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THE DIVIDED SELF
a portrait gallery of faces I drew
As a cartoonist, drawing the same face over and over again, and making it look identical each time, is a skill I’ve never been able to master. I think people go to college for that. I am an unrepentant autodidact in basically every area of life. My grandfather who lived in Buffalo NY was a cartoonist as I may have said elsewhere. I don’t think I’m that good, and I haven’t drawn anything in a while. At one time a few years ago I had lots of ideas for comic books and graphic novels. It could just be the scattered logjam of ADHD undiagnosed. When I look at my folders full of drawings, like with my many binders and journals of writing, and thumb drives etc, I see the product of my mind and think often of the wasted potential and the projects no one will ever see. There’s a library of books I’m trying to write that has a wavering existence, fluttering like the mirage over the pavement in a place like, I don’t know, Arizona. At one time (there’s always a time) I thought I would like to write one novel for each major genre of fiction: crime, sci fi, horror, romance, historical, mystery, literary of course. I have ambitions but I’m saddled with a fragmentary attention span and a mood disorder which makes it all feel like a vast junk pile of discontinuities. I think if I start going around talking about the “suffering of creativity” somebody should strangle me and throw me in a pit in the woods somewhere. However, it is a challenge.
I don’t know how to set goals as an artist and stick to them. I’ve published two books and various stories, poems, excerpts, and extraneous material in online publications. The pressurized lust to get another book out is ominous and all-consuming. And yet I’m going to wait. I feel like it will come. I am still trying to learn the landscape of publishers and where to attempt to get a good deal. I still want to self-publish although that is getting the best of my hesitation and apprehension. The idea of Prism Thread Books is something which has only half-possessed me. If it were full possession there would be three or four books out from them by now. In the meantime I have been gripped with a conceptual fever, a spirit that might never be set into type beyond what you see here in my substack. I legitimately sometimes think about publishing a whole novel via substack. But who would really read it? Does that matter? What is the desired connection that is optimal and is wanted by everybody? They say you should make art as if you’re on a deserted island and no hope of every having anybody see it. You should please yourself. I think that is half-profound, half-naive. Or some mixture of the two. It can’t happen in a void. What is publishing? I keep telling myself I must crack the currentivist code. Be a Cyberwriter. But what is that?
I’m in a creative recession, or a recessive fallow period. I have had several false starts of bigger projects. The material is there. I’ve written novels before. I want to write something really big. The spy novel might be it, that would ideally be something requiring a lot of steady work as it’s roughly about half written now, the way I have it conceived. There’s a lot of hazy dead spots that when I peer into them, threaten to sprout subplots after subplots like prehensile sentient vines in a murder swamp. It’s scary because I wouldn’t be able to control it. It would wear me out worse than I am now.
Looking at my cartoons is helpful in a way. There’s a simplicity to them, as a kind of kid brother to the more mature, promising novel-writing. Cartooning feels innocent and looking at these faces, like I love myself even though the promise of those graphic novels will probably never come to pass. If I knew people were reading and it wasn’t me plummeting through the darkness alone I would have the energy to write. It’s good to please yourself but you want to connect and please other people too.