Going to Mars is My Dream, But Not My Passion

Hello, friends!

So this post isn’t really about Mars.  I mean, if NASA ever announces that they desperately need to send a writer/illustrator to Mars, I’d volunteer.  I’d love to go to Mars!  That would be awesome!

But I don’t expect that to happen.  Even if we do send humans to Mars, and even if that does happen in my lifetime, those humans will be scientists and engineers.  They’ll be people who are good at math.  I’m not a math person, nor do I wish to become a math person.

So while I dream about standing on the surface of the Red Planet, my passions lie elsewhere.  And I think it’s important to know the difference between your dreams and your passions.  Dreams matter.  Your dreams say a lot about who you are as a person and what you believe (and do not believe) about the world.  Cherish your dreams, but pursue your passions.

I have a passion for writing and also a (slightly lesser) passion for art.  If I could spend every day of my life writing and drawing, that would be glorious.  If I had to spend every day doing math, I’d be miserable.  And that’s why I write blog posts about Mars rather than sitting in a laboratory somewhere trying to figure out how to actually get to Mars.

Of course, no matter what your dreams and passions happen to be, there will still be closed-minded people trying to stand in judgement over you.  Ignore those people.  Cut them out of your life, if you can (maybe consider moving to another planet, if the opportunity comes up).

So what are your dreams, and what are your passions, and what are you doing to pursue them?

So I’ve Been Kind of Busy…

Hello, friends!  Sorry for not posting in a while.  I’ve been busy.  Really busy.  Don’t worry, it’s the good kind of busy, the kind of busy where things keep getting better, rather than the kind where you’re just trying to stop things from getting worse.

Today, I’d like to show off some of the work I’ve been doing.  Is that okay with you?  It is?  Cool!  So among other things, I’ve been working on this massive redecorating project, focusing on the three spaces in my house where I do most of my creative work: the art studio, the writing sanctuary, and the library.

I wish I’d thought to take photos of what these spaces looked like before so I could do a before-and-after thing.  Oh well.  Just imagine rooms full of Walmart furniture and junk I found at Goodwill, with piles and piles of paper clutter on top of everything.  Are you picturing that?  Good.  Now, take a look at this:

This is my new art studio.  I wanted this room to be as maximally colorful as possible.  I think I achieved that goal.  All those bright, happy colors are just what I need to get me in the mood for art—much more so than the grey and beige thing that was going on in that room before.  But the biggest improvement is probably this:

I do 95% of my artwork using either Copic brand markers or PrismaColor brand colored pencils.  The Copic markers are now in the rainbow bins on the left, and the PrismaColor pencils are on the right.  Finally, all the art supplies I use on a regular basis are together in the same easy-to-access place!

As for the writing sanctuary, I’ve told you before how I like to do my writing: lying flat on my belly, feet kicked up in the air, like I’m an eight-year-old kid.  (To be clear, I do not advocate that other people should write this way; it’s just the way I like to do it.)  Well, here’s my writing sanctuary now:

Actually, not a whole lot has changed.  That’s the same blanket on the floor that I’ve been writing on for years, and those are the same pillows that I had before, too.  Same dictionary, same coffee mug full of pens, same picture of my muse. But the shelving on the left is new, and I’ve worked out a whole system of file trays and magazine holders to make organizing my various works in progress easier.

Also, I printed and hung these decorative alphabet flags (inspired by Tibetan prayer flags) in the back area of the sanctuary.

And lastly, we come to the library, the room where I keep most of my books and do almost all of my reading and research.  For this room, I went with an enchanted forest theme, because the absolute best place to read a book is in the middle of an enchanted forest.  That’s not an opinion.  That’s a fact.

I have to confess I felt a little guilty spending so much time and energy on this redecorating project when (in my mind, at least) I should have been writing and drawing.  I am, as some of you know, a big believer in setting a routine and sticking to it.  Breaking my routine in order to do all this redecorating was not an easy decision for me.

But now that the work is done, I have to say these new rooms are so much better.  Yes, this project ate up a whole lot of my time (and also my money), but I consider those expenses worthwhile.  Sometimes you have to take a small step backward before you can move forward.  Sometimes you have to be willing to take a risk on yourself, to make an investment in yourself, in order to keep pursuing your dreams.

But wait!  Redecorating was not the only thing I did this past month.  My muse and I also took some time to renegotiate the terms of our relationship.  I’ll tell you all about that in Wednesday’s posting on the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

New Pens for My Coffee Mug Full of Pens

A few weeks back, I told you all about my writing zone—that magical place where writing happens.  One of the main fixtures of my writing zone is a coffee mug full of pens, the purpose of which is self-explanatory.

Following that blog post, an anonymous somebody decided to “buy me a coffee” through the website Buy Me a Coffee.  In fact, this unknown benefactor bought me three coffees, equaling a total donation of $9, to help me buy more pens to put in my coffee mug full of pens.

Now I’m rather picky about the pens I use for writing.  I only buy Pilot Precise V5 pens.  They’re self-described as “the ultimate writing machine,” which is marketing hyperbole, of course.  But still, they’re really nice pens.

However, given that that $9 seems so extra special to me, it didn’t feel right to just buy the same old pens I always buy.  So I got these pens instead.

They’re still Pilot Precise V5 pens, but instead of boring old black ink, these pens have an art deco style and come in pretty colors.  My muse (also known as my Best Imaginary Friend Forever or B.I.F.F.) seems to approve.

And the first draft of this blog post was written in a very lovely turquoise ink.

So today I just wanted to say thank you to whoever donated this money.  I really appreciate this, and you’ve helped make the magic of writing just a bit more magical for me!

And if anyone else would like to “buy me a coffee,” please click here.  I don’t actually drink coffee, so the money will be used for writing and art supplies to help keep this blog going, and I promise to keep you all updated on how that coffee money is spent!

Big Ideas vs. Small Scheduling Delays

Hello, Internet friends!

So I’ve been working on two new stories, and I’m really excited about sharing them with you.  They’re very brief.  Really, they’re meant to give you just a small taste of the larger story universe I’ve been working on.

Unfortunately, I hit a few snags with this week’s writing/art-making schedule.  As it currently stands, one of these stories is written but not illustrated, and the other is illustrated but not fully written.  It’s an awkward mismatch, to be sure!

Anyway, you can expect to see the first story on Monday of next week, and the other one will be posted the week after that.  In the meantime, I thought I’d share the first episode of a video series I’ve been watching on YouTube.  It’s all about world-building in fantasy and science fiction, and it’s one of the things that’s been feeding my creativity of late.  Please enjoy!

Valerian: A Thousand Stealable Ideas

This post is sort of a book recommendation, but really this is a writing tip.  Way back when I was in college, a professor gave me some advice. When you’re in the middle of a big creative project, spend your free time watching the greatest movies, reading the greatest books, listening to the greatest music.  Surround yourself with the greatest works of art, so that their greatness can inspire your own work.

That’s not bad advice.  But I’ve found that if I spend all my free time with Dune and The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars films (things that are, in my opinion, among the greatest works of Sci-Fi/Fantasy ever produced), my own work starts to feel imitative.  Derivative.  And I don’t like that.

But recently I stumbled upon a new source of inspiration, something that seems to work better for my own creative process.

Valerian was a French comic book series that ran from 1968 to 2007.  To American audiences, it’s frequently described as the best comic book you’ve never heard of.  Also, Valerian has a reputation among artists and writers for its “stealable ideas,” and a lot of its ideas have allegedly been stolen by other Sci-Fi properties, most notably Star Wars.

I’ve now read a few volumes of the English translation, and I have to say… it’s not that great.  I’m sorry to any huge Valerian fans who might be reading this, but I just feel like these comics leave something to be desired.  I’m not sure what.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why these comics fall short for me.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what’s missing, what could be done to make them better.

And that is the very reason why I, as a writer/artist, am so fascinated by this series.  It could be better.  It’s almost great.  It’s so close to being great.  Reading Valerian puts me into a “how could I make this better?” mindset.  And that is the mindset I want to be in when I sit down to work on my own Sci-Fi universe.

So that’s my writing tip.  If you’re looking for creative inspiration, maybe don’t turn to the greatest of the greats.  Rather, look to those works of art or literature that you feel are almost great.  Get yourself into that “how could I make this better?” mindset and then apply that mindset to your own work.

The First Art Museum on Mars

Last week, artist James Gurney posed a question on his blog.  He presented two options and asked which you’d prefer:

  • Spend the rest of your life trapped in a library or art museum, with unrestricted access to all the world’s great works of art, literature, film, etc?  Or…
  • Spend the rest of your life outdoors in nature, but never have access to any form of art again?

Personally, I lean toward the life trapped in a library/art museum option, but still… it’s a tough decision.  But then I started thinking more about this. Or perhaps over-thinking it. Why would I be trapped indoors with all this art?  Why can’t I go outside?  And then the answer occurred to me: Mars.

At some point in the future (perhaps not the near future, but at some point in the future, I’m sure) humanity will establish its first colony on Mars.  As that colony grows, the colonists will develop their own customs, their own culture, and ultimately their own art.

There would be a growing interest in having a venue where artists could showcase their work, and someone would have to curate the collection of original Martian artwork.  I guess this isn’t exactly the scenario James Gurney was envisioning.  You could still go outside, if you wear your E.V.A. suit, and you wouldn’t have unrestricted access to all the great art of the world—just all the art of a world.

But still, the more I’ve pondered Mr. Gurney’s original question, the more I’ve liked the idea.  This sounds like an interesting job, being the curator for the first art museum on Mars.  I’d take that job.  Or at the very least, I might write a story about the person who has that job.

So what about you?  If you had to choose, would you choose a life without nature or a life without art?  And what sort of scenario do you imagine might force you to make that choice?