Archive for January, 2011

January 28, 2011

take your plane and steer it into the ground

it’s like january has been the process of learning how to do january. i have a calendar on my wall full of x’s for the days i’ve written, and a book of scribbles that show where those days went. before january i was all set to roll into the year like a straight shot, overconfident like i sometimes am and even then lying to myself only a little bit when i notched out each days’ work as part of a larger build towards Something. the last week has been the low part of a cycle i have gone through god knows how many times, when things don’t work. it’s not even that they don’t work so much as you just lose focus and soon your hands are in too many projects and that bilbo baggins image of thinly-spread butter is coming into your head at least once a day. check yo self.
bad days, really bad days, are always better than those low level, in between days where you’re still humming along in a broken routine, but it hasn’t gotten bad enough that you stop for maintenance. part of growing older is you learn to see the patterns more quickly and when you feel yourself in a loop you take that fucker and drive it straight into the ground, because a crash is a beautiful thing sometimes and then you’ve got to do something other than just keep going. one of the strange things about being yourself is just being so bored and so tired of your own mind that blowing shit up, in some juvenile metaphorical sense, sounds like the best idea ever. when you have the attention span of a wikipedia jumper and read only the first fifteen pages from each of the ten books you’re juggling, it’s time to crash land.
what does that mean. for one thing i am aware of my own need to clean up my writings to a certain external standard, and i may stop doing that. it rarely feels natural to mouth off at such length as this; i’d use twitter more if it didn’t feel like yelling at actors on a screen. but the way thoughts come out, and the way the good, unavoidable certainties come out, is like this: in colorful disarray. in poetry, if i may use a word i used to frown at. so whatever. that was january.


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January 27, 2011

a special kind of crazy

i am anxious about time.

some mornings i rise at 8:30 and some a little before 11; whatever the time, i sit down to write for an hour, using a sand timer, an lp, and lots and lots of tea. and in the middle of it i am usually shaking with mild panic about where it’s all heading, and by the end i feel that satisfaction that can only be won through having done it long enough, from warming up and getting through a rough patch. and then it’s over.
this morning ritual is constant; without it i’d probably go mad in no time. but transitioning from the morning to the rest of the day is where things go wrong: it doesn’t matter when i begin; when the hour is up, i immediately want to reclaim it. something about being properly productive makes you feel, somewhere in your head, that you should get the time back because you used it so well. perhaps it is akin to that somewhat perverse thought you have after someone you love has died; you’ve bonded with your friends, learned the importance of honesty and¬†companionship, and you have a moment where you think, i’ve learned the lesson. can i have them back now?
any pocket of time, well used or wasted, makes me fixate on the clock. no amount of rational awareness of the ‘illusion’ of time can stop me from this anxiety. a clock is ticking somewhere, and it is the sound of terror.
after a bit of analysis, i realize that this can never be overcome directly; no amount of productivity will ever be Enough to quell the fear that comes when the day wanes. it’s just there. life is moving toward its end – slow as it may feel – but all the same, it’s there (as this fact is universal, i feel like it shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. surely other people have found some way to live with it). it is vague and unhelpful to focus on ‘just doing what you want to do’ (try staying up til all hours some night because it ‘felt like the thing to do’ and tell me how great you feel the next day), and going clock-free doesn’t stop the clocks in your mind.
what does it take? how can we be satisfied?
no answers. the best i can do is to work day in, day out and make little tweaks based on each day’s experience. working on things does not give you answers, but it does teach you tricks. learning your own special brand of crazy so you can better trick yourself into circumventing it is worth a lot.

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January 14, 2011

where do we go from here?

i haven’t been writing blogs lately because i haven’t had much to say, and that is the truth. i have been writing daily but most of it has been the same old business and i don’t need to post any more of that online, giving voice to my fears and tired mantras. i’ve been writing, and working, and trying to get things sorted out as much as i realistically can.
i’ve pushed through enough different approaches and lived enough cycles of self-deceiving ‘planning stages’ to know that the best way to learn/grow/etc is to just start working and learn by error and feel, but even that basic nugget carries its own bag of sabotaging tricks. my history is against me; i was always good at slipping into borrowed voices and making a passable effort, coming up with something that would be good enough. i don’t suffer from lack of ideas. when i try to put it to myself as plainly as i can, it comes down to having infinite options and paths before me, and not knowing which one is truest to take. and that is a hard question, one i know can’t be answered any way but through trial and error.
so today was spent writing down ideas and working out panels for new comics, but the truth is most of the time was spent trying to ignore that part of my brain that screamed at me that it was all shit, was hopeless, and that i’d never make it. based on experience, those voices get the loudest when they’re feeling threatened. so i take it as a good sign. i also know they will never ever go away.
it feels very shallow and solipsistic to get worked up about such things, when there are people facing far more difficult and legitimate problems everywhere; the question of what i should make and how to make art that is mine feels really indulgent and pretentious. it is a luxury to even have the sort of calm that allows such considerations to exist. but that’s my life, that’s where i am right now. i started today, and it is the hardest thing not to look at what little i’ve done and discount it, setting myself back to square one, again and again and again.


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January 6, 2011

dreams they complicate my life

today i woke up from a nightmare with the following line in my head: nowadays most people look forward to the zombie apocalypse. i wrote it down a few times in a few different ways, and then went to record the rest of the dream details in my pac-man moleskine before they evaporated. outside it was grey.
these days thoughts on the zombie apocalypse seem to veer between charged enthusiasm and boredom. it is a tired idea; every film has been made, every possible concept and twist explored. the only recent ones to offer any fresh perspective have been zombieland, shaun of the dead, and 28 days later – the first two thankfully finding a little humor in the horror of it all (i feel more and more certain that the difference between the two is a matter of degrees). 28 days later, to its immense credit, at least showed how everyday people are impacted by such events. but i digress.
culturally, the idea of a zombie apocalypse has been embraced in a weird mad max sort of way; people stock up on goggles, websites selling zombie-killing merchandise exist (google zombie tools if you don’t believe me – these are real weapons that you can buy for a lot of money), and it’s all become very romantic and video-gamey. fine. whatever. from a storytelling perspective, monsters are a fantastic symbolic device: zombies representing our cultural decay, our estrangement from one another; vampires standing in for our lust and darker natures, etc. it can be argued that every monster in buffy was a teenage angst made manifest. i enjoy a good monster story as much as anyone for the way they hit us on a visceral level, the subtext buried nicely under a rush of adrenaline.
but there is something missing from this picture.
as my dream faded, i was left with this feeling in my gut: people assume that zombies are just zombies, as if they were always that, plucked out of thin air like the creatures who wander onscreen in the beginning of a video game. this is the dominant perception despite the knowledge that in all zombie lore, this is not so: zombies come from somewhere (though where the First Zombie came from is another matter, and more of a bizarrely metaphysical discussion than i care to get into). before all hell broke loose, every zombie was someone’s brother or sister or lover or best mate, and there was probably a lot of chaos and confusion before the dust had settled. someone has to have their life ripped apart before the funland can exist. the world may have gone to hell, but someone’s little life went there first.


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