Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chicks in my house (pics!)

In the last post, I mentioned that I have chickens living in my bathroom. This is a true and delightful fact.

Look at them. Do you not feel your heart melting like so many icicles on a mid-March gutter? They are so cute and vacant and I want to push them around town in a stroller.

The chick to whom the chickens belong is Katie, a colleague of mine at the Quaker conference center. I once had a tremendous crush on Katie. Now she and I share the third floor of a house on-site. I communicate with her almost entirely via post-it notes stuck to the bathroom mirror.

As I was saying before, I had a crush on Katie. As you can see, our relationship now is strictly professional.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Post-Equinox Status Report

(Ganked from The Internet.)

On we plow.

You'll notice the new look. (Maybe?) The old one had suffocatingly narrow margins that I couldn't figure out how to adjust, so I replaced it with another drab, factory-made template that I can only superficially tweak. Forget calculus. If I were smart I'd be trying to learn HTML.

This move will undoubtedly throw the formatting of some of the older entries out of whack, so I'll probably have to revisit and unbork them. It will be good an opportunity as any to get an idea about what the hell I've been doing with this blog over the past few years and devise better post labels for the sake of a more accessible archive (even if I'm the only one with any interest in accessing it).

So! Following at the heels of an earlier "personal discernment through crowdsourcing" entry comes another report of another self-inflicted conundrum. Maybe it's just another shoot from some singular (and as of yet obscure or at least unadmitted) root problem.

There are a few questions, and they're all questions of balance. Quality and quantity. Satisfaction and recognition. The process and the results. Life and art.

I've been keeping busy. Day job is at the forefront, obviously. (Well -- at this point, yeah, I've got to drop the "day" prefix. But for the time I consider my job neither my vocation nor my raison d'ĂȘtre.) But there's other stuff. Friends around here; friends out of town. There's a woman in my life lately. I've been reading more fiction and poetry. Boring through this calculus textbook has been both a blast and a toilsome uphill struggle, but as soon as I finish this introductory chapter on integration I'm putting the jumper cables to my dabbling studies in astronomy.

Life's been happening a lot lately, I guess.

While I haven't dropped writing by any means, my output lately is lower that it has been in the past. I have an excuse: the stuff I've been working on is, for the most part, stuff that either won't be fit for an audience for some time yet, or is stuff I'd rather try throwing at literary magazines (for fun and street cred) before casting them adrift into cyberspace from here or elsewhere. I'm working, but nobody's seeing the work.

That's what I worry about. Output. There are two qualifiers which distinguish someone who likes to say he's a writer (or an artist) from a writer (or an artist). The first is that he writes (or makes art). He must exhibit walk walking in addition to just talk talking. The other is that he reaches an audience, or otherwise just puts his work out there, shows it to people. One can't call himself a writer or artist of any effectiveness unless is work is having a tangible impact on people (however minor an impact, however few people, as long as both are real), and no lover of a craft could claim any fidelity to it if he's content to engage with it ineffectively.

When I used to bitch to an old friend about how disappointing it was to stay up all night working on a piece that only a couple of people would probably ever read, she couldn't understand the reason it ate at me. To her, the work itself was everything; making a point of trying to get people to see it constituted a kind of exhibitionism.

I could never agree with her on this. Say you create something -- you knit a scarf, whittle a canary from a chunk of wood, make a clay pot, or whatever. There's a very practical difference between taking what you've made and putting it on your own mantle (or throwing it in the closet) and giving it to someone else.

Wait. That analogy doesn't quite fit.

So it's come to this, then: it's the difference between masturbation and sex.

Pleasure is best when it's shared. Exertion is more satisfying when somebody other than yourself benefits from it. If I wanted to please only myself, I'd just keep a journal.

Obvious correlation: that between frequency of output and recognition in the digital operant-twitch paradigm. If you want people to see your work, your best bet is to keep churning and churning it out. Five days a week. M-W-F. Boom boom boom. That's the prevailing wisdom, anyway, at least where the web goes -- and where the web goes is where the audience goes.

I fear burnout. When you attempt to juggle the work that sustains you, the work that fulfills you, friends, romances, social commitments, idle leisure, and sleep, one of the balls is probably gonna get dropped. I've experienced intervals of burnout -- when I hated what I was working on, kept working at it out of inertia, and produced crappy (but consistent) output -- but it never lasted. I took a break and eventually got back in a comfortable groove I've seen the chronic version in some erstwhile comic artist friends: they're still putting the work out, but it's not the same anymore. The zest is gone.

Burnout is when the art becomes work, and the work becomes life -- and when life ceases to be life, the art begins to fail.

Not having the mettle or fortune to earn the right to a deadline (other than the self-imposed sort) on one's art carries one advantage: it affords one the chance to spend his time on other things than his art if he pleases.

Where was the point again? Was there a point?

Should that be the next question?

But anyway. Enough navel gazing for one night.

Let's see here. I read through and revised that novel-length manuscript, but I still feel like it needs  JUST. ONE. MORE. editorial pass, and maybe another few test readers. I'm working on a new short story (ach, but it's going to end up being too long for most publications), and I've got some more comic strips I'd like to do soon. I'm also about halfway through Mother 3, which means a writeup is on the horizon. (It might be the last video game piece I'll ever do, but we'll see.) Also, there are chickens living in my bathroom.

Keeping busy. But on the whole, having a pretty good time.

April arrives in just one week. Remember what that means?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

James: Jack & Jill

(Picasso's L'Etreinte taken from somewhere.)

From On Some of Life's Ideals by William James:

In my previous talk, "On a Certain Blindness," I tried to make you feel how soaked and shot-through life is with values and meanings which we fail to realize because of our external and insensible point of view. The meanings are there for the others, but they are not there for us. There lies more than a mere interest of curious speculation in understanding this. It has the most tremendous practical importance. I wish that I could convince you of it as I feel it myself. It is the basis of all our tolerance, social, religious, and political. The forgetting of it lies at the root of every stupid and sanguinary mistake that rulers over subject-peoples make. The first thing to learn in intercourse with others is non-interference with their own peculiar ways of being happy, provided those ways do not assume to interfere by violence with ours. No one has insight into all the ideals. No one should presume to judge them off-hand. The pretension to dogmatize about them in each other is the root of most human injustices and cruelties, and the trait in human character most likely to make the angels weep.

Every Jack sees in his own particular Jill charms and perfections to the enchantment of which we stolid onlookers are stone-cold. And which has the superior view of the absolute truth, he or we? Which has the more vital insight into the nature of Jill's existence, as a fact? Is he in excess, being in this matter a maniac? or are we in defect, being victims of a pathological anaesthesia as regards Jill's magical importance? Surely the latter; surely to Jack are the profounder truths revealed; surely poor Jill's palpitating little life-throbs are among the wonders of creation, are worthy of this sympathetic interest; and it is to our shame that the rest of us cannot feel like Jack. For Jack realizes Jill concretely, and we do not. He struggles toward a union with her inner life, divining her feelings, anticipating her desires, understanding her limits as manfully as he can, and yet inadequately, too; for he is also afflicted with some blindness, even here. Whilst we, dead clods that we are, do not even seek after these things, but are contented that that portion of eternal fact named Jill should be for us as if it were not. Jill, who knows her inner life, knows that Jack's way of taking it—so importantly—is the true and serious way; and she responds to the truth in him by taking him truly and seriously, too. May the ancient blindness never wrap its clouds about either of them again! Where would any of us be, were there no one willing to know us as we really are or ready to repay us for our insight by making recognizant return? We ought, all of us, to realize each other in this intense, pathetic, and important way.

If you say that this is absurd, and that we cannot be in love with everyone at once, I merely point out to you that, as a matter of fact, certain persons do exist with an enormous capacity for friendship and for taking delight in other people's lives; and that such persons know more of truth than if their hearts were not so big. The vice of ordinary Jack and Jill affection is not its intensity, but its exclusions and its jealousies. Leave those out, and you see that the ideal I am holding up before you, however impracticable to-day, yet contains nothing intrinsically absurd.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nicotine Fiend

Thanks for the advice, folks. The sense of the feedback I'm getting is that I should prioritize prose over comic strips, and I find that very helpful and even a little validiting.


(clickmic for comic.)

I must admit that this one was a lot of fun.

So I have some notes for a prose piece and sketches for a new comic sitting on my desk. Guess I'll start fiddling with them both and see which captures my interest, although I'm still feeling a bias towards writing.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Qomics Quandary

(Thumbnail! Clicky.)

It's been a couple of months since I've done any comics, and I've got a bunch of scripts backlogged. Last night I sat down and started on a new strip.

I'm not sure I'm going to finish it. Looks like we've finally arrived at the crossroads.

Question: should I keep making comics?

I mean, I could be writing instead (blog posts, short fiction, long fiction, etc.) and at the moment it's not like I'm suffering from any shortage of ideas. If I work on comic strips for two or three hours a night, that's two or three hours that I'm not writing.

This wouldn't be a concern if: 

1.) It didn't take me such a bloody long time to make a comic strip. I've never timed myself because I truly don't want to know.

2.) For all the time it takes, my comic strips still look. . .unimpressive. I won't deny there's a charm to them, but something so visually underwhelming shouldn't take so fucking long to make. There are too many other people who can produce better-looking work at a much faster rate than me. It is disheartening.

3.) Drawing will probably never be something at which I excel, but I know I can write better than most people, and my development as an author still hasn't peaked. If I'm going to invest time and energy into cultivating a talent, shouldn't I choose the one with the most potential for growth?

4.) I might be mistaken, but I would like to think that my prose has a greater likelihood of getting under readers' skins and into their heads than my comic strips. We return to the time factor. I could spend twenty hours writing and drawing a comic strip that somebody reads in twenty seconds and chuckles at mildly. Or I could spend thirty hours writing and polishing a fiction piece that takes somebody five to fifteen minutes to read and rattles them and makes them think. (Again, I've never timed myself. Just throwing numbers out there.)

A thought that gives me pause: a comic strip might elicit (say) fifty chuckles, while a prose piece would only get the wheels turning in only three or four different heads. Comics are more widely read and circulated; they're easier to read, process, and appreciate.

But then again:

X.) It's been years since 8 Easy Bits. How many people are still with me, anyway?

Y.) The webcomics game is about frequency. If I can't update once a week, I probably can't expect to draw in readers who will come back. Maintaining a regular update schedule for the amount of time necessary to get into readers' RSS feeds is a commitment I'm not sure I'm willing to make, because:

Z.) Lately I've been having more fun writing than drawing. Maybe that's because I don't know how to use Illustrator and I'm so maladroit with a tablet. For all my griping about writing and editing, I almost always have a worse time drawing and shopping.

Or should I just shut up and finish that comic strip I already got started on?

Requesting guidance, please.