One Scene After Another

Recently, I was reflecting on how I got better at drawing. Not ‘good,’ not in the context of all the truly good artists out there. But good enough to make me (and even a few other people) happy. Good enough to make fan art of the stories no one else is making fan art for—mostly, the stories in my own head, or in the heads of my friends.

I realized that I’d been trying to get good at drawing the same way I’d gotten good at writing—on one project. For years, I wrote and revised and re-wrote and re-revised one book until I was a good writer. That was how I learned, and it worked for me. But every time I sat down to draw, I would slave painstakingly for hours, trying to erase and redo bad lines while leaving the good lines intact—just like I’d done with writing. I wanted to be able to tweak this one picture until it was good enough, but I’d have to give up in frustration and settle for what I got, because drawing doesn’t work like that.

The thing about a novel—one scene can take a dozen hours, and one novel can take scores of scenes. If you write a novel that’s not quite right, that might be a few hundred hours that you poured into this Not Quite Right Manuscript. It makes perfect sense to spend another twenty or fifty hours making it Quite Right. But here’s where I fell down. A drawing isn’t a novel. It’s more like a single scene. You can fiddle and tweak, but after a bit, even if it’s not perfect yet, you’ve got to leave it alone and move on to the next one or you’ll never get anywhere.

Then I decided to try gel-ink drawing. I had a new sketchbook, and I determined that I was going to draw at least one face or figure sketch every day. And man, a gel-ink pen is unforgiving. It was so much bolder than I was, and mistakes had to be integrated or ignored—they couldn’t be erased. And that forced me to work faster. I couldn’t perfect them if I couldn’t employ erasure–or even much in the way of subtlety. So I turned a new page and drew, every day, for a couple of months.

And what I had at the end of that time? It wasn’t even the improved skill level that mattered so much, though that was nice. It was the difference in the way I sat down to draw. The mindset that if this one wasn’t good enough, instead of editing it until it was, (an improbability, since at a low skill level I might not even really know what was wrong,) I should do it faster, let it go, and save the time and energy for trying it again tomorrow. Which led to my drawing a lot more figures and faces, because with the freedom to leave them mistake-riddled, even bad, I was drawing a lot faster and more easily. Not looking behind me, not “line editing,” just looking ahead to the next, better thing. Just putting one scene after another.

Maybe there’s something in that for writing, too.



The margins spill over with
intricate loops of doodle-cipher,
every flower and leaf a silent scream,
every cross-hatch-darkened corner
hiding secrets
of the soul.

It’s a garden


a jungle

into which
the girl tried to escape
every day.

And now
she has.

With a breath of a wish
and a brush of a curse
she fell flattened and inked
into a world of her own making.

If they flip through the pages,
if they look in the right places,
they’ll find her

climbing the vines to a floating island
a blue sketched demon-dog

a graphite bazooka
slung over her shoulder.

The next day, and pages later,
they might see her
riding a living
into a forest

They might, but they don’t.
They never look at her world.
They never did.

She told them where she was going;
in between neat rows of
facts and numbers,
she told them.

In black and grey and blue
she told them
In rarer reds and greens
and in bright highlighter s
of yellow,
she told them.
Her nightmares and dreams,
she told them.

She told and told
told them of
her two-dimensional haven,
but no one knew her language
and no one saw her screams.

No one read the margins.

They look for her
in the facts
but they’ll never find her

She’s lost to them


in the wild,




I’m so versatile!

(How versatile am I?)

I’m so versatile, I use varied voices to post everything from writing advice, to poetry, to discourses on politics, philosophy, and God–probably ensuring that I displease at least two-thirds of my audience with every post I make!

For some reason, people decided to make an award for that sort of regular alienation. They’re thoughtful like that. Especially the good journalists over at The Grimm Report, who took some time off from grimly reporting scandalous doings in the realm of fairy tales, and noticed that, boy, I talk about a lot of different things.

Anyway, here are the rules for publicly admitting my versatility:
Number One: List the rules and regulations of this time honored tradition.
Doing that now.
Number Two: Display the badge of the Versatile Blogger Award for all the world to covet.

Versatile. 1605, from Latin versatilis, "turning, revolving, moving, capable of turning to varied subjects or tasks," from pp. stem of versare, "keep turning, be engaged in something, turn over in the mind," frequentative of vertere "to turn" (see versus).Wha-BAM.
Number Three: Include a link back to the blogger who was able to spot your genius.
Number Four: Divulge seven (7) interesting facts about yourself.
Getting there, getting there…
Number Five: Nominate fifteen (15) others for this outstanding achievement.
Fifteen  (15) whole others? Oh my. Well, I’ll see what I can come up with.

Seven interesting facts about me, eh? It would seem more appropriate to list seven versatile facts, showing that, beyond the bloggosphere, I have or am capable of many uses. If I can indeed scrounge up that many–I may be a versatile writer, but let’s see how versatile I am as a person…

1. I’m not bad at fixing house-stuff.
Sinks, hinges, floor tiles… basically, anything you might find broken in a vacated apartment. It comes of being the daughter of a property manager. It comes of many hours holding plumbing parts for Dad and passing him various tools. It comes, in other words, at a price greater than I would have shelled out for it.

2. I can pack a lot of things into a small space.
And I’m unreasonably proud of it. Meat into a freezer, leaves into a green waste can, clothes into a suitcase–I can get a lot of stuff into an improbably small space.
Again, learned this one from my father, the Grand Master Packer. Once, he’d stuffed the trunk and back seat full for travel. Then Mom decided she wanted to take an old-fashioned sewing machine home; the big foot-pedal kind. So Dad unpacked everything, put the sewing machine in the trunk, and 
repacked everything around it. I consider myself to have gained a black belt in his packing dojo, but I will never best the man.

3. I can martial art.
Speaking of dojos and belts and suchlike, I’m a white belt in Jiu Jitsu! #ImpressiveRight? Oh, shut up, I only just started. But I’ve been involved in Hapkido and Silat for longer, enough to get along. And before that, there were four years of fencing. So, some sword, some knife, some hand-to-hand. That’s decently versatile right there! Now, to hope I could defend myself with any of it…

4. I can sew(ish).
Speaking of that old sewing machine, I do have some… I won’t say skill, that’s incorrect. Talent? I’m not sure I have that either. I like to sew sometimes, okay? I designed and made a decent cape, I made a pillow and embroidered a Sig Sauer P220 onto it; the odd project like that.

5. I can climb stuff.
Roofs, trees, walls, that kind of thing. It’s not spectacular, and I don’t think it’s even especially unusual, but it is a tendency I’ve seen declining in today’s youth. Not enough kids finding all the ladder-less routes onto their roofs; not enough falling out of trees onto their foreheads on the sidewalk. Yes, I have done both. Explains a lot, yes?

6. I can draw.
Slightly better than I sew.

This is Syawn, the main character in Ever the Actor. This is also the absolute height of my drawing skill level. Yeah, this took me painstaking hours.

7. I can memorize really well.
Bible verses, dialogues, monologues, and especially lyrics. Anything I put my mind to memorizing, and some things I don’t. I love things with complexity or fiddly bits, like Tom Lehrer’s Lobachevsky and Elements, anything with quickly-sung lyrics like Dr. Suess vs. William Shakespeare, and anything with little to no linguistic frame of reference like the Skyrim theme.
But if I start getting smug over winning an award for memorizing like eighty verses in a week of camp or some such nonsense (Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall), I just remember that there are many people who memorize the entire Tanakh word-for-word, and my ego deflates back down to healthy levels. I’ll bow out against anyone who takes the Pentateuch in stride. O_o

And now to pass the award on to my fellow Jacks-of-many-subjects…

The Retcon Poet
Nothing by the Book
The Literary Man
The Usual Foolishness
Lila’s Twist

That’s fifteen, right? Pretend it’s fifteen. -_-