Jun 08 2020

If It’s Your Calling, It Will Keep Calling You

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Roxie and Charity on a Starry Night

Stuff happened. It knocked me off my groove, and I have remained in a state of being off my groove for several years now. And like somebody dangling off a rope trying desperately to scramble back up, I’ve been twisting in the wind, trying one thing after another to get something—anything—to work. It’s kept my head above water… mostly… but it has not led to success. And it has definitely not led to satisfaction.

But a few days ago, I happened on a tweet, nearly swamped in all the World Being So Much With Us right now, but that jumped out at me like an electric spark.

If it's your calling, it will keep calling you.
If it’s your calling, it will keep calling you.

I have ADHD. I can hyperfocus for bursts, but repeated, sustained effort is often difficult for me to maintain. But in all the noise, chaos, new shiny things to chase, and so on, there are two things that keep calling me: art and writing, writing and art. They wax and wane seasonally—I’m usually way more into art in the warm months and way more into writing when it’s colder—but they’re both always there.

And my groove, the happiest and most successful times in my life, also coincided with the times that I was most in touch with those. Suburban Jungle is still my high mark of both sustained personal satisfaction and success in terms of reaching an audience. The one thing it never provided, was a livable income, and that in turn led to me believing that making a living with my writing and art was not possible, and so I’ve spent the past several years trying with little success trying to find a way to make a livable income doing anything else, and being miserable while I was doing it.

Well, I hereby surrender that fight.

I am an artist and writer. That’s the alpha and omega, the sum total of who and what I am, and from here forward anything I do is going to be in service of that. There are people who make their living this way. I know some of them. It can be done. And if it can be done, I can do it, I just need to figure out how.

I need to figure out workflow. I need to figure out finding gigs and building (or re-building) an audience. I need to refocus on honing my craft, which stagnated somewhere.

But mostly I need to remember my mission, every day.

I make my living as an artist/illustrator and a writer, creating fun and engaging work that brings people joy and makes them feel seen and connected. That’s what keeps calling me, and I’m going to answer, again and again.

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Jun 02 2020

Just a Thing I Want to Remember

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So you know those jokes that start with “sits bolt upright in bed, and declares—” type?

That literally happened to me at 4 am this morning, with the thought, “LET’S GIVE A SHOUT-OUT TO LEONARD NIMOY CONVINCINGLY LOOKING LIKE HE WAS GOOGLING THINGS FOR TWENTY YEARS WHEN REALLY HE WAS JUST TWEAKING COLORED GLASS BEADS!”

I then plopped back down and went back to sleep.

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May 25 2020

So Sick of Being a Yo-Yo

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All other things being equal, my weight goes up.

I don’t eat more than most people; I don’t eat worse than most people. I certainly get more exercise than most people.

But for whatever reason, my body just wants to be heavier.

Every eighteen months or so, it starts getting dangerously close to 300 pounds and I can’t take it any more. I do intermittent fasting, cut out as much sugar and carbs as I can stand without having constant head/body aches, and pursue an aggressive exercise regimen.

The good news is, my body is very responsive to this. Typically, I lose 10-20 pounds within six months.

The bad news, I can’t sustain the effort. I’m not talking about “easy lifestyle changes” here, I’m talking about the focus of my life turns from Literally Anything Else to Lose Weight Again, Dammit. Sometime around the six to eight months mark, I am just too mentally and physically exhausted to keep going, and I start to coast.

And just as responsive as it is to aggressive weight loss efforts, it is to coasting. Maybe moreso.

It’s like my body is a ship with a leaky hull and being overweight is the ocean. As long as I furiously man the pumps I’m okay, but the second I stop, the ship starts sinking again.

I am fucking sick of it.

But it’s the hand I’ve been dealt. And the lockdown isn’t helping.

Ship’s flooded again. Back to the pumps.

Dammit. -.-

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May 20 2020

Everything I Wanted: A Spoileriffic Discussion of She-Ra

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Everything I wanted.
Yeah. So. Spoilers. The title warned you.

The show that asked, “What if Star Wars was incredibly gay?” and then answers, “IT WOULD BE AWESOME AS FUCK!”

There’s so much for me to say about She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, I don’t even know where to begin. I already knew, when I was defending Catra as A Cinnamon Roll Who Wants to Kill You that this was a show I was going to be very heavily invested in. Catra literally feels to me like Noelle Stevenson plucked her right out of my brain and put her on the screen—to the point that I wrote to Ms. Stevenson directly and leveraged all of my comics/animation contacts into trying to find a way to get onto the writing team… without success, alas.

Catra would look at Leona Lioness or Tanya Regellan and say “Oh, you too?” She is also directly the inspiration for Shade-Of-the-Candle, whose own transition from snarling murdercat to laughing bandit has parallels to the arc Catra actually follows. As Emmet Asher-Perrin so aptly put it, “Catra was an instant favorite on the show among its fans. But there was something about it that nagged at me, something more specifically related to her type, and what that type said about me, and what it meant that I kept returning to it.”

And I’m not gonna lie, I was scared for Catra. With every season ending with her in a worse place than the last one, and knowing in very personal detail exactly the self-destructive cycles she was going through, I was terrified she was going to go down with the ship. Redemptive Suicide is such a terrible trope, but such a common one in fantasy and SF, that I was at least 65% convinced that was going to be her fate.

(Mere words cannot express how happy I am to read that Shadow Weaver’s final fate was intentionally written as an “Up yours!” at that specific trope.)

I stopped watching the show halfway through season four, because Double Trouble pushed too many of my buttons—I didn’t have it in me to watch these characters I was so fond of just unravel and tear each other apart, and after the end of season three I couldn’t bring myself to watch Catra do any more horrible things without some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. So I suspended my Netflix account and waited. There was no way I wouldn’t watch season five when it came out—but I couldn’t finish until I could actually finish, if that makes any sense.

So… where do I stand, now that the show’s over? Like the title says, it gave me everything I wanted. Catra to have a true redemption. A true, explicit and undeniable romantic relationship between Catra and Adora. Adventure, excitement, and really wild things. Strong characters, deep and compelling villains, beautiful animation. The first ever canonically and unambiguously queer protagonist in mainstream western animation. On some level, I must face that I resent that I couldn’t be part of it. When I knew getting involved in the show wasn’t going to happen, I created The Reclamation Project to redirect that energy, so good has still came of it, but for me She-Ra will never not be “one that got away.” It’s a historic, once-in-a-lifetime event, a revolution that I was only able to watch and not participate in. And there’s nothing I can do about that except get over it.

On the other hand, the sheer joy that S5 has filled me with blots out those dark thoughts. Scorpia going from doormat to utter badass. Entrapta—who I’ve historically been very down on—not just coming to grips with the difference between “people” and “things,” but also giving Catra one of the most understatedly but purely kind moments in Problem Cat’s whole life.

Wrong Hordak. Just freakin’ Wrong Hordak. He’s another character who feels like he was ripped out of my brain.

Catra’s sheer desperation for Adora in the final two episodes—and that Catra’s (requited!) love for Adora literally saved the universe.

I could do this all day. I’ll stop. If you’ve seen the show you know all these things.

What does it mean to me? I don’t know. I know that Suburban Jungle has touched lives—but not on the scale or sheer power that this show has. Is there still something useful for me to do? If so, what? And how do I do it? What can I bring to the table in a world that already has this in it?

I’ll find something.

Apr 01 2020

Back to Good

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My best self.

I… might do art streaming again tomorrow.

It’s been so long since I did art streaming, for so many reasons.

It’s been so long since I did art, for so many reasons.

With “social distancing” and my jobs drying up, I need to do something, and I need contact with people. But mostly, I just need life to be good again. “Back to good” is a slogan coined by the D.C. metrorail system’s attempt to renovate their systems and rehabilitate their reputation with the public, and I gotta admire the ballsiness of just coming out and saying, “Yeah, we kinda suck right now, and we’ve gotta get back to good.”

That’s what I need to do, too. I’ve spent the past three years in an almost constant state of “tryhard,” watching my fortunes dwindle, my attempts to get anywhere be frustrated, and my mental health and creative drive evaporate. In late 2019 it just completely came crashing down around me, and in January and February I began the long climb back out of the wreckage… only to be greeted by the pandemic. Wow. XD

But to be completely honest, I feel strangely peaceful about it all. I’ve got a roof over my head and food to eat for the time being, and unemployment checks coming in at the very least while I continue my hunt for a day job. It’s not the “frugally comfortable” level I’m used to, but it could be a lot worse, and I can build on it. I can get back to good.

So what makes life good? Fun, friends, art and writing, creativity and gaming. I’ve got a big ol’ queue of art I’ve promised to folks, and with everyone doing Stay-At-Home Con, the best way to get some socializing in is while sitting there getting work done. :)

I hope if you’ve enjoyed my art streams in the past you’ll come back, and if you’re curious you’ll come around and give it a try!

-The Gneech

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Dec 31 2018

On Connection

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Groovy, baby.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–Carl W. Buehner

Ever since writing my 2018 report the other day and putting thought into 2019, I’ve become increasingly aware of a theme woven into the music of my life and now coming to the forefront: I must develop my ability to create connection, both on a personal and professional basis, and within my writing.

Because when I look at what isn’t working in my life right now, I see two sides of the same coin: needing to learn how to network in order to build my coaching practice on the one side, and being told repeatedly, “Your writing is crisp, clean, and professional, but the book just didn’t grab me…” on the other. Both of these things are about creating an emotional connection with people, whether directly or indirectly.

I’ve always been vaguely aware of this in terms of watching the audience for Suburban Jungle (and my place within the furry fandom generally)– it’s just like my friendships have been over the course of my life. SJ has a smallish knot of devoted fans, some of whom are intensely devoted to it. (NeverNever was like this too, only moreso.) As long as I can remember, I’ve had a few very close friends, and often been very challenged around getting outside of that group.

Those tight friendships (and very devoted fans) mean the world to me and I don’t want to downplay them. But it is increasingly clear to me as time goes on that I need to widen my circle. A small number of tight friends can make a handful of referrals in my client hunt, but their potential is quickly tapped out on that front. A very devoted fan might buy all of my books and support the highest tiers of my Patreon, but they are only one fan and cannot subsidize my life (nor would I want them to).

And besides the straightforward inability of the math to get me what I need, these small circles also don’t give me what I want. I want to help people with my coaching. I want people’s days to be better because I was in them. I want to have crowds at my table, and people writing fanfics or doing in-depth analysis of my work on Tumblr. As nice as it might be to be recognized as a genius posthumously? I want my work to be loved now.

When my Aunt Iris died, half of Fairfax and Loudoun counties came to her funeral, and everyone– everyone– had something to say about the way she’d connected to them. By comparison, when my father died a year later, his funeral was attended by maybe twenty people, including his three children, their spouses and children, and some of my friends.

That stuck with me.

I loved my dad. Everyone there did. But there is no denying that his life was, in its way, small and limited. I don’t want mine to be.

So what am I going to do about it? I think I was starting to come to awareness of this gap when I came up with my writing goals for 2019, because I listed my goal as “Create self-satisfaction, expression, and meaningful impact in others’ lives by means of becoming a successful and widely-read author/artist.” I added as one of my goals to change my relationship to, say, my Patreon, by focusing not on the dollar amount it brings in, but by the number of subscribers who sign up and the amount of comments that are left.

Similarly, I tweeted last night, “I’ve got ~1500 followers on Twitter and ~450 on Tumblr, and I would like to double those numbers by the end of January. But I’m looking for, y’know, real people who will like my work, not bots. Any suggestions on what I should do, real people?” And that’s an important distinction! I don’t want fluffed up “metrics” that don’t mean anything, I’m not some dot-com-era middle manager looking for clicks.

How will I do this? By finding ways to make my writing grab people. By making more genuine connections with the people I meet. By being with people, instead of either up on a stage or hiding at the back of the room.

If this past year was finally learning how to be friends with myself? This coming year is going to be learning how to be friends with the world.

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