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?


  1. It's an interesting conundrum. I imagine most artists want to be heard, but the only way to gain notoriety and momentum is to make output regular. If you're prolific, you're bound to be discovered by more people as time goes on, and you'll develop a hefty backlog for newcomers. But wouldn't you rather maintain a passion for it? Is it more exciting for people to discover you or for you to complete a piece and find some satisfaction in it?

    1. These are good questions, but I'm still at a loss for an answer.

  2. HTML is easy.

    Now, my opinion is probably biased since I have some experience in programming and specifically took a class on internet programming/scripting languages, but it technically doesn't cover all that much of what a web designer does these days. Even back in the Web 1.0 days when its dizzying array of 'support' languages (stuff like CSS, which is entirely for website aesthetics, and PHP, which is for making HTML on the fly based on user input), it was designed to be simple in order to increase the popularity of the internet. This did result in a lot of horrible looking webpages, but it's probably better than the alternative of an underutilized internet.

    Anyways, the fact that I wrote up this blob for you should probably be taken as at least one person caring enough about what you say to read your blog, even if I don't respond very often.

    1. Hah! I knew I should have typed "learn web design" instead of "learn HTML." I just didn't think anyone would call me on it.

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for the note!