up, it's unlikely I'd have found them if not for her calling attention to them, and her presence on Twitter. I'd also like to thank Steven R. Bissette and Colleen Doran, not just for these blog posts I've been dissecting, but also for all the stellar work they've produced over the years. I hope sincerely nothing here offends.

Something about Saigon.

• Monday, September 5, 2011 3 comments
Serious Déjà vu.

Bulk of yesterday went to a comic idea I had - a sort of Two-Fisted Tales sort of thing. Wound up with something so incredibly offensive that I'm not honestly not entirely sure what I should do going forward. On one hand, anything that I get this far done, it's hard not to look at as a project I'd like to polish and finish - on the other, I can't imagine any kind of artist that I could hand this script to, and by the end of it they'd still want to draw it [not that I have a load of artists lined up interested in my stuff anyway]. So. There's that.

I'm not blanket against offending people. There was a time when I prided myself on my ability to do it. But then isn't now, and it's easier to shock people when there's nothing behind it, or worse, when you're just out to piss people off for no reason. But that's not really worth anything, that doesn't do anything but piss people off, and if I'm going to piss people off, I'd like to feel justified in doing it.

What to do, what to do. I'd like to sleep on it - though that hasn't happened yet. I don't like getting into these habits, though looking back in the blog it is fairly common for insomnia to hit me around this time of the summer. It'd be interesting to know why. Maybe not helpful, but interesting. Trying to back off the worrisome habits, too. Thinking lately that there are a few people in my life who don't need the worry.

Change is hard though.

Script as it is now is pretty loose. All in the moleskin. So I'll just sit on it before typing it up. I just want to make sure, you know, if I'm going to write something like this, that I actually have something to say.


Had a better idea for the beginning of "Alone in the Universe." The History Channel and the Discovery Channel might be two of the cooler modern day resources writers have at their disposal - all happenings, no plot. Or characters. Maybe Hitler. Print history is always a hard sell - always some writer spinning some creative license on it, at least the stuff that's best to read. Though I'm sure as soon as I say that, there's someone reading who likes to casually thumb through encyclopedias who will be terrible offended by my statement.

But what am I saying? There's no one reading.

So I guess what that means is that I'm not abandoning "Alone in the Universe" after all. Updating tags in the meantime.

Finally broke down and bought an external hard drive. A whole terabyte of portable goodness. Needed to do it for a long time - saved a little money by shopping around, and buying a color I wasn't wild about. I suppose if it bothers me too much, I can always paint it. That I haven't been backing up files is just wildly irresponsible of me, and the last serious computer problem I had ended with me having to buy something special to rescue everything. Amateur hour, as a computer owner, really. Still, memory is always so damn expensive...

Sometimes I have these paranoid thoughts about the future of information, ownership, and how communal everything is getting, without actually being shared. Paying for access, but not owning anything. As things get more and more digital, sometimes I worry about that becoming the norm, and the only people who have memory storage of the their will ever really have control over the things the can access. Like I said, paranoid. But "clouds," oceanic servers - the wind and the sea, and unlike their natural counterparts, the people who put them there have a much stronger moral leg to stand on when we ask who they are to keep us from these things.

Buy memory. And don't forget about print, either. Or maybe I'm paranoid. Maybe.

Bedtime stories for the Tolkien children.

• Friday, September 2, 2011 3 comments
On one hand, nothing new has gotten *done* done, nothing old's really been "finished." In fact, I haven't really done much work on old projects.

Still. Broken ground on a lot of new stuff though, which other than showing my inability to stay on task or make goals and complete them, is also writing, and just writing again at regular intervals - well, it feels good. If I had to estimate, I'd guess I've probably done about 30 pages in the past five days, all on different things, but... oh well. Baby steps. This has been sandwiched in with a lot of other work too... I keep telling myself output, focus will improve.

Worked out several pages on a new comic, came up with the ending which was until now ambiguous. I think the outlines done, all that really needs done is it need typed up in script form. It's a Calamity Cash story [re: Calamity Cash and the Nitro Kid]. I've been sitting on it for a while because I don't want Justin to feel pressured, but he knows about it, and we're still working on the first [re: Town with No Name], so this is just me scribbling on the page. I've had this idea for about a year, and have just been letting it work out at its own pace. I guess ultimately, the idea was to write a more manageable Calamity Cash comic, since my first was so complicated, and a lot of what I was trying to do was a bit outside of my skill level. Thankfully, Justin's been talented enough with the pencils to cover that fact, but still. Gotta up my game.

Going back and forth on whether or not to put my Goemon-inspired character in. Whole idea with Calamity Cash was to slowly build up a supporting cast of weirdos and throwbacks to other cultures, genres, generally I think it's better to make a big deal out of introducing characters. But just having them pop up where they weren't before makes and different kind of intrigue. Then again, the character wouldn't add a lot to the story - how important are people as window dressing? X-Men comics spoiled me - there was always at least one blue person in the background, not doing anything, just looking cool. My want to do that with someone in Chuck Taylors and a hakama.

Saw Justin last night. We've been trying to get together once a week - doing a solid hand of it, though some weeks we struggle with what to do. West Virginia is not a post-midnight kind of town. Still, hanging out regularly again, it's cool, much needed, I think. Also really calls back to the earlier days of all this, and the familiarity is good for reminding me I have this space, and I should use it. Plus, getting out, good company... it's all great. I forget the importance of it, sometimes.

Did fifteen pages on a story called "Alone in the Universe." It will not be getting a tag here, because it turned out awful, and I don't plan on pursuing it, at least not in its present form. But I indulged a little, brushed off some old bad habits and a guy in a baseball cap and sunglasses and just enjoyed myself a bit, and think maybe I at least got [emotionally] to a place where picking up "The Tagalong" will be a bit easier.

Few pages [no exact count - someone should find a way to auto-number moleskin and legal pad] done an old project I've only told a few people about - I call it "Nerd Love." Working on it was part of the reason I wrote "I Don't Miss the Green." Anyway, I finally wrote a beginning for it. A neat little screenplay idea that will never, ever, ever get made. But might be sort of high concept enough that if I enter it somewhere, it'll get noticed. It's neat having a beginning for it too. I just don't have my first line - the big entrance. The first thing said. Barring some swear words that I don't think count.

Also playing with something that doesn't have a name or a story yet. Just something I tend to entertain myself with on downtime, little bit of fantasy to lull myself to sleep. No, it's not porn. It's just this world, maybe an idea of a world, which I use kind of like meditation, something to keep the unsettled bits of my mind busy before I fall asleep - bedtime stories for the Tolkien children, I guess. I'm starting to think there might be something to them. For now, just a hunch.

Anyway, creatively, I feel pretty good about things. Practically, less so.