Sometimes you need experience to gain insight

My XML class is in its final weeks. I remember having written some time ago that by the end of this class, I should have some idea whether I would want to go back for more intensive XML training. The answer to that question is unequivocally, “no.”

This has been a good thing to realize, prior to attempting to get a job which deals heavily with XML. Markup is not a big deal — and I may want to pursue HTML and CSS, further — but Computer Programming, is a big deal, for me. A lot of the manipulation of XML for use cases is conducted within Programming and Query languages…which are not necessarily easy things to learn. I’ve gotten tripped up on both of them.

Wend your way

I have realized that I have other strengths that not everyone has, that I should not discount; and that possibly, my past training in both Writing and Art were not missteps. Possibly, neither was Social Science. Or, Ethnic Studies. Both of the latter help me better understand the people and world around me.

Maybe, that is, I just did the best I could at the time, and my best wasn’t as bad as I had thought.

Librarianship…is different. Librarianship was a choice offered to me by a vocational institution, out of a list of jobs they could prepare me for. I do not feel their “help” was all that helpful, at this point in my life. What they gave me was a 12-year detour and another diploma…in something I may not actually want to do.

I am not certain at this point that Librarianship, as a field, even contains the type of work I primarily want to do — that is, the work that is my reason for living — though I see some subfields which could be tolerable as income streams (Cataloging). Problem is, I may have to relocate to get those jobs, and it seems most of those jobs are not even in my general region of the country — nor are they in regions I would want to move to.

Maybe the people who had those jobs didn’t want to live there, either.

As for the areas in which I find both ability and pleasure? These would be creativity, creative process, language, and literacy; writing, reading, and art.

These things have pretty much nothing to do with being a front-line Civil Service worker, even in a Library setting; but that’s what I’ve done for the last ten years of my employment. I realized over the course of those jobs, that I’m not psychologically suited for public service. I’m just very much, too sensitive; and I ruminate for too long. I can change the latter, but probably not the former.

I just tried working with “people” because I thought I had to do it. I thought that if I did it instead of avoiding it, it would get easier. Unfortunately, anxiety in dealing with people isn’t necessarily subject to exposure therapy. It’s not the same thing as a phobia.

The only way this gets easier is that people stop trying to test you so much, when they have seen you before. Whereas people throw all kinds of mind games at you, if they think you’re new.

That kind of interaction, I can very well live without.


I also realize that my time is precious: this last semester, I could have been taking a class in Speculative Fiction instead of XML. That would have put me into a good position for many of the projects I could be dealing with now, which I didn’t realize I might deal with until the 18th of November, when I listed them out.

For that matter, I could have been reading things I wanted to read, rather than reading poorly-written technical books on a topic I may never utilize.

I think I’ve realized why M keeps asking me to prioritize what I really want to do: because she recognizes that — in my trying to make Librarianship work as a career for 12 years now — I haven’t been doing what I’ve wanted, and I seem a bit lost. It’s possible she feels a little responsible for this, having supported me through Library School and having pushed me to complete the program (but not expecting I would choose to work as much as I did, in my last position).


I am still uncertain what genre my work falls into; though if the answer to that is, “none,” I know I’m writing Literature. (There are some in-jokes about this, where it comes to authors who publish in Science Fiction and Fantasy [SF/F] journals.) Of course, it would heed me to actually do the work before trying to figure out my genre. It would likely clarify much more than I can understand from a theoretical standpoint.

In turn, it helps to read if you want to write. Fiction authorship works best if it is first modeled, in my case; and I haven’t really read any Fiction, recently. That kind of thing, will make it hard to begin.

Most of the reading I’ve been attracted to on my own, has been Speculative Fiction — from way back with Dragonriders of Pern and Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, moving forward into The Vampire Lestat and Violin, most lately in The Left Hand of Darkness, etc. That doesn’t at all mean that I’m a writer of Speculative Fiction; only that I’m influenced by it. I was trained into Literature and tend not to base my writing around a setting or world; I’m more engrossed in character.

It gets to the point where I question just why some of the alienating — and seemingly unnecessary — elements of SF/F recur: sometimes they just seem to be distractions from the quality of the text. (That includes Hugo and Nebula Award winners.) I wouldn’t be surprised if this is precisely why Literature people tend to look askance on this particular genre.

Where the text is precisely an exploration of the world it portrays, that is an entirely different motive for writing than being led first by an exploration of character or an exploration of the art possible in the language, itself (the latter of which, I’ve heard is expressed maximally in Ulysses; but I haven’t read it yet, to confirm).

And then…there is the fact that SF/F elements can occur in Literature. As regards what makes something Speculative Fiction as versus Literature; I’ll just have to continue research on it, now — and keep reading.

What I know is that I’m not totally into Worldbuilding, because the question arises: Worldbuilding, to what end? For me, that really is the crux of the matter. If my characters’ relations to their world/setting are irrelevant to the central question that the writing engages, it may be the case that I’m not writing within the Speculative Fiction genre…but I’m really not sure. I know for a fact that I have not studied it: I never got the chance to (and just blew my last one).

Blogging versus Authorship?

Something that came up over the past few days, is realizing that blogging is likely a form of Social Media, for me. It’s relatively easy, therefore, to pour a lot of time into it…when I could be using that time to do work which could be publishable in a way which is not just short-term self-publishing, online.

There’s also the fact that when I’m writing on my blog, it inherently pushes away the topics which are still relevant and need to be worked out; but which are not suitable for consumption by the public, at their present stage of development. Either this, or it helps generate a record of these topics — but then I have to excise them from what I post. They’re generally off-topic obsessions, or so undeveloped as to be risky to publish (either due to misunderstanding, or to being explored by someone else before I can get to them).

If I want to publish traditionally, I need to keep my work relatively private until I can get a contract. This is one of those things that I learned in Undergrad. Much of the time, a Publisher seeks First Publishing Rights, which I won’t be able to give them if I’ve already published to the Web, on my own. 50 Shades of Grey is not the norm, that is. Nor is My Milk Toof.

There are many benefits to publishing traditionally — including serving as a prerequisite to being accepted into a Creative Writing MFA program. Again, though: the MFA is valuable if you want to teach. If you don’t want to teach, is it also that important? It depends on how much focused attention you want or need on your own work — kind of like an Art MFA.

Prestige is also a factor, though it may only matter in Academia — or from within the Publishing industry, itself. Looking at my CV, however, it’s fairly obvious that I haven’t particularly ever been after prestige.

Contracting with a Publisher means that there will be a lot of work other than the writing portion which they will take care of, particularly in Marketing, but also in Graphic Design, Printing, Distribution, etc. I’d also likely get my own group of Editors to work with.

The major issue with traditional Publishing is that I have to be prepared to face a vast majority of rejections — as any author (especially a previously unpublished author) would. I have heard that if you send out 100 queries and three of them aren’t a straight “no”, you’re doing good. That’s assumed to be with a Creative Writing degree; I was told this in Undergrad.

There are also the time and response components. Blogging has a fairly immediate turnaround between posting and seeing people’s responses — even if it takes me two or three days to write a quality post, and one to three days to have everyone see it. I can’t expect that kind of immediate response, if I’m writing for myself. That means I need to be able to handle delayed gratification, or essentially working on my project for my own pleasure, and be able to tolerate the fact that other people don’t know about it.

Of course, this could be mitigated with a Writing Group/Writer’s Circle…but there’s also the question of whether I even want to try that, outside of a University setting. (It’s hard enough to share, in a class; let alone where it’s solid that I can’t trust anyone and there is really no recourse to “off” or immoral behavior other than leaving, or legal action.)

Yeah, the “people” factor may be the most difficult issue in Writing, too…


The other things I wish to develop — outside of this class, which should end in a matter of weeks — are my Drawing and Painting skills. At this point, I’m confronting some inertia in getting back into them, as I’ve been doing “official” (i.e. XML) work during the daytime, and am not yet used to having the possibility of free time while I have natural light. Daylight is acting like a countdown timer for me, which is kind of disconcerting.

I can’t exclusively depend on the idea of Art as, “play,” or, “reward,” because that decentralizes it in my life. Though, granted, when I was using Art as a reward, I was getting much more work done than when I wasn’t. I was trying to squeeze all the reward possible out of that time, that is.

For that matter, I’m not used to the option of working with my Art materials, at all. Both Writing and Art have kind of been shoved off to the side, as things one does in their leisure time. My society supports this view by the fact that most artists and writers have to have, “day jobs,” to survive.

But if I want to become a professional Writer or Illustrator…I really need to work, to hone my skills and to further develop a portfolio — in addition to seeing if I really want to do this. I already know that I really want to write. The question here is whether to split my time between Writing and Art…because I can do both, but I don’t have the time, necessarily, to fully pursue both (unless I’m able to remain unemployed and still survive, which in turn is dependent upon my support network).

The fact is that there is a lot of reading I want to do, and Art requires a substantial time (and energy, and money) commitment. However, if it keeps me sane while I’m working on my writing — which it does — that is a reason to keep doing it, and integrate it into my workflow. Even if it doesn’t end up being particularly important as regards my career.

When I went back to Community College and decided to focus on Art…it was partially to see if I even really liked it anymore. Or, at least, liked it enough to make a Graphic Novel, as versus a literary novel. I was still working out issues of medium, that is — and it’s fair to say that I still am.

I apparently liked Art enough to follow the courses through to an AA…though how anyone uses their skills after training, is really up to them. I’m still trying to fight against the bias that says that if I can do my own work, it must also be easy for everyone else, too.

That’s not how it works, okay.

Establishing priorities

I did smell a couple of my Ecolines, and the most I smelled was just a relatively mild vinegar scent. (I wasn’t able to identify it until after I smelled a bottle of pen cleaner to remind myself of what ammonia smelled like. It is certainly not ammonia.) I hadn’t been using the Ecolines because it has been so incredibly cold that I hadn’t wanted to even take the risk of having to vent the house. But vinegar should not bother me.

Maybe I can bring in some intention. If I wake up around 5:30 AM tomorrow again, instead of checking my phone, I can do my 15 minutes of free-writing and then go and experiment with the Ecolines. I mean, I can just start my day early, instead of going back to sleep. I should then be up for dawn, which hits at about 7 AM. Sunset hits at about 5 PM, which should give me 10 hours of work — though I know for a fact that I won’t be able to work the entire day through.

That means to get to bed at a decent time, tonight; further, this means to get ready for bed early enough so that I can go to sleep, if I want to.

This also means, maybe, to slip in some time to write by hand, in between dinner and bed. It would allow me to stay away from screens late at night…although that point has been surpassed at this time, obviously.

One response to “Sometimes you need experience to gain insight”

  1. I get it. The same issues you’re having, I’m having with careers and doing what I want to do instead of something practical that I don’t really like.

    I’m taking an art classes for my major and I thought I really hated art and I just couldn’t do it…but it turns out I just hate being told what to do and having myself be bossed around. I’ve developed a few skills along the way.

    Art is one of those subjects where it’s easy to get into but hard to stay in. I enjoy art—I don’t want to be a gallery artist. I love speculative fiction—like you do, I love worldbuilding, and conlamging but it’s not practical and useless to an overarching story or whatever, but it’s something I truly enjoy doing. It’s hard doing things you enjoy and making money off of it but also not having it as a career and end up pushing it aside because money.

    I get scared every year when I’m close to graduating that I have to take myself seriously and get something to support my art and I’ll never have a career and my stuff gets pushed to the side, but I don’t know. It might not happen.

    It’s happened to a lot of my friends, but I don’t know. I’ve never sold a piece of art and it scares me to do things like that because I never tried.

    What is something that isn’t stressful that works with you that can give you money but not distract you too much from art and writing?


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