First, I’d like to point out that I seem to be using my Google Calendar as a personal journal (or “blog” as the kids call any sort of online writing these days) lately. You’re welcome to read it – I find the whole thing quite useful, generally – though I haven’t made my calendars public, so you’ll just have to ask me for an invite. I’m using my gmail account though, not my modernevil.com address, so when you try to add my calendar, it’s under tmcclanahan (at gmail dot com). I like to include details, so be sure to look at the descriptions and comments on each “event”. They’re like time and event-specific journal entries, laid out with the flow of time as the organizing principle rather than the flow of text.
I’ve been struggling with a couple of paintings lately. I turned one of them into a painting about how I was struggling with it… I’m not any happier with it now, it certainly doesn’t contain the answer to the question I forced into its mouth, and that’s the problem. It’s like I spent the last two months painting a painting about the problems I’ve been having painting the painting itself. I’m thinking it must be called ‘…and why?‘ (which makes more sense if you can see it, I think). I have another one that I did part of long, long ago, and have been struggling with for not less than a month… At one point, a perceived problem became an anxiety attack multiplied by being angry with myself for fucking it up, and I hurt myself trying to correct it only to learn later that it may have been fine anyway, and my corrections made the prior work less appealing. The things I’ve done to it since then … I just can’t get happy with this painting.
Which doesn’t mean someone else might not like it. One time I made a painting that I disliked so much that I just started painting over it, and I didn’t like how the painting over it was going, so I started trying to cover that up, and it was just getting worse and worse by stages, and I decided the next thing to do would be get out the white paint and go-for-blank… but someone saw it behind the counter and against my protests purchased it. And hangs it in their home. So maybe someone will like this one, too. At this point … well, I could go back, I could spend some time touching up this or that, get it back to close to where it was before the freak-out, then go from there and see if I can get it to where I was originally aiming, but … the whole procedure … the freaking out, the anger and resentment and frustration and anxiety I had about the whole thing, especially under the cloud of this other painting that’s been driving me mad, really changed the vector of the work. Now I’m exploring … where do we go from here? Where can one proceed from disaster? Do we cover it up, do we restore things to the way they were before things changed, or do we find a new path, try to embrace our new history and move forward without erasing it?
I suppose I’m going to have to write something to go with the painting. I don’t think that the journey will be as obvious as it is to me. I’m not sure people will see it at all. It seems very dark, and every time I work on it, it seems to get darker.
Others of my paintings seem to be becoming increasingly sculptural or conceptual. I should probably go to Home Depot tomorrow and buy some of the hardware I need. Some aluminum channel, apparently. Some sort of light fixture and light. Maybe I can use the scrap from the one to hold the other together… If I apply myself tomorrow, maybe I can get all these partially completed paintings done, gone, out of the way and out of my mind. Maybe I can start something new. And maybe I can’t.
Ought to be writing anyway. Something. What was I doing, again? Starting a publishing company? Fuck. Something. Not there yet. Not there yet.
I started a writing project with Mandy last month. Collaborative. Or it’s supposed to be. She writes some, I write some, she writes some, back and forth. Two stories circulating, so we each have something to work on all the time. Hopefully they’ll develop into something. Right now we’ve each written a couple of pages and swapped once and … not written anything else yet. I think we’ve each got some ideas, though, so all is not lost. Just got to set down with a typewriter and work.
Something. Got to get something done. Something, something… get something done. done. finished. complete.
I remember when I hadn’t written a book, and the writing seemed like the hard part. Now I have eight books available, and they don’t sell, and I think about them, I stare at them, and I feel like the new problem with writing isn’t that it’s a challenge to get something written any more, even though I obviously still have that concept burned into my mind… The challenge is what’s the point? The challenge is that I look at the typewriter, the computer, the pad of paper, and I know I can write, I can write a story, I can put together a book, but then what, another depressing, unsold chunk of …
…and what? …and why? Why write another word? Some of my best friends won’t read the books I give them for free. The rest will only read them if they’re free. And the public? And book stores? And marketing, oh marketing!
I took a class on Art Marketing last semester, did you hear? Yes. Very interesting, somewhat informative. The most relevant things I learned from the class include: 1) I do not spend enough time creating. Not nearly enough. 2) If I want to make a living from my creations, I need to spend at least as much time marketing every week as I do on creating. –Now, these ideas may solve the dilemma above, by getting my books and my art sold. If I spent more time creating, and an equal amount of time focused on selling, surely more of my stuff would sell (if only through my own persistence), and the psychological block of feeling like it’s all for naught might, maybe become less looming. Selling books is somewhat different from selling art, but it all comes down to marketing. Even if I had been accepted by a mainstream publisher, it is largely my own efforts at publicity and marketing that would spell the difference between success and failure of any title.
Intellectually, I know this. But it’s like knowing that I should have gone to bed at midnight when I stopped playing City of Heroes. I was tired at midnight, I thought about going to bed. I stayed up all night last night playing Uru, then slept through the middle of the day. I have to work on Sunday. I can’t do this tomorrow night (tonight, I suppose, considering). But I didn’t go to bed at midnight. Instead I put on my painting clothes, put on a movie, and worked on a painting. And that was … the easy part. That painting is just a matter of going through the motions until I get the hardware I need for the back of the thing. Then when the first movie was over, I was in the middle of this post, and I just kept spewing these words, staring at a blank screen, so I started another movie. And that one just finished and I’m not done writing here yet, but I’m tired of sitting there watching paint dry, so now I’m in my bedroom, sitting in my bed, writing this. And I noticed a clock on the way to my room said it was 4:18AM, and I should have gone to bed at midnight, and intellectually, I knew that. But I didn’t want to, and it didn’t suit me, and here I am doing something I find rewarding instead, and even though that part of the painting wasn’t particularly thrilling, it needs to get done for me to get to the point where I’m looking at a painting instead of a reminder of my laziness, and so for whatever reasons, even though I should have gone to bed, I didn’t. And it’s similar with Marketing.
I’m just not suited to it, or … I don’t like it, maybe. Or, I feel like it requires a certain level of dishonesty I am uncomfortable with. The levels of dishonesty I have to go through on a daily basis just to maintain my life are more than enough, and they’re generally the sort that would be complicated to explain were dishonest at all. But then when I get down to it, I have trouble with things like “what are your books about” or “what sort of books do you write”. Lately when I give people my card, it’s been because they asked a question like that and I just want to be able to say that the first chapter of each book is online, and they can see for themselves. I’m not sure it’s just my books, though, that I’m not comfortable describing. It’s not like I can say “the Battle of Thermopylae, told as an over-the-top, hyper-dramatic glorification of war”. It’s not that simple, at least … not to me. Heck, I went away from 300 considering how it played as a call for US troop escalations in the Middle East, a call to arms to take the battle to Iran, and as a harsh criticism of Congress’s reluctance to declare an all-out war on Islam and to put everything we have into starting a new world war. Because it’s about all that, too. And more. (It’s also about a political leader who would conspire against his own people to start an ill-advised war for the purpose of filling his own pockets with gold, while keeping himself well out of reach of the actual battle.) And if I have trouble thinking of what to say to someone to make them interested in reading my books, how are they going to sell? If I can’t answer the question “what’s your book about” in an honest and straightforward way, if I can’t give the “elevator pitch” and explain in 30 seconds what I’m doing and why you should give me money for it, how do I expect to do it 10, 20, 30 hours a week?
I’ve tried and tried to write good copy, to have summaries for my websites and for the covers of the books, and … maybe I have, maybe I haven’t, but I always feel like it’s somewhat dishonest. That it isn’t well explained, or it’s too vague or misleading… That it’s not quite right, and that if I made it right it wouldn’t be good copy any more, and that if I made it better copy, it wouldn’t be about my books any more. That’s part of the design of wretchedcreature.com: it’s basically just the images, no text, no copy, no explanations, either you like the art or you don’t, and if you want to know more, you can contact me. I’m not confident in my ability to write about my art, it’s so much more … it’s so far beyond my writing in terms of being able to be summed up in words. With some of my pieces, the best explanation I can give for the work is written out in clear language on the canvas. I can tell you a story about how I made ‘best intentions‘, but if you aren’t think about it when you look at it, if you aren’t going on the journey in your mind when you see it, when you read those words and see that piece, you aren’t going to really understand anyway. The best explanation I can give is for you to look at it. Everything else I have to say about it … I feel diminishes it, rather than builds it up. I feel the same way about most of my work.
I don’t mind having a conversation with you about it, about your thoughts and reactions to a work, and during the course of a dialogue, I may detail the process, the background, et cetera, but … to lay them out for someone … to make something so impersonal and stuck in time seems… inappropriate.
Argh… 5AM. I better get some sleep.