Well, thank god that's over.
I don't have a list of resolutions for 2010. It's not really my style, I'm not really a "resolution guy," and more importantly, any sort of list I'd put together here would probably be more a list of things I want, rather than things I feel like I'd actively pursue. And honestly, I have no desire with the kind of year that's behind me to suddenly start making a lot of goals and objectives that I will be able to use next year to evaluate whether or not I succeeded or failed in 2010.
I like to think this space holds me accountable, and this is just one of those cases where I want to let myself slide.
To a better year.
I had an interesting conversation with my cousin Travis, who some may remember I've mentioned before. Travis has a plush job, a lucrative and creative hobby that might well become his new plush job, and the kind of pragmatism behind it all that I'm sure a lot of people in the family wish I had too. He's also incredibly talented as a producer [re: music], which I encourage everyone to go check out at his website, TCustomz.com.
Anyway, we were talking, as creative people tend to do, about being creative, and more specifically producing new work, and he asked me innocently but pointedly if I felt my work was still improving. I haven't been doing much work lately, but upon thinking about his question [and not even for very long], I felt pretty confidant in saying that yes, I had improved, and that I felt like when I was producing work, it was getting better.
Which is sort of odd for me, to pat myself on the back like that. All told, I think I've always had a relatively low opinion of my strengths -- not that I was necessarily bad at what I did, but that what I did well wasn't something to be particularly proud of. I've always thought of the strongest aspects of my writing as something of a parlor trick, especially since throughout college I had a great number of people say things like "the marvelous thing about Randall's writing is that he seems to do everything wrong -- but it works!" I'm glad for it, but it's also hard to not have statements like that hang a little like an albatross.
And even though lately I've been fond [well, not fond] of saying it feels like I'm just out of college again, I look back at that person I was on graduation day and feel like I've progressed from that, and that extends from my written work. How's a little more complicated.
I think I've learned that I can't force it, and expect my writing to still come out naturally. I'm not saying I've come to accept this as an absolute fact, but I do realize that it's a mountain I have to climb when starting things I'm not feeling my most passionate about, and that's been helpful to me. I will still torture myself over it, for not being able to just turn the imagination on like faucet like a lot of other writers and even some of my peers do. I'll work on it. But it wasn't a limitation I knew I had, and knowing it feels like an asset, and an improvement.
My comics have improved. I haven't done as many, of course, but looking at "Calamity Cash" and then looking at "Real Quality Comics," I think I've learned how to rope myself in a little bit, and understand that the artist is not just a tool to get what I want on the page. Justin has done great things with "Town with No Name," but it is a ridiculous and unwieldy beast of a script which I would have shortened and simplified greatly if I had a second chance. I wouldn't know how, of course, had I not undertaken it, and I think despite what I consider pretty messy scripting on my part, Justin is going to turn the final work into something amazing. So my scripting improves, but more importantly, I've realized that a project where I am a part of step 1 does not live and die with me. Despite the misfortunes of the past year, comics are something I want to keep doing, and I want to find another artist to do them with [not surprising that "Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name" has made Justin want to move on to other projects], and just looking between the Cash script and the RQC script, I feel I've progressed. I'm hoping that I can improve my output, of course, as I was never able crank out regular scripts of issues like I'd proposed I'd do, despite my copious notes.
I think if anything has helped me improve it's this blog. The most telling signs are the little things -- typos and brainos have gotten far less, and I've noticed when I sit down to do small projects, I'm finding less and less common mistakes. I feel more aware of the words I use, their meanings, and I've eased up on using antiquated terms as much, and when I do I try my best to make sure using them is a purposeful action, either reviving the word because of its actual usefulness, or because I really want to commit to "bringing it back," ridiculous though that may sound.
I've gotten better at self-policing, I guess is what I'm trying to say. I have habits, like non sequiturs and sentimentality, real Sterne-esque problems [I'm complimenting myself too much in this post], and I think I've gotten better about seeing these things. Sometimes they're okay, and sometimes they're things that I will use, but I fear too often I lean on them, or in the sake of digressions trust my judgment a bit too much, while getting lost on some side quest that I find more interesting than what I'm actually writing about. I also look at other kinds of repetition, my use of parentheticals, or my fondness for pregnant pauses, ellipses, and my ever-present "--," things I love using, and that just naturally happen while writing, that now I feel better about going back, taking out, or saying "I'm using this when I should be using this." And it's nice, to know I have these toys, or trademarks, but I don't have to use them.
I also feel really confidant about my dialogue. Dialogue fascinates me, and conversations will always be my favorite part of writing, but thanks to some kind words and some really talented people asking me for help this year, I feel good about where this skill is, and in a way feeling better about the skill is almost the same to me as feeling it has improved. And I also think, to some degree, it has improved, as in different mediums -- comics, prose, screenplays -- I've been treating it differently, using the medium to get the better result out of the conversation. This is an idea I was playing with before my dry spell, and I'm looking forward to exploring it further.
And I feel better about my prose. It hasn't progressed in any great strides, but the fact that I've felt like I can come back to it, that it feels like a medium I might be able to work in a again is a good thing, and I don't think I could have become comfortable in it if not for all the time spent writing here. I'm still tentative if I'll keep at it, but I think getting to a place where I'm thinking about it is an improvement. Always nice to open up new possibilities.
Lot of things I still suck at though, that aren't any different from that kid out of college. My endings are still awful -- as bad as my beginnings are good, I'll say, and I haven't the foggiest idea how to improve them. The closest I think I've gotten was with "Nova," which had a proper denouement, and it's ending actually came across like an ending. But I still loathe the falling action parts of movies and comics and novels, and had "Nova's" not come so naturally, I doubt it would have had any either. And that's a problem.
I remain pretty terrible at controlling the lengths of things. "Trendsetter" was supposed to be a short. "Meet Cute" was a short idea that I think can only work as a feature, which is probably why I haven't done anything with it yet. "The Familiar" remains a ten or twenty minutes short from a proper feature, and rewrite of it threatens to push it into epic, three hour territory. I've already talked about how "Town with No Name" got out of hand, and my inability to cut it short. And as much as I'll hold up things like "Real Quality Comics" as what I can do when I'm at my best, and most focused, I haven't duplicated that yet, so I may have just gotten very lucky. Oh? And "Trendsetter?" As a feature, it still remains stalled out just shy of a proper length. Following through [Re: Bourgeois Punks]. That's something too.
And I really need to get back to reading and watching more things, and different things. I've always believed you learn the best from other works, their mistakes and successes, and I've been slacking off brilliantly this past year. A lot of that has to do with mood, but on some level I feel like there's no excuse.
Lot to think about. Trying to get back to that place where all of this talk makes a difference, too.
Huh. Suddenly my arm hurts, my neck is sore, and my lips are chapped. Can't imagine why.
Hope everyone had a nice holiday.