The Grand Graphic Novel of 17 years

I am now starting another 30 days of no sugar/low natural sugar, after a successful 30 days that ended last Wednesday. The next day I had an ice cream and then Friday began the next 30 Days.

This new eating “plan” is working on a much grander level. Yesterday at a party I met someone who just started something similar and we shared how this is much more than about dealing with sugar addiction and eating healthy, how this can help you focus on doing the important things you want to do that you neglect. It’s the secondary side effect, being more able to follow through with goals and projects and why food is such a big factor with ADHD for me.

I started writing a graphic novel “fantasy/memoir” 17 years ago in 2000. I took a class at the Open Center with a comics expert friend about writing graphic novels. It was taught by a woman who wrote a graphic novel about having a baby as a teenager. She got us to figure out what was important for us and what we wanted to write about and to get going with the nuts and bolts of layout and drawing and speech bubbles. I got started and got the first 10 pages done and got a lot of great feedback. People who read it thought it was funny and well, good, worth continuing.

There is nothing like immediate “success” to stop me in my tracks. I kept working on it and then at some point put it aside and left it to collect dust. It was too hard and I reached a place where I didn’t know what was supposed to be on the next page. Since then at various points in the last 17 years, I have taken it off the shelf and worked on it. For a while in 2006-2007 I was meeting up regularly with my friend I took the class with to work on our graphic novels and encourage each other. Then life got in the way and I put it back in the black hole of writer’s block until the next spurt of inspiration hit. In 2013 I got very revved up to get it done by my 50th birthday and figured out how to get 100 pages done by doing a page every 16 or 17 days and posting some of it on Facebook. That went on for a few weeks, then I lost several pages of the book and gave up again. I picked it up and did a few more pages and even found the lost pages, after putting the loss of the pages in the book. By then, the book had  developed a life of its own and was also about my inabilities to keep going and doing it. Fast forward to a few weeks into this new “food plan”. About 4 weeks ago, I decided to get one page done per week and use therapy to make me keep it up, so I had to do a page by Friday and send a photo of it to my current therapist. I am now working on the 4th page (page 44 of the book). If I keep it up, I will have about 31 pages done by my 50th birthday and be on page 71. It won’t be finished but it will be more finished than it’s ever been.

Getting back into it and forcing myself to do it each week has been enlightening. One question that I won’t be able to answer until I finish is what is this project getting in the way of in terms of other things to accomplish with my creativity? I always thought in terms of all the things I manufactured as reasons to not be working on the book and what are all those things I put in its way, but I hadn’t thought in terms of what this unfinished big block of a project might be obstructing. What if this book is an obstacle itself? I won’t know until I do it and finish it.

When you force yourself to work on something like this that has been 17 years in the making, you learn things for sure. It is just at the point of shit or get off the pot, put your money where your mouth is, etc. So I have decided while getting back in the process that I have to get this done and finished and then get it published so I can continue with whatever else I am doing with my artistic and writing career. I definitely have another book, not graphic, just writing, that I started last year and am working on which I have put aside lately while doing the graphic novel. I posted a few things from that book on this blog, but for sure, I will have to write it at the same time or get the graphic novel done so I can do the book.

The book is going to be called The Art Box and is a book of essays/reflections, mostly about doing art therapy with adults, especially my work at my old job at FEGS Rockwell Continuing Day Treatment Center that I left in early 2003 to start my private practice.

The graphic novel process is extremely challenging as each page takes a really long time to conceive and complete. It’s much more frustrating than pure writing as the images are a big deal and take a long time. Sometimes I forget how fun it can be. I started it in black and white, drawing in pencil first and then covering in black sharpie. Now it is in color as well and I am trying to vary the layout and composition. The one benefit of taking forever to get it done is that now the internet is so great for research, whether to look at examples of fight scenes in comics or look up things  that relate to the content. I also just organized my sketchbook journals that I started doing in 1987, so there are 30 years of them, minus a few that I took apart. I’m going to have to look in them more for more info and ideas. I have been using old drawings from my journals to get image ideas for the pages in the past few weeks. Today I used a scribble drawing from 2012.

The second week I noticed how it is difficult to deal with the inner critic saying this isn’t good enough, your drawing is bad, there isn’t enough variety, maybe you won’t get it published. You have to just keep going and keep in mind that you are going to keep going and not stop. Stopping is the deadly thing, so having this idea of having to do a page a week at least is great for momentum and also keeps me motivated to stay with this eating plan, as the fear is, going back to eating badly will remove my motivation and I will give up. Each goal feeds the other.

I hope this continues to work as it’s reached the point where 17 years is enough and I have to get it done in the next year-year and a half!

Day 2 of Writing Class: List

These are the choices:

  • Things I Like
  • Things I’ve Learned
  • Things I Wish
  • Things You’re Good At

I wrote a whole draft of a list of Things I’ve Learned, but I decided to do something different with the same topic.

Things I’ve Learned about My “Writer” Identity:

  1. I’ve been hiding in the writer “closet” for years, at least 30 years.
  2. I was struggling with this beast back in 1985 in my writer’s journal for an English Creative Writing class in high school.
  3. It’s always been, “What do I write about?”, “What do I have to say that people will want to read?”, having this urge to write but not having anything to write or write about, least of all fiction.
  4. I try in every way possible to destroy my thinking of myself as a writer or at least place obstacles in my pat. I left the 1985 writers journal on a subway two weeks ago. I was terribly upset and angry at myself. I had lost a big clue to who I was, not as a teenager, but as a budding writer back in 1985. When I first discovered that journal in the spring, I felt like I had been given a time capsule to this person that had been me, at least, what she wrote and how she thought about writing. I found it at this point where I had started writing a lot more again, so it seemed so just right that it fell into my lap.
  5. Did I lose that journal to tell myself that I can’t write or to make things hard for me, did I lose that writer in me, or that key into my mind as a 17 year old, or, did I lose that journal because I don’t need it and have already incorporated that writer inside me and need to focus on what I am writing now or my writing process? the Maybe both are true. The reason I was carelessly carrying around this old green covered Meade notebook was that I brought it to my therapy session that morning to show my therapist. This is a new therapist I am working with after several years hiatus from therapy. One main focus of my therapy is my struggle to be ok with being a writer and with my writing. It seemed even more of a message from the universe that the last event with that journal was for that very purpose. I texted my therapist about it right after I lost it. I seemed to need for him to know that he was the last person to see it and hear it.
  6. The more I write, the more I delete my writing and sometimes edit it but no longer just look at a first draft as finished. I used to write posts for this blog and fling them out there. Now even for the blog, I write many drafts I never post.
  7. I started writing something new in the spring that was a new kind of writing and a new sort of genre I tried out, some kind of  personal narrative. I did not know until then how much my work as an art therapist from the past especially was going into my writing. The other thing I discovered was writing and my daughter, writing about being her mother and writing with her. I already considered her a good writer back when she got excited by writing in second grade.
  8. The whole writing issue, beast or monster is intricately connected with my  GraphicNovel, started in 2000, which is a sort of memoir of the mind. This graphic novel has been torturing me for the past 16 years, most of which have been “writers block” years. It was started with the goal of publishing it; that goal has always been there despite my success in squashing it.
  9. My writing and my art have been coexisting with my Graphic Novel illness. I only realized it with writing recently when I saw that the more I write the more likely I am to get back to the graphic novel, and that whatever I’m writing somehow seems to be an act of avoiding working on the graphic novel, but sometimes seems to get me back to it. The art coexisting has been going on since the beginning. This last project involving cartoons, Bathroom Art Only, is the first series of work where my art directly connected to the graphic novel and sort of spilled into it and the art work threw me back into it after a long block. Then the door closed a few months until my writing flung me back at it. At other times, my art has seemed to focus on being as different and far away from the graphic novel as possible, as if it is trying to keep me away from it.
  10. The graphic novel has become a strange realization of my personal “Pictures and Words” struggle. More on that another time. End of list!

 

Daily Prompt: The Waiting Room of Life: With Photos

As I am taking the WordPress “Blogging 101” class to improve this blog and my blogging skills, I am trying out their daily prompt. I picked this one from Nov. 16, as it is very timely.

The Daily Prompt is:Waiting Room “Good things come to those who wait.” Do you agree? How long is it reasonable to wait for something you really want?

Lately, in sessions with patients, this topic comes up a lot, during transitions such as moving to a new neighborhood, job searches, a long paper, thesis or dissertation, other career issues and relationship issues, even waiting for a psychiatrist appointment.

WhenI usually bring up Dr. Seuss’s book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”, because my favorite page is his interpretation of the “Waiting Room” of Life, and you see the people waiting and his text includes “waiting for their hair to grow”.

I found a link to the exact page spread from the book!:

Everyone is just waiting for serious stuff like a Better Break, or for material things. My favorite is about the hair, as I have experienced that in the past few years. I like changing my hair a lot, and I decided to grow it long. As I have no interest in extensions, I felt like I was in that waiting room, waiting for my hair to grow. At several points in that process, I felt urges to cut all my hair into a short hair cut, and it was hard not to run to a barber and do it, very tempting, every time I saw some actress with a “Pixie” Haircut I missed having that hair cut from for me the late nineties into 2000. But I stayed put in that waiting room and my hair eventually grew to the point where I needed to trim it. then there was the urge to change it up, but I haven’t acted on it.

the other funny thing is I have never had a “waiting room” in my private practice which most therapists of all kinds tend to have. Even now in my relatively new studio, I have two rooms and could have made the first one a waiting room, but I chose instead to use both rooms for art making and art therapy and therapy. So the waiting room in my practice where patients may bump into each other is the hallway, elevator or bathroom…

Right now, I am waiting for a bunch of things alongside several patients waiting for their particular things. I started a graphic novel in the year 2000 and it is waiting patiently for me to get back to it and eventually finish it. At this point, the new pages I did last year are in some box in my apartment but I have no idea which one, so I hid the project from myself! Now I”m waiting for those pages to show up somewhere. I find that misplacing things at my house or studio involves waiting for them to suddenly appear. Whenever I am looking for something, I usually find something else I forgot…

In sessions with people who are in that waiting room, they are acompanied by me as their therapist, waiting with them, and we explore what it is like to sit with the not knowing, non clarity, no answers, no doing aspect of the waiting, which usually is what is most uncomfortable for people. Meditation in action or sitting meditation or yoga are good for this too as you notice what is going on with your breathing. Are you waiting for your next breath? Are you waiting to end the meditation if you set an amount of time?

The sentence “Wait and See” has been difficult for me throughout my life, as I am the impulsive type; I make decisions quickly and don’t like prolonging the pros and cons list or even making this list, which has gotten me into trouble, so I am working on sitting with things more and not reacting so much. “Act, don’t react” the Yogi teabag told me just this morning.

The altered book project is an interesting aspect of this waiting as I have 16 projects in various states and stages, and I’ve been fine with working on different ones and not having an urge to finish any…
These are photos of the two rooms in my studio office. (I didn’t clean up to take the photos.)

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