A new start

Last night we had one of our coffee chats, for the first time in months. There are about half a dozen of us, including everyone in the house, and we get together to talk about life and issues and philosophize a bit. And since the office where most of us work now shares a building with a coffee place, we’ve got a great place to do it. The talk last night centered mostly on “truth” and “letting go of things”, and it really was refreshing.

MapAmong other things, I think it jarred something loose in my brain, something that had been blocking my writing on this on-again, off-again audio play podcast. It’s been percolating for months now, if not longer, and I think I’d grown very attached to a certain arrangement of the characters, a certain approach to the story and the world… and I think I’d set it up to be too big a deal, way more work than it had to be. As usual, I was trying to run before I’d even got the hang of the crawling thing.

The main viewpoint character, for example, was originally an amalgam of several cool, funny people I know. But I wanted to get her right, to make her believable / cool / funny / worthy / whatever. I couldn’t get into her head, into her life. I couldn’t get her or any of the other characters to sing.

So I tossed out all my notes for the characters, along with Aborted Episode One Draft, Version Eight. The characters and their roles have shifted several times along the way, but this was the biggest shift yet.

The premise still holds: it pretends to be a real podcast about life in Toronto, but it’s a fictionalized, slightly fantastic Toronto. And podcasts tend to be personal things, so I’m making it a lot more personal. I’ll host the thing (in character), and there’ll be more room for music and commentary on local issues.

Tigs, sound engineerI realize part of me was worried about seeming egotistical, since I’m already filling so many roles (writer, lead, engineer, composer, producer, director?)... but deargod, why? This isn’t a big show on stage or radio. If I think of it instead as just a fun little project, a way of learning all those different roles, a seed that can grow into something bigger, involving more people, everything snaps into place. I get to play with new voices, new aspects of characters. I don’t have to worry so much about it being “good enough” to drag other people into helping.

It’s fun again.

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Yeah, keeping things fun is important, isn’t it? I’ve got my own project I’ve been carrying around in my head too long, and it’s too important now. I have to get it right. I can’t just dive in and start drawing.

So I’ve put it on the shelf for a while and dragged Nick into a throwaway project. He, I think, is starting to get stuck on Making it RIGHT, but I’m still in “this should be fun!” mode - and hopefully that will get me over the humps of sitting down and just getting started. (and having a pile of it there ready to go “wrong” will hopefully drag him back into it, when he gets crazy about it.)

Posted by Egypt Urnash on 16 February 2007 at 9:36 PM

I thought I sensed a similar kind of frustration from you two on some of your projects. Collaboration can often help, in my experience - you can bolster each other, and if one person gets bogged down, the other can help keep the momentum and enthusiasm going.

The times when I get bogged down on a piece, whether it’s writing, or music, or whatever, it always seems to boil down to me having some big self-expectation, like trying to get across some very particular, heavy emotion, or a concept I’ve gotten fond of, and never quite getting it to work…

The pieces where I’ve just gone and made stuff up without any major preconceptions are a lot more satisfying. Sometimes, though, they feel a little fluffy or inconsequential. Eventually I guess I’d like to have the skills and follow-through to make something more deliberate and quote-unquote “meaningful”... and the only viable way there that I can see seems to the “keep it fun” route.

We’ll see if it works!

Posted by Eli McIlveen on 16 February 2007 at 10:13 PM

Congrats Eli!!!!

Posted by Sean Howard on 16 February 2007 at 11:12 PM

Yeah. Keeping things fun and insignificant, even when they start to have significance, is hard - and important. Making a project you’re doing for fun _stay_ for fun, rather than becoming _work_ because it’s gotten all Serious and Meaningful. It’s just a project; it’s just something being done for fun. The extra layers of meaning are there because they make me grin and see how much I can work that in, not because I HAVE to have MEANING.

Stripping away that “need” for things to be “important” is a skill in itself, I suspect. How to learn it, I have no clue.

As to collaboration - god yes! This thing I’m planning with Nick is the first time I’ve really done something like that. (Barring, oh, improvised online textual drama. *grin*) It’s been a lot more fun than trying to work it all out myself; Drowning City came together in snips and snaps over a couple of years and it still has some major holes, while this thing has evolved fast. It remains to be seen if it’ll stay lots and lots of fun once I’ve started drawing; I hope it will be…

Posted by Egypt Urnash on 17 February 2007 at 11:49 AM

Oh God, I’m with you both on this: the need to “keep it fun.” Sadly, most projects also involve grunt-work, and that tends to deter me.

When I get blocked during a project, it’s always either because I have too many options that I can’t (or rather won’t) choose the right one, or because I don’t have experience with whatever I need to do next. Like, if I need to implement an online payment system for something I’m doing, I’ll just sit chewing my knuckles for two months rather than research, do, and debug.

I’ve been on the last page of “Creepy Pedro”‘s latest adventure for six years now.

Collaboration is a nice solution—people compensate by having different strengths—as long as nobody takes it seriously enough—or nobody has a certain type of personality—to begin fighting over the direction.

I’m REALLY curious about your podcast! I look forward to hearing it once it’s finished…

Posted by Muffy St. Bernard on 19 February 2007 at 10:11 AM

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