Monday, November 30, 2009

The Oaf, He Ponder

Lisa took this one on Thanksgiving. Interestingly enough, ever since Viable Paradise I've been able to look at photos of myself without cringing. "Huh," I think. "Not bad for a Cro-Mag."

I've been going through it lately. The flu, the onset of my winter depression, a serious shake-up in my artistic self-appraisal, and any number of life-dramas have all hit at around the same time. As a result, I've been unable to function properly for a while now. I'm going to have to drop my classes, which is a massive bummer. I've just lost too much time to make it up.

But I have had time to think productively.

The big decision has been that given my financial circumstances and the state of the novel, I'm changing my priorities. I need work that I can do from my workstation; I think editing and copy writing are my best options. I've been planning on doing the editing program at the UC Berkeley Extension as soon as my novel starts making the rounds of editors and agents.

Nope. I need to make some kind of straight-job my first priority. So next Fall, I start the editing program.

I might feel differently about this if I felt more confidence in the novel, but I've gotten a bunch of critiques from fresh readers recently, and while they vary wildly on the particulars (everything that bugged someone, someone else loved -- this has been an amazing lesson on how little authorial intent counts for), the consistent complaint has been too much deadwood, not enough story.

So I've joined two classes taught by the popular novelist Holly Lisle. One is a free class on plot, the other is an intensive on revising novels. Hopefully, by the time I've finished these, I'll have a better grip on things. Tell the truth, right now I'm not sure whether or not the novel is going to be publishable at the end of the day -- but most first novels aren't, right?

So since my progress on the novel is going to be paced by the course, I'm going to be working on some short fiction. Of course, my recent sale is a source of inspiration there, but I'm also interested in using the shorts as a laboratory to test plotting and outlining techniques. It's all about the skills.

And I've been thinking about my art as well. I failed to complete my report on my trip to the MOMA -- long story short, I found myself respecting most of the work there, enjoying the hell out of much of it, and felt a jealous desire to participate in that world. But that desire was tempered by the knowledge that the work I've done that wouldn't seem out of place in that environment was not the work that pleased me the most, or the work that I most enjoyed doing. While I can pull off fine-arts stuff, I am, at heart, an illustrator rather than a fine artist.

So I came away wondering about what I really wanted from my art.

This feeling was intensified when I was sick and found myself unable to read prose, watch television, or cruise the internet for entertainment. I went through a few fever-addled days of not knowing what I wanted to do, and then I turned to comics and cartoons.

And I was strongly reminded of what had drawn me to learn art in the first place -- and why I've never actually done much cartooning and comics work. (Again, long story short -- I'm not much interested in drawing the same characters over and over and over again.)

So I've been thinking long and hard about what kind of art I like to do, and how to integrate it with my writing. I ain't gonna go into it now -- while I do a lot, I also talk a lot about things I don't do -- but I'm thinking. Thinking hard.

We shall see.


Glendon Mellow said...

I hate when duty gets in the way - I want a fawning sycophantic Renaissance patron to invite me to fancy dinners in between fat commissions.

The early dark of winter always finds me contemplating the future. It sounds to me like your assessment of options is stil filled with hope and focus on your end goal, and not just your immediate ones. Don't lose that.

Allison Landa said...

I echo what Glendon said. I think the editing program is a great idea and will really open up doors for you, especially as the economy improves -- you gonna be my professional competition, yo!

Sean Craven said...

Heh. Glendon, your comment makes me think of a conversation I once had with my brother...

Bro Stymie: I always thought you'd have been better off if you'd been born in the olden days.

Oaf: I hear you. I should have been one of those scholars some castle dude kept in one of his spare towers.

Bro Stymie: Naw, I was thinking you'd have been more like Vlad the Impaler.

And I'd have wanted to go through the editorial program regardless. It'll improve my writing.

And hey -- I still might have a marketable version of the novel before the classes start. Next fall is still a ways off.

And Allison. Don't think of it as competition. Think of it as free editing!

Andrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew said...

The idea that life is over, and you have somehow given up if you get a "real job" is such an old and lame stereotype that it has become a staple of second rate romantic comedies.

You are fortunate that you have real talent for editing, which can be profitable AND allow you to be creative, by helping others to maximize the quality and appeal of their works. You can take satisfaction from contributing something real and making a buck at the same time.

Most importantly, you will already be at the same keyboard and internet, surrounded by the same inspirational collection hard-covers and paperbacks (I know you, you need musty paper smell to survive) that you will use to create your own gifts to humanity (if you can find a decent editor).

Besides, there's still the chance that malevolent alien overlords will arrive, and we'll be much too busy trying to save our species even to worry about career choices.

Maybe THEY be will be violently allergic to musty paper smell...

Much love, Sean

Sean Craven said...

Hey, Andrew!

I'm not saying having a straight job is a tragedy. I like working, and I'd really like to have some money for a fucking change.

I've been planning on doing this for the last couple of years -- I just didn't think that the novel would be so hard to write, or that my financial situation would go belly-up so quickly. (Me and the rest of the fucking country, eh?)

That said, as a writer/artist, there's a level of skill that just isn't attainable or maintainable unless you can pledge your working life to it. I simply wouldn't be as good as I am if I hadn't been able to devote the last few years to the arts, and I will miss that.

On the other hand, everything I learn in the editing classes will help me write, and I'll bet the the work itself won't do me any harm. And it may well lead to work that's the kind of thing I like to do. I've already had a stint writing scripts for a living, and I got to be pretty good at it, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

But at the end of the day, my goal is to be able to make a living creating what I want to create. That said, I'd rather have a straight job and create on the side than do hack work without producing anything that I'm proud of.

There are always compromises in life -- but that's no reason not to set your sites high. Like I said, this isn't a tragedy.

Zachary said...

I'm going through this phase right now, as you know. In order to stave off the "same characters all the time" rut, I'm giving Lily seven sisters who pop into her life at various times, and lots of soon-to-be harvested dudes.

Gotta learn how to draw all that shit first. *sigh*

Raptor Lewis said...

I´m sorry you have to drop out of school, but I´m glad to see you have determination and hope! That's what's most important right now! We, at the blogosphere, will be watching, waiting, and hoping for stability and success! Good Luck!