There’s a collection of locks on the chain link fence over a bridge in Boston. We passed by, on our way to the T, and even though we had a place to be, and people to call, I had to pause, just a moment, to appreciate the sight. Some of the locks are old ad rusted, some are new and shining. There are plain cold metal ones, and ones that are bright purple or green or heart shaped. Most of them are clumped together, so when looked at from the right angle and distance they look like rigid, shimmering fish scales, while others float to the side, or hang above, the old owners tall or clever enough to get them up above the rest.
I don’t know why these are here, if there’s a general purpose or if every single person just left a lock for different reasons. Out of boredom, because they were sad, because something had made them angry, or because the sight stunned them for a moment and they wanted to be a piece of it. Or maybe they wanted to ditch a lock they didn’t need, and this seemed like the place to do it.
All those little chunks of metal together, either forming garbage, or something beautiful, depending on your point of view.
I didn’t mean to post any of these sketches, but hey, I’m out of ideas for blog posts, and I’m trying desperately hard to keep up with my blogging schedule.
The figure drawing guide started to get way too vague for me, not quite showing me any of the inbetweens, so I had no idea if I was following directions correctly. So I got another guide and started copying pictures of models I found on the internet.
Everything is drawn in pencil, then defined/shaded with charcoal.
The pose came out really awkward in this one, but pretty good considering how disproportionate my bodies have been. I have a hard time with feet and hands. But I liked how the face and hair came out.
This next one I mostly wanted to draw the jacket, since it looks like something I picture on one of my characters. Did not quite work.
As you can see I made no sincere attempt with the hands.
Got a bit of a lazy eye going on in that, too.
So, not great. But still something that’s fun to do while watching baking shows.
The majority of Steven Universe spends time with only three gems — Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. As Steven’s trio of moms, they’ve taught Steven not just about being a Gem, but also about love, bravery, and loyalty. And Steven, in turn, has helped them understand friendship, persistence, and heartache — basically, helping them to be a little more human.
Because, despite their vibrant emotions (and tendency to break into song) the Crystal Gems are aliens, and they had to learn, and understand, and change things about themselves in order to exist on Earth.
Enter Peridot, the newest “Crystal Gem,” as she says with a kind of manic sarcasm. She’s been stranded on a planet she didn’t even want to come to, amongst people she’s been told are traitors to their kind. She has faith in her superiors and a deep belief in the system she was born and raised in, a system that denounces everything the Crystal Gems have ever done.
Once again I’ve sent a manuscript off to be read by my critique partner. I trust her to tell me what’s working, where I’m doing well. But I also trust her to tell me what isn’t working, where I’m failing and flailing, to type in clear language whether this story is ready for me to suit up and fling into the world.
And it’s nice knowing she expects the same from me.
Sometimes when I’m critiquing, I’m worried that I’m being mean, even if in retrospect, and when comparing my critiques to others, that never appears to be the case. It’s what I want from other people, to flatly say “I don’t understand” or “This is boring”, “I don’t believe your character” or “This whole page needs to go.” I need to know how someone outside of my brain is effected by my story, and that’s what a good critique partner wants right back.
Still, I’m so anxious about making people upset, about having someone angry at me (I will stress for days if I say something weird in a text message and a friend never responds), and I too often equate my being honest with being mean. It’s how I wind up being too passive-aggressive from day-to-day. But, there’s no being passive-aggressive, or pandering, when you’re critiquing — none of us have time for that. We need to know what’s wrong, so we can fix it, editing and rewriting and scribbling circles in a notebook until the solution snaps in our heads like a firecracker.
It’s wonderful, to find other writer-people that you can be honest with. People who trust your opinion, who know the difference between constructive criticism and petty meanness. People who you aren’t overly concerned with hurting their feelings (they’ll get hurt eventually) because you’re focused on helping them mold their story into the most near-perfect shape you can.
And if you can trust them to give the same back, that’s a pretty good deal.
For a couple of years I’ve subscribed to Wheezy Waiter, the channel by Craig Benzine. When I first started watching, he’d post a few times a week, usually about a jokey topic (Explosion Wednesday!). I watched a lot of them, because I had YouTube open, because it was there. Some of them I liked, some I didn’t care about, some I didn’t watch at all.
A few months ago, the channel shifted. He moved the camera from his office back to his home. He started moving the camera around, then taking it with him. Without my noticing at first, Wheezy Waiter became a daily vlog, and I loved it.
He tapes himself making coffee, entering rooms, editing, going on a run. He comes up with ways to make what he does interesting, funny, meaningful. Or, he finds meaning in things he encounters as he carries his camera around all day.
This is a guy who runs a PBS show, who’s in a band and is a guest at conventions, but even without that the way he records his life is fascinating to me. Even on a boring day, there’s something fun you can do, or look at, or talk about. The everyday is laid out in such a way that I’m inspired — inspired to run, to go places and do things, to blog about what happened in my life. Inspired to focus on how ridiculous and cute my dog is (not that I needed much extra help with that).
I don’t key into every moment of every video, and I still feel a little weird admitting that one of my favorite channels is, in its basic form, a guy going about his day. But he’s somehow made peering into someone else’s life comfortable, and I appreciate all the thoughts that come out of watching these snaps of life.
In my newfound goal to start drawing again, I’ve been drawing faces and figures. This is all with the lofty, high-art aim of wanting to draw cartoon caricatures of myself. But, I’m out of practice, and really, I wasn’t that great to begin with, so my bodies look weird and disproportional. So, I’ve been looking for drawing books.
The first one I found is, quite luckily, a library e-book that I can look at on my computer, The Energetic Line in Figure Drawing by Alon Bemet. I don’t have experience in these things, so I don’t know if it’s the best book in the world for this, but so far the book teaches to draw the gesture (I’ve had to learn about gesture in my writing, might as well learn it in drawing, too). I’ve only gotten through bodies from the side and arms, but so far I’ve had some fun results.
Maybe I’ll keep with this book. At least through how to draw a three-quarter turned figure. Or maybe I’ll just keep drawing different faces.
Oh man and clothes…I don’t know how to draw clothes…
I’m going to run this weekend.
I decided that as I packed my duffle bag for a short Cape Cod trip, taking up precious space with yoga pants and sports bras. And on Saturday, as everyone left the house, I ignored my unopened books and blank notebook pages as I tied up my sneakers, layered my tank tops, and ran out the front door.
I huffed up one main road, and then another, with an actual goal in mind —a beach, just over a mile away. There and back, that’s all I planned on doing. Not incredibly far, but farther than I had been doing on the treadmill. I expected to stop before I even smelled the ocean, taking deep breaths as I walked slow, hoping to get the energy back to jog the last few feet before I reached the sand.
I kept going. Music pumped in my ears, but I could still hear my breath heaving in and out as slow and even as I could manage, hear my sneakers pounding steadily on the road, the dirt, the sidewalk. I turned up the last road, I got to the beach, and then I finally slowed — I’d run the whole way there.
Everything smelled like seaweed and salt, and I walked up and down the sand, sucking in the smells, watching the ocean, letting the breeze cool a face that had pinkened to about the color of a watermelon Jolly Rancher.
Then I ran back.
Again, I thought I would stop, that I’d walk the last half mile, the last quarter mile, the last hundred yards. But I kept coming up with reasons. I’ll finish this song. Oh wait, “I Don’t Have a Favorite Pony” by Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers is on, I’ll finish that song. Now there’s a couple up ahead walking their elderly dogs, I’ll catch up to them first (why are they so hard to catch up to??).
I’d run out of excuses, and by then I’d reached the house again. Just over two miles, not terribly far, but a distance for me. And I’d run the whole way, except for a pair of minutes where I stared, heart pounding, at the sea.
I ran one last time on Monday, before we left. Legs tired, and rain misting outside, I went to another beach, not so far away as the first. But I went, my own feet carried me all the way there. The whole rest of the rainy cold day, packing bags and driving home, it felt pretty good.
After getting comments back from my critique partner and a couple of people from the fantasy critique group I’ve joined, I’ve been spending the last couple of months editing my middle grade story. I think I’ve finally got it polished up to the best of my ability, and had planned on getting it ready to send out now….
…but, things never work out how we want. I haven’t changed the main plot, but I’ve made alterations to some character motivations and reactions, and I want to make sure they work for people other than me. So, off to the group for one last go!
Hopefully I’ll be able to get this out to agents in June, so while I’m waiting for comments I’m going to work on my query materials: the letter, the synopsis, the list of agents that I hope against hope will accept me.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about my new adult WIP that I put aside a few months ago, to let it stew, so it’s probably about time to pull it out again and fix it up. Maybe I can get some comments on that this weekend, too.
I’m also trying to keep up with two posts a week on this blog. It’s been working for a little while — but I need to do a better job of coming up with content, and of writing posts ahead of time so I’m not struggling to get one out.
That’s what I’m writing — other writers, anything new for you?
I’m sitting at my desk, reading through my manuscript one “last” time (you know, before the next “last” time) before sending it back to my critique partners before (hopefully) prepping it for query. And I’m thinking to myself, “I really like this part.” Reading through my story, making only minimal changes, sometimes in awe of a paragraph I can’t believe was actually written by me. Surely this is the part of the writing process that brings me the most joy!
Except, every part brings me the most joy, all for different reasons.