What’s your game?

I’ve never been as good at blogging here as I hoped. In the beginning this was my Warcraft blog, and then I expanded it to Swtor and Marvel Heroes (and not bothered changing the header since). I now ramble about all kinds of things. I mean let’s not pretend otherwise, these are rambles. I pretend like there’s a difference as I separate out my copied over tumblr rambles from the ‘real’ blog posts, but really they are much the same stylistically. In the beginning I think I tried to make them more legit – just as I tried to keep a blog theme – but this is what it’s become. As this is basically my private ramble spot, as I don’t think anyone reads these even if they are technically publicly accessible, I guess it doesn’t matter.

Anyway, I’m not too sure why that was on my mind as an intro but it feels related somewhat because this is a blog post about Warcraft, and about approach I guess.

I have made a number of posts about Warcraft over the years. If you track back through them you’ll see I change my opinions about some things. I’ve been playing this game on/off for a long time (since January 2010) and as I have changed, the game has changed. There have been times I’ve felt the game has become incompatible with me, and that was the case recently.

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Victory Number Ten! (of a sort)

So I ‘won’ NaNo.

The inverted quotes are because I got the 50k (and for the 10th time in November) but if I look back at my intentions post, I didn’t really get what I wanted.

“my primary motivation this November is to try and find my joy again.”

“I wanted to feel excited to write it, I wanted to obsess over it, to have my mind wander to that world – like it used to years ago.”

That’s what I wrote. That’s what I wanted. That is NOT what happened.

NaNo usually follows a pattern of sorts. I have zero days, and then I have high word count days to make up for it. While there was some of that this month the graph was actually more stable than I think I have ever seen it – consistently a little below par. Usually when I approach the end I get a real whoosh and my final day is a downward hurtle to the finish line. I’m pretty sure on almost all NaNo’s I finish before Day Thirty due to that headlong whoosh. Well it was Day Thirty and it was a double day (3k) because that’s what I needed to scrape the 50k and so that’s what I did.

It was a total slog, and the only thing similar to the downward whoosh is when I got a “fuck it” mentality and just embraced the crap. There wasn’t any moments of joy, there weren’t any moments where I felt it flowed well. I had one brief moment where I felt I might have captured one characters voice, but that lasted for a single writing session and hasn’t repeated.

The only moments where I felt any kind of ‘magic’ were when I had to plan. I did like the idea generation for the episodes. Starting with nothing and then coming up with the episode plot and I think I came up with some cool stuff. It’s implemented very badly but there’s some cool ideas there I think.

I ended up with basically discovery drafts of the first three episodes, plus the first couple of scenes and half an outline for episode four. So I have something to build on I guess.

I knew going into this that joy was a state of mind, and that my lack of it isn’t really related to the writing – it’s me. So I know I shouldn’t be surprised at this result, and I’m not I mean I flat out said in the intentions post that I doubted it was possible to find the joy, but that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed. I really would have liked to enjoy this month. I really, really, REALLY, wanted to remember why I do this writing thing, to feel some smidgeon of hope again.

I wish I had something more positive to say in this NaNo wrap-up but right now this is how I feel. In December obviously I need to think about my goals for 2024. Finding joy is likely to be my top priority but I really don’t know how to do that. It’s not about what I write, it is about me, and I don’t know how to change me. I really wish I did.

I forgot what I remembered

Simply put this October that’s what happened. I had been joking a few different places about “All Hallow’s Eve” and I’d been trying to plan my NaNo story. It wasn’t that I didn’t know November was approaching like a freight train, but it took me by surprise anyway.

I forgot to make my standard “it’s that time again” pre-NaNo post. I also didn’t properly finish planning my NaNo story. I had a lot of the character and world details locked down, but the actual plot itself? On Monday I realised I had to throw most of it out and start again. Talk about a last minute scramble to have something that worked to start writing on Wednesday.

Anyway, what am I writing?

This year I am attempting a serial. My history of writing short is not successful so I am highly sceptical but we shall see. I didn’t finish the revision I started over the summer because (and this is the thing I should talk about most) I realised that I hadn’t had any joy really in writing since 2016. Oh there have been moments here and there. I didn’t write much of anything for a few years, until I picked fanfic back up and dove into a new fandom (Sanctuary). However, fanfic is a little different as my brain sort of accepts whatever spews out for the most part, and as a lot of things are familiar, it is easy to skate on a lot of foundational parts of writing. Also even then it could be a slog.

Writing is hard. And I’m not romanticising how it was back pre-late 2016 – it was always hard. I remember countless days of staring at the screen and not getting anywhere, of frustrated tears, and a lot of anger at myself for not getting on with it. I remember feeling like I wanted to burn it with fire, as my drafts were so terrible that’s all it deserved – none of this is new. But it was balanced by the times it went well. The times I had a brainwave, everything fell into place and I felt a spark of magic. The times the words did flow and it didn’t feel constantly like pulling teeth. The times I remembered why I did this writing thing.

I know that writing requires discipline. I’m not advocating chasing new shiny stories, as ultimately they do all end up in the same place – as writing is hard work, it’s a slog to write tens of thousands of words to draft a novel – but my primary motivation this November is to try and find my joy again.

It’s a difficult problem because the reality is I don’t have joy for anything. It’s not a problem exclusive to writing, it’s just that writing bears the brunt quite often as it’s the thing that matters most to me. Yes I know that sounds like depression (and it is). I also have intense and dehibilitating anxiety (I can’t leave my house alone anymore), and the sensory overwhelm is a real problem. It’s depressingly (ha!) easy to just drift, to give up. Every now and then I get a burst of energy which motivates frustrated anger and self-hate at how much time I’ve wasted, how I have things I want to do and time in which to do them, but do I? NO! But it rarely translates into much of a burst of actually doing the things, and even if it does it doesn’t last because I mentally tear to shreds everything I attempt – there is no joy to be found there.

So how can I find joy again this November? I suppose I do doubt that it’s possible. Indeed I am currently writing this on Day Two, and I haven’t done my words today. I did yesterday. But today I had an appointment first thing, and I had an awful nightmare last night, and I’m just permenantly on the edge of tears, and I feel so out of the mental energy to push myself. To actually make myself start. I have opened everything, I am sitting at the desk, and I just feel more like crying than writing – the very opposite of joy. It’s not that I hate what I’m writing (even if I do hate how I have strung the words together). I do like my idea very much. I like all my ideas. I joke that I want to have them done, rather than actually do them, but that’s the truth really. I want them to exist but I don’t think I have the skills, and I am struggling to find the spoons, necessary to make that a reality.

When I picked my new shiny project I tried hard to pick something that hit all my like buttons. I wanted to feel excited to write it, I wanted to obsess over it, to have my mind wander to that world – like it used to years ago. As I said I do like it very much but that’s the only tick off that list so far.

My word count goal this NaNo is obviously 50k, which I think should equate to about 2.5 ‘episodes’ of this serial. My real goal is to enjoy the process and that leaves me conflicted because I am definitely not enjoying it today. But I know I will beat myself up if I don’t write, as then I will be ‘behind’ pace. But then again I’m not exactly getting anywhere just sitting here either. It’s an eternal dilemma. I wish there was an answer.

This was inked. I made special effort with the line weights and even did some attempts at ‘comic book style inking’ for the shadows. Ezekiel (as Ezra) was done mostly with markers but some coloured pencil touch-ups. The background was done entirely with coloured pencils. I wanted it to be softer and for Ezekiel to pop more. So the background wasn’t inked, so there were no hard lines and also the saturation of colour was a bit less as the markers are stronger.

I’m relatively pleased with the composition. I think the one on the right (in the field) came out the best. I like the background on that. I think the grass field rendered well and I blended his feet in nicely. The smoke isn’t that good but it’s not terrible either. However, the background at the market went a bit wrong. I got a bit lost doing the stall. Also I’m sure I messed up the perspective on the box and probably elsewhere too.

The shadows on the market picture are the worst. The ones in the background are just bad really. I made an effort but it’s not good. The comic inking shadows on both didn’t come out that well either. I think perhaps I did it wrong. It didn’t blend in and look right. It was definitely too intense on Ezekiel’s side in the field picture.

I still feel like there isn’t much life in the pose. It’s very stiff. I suspect that’s to do with my linework. It’s not very fluid as I’m careful in copying my mocked up ‘sketch’. I still have a lot to learn.

Watercolour pencil painting of Galahad, in Camelot times.

I had a reference for the horse and the background. It was the rider/knight and the pose with the sword that I changed. My reference was blurry which I think didn’t really help. I wanted a somewhat blurry, fantasy background. Sort of like he’s riding and that’s why the details can’t really be seen. However, I don’t feel like I achieved that. I think it’s just a mess of colour, and the ‘glaze’ I tried to add at the bottom for the dust the horse was kicking up didn’t work at all.

I can see far more of the paper texture than I am comfortable with. I don’t know if that means I didn’t use enough pigment or if it’s just this paper. It’s a new watercolour pad and I think it’s cold-press (I usually use hot-press which is smoother).

He looks rather stiff and unnatural and his torso isn’t correct. I don’t know if that’s in the shaping or in the shadows meaning it doesn’t look like it has form. I definitely think I need to lay more pigment down, and possibly use less water. I’m still learning the balance.

Watercolour painting with a some coloured pencil corrective work.

Attempt at a comic book style three panel strip. I like how the title painted and the bolts in space look alright. I sketched this with the grid method from the digital mock-up, rather than printing and tracing, and I’m pleased I made the attempt. I think the ship turned out ok. Not great but my reference was shaky and so the rendering of the ‘windows’ was pure guesswork. I’m pleased I tried to deepen the shadows at the bottom, there was an effort at contrast there at least.

However, the dramatic lighting I was going for (night scene, with the lightsaber glowing) did not work out. The lightsaber glow wasn’t enough. An attempt was made but executed badly. I didn’t get the shadows right. I can see now how I messed up with his leg, and lack of defined shadows there etc. Also in my effort not to overblend, I didn’t put enough contrast in several places, most notably the droid and Jacen’s face, but also his clothes. Another big mess up was with the stars. I used masking fluid to keep those areas white and they are too big and uniform.

A couple of days ago I saw a screenshot of Sabine from the Ahsoka trailer. She wasn’t in armour, just a plain shirt and jeans. I posted about how I didn’t vibe with that outfit, that it was too bland for her. That it didn’t speak to her personality in my opinion. So I decided to have a stab at coming up with an alternative.

So about the outfit!

  • The symbols on the t-shirt came from the jacket from a different scene in the trailer.
  • The engraving on the belt buckle is the Mythosaur, symbol of Mandolore.
  • Obviously the Phoenix on the back of the vest is Sabine’s emblem for the squadron.
  • I thought she should have a lot of pockets for her art stuff (spray cans, brushes etc.) so there’s the vest and then the cargo trousers. Utilitarian and comfortable.
  • She strikes me as someone very practical and badass. Hence the combat boots even when ‘off-duty’ but jazzed up with purple laces for her personality. Same with the fingerless gloves.
  • Her armour had some patterns. Mostly geometric and a lot of just colour splashes. So I tried to replicate that by giving the t-shirt like a spray effect so it’s mostly red with some purple at the top (echoing her hair).
  • For the trousers I took inspiration from images of “graffiti style” trousers. I tried to imagine what artwork Sabine would pick and so there’s the Loth Cat, symbol of the Jedi, Republic and New Republic. A representation of her favourite handheld explosive, some paint splatters, a geometric lightning bolt like she put on Ezra’s stormtrooper helmet and then a little doodle of Hera just because.

Drawn in Procreate, with thanks to PoseMuse for the shortcut.

Illustration with markers and coloured pencils, for the Bering and Wells Big Bang event.

I experimented a bit with the lighting having the line for the highlights. I also tried to copy the “Marvel’s What If?” style a bit with the inking colours. I’m relatively pleased with the composition and the skin colour is better than my last attempt with markers thank merlin.

It’s not terrible but the markers on the large background areas went streaky as I think my technique wasn’t very good. The coloured pencils didn’t blend as well as I had hoped and the shadows look weird.

Still considering I usually overwork/overblend everything to death, there was a concerted attempt at a more comic book style here. Not executed well, but attempted, and that’s a start.

Really Hardison? Slow walking in front of the explosion.

Oh you wish you looked that cool.

Just get in the damn car.

Parker? Parker! Oh hell no, Parker’s driving? I thought we had a rule about that man. I’m just saying that-

Dammit Hardison

I am getting in the car. Look I am in the car. Whoah!

Drawn for Leverage Bingo, for the second round, prompt square ‘Explosion’. Done in watercolour.

New Year, New Start?

The January blog topic for WriYe is quite open to interpretation I feel. The prompt is:

“(Re)starting fresh, for a new year, new story or after a writing break.”

Now I am both late to this topic and perfectly on time. You see the new year is a boundary time, it’s where you can put the past in the rear-view and ‘start again’. Obviously you can do that at anytime but with the turn of a calendar, and potentially millions of other people doing the same thing, there is a certain weight to it. If 2022 didn’t go well, then that’s ok because 2023 is a fresh start! That kind of thinking.

I struggle with boundary times as they make me reflective. I get torn between the hope of the possibility that maybe the future will be better/different, and being depressed and hopeless over how the past hasn’t been what I wanted, and that another year has gone by and I’m still no closer to my dreams etc. So I guess essentially what I’m saying is the whole “new year, new start” thing is something I feel very keenly. If life is about chances, then I guess psychologically speaking a new year does feel like a new chance. Every year when I do my retrospective and then my plan, I say that I want the upcoming year to be different.

So why did I say I am both late and on time?

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