Thursday, February 17, 2011


I've been making a lot of art lately, which is kind of strange, because I was supposed to be clearing out room in my brain and schedule to WRITE more. But see, the thing with visual art is that people can recognize "talent" right away. They can't do that with an article or script or whatever. They can't look at a piece of paper with blotches of ink forming letters and say, without reading it, "This is good. This is quality." Whereas they can look at a painting or comic cover or statue and immediately have a reaction.

Thus we have my latest distraction/paying gig: Illustrating a comic strip to be used as a tool for memory research. I know it sounds ludicrous, but that's what it is. A research assistant saw my original comic book art hanging in a gallery, had a positive reaction to it, told his professor, and whammo -- next thing you know, I'm drawing Pacific Northwest Native Americans for nine pages.

It used to be that when I was introduced by a friend to a new person, he or she would say, "This is Pj. He's a writer." Or something to that effect. Now they say, "This is Pj. He makes comics." Or "This is Pj. He ... what the hell do you do again, Peej?" And it's weird. Because I still get paid primarily to write, just words, just words being printed in papers and posted on websites. But people don't see that. They see the visual art. Nothing wrong with that; it's just ... what it is.

I've been thinking about "Being." The longer story, the story beyond the TV pilot that's currently being worked into a novel. I'm not a novelist. I don't read novels. I have no idea how to write a novel. I can write articles or essays, short works up to 5,000 or so words. I can write scripts for plays, comics, movies, etc., things that require little exposition and get right to the heart of a character or scene through the fewest words possible. But I hear reviews of novels on radio interviews and swoon at the authors' abilities to string together words in such meaningful ways, and I realize that maybe I could have done that when I was 17, but at almost 35 my love affair with words is mostly dead. They are now simply tools; a means to an end. Words get the job done, as quickly as possible. What's that, editor, you want 500 words? Bam! There's 500. You need to cut some? They're just words, whatever, that's fine.

So now I'm back on the fence and thinking about reworking the novel back into a screenplay. The story's the same. I just find myself stretching to fill in the space between the characters' breaths. And it FEELS like filler. That's not good. No one is going to want to read that. It makes me realize more than ever that what I do when I write is less writing for the sake of writing, and more writing because it is the mechanism by which I get across my point. By which I tell my story. By which I move you to action. And that means I'm most concerned with the point, the story, the action -- not the fragile and forgettable string of letters standing in their way.