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C05P28 – Just Insulting

C05P28 – Just Insulting published on 29 Comments on C05P28 – Just Insulting

Although technically I already “introduced” this character, I’ve been so excited to bring this particular assassin into the story, to round out our merry band of murderers. Who knew what began in brainstorming as three empty suits would turn into a set of characters that I enjoy writing just as much as I do the main cast!

It’s been an odd week so far. It started with a dream, or a nightmare, that really rattled me, and days after I still cannot shake the need to look over my shoulder. It doesn’t help that I keep having follow-up dreams with a similar theme. Of something trying to trick or force me into doing something I don’t want to. And even though I’m glad that dream-self is standing up and saying “No,” it only seems to delay the problems, not solve them. I’m not sure exactly what’s going on in my psyche at the moment, but it feels like it’s important.

Perhaps related is that I have a case of The Doubts again. It’s not unusual that The Doubts come knocking. They just seem a little more potent at the moment. The “What if this never works?” and the “You’re just fooling yourself,” and the “Even if you ‘succeed,’ you lose,” sort of thoughts. And I know that the best way to make those Doubts come true is to listen to them, but that’s the thing about The Doubts. Even when you call them on their bluff, they whisper, “Maybe so…but why would you listen, if we didn’t contain at least a grain of truth?”

And maybe they do. The odds are certainly not in my favor. Yet poor odds have never stopped me from trying things in the past. They certainly won’t now. And even if I “fail” — even if I never make a living at storytelling the way I hope to — at least I will have made stories that I loved and was proud of. Stories that hopefully inspired other storytellers. And perhaps, even if I don’t make it, those future storytellers will.

Still, it may be time for a weekend trip to the mountains, and a quiet night curled up with a cup of tea and Megamind.

Do you ever come down with a case of The Doubts? How do you wrangle them?

29 Comments

Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

I exist in a state of constant Socratic dialogue with the Doubts. We try to confound each other. Lately, I have imagined Bill Murray from Meatballs, in miniature, on my shoulder (like an angel or devil from a cartoon). He is leading a rousing chant of “It just doesn’t matter!” While at the same time, of course, it matters very much to me whether or not I “make it” as a writer. It’s a balance. Be confident, don’t get cocky, don’t get lazy, don’t give in to doubt, and so forth. All these things are constantly rotating around in my brain, but I think that’s to be expected. That’s the creative life.

On the LeyLines side of things, you got me with this one. She’s working with Dr. Milan? Man, Pakku and Warren seem to be way behind the curve on this whole series of events (and that’s okay, because so am I; it just means the bad guys are effective villains).

I think it’s good to remember that balance. Doubt, miserable though it is, CAN serve a purpose when it’s tempered. It keeps us from getting too content, too confident, so we always are driven to push forward, get better. It CAN be an impetus to grow. IF it doesn’t dominate, and instead become a force of prevention. An interesting dynamic. Hmm…maybe I ought to explore it in a character! Perhaps I can find a solution for them, and thus a new solution for me. 🙂

Constantly. (My field is very different from authorship, but requires just as much extraordinary-ness from those who finally “make it”.) And, I’m still working on a solution; probably will be for decades. One thing that helps, though, is to run a litany of Balancing Truths: “Yes, I’ve struggled, sometimes desperately. Let’s be perfectly honest though, I was hauling uphill for part of that distance. In the meantime, I HAVE done things I’m proud of. I’ve done some good work. I’ve persevered against pain and fatigue; I’ve gotten a bit better at bearing them gracefully. And I’m still trying, even now. And outside of my problems, I have a lot of things going for me; I have good things that I value and love in my life. Tomorrow might be difficult, this is true. Tomorrow might be very difficult. But it’s also true that tomorrow might be wonderful. The only way to find out is to keep going, keep doing my best, and to look at tomorrow with open eyes when I get there.”

I love this “Balancing Truths” idea. Most times I’ve seen a similar idea presented, but it’s “Countering Blind Optimism” which I find almost as destructive as the doubts, because I can’t trust it. What you’ve presented is different in the best way. It acknowledges the difficulties of the present, but also is honest about the successes of the past and the true uncertainty, good OR bad, of tomorrow.

Thank you so much for this suggestion!! I can already tell I’ll be coming back to this page in the future.

And you’ve got me curious, how would you describe your field?

OK, brace yourself: I’m an physicist-in-training. (We learn not to say this at parties, because it tends to end the conversation quickly. Don’t be put off.) I have a master’s degree (which is worth, well, not much, at least not if I want to stay in my field) and am working on my doctorate. The career I’m aiming for is the ivory tower of academia, a blessed land of milk and honey where you have complete freedom of investigation, sort of.

Math skills are a must, in physics, and being reasonably intelligent in general is very helpful. Communication and people skills are important for your career development, although I’ll admit, physics sets the bar lower on this front than most other communities I’ve been a part of. Hard work is important; it turns out science is hard. (Really hard. Even for successful scientists. We basically have to keep learning forever.) Creativity is also very, very important, at least if you want to do anything of consequence; if an idea was obvious, somebody else probably thought of it already.

A successful physicist normally goes through four years of college followed by five to six years of grad school, obtaining a doctorate at the end. After that, they do a series of 1-3 “postdocs” (post-doctoral work under the supervision of a senior scientist), each 1-2 years in length, then gets a tenure track position at a university. After something like a decade of proving themselves, they finally get tenure. They don’t stop proving themselves there, though; almost every physicist in the world is constantly in a competition to get enough funding for their own projects and to pay the people they’re mentoring. It’s a long, hard road to the top, and even there you have to keep working very hard.

Some people go through this process more quickly. There are prodigies who get through graduate school in four years. There are outstanding achievers who are offered professorships after one postdoc, or even more rarely, straight out of grad school. I am not one of these people.

Some people get through this process in a timely fashion. I can no longer hope to be one of these people.

Some people just give up at some point. They find the limits of what they can do, or are willing to do, and they go looking for something else to do instead. I… do not want to have to say that I gave up. Whether I succeed or not, I want to know that I held on until my hands gave out.

Some people persevere through pretty bad circumstances, and go on to do good work, and sometimes great work. It is currently my best hope that others will see me as one of these people, when all is said and done.

To make a very long story short (seriously, I could spend hours – days – weeks on telling this story), my dad turned into a semi-homeless semi-jobless semi-hobo, my mom is desperately trying to make ends meet while getting my younger siblings through school, my mom has chronic health problems and can no longer afford health insurance, I’ve been trying to send my mom money when I know I can spare it, I had a terrible boss for two and a half years, it turns out that the culture in my physics department has some less-than-ideal qualities, I got a MUCH better boss but then developed severe anxiety problems that ultimately required medication, I feel much better now but I still have involuntary muscle twitches sometimes, and when the anxiety problems started to ease off I started having trouble keeping my food down and lost ten pounds in a month and a half and the doctors still can’t tell me WHY although a heavily restricted diet has helped considerably.

Present aside, I worry about the future; do I want to work this hard forever? When will I be able to have kids without ruining my career? Did I inherit my mom’s chronic health problems? Did my siblings? How will my boyfriend and I shape a life together that makes both of us happy when we both came from screwed-up homes? Am I good enough to do this at all?

All this, while trying to do something that most people consider very difficult: Get a PhD in physics.

When I write it all out like that, it’s easy to remember that a lot of the people doing well around me did not have to deal with as many batshit insane problems as I’ve had to. There are a few who’ve dealt with worse, but lots of them have been in good health, with stable family situations, and no real money troubles for their entire lives. Some even had advantages I didn’t; some went to the best schools money could buy, some had scientist parents to start them on the road early. They’ll all be welcome to judge me when they’ve gone through what I have.

In the meantime, I have a great boss, a wonderful boyfriend who’s been supportive through everything that’s happened, the most kick-ass, resourceful, tenacious mom in the world, and three wonderful siblings. I have hobbies that make me happy, and thanks to the wonders of the internet, I’ve discovered many tiny pockets of culture that help me remember there are People Like Me out there in the wide, wild world. I may someday get to study other planets – planets outside our solar system, HOW COOL IS THAT? – if I keep going long enough to get there, and whatever I do study, it’s going to be pretty cool.

P.S. You know what I fantasize about doing, if I ever fail out of the pure-research career path for good? I dream of becoming an author. I dream of telling stories that will shape the dreams people have for generations. That’s just as rare and special as becoming a great physicist. And I don’t know if I can do that, either. But it’s a good dream to have.

Longest. Post. Ever. Good thing I gave you the short version, yes?

I’m an Engineer by degree and day-job, so I have an inkling of the challenges you face. Many of my friends are on the PhD track, and it is definitely a world with unique challenges!

It sounds like you have persevered through a remarkable amount of difficulty and still maintained a pretty good attitude through it all!! There’s no saying what the future will be, but I’m sure if you keep moving forward a little bit at a time, things will come together!

Ugh. I’m having a fun time with some of those Doubts right now. When they revolve around my comic, reading some of the nice comments people have made about the story helps (though with The Doubts skulking around, those aren’t any guarantee that those people won’t be disappointed by how the story might go in the future – silly, I know, but that’s The Doubts). What really helps for me is delving into the substance of the project – having a writing session, or rereading a scene that I really enjoyed, or going for a hike with Chezhnian and discussing character motivation and what-ifs and editing choices for the next chapter or the next volume – reconnecting with the characters and the things about the story that I really love, the things that got the comic going in the first place.

For Doubts that are hanging around clinging to other things… if you figure out a panacea, let me know, hah. Usually what I find most effective is escapism – reading a few chapters of a book, or signing into an MMORPG to do some quests, or watching a good movie or TV episodes that get me thinking, or, better, get me really wanting to create my own stories… Or dragging Chezh out for a long drive in the mountains, in which case we inevitably end up discussing comic stuff… Usually anything that will keep my brain busy and let me recharge will work pretty well, for a while at least.

Good luck with the nightmares… those can be nasty, especially when they STICK. If you’re still having trouble, I could send you a ‘dream pillow’ and some tea to help with better sleep, if you like (I work at an organic herb and tea shop). Just let me know.

Since I’m on night number four without escaping them, I would welcome a dream pillow and a recommended tea. Is there a place online I could order them? Or you could tell me what you’d recommend, and I could order by phone?

Cory & I are going to take a mini-vacation this weekend. Let the roomies have the house for a while, and just get into the mountains. No city noise, no hustle and bustle. I’m looking forward to some fresh air and a change of pace.

I talk to other people. Tell them what I’m doing, the tangible steps I’ve taken so far toward it, and things I’m looking forward to. I find that the process of putting together a list of my accomplishments in a way that I can communicate it to OTHER people makes them seem more real than my Doubts.

Sometimes I also do sketch layouts for future story arcs for Sombulus. Again, it’s about having something physical, outside myself, that proves I’m on the right path!

I often will make “To do” lists, but they can rapidly become overwhelming.

I very much like the idea of talking about what was, what is, and where we’re going. It feels more…community oriented. Particularly since The Doubts like to come out when I’m alone. Talking about the facts of past/present/future WITH someone makes them seem both more real AND witnessed.

Thank you so much for the suggestion! I will try that!

I’m a lazy sceptic, so my doubts are firmly in control of my life. I don’t wrangle them — they wrangle me. And the way I see it I have good reasons for having doubts, because few things I do come out the way I want to. If they come out at all, that is.

But hey, isn’t that a poison ring she’s using there? Very discreet! He’ll be dead from complications due to his wounds?

Oh, come on! Storytelling – it may not make a living, but it definitely makes a life. You know, if to say about doubts, I doubt I will ever come up with some descent story. But there is an urge to create, and this urge forces to seek for something new, exciting and unexpected, which one can mix into the story, into the own world.

In my case, I’ve became knowledge-addicted. I’m reading all sorts of books – culture, biology, languages, history of, well, everything. I’ve started dancing, fencing, seriously learning modern physics. And all of this – just to make a story (well, and also cope with overweight, in which I’ve quite succeed).

So, you know what – even if I never write a good story, that was worth it. Until I’m able to learn something new with a dream of a story as a guiding light, at least I’d be able to say that I’m having a colorful life. That the search for a story led me through the darkness of the unknown into the miracle realms of unpredictable. That may sound junky – well, learning is my drug, no kidding.

But in your case, you also travel to this fairy land, but come back with hands full of treasures – a world, a language, true and lively characters, and, of course, a Story. Personally, I envy you 😉 Having your story sold by local comic shops – for me that’s a dream beyond imagination. Having people who are interested in the world you create and story you tell, isn’t it exciting on its own?

Well, of course not really. What once was an excitement becomes a daily routine in a while. But I just wanted to emphasize, how rich you already are, how much in fact you have.

There is no way I think you could not know this all yourself. But sometimes I also feel a need to complain about how I feel, and hear something encouraging in reply. So, well, I may guess I’ve done my duty 😉

Sorry for a lengthy comment.

I will confess, in part, to looking for encouragement. In addition, I was looking for new tools.

I get The Doubts constantly. They attack on a very frequent basis, but I’ve been getting better at confronting them. The tools in my mental tool-box were sufficient.

Except not this time. This time, they hit a lot harder, and my normal methods were not sufficient, so I was hoping that some of my readers would have a new tool they could show me. And you have! Several new methods!

Thank you for your perspective, and for sharing your experiences and drive. I admire you for pursuing learning with such gusto! It’s a motivator I’m trying to move closer to.

Much of my life I’ve been driven by “Not Good Enough” — the specter of Perfectionism. All the things you identify so…so beautifully…I found it funny that you would say “There is no way I think you could not know this all yourself.”

I have extreme difficulty thinking anything I’ve done is unusual or special. I’m actively trying to train myself to look upon what I do with even a modicum of favor. To say “This is not something everyone does. And it is good. And it is special. And I should be happy that I have done and continue to do such things.” Instead of what I have here-to said to myself on auto-pilot, which is “This isn’t good enough. You need to work harder. If this is all you’ve got, you’ll never ‘make it.'”

But you’re right. “Making it” is more a state of mind than a condition. And I have experienced how “the search for a story led me through the darkness of the unknown into the miracle realms of unpredictable.” — A beautiful phrase, by the way, not a junky one.

Thank you for letting me see my work through your eyes. For giving me this new tool.

And with all the knowledge and experience you’ve gained, I think the potential for a great story is ever-growing. You already have the ability to inspire. 🙂

Thanks for your kind words. Now I also have what I was looking for – an encouragement. And as for “Not good enough” – I think it’s a professional decease of the world-creators. I think, if you don’t have it, you’re simply not good enough 🙂

To be honest, I think of myself as a person that lacks imagination, though the people around tell me just the contrary. But, when I’m reading the book I have real troubles with imagining the landscapes, the garments, and, most of all, the faces. This lack of imagination, or, better to say, understanding its weakness has driven me to this recipe – if I can’t fancy something exciting on my own, let me just pick up something interesting from the world around and mix it.

This is, of course, not the only way, it’s just the closest to the leylines. My other project, for which I’ve written about 1.5 chapters of a novel, is about the XXI century in which a combustion engines have never been invented. For this I’m making a more or less aimed research on the history and technology of early industrial age. But ok, let’s cease a shameless self-promotion and go back to the initial theme.

So, the understanding of the limits of my imagination was the cause of my learning thirst. Yet, it is also the source of my greatest Doubt. For example, the historians that write the books I read, they do a real work by collecting, analyzing and presenting what really happened. And me, what am I actually doing? Isn’t it just shuffling the things that already exist and DO matter – unlike the stuff I’m trying to make.

However, thanks to you, I was able to see this from a new perspective. There is a book about the antique drama I’ve happened to read recently. It appears that the Greek theater evolved from the mysteries devoted to Dionysus, but their religious background was forgotten within a few decades. Hardly anyone gained any profit from this, except for the prizes for the winning authors – and for a long time the plays were actually contests and were performed only once. So, there was only one real explanation for this tradition to sustain for centuries – entertainment.

Now, the tragedy was a retelling of the myth, and the comedy was about mocking on the myth and the tragedy. So, in a way, there was nothing new. But the people know it not as a shuffle of something that existed before the Classical Age of Greek history, but as an Antique Drama, something that belong to then and there, as a distinguishing feature of the epoch.

Another example was the art of Ancient Egypt. The in their statues, the Egyptians used and reused the forms from the previous epochs, sometimes as ancient for them as their for us. But, although with a view of the old they’ve made something new, something belonging to, say, X dynasty but should recall the glory of, the Y’th.

“Everything new is [well-forgotten] old again”. Now I have a fresh understanding of this old proverb. Yes, the material is old, but the way it is put together is new. It is not just re-living of the past, it’s a creation of the present. And the things people do, the story you write, I mean, the Leylines in particular, is something that we, human beings, need not much less than air and food – entertainment.

And your comic entertains me, really. It is interesting, it stands off the mainstream of artifact-seeking dark elves. Leylines made me think of drawing something on my own again, I even made some poor-quality sketches. At least for me, it IS good enough.

Oh, yep, I have to check the last strip…

Ooh, I like her.

I deal with The Doubts the same way I deal with the voices in my head that say “You’re fat, which means you can’t be pretty” and shit like that. The voice that tells me “writing isn’t a *job*” and/or “you’ll never make any money off this” is just another irritating narrative designed to put me in my “place,” i.e., beneath someone else. Basically, every time I catch myself thinking that, I try to counter it: “Yeah, but if I don’t try, I’ll never know.” “Fuck you, I’m talented.” Etc.

(As for the simpler “this suuuucks” middle-of-the-project voice, I just think about the other projects I didn’t finish and how crappy I would feel if I let this one fall on the same pile.)

Robin! I drew almost the exact same doubts coming out of a monster a few weeks ago. Then, I smashed him with an anvil. I gotta get it into a computer somehow and I will tweet it at you today. But oh boy did I instantly feel better 🙂

I didn’t respond to this Wednesday because I was deep in my own severe attack of the Doubts, but I’ve been there.

The best way I’ve found to deal with my Doubts (especially if they center around writing), is just to do something fun and silly with the thing that my Doubts are centered around. I was having major, major trouble even starting the script for my comic up until this morning, so I tossed the character in question into a random role-play and just had fun with the character on her own. Then I let my enjoyment of the RP carry me back over to the script.

If it’s a drawing Doubt, I just doodle something ridiculous. Cartoony versions of my characters dressed up in ridiculous outfits or being completely unlike themselves always seem to help. 🙂

Talking with people around me is always nice, especially when most of them create. And as for the dreams, I’ve found that Sleepytime Extra tea helps me get to sleep and dream less. It’s a relief.

I hope you conquer your Doubts soon. I know how much of an uphill battle it is, but you should definitely be proud of everything you’ve achieved.

That depends. Sometimes a good base of friends/fans helps – I have a shop in the b/c forum on Gaia, and the regulars are superb at getting me going again. Failing that, I distract myself – I find something utterly unrelated and absorbing to do – if they’re art related, I go se a movie with a friend, or play an intense video game, or bury myself in a book. If they’re social related, I generally bury myself in art.

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