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March 15th, 2015

Writing, Life, and Writing Life

In Which Lack of Planning On Their Part Unfortunately DOES Mean an Emergency on Our Part
Is it possible for never-ending upheaval to be the new norm? As laurie_robey frantically pack all of our things and search for a new place to live in the next ten days, it certainly starts to feel that way. Long story short, the would-be buyers of our house rather prematurely rented out their own house, apparently on the advice of their real-estate agent– a man whose competence at his job has been unfavorably compared to that of the average member of the Three Stooges. So, in order to keep the entire deal from collapsing down around our ears, they have to vacate by the 29th, meaning that we have to vacate by the 23rd. Of course, saying "All bets are off! Get stuffed!" is still an option, but as tempting as it occasionally is, being finally done with the whole mess is still preferable, even if it means three weeks of stress.

Being in such a tight crunch has made several waveforms collapse. Moving to another city in ten days is not really feasible, so Richmond is out and we'll be staying in northern Virginia for at least another year. That in turn means Laurie stays at her current job for the time being and life carries on more-or-less as it has for the past year, just at a lower rent. Not exactly the complete reinvention I've been wanting since forever, but incremental improvement is better than no improvement at all.

In Which Terry Pratchett is Applicable
In the midst of all this putting out of fires, however, I don't want to lose sight of my real goals, for these passing momentary crises. I'm still working on "what I want to do when I grow up," and I've been doing some serious thinking on this topic, prompted in part by the passing of Terry Pratchett.

Terry Pratchett was not an author who had particular meaning to me. His devotees attempted to convert me to the cause many times, and I enjoyed what bits of his writing I read, but that spark just never lit. Nevertheless, it would take an act of epic cluelessness to not see what a deep and personal connection his work created in those to whom it spoke. For those in whom the spark did light, Pratchett's writing was a transformative, life-shaping experience. His work, for all its quirky silliness, was important. The world is clearly better for his having been in it.

And looking at that, from the point of view of another writer rather than as a Terry Pratchett fan, was very instructive. In point of fact, that is exactly what I have wanted from my own work all along. When I say that currently my comics are a selfish pursuit without much meaning, that's what I'm getting at. The original Suburban Jungle was known to occasionally inspire people, even if it was just to new heights of silliness. I'd like to hope that the new SJ will eventually do the same, but I can't keep spending three days a week grinding out a single page in the hopes that it will pick up eventually.

The realization that having that sort of a connection with my readers is what my writing is really about (as opposed to the sort of general "amuse myself" goal I've always had before) does't really tell me what to do next– unless you're Pixar, you can't just wake up and decide "Today I will be meaningful to the masses." But it does at least make me think about my priorities in a new way, and also give me an idea of where to look for success. What in my writing past have people connected to? Are there commonalities there I can look to for my future projects? What made those stories work while others, not so much?

And just as important: What hasn't worked, and why? There are things that I've always kept working on more from habit than anything else, but which never seem to go anywhere... I think it's time to let some of these things go. Part of me is still trying to write the things I never wrote (or never finished) back in the 1990s. I need to mentally flag all those things as "done" and start writing based on who, where, and when I am now, instead.

-The Gneech

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