The dream of the artist is Promethean, to bring something divinely precious from the abyss of chaos and craft it into something that helps to enhance civilization. But that ancient myth is also a story about hubris.
After I made the digital release of Hobo City, I had a reckoning. I felt accomplished, but I also had to consider the time it took me to produce such a small sliver of my dream project. The script remains a valuable asset, but production time on the art killed my momentum to express this amazing story I’ve been harboring and cultivating for so many years. I felt compromised by the inevitability of timesuck.
Its a story over 20 years in the making, one with a unique immersive world and many character arcs spread over the epochs of a fictional history. The characters I love deserve to be let out of the braincave and see the light of day. Comics and other art media have been a huge part of the development of this world, and the comic I made is an excellent intro to the world and a beautiful piece of print besides. However the time has come to write, and let the world flow freely out of my mind. I have decided to graduate to The Novel.
This entire progression has happened before, I made a few comics in the past, just jumping into the middle of my disorganized conceptual world with an idea for a scene and trying to explain my way out. I had a world and characters and pieces of the story, but because I didnt know what I didnt know, I was writing myself into corners. I made similar considerations about production time, abruptly quit the comic, and started just writing out chapters, describing the scenes trapped in my head, flirting with the novel.
On the merit of my concept proposal and community involvement with the arts, I received a small local grant to start a novel, and formed a writing critique group for writers in the community. Eventually I found that my attempts were just as fraught as the comics. I didn’t understand a thing about plot. It was a very humbling experience. Writing is hard.
Fast forward to about two years ago when I set out to do a graphic novel with the realistic intent to work from a script. I started studying the ways that scripts are formulated by professional writers. I read a few books on writing screenplays and the writer’s craft, joined some facebook groups and talked shop with people. An important one was learning about the distinction between Gardeners and Architects in writing. There are those that start with the seed of an idea and grow it to completion and those that make a blueprint.
Maybe I thought I was a Gardener. That’s exactly how I approached my worldbuilding. But the seeds I had strewn about had grown into a tangled mess. I still sit in my overgrown garden and enjoy the flowers. But this is not where I would invite my guests. I realized that I had to start thinking like an Architect. Pooling hundreds of pages of notes together into a bulleted accordion wiki, I started outlining. I already had graphic novel script laying out 108 pages of comic, a decent first act, so I recycled that into a larger outline. I found I could start to create the pathways for the more primal stuff, so the lifeblood of work – confidence, could start flowing through unblocked channels. Now I am well into writing the first draft.
As a creator, the value of my dream has often been in question, and even shattered, but that lies in the nature of the pursuit. You take out your mortar and pestle and grind up the pieces of your shattered dream, and reconstitute it with fresh water, dry it in the sun, and turn it into a brick with which to build the foundation of a greater construction, which perhaps in the end is simply a creative life lived.
I have to enjoy my work, to do it for myself, in essence. The worlds I’ve made are like precious gems that form in the heat death of stars within the cosmic space of the soul. The artist explores the vacuum, visiting worlds, collecting diamonds. They are mined out of distant planetoids, beveled, polished, and set into worthy metals. Hope it pleases the muses. It must be done, for there is nothing much else to do out here in space.
He who is born in imagination discovers the latent forces of Nature.… Besides the stars that are established, there is yet another—Imagination—that begets a new star and a new heaven. – Paracelsus