Writer Is Fed Up, Overcomes Block

Lifeblogging, Process, Writing

[picture of the planner banner] 

I am out of patience with this trend of not getting any work done.

I wrote an okay YA SFF romance in 2016… and found myself completely unable to handle the overwhelming volume of revisions.

I set it aside to work on an erotic romance the next spring, as a low-stakes palette cleanser, but that one ended up with some Problematic elements, and I couldn’t even open the file without being suffocated with shame. After that, I couldn’t write anything. Feeling so awful, and guilty, and ashamed of something I’d really enjoyed writing was paralyzing. I carried my notebooks around, the edges of the pages getting dirty in my backpack without anything touching the inside. I barely even opened my files until this year.

I have had enough. This is ridiculous. Some of the stuff I wrote in that first draft was, ah, certainly Problematic, but it was not bad enough to justify putting myself on hold for two years.

I am cancelling feeling guilty about anything I write. It’s not helpful to anybody and it is extremely harmful to me.

To that end, I’ve put to myself a challenge.

So, to add context, I’ve made a lot of challenges for myself. I’ve failed most of them. I really, really want to do awesome stuff, so I try to do thinks like “Make a finished drawing every day using a dip pen (which I’ve never used before) for Inktober!” or “Use advent-calendar-style prompts to write a complete short story every day in the runup to your birthday!”

“Finished” is my downfall. “Complete” is a pipe dream. The very first day I do part of a drawing, part of a story, I’ve already failed my entire goal and am thus too discouraged to finish the challenge.

So uh… maybe don’t do that to myself, this time? Maybe construct a challenge with small goals, forgiving milestones, and catchup opportunities?

So I did.

Do you think 200,000 words before my next birthday is a reasonable goal? It comes out to about 550 words per day, which, if I remember my NaNoWriMo experiences correctly, is perfectly manageable.

(1667 is not, by the way. NaNoWriMo is grueling for me.)

It’d be neat if I finished something, but I’m not really focusing on that; small goals and all.
Instead, I’ve got twice-monthly check-ins and big-text Quarterly Goals that I get to fill in with pretty colors, and a nice space to put the titles of everything that I worked on.

(That part’s not really a piece of the challenge. I just really like lists.)

Homeschool Art Class

Lifeblogging

I was homeschooled all the way until high school. This was 100% no question the right choice for me–I was a super weird kid, and being able to explore my education on my own time is probably the only reason I got any education at all. I would have been a stubborn, bored, tantrum-throwing nightmare if I’d been trapped in a classroom and told we are doing this thing now whether you’re interested or not.

It was full of holes, of course–when I wasn’t interested in a topic, I wasn’t going to learn it. American History was particularly boring. I was in high school before I figured out that the civil war and the civil rights movement happened a hundred years apart from each other.

To be fair to my parents, they did try to teach me. I just ignored them and did my own thing instead.

I stand by the fact that a few holes are a fair tradeoff for the incredible breadth of what I did get to learn, though. My literature, natural sciences, and world history education was top-notch.

Art, too.

The neat thing about homeschooling is, if your kid shows interest in something, you can throw them into it feet-first and let them swim around until they either get bored or get good. I got thrown into a lot of things, but the one that really stuck was art (and horseback riding, but I had to give that up when we started jumping and I realized I was never going to be good at this. Horses are very large, and I was very small and easily frightened.)

The art teacher my mom found for me worked out of her converted garage, which was absolutely freezing most of the time, but the windows looked out at her squirrel-feeder, so I didn’t mind too much. She worked in trimesters, each with a medium and a theme. Clay was especially exciting, because you have to throw the clay with great prejudice before you use it. Chalk pastels were an actual nightmare; they go wherever they feel like, and are not interested in your opinion about it. Paint was fun at the beginning of the trimester and terrible by the end, because color and I are not friends.

The project I remember best was basically an animation. We shuffled out to the garden with sketch pads and pencils, found a cool plant or rock or animal, and drew some sketches of it–and then, back inside the studio, used six frames to transform the thing into something else. We didn’t actually animate it, but I’d done enough post-it flip-books to know that we could.

Since my actual piece is lost to time, I have partially recreated it for you. I tried to animate it, but I tell you, making a .gif long enough to not burn your eyes out required more frames that I was willing to draw, so here we are.

A Bad Choice and a Change

Lifeblogging

The nicest thing about almond milk is that you can leave it on your desk for three days and still drink it.

Dairy milk becomes significantly less appealing the first time you forget to put it back in the fridge after bringing it to your desk because you’re going to drink six cups in the next two hours and why make yourself get up for milk every time?

Because you are 100% definitely going to forget to put the milk away afterwards. That is the answer. But sometimes you are just a bit lazy, and think Oh, I’ll remember this time.

You are a fool and a teller of lies.

You are not responsible enough to drink dairy.

Almond milk is somewhat less creamy, somewhat different and odd, but it is especially nice with Earl Grey, and does not go bad with quite the malevolent fervor of dairy milk.

I dress like a cartoon character, but now I dress like a COOL cartoon character.

Lifeblogging

I… bought a leather* jacket.

I am not a Leather Jacket Person. I am a sweaters-and-long-skirts person. I have a cartoon llama on my shoulder bag. Am I qualified to wear this?

While I’m quite used to standing out for being adorable, standing out for This Look is an entirely different experience. Leather jackets are not at all adorable.

Generally.

Let me tell you a story about two jackets.

We have a decent-sized mall close to my office, and since I hate buying clothes online (ADHD…?** makes me real bad at returning things on time), I popped in there to see what they had.

And I guess it’s leather jacket season, because I had options.

There was the jacket that was leather from the bustline up and denim from the bustline down.

There was the one with loopy fringe all down the arms.

There was the one that was perfect, but it only existed on the mannequin.

And then, right as I was about to give up, there was one with stars.

It was the style I was looking for, it was in my size, and all over its surface, randomly spaced and of varying sizes, were dozens of subtle, embossed stars.

I tried it on, said No way, I can’t do this, and walked away, and came back and tried it on again. Walked away again. No. I will get so many comments and I don’t like attention.

But I do like stars.

I went back and tried it on again.

But wasn’t I just talking about how I’m kind of sick of being cute? Didn’t I just replace my cartoon llama bag because I’d had enough of “Omg I love your bag!” comments***?

But I needed a jacket like… today, and it was pretty great, so maybe if it was my only option…

I continued my search at Nordstrom, at which point my new shoes started to make their flaws known. Right around the heel area.

It’s fine, I thought. It’s just one more store, I thought.

On the second floor of Nordstrom, I found the very jacket I was lookinig for in the first place—soft, black, moto-style, with just the right amount of shiny things and a removeable fabric hood. And no adorable decorations.

And they had every size in stock except mine.

My heels were starting to hint that they were not, in fact, going to be fine, and I was just about ready to take this as an excuse to go get the star one when I was rescued by an employee who reminded me that I could have my size ordered, if it was in stock online.

So I did.

And it arrived this weekend.

And I really, really like it.

(You guys I look so cool.)


*It’s fake. This is a financial decision more than an ethical one. My feelings on leather versus plastic are… complicated, and on top of that, I have Feelings about the whole idea of basing consumer purchasing habits on ethics. I’ll probably post about that eventually, but the chances of me remembering to link it here are not high.

** “…?” is shorthand for “I have like all the symptoms but no diagnosis”

***All of these people were very nice! I also love my bag! When I’m in a sociable mood, I still carry that bag! But when it was my only bag, I had to carry it whether or not I was feeling sociable, and that suuuuucked.

A Warm Experiment

Lifeblogging
Junko Enoshima from the video game Danganronpa holding Monokuma in front of her face
Ultimate Despair

I’ve been doing nothing but knitting lately. I never used to knit, but this last year has been pretty tough, and I couldn’t get myself to do any art—every time I sat down, even if I had ideas, even if I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I’d fill up with this existential despair knowing that I just wasn’t going to be able to actually produce what I was imagining, and even if I did, what did it matter?

(I’m not handling American political strife so well, guys.)

I was also very, very cold.

It’s not that cold here—it’s January, and it still hasn’t snowed. I’m a little worried, actually; it’s supposed to have snowed by now. Still, when I’m morose I don’t eat enough, and when you don’t eat enough your body turns down the thermostat to preserve energy, so I was absolutely freezing all the time.

I got into my Pending Project box, and dug out the all-wool sweater I’d intended to finish for Halloween. I’d given it up because stockinette for thirty inches is incredibly boring, especially when you’ve re-done it four times because the pattern keeps coming out too small.

Downside: This was my first sweater, and I was going to have to make major modifications that were decidedly outside my skillset.

Upside: I only needed to make it bigger. If it came out too big, it could be my next moping sweater.

Close-up of the photoographer's torso wearing a sweater with a square neck and black-and-brownish-orangeish stripes.
It turned out just right!

So I snuggled into a blanket nest with a TV show I’d already seen and cast on for the fifth time and… as it turns out, endless stockinette is very comforting when you’re feeling morose.

As is making  something unambiguously good. I made this thing, and I was cold but now I’m warm. And also it looks cute? Look at that square neck. The sleeves are oversized with tight cuffs, which is my favorite.

And then I made another one.

And I would be making another one right now, except I ran out of budget, so it’s going to have to wait.

Rose City Comic Con: Panels and People

All Things Comics, Lifeblogging

Rose City Comic Con was a blast! Ahhhh! I probably should have budgeted before I went, but you know what, I don’t care that I don’t even know how much money I spent, because I have this giant stack of sweet new comics and a handful of beautiful new pins, and I’ve never had a better time at a con.

It’s incredible how awesome events are when you schedule time to eat something and drink water. Take care of your body!

FIRST, PANELS

I want to work in the comics industry, right? So fan panels really don’t do it for me–I’m here for the industry panels. I went to a bunch (the Comics Code Authority history panel was especially neat), and took All The Notes on all of them, so for all my buddies who weren’t able to make it, here’s the highlights:

Get off Twitter. Seriously. Every panel about being a successful creator had at least one panelist say to get off Twitter. Social media saps your creativity, makes you paranoid about making mistakes, and sucks up your time like a sham-wow.

Want to break into the comics industry? Having trouble getting discovered? Get your toe in the door as a flatter. Flatters add a preliminary color layer to the inks, so that colorists don’t have to waste time figuring out whether that difficult-to-interpret-in-black-and-white area is flesh or costume (for example). Flatters are in pretty high demand, and it’s not too hard to convince people you’ll be good at it.

If you don’t want to be a flatter, put together a portfolio of whatever it is you do want to do, and go talk to people who are at your level in that field. They called it “punch your weight”, and do I have a story for you about this. STAY TUNED.

Doing this on your own? Get an audience before you try to Kickstart your project. Here’s where the “get off Twitter” thing gets tricky, because you build an audience… through social media. Welp. Nobody really had an answer to this conundrum, but one thing you might be able to do is take advantage of preexisting audiences. Like ninjas, for example. If there’s ninjas in your project, everyone who already loves ninjas suddenly becomes part of your audience. Not every work has a conveniently huge hook like that, but if you do… work it.

ALRIGHT, STORY TIME!

I am

extremely shy.

It’s full-on social anxiety territory over here.

Talking to people is usually fine, but thinking about talking to people and having talked to people is purest agony. Whatever I’m thinking of saying, whatever I said, it was inappropriate or weird or wrong and at the end of the day it’s better if I just don’t say anything, ever.

Let me tell you, it is extremely difficult to network like that. Even if you do manage to talk to people, you crumble into dust at the thought of following up.

But I have been working

so hard

all year

at having something to show people so that, when opportunity rolls by, I can jump on. I was planning on gracefully leaping into the seats of the opportunity wagon, but uh, it came by before I was quite ready.

I could wait until I was ready,

But I didn’t really have time to think that far ahead.

So I just kind of… flung myself on, grabbing hold of the floor of the opportunity cart and hoping I could drag my legs up before they got scratched all to hell. I did fail on that last point, but you know what, I don’t care, because I’m on.

(If you’re not following, the scratched-legs metaphor translates to spending the last day and a half bobbing in and out of low-grade panic attacks every time I think about my email. And also kicking myself for not having business cards. I… was not planning on doing this.)

Right, so, metaphor aside, I went to a panel on positions within the comics industry other than artist and writer, which included Ariana Maher. Letterer.

I love lettering.

It kind of never registered with me that lettering was an actual job, even though most of the comics I’ve ever read include a letterer in the credits. I thought it was a staff position. I didn’t know you could freelance it, with nothing to prove you can do it but a portfolio and some confidence.

So after the panel I just walked up to her and said, “Hi! I want to be a letterer.” Like it was no big deal. And she talked to me! And introduced me to more letterers! And looked at my portfolio, and sent me a bunch of learning and practice materials to work on! And said I can email her any time if I have any questions!

She’s done so much cool work, and worked with so many cool people. She lettered Arclight, which I love.

I want to do cool work. I want to decide how the reader’s eye travels across the page, and develop character voice through font and bubble shape, and give life to sound effects. I want to work with cool people on projects I’m not allowed to talk about yet.

I… might actually be able to pull this off.

And an art update

Artwork, Lifeblogging, Original

 

In update news, I applied to this zine, which has the theme of space lesbians, which is too far up my alley to miss.

You might not have seen any of my space lesbians, but there are four (to be fair one of them is a space bisexual), and the only reason you haven’t seen them is because I keep fussing with their stories so much I haven’t had any success at all in actually finishing them.

It’s a personal flaw.

I applied for all three categories (artist, merch artist, and writer) because I multi-classed in Art and Writing and around here we go all in. If I get to design an enamel pin I might die. Bury me with my pin.

Here’s the stuff I added to my portfolio in hopes of getting their attention:

A young woman with an afro and a wound on her shoulder holds up a mining lamp, and looks over her shoulder at stylized black tendrils which are saying Lineart of an elephant skull The Listening Frame-Web-FullSize-Orange
A woman and her cat sit in a window seat looking out at the skyscrapers. A purple cow eating some bright red leaves in front of a big white circle. A silhouetted pine tree leans over a lake, partially overlapping a bright orange moon which is reflected in the lake.

Things I learned immediately after buying a tablet

Art Tools, Artwork, Lifeblogging

The last time I had a tablet, it was an unmitigated disaster, because I was 12 and I didn’t know you needed… like… an actual art program? To go with the tablet? Preferably with things like layers and pressure sensitivity? To be sure, MS Paint is a perfectly valid medium, but it only works if that’s the look you’re going for.

I went back to ballpoints on printer paper real fast.

But I really wanted the smooth, antialiased look of digital, and even after I figured out how to adjust levels and such on my scanned work, nothing gave me that look. But guess what was on sale this December??INTUOS-draw

While I wasn’t looking, Wacom started bundling their tablets with art programs. And that tablet? Comes with the exact program I was going to buy anyway. I could not have purchased this faster.

Okay, I could have purchased this a little faster, if the Comic (which has a perfectly nice box) looked like the Draw (which has a box I’d straight-up put on my mantel). Look at this thing. Look at it.

I also had to wait until I got a computer that could handle the obscene number of layers I like to use. Having acquired that computer, I thought I was ready.

I really did.

Lesson 1: Tablet pens do not feel like actual pens

I use Sakura Microns, mainly. I use them pretty hard. I like to press down on the paper a little too much, because pressure flattens out the tooth of the paper and makes your lines smoother. It also calms my shaky hands.

GUESS WHAT DOESN’T WORK ON TABLETS.

This tablet picks up every tiny little movement, and adding pressure don’t make the pen get stuck in the tooth and stop wiggling–it makes it slip around the slick surface and wiggle more.

TriceratopsThis little guy was the best I could do.

Look at those ragged lines.

Look at that weirdly-flat snout.

It’s not misshapen because I don’t know reptile anatomy–it’s misshapen because I couldn’t make the lines go where they belonged.

This was the point where gave up, and alt+tabbed straight to YouTube.

Lesson 2: Line stabilization is a thing

Self-PortraitI was freaking out over nothing. Turns out, the programmers of drawing programs know all about shaky hands.

My artist buddy told me, “Turn your line stabilization up to 26.”

And I was like, “Ugh, but it’s so laggy like that.”

And he was like, “Yeah *shrug*”

So I stopped being a baby, and turned my stabilization up to 26… and then immediately turned them down to 22. It only took about an hour to get used to the lag, because:

Lesson 3: Gotta go fast

Those slow, careful lines I was doing on paper? Do Not Work on a tablet. Not even with line stabilization on.

Believe me, I tried.

After a frustrating fifteen minutes of unmitigated failure, I gave in and did things the right way–which is to say, drawing in long sweeping motions from the shoulder, instead of short arcs from the wrist and fingers.

This caused some issues.

  1. Sweeping in a gentle arc is easy, but sweeping in a loop is… not.
  2. I rotate my paper a lot. I really only have a couple of movements keyed into my muscle memory, and I turn my paper around until one of the movements matches the sketch. But turning my tablet… ah… did not work.

But rotating the canvas works great. And binding my rotation/zoom keys to the default gaming directional keys let me move the canvas around however I wanted without ever putting the pen down.

WASD

This configuration has the bonus feature of making me feel cool.

 


 

If you’re just starting out on a tablet, yes, it is totally different from physical media, and yes, it’s probably completely different from what you were expecting. Yes, everything you do completely sucks and doesn’t look anything like you wanted it to.

It’s okay.

You’re fine.

This is a totally new medium, and it’s going to take you some time to figure it out. You’d suck just like this if you’d suddenly gone from oil paints to chalk pastels, too.

I’ve only been at this for like four days, and I’ve already gone from [undo forever] to “this is fine.” You’re doing great. Your muscle memory will catch up to your eye real soon.

Happy new year!

Lifeblogging

Do less, but do it all.

2017 was, quite predictably, an exercise in resisting defeatism. This is not a strong suit of mine, and it has been dead exhausting, and I have failed.

I tried being politically active, and just ended up feeling guilty and hopeless because I couldn’t do it. I took on too much, got burned out, gave up. I’m not proud. I’m going to do better this year. I’m going to do small, concrete things, and give up on the big gestures and the public action that I just can’t do.

 

Produce content like a professional.

The first of the two casualties of the defeatism I couldn’t shake was this blog.

I have plenty of things to say. Fortnightly is a perfectly manageable update schedule. There is no reason not to post something, anything, on schedule. And yet, I went three months with nothing. I can be better than that. I have to be better than that, if I want to be anything.

I want to be an illustrator. My real, impossible dream is to illustrate adult books; as a reader, I love illustrations, and I know there are plenty of adult books that would be stunning with illustrations. The total lack of market for this is the only thing standing in my way. Still: I can be an illustrator. I can illustrate middle-grade books. I just need to prove it, and market myself.

I’m not ready for marketing yet. This year, I’m just going to prove it.

 

Remember the value of consumable art.

The second of two casualties, and the less concrete, was my visceral understanding of art as important.

In the face of 1930s Germany Take Two: American Edition, the only art that feels like it matters is the world-changing kind. The kind that directly stands up to the government, that challenges them and makes them afraid.

That’s absurd.

The truth is, art that gives people strength just because they like it is worth something. Even if it doesn’t directly challenge social injustice. Even if it fades from memory after it’s done its job. Holding people up with images and narratives that feel good matters.

And that’s the kind of art I make.

And that sucks. 

I want to be big, and famous, and important, but I’m not. My heart is so drowned in hopeless despair that I have completely forgotten how much it matters to give just one person strength. I need to get over it. I need to dive headlong into what I really do so that it can be there for that one person who really needs it. Even if who I really am is small, and unimportant, and consumable.

Wish me luck.