November Achievements

This is the post in which I hold myself accountable to the grand goals I made almost a month ago. Counter to my usual habit of scoffing at my own plans and remaining in front of the TV with video games and potato chips, I actually had some success last month, so let’s run through it.

First of all, I failed to write 50,000 words. Which is fine, since I was shunning NaNo this year anyway. What I did instead was haul up the bones of Where the Fireflies Go, procrastinate until two weeks before the deadline and finally finished a horrible first draft. This was fortunately made salvageable by a very kind beating by my Finnish beta reader, and kicked off to the editors–probably before it was ready to go. Who am I kidding? It was most definitely sent prematurely. Eight hours before the deadline.

*cough*

I’m going to work on that in the new year.

Nothing was done with The Fifth Stage, however. I remember the psychological scars that one gave me while I was working on it. Maybe it needs a few more months. Or years.

Second, I did manage to set myself up with a workable eat-less-exercise-more plan that so far hasn’t resulted in me catching every cold and flu known to mankind. I even lost a bit of weight and subsequently bought two books! Woohoo! Of course I recognize that December is a horrible, horrible time to strike out a diet plan, so we’ll call the last two months of 2013 the test run, and start in earnest in 2014. Yes, that sounds workable.

And speaking of new books, the two books I bought both came from Abe’s Books, are both on the subject of Mongolia, and are both research material for Beyond the Bone Wall. While I always knew that my inspiration for this, my first novel would come from Asia, I never imagined Mongolia would play such a pivotal role. It wasn’t planned, it just sort of happened that way. So now I have Tim Severin’s In Search of Genghis Khan and Stephen J. Bodio’s Eagle Dreams: Searching for Legends in Wild Mongolia and I’m more than a little excited to start (restart?) this project. I’m going to give it the full on outline treatment and it will be my project through 2014 with the goal of having a completed first draft by this time next year. Time to hide the video games and potato chips.

Granted, finally finishing my painting project last month has given me some confidence that I can, in fact, finish what I start and I don’t have a broken mechanism in my brain that prevents me from ever completing anything. Damn, I was going to have doctor’s notes to editors and everything. The painting, started two years ago (thank you Alex for that correction) turned out much better than I thought it would, though it’s still far from being a masterpiece. It was nice to play with acrylics again; I haven’t painted in almost as long as I haven’t read, which is sad. I’m glad I’m at a stage of my life again where I can slow down and enjoy the things in my life that make me happy.

There’s something very therapeutic about painting, I think. It’s different from drawing which is sometimes stressful, and writing which is almost always stressful. Painting (especially with relatively cheap and versatile acrylics) is experimentation, elegance, and creativity without boundaries. Mixing colors together on both the palette and the canvas and being shocked or delighted by what comes out of it pulls out little pieces of me that I can’t use regularly. Even the soft sweeps of the brush just feels nice. There’s something primary about it. This passage from Steven Brust’s The Sun, the Moon, & the Stars says it nicely:

I squeezed out ochre yellow. I love squeezing paint onto the palette. It reminds me of fingerpainting. I’m always tempted to squeeze it onto my hands and work that way.

It’s an unrestrained sort of feeling; it’s crayon scribbling, markers on the wall, clay squeezed through a shaper, feeling. Of course, the painting still (sometimes) needs to have form, but the process feels good. It’s freeing.

And because of that, I never want to do illustrations or painting for profit. There are some good, practical reasons for this, like traditional media being expensive and time consuming in comparison to the cheaper, more in demand digital media. But more personally, I don’t really want to put the time and energy into mastering painting. To rephrase that in a way that doesn’t make me sound like a lazy asshole, I’m afraid that if I learn the actual theories and mechanics of visual art, it will take away from the joy of discovery that I get in producing things entirely from my own imagination and creative ability. I like being self-taught in acrylics. I will read book after book on writing craft to hone those abilities, but painting I want to keep as personal as possible. It’s more fun that way. Like finger painting.

That said, I’m not above showing off what I’ve done (come on, I’m an artist, it’s what we do) so here’s the finished product:

acrylic medium on B4 cedar board 2011-2013

title: Nanashi and Satoshi in the Valley of Mist

nanashi-2 nanashi-3 nanashi-4 nanashi-5 nanashi-1nanashi-6

 

And for the final bit of news, instead of finishing The Tale of Genji (I’m crying inside; I’m never going to finish that book) I’m reading The Sun, the Moon, & the Stars. If I can finish it and the November/December issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction before the end of the year, I’ll be a happy woman. I have a 14 hour journey home in which I’ll have nothing better to do than read, so maybe I’ll be able to do it.

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