Weep not for my writing, followers dear: I am not dead, but painting here. 🙂
It comes to something when you find yourself asking: do I really want to be the guy who turns up in most badly-scripted costume/fantasy dramas – the one who, after uttering the immortal line “I like a girl with spirit” will inevitably end up being kicked in the, er, spirit, or given a lengthy and painful ego-ectomy throughout the rest of the plot?
I don’t think anybody actually wants to be That Guy. That Guy never gets the girl. That Guy, in common with all villains (whether they be of the super or petty variety) wears white boxer shorts emblazoned with bright red cartoon hearts which will be exposed to the world for his ritual humiliation at some point in the story (potentially, for maximum comic effect, in front of the vicar/his peers/his mum/the hero and heroine. I have a whole other Villainous Underwear Theory that I’ll have to go into another time.)
The thing is, you see, that despite the fact you wouldn’t want to be him, you kind of have to appreciate where That Guy is coming from. He’s actually saying that he likes a challenge. He doesn’t just want any girl. He wants the one who’ll cause him pain, put up a fight, be a thorn in his side and ultimately be the worst possible romantic match since Albert Einstein drew a member of the cast of America’s Next Top Model on match.com. (No offense, Albie: but girls, he’s totally out of your league. With a tongue like that, attached to a brain like that? Urrgh, I just disgusted myself)
In my usual rambling way I’m telling you that this week I started reading a popular quantum physics book. It’s the sort of book that likely makes proper physicists cringe, but then (now, don’t be shocked) I’m not a scientist. I’m actually about as far from being a scientist as it’s possible to get without becoming Mystic Meg. In fact, if you look up “scentists” in the dictionary, it’ll say “noun, plural: those people who were making microprocessors and taking photos on Mars while ETG was still beggaring about with flints trying to discover fire. (see also: point and laugh (slang)”
But enough of my inadequacies. Put simply, quantum physics (and indeed its antecedents classical physics and modern physics) and my brain just don’t get along. There’s some kind of incompatibility there at a basic cellular level, a bit like trying to gene-splice a bat and a piece of potato. I’m a thing of the arts (that’s arts, children, pronounce it carefully), an odd, ungrounded sort of creature who lives on the intangible and the unreal and the potential of words and images. Physics is a thing of mathematics: it seeks to define reality using numbers.
(though actually, quantum physics is a bit of an odd bird: mathematics to define the intangible, mathematics to encapsulate the uncertain and unpredictable. How ‘ bout that?)
So for a few days now, quantum physics and I have been doing this little dance, with myself playing the role of That Guy while Physics, resplendant in a lovely corset and bustle, kicks me in the metaphorical balls.
And like That Guy, I keep coming back. Because I like my learning with spirit. I know my limitations. I know I don’t have a physics brain, and with all the effort and pop science books in the world, I never, ever will. I have to read six pages of this undoubtedly simplistic quantum physics book sixteen times to grasp a concept that most first-year science majors eat for breakfast. But the challenge that I both love and hate is the challenge of the unknown and the unattainable. The pull on the heart and mind that is the pull of the alien, the unfamiliar, even the things that are a little frightening.
Opposites attract, after all.
Addendum: I think I’d like to pull the challenge into my comfort zone. My comfort zone is where I write, and where I draw. Would you like to challenge me to something? A quick read or view will show you what my areas of specialism are. Find something else and offer it up to me on a plate, just like physics. It can be something within my existing interests and/or fandoms, just a different angle or theme: or something quite new.
On Twitter today the hashtag #WordsThatDescribeMehas been trending. I wanted to post something in response, but was having trouble choosing the right words.
Then I decided I wanted to put “writer” and that in itself caused a minor existential crisis which I, because I am Generous (a good word) wanted to share with you, Constant, Inconstant and On-The-Offchance Readers alike.
A couple of people have been kind (or indeed perspicacious) enough to point out that although I constantly bang on about writing fiction I haven’t really provided any evidence of activity here to back it up, save for a rather unfortunate parody poem.
Yes, I do really truly genuinely write actual stories. Honest. It’s rather unfortunate really: once the tap’s on, the drivel just keeps flowing out, mostly unchecked and certainly almost always unedited. I even enter contests, though I’m rarely successful: I got a runner-up mention a few years ago. (It was without doubt the best thing that had happened to me for ages.)
I also freely admit to being a fanfiction author and generator of more ridiculous fanart than any sane person would want to shake a stick at –
(what do you mean, a sane person wouldn’t go around randomly shaking sticks? Shame on you. Shame.)
– but that’s equally not an admission as such, because anyone can find my fan stuff easily enough using Google (other search engines are available) should they so desire.
But the original stuff, what one laughably refers to as “the real stuff”, well, now, that’s different. I’m as prissy as an old maiden aunt about it. (or possibly the Queen. “One” refers to? Get it together, ETG) I rarely share it with anyone. In fact I can currently think of only four living people who have suffered through having my original works inflicted upon them. Four people. And yet I gladly give up the fanstuffs to the untold anonymous millions on the internet.
(In case you’re wondering, I haven’t knowingly inflicted my original works on dead people, either. Unless some of you have become zombies when I wasn’t looking, in which case, I’m heading for the Isle of Wight and I’m carrying a baseball bat, so no designs on my brain)
Why is that, I wonder?
It’s not because I’m ashamed of my original work. Nor is it because I’m harbouring a truly genuine belief that anything I write will ever be worth selling – hope, yes, but not belief. It’s more because, as I was rambling on about in my previous entry, they feel more personal. It’s like the difference between having your scarf fall off in public and having your trousers fall down in public. And you see, people are likely to pick up your scarf and hand it back to you.
(If they try and pick up your trousers, they’re probably either a very weird, specialist thief or a fetishist. Each to their own.)
This is why I’d think I’d be pretty damn bad at trying to market anything original I write. Basically, in my head, I’d be standing there holding my trousers up with one hand while trying to convince someone to buy them. It’s just not a scenario a sane person would wish to contemplate.
But this doesn’t change the basic fact that when I want to describe myself I want to say “writer”, because when I write I am more centred than I ever am in any other area of my life, save perhaps when I draw.
And sometimes that definition is a little bit personal, and sometimes it’s not.
Somebody once said of me that if I could find a way of apologising to the population of Earth for the whole complex and messed-up device that manages the building blocks of creation, I would.
(They may not have used those actual words. They may have said: “ETG, you’d say sorry if God farted.” But I’m a slave to long words and besides, I don’t care for fart jokes.)
Now I firmly admit to being British, and we’re a nation of apologisers. We have a collective guilt complex so huge you could use it to humble a continent. If someone stands on our toes, we say “Gosh, was that your foot? Terribly sorry. I hope the blood hasn’t stained any of those massive, outsized hobnails.”
I’m also, of course, an introvert, and part of my being is dedicated to not being noticed. Being self-effacing is one of my finest defense mechanisms. It stops my remarkably minute ego being trampled on regularly with the aforementioned hobnails as possessed by most of the rest of humanity.
But self-effacing doesn’t sell, and neither, by this token, will anything I try to market, whether it be a short story, a novel or a picture.
I’m not helped by the fact that my works (which is much too grand a term for them – see, there’s that self-effacing thing springing into action again) are a little what you might call “fringe”. Or, if you’re Normal, call them Weird. Especially the art. Thanks to Harry Potter and the Hollywood blockbuster, fantasy fiction actually has a decent chance these days.
I also know a fair few people who make a fair few bucks selling artwork and stories that don’t represent their own core talents and/or interests at all. You know the thing. A painter who specialises in beautifully traditional chocolate-box perfect scenes takes up dada-esque splashy canvasses because large corporations want to buy them in bulk for their meeting rooms. A writer whose mind naturally dreams up perfect gory horrors takes up writing short womens’ interest stories for “Take A Break” magazine (actually, I’ve read that magazine. Horror writers may have found their niche after all, if only in mangling perfectly good vocabulary and syntax)
And they do it for the money, which causes other creatives to accuse them of “selling out”. I find myself wondering: would I be better off doing this? Does this in any way compromise one’s integrity as a creative? If, as I have previously asserted, anything at all that you do creatively has worth to your artistic soul, what of those who find material worth in it as well?
Because I feel I have to apologise profusely for anything that I do, I can’t help feeling that were I to write a deliberately potential best-seller (probably, given the latest developments in the field, a story based on a fanfic that features, I don’t know, a love triangle between a merman, a pixie and a vampire whose skin turns blue if it rains) I would then feel tremendous guilt over my inability to get my “other work” published. This isn’t to say I would feel my best-seller had no creative validity (though probably, looking at the central conceit, it might not have much of a plot unless you’re fond of tenuous MacGuffins).
Does getting paid for it make a difference? Is there, in truth, any such thing as selling out?
So I’m a little angry with myself today. Mostly because I’m starting to get sick of being needy.
Psychologically speaking, I may be a fuckup, but I like to kid myself I’m an independant fuckup. I am a fuckup with pride. I may even be a fuckup with integrity.
So why is it that whenever I create anything, be it a piece of fiction, a sketch, a painting, I can’t seem to be happy with it unless someone else is?
Lord knows, I try. I want to go back to those heady days when I was young and the thing itself was what mattered, not the reception. I used to write in secret. Didn’t show anyone, like writing was something grubby that it was better I kept to myself.
(Just to give you an idea: this was when I was writing in longhand, using a Parker pen with washable blue ink, on lined paper. Double sided. We’re not quite in stone tablet territory here, but close enough, methinks)
And it was enough, god help me, it was enough. To write, and to read back to myself: to be pleased by what I saw and to enjoy the world or character I had created. It was enough.
And yet somehow I’ve become slavish: writing, drawing, posting online, waiting for someone to tell me “hey, not bad.” Look at me, the great ETG. I mean something. Some random teenager told me I can draw cats “not bad.” I’m king of the world.
My name’s EasyThereGenius, and I’m a validation junkie, and I’m pretty damn annoyed.