I watched a video today, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter’s publication, that highlighted the personal struggles that JK Rowling endured while writing the first novel.
I knew only bits about her life, how she struggled with domestic violence and survived on government welfare, but I was completely unaware that she battled depression as well. This got me thinking, as someone who struggles with depression: how do you write when you’re down?
There are days when I can barely function as a human being, neglecting even my most basic needs. Then there are times when the pain is merely a constant, nagging companion that whispers in my ear, talking me out of making productive choices in exchange for ones that provide distractions and fleeting moments of comfort. Regardless of the kind of day, the result is often the same– a waste.
I can never seem to gain (or keep) the momentum necessary to accomplish my projects. I’ve tried a variety of approaches to combat these feelings, such as working through them, allowing myself limited indulgences, and front loading my self esteem so that when I do hit a wall, I’m not crushed by it. I can’t say I’ve found a solution that helps 100% of the time, and maybe I never will. Perhaps it takes more than a single solution to fix this problem. But, it is inspiring to know that one of the greatest authors of our time, maybe all time, managed to combat this same foe and come out on top. It gives me a little sliver of hope that I too can commit to writing despite the odds.
And who knows? Maybe that bit of hope will be what finally pushes me to the end…
I’m drained. There doesn’t seem to be enough energy or hours in the day for me to dedicate to life and my artistic needs. I feel tired, dejected, and insecure, which, as you can imagine, does not do much for the fires of creativity. When I do manage to get those juices flowing, I’m rusty. The craft becomes pulling teeth and I quickly become disheartened.
I seen now why people quit. Why they say “to hell with my dreams!” It feels like every week I wonder if I would be happier giving up and spending my life consuming the arts rather than contributing. After all, who am I to think I have anything to add?
But something keeps me from giving up on that dream. I’m not sure I know why, or even if it’s wise. But this too will pass. I will make it to the other side of his funk and when I do my dreams will be there waiting for me. They’ve gotten me through a lot of dark times, never once abandoning me. So I suppose it’s only right I show them the same respect.
I’ve asked myself that question a lot as of late. Can I really write a novel? Will I ever do what I want with my art? Will I ever have a career that is financially responsible as well as personally fulfilling? Can I juggle being ambitious with being a loving friend and partner? Am I doomed to always end up depressed and disappointed?
I got an important snipit of advice from an author I met at New Hope Pride this year. He told me to love writing.
At first that seemed cliche. Of course I love writing. Why else would I invest any time and effort into something so daunting. But weeks later, I began to see the wisdom in his words.
I had become so overwhelmed with everything but writing that I wasn’t enjoying it. Will it be any good? Will I ever make a career out of this? Will I ever be able to quit my job? Does this story have a deeper meaning? Does it say everything I want it to say about life? It’s no wonder I haven’t been able to keep up the momentum I need. I’m psyching myself out before I even begin.
Telling stories has always been a passion of mine. I don’t know exactly why. It didn’t matter whether it was a sweeping existential epic or a charming everyday comedy. I simply loved going on the adventure. And I think that is the spirit I need to hold on to.
So this is me, starting from scratch… again. But I will not allow myself to be discouraged. I can do this. More importantly, I’m going to enjoy doing this.
I did a lot today… probably too much.
I went to work, I sketched, I drew, I read, I had dinner with a friend, I had second dinner with family, and I dealt with car troubles. I did not get to write however. And that’s a result of poor planning.
I was so eager to do so many other things today that I stacked my tasks in the wrong order. By the time I got to writing, I was exhausted. And worse yet, by the time I got home close to midnight, I had nothing left in me to give to those I care for the most.
In he pursuit of my dreams I need to remember that marathons are completed by knowing yourself, including your stengths and weaknesses. You must compensate for the areas your are lacking in, and create opportunities to shine in areas you excel.
I think going forward I will start my day off with writing, even if I don’t feel totally energized to do so. Then I will shift to something that eases my brain like drawing or exercising, and then go back to writing or one of my other projects. This may keep me from burning out, since it forces my brain to shift gears when before it starts to become fatigued. But only practice will tell.
- Sketchbook — Time: ??? Note to self: remember to keep feature three dimensional, especially in the face
- Drawing — Time: ?? WIP portrait study. Current plan: ink and add value with Copic markers Original photo
In an effort to make good on my goals, I’m working really hard to discipline myself to put in the work each and every day. One of my biggest struggles, however, is how to carve out that free time so that I hit all the areas I want to work on.
Today, even with my limited time, I managed to fit in some sketching, writing, research, and reading. Yet, there are still many areas of my day where I find myself wasting time and procrastinating.
Knowing what you want to accomplish and setting goals seems to really help with the day to day decision making of what to focus on and how much time to invest in it. Take for example, my sketchbook. I’ve been pretty haphazard with my daily sketchs. And I feel my growth as an artist has suffered for that. So I thought about what it is I want out of my drawing and he kind of projects I want to work on. I don’t want to be a photorealistic portrait artist. I don’t want to draw architectural diagrams. I want to tell stories, in the vein of the comics and movies I grew up loving. For that, I need to understand action, gesture, expression, mood, lighting, perspective and point of view. When I shift my attention to these elements, the need to render every single strand of hair or perfectly sculp a figure’s body goes out the window. It is instead replaced with a series of choices, each aimed at answering one question: how do I convey a particular idea and feeling in this drawing? With these lines? With these shapes? In this space? That’s when I get really creative and discover which elements of a subject are important to me, and not ones I was told to venerate because they are the markings of a master artist.
Art truly is all about confidence. The moment you learn to decide and declare who you are and what you like is when the real fun begins.
- Cis Cinder — Time: 1 hr / Word Count: 2,678. Still re-hashing the first chapter. I’ve gone back and add more to scenes I’ve already written, in an attempt to create a central “spine” for the whole chapter. We’ll see how it works.
- Sketchbook — 45 min. Focused on gestures and the basic shapes of the human form in motion. I’m also obsessed with finding the right way to draw mouth expressions.
- Graven Idols — 30 min. A few more research sketches but mostly lists of product designs.
- Reading — Earthman Jack vs. He Ghost Planet by Matthew Kaddish (40%). Still entertaining but getting a bit drawn out. I’m staring to understand the importance of editors.
- Watching — Scandal. Papa Pope oh no you betta don’t!! 😵
Okay, so it’s clear by now that writing everyday is a tough commitment for me. I am by no means giving up, but I fear my blog will become repetitive if I continue to eek out a mere flurry of words each day. So therefore I will be shifting the focus of my daily posts to include all my current projects.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, by in addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an artist. I’ve studied animation, film and sound design. I love hobbies and crafts. I (occasionally) practice keyboard and guitar. There are a whole slew of ways in which I explore my creativity, and while I initially started this site to focus on my writing, it’s time to open it up a bit. After all, it’s not a fair represention of my progress if I only post that I didn’t write today but leave out that I did a page of gesture sketches. I want this site to chronicle all of my journey as an artist, so that means widening my pallet to include more.
- Cis Cinder — Daily words: 0 / Time: 0 / Total Words: 2,336.
- Sketchbook — I only had time for a few gestures and facial expressions. I’m still struggling with streamlining my drawing process to balance getting the maximum detail with the most efficient use of line and value.
- Graven Idols — I recently watched Moana and it inspired me to take my wood burning project in a new direction. At this stage I’m researching tiki designs.