Anesa Miller

USE LOCAL LUMBER! Advice for frustrated artists NO MORE!

Guest post from the creator of Dum Bum Comics

Some borrowed food for thought:

“If an architect is asked to build a house in the Siberian forest, it does not mean very much to say that Fate compels him to use wood as the main building material. We should say instead that he was born in Siberia in order to demonstrate what he can do (as an architect) with the use of wood. If he passes his time bemoaning the fact that he cannot make a marble house, instead of imagining new and beautiful ways of using the wood of the forest, he certainly does not add to his stature or fame as a man and as an architect. Marble could perhaps be imported under certain conditions; but then money would be required as well as special workmen, etc.

(…) the fifth house is the most basic indication of what is available in this life, naturally and spontaneously, as materials for creative individual self-expression. You must learn to use these materials, first and foremost; later on, other things may be added.”

That’s an excerpt from an article written by Dane Rudhyar. He was a composer, a philosopher, and later became an astrologer and a writer. He tried to explain astrological symbols in philosophical concepts that we can apply in real life.

Mentioning astrology is out of context in a way, but that’s not what I’m getting at. The ancient Greeks divided human experience into 12 sections, which became the basis of the zodiac. What interests us here is sector 5: the part of life that corresponds to creativity, self-expression, the ego, pride, confidence, fame, children (both physical and creative offspring), and love. These elements are seen as interconnected in that philosophy.

When it comes to our real children, we understand the idea that we must love them unconditionally. We understand that for a child to grow to be confident, we as parents must be proud of its little achievements, accept the child’s unique gifts, talents, career choices, etc. Controlling or stifling a child too much will have a backlash on its psychological health.

With our creative efforts however, the “offspring of our imagination, of our uniqueness and of our soul,” we as writers can become TYRANTS. We pick those efforts apart, we expect them to achieve in specific ways, we hide them away instead of feeling proud, etc. That part in your post where you allowed your characters to speak and say: hey! I want to be seen. I have a voice. I might only touch 1 person but it’s worth it!… that part of your entry rang with truth and love.

Publishing is not what it used to be and neither is self-publishing. I know where you’re coming from. I related to the feelings and uncertainties you expressed here. I’m not very techie either. It’s a part I struggle with as a creator, and on most days it feels like a chore. Years ago I used to read up every bit of advice on how to get published, I remember being told repeatedly that self-publishing was a big no-no as it would look worse on my profile with editors, as opposed to not having been published at all. I steered clear of self-publishing.

But times have changed. Fast.

I recall a famous science-fiction writer who was saying that he refuses to work with Big Publishers any more because there’s no actual relationship going on. For the last decade he only accepts contracts with small houses.

A young American author sells her horror novels on Amazon in electronic form, for about 2$ a download and she makes like half a million a year. Don’t remember her name by heart, unfortunately. The world of self-publishing has really grown. Amazon kindle book sales have surpassed print sales. Nowadays authors have so many internet tools to format their books. There’s tons of online editors and businesses that can set up the format for you, so many artists you can hire to do covers, etc.

Yes there is the DREAM OF “REAL PUBLISHING”… But that too can become realized eventually, as your audience grows. The question is what is more important in a story: the package or what’s in the pages. Don’t judge a book by its cover might be right-on here. The great tales that inspired us to write in the 1st place come down to their words and meaning. They can be told out loud around a campfire or written on paper or screen. But either way they reach us.

Another problem is that traditional publishing exists within certain limits. In decades past publishing was only available to a certain class, gender, & according to political and religious affiliations. We think this has changed a lot but it hasn’t. We are naive to assume that different social aspects didn’t play a part in our “classic” writers becoming published to begin with. At a certain point we’ll have to take our heroes off that pedestal and realize they made it because they lived in specific conditions and were lucky in their acquaintances. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but to each his/her own route, adventure, era and luck.

In all art fields, quality is not quantified by the amount of one’s fame! When it comes to writers though, we’re downright disillusioned about merit. In music for example we know that if Spears sells the most albums, and has the biggest record label behind her, it doesn’t make her the best vocalist. With movies we also get this. But with books there’s this weird esteem that automatically gets attached to published authors.

To sum up, it’s not about following in another’s footsteps. It’s about finding that healthy side to our ego that can say: I do have a unique voice and perspective on life. And here are the option(s) I have at this time. Every route is honorable if one brings honor within.
It’s what Rudhyar was saying above about creative self-expression. The guy in Siberia can do the best with the available material and build a fine wooden house. Or moan about not having the marble to build the Parthenon or something.

Sorry for being so lengthy. I hope my thoughts were helpful in some way. I wish you the best always, cheers!

3 thoughts on “USE LOCAL LUMBER! Advice for frustrated artists”

  1. OMG – when I came to my blog just now and saw the headline “Use Local Lumber,” my first thought was F#@*! I’ve been hacked! Must be that d*#* Jetpack loophole WordPress warned me about…!

    But no, friends, not to panic! This is not the work of evil hackers, but the real headline of a very legit guest post which I scheduled almost 3 weeks ago. (Then promptly allowed to slip my mind.)

    * Oops! *

    “Use Local Lumber!” is a thoughtful observation on the creative process by a graphic novelist who kindly reached out to me on Twitter, offering consolation in my discouragement with traditional publishers. I don’t know his given name, but I urge everyone who loves comics, like I do, to visit his website and enjoy.

    I especially like the allegory about using materials at hand for one’s creative work: a wise version of the advice to bloom where you’re planted. Extending the natural imagery, I would point out, however, that seeds sometimes travel quite far on the wind, or tangled in a wolf’s fur, or in birds’ bellies.

    By the same token, the Siberian artist is not limited to only two options. He can make the most of his beautiful local woods, or he can peeve and moan about the lack of marble, or–if he’s really determined–he can pack off to Italy and learn a new trade in a new environment. He may grow disheartened and decide to return to his native forest, perhaps sadder and wiser for his pains. But it’s also possible he will become a master stoneworker in Carrara and realize his dream.

    The third way may be impractical for most Siberian sculptors, but we limit ourselves if we don’t at least acknowledge such options are out there. They may be painful and challenging, but they can exist if people demand them.

    Many, MANY THANKs to the creator of Dum Bum Comics for sharing this thought-provoking post at DRAWER NO MORE!

  2. The artist who aspires to create in a medium that is essentially unavailable to him must be a fool or a visionary. The two can be impossible to tease apart. Perhaps a foolish visionary? Apropos of the children of our imagination, the point is well taken that they should not be abandoned or subjected to emotional abuse and harsh critique just because the world is less receptive than we might wish it to be. Indeed, if one summons the patience to become a master woodcarver, new doors may swing open on different opportunities in the fullness of time, as Rudhyar suggests. A very thought-provoking post!

  3. We need to take time to have quality, not quantity define our work. However, in the search for quality and uniqueness, we often don’t give ourselves enough credit when we do do something extraordinary. We are our own worst critics and we fail to see the potential we are endowed with. By small and simple things shall great things come to pass. Steps forward are steps forward no matter how big or small.

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