Coming into power

So it’s been a couple of days, and the Japanese language learning hasn’t progressed so far yet, seeing how it’s mostly review, and I’m reading and writing everything in kana.  I have, however, realized something:  I do have some skill when it comes to writing, and maybe I should try and capitalize on that, instead of entering a new field entirely — when I haven’t even given becoming a professional writer or editor a good clean shot yet.

The problem with aiming to become a professional writer or editor is that you have to, you know, write things.  Original things.  And that requires some level of vulnerability, at the very least when you’re writing fiction and this stuff that you’re writing stems from your own experience and psyche.  It especially requires some level of strength + vulnerability when what you’re writing is connected to you on a deep level, and your mind falls into the “different” category.  As I’ve been talking about Japanese language recently, let me drop one hint here:  in Japanese, the word for “different” and the word for “wrong” are the same:  chigau.

I’m really not sure how strongly being different has read to me as being wrong, in my life.  (More likely, I was told I was wrong by my society and I revalued the term “wrong.”)  But it’s an interesting observation to make.  It happened so long ago that I’m not really sure of the timeline anymore, but I recall that as a child, I would write out my thoughts because I didn’t feel I could speak them.  Of course, for me, some of this crossed over into the realm of Illustration — or may have even begun in Illustration — but after a while there were things I needed to get out that couldn’t be shown through pictures.  At least, that was the case when I was a kid.  I just couldn’t draw fast enough, and after a while, I couldn’t write longhand fast enough, either.  So I turned to the computer, took some typing lessons, and eventually got to the point where I can type decently fast, and hold focus — for a bit less time than it takes to try and write everything out.  😉

Becoming a professional writer or editor also requires one additional thing:  faith.  You have to believe that someone will find value in your words, and you have to have faith that your practice will one day pay off.  Otherwise, for all but the most focused, it won’t be easy to continue to write.  Because your stories will back up in your head.  And they won’t be communicated.  Because who will find value in your thoughts?  Who will hire you after you’ve shown yourself to be so different and everyone knows and you can’t ever take those words back?  Those words that implicate you as outside of the herd?  The dark horse that so many would wish to go away and die?

It’s not been easy for me to be me.  My practice at frankness began on a screen, though by all accounts I was a very honest youngster.  I am — entering the prime of my life — just now finding myself with the strength and ability to open up again.  To be vulnerable to a world that too often punishes honesty and vulnerability and lauds conformity, and lies — and if not lies, then silence.

But the world of humans isn’t right.  I know this.  I also know there are pockets of goodness in it.  And I know that at the heart of everything, most people just want to be happy, no matter how many other people they crush in their attempt to obtain happiness for themselves.

But as for a bit of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy here:

Someone will value my thoughts.

Someone will value my difference.

How often can we say that?  Especially the latter?

It’s something to take into account the next time I start to convince myself that by “putting myself out there,” I’m essentially foregoing being able to be hired and setting in motion the mechanism which will make me an outsider to adult society, as I was an outsider to children’s society.  But — beyond the fact that some of us do grow up — there’s one thing I’ve learned:

The voices like mine are the ones which make life trapped in conformity tolerable for everyone else.  Because we enable others to envision what life could be like, not just what life is now.  We enable people to escape their bonds, however temporarily; to imagine life as someone else, somewhere else.  We encourage empathy and the opening of minds and hearts.  We enrich the lives of others by taking the risk of expression, and we touch that which within each of us is human.  That which just wants happiness.

And I, now, after having viewed myself with an eye to criticism and darkness for most of the second half of my life, have just talked back to the internal oppressor.  At a certain point, I have to come to the conscious realization that I am not evil.  I am human.  Beyond this, I am spirit.  I am free.  I am that which I am, and I owe none apologies for being so.  I do not have to ask permission for my right to exist.

At some point — at some point — it would be wise to act like it.


Restarting Japanese-language learning

It’s been a while since I last seriously participated in learning a non-English language.  The tension between my learning Spanish and Japanese has been holding me back recently.  At least from here, it seems that the language choice would depend on my projected future use of the language.  Spanish would be of more use if I were to continue on in a service occupation, for example in a library.  Japanese would be of more use if I wanted input from Japanese culture.

Because I’ve been recently reconsidering my role and stance with regard to being a creator or helping with publishing (or translation), I’m actually thinking that Japanese would be of more use to me.  What has stopped me before is the specter of being a fourth-generation hapa female with regard to Japan.  From everything I’ve heard, it’s not good to be part-Japanese — or female — in Japan as things stand presently.  I’m both.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t utilize the language here.

What really decided it for me were two things.  One was attempting to refresh my Spanish and wanting to bang my head because of the extremely basic nature of the CD I’d borrowed.  Number two was coming across a note at work written and drawn by one of my co-workers which was entirely in kana.  Kana is a general term for Japanese syllabary, including the main categories of hiragana and katakana (katakana is used for emphasis, similar to CAPS or italics in English, especially with regard to foreign words).  These symbols stand for sounds, similar to the way English characters stand for sounds.  Kanji are the main other category; these are characters of Chinese origin which have different grammatical functions from kana (usually) and which stand for concepts like nouns or verb-roots, not sounds.  There were no kanji used in my co-worker’s note.

So anyhow, I found this little drawing of a bowl of noodles which said “RAMEN” on the side and something about how it tasted good, with my co-worker’s name in kana at the top.  I realized how delighted I was to be able to read this little note.  It’s something that doesn’t happen for me with Spanish.  I mean, sure, I can watch Rick Bayless talk to someone in Spanish and tell where the subtitles are glossing things over, and sometimes give word-for-word translation.  But there’s no charge to it with me like there is with Japanese.  Maybe if I had actually taken that Japanese-American Literature class out of Ethnic Studies when I was an undergraduate, I would have majored in Japanese Language and Literature instead of in English — Creative Writing.  The classes were crazy early, though.  But of course, I’d only have to get up at 5 AM for three semesters, max?  >_<

Besides the fact that the classes were insanely early and the fact that I’d have to transfer in (meaning a placement test), plus the race and gender issues, I had a fear about what would happen if I did major in Japanese Language and Literature and lost the ability to communicate in Japanese afterwards — similar to what happened with my six years of Spanish training.  Of course, though, now I realize that I haven’t entirely lost it.  But there’s a lot that I don’t know.  Spanish as used by educated people in Latin America is something I don’t know.

I’m sure it’s something I could learn, but aside from the Mesoamerica interest, and my macrame interest, plus the food interest, there’s really not a lot that I’m burning to know about Latin America.  I think the culture is just flat-out too different from what I know, whereas with Japanese I have a familial link, and I’m already kind of a cultural insider.  Well, I’m a cultural insider as regards being nikkeijin, that is (Japanese of foreign birth), not nihonjin (Japanese from Japan).

And hey, it’s not bad to be nikkeijin.  There’s a lot that’s different about me because I was raised in the U.S., which just wouldn’t have been the same if I’d been raised in Japan.  Aside from the fact that it would have been entirely impractical (neither of my parents are fluent in Japanese), I have a mindset which I recognize as being clearly of 21st-c. metropolitan U.S. thought.  And I wouldn’t trade that.

But anyhow…if, that is, I want to be a graphic novel author, Japanese would be very useful.  If I want to help translate books from Japanese into English, Japanese would be very useful.  If I want to write fiction in English, Japanese would be very useful.  Of course, though, fiction writing usually doesn’t pay the bills.  However…if I did go into Animation as I’ve been considering…this would give me the skills I’d need to be a graphic novel artist, and I’d be well-equipped to handle the writing angle as well.  Well, better-equipped than most, I should say.  It would help if I read more.  >_<

(I’m always down on myself for not reading enough fiction, please excuse me.)

But hey, that does mesh together well, doesn’t it?  Drawing for Animation + Japanese language reading skills + English writing skills + English reading skills…?  Was there something else?  It feels like there was another input there which meshed well, but I can’t think of it right now.  Cultural sensitivity?

Ah, I don’t know.  Maybe it will come back to me after I eat…

Graphic novel dreams

I’ve finally finished reading installment #6 of FAKE by Sanami Matoh.  It’s likely a good thing to say that I read it in part because I’ve been away from graphic novels for so long.  I’ve been away from fiction in general for a very long time (not counting folk tales), and so reading anything which I know is entirely imaginary at all is a big step forward for me.  Graphic novels and comics are a good bit less intimidating than adult fiction, largely because of the length issue.  I’d wanted to read Deadpool Takes Las Vegas for the cheese factor, but someone checked it out before I could get to it.  XD

When I was younger I had a dream of working for someplace like Dark Horse.  At the time, someone I knew was working in a comic book store and would bring comics home for me.  A particular favorite was Bone by Jeff Smith, though after a certain point it became clear that the story and art was no longer the same.  If you followed the comics, you’d know why…and also why I’ve been hesitant to get into art as a career at all, given that you pretty much depend on good eyesight and a steady hand, if you’re drawing the material yourself.  FAKE in particular has had somewhat of an emotional impact on me, despite the fact that it takes place in an idealized version of New York, with somewhat imaginary/idealized/relaxed gender standards.  😉  I did realize, as well, that there’s only one main female character in the series.  I can’t recall issues #1-5 very clearly, but I know Carol/Cal is the only one who continues to be important through issue #6.

Anyhow, the reason I mention FAKE and Bone at all is that certain classes from the Animation major at the college I attend would likely be helpful if I wanted to create a comic or webcomic.  If I did, it would almost certainly be graphic-novel-type material, and it would almost certainly be intended for an adult audience.  I did train in Writing, and so it would seem that I’ve got the training I need to be able to work on either a script for a graphic novel run, or a work entirely in fiction (no pictures).  I’d forgotten what an emotional impact fiction can have, and it’s pretty much of as much value as nonfiction, given that nonfiction shows the way things are, and fiction shows the way things could be.

I’m set up to attend Intermediate Drawing come Fall, so I should be able to see if I still like drawing enough to even want to do a comic.  There was the possibility that I could have taken a drawing-for-animation class this summer, but I thought I had enough on my plate with attempting to explore the Web Design thing.  I’m not sure if Animation is precisely what I want to do — I’d think Graphic Novels would be more up my alley — but there’s no reason why I can’t participate in the Animation track, if it would help.  And hey, if I like drawing, I can take more Drawing and Figure Drawing classes, and pretty much make my own curriculum.  I do already have a BA, after all.

Anyhow, it’s something to think about.  Not anything that would matter if I find I dislike drawing too much, but you don’t even really have to draw realistically to do a graphic novel — the drawings just need to convey emotion, be clear, and remain consistent.

I should get back on reading on how to write a story just basically, though.  I haven’t written much (in fiction) for almost a decade now because my imagination would drag me under.  It’s just really powerful stuff — at least in my case.  And I needed to get my head clear and find out who I was.  Now that I’ve made some headway there and am feeling fairly secure, maybe I can get back to being creative again — knowing that my imagination is not necessarily at the wheel of my creativity.  I am at the wheel of my creativity.  And I can direct my story, regardless of the fact that my imagination tends to catastrophize and run away from me.  Fiction is a craft, after all, not just brain vomit.

I should probably remember this post…

Note:  I was getting some clickjacking attack warnings last time I posted, under the “Like” button, which is why I disabled the option.  I’ll post again with “Liking” enabled, and see if it comes up.  But I think it may have been a false positive.

First post…kind of rambly.

It’s been a few days since I set this blog up.  In that time, a few things have happened, though none of it really gives me a clear view as to where my interests really lie.  Plus, only some of it is suitable for public consumption…

I’m set up to go back to community college classes in Fall; I have Summer off.  The past couple of weeks have been pretty intense.  The financial aid application and Master’s application for the Library program have been set in motion, but more and more I’m coming to see that working in a public library is an instructional/management/customer service occupation.  This is not really where I want to be.  I mean, I’m not a social person, and library work in the higher ranks would require me to be social for at least a good chunk of my time…if I worked in a Public Library.

My main competitor to this is Web Design.  The training would cost a lot less, it would probably be easier (at least at this stage), and it would put me into the tech field and away from the general public.  It’s also a lot more lucrative than Library Science, but a lot less certain.

I am set up to take Intermediate Drawing, come Fall.  This is majorly so that I can see if I actually still like drawing, and start to draw what I want to draw instead of still-lifes, all the time.  Still-lifes are good for skill building, but it’s like those oil paintings of bowls of fruit — what is that saying, really, or is it just for practice or to show off skill?  There’s a difference to me between skill and creativity; I think that to be a good artist, a person has to have both.  It’s hard to have both when you haven’t done the hard work, but at the same time, the hard work does not guarantee the inspiration.

I’m very close to a stage-one certificate in Animation…what’s keeping me out is the fact that I am not certain of the possibilities of the field, and I’m not certain where or with whom I’d work.  But I suppose that’s always the case.

I’m also not certain if I still love to draw as much as I did when I was younger, and am just stuck in a rut of “what I can draw well.”  Which, you know, gets boring, and when it gets boring I move on to other things.  I’ve thought of using my time during Summer to attempt to challenge myself with trying new things (hopefully things that can contribute to earning money — I don’t know why making tatted doilies came up at all, other than that it was challenging), and learn about these different career paths.

We actually were cleaning out some of the art + craft shelves at my home the other night, and I found my giant pads of paper with drawings still in them, and a lot of blank pages!  😀  What is most difficult for me is trying to figure out what to draw…if I were an Animator, this would become more clear to me.  At least I’d have a set of guiding principles to attempt to express in images.  It kind of runs backward from the way I normally carry out my art (I usually draw first and look for meaning later — could be why it’s hard for me to begin), but I think that drawing to an intended end could be a good exercise for me, at least.

I’m thinking that if I still like Drawing, I could take Web Design classes and augment them with Graphic Arts and Fine Arts classes.  Drawing is really very fundamental as a medium of communication.  I’ve taken two semesters of it, and at the end of the last session (2010?) we were just beginning to break into color.  I’d like to use color a lot more!  On my craft blog, I’ve spoken about what a large motivator color and color dynamics are to me.  It would seem, then, that painting would be something I’d get into?  Watercolor, I’ve very much wanted to try; I’ve just been daunted by the extremely precise-seeming nature of it.  Acrylic…I’ve made some attempts with, but not very many.  Oil paints, I’ve never used; though I do recall there are now water-soluble oil formulations, meaning no turpentine or mineral spirits.  I’ve seen the effects of toxicity from fumes associated with oil painting…something I’d like to avoid.

Then there is this thing which happened within the last few years in my State…apparently there was a crackdown and suddenly everything was labeled as possibly containing cadmium.  I’m not entirely sure what that was about or if it’s still in effect.  What I’m guessing is that everything that might have had some cadmium in it, maybe, or which had not been tested, might have gotten the *toxic!* label.  I really don’t know, and have been intending to research it.  What I do know, I’ve heard from art store employees, some of whom were also art school students.  I think it’s worth looking into, even though the scare may be over.  It’s been a while since I’ve been into an art store to look at the pastels and chalks.

But anyhow, what happened to jump me onto that cadmium track was the fact that a lot of the pastels picked up the warning.  I really do like to work with pastels; but the way they stain my hands and get everywhere is a bit of a cause for concern, to me.  Not like I don’t like it — I feel like, you know, an official artist when the blue-green won’t come out of my fingertips — but I know I’m absorbing the majority of that color…and I know art supplies aren’t known for being healthy.  😉  And then there is the fixative thing and how spray fixative isn’t really good for you to breathe, but the alternative is hairspray; and without it your pastel painting will probably be messed up; and with it, your colors may be altered; so go out in the garage with your organics + particulates respirator (I actually have one of these now, I think) and spray or use Aqua Net, etc.

But as someone who hasn’t often used paint, pastels are a stepping stone into it, it seems.

And toxic compounds can actually have really good working properties, even though they’re unhealthy.  I’m thinking of a certain brand of xylene-based markers which blend beautifully but fume to high heaven.  I literally cannot make myself get marker lines when I use these on marker paper — they’re that good.  But the xylene is cause for concern.  The formulation has been altered to make them a bit less bad for you, but still.  The headache one gets when using them in an unventilated space…and tales of solvent-sniffing teenagers, don’t help.  :/

I’d been set up to take a Computer Science course in Fall, but am planning on dropping it.  I tend to take on too much and then have to bail 1/3 of the way through the semester and run and catch up for the last 2/3.  Not fantastic.  The Comp Sci course also puts me close to half-time on its own, so getting rid of it will free up a lot of hours.  The only reason I’m keeping it for now is that I want to see the syllabus.  A short paragraph in the catalog is not enough to tell me what the class covers.

Anyhow…I realize that both Graphic Arts and Web Design are obviously computer-based, at this time.  It’s just that for me, it’s more intuitive to be able to draw things out in gigantic hard copy and then transfer over those brainstorms into the computer.  I’m not quite a digital native; I grew up during a time when we still hand-wrote our final essays in pen!  So…quite.

If I look at my academic history, as well…I mean, just from memory…it looks like I actually am more of an arts — or, specifically — a creative/communications person.  And I’ve realized that Graphic Design is basically visual communications.  It’s just that, maybe, you’ve got to know what you’re willing to help communicate.  Or, maybe that is an artificial barrier that I’m erecting so that I don’t take this route.

I do have a book here that I bought a while back called How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul, which may be very instructive at this time.  Now, at least, that I’ve gotten out of the Marketing class.  Seriously.  Seriously disliked that class.  But it’s useful to know why what decisions are made when…when it isn’t all in the marketer’s head, that is…