“Might as well”

What a funny little phrase that is. Might as well. Shortened down from, “I had might as well-”, which would then include an action. Used when we see something that ought to be done, and we should just do it now and get it sorted out. Of course, it’s not always a negative context, nor is it necessarily something we want to avoid, but the choice to do it there and then is dependent on another contextual aspect.

This weekend was dedicated as a solid attempt at finishing a whole lot of projects all at once. This, of course, was a very ambitious plan and nothing was completed, but a lot of pieces got plenty of progress. Amazing what happens when you stay off the internet for a while, eh?

Tonight had a lot of ‘might as well’s included in my efforts to complete that work. When you’re crocheting, it comes up a lot, actually. See, there’s only a small amount left in the ball of yarn, so might as well keep going until it’s run out. Oh, there’s not much left of this row, might as well just finish it. That went so quickly, I’d might as well just do another row.

Maybe it’s just me that this happens to so frequently, but the more I consider it, the more I see how often I really do add to my tasks with a ‘might as well’. Made a batch of sushi? Might as well bake some cookies while I’m in the kitchen. Writing a blog post and think of another subject to talk about? Might as well jot down the outline while it’s in my mind. Out grocery shopping? Might as well stop in and get that other thing I need. Driving by Nanna’s place? Might as well drop in and see her while we’re out that way. Writing a novella? Might as well write eight. Okay, that one is an exaggeration, but only barely.

I think it has something to do with perceived efficiency. If you’re in the position to take care of something when you’re already there and not otherwise busy, it saves you from having to organise that trip, action, or effort at a later date, or makes sure you don’t forget something. In other cases, it can be one of those really sly, clever procrastination techniques. The ones that are perfectly legitimate, and you’re being productive in one area, but you’re simultaneously putting off work on something else.

As for tonight, and indeed this whole weekend, it was just me trying really hard to get a bunch of unfinished things finally completed. Right now, I’m eyeing off my notebook, honestly thinking, “Might as well write a little bit while I’m not doing anything else.”

~A

Aspiring

Maybe I’m just a grouch, but I’ve never been a fan of artists calling themselves “aspiring”. I know the word means you’re trying to be successful at something, and sure, we’re all trying that to one degree or other. But the usage of “aspiring” among writers and graphic artists tends to hint at a lack of self-confidence.

I suppose some part of that comes from exactly how it’s used: if we stuck to its exact definition, every artist and author is still aspiring, so long as they are always seeking to improve their work and aim at greater ambitions. At what point would you honestly stop and say, “Yes, I have achieved everything I wanted from this career.”? What defines success? How do we measure a person being a successful artist in any medium?

And here’s where it starts bothering me. “Aspiring” artists are always aspiring while they are undiscovered. At some point, a payment or contract is offered, and then they are just writers, or just painters, or just something else. They lose the “aspiring” prefix, to themselves and to others.

Being published is a huge step in any writing career, but it doesn’t imply success. Even significant monetary gain doesn’t automatically imply success. You can get a huge advance paid for your work, never earn out, and be unable to find another publisher to pick up your writing again. Or you can earn modestly through ongoing sales and royalties, but not see global recognition. Or so many other possible scenarios.

So why is a paid publication the main difference between being a writer, and being an aspiring writer? I don’t think we stop aiming higher and pushing towards goals after we’re published, therefore, we clearly continue to aspire.

It’s a part of my “job” to think too hard about words and their usage. If we continued to be classed as aspiring authors beyond the publishing contract, then I’d probably be fine with it. Since that’s an unlikely expression change, I’ll just go back to my usual response: if you’re writing, then you’re a writer. No prefix necessary. We’ll all secretly aspire for the rest of our lives, and that will be that.

~A

I have the picture, but not the location

I’m planning to get a second tattoo in the semi-near future. It took me a while to settle on a design. I’ve wanted more ink since I got my first piece years ago, and it’s been an ongoing dance of choices and passing fancies. I don’t get tattoos without a very long decision period. I was drawing my first tattoo on myself for months before I got the permanent copy. I still love my tattoo.

There are two images that I am very fond of as tattoos. One is a picture of an owl, which I would get on the inside of my right forearm, at the widest point near my elbow. It would be a brown-dominant tattoo rather than black, as they usually are. But it’s not my immediate choice, because I’ve drawn myself another picture.

It’s a compass. As in, directional. In the centre is a tree, shaped like an aged bonsai, with leaves trailing away, changing from a vibrant, flourishing green into the beautiful yellow, orange, red of autumn. At the cardinal and intermediate directions spread the symbols of the Vegvísir, the traditional Icelandic runic compass.

I took inspiration from other images and drew the complete design by hand. It contains images of things that I have great respect for, or just resonate with me. Every time I look at the picture, I still love it. Love, love, love it. But I have a problem… I don’t know where I want it.

I don’t often have trouble deciding things like the ideal location of a tattoo if I think something would be awesome. The two notions tend to go hand in hand: “If I wanted this as a tat, I’d get it on this part of my body”. Not so with my compass. It’s definitely a larger image, so I’ve considered my thigh, or my stomach. I don’t like the idea of ink on my back, because I wouldn’t be able to see my own tattoo! It wouldn’t fit nicely on my arms, or lower on my legs. I don’t think I’m a chest, collarbone or neck tattoo kind of person unless I went straight for the manubrium, and that would still leave me with the trouble of not seeing it well. I would be in front of a mirror an awful lot!

I guess you understand my trouble.

My only reasonable solution to this problem is to buy some of that print-you-own temporary tattoo paper and trial the locations I’m interested in. My husband is doing his illustrator thing and creating a finalised design for me where everything’s meticulously measured out and uniform (rather than my rough hand drawn version). Then, we will just have to see.

~A

The great crochet of 2011

I’ve definitely been obsessed with yarns lately. I blame the local major craft store for having delicious, delicious sales. Now that we’re moving into summer, the popularity of knitting and such will probably dwindle, plus, we’ll be getting in all the new season stock from the Northern Hemisphere eventually. Whatever the case, I saw all those wonderful, super soft colours and fluffy yarns and had to get them!

Speaking of obsessions, I am of the absolute firm belief that you can never have to many blankets. Bedspreads, knee blankets or snuggly rugs; if it is warm and soft, you should probably have it, or gift it to someone else. Indeed, since I carry rugs in my car (just in case!), I’ve even given one to a homeless man.

Of course, put these two things together, and I am crocheting a whole lot of blankets. A couple of smaller ones for family with babies, and a couple of larger ones to give as Christmas gifts, even though giving a rug as a present in the middle of summer would likely strike someone as especially odd.

The first of the larger blankets is made from “random” coloured squares sewn together. As much as I am loving the results already, this is pretty complicated and takes a lot of attention. I wrote out the pattern to follow (random is never as random as you think), and have to tick each segment off as I’m done. It’s going to look super awesome when it’s finished, but I will also be kind of relieved when I don’t have to think so hard about it.

The second larger blanket will just be a standard repeating pattern in the squares, though I am actually intending on rectangles. We’ll see how that goes. In general, stitching the same pattern for each segment will make that one a lot simpler to work on. I’m also looking forward to that one in a ridiculous way; I have some gorgeous fawn and rainbow coloured yarns to use, and cannot WAIT to see the result!

And yes, I’m crocheting more than I’m writing, but you can be assured that I’m getting words out every day! It might not quite qualify as my marathon just yet, but I’m pleased with the progress nevertheless.

~A

Changes over time

The more you practice, the better you get, right? I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, not in such simple terms. Certainly, you get more practiced the longer you are doing something, but does it really result in improvements?

Even with the knowledge that personal taste is a huge part of any judgement, I know of artists who have a career that spans many years and shows some kind of decline the longer they work in their field. With some graphic artists, the changes often show they have fallen into a simple, easy-to-repeat style. They simplify so they can keep producing their work. This is a kind of improvement; they are now more streamlined and capable of fulfilling their obligation to draw frequently. But it doesn’t make it better, artistically.

In that vein, some authors are so prevalent with their writing, you can see when they fall into a rhythm, a method to continue putting forth their creations with such astounding frequency. They work for years and keep writing, and even if you’re still entertained by their work, they have found ways to simplify and streamline, perhaps sacrificing something important along the way.

Maybe it’s the compulsive, habitual nature of humans that makes even artists fall back on something that’s almost uncreative in its repetition. Or perhaps some people just fixate on a specific style and consciously aim to recreate that, as their “tried and true” method. Or, heaven forbid, maybe we’re all only capable of producing our work in a limited number of ways, and it’s just when you’re able to see a large collection that it becomes evident.

These people are all very well practiced, and I’m sure they are very happy with the progression of their skill, but it doesn’t always work out better, as far as I can see. I have even noted in my own writing, new things might be put together with better skill, yet lack in some kind of special soul that an older work captured. At least I can put that down to most of it being unfinished, still in the process of becoming something better, becoming the attractive finished product.

I don’t like the idea of stagnation. I see patterns in my work, certainly, but I can only hope that there’s no decline in the quality just because I find ways to “improve” over time.

~A

A multimedia booklike experience

Ideally, I aim for some kind of cross-media experience to accompany my eventual book releases. I love the idea of artwork, music, and special edition items to go with my work. Pictures of the characters would be an absolute must, and maybe some action scenes or a couple of the more exciting locations drawn up, too. A website where people can download theme music for the different places and people in the stories. Pocket versions of my books where they are printed all small and super cute!

Ambitious, much?

Half of this, I could probably manage with a pile of help from my talented and creative husband (who is an illustrator and songwriter, among other things). Things like the pocket books, and including high quality art prints with sales would be a deal I would have to wrangle with my publisher. And we all know that publishers tend to have their “tried and true” method for making books, and it probably wouldn’t be seen as profitable enough to step outside the boundaries of normal publishing.

But a girl can dream. Goodness, half my profession is made of dreams and fantasy, so what’s another mad idea on top of the rest!

Since I am a big fan of videogames and cartoons/anime, as well as enjoying a good movie, I tend to think of my stories in a very visual mindset. If I had the opportunity to make a graphic novel, or an animated series from my books, I already have all the pictures in my head. To be totally honest, it would make me deliriously happy to animate some of my stories. Maybe one day I’ll put some of my other extensive hobbies on hold and get to work on that kind of project. In the meantime, I’ve still got new books to write, and they are eagerly demanding my attention. And I have nothing wrong with that!

~A