Tags: writing: stupid story ideas

Dark Tower

Taking Competence for Granted

There was a period of time where I felt equally competent in writing and drawing. Back in about the seventh grade. I wrote and drew instinctively--I got completely lost when perspective was explained to me in art class, for example, but I could turn out a credible drawing of any random old thing I set my mind to, and maybe I was even better at drawing than I was at writing at that point. My social studies teacher "forgot" to give back my extra credit drawings of various African animals we did when we studied Africa; I saw them in her room the next year, on the bulletin boards, when the new seventh graders did that unit.

But the drawing was an also-ran, something I did because I could, but not with any intention to be an artist, because the ideas just weren't there, the way they were with writing. I illustrated my world-bibles slightly, and drew stuff that caused my mother to blink at me and say, "There's a lot going on in your head, isn't there?" --but no, I wasn't going to use the skill.

I took an art class a few years ago--well, I guess more than ten, since I'm pretty sure it was when I still lived in Ypsi--and I was saddened by how much my skills had deteriorated in the drawing-free years of college. I never got back to where I was, though I look at those drawings now and think, "Yeah, you weren't terrible by a long shot." Ten years on, and extreme dedication to writing for the last seven of them--well, there're still things I'm trying to get a handle on in fiction-writing-land, and I foresee the possibility of skill jumps therein yet ahead of me--but it is extremely mystifying, almost physically painful to recognize how incompetent I now am at drawing.

Part of it is a study of contrasts between two skills I used to possess in similar levels. Part of it is definitely that I know how much skill I've lost. And part of it is, to be honest, that I haven't had to struggle with writing in a long time. Sounds like I'm tooting my own horn, but I'm talking simple competence, the ease of creating something passable/credible, not how close I'm approaching genius or art or anything.

In the first grade--my mom would be happy to tell you this story--I brought home astonishing levels of praise from the art teacher, and a picture of a shoe. I didn't understand the fuss. I'd just drawn what I'd seen. But it was, yes indeed, a picture of a shoe, a very good shoe for a six-year-old. I'd drawn the stitching on the edges and the eyelets and all of it, the texture of the leather. I remember thinking, during the praise, that I'd simply had an unfair advantage over the other students: I'd been sitting closest to the shoe. I know, of course--though I probably didn't figure it out until I was 15 or something--that it was sort of an astonishing drawing, though I recall looking at it when I was 8, and thinking contemptuously of that particular drawing for being somewhat wobbly-lined.

My husband and I are taking a drawing class. Our current assignment is drawing a shoe.

It is nowhere near as good as my six-year-old self's shoe.

I'm so annoyed with myself for losing that casual competence I once possessed. I'm struggling to draw paper bags. I have forgotten how to see, let alone to draw what I see.

I am resolved to keep drawing, once the class is over, but as usual, I lack for ideas. But, it doesn't take that many ideas to keep the skills up--I knew that once. And the point here is to have a hobby, not produce something to sell or whatever. Do I need ideas, when I can just keep drawing paper bags and shoes?

My brain fills up with story ideas from all of this, of course. There's something clearly in here about magic and magicians. Lost skills, lost magic. I could work with this...
if I were me

Here's a story setting I'm not going to use

I've been thinking about screen names and pseudos lately, in part from helping my stepdaughter pick her Flickr and IM account names, in part from me being extremely vexed by an unwanted influx of pro-Second Life emails coming in from the library and noting that they were signed by Second Life alter egos. It all got me thinking about name uniqueness. And wondering if, in fact, with English's "171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words"--or the nicely rounded 250,000 guess that the OED makes--and French's X hundred thousand, and German's, and Swahili's, and Japanese's... etc...

In short, there are enough words out there that we could all have completely unique names. In combination, assuredly, but a not insignificant chunk of us might be single-worders, like Cher and Madonna and Putt and Menthol. And Shampoo. And Skelter. And Hazmat.

I'll note that I would not want to be named Venous Thrombosis, but when I was 9 and looking up interesting terms in the encyclopedia to bestow upon my puppy Ginger as her registered name, it looked pretty good. Until my mom told me that was Utterly Ridiculous. She ultimately picked Sweet Singabera--singabera being the Sanskrit word for ginger. (And you wonder where I get it? No, of course not...) In any case, I wouldn't want to be named Venous Thrombosis, but I might accept it if I were the ONLY Venous Thrombosis on earth.

Anyway. I suspect that single-word names would be highly prized, so there'd have to be a randomizer (that then takes names out of the collective pot when people are named, and add names back in a certain number of years after people die--if they don't have a Fame Factor greater than 5) to ensure that single-word names don't go to the wealthy or the privileged or whatever. Plus, that's how I, Venous Thrombosis, would become friends with Peanut Butter Effulgence, or Geosynchronous Pasties.

I suspect, now that I've put in almost ten whole minutes of thought into this, I might use this background for some screwball comedy of the distant future.

In the meantime, call me Vene.
if I were me

Ways & Means

Favorite Ways to Catwax, #427:

Be concerned that too high a percentage of your short story titles begin with the letter H. Write down all letters of the alphabet, diagnose true proportions, and start thinking up new stories you can write that start with B, Q and Z.