On Writing and Coping Mechanisms [Not Dead!]

So I moved a few months back. Packed up my life in boxes and flew the family coup and into my own little hobbit hole. Naturally, over the course of culling my many things to make the transition easier, I found a few of my old journals.

A few from high school, some from my first year of working, some sporadically kept up until I couldn’t bear wallowing in my own mind any longer. Quite a few times amidst the chaos of packing and culling, I’d come across an old journal still in its hiding place.

In the past year or so, I’d gotten back into journalling again. I’d picked up a notebook just before I was to run off to Melbourne for a weekend, finding this small blank book at the airport that morning. While drinking over-priced airport coffee in a cafe near my gate, I pulled it out and thought ‘Why not?’.

A small black notebook, nothing fancy. What was important about it was that it was ordinary, and thus I was well within my rights to not be perfect in it.

So I wasn’t. And it became this weird journal/sketchbook/diary thing which I very gleefully mess about in. Lunchtime sketches, to-do lists, shopping lists, the occasional journal entry or story snippet. It became just this delightfully imperfect book.

I had been flicking over this little book the other week after a small lunchtime journalling session and realised something.

But first, let us digress for a moment.

Earlier this year, I’d been looking over all the old things I’d written lately. I have a habit of hopping from project to project, so I thought it’d do me good do look over my many, many WIPs and see if there was one I could breathe some life back into.

Scattered amongst my various WIPS were these half-written journals, but they weren’t even that.

There was a point a few years back when I was dreadfully unhappy, where I just wanted to be nothing but numb because there were feelings too much and too often.

I had been regularly writing at this point, coming off the high of winning my first NaNo and wanting to ride that writing wave for as long as I could.

So why not write it, I thought. Why not take a character, this character who is so much stronger and braver than I am. Let me give this to you, I thought, let me give this imaginary person all these things I can’t shoulder, all these things that I can’t bring myself to talk about out loud (because that way lay tears, and we can’t be having with that).

So I did. Hidden in my folder of stories was this not-quite-a-story. Written in second person, these were monologues more than anything, snippets of a life that I didn’t know how to deal with. But they helped, gave me enough distance to deal with things without having to stuff everything in a box like I’m wont to do.

I’d thought that this was a new thing, a startling discovery on how I could deal with things in a healthier way besides my usual way of suppressing everything until the dam overflowed.

I was wrong, of course. Because when I’d sat cross-legged on my floor, pouring over old journals, I found that this was how I dealt with things. How I’d always dealt with things. From the end years of high school, from struggling with the tail end of my first job, this was my way of coping.

And I’d found while flicking through my little book of imperfections was that I’ve been writing an awful lot of things in second-person lately.

I’m okay, really. Just dealing with things the only way I know how apparently.

(Maybe I’m just having that quarter-life crisis I’ve been joking about.)

I really am fine, even if it does sound like the lady doth protest too much. This week seems like the first time in a while that the fog has lifted. Where for the first time in what seems like months I’m not stumbling through life purely by muscle memory.

So. Maybe I’ll start this up again (heaven knows I’ve been horribly neglecting it). I have a few things in the works at the moment, and I find myself renewed, like a switch I’d long dismissed as broken has suddenly flicked on again.

I’ll make no promises, but living alone now I find myself doing a lot of introspection and little projects which could serve as blog fodder, so who knows?

For now, I’ll let this just stand as a ‘Still Alive!’ sort of entry.

Here’s to the clearing fog, eh?

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Radio Silence + Thoughts from NaNoWriMo-ish

Please forgive the radio silence. I have so many unfinished drafts, you seriously have no idea.

But it’s that time of year again and ye gods, this novel is fighting me like a fighting thing so chances are, save for this little update, blog silence will continue.

Words are hard, yo.

For now, I leave you with my NaNoWriMo mantra.

DSNINJA001

Just for old times sake…
Thoughts from NaNoWriMo – Day 4
*Stares at important but HORRIBLY WRITTEN scene/s*
*cries*

Final word count: 8,005 words

First line written:
“Ariadne, you have to slow down. Breathe with me, okay?” He’s saying, grabbing her hand and placing it on his chest. She’s nodding, fixing her eyes on the steady rise and fall. “Match my breathing. In, out.”

Last line written:
“Do you know, for the longest time I thought you were a computer. Or, like a really fancy AI.”

Favourite line written:
People, she’d long decided, were nice, but Ariadne’s never been one to meet people’s eyes for very long. They shone too brightly, too loudly and she’s never been at ease in that light.

Craaaaaaaap.

Dead Weeks, and Giving no F*#ks [Art Dump]

[At 16/06 – I had the intention of finishing and posting this last week, but alas, I was DED OF SICK. Let us pretend that I did so I do not have to rewrite this whole thing again.]

By royal decree, I officially declare the last few weeks ‘Dead Weeks’ . While I’m completely on top of things work-wise, besides evening Write-Ins, my evenings have been completely and utterly unproductive.

And that’s okay! Dead weeks are okay! I am allowed to crawl home, snuggle into my pajamas and spend the evening watching videos of cats or Gordon Ramsay.

The only reason I give for not declaring last week as a ‘dead week’ is because I was armed with a pen.

And with a pen, I give no fucks.

Which apparently does wonders for my doodle game. Because my brain is a contrary bastard (which is why all of my fun doodles are on goddamned lined paper).

The last few days seemed to have shown that my ridiculous half-assed daily doodles have paid off. With XP comes skill after all, and it looks like ability Daily Doodle apparently has jumped up a few levels.

(Yes, still doing the HabitRPG thing. Level 45 now, and currently on an Epic Quest fighting a Vice Dragon.)

Oh, did you think I was kidding?

Oh, did you think I was kidding?

Either that or I’ve had a series of artistic flukes. (If so, universe please keep them coming).

My doodles lately have mostly been of the digital kind and while Photoshop is still a thing, I’ve since rediscovered Procreate, a shiny iPad app that I’ve had for a while but never really used. UNTIL NOW. AND SWEET BUGGERING ARSE, WHY THE HELL DID I NOT?

This week, I’ve been mostly sacrificing sleep (and possibly sense) courting my creative mistress. When the muse beckons, one must answer.

And by the gods, she has not disappointed.

My artistic process (ha!) is generally 50% drawing/40% erasing/10% swearing, which when working with paper is a bitch and a half. I’ve taken a liking to drawing with pens (though mine are the fancy-erasable type) because with ink its somehow easier to be less concerned with perfection. That being said, when working with pens, it’s also an exercise of trying to be a little less heavy-handed when it comes to lines.

So… a careful sort of carelessness? Or something. Words are hard.

But I need guides and underlines, sketching out the form before bringing out the image (I’d have no idea what I’m doing otherwise). But on paper most days I get as far as a roughed out pose before giving up completely because of the daunting task of drawing on top of it and erasing the undersketch.

Real life needs layers, yo.

And you know what has layers, Procreate has layers. Mind, it has a 16 layer limit but that at least helps reign in my layer abuse (*hides .psd files with a billion layers*).

Behold the joys of layers! (All 16 of them!)

PowderMonkey

If you have told me last year that I could do this on the iPad in an evening with no references I would’ve told you that you were a lying liar who lies.

Okay, so the no references thing shows a bit (barrels of dubious size, weird floating elbows – allow me to list all the flaws for you), but for what started out as a halfhearted doodle, I think it turned out pretty well.

Most of these started out as doodles; you know, faffing about, dropping lines down, trying to pluck an image or character out of the air as I didn’t feel like doing much else.  Each one took about an afternoon/evening. Most of my elf-looking person took two hour-long train rides and needed minimal fussing once I got home again.

I finished them, which is more than I can say for most things I draw. I never finish any digital art, so that’s an Achievement Get! methinks.

Stylistically, I’m all over the goddamned place, and my art MO is apparently to sepia-tone everything because colour is hard.

(Seriously, I’ve used one shade of brown for what, five pieces now.)

But it’s still something, right? I made things! And I do not hate them and think they are horrible (which is important).

I’m learning, and a blank canvas is so much less intimidating than it used to be. I have so many ideas and so many things I can learn, you guys! Like poses, and proportion! (Gods I’m so shite at proportion. And foreshortening! Gah, foreshortening!)

I haven’t even tried all the fun brushes Procreate has to offer. I only just discovered how awesome the Ink brushes are!

It’s exciting!

I can scribble and experiment and screw-up and even if it looks like complete arse, it will still be alright. Because I don’t have to make sad noises and bemoan the fact that I’m terrible at everything (because you’re not, so get over yourself). Fuck that noise! Erase it, start again and the next time it will look less like arse.

TL;DR: GIVE NO FUCKS. MAKE GOOD AHRT. MAKE SHITE AHRT. DRAW ALL THE THINGS.

This ended up in a different place than I thought it would. Meh, I’m excited. WATCH ME BE EXCITED ABOUT THINGS!

Nutshell (28/04 – 04/05)

Kind of a crazy week, drafts are still languishing. Still, productivity, ho!

My Week in a Nutshell

Monday:

IMG_20140430_122935

Hurray for cross-compatibility!

My desk looked like this for most of the week.

Tuesday:

“Bailey, my man, you’re the smithy, aren’t you? I have a blade that needs looking at- Oh, what’s this then, I didn’t know you had a son.”

Her father spun, dropping his hands from her face to meet the voice behind them. “I don’t, I-“

The other man was a short, plump sort who seemed to tremble slightly in curiosity, one of the New Iron men who passed between the Line.

“Sawyer, Sir.” Charlotte spoke over her father, giving the other man a stiff bow. Her voice had never been light and lilting, it sat low in her chest but still higher than most men and boys she knew.

But the man only started at her bow, one white bushy eyebrow raised in question. It was not custom for young men to bow to their elders. They stood high and proud, they were bound for the New Iron, all potential and soon-to-be.

“Bit of an odd one, your boy.” He’d told her father.

– A bit from the evening’s Write-In

Wednesday:

Found in a returned library book.

Thursday:

Her father’s gaze was still boring into her, and he opened his mouth to answer. Sawyer never knew what her father would’ve said, her voice trampled over the words that would’ve spilt the lie between them.

“She’s staying with my mother, sir.” She said, nodding to the shore. “Across the water.”

“Ah, and quite rightly so.” He boomed, his rotund figure practically shaking with approval. “And you’re showing the lad around, are you Bailey?”

Her father rode the chaos of Riddell like a shore rider rode upon the break, a simple lie by his wayward daughter would not trip him up now.

He inclined his head, coming up beside her and clasping a hand on her shoulder.

“‘Course.” Her father said brightly. “Arrived yesterday, giving him the tour.”

“Good, good.” The other man wobbled in excitement. “I’m sure he’ll be bound for New Iron before long, eh?”

Mr Bailey just smiled.

“I’ll leave you to it then.” He said, nodding at them both. “I’ll see you later about that blade, eh?”

“I look forward to it.”

They watched as the man walked away, and her father very visibly relaxed once the rotund figure reached the end of the street and disappeared from view. She felt his hand squeeze her shoulder and looked up see him gazing down at her with a wry smile.

“What am I going to do with you?”

“Squire me around, uncle?” She replied with a grin. “I’m to be your apprentice, after all.

Her father mended his old shirts, fit to her so she looked more like the Iron Men and less like his daughter playing dress-up and it was his old trousers she wore, ones he’d put aside to give to the church on the hill that saved them for beggars. A smithy’s apprentice had no need for finery yet, the men of Riddell didn’t blink at her rags, only at her face that never grew whiskers and a frame that never seemed to grow any bigger.

– A bit from the evening’s Write-In

Friday:

Saturday:

My newest idea popped up while watching episodes of Gordon Ramsay on Youtube. Meh, the muse works in mysterious ways.

Sunday:

Prisoner1

WHAT.

Nutshell

I’m going to try and make this a habit again, blogging. April seems to have kicked my ass into gear, let’s see how long it lasts. I have a few entries about stuff I’ve been working on but from previous experience those seem to just languish in my Drafts folder, never to see the light of day. So we’ll start off easy, eh?

My Week in a Nutshell

Monday:

Easter Monday Nom Cha

Tuesday:

The fire burned low now, throwing distorted shadows across the floor that seemed tinged with a malice they both knew didn’t live in that small apartment. But there was something in the shadows of the Quarter tonight, they both knew. Julian had seen it in the cuts that littered Clara’s body like bloodstained ivy, and Sawyer had felt it firsthand. 

Julian sat in Elias’ worn armchair like he regretted taking up the space, a meekness that was at odds with the usually unflappable scribe. But they both of them were out of their element. Sawyer was at sea in a mind that for the better part of the evening wasn’t hers alone and Julian, the scribe was barely keeping afloat in the sorrow that came off of him in waves.

– A bit from the evening’s Write-In

Wednesday:

Scribbles to stave off sleep.

Thursday:
Several times that morning:
Boss: *walks into office* Hey, so I have a question for you-
Me: *hamster cheeks full of food*

Bonus:
Third time that morning:
Boss: *bursts in* Oh hey, another thing-
Me: *hastily swallows* Goddammit, you’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?!
Boss: *laughs*

Friday:

Saturday:

Sunday:

If nothing else, I’d like to at least try and do one of these on a Sunday evening. But again, let’s see how long that lasts.

Courting The Moment

So I took out my notepad and pen on Thursday to get some writing done… and doodles fell out.

2014-04-17 22.13.33-12014-04-17 22.10.51-1
What began as trying to figure out the layout of a scene turned into inky people, indistinct but still clearly people, clearly human (hopefully), doing their own thing.

I’ve learned to court the moment, to follow the whims of my brain. For the last few weeks, words have been falling out of my hands and onto a page with an ease I hadn’t encountered since last November and I’ve been happily riding the wave.

I probably shouldn’t complain (and I’m not, not really) that my brain has decided that this week my post-it note artworks weren’t enough. That it felt like drawing people with lines rather than with the words it had been in the weeks before.

During a clean-up earlier this year, I found a bunch of my old sketchbooks, dating back from my last year of high school up until last year and flicking through them I found myself thinking “Why on earth did i stop?”.

Ryan kitty Cat bird

Looking back, my favourites were never forced. They’d come from courting the urge, picking up the pencil when the mood struck and seeing what fell out. I’ve always been a little contrary (ask my mother, she’ll tell you) and trying to making a masterpiece or something that matched the vision in my head always ended in failure and smudged pages.

Which is why this year’s drawn pride comes from doodles on trains and marginalia that slowly got out of control.

I didn't need those notes anyway...

I didn’t need those notes anyway…

Because, they’re just doodles, aren’t they? The pauses between one word and the next, a distraction for my pen while my mind decided on the next part of a scene, a coping mechanism for boring work meetings, a way to pass the time when the library was particularly quiet.

Afternoon commute

Afternoon commute

Or just something to do on the hour long train ride to and from work. Sketches that don’t mean anything, that I’ve no need to worry myself over if they don’t turn out the way I pictured in my head.

I’ve never had the most skilled hand when it comes to art (that’s always been reserved for my sister), so if I find a small amount of happiness in scribbles in margins and on post-its then so be it. I still take words in my hands and fumble, sometimes it takes a half-drawn room or a silhouette of a man to make a scene fall onto the page the way I want it to.

Singer’s Quarter started with a alleyway, sketched out in a cafe in an afternoon before a Write-In. Sawyer was running around with a spear, rappelling down a wall, had her fists up ready for a fight before she even had a name. World-building has always been a difficult thing for me and for this particular project my scribbled visuals seemed to help with the dropping of words to page.

How I spent my Good Friday

How I spent my Good Friday

I’ve since unearthed my tablet from the deep, dark depths of my bedroom, trying once again to dip my toes into the digital pond. Having an open digital scribble pad has become my equivalent of drawing in the margins when my whims take me to having an open manuscript on Storyist instead of my notebook.

Colour! I get to play with colour! This time round my forays into digital art comes with a little bit more of an idea of what I’m doing. Not very much, but I’m less hung up on perfection this time round (ha!) and so have more room to play with scribbles and sketches until method and technique emerge.

So I’m going to keep doodling in my margins, on my scribble pad, on scrap pieces of paper and on post-its. And when a moment comes sauntering by in all her finery, I’m gonna court the hell out of it and by gods, we’ll produce the finest work of art my skill level can provide!

(Which will inevitably be found on the very edge of a handwritten page or squeezed around work notes because that’s just how I roll).