Archive for the ‘Gneechy Talk’ Category »
It’s no secret that I have been dealing with dysthymia since childhood; the same way some people have a bad back or a trick knee, I have recurring low-grade depression. It’s further no secret that I have had a bad few years. I lost both parents, a favorite aunt, and literally half of my circle of closest friends, all since late 2010. Put shifting to self-employment, an extremely difficult short-sale of our house, and recurring worries about Laurie’s job situation on top of all of that, and I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m still riding a psychological roller coaster.
Nevertheless, it continues to surprise me. My emotional center is completely broken and seems to be governed at the moment by a random number generator. I get ridiculously angry at nothing; when I find myself screaming at the top of my lungs at the phone to quit ringing all the goddamn time and physically restraining myself from throwing it across the room, I know I’ve entered the land of disproportionate response. But I also can’t seem to figure out anything to do about it.
My mood right now seems to have three basic settings, depending on my energy level. If my energy level is high, my mood is either edge-of-rage angry (bad day), or crazy manic productive (good day). If my energy level is low, my mood is lonesome, self-loathing, edge-of-tears despair (every day starting around 3:30 p.m.). There doesn’t seem to be “good day” version of low energy.
I am in counseling, and we have addressed this somewhat, but frankly I am such a basket case it’s taking a long time to get around to it. But if you have observed my behavior being erratic, this is why. Thanks for being patient. I am trying to broaden my emotional repertoire: I’d like to think “quietly productive and content” is an option and I just need to find the right buttons to push to get there.
Over the past few weeks, as my seemingly-never-ending house sale sits instead of going through, and my life is mostly packed up in boxes, I haven’t been able to work on art and have instead been working on one of my various mothballed novels (and making good progress, I’m very pleased to add). It is the long-theorized and twice-attempted Brigid and Greg novel, which includes several existing Fictionlets finally put into context, as well as the rest of the narrative that actually makes into a (semi-) coherent story.
One of the new things I’ve been trying this time around is that I picked up a copy of Scrivener, which is a nifty hybrid of word processor and project management software for writers. The way it works is by creating a virtual corkboard onto which you “pin notecards,” which can be scenes, sections, notes, whole chapters, whatever suits you. You can shuffle them around, put them into “folders,” however you see fit.
I may have gone a little nuts with it.
What I started with really was a list of scenes, some of which were existing Fictionlets, others were simply concepts or story beats I knew had to be hit. For lack of a better framework, I then created folders based on the five-act structure, and started putting scenes into them as made sense. Once I had the big picture worked out, I then drilled down into individual acts and created folders for individual chapters, and from there started writing specific scenes within the chapter folders. At the same time, I’ve been maintaining some other notes in Snowflake, mainly using the scene list and word-count database to get a big picture view of how long each chunk of story is compared to the others around it. It seems that the average scene in this book is about two pages long (~500 words), although a few whoppers are seven pages long (~1,750 words). The average chapter is running around 12 pages (~3,000 words), and I expect to have around 20-25 chapters, which should put me well into the 60,000-75,000 word range I was aiming for.
Considering that even the Michael Macbeth novel I did for NaNoWriMo 2013 just barely squeaked over 50,000, I’m quite pleased with this state of affairs. I keep thinking of the preface to Thank You, Jeeves…
“…Writing my stories, I enjoy; it is the thinking them out that is apt to blot the sunshine from my life. You can’t think out plots like mine without getting a suspicion from time to time that something has gone seriously wrong with the brain’s two hemispheres and the broad band of transversely-running fibers known as the corpus callosum. It is my practice to make about 400 pages of notes before starting a novel, and during this process there always comes a moment when I say to myself, “Oh what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!” The odd thing is, that just as I’m feeling I must be getting a proposer and seconder, and put myself up for the looney bin, something always clicks, and after that, all is joy and jollity.”–P.G. Wodehouse
Given my writing habits, that passage has been of everlasting comfort, to me! And so far, the passage has described my writing attempts very well, to which I say if it’s good enough for Wodehouse, then surely it’s good enough for me!
A while back I posted to my LiveJournal, “I left my day job with the plan of doing all these things I didn’t have the time to do before… so why am I still spending so much time not doing them?” As I’ve been exploring the issue further, I have come to the conclusion that drawing comics all day, writing short stories etc., while it’s fun and I love it, is not really what I want to do with forever.
It is, essentially, a selfish pursuit. The best metaphor I can think of, is that it’s as if I was being paid (not very much) to play Solitaire all day… enjoyable, but when it’s done, what will it have achieved? With the original Suburban Jungle Starring Tiffany Tiger, I felt like I had something to say to the world, at least. Currently I have no real message, just a series of entertaining vignettes that give me an excuse to draw pretty pictures.
I came to the conclusion yesterday, that it’s time to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. The only problem is, at the moment at least, I have no idea what that is. All of the jobs I’ve had, even if they were Srs Bzness Jobs, were not really grown up. They were what I cruised into and what was available. I’ve never really seriously studied anything but art and literature, so I’m pretty short on real-world skills. I became a graphic designer because it was kinda-sorta like doing art for a living. I became a web designer because it was like being a graphic designer except with prestige (at the time).
Right now the only ideas I’ve got are pretty nebulous and kinda random. I’ve worked the floor at a bookstore and enjoyed it, but that doesn’t pay a living wage in the long term. I have a pipe dream of owning a coffeehouse on the beach somewhere, but having worked as a barista I’m pretty sure that’s something that should stay a fantasy.
One of the “Would you enjoy a task like this?” questions I came across on a Holland Code test was “mapping the ocean floor,” and I was surprised at how interesting that actually sounded. I enjoyed “earth science” in school and always got into things like National Geographic, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, or The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, and I think I might enjoy being a marine biologist or something along those lines. (That in particular would give me an added bonus of having a reason to live on a California beach somewhere. 😉 )
As I say, the ideas are still only half-baked, and I need to really work on honing in on them. To that end, since I am currently free of having a day job other than the comics, I’m going to find a career counseling program and start going through it. Right now the top contenders are The Oxford Program, which Laurie used with limited success, and the Rockport Institute/”The Pathfinder”, which my counselor recommended. Either one would be a fairly hefty investment, cash- and time-wise, but if it leads to a real career that earns me a good living, it’ll be more than worth it.
For the record: I will continue writing and creating comics. I can’t imagine that ever going away. But I am starting to think that’s something I should be doing as recreation, rather than as an obligation, because that seems to be sucking the joy and vitality out of it.
Wish me luck! If anyone has career (or other) suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
Aww yeah. Quality!
I have a confession to make:
It takes me forever to do anything.
Writing, drawing, even simple stuff like taking a shower and get dressed, I move slowly (when I move at all) and am frequently annoyed to discover that instead of being 8:30 a.m. like I thought, it’s actually midnight two days later.
This is frustrating. But worse, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, it’s unproductive and is severely hampering my ability to make a living at it.
Compare/contrast someone like, say, Graveyard Greg. Whether or not his creations are to your taste, there’s no denying that he is a content-generating machine. He cranks out stories, scripts for comics, you name it, at a phenomenal pace. And when he’s finished with something, he just moves on to the next thing. This means, among other things, that he can take on more projects and/or new projects quickly and easily, always expanding his product base, in a way that I can’t.
It’s like I once said of Neil Gaiman: I create work of the same quality, but he sneezes out a short story over lunch, while I take two months to produce the same volume of work.
At this stage, some may be thinking, “Don’t beat yourself up about it Gneech, you just create what you can and your loyal readers will be there!” or something similar. And while that’s true, and I’m extremely grateful for it, it doesn’t make my tortoise-like pace any less of a problem. Because, you see, I have to earn a living.
Forget for a moment that my vocation is writing and comics. Pretend instead that I’m a clockmaker. Say I live in Zurich, where clockmakers outnumber non-clockmakers, and while I’m a perfectly good clockmaker, there are plenty of others out there who are also as good. More importantly, the others work fast enough to make two or three clocks for every one I can force myself to produce. It’s pretty easy to see that those other clockmakers are going to have a much easier time putting food on the table than I will. It’s not a matter of quality or dedication or what-have-you… it’s pure mathematics.
This is my biggest problem, as a creator. It takes me so long to create my “core content” that I’m already permanently behind schedule. I can’t add new reward levels to my Patreon campaign in order to attract more supporters. I can’t push for a ton of commissions. I can’t sit around coming up with (and then producing) new merchandise. I am maxxed out as it is, and rapidly being left behind.
I don’t know what to do about it. The first obvious answer is to change my “core content” to something I can produce faster, but if it was that easy I’d just go back to a day job and be done with it. I create Suburban Jungle because on some level I’m compelled to do so. The second answer is “Work faster!” but again, if it was that easy I’d have done it already. I have managed to increase my speed a bit over the course of Issue Two, but only a bit, and I don’t think I can go much faster than this without completely sacrificing any semblance of quality.
So… still looking for a solution. In the meantime, I need to stop blogging and get to work. I’m behind schedule. Like always.
Today the last page of the second issue of Suburban Jungle: Rough Housing went up on the website! The files are sent off to the publisher, including a piece of bonus art that isn’t on the website (but will go up on the Patreon page soon). Naturally, I’m quite pleased about this.
I’d be very interested to hear any comments or feedback folks might have. I’ve been experimenting with some different art techniques as well as deliberately coming up with things that would be challenging to draw in order to break out of my old habits of “medium shots of people with crossed arms standing around talking all the time.” The art will probably be shifting slightly again between issues, as it’s still not quite where I want it to be, but it’s getting closer. As always, the real tension is between “getting the page right” and “getting the page done in less than a week.”
As I did between issues one and two, I’m going to pause the web page updates between issues two and three, so I can work on rebuilding the buffer, as well as getting some real work done on “The Other Comic,” for which I have scripts and some layouts done but need a few days of uninterrupted work to get actual pages drawn before we’ll make the official announcement and launch date etc. I’m also going to be building an Etsy shop, getting ready for two(!) conventions in December and… oh yeah, selling my house and moving. O.o
Why do I never do things that are easy?