Self-Imposed Deadlines

The deadline to get Portsmouth Avenue Ghost up on pre-release was the 21st of November. I hit that deadline. Great. Yay me. Well, I didn’t hit it as much as I flopped messily against it, exhausted, frustrated and strung-out. With everything else that’s going on, the point of hitting the ‘upload’ button on Smashwords felt like an afterthought.

Who made that deadline, anyway? What’s the point of it? Why bother putting myself through the wringer just to hit some arbitrary date scrawled on a whiteboard? Doesn’t that turn writing into a chore?

Let me answer those one by one: I made the deadline. I made a date for the first draft. Then, when I reached that, I made a date for the second, then the third and also for the cover.  Finally I made the deadline for the pre-release.

The point is that by making dates and tracking my progress, I force my focus onto getting that task done. I then prioritise writing over, say, playing video games or watching television. The priority game also comes into play when I’ve got other creative tasks on the menu, like making You Tube videos or drawing or painting or crafting.

Sounds good, right? Keeping myself on track, avoiding the pitfalls of procrastination and distraction. It’s more than that, though. There’s this thing called Reality.

Most decisions are beyond me. It’s often not a matter of ‘I can do this, or I can do that’, rather it’s ‘I must do this and must do that’. See the difference?

The real question is why do I threaten my health and sanity just to reach some uninteresting date imposed by no one other than myself? It’s quite simple, really. I have commitments. I have to work, no questions. I have to take care of my family, no questions. I have to deal with emergencies and chores and errands and last-minute things. There’s no choice about that.

If I want anything of my own to be accomplished, then I have to afford it a status of ‘has to be done’, otherwise it can’t compete against the rest.

And, yes, it does turn writing into a chore. If I was writing for myself or for a friend, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I’m writing for a bunch of people I’ve never even met. I’m putting my name to a book that can be read by some guy on the other side of the world and he expects that what he gets passes a basic standard, and, more than that, expects it to be entertaining or informative. He won’t be as forgiving as a friend or relative. My credibility is directly linked to his enjoyment of it.

You’re damn right it’s a chore. It’s bloody hard work!

Imagine you’re making a batch of home-brew beer. There’s the cleaning and the sterilising, and the washing and the cooking, checking up on it, then the bottling and capping and storing it all under the house and checking again at intervals. It’s hard work, for sure, and one could easily pop down to the store and buy a slab, but that’s not the point, is it?

Deep down we want to create something. We want to put ourselves into what we do, express ourselves creatively, make something from nothing. That’s being human. Not all creative endeavours benefit others, of course, but those that do must be taken seriously.

A sketch on a napkin or a ditty in one’s head remain just as they are until they get turned into something ‘real’, in that they get taken seriously. The ditty gets engineered into a song. The sketch gets worked into a painting. Time and effort, lots of both, must be spent making something from nothing, creating things that never existed before we applied what God gifted us. Otherwise those little bursts of creativity stay on that scrunched up napkin and eventually get forgotten about.

Believe me, it’s all too easy to pretend that it doesn’t matter. You can think, “Ah, I’ll miss it by a day. Big deal.” It is a big deal. I’ve missed many deadlines and, each time, I kidded myself that there was nothing more that could have been done.

Bollocks.

Each time there was something I could have done. Without exception, every time I looked back, with honest eyes, and understood that I had left things too late, wasted time at the beginning of my project, spent too much effort doing trivial tasks. I could have done more and I could have done it better. Criticising myself retrospectively (another useful tool) means that, now, I reach my deadlines.

Deadlines are a front-line weapon against Entropy. They are an essential tool to make stuff real. Use them honestly and they’ll keep you honest.

Darker Sketches

The first batch came up sweet. I’m still learning from my mistakes even from the last few drawings. For one, I really need to take the photo with a black backing sheet to get rid of the text showing through.

FallenVigil
A fallen Vigil sketch with colour.

Secondly, the book is more than heads and scenes. It contains a fair bit of action, violence and brutality. Hence I need to include some of the more disturbing scenes.

Warning: The next portion does contain images that might be confronting. I apologise in advance for any offense, although I do conjecture that it is within context of the book.

ACS Troopers and Pan’s Torture

ACS TrooperSketch
ACS Trooper Sketch.
ACS Trooper
ACS Trooper converted to colour.

Two of the defining portions of the book come are the assault on the Sanitation Facility and Pan’s torture by the Rags.

After toying with various perspectives and points within the scene, I’ve chosen to go for the ‘implied’ violence option. We don’t need to see someone being shot by a trooper dressed in dark armour, the implication of a trooper holding a gun, along with a body and some blood spattering is enough.

There is such a thing as gratuitous violence.

That’s not what Adaptation’s about so it shouldn’t be in the promo. Still, the assault took place, so a trooper, perhaps even a silhouette of troopers, and a fallen Vigil will suffice. Notice the shortened legs of the trooper. In the original sketch the legs are longer and wider, but I’ve got some perspective issues when taking the shot. No biggy, I’ll fix them up in Gimp.

Concept of the Assault on the Sanitation Facility.
Concept of the Assault on the Sanitation Facility.

And before you get all thingy, yes, I’m aiming for more troopers to be part of the assault and yes, I’m going to add shadows to the figures and the walls. This is a concept piece.

Pan’s torture is a turning point for Ottavio. Not only does it activate the Berserker module, it also reveals just what it is that he’s fighting for.

As such, I need to display the naked, brutalised, emaciated body of Pan, up against the drug-crazed yahooing crowd of steroid-using Rags. Rather than drawing every Rag there and having a very busy scene, I’ve decided to make a silhouette of the crowd, and have two or three Rags in detail accosting the poor boy.PanTortureSketch

So with the sketches in place, I scanned, coloured and converted them, so that I can make a composition in the order of:

Pan's torture and brutalisation
Concept of Pan’s torture at the hands of the Rags

Having the dark foreground blurred, the eye is naturally drawn to the centrepiece. Perhaps I’ll animate the red sheen falling over Ottavio’s eyes as Berserker takes hold and superimpose the hearts and livers of the assailants. Then again, maybe not. I don’t want to give the impression that the series is just a bloodbath.

Once I knock these off, I think I should be set to start putting some pieces together, maybe even get started on the music.Mini Jeztyr Logo