The VR Tightrope

I’m having one of those days where everything comes unstuck and I suddenly reply to all the emails I’ve been putting off replying to for months and months and months on end. This often ends up being a hugely heartening exercise because I find that my “Reply Later” stack, grown into a source of guilt and avoidance, is actually full of the loveliest stuff—the internet penpal stuff, the unexpected fan mail stuff, the slow motion friendship stuff. It’s because it’s lovely that it gets shoved into that folder in the first place! I want to give it time.

And you know, maybe that’s okay.

Anyway, I’m going to do something potentially gauche and quote myself because I jotted this thing down in an email to James back in January and I realized instead of waiting to write the perfect blog post about it I could just copy and paste right out of the email and be done with it. So that’s what I’m doing.

Your comment about “the arbitrary nature of the rope” brought back a memory I kept wanting to write about of seeing folks trying a VR tightrope simulator for the first time in 2016. They just had to walk across a rope lying on the floor, but of course the headset makes you think you’re wobbling along over 50 metres of thin air. Watching people try to accomplish something that was, from where I was standing, clearly safe, but behaving as if they were performing a death-defying high wire act…god. It just felt like such an accurate metaphor for the process of creating anything. Our brains convince us that certain death awaits on every side, but we’re absolutely safe. We are.

There we go. This thing I’ve been meaning to write about for five years now exists on my website. Incomplete, minimally described, but whatever. It doesn’t have to be an essay every time, y’know?

🥳

Ramble #27.2

Haven’t been super exact about remembering to cross-post when I release new Rambles, but I wanted to be sure I shared my latest one because people have said some deeply thoughtful and lovely things in the comments over on Patreon, and I think this is a discussion worth having right now.

Broad Themes: similarities between grief and creativity in both their acute and ambiguous forms, what to do when there is nothing to be done, Vaccine Feelings, broadening the window of tolerance for discomfort, models for social and economic validation, the metrics that matter in understanding Patronage, object permanence and online audiences.

Guest Starring: a lot of birds.

(If you prefer reading to listening, you can download a transcript here.)

April 10th, 2021
Ramble #27.2

All I Want

After a couple extremely chaotic late-night email threads at the start of our collaboration on Seacritters, Kate and I quickly agreed that the best thing to do would be a weekly phone check-in where we could talk about story issues, share sketches, and debrief on any notes we’d received from our editor. I’m not used to working in cahoots with this many other people, and I find it overwhelming keeping everyone on the same page, so the ritual of a weekly call seemed both helpful and necessary.

This morning’s was only vaguely concerned with the book, though. We talked about story questions for about thirty minutes and then just…meandered off. We covered a lot of ground (Commonplace Books! Patreon! Gesture drawing equivalents for writers! The Emperor’s New Groove!), but the thing that really stuck with me was the phrase “This was time well spent”.

Kate said it, and it set off that little zing in my brain that registers as truth. This is what I’m looking for, when I draft things or draw things or design things, no matter how tangentially related they might be to my primary aim. And when I’m in a rut, as I am now, it’s often because anything I lay my hands to feels divorced from any context that might make it “worthy”.1

On the good days, everything feels connected—a giant wall of conspiracy string. But on the bad days, every gesture and thought sits in isolation. It’s like I’m looking at the same board, but someone has turned off the layer containing the string. Rather than an electric galaxy of potential I just see…a mess. Disorganized, aimless, futile.

While I would love to be in a position to turn that layer off and on at will, sometimes it’s out of my hands. Those are the moments when I miss the drip-feed of social validation that comes from sharing things on public platforms. It’s a steady piping cry of “Yes! Keep going! This matters!” that can make all the difference between enthusiasm and despair. But I don’t want to rely on it. I don’t want to give away that kind of power.

Talking to Kate got me excited again about ideas that had, only yesterday, seemed dull and lifeless. She made me think that it might not be about the public validation at all. It might just take an enthusiastic co-conspirator to say that it all matters. Everything is new to somebody.

This was time well spent.

1. The whole question of what constitutes worthiness in a creative practice is another matter entirely.

I Don’t Know What I Know Till I Know How I Know It

I love it when my Patrons prove me wrong.

The best instance of this was when a few of them bullied me into making a $50 tier for the page—which I thought nobody would spring for—so they could give me more money. Years later, I am still flabbergasted that anyone has joined at that level—let alone the very loyal and kind group who have stuck around. They are life-changing types.

So you’d think at this point I’d know not to underestimate them.

But this morning I published a 1,300-word essay about trying to start work on the scripting process for Seacritters, my forthcoming graphic novel project with writer Kate Milford, and thought that nobody in their right mind would read it.

I liked the writing a great deal, and it definitely captured what I was going for, but it was, y’know, 1,300 words. If I’d received it in my inbox as a Patron, I would’ve taken one look and thought “mmmmmmaybe I’ll read that one later.”

Because my attention span these days is, to put it mildly, not great.

So I gave myself a bit of a talking-to about engaging my Inner Editor a little more in the future…but then people started to comment! They began to discuss! And over the course of the morning I realized that a bunch of humans I respect immensely had actually taken the time to read those 1,300 words, and had found them helpful, and were excited for more.

The best feeling.

100 Demon Dialogues Tour: Leg 2

Hi everyone!

I’m back from a frankly ridiculous month of touring across the Midwest and down the East Coast, which means it’s time to announce the dates for Leg 2 of the 100 Demon Dialogues Tour. But first, some stats about Leg 1:

PRETTY HECKIN’ COOL, RIGHT? I feel very accomplished. Also very tired. Turns out moving house every 1.8 days will do that to you. Check out these lovely smiling faces from the many bookstores, comic shops, and venues I visited in June:

I was especially grateful to how many people participated in my experimental Guest Book idea, where folks filled out name tags about what their demons said to them. Here’s a selection:

Even though the resultant volume is pretty heavy reading, my hope is that people found it helpful to see visual proof that they weren’t alone in their fears. We can get through this together.

If you’re on the West Coast or hanging around the Southwest, I’ve got a slew of stops for the next few months right here (also a bonus visit to the UK and back to the East Coast for a couple comics festivals):

 

Here are those stops with RSVP links, in case you’d like to invite any local friends to tag along:

  • 826 Valencia‘s Pirate Supply Store (with special guests Rose Eveleth, Molly McLeod, and Anxy Magazine) – 6:30-9pm, July 25th, San Francisco, CA
  • Local Color – 6:30pm, July 28th, San Jose, CA (followed by Mighty Mike McGee’s Spelling Bee/r!)
  • Bart’s Books (Hometown Shindig, come meet my adorable parents) – 7-9:30pm, August 3rd, Ojai, CA
  • Other Books – 6-8:30pm, August 12th, Los Angeles, CA
  • [Venue Forthcoming] – August 16th, San Diego, CA
  • San Diego Writers, Ink: Generative Demon Workshop – [Event Page Up Soon], August 17th, San Diego, CA
  • BookPeople – August 20th, 7pm, Austin, TX
  • [Colorado: TBA for Boulder/Denver]
  • Thought Bubble Festival – September 22nd & 23rd, Leeds, England
  • MICE – October 20th & 21st, Cambridge, MA

Thanks for keeping up with this wild and crazy endeavor! I’m looking forward to visiting some new places and returning to old haunts over the next few months.

A note on actually PURCHASING copies of 100 Demon Dialogues:

Due to Some Nonsense, the official in-store release date for 100 Demon Dialogues got pushed out to July 19th (although I heard some comic shops got their copies this week). If you’d like to encourage friends and family to buy a copy in the meantime, you can get both soft and hardcover editions (and Demon Plushies, stickers, postcards, and prints) from my own online shop. This is actually the best place to send folks, because more of the profit goes back into supporting my work, but I also want everyone to be able to get the book from their local shops if they so choose. Keep your eyes out next week for wider availability in stores!

Hope to see you on the road,

L

Inner Critic Investigation Week, Day 7

This is it, everyone! It’s Day Seven of Inner Critic Investigation Week, the writing prompt series I’ve been collaborating on with writing coach Deb Norton.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Get a pen and a sheet of paper.
  2. Set a timer for six minutes.
  3. WRITE. Ask your Inner Critic the question and find out what they have to say. Keep your pen moving, even if you’re writing lies or “Blah blah blah” over and over.

Our seventh and final prompt is:

By now you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of what your Inner Critic doesn’t like. What happens if you deliberately try to push their buttons? Make a list of everything you can think of that will make your Critic hoppin’ mad. Maybe it’s doing a deliberately horrible drawing. Maybe it’s singing loudly in the shower when that voice inside is screaming at you to be quiet because the neighbors will judge you. Maybe it’s eating a whole pizza in one sitting. There are no wrong answers, just list as many things as you can think of.

 

I’d love to do a round-up post next week with some anonymous entries from various people’s writing exercises. If you’d be willing to share, email me some excerpts at lucypcbellwood@gmail.com, or leave ’em in the comments below.

Thank you so much for following along with this experiment! If you’d like to learn more about Deb’s work, check out her website or buy a copy of Part Wild: a Writer’s Guide to Harnessing the Creative Power of Resistance. You can also listen to the podcast we recorded about Inner Critics and the creative process. The little character you see featured in all these prompts is my Inner Critic, who I got to know over the course of drawing 100 comics in 100 days. You can read those right here.

Inner Critic Investigation Week, Day 6

It’s Day Six of the Inner Critic Investigation series I’m collaborating on with writing coach Deb Norton! Our goal is to help you develop a dialogue with your Inner Critic as if it were a separate, living character. I’ve found this massively helpful for understanding what’s in my way when I sit down to make work.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Get a pen and a sheet of paper.
  2. Set a timer for six minutes.
  3. WRITE. Ask your Inner Critic the question and find out what they have to say. Keep your pen moving, even if you’re writing lies or “Blah blah blah” over and over.

Today’s prompt is:

Your Inner Critic is probably all too keen to tell you about the things you’re doing wrong, but about the times they’ve royally screwed up? Take confession in six minutes of free-writing.

If you’re feeling brave and want to share any of your responses to these prompts, you can leave excerpts in the comments below, or email them to me (lucypcbellwood@gmail.com) to be included in an anonymous roundup at the end of the project. The last prompt goes up tomorrow!

If you haven’t done so already, you can listen to a whole conversation about this Creative Resistance stuff in this talk I just recorded with Deb.

NOW GET WRITING!

Panels, Podcasts, and Posts!

Hi gang! First off: big thanks to all of you who came out last month to say hello at Emerald City Comicon. It was incredibly cool to see so many familiar faces and get comics into returning hands. I promise I’ll keep cranking ’em out so you’ll have more to enjoy in 2015.

ECCCFaceNow: I have a whole bundle of audiovisual treats for you today, taken from various panels and speaking gigs I’ve done in the past few weeks.

First up is It’s Not Too Dangerous to Go Alone, a great panel run by Kenna Conklin of Geek Portland on having the guts to make your creative career happen. I got to speak alongside Erika Moen, Dylan Meconis, and Angela Webber, which was a treat in and of itself, but I also feel like we hit some great points about motivation and starting from scratch.

PanelHeaderSecond is Erika’s Freelance Like a Rockstar panel, with Steve Lieber, Dylan Meconis, and Amy Falcone. (I nabbed this recording on my phone, so the quality is a little less spectacular, but you can still hear everyone!) We discuss all the juicy freelancer topics like finding jobs, self promotion, pricing strategies, and *gulp* contracts. Valuable fun for the whole freelance family.

Finally, I got to participate in a panel on Setting Realistic Goals as part of the MakingComics.com Massive Open Online Course last week. I really enjoyed getting to digitally discuss project management, scheduling, and work/life balance with Jared Cullum, Jen Vaughn, Damon Gentry, Eric Shanower, Christina Blanch, and Patrick Yurik. Plus this one has video so you can see all our weird facial expressions while we talk.

Phew. That’s all from me for now — I hope these discussions are useful to you all!