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February 24th, 2002

Vanity



Everyone has 24 hours in their day; why is it that some people always have tons of time, and other people never have any?

In my case, I am beginning to come to grips with the fact that I just plain want to do too much ... and I want to do it all brilliantly.

Take my comics, for instance. Vince Suzukawa sent me some pics he drew early in the development of Class Menagerie, which he was quick to denounce as awful, poorly-drawn, early work that he was ashamed to show the world.

I looked at them and only wished I could draw that well. Artwork is, has been, and probably always will be the weakest aspect of my work. I have fantasies about going back to school and getting some real art training, since what ability I have has been gleaned entirely from reading "How To Draw" books and trying to copy other people's work. But that takes money, and more importantly, that takes time -- which I never have because I'm already working on my strips all the time.

And, not content with having one comic strip, I want to do several -- and I want to do them brilliantly. NN already suffers from being the secondary strip to SJ ... I can only imagine the lame works I would create if I returned "Whistling In the Dark" to production, or began "Jungle Fever," "Brimstone, MA," or any of the other ideas I've had for new strips in the past. I want to do them all -- and I want them to have great writing and gorgeous art.

That's my vanity speaking.

And besides comic strips, I want to write novels. I have written science fiction, mystery, and fantasy ... none of which were brilliant, but all of which were pretty good. But I want them to be brilliant. I want Ethangea to be as popular (and profitable) a fantasy setting as anything by Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Ursula K. LeGuin, etc. I want there to be doctoral theses on my works. I want to be to fantasy, what Mozart was to music.

Vanity. Pure vanity.

Normally, I think vanity is an underrated phenomenon. Read Atlas Shrugged to see what I mean ... without vanity, a lot of great things would never have come to be. Look at the big achievers in history, and what was one of their unifying characteristics? Vanity. An individualistic, solopsistic desire to think of one's self as being great.

Our culture despises vanity, and worships it at the same time. Who do people always want to hear gossip about? Celebrities. What makes celebrities become who they are? Very often, it's vanity. Who do people flock around, support, and adore? Those who will stand up, say, "I know what's the best thing to do, and I'm doing it!" At the same time, who do people LOOOOVE to see get pounded down? Those same nails sticking up over the crowd.

Of course, vanity has a dark side. It drives people to excess ... it destroys relationships ... it nurtures obsessions. And, in my case, it leads to a constant fretting about the fact that my artwork isn't as good as I want it to be ... I haven't published any novels, because I haven't written any that were good enough yet, and so forth. I feel like a study in vanity, frustrated.

Still ... I have actually achieved many things that I really never expected to. I have books of my comic strips out. I have fans (I have fans???). I made Harlan Ellison crack up and shake my hand. :) These things soothe the fretting ... but they also raise the bar for what my vanity wants next.

It ain't easy, being me. ;) But I suppose that's true of just about everybody.

-The Gneech

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