On making good art & idol shelves

I’m possibly weird in that I use Twitter for watching the conversations between people (and ranting myself), but I use Tumblr like the brainless depository of thoughts. Should it be the reverse?

My Tumblr is called “Stuff I Liked Once” and that’s really all it is. Cool quotes and lot of pictures reblogged over and over. It’s a bit of a personal experiment where I try to only like/reblog the things I actually like, rather than reblogging everything an idol does or jumping on the popular more vocal philosophy trains.

It ends up being mostly pictures, since I love pictures that take me places. There’s a lot of animals on there, mostly wildlife, but I like the polar bears the most. I have no clue why. The other theme is I like photos where I can imagine walking down a path and looking at the world around that path, whether the path is just a path or it’s a bridge or it’s the top of a wall or it’s an interstate road or it’s a tunnel. They’re always paths somewhere with things to look at around them.

And waterfalls. I don’t know what it is about waterfalls (& rain), and I know I’ve said it before, but I really hope that “Visit the 10k Waterfalls of Pandaria” achiev makes it to live, because I totally will.

I have no clue what that’s suppose to say about me, but I liked these things at least once at one time.

On Tumblr, I’ve started to explore a bit more of the writing side of myself. I guess I could say the artsy side of myself, not just writing, because I find that a lot of the how-to-draw or how-to-paint or how-to-photograph advice could very well be applied to writing, and not even changing that much in it to fit it.

I guess that’s odd, since I used my WoW alias, Poneria, and my blog as the username for it, and it happens to be nothing about WoW, except occasionally. But I’ve been Poneria for a long time, so I guess I felt like it was me enough.

Anyway, on Tumblr, there is Neil Gaiman. And he recently gave the graduation speech/address at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. And I thought, “Ah, graduation speeches. They’re either actually inspiring and entertaining or they’re just a load of bullshit for 15/20 minutes.”

But I hit the play button.

There’s two parts that stuck out for me. The first I had to pause and replay it to make sure he actually said what I thought it said (which he did), because it rang so true. The second is just a reflavoring of the old “Haters gonna hate — do what you’re going to do” advice. But one of the examples he used stood out in the garden of his wilder examples.

I know there’s a subtitles version of the video somewhere, but I couldn’t access it, so I retyped what Neil Gaiman said, a few seconds at a time. I’ve bolded the parts that woke me up.

The first part, that’s ever so true:

The problems of failure are hard. The problems of success can be harder, because nobody warns you about them. The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you’re getting away with something and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s imposter syndrome, something that my wife Amanda christened the fraud police. In my case I was convinced there would be a knock on the door, and a man with a clipboard — I don’t know why he had a clipboard but in my head he always had a clipboard — would be there to tell me it was all over and they’d caught up with me and now I would have to go and get a real job, one that didn’t consistent of making things up and writing them down and reading books I wanted to read. And then, I would go away quietly, and get the kind of job. I would have to get up early in the morning. And wear a tie. And not make things up anymore.

When the Legacy of the Masters (Part 1) came out on the MoP beta, I really wanted to write some warlock story. Except I’m just really shaky on the demonic lore, since it’s especially tied up in the Well of Eternity stuff, which has got time-travel all up in it and the book to read for it is by Knaak, and I’m not really a fan of him. I didn’t want to mess it up. It’s not really that my Jenga tower of demonic lore knowledge is in a pile on the floor, just that all the good takeaway pieces are gone, and I’d really rather not touch it lest it all fall over on me.

I imagine my idols like a shelf you get in kids’ rooms with the trophies on it. Just one shelf, and it’s like…it’s no wider/longer than a bookshelf shelf. Enough room for a lot of idols, but only that one shelf. And all the people on it, real or not, are action figures. It sounds silly to write out, especially if I name some of them, but it’s my shelf of my idols.

Anyway. Somehow all my stuff fits on this shelf. It’s an imagined shelf, so it’s magical, so it stretches or condenses as I need it to.

There’s Scotty from Star Trek and Wash from Firefly. Taped to the wall, upside down, above the shelf is the piece of paper with the arrow and “forward” on it from Independence Day, and there’s also a photograph of Agnes Moorhead in her house that’s being invaded by little space men. Below the forward arrow is an Exocomp and below Agnes is WALL-E. There’s an old academic team buzzer, with the button-press and its cord dangling off the shelf, and it sits on top of the Pharr edition of Vergil’s The Aeneid. There’s Garcia from Criminal Minds & Abby from NCIS.

There’s a paladin badass of a tank named Gretchaen and old bear druid named Frialivkesh and a treant resto druid named Eilensar. There’s a black cat druid Tigeris, sitting on a Stockades box and dancing the cat dance. There’s a multi-colored and multi-classed Murf, though his dominant color is a dark blue and he has all his totems. There’s a night elf Fernleaf and a dwarf Balthamus. There’s a warlock named Garic and there’s a shadow priest named Snakeneyes.

There’s Cynwise, whether he wants to be there or not. There’s Fulguralis, who gets put back up on the shelf no matter how many times he tries to slide off it. Above an Anna of the Too Many variety is a sketch in words of my failed D&D gnome bard Rosamarmiel that’s clearly been repeatedly yanked off and re-taped to the wall. There’s Ophelie with her spoon, posed exactly like she looks on her banner. There’s Rades and Vixsin. There’s the four-headed hydra of Flavor Text Lore writers.

There’s Dominic Hobbs, and there’s Allison Robert, and there’s Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney.

Those last three still write for WoW Insider — & I’m in the spot belonging to the first one! — and it’s intimidating as fuck any time I try to write a piece in imitation of any of the four. I know I shouldn’t be, that I got my spot because I’m awesome (or was at least the most awesome that applied), but I hunch my shoulders in anticipated terror anyway.

And when I sit down to write, the idol shelf is there in my head, for better or for worse.

I wanted to write about the warlock flavor, about how exciting it is to play the evil guy, whether you decide to overcome your flaws or maybe you decide your flaws are actually strengths. I wanted to forget about the theorycrafting and the mechanics and whether they were killing our class or actually reigniting it with all the revamps. I just wanted to get lost in the dreadsteeds and green fel fire and draining souls and lighting things on fire because hell why not.

But I sat up late (or is it early?) trying to write it together. I tried to have fun writing it — and I did have fun writing it. I tried to not fuck up the lore, because I was afraid of the swarm of “YOU GOT THIS PART WRONG” if I did. I also wanted to make sure I had enough there, because I was out of time to go find something else to write about if there wasn’t. It was just barely enough — if you don’t count the italicized intro & the swipe, it’s 1054 words.

And I hit “save as pending” fully expecting an email in my box when I woke up from the editors asking me just what kind of bullshit I was trying to pull off. I look at it and I didn’t write much else on top of the Legacy and warlock mechanics. It’s much like I repeated the thing and linked some shit. Any monkey arcane blasting a typewriter could do that, I thought.

And I waited for the moment when they discovered me.

And when things get tough, this is what you should do: make good art. … I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Someone on the internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow. Eventually time will take the sting away, and it doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: make good art. Make it on the bad days. Make it on the good days, too.

My piece about those who are not afraid to wield power got published without a word back to me. No word is good, I think. I’m pretty sure, anyway. I suppose they’ll tell me when I fuck things up (like how to tag with spaces).

I’m an idiot who still reads all the comments instead of skimming. But commenters liked it, too? One person said all the links looked like an AdWare piece, but more liked all the links, how you could go click them or hover over them if you weren’t a warlock who knew these things. People keep telling me they liked it.

So I guess I made some good art that time. Enough good art to fool most of you that I can actually write worth beans for a moment.

But I need to write this second part out somewhere, with colored markers because COLOR, and tape it up on my idol shelf. Probably make it a long banner, so I can cover all my writing idols with it.

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On making good art & idol shelves

One thought on “On making good art & idol shelves

  1. (While sliding)
    “Cyn, quick! Write me another shelf! This one with padding, so like… super, extra, mega-long shelf! With charts!” (What a slacker, amirite?)

    In other news, Wash rules. ❤ Firefly (and JW… he's high up on my shelf).

    In all seriousness, sometimes you just hafta hit the "publish" button. It's that simple.

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