One of the guys who's relatively local was talking with me online, and we were discussing Rock Band. He plays drums, and he's offered to give me some free lessons. I said, sure, what the hell? I'm not expecting him to turn me into Buddy Rich, but if I can hit competency, I'll be happy.
That's the part that got me wondering. Not counting the singing thing, at this point in my life, I am branching out in directions I never expected when I was younger. I had so much artistic passion that I funneled into my writing. Maybe because I had a handle on writing. I understand the ins and outs, and I can examine and engineer for different media without sacrificing artistic merit. Other things that I could do were just too intimidating for me.
Now, I'm much older (as one of my friends pointed out, I'm about the same age Stephan Pastis was when he began working on Pearls Before Swine, which redefined his life). And I'm actually attempting things I never thought I would do. I've been learning, in fits and starts, to play keyboards (too many other projects get in the way, and something has to give). I'm teaching myself programming and working on projects thanks to a scripting engine. I am actually reviewing video games semi-professionally -- no cash, but it's out there, and I'm actually in demand (the editor gets nervous when the backlog of reviews I've written starts to dwindle down). I've begun penciling, working on Stress Puppy (comic strip), Head Above Water (existential fantasy miniseries), and a shojo series. I admit part of the reason I gave up drawing was initially, I thought everything was done in ink on the first try, and I could never make it work right. Looking at undersketches didn't really convince me otherwise, as the images were pretty close to the finished product. Then it was that I simply couldn't draw like the Marvel and Image folks. My mind just doesn't process visual images in any way conductive to that (seeing things as simple shapes and such). The current projects are a result of me taking what I can do, emphasizing the best, eliminating the worst, and adjusting the rest (thankfully, I love and appreciate minimalism with its nice, clean, open spaces, so it really helps my technique). Once again, I'm aiming for competency.
Back then, when I was a teenager trying to carve a place in the solid granite of the world, I wanted to be the best. I wanted to write better than anyone. Now, I want to write the best I can for the story. It's not that I don't have something to prove (writing video game reviews, an online comic strip, and one commercially available comic book is only a start), but I no longer seem interested in proving anything. I'm more interested in how what I create serves what I'm working on, not trying to make a world full of second-placers relative to me. There's a parody of a motivational poster that says, "If you can't do something well, learn to enjoy doing it badly." When I look at, say, the art for Head Above Water, I like it. I think it's bad, especially compared to what trained graphic artists can do. Could I go to classes and learn? Maybe, but once again, I've read tons of books emphasizing how to approach this, and it just doesn't sink in for me. Whereas my lousy approach is actually very satisfying for me. It scares me that a sarcastic phrase is resonating so well with me.
One thing that has gone on hiatus is the screenwriting. I'm not sure if that's because of the rude awakening I got with Firewater! or not. No buyers, no one interested (I was informed if I had some violence and some tits, it would have been picked up by now). I'm not sure if I'm sour on making movies because just about everything I learned about breaking in has turned out to be oversimplified to the point of being wrong. After all, the games are getting out there, the comic is out there, I'm getting some success in other areas. Maybe it's just "the squeaky wheel gets the grease". After all, I would love to make another movie sometime (and write prose again), but with success so far off there, and things moving forward elsewhere, I just can bring myself to make it a priority at the moment. (Well, there's also the fact that everything else I'm doing I can handle on my own. Making a movie is a group effort and takes managerial skill to make happen and work, and I don't have access to enough people and places to try another just yet.)
I'm not sure if aiming for competency is giving up on goals or just an acknowledgement of how difficult it is to succeed at something (I knew long ago that, say, drumming is not as simple as just swinging sticks around) and factoring in how much work lies ahead. It just strikes me as odd that, the more skills and success I acquire, the less enthusiasm for the activities I have. I enjoy them, don't get me wrong, but I don't see them as a gateway to some personal Golden Age. Success becomes just another part of life instead of something so noteworthy. I'm not sure if it's because it's been so long coming that a lot of the people who were pulling for me to succeed have moved on with their lives, making getting published seem a lot less impressive than it is. Or maybe it's awareness that talent does not equal success. People doing online comic strips don't get the pay and deals that, say, Ziggy does, but they are far better reads. So maybe I've simply seperated my talent from my success, that the two things are not mutually inclusive. Steve Gerber wrote about the shame of a rat running a maze. The only thing worse was a rat not only running a maze, but that only knew one maze, and when placed in another, had no idea how to function. I think I'm avoiding that analogy, but I am my own worst critic.
You know, for someone who isn't sure he buys the whole concept of Jungian self, I sure dwell on it an awful lot....