Playing to My Strengths

I have a lot of moments in my life where I second guess the choices I’ve made and the things I’m pursuing. It’s kind of like having a creative existential crisis. I think a lot of artists get stuck asking themselves questions relating to these feelings. What kind of artist am I?  Am I good enough? Am I a real artist/writer/filmmaker? I’m kind of going through one of these moments right now.

I’ve spent about a year now concentrating my writing efforts on prose. I’ve written half of a novella, started pre-writing a novel, and written several flash fiction stories. It’s been fun, but through it all I think I’ve grown tired of it. This happens to me with a lot of things though. I’ll be very interested in something for a while then lose interest in it. I’m not sure if I’m just getting bored of this kind of writing because I’ve been doing so much of it or if it’s something I just honestly don’t enjoy anymore. Either way, I’m seriously considering setting it aside. Maybe just for a while, or maybe permanently.

This isn’t just one of those “I don’t think I’m good enough” inner critic moments. I’ve had those before. There are aspects of writing fiction that I have always struggled with. I’m not great at writing descriptions. That’s the big one. As hard as I try, I feel like any writing I do that requires a description of someone’s appearance, or of a setting falls short. I love the concepts I can come up with, I love my characters, but I have a lot of trouble describing the world they live in and how they interact with it. This is something that I think could get better with time, but I’ve been working on it for quite a while and it still feels like it’s not really improving. I also find myself reading writing advice blogs and seeing thousands of different little rules and pieces of advice to follow and it’s so hard to keep track of it all. I get really overwhelmed. The only time I feel like I’m having fun writing fiction is when I ignore most of the rules but then the end result is something I’m really not happy with. Even after I edit it and try to fix things up, I feel kind of bored and disappointed with what I’ve written. So, I think it’s time to accept that writing prose just might not be for me.

I want to be clear, though, that this isn’t me giving up on something. I loved writing short stories when I was younger, and writing them has been a ton of fun. I’ve had good experiences and learned a lot about storytelling and many other aspects of writing. Everything I’ve ever written has helped me learn more about my writing, my style, and my self. It’s just that this kind of writing, over time, never really became what I wanted it to be. I never got where I wanted to be, and I just don’t feel like I’m getting there. Maybe it’s because I’m impatient. Maybe it’s because, as I mentioned earlier, I get bored of things easily. Either way, I think it’s time to change things again.

This definitely isn’t the end of writing for me. I just want to concentrate on my strengths. The one thing I’ve always felt confident about is my ability to write dialogue. I’m not perfect at it, but it’s something I think I’ve gotten better at over the years. Which is why I’m going to concentrate on writing scripts for the foreseeable future. Over the years I’ve written five (ish) one act plays. I’ve entered two of them into contests and both of them have one. That’s not meant to be a brag, but I think in reinforces what I just said. Stageplays and screenplays consist mostly of dialogue. The description is at a minimum. When I write a play I get to tell a story that concentrates on conversation. I can move the story through people speaking. That’s obviously not the only thing that happens in a play, but I don’t need to worry much about describing settings and appearances. I can write a script while concentrating on my strongest writing skill, and improving it even more. I think I’m good and writing stories. I can develop characters and create interesting plots. It’s just that it’s tough for me to string those things together in a way that works in a piece of prose.

Now, this doesn’t mean the end of prose forever. I might write some flash fiction here and there. We’ll see if I grow tired of script writing within the next year. If that happens, I’m not sure what I’ll do.Unfortunately, I’m not going to be finishing Loki’s Gambit or Joanne. At least not for quite a while. Thanks to everyone who was reading those, by the way! And I’m still going to post updates like this and posts like my Marvel Comics piece from two weeks ago on this blog. But honestly, I feel kind of relieved at the moment. I allow myself to get really overwhelmed by taking on too many projects. If I dedicate myself to this one kind of writing, I will have less creative projects to worry about and less stress to deal with.  I think this is a good choice. It’s time for me to realize what I do best, and play to my strengths. I believe I’m a good writer and a good storyteller. I just need to find the style and voice that work best for me.

Thanks so much if you’ve read this rambling post. Thanks even more if you care about anything I say here! Weekly posts will keep happening regardless of changes. It honestly just feels nice to move forward, and try to do what I do best.

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God Awful Vlog…

I’m going to spend the next week trying to get far enough ahead with Joanne that I won’t have to worry if I miss a week of writing it. I’m going to do my best to hunker down and write at least three parts this week. For now though, I’m going to talk a bit about another project I’m hoping to start. I have a habit of starting too many things so this is going to be the last new project for a while!

So on top of all this writing I try to do, I’m also a filmmaker. I feel kind of weird using that word because outside of university I’ve only actually finished one film and I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. I’m currently making a short documentary that I also have mixed feelings about and it’s all a big, weird, “deal with your art until you hate it” kind of situation. Regardless, video projects can take a long time to finish. Procrastination is still a big problem for me as far as making films, but even without that they can take ages to complete. So I’ve come up with an idea to hopefully help with a few things. And that idea is a video series! I guess you could call it a vlog, but it’s not just going to be me sitting and talking to a camera.

The basic format of the show would be a guest and myself talking about creative projects that we’re working on. I’m hoping that, by doing this, I can help keep myself accountable and finish my projects more quickly. There’s something about saying what you’re doing out loud and telling other people about it that makes you want to actually work on things. This series will also give me the opportunity to edit video quite regularly which is something I need to practice doing! And putting myself in front of a camera and talking to the internet might also help me build a bit of confidence which is something I also seriously struggle with. So there are a lot of benefits! Of course, it would be boring if it were just my friends and I talking about projects.

I’ve been told I make pretty ridiculous and hilarious faces when I eat or drink something I find especially disgusting. So I figured it would be fun for my friends and I to subject ourselves to some really nasty tasting things while we talked about stuff. The initial idea was to drink the worst cups of coffee we could find. I’m going to stick to that at first, but may expand it to other drinks and maybe some weird nasty food and stuff. But for now, just really gross coffee. Hopefully torturing myself for laughs will get a few views.

So yeah, that’s the next project I have on the go. Hopefully said project can keep my artsy friends and I accountable for our projects, help me become a bit more confident, and build my editing skills. And hopefully it’ll make a few people laugh!

Leaving Marvel Behind

 

My earliest memory of the super hero genre is definitely the 1992 X-Men cartoon series. Being the youngest in my family a lot of my tastes developed based on what my older sisters were interested in. I remember watching the show and asking my sister questions about it since she seemed so knowledgable on the subject. Eventually I realized that this amazing cartoon about super heroic mutants was actually based on comic books published by a company called Marvel. What amazed me even more than that was the fact that in the comic books the X-Men lived in the same world as so many other super heroes. I found it fascinating that Wolverine and Captain America could work together and even be on the same team. At the time there was no real source for buying comic books in my town. There was a rack at Wal-Mart but it hardly had enough to keep up with anything. But what did exist was marvel.com and an online encyclopedia of Marvel characters and their stories. I would call it the Marvel Wiki, but I’m not sure Wikis were a thing at the time. Whatever it was called, I started reading it every day. I would read whole articles and learn everything that happened to my favourite characters and how their stories intertwined with other heroes. Eventually, when I learned to drive and had a part time job, I would drive to the nearest city and spend every cent I could on comic books. I think my love of super hero comics came from a love of the fantasy of super powers and saving the world as well as a fascination with how often these characters interacted and crossed over into each other’s titles. This fascination led me to try to collect as many comics featuring my favourite characters as I could. Interestingly enough, this started a long chain of collecting and reading that has resulted in me having a bit of a distaste for Super Hero comics. I know, I know, this is nerd blasphemy of the worst kind but it’s a fact. Over the past few years I’ve slowly but surely lost my interest in Super Hero comics, especially those published by Marvel. And here’s why.

After my first purchase at a comic book store I was hooked. I started reading Thor and X-Men comics, and a fairly short lived series called “Zombies!”. These held me over for a few weeks but once I realized I couldn’t afford to drive to the city to by comics every month I begged my mother to let me get subscriptions. She agreed and let me mail in for a subscription to Thor and X-Force. There may have been one other title but I’m not remembering what right now. It was so exciting to receive comics in the mail every month that allowed me to keep up with some of my favourite characters. It helped that this was when J. Michael Straczynski was writing Thor with Olivier Coipel doing the pencils and covers. It may be nostalgia speaking, but I think a lot of folks will agree with me that Straczynski’s run on Thor was beyond amazing and anything drawn by Coipel is a delight. This was also when X-Force was being drawn by Clayton Crain and written by Craig Kyle/Christopher Yost. I don’t know what other people think about this team of creators but holy crap did I love it. It was a great time to dive into the world of Marvel Comics. The unfortunately thing was, for me at least, that I became a bit obsessed with keeping up with the characters stories. I wanted to read every volume of X-Force that came out and I absolutely HAD to keep up with Thor’s stories. When marvel would have a major event like “Secret Invasion” or “Avengers Vs. X-Men” I had to keep up with it because I wanted to see how my favourites were involved. The worst part was the fact that I was trying to be a die hard X-Men fan so I tried to collect all of the X-Titles I could. I was reading X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Force, Atonishing X-Men, Nightcrawler, X-factor, and the New Mutants. These weren’t all being published at the same time necessarily, although most of them were. I read Thor and a few Avengers titles on top of this as well. With the big events piled on top of that I was spending a lot of money, and even more time, on reading comics. This went on for quite a few years and I think my love of collecting and my obsession with the ever intertwining and expanding Marvel universe got a little tiring. I burned myself out a bit. Well, more than a bit. When you read that many comic books every month you start to see a lot of patterns in the storytelling. When you subscribe to every title involving a character you also wind up reading some pretty poorly written/drawn stories as well. I was in it for better or for worse, and after about eight years of buying and avidly reading Marvel Comics I honestly started to get bored.

The older I get the more I am realizing how much I appreciate variety in the media I consume. I can’t spend too much time watching just comedy movies because I get very bored of them. I can’t read too many fantasy books in a row unless each one is pretty distinct from the rest. And after eight years of reading Marvel comics I started to see an unfortunate lack of variety as far as the stories went. Granted, I haven’t read every title so I can’t speak for everything Marvel has ever done, but the characters I was following seemed to be doing the same things every few years. There was a really great Spider-Man storyline where (SPOILERS) Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus switch bodies, and Spidey’s mind dies in Doc Ock’s body. That is one of the most “super hero comic” sentences I have ever typed but it was a great storyline. It lasted for over a year and Doctor Octopus in disguise made for one of the most interesting takes on Spider-Man I had ever encountered. Then, in the end, they brought Peter back and had a big crazy story that led to him being Spider-Man again. It was honestly really disappointing because now Spider-man is who he’s always been. He’s Peter Parker. He’s the same Peter he’s been since teh sixties, and that’s kind of boring. If I really wanted to read about that character I have 50 years worth of stories I can go back to. But that’s kind of what mainstream comics like to do. They’ll have some big, major changes to the characters, like a Civil War or a Spidey/Ock swap, and it’ll be really exciting and fresh. Then a few months down the road they’ll decide everyone liked things better the old way and go back to it. On top of all that, so many of these big “universe altering” storylines they have tend to boil down to super heroes fighting each other. I haven’t read Civil War II yet but I feel like I get the idea and have lost any desire to bother with these kinds of stories. I thing everything about Marvel would seem so exciting to a new reader who hasn’t gone through the cycles yet. For me, however, I’ve seen so much of the same stuff over and over again. Super heroes get angry and fight each other, the X-Men manage to barely avoid genocide for the seventh time, everything gets better until it all happens again.

I know I sound cynical and grumpy. I think I kind of did this to myself honestly. Excessively reading and collecting so many stories within the same genre was going to burn me out eventually. That’s how I work. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with loving these comics or anything like that.  I do think, however, that these massive, interconnected universes with never ending stories and canons are their own, unique sort of storytelling. It’s extremely complicated, and in some cases excessively repetitive. At this point in my life I honestly don’t believe these methods are the best for consistently good storytelling but that’s a whole different post. Today I just kind of wanted to touch on why I am gradually leaving the world of Super Hero stories behind. At least the “big two” (Marvel and DC.) I’m trying to venture more in to the world of creator owned and independant comic books. It’s a great medium and these days I’m very excited for comic book stories about so many different things. Marvel Comics have been good to me over the years, but it’s time to move on to something new.

 

A brief P.S.

I should say, I do still read a few comics by Marvel! I am keeping up with Spider-Gwen and Thor, which I think are great examples of Marvel breaking their usual patterns. I want to be clear that I do realize that they are doing some great stuff and not ALL of their stories are repetitive in this way. This just happens to be the case with a lot of their stories, and from what I can tell the overall state of their universe. This is just my experience, though.

Changing things up a bit?

A frustrating aspect of my personality is that I often get very excited and interested in an idea or a project early on but lose interest in it after a while. This is why I struggle with long term projects so much. I have realized recently though that sometimes I just need a break from a project before going back to it. I think this is starting to happen with Joanne and, to a certain extent, the whole weekly flash fiction thing in general. I have really been enjoying the series but it’s tough to motivate myself to write another part every week. So I think it may be time for a break from the flash fiction thing for a little bit. I find myself spending a couple of days struggling through a 500 word story until I barely manage to finish it. I can write a lot more than that when I am invested in a project and really motivated to work on it. I think this means it’s time for me concentrate on some projects I’m a bit more excited about. I am still determined to post something every Friday though! I’m just not sure what that will be. It might still be fiction, just shorter pieces for now. It may also be poetry. Or maybe even non-fiction posts where I talk about stuff I enjoy. Movies, comic books, novels, etc. Joanne will still continue though! I have a distinct ending in mind so it won’t go forever, but there are quite a few weeks worth of story left to tell. I think the plan will be to post fiction every two weeks, and something a little different in between. For those of you who read my stuff, thank you so much. I appreciate it, and I hope more of you will drop by in the weeks to come.

Joanne: Part 14

Joanne and Terry stood in the middle of the street looking dumbstruck at a wooden door and frame that had just appeared in the middle of the street. Joanne couldn’t help but think it was an insane coincidence that they had just been talking about miraculous doors that led to other worlds.

“Could that lead to Peter’s office?” Joanne asked, hoping Terry would be able to compose himself enough to answer a few more questions. After a few long seconds he replied.

“It could,” he said. “It could also be leading from his office.”

“You mean, like, someone’s about to come out of that door?” Joanne asked. Terry nodded silently. Joanne wanted to walk up to the door and open it. Maybe this could be her opportunity to rush in and meet Peter. Maybe she could go through one of these weird interviews like everyone else apparently had. As these thoughts rushed through her mind the knob on the strange door twisted. It slowly swung open. A woman with brown skin and long, straight, black hair, wearing a black suit stepped out of the door. It quickly closed behind her. The door faded away. Joanne frowned and slapped her forehead, letting out a loud groan.

“You okay?” Terry asked.

“I was gonna make a run for it,” Joanne said as she slowly slid her hand down her face, causing it to look positively ridiculous. “Obviously that’s not gonna happen now.”

The dark haired woman looked around herself. She went from confused to angry very quickly. She clenched her fists at her side. And breathed deeply in through her nose.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” She said, looking toward Terry and Joanne. “I’m in Saskatoon?”

Joanne looked up at Terry. He was obviously more knowledgable about afterlife things than she was, but this new, angry person made him very nervous. Joanne bit her lip, and tried to think of something to say that might calm the stranger down. After a few awkward moments of silence, she blurted out the first thing she could think of.

“Yup!” Joanne declared confidently, with a big smile.

“What the fuck?” the woman yelled. “Five hours of ridiculous questioning with that old bastard, and I wind up back here?”

“Um,” Terry said, looking more and more nervous. He tried to start explaining, but was quickly interrupted.

“What?” The woman asked. “What did you say?”

“Oh god,” Terry said to himself. He tried to get the words out quickly, loudly, and as efficiently as he could manage. It, of course, sounded rather strange. “You always wind up back where you died but you’re free to go wherever you want after that so you probably don’t have to worry about it or whatever.”

The woman looked at him with a confused expression. Joanne looked at him with in a similar way.

“Oh,” the woman said. She seemed to be calming down. It looked as though she was realizing how abrasive she had come off. Joanne did her best to diffuse the awkwardness.

“My name’s Joanne,” She said, with a small smile, and a sheepish wave that barely let her fingers out of her sweater sleeves. “This is Terry.”

“I’m Amber,” the woman said, waving. They all stood silently in the street and stared awkwardly at each other.

“Sooooo,” Joanne said, “Wanna come for a walk?”

Amber sighed and rolled her eyes.

“Sure,” she said. “Why not?”