On creativity, and taking showers

I’ll get to the image in a minute, don’t worry.

Also, this one’s going to be kind of stream-of-consciousness, sorry about that.

I just took a shower– yes, it’s 3:00 in the afternoon, it’s also Saturday, shut up– and while I was in the shower I was, as one does, putting together a blueprint in my head for the dedicated library that I will eventually have in the house that we don’t have yet. I am not joking when I say I have been thinking about this room for most of my life, and until I live in a house with this room, built to my specifications, I am immortal, because I plan to die in my library with my feet up and a book in my hand and simply am going to refuse to go any other way.

This isn’t about the room, specifically, but it’s what led me down the path: thick, plush burgundy carpet. Two expensive leather chairs, the type with hand-driven nailhead accents (this, roughly, but I’m picturing a slightly lighter leather) and two matching ottomans, each with a reading lamp on a chairside end table, facing a fireplace at an angle. Behind the chairs, an executive desk. Bookshelves lining the walls up to an angled ceiling with exposed beams and skylights. Behind the desk, the shelves would come into the room at 90 degree angles to the walls, too– as many nooks as the room could hold.

And above that fireplace, the piece of artwork I have pictured above. That’s a style of artwork called bunka, which is basically painting with needle and thread. While it’s done with a pattern, the entire thing was done by hand– and this one specifically was made by my grandmother. She made enough of them that she had seven children and most of her grandkids have at least one piece by her in their homes; we have two, this one (technically my uncle’s, who gave it to me for safekeeping at one point when he was moving a lot, but he’s never getting it back) and another of Scamp from Lady and the Tramp that hung in both my room and my son’s room when we were very young.

My grandmother was crafty as hell, and we all have tons of stuff that she made, ranging from those bunka pictures to ceramics to intricate Christmas ornaments made with beads and fishing line. I don’t know if she ever drew or painted with, like, actual paint— I suspect not, because if she did surely we’d have some examples around– but she must have always been making things with whatever the hell spare time she managed to find while raising seven kids.

And thinking about all of that got me wondering what my grandmother would have done if she’d had access to a 3D printer. And … man, that’s a rabbit hole. I have often lamented my lack of ability to Make Things, which honestly is probably more of a reflection of my unwillingness to spend the time learning how to Make Things, but more and more lately I’m pushing the TikTok algorithm toward showing me people who are doing art of some kind or another, whether it’s painting or sculpture or 3d art or carpenters or resin art or miniature painting or Gunpla or god those people who make like entire D&D castles and taverns and scenery sets out of styrofoam and shit, they’re amazing, or digital artwork or oh my God the cosplayers and there was a bookmaking account that I really love that went dormant on me and I really miss it. I actually bought a bunch of bookmaking supplies and managed to make a little notebook for my son, which to my great gratification he still uses and carries around with him a lot, but I’ve not yet started a second one.

Grandma just, y’know, went out and made stuff, while her grandson sits around and wonders what he could make “if he had time,” when he’s spending 20 hours a day fucking around on his phone and not raising seven kids.

I should maybe follow her example.

On optimism

I am fairly certain that I have described each of the last four years as the worst year of my life. Looking back on it now, 2020 does certainly seem to have won the battle royal– losing my mom is going to do a pretty good job of catapulting the year over the rest of them, even before the global pandemic enters the chat– but if I want to be a bit more specific, April 2019 to April 2020 is probably right about where the break points are. Maybe July 2020, if I want to include losing my cat, who I’d had for 22 years.

All I really want out of 2021 is for it to be better than the last four years. I don’t need it to be great. I don’t even need good. I just need better. My 40s in general have been an utter horror show– recall that I turned 40 in 2016– and I’m more than ready to be done with that.

There have been some vague signs that maybe things are starting to turn. I am, despite the pandemic, happier as a teacher this year than I have been in a very long time. Financially, I’m in the best shape of my life, both personally and jointly with my wife. The vaccine isn’t in ready supply yet, and I haven’t gotten my shots yet, but it exists. My family isn’t experiencing any acute health crises right now; my father-in-law isn’t in great shape, but he’s holding up, and we’re not hugely concerned about anyone else at the moment. And I’ll be an uncle in a few months.

Now all I need is for a couple of elections in a state I’ve never set foot in to go my way today, and to make it through the next fifteen days without a nuclear war starting or some other sort of nightmare scenario being unleashed on the world. I (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this) have gotten very, very gun-shy about anything that feels like good news over the last four years, and I don’t trust anything resembling optimism any longer. I feel like if it seems like things are turning around a little bit that’s just so that when they all go to hell again it will hurt worse.

Hell, I just want to make it through tomorrow without riots. I would like it if the worst people in America manage to make it through the day without killing anyone.

…at this point, I took about a 20-minute break from writing this, because the despair started kicking in again. There are at least a handful of reasons for actual optimism about this upcoming year. There are reasons to set goals for this year, and not just assume that there’s no chance I will achieve any of them.

I haven’t released a new book in forever. Hell, I haven’t written more than a handful of pages of fiction since Click became available to my Patreon subscribers– and that was mostly a rewrite and re-edit, not an actual new book. I’d like to say I want to get another book out this year, but it’s entirely possible that I’m just done with that. I’d like to be more creative in general this year, to make things, and I’m already looking at the whole idea of creativity and just exhausted by it.

I need a reason to be hopeful that doesn’t wash away a day or an hour or a few minutes after I happen upon it.

I need this year to be better.

In which I lack skills

I’ve been in this weird place for a couple of weeks– months? Hell, who knows, time has no meaning– where I want to get into woodworking. You may have seen the turning videos I’ve posted. That’s what people in the know call it, you see.

I’m not going to get into woodworking. I have nowhere to work wood, no tools for woodworking, and no one to instruct me in woodworkery, and I suspect this is not really something that one teaches oneself from videos on the internet. I have also considered getting into spin painting recently. You may recall a Teach Myself to Draw project a couple of years (?) ago if you’ve been around a while; that fizzled when I realized that while I did want to be good at drawing things, there wasn’t any particular thing I wanted to draw, and that’s … kind of important?

That ukulele is still around, too. Never gonna learn to play it. (I am, and I swear this is a coincidence, listening to Eddie Vedder’s ukulele album right now.)

What creative thing would you be good at if you actually wanted to put in the effort to get there?

Hmm let’s see

Feeling kind of bullet-pointy today, so let’s do a bits and bobs post rather than trying to construct some sort of coherent narrative:

  • After discovering at least one other teacher was doing this, I’ve decided to just go ahead and record my e-learning lessons for the rest of the year and get them all posted as fast as possible. I’m already done with the rest of this week and so I only have three more to do; they’ll probably all be finished tomorrow.
  • In theory, the kids are done on May 20, although they have until the 27th to turn in their work, and the district appears to think that we’re going to be doing trainings until school would have actually ended in June, but they haven’t actually given us any details on how that would work. I’m sure I’ll be super psyched about it once I know.
  • If you live in South Bend, you should have requested your primary ballot by now, dammit. I’d appreciate it if you’d vote yes on the referendum questions that are on the ballot so that my job can afford to keep paying me and we can invest in roofs and drinkable water and such in our buildings.
  • The usual gang of dipshits has discovered our dastardly plan to raise tax money and then spend it in such a way that it has a chance to benefit brown children, so naturally there’s a Vote No movement. I’ve only actually seen two signs about town but every time I do I have to forcibly restrain the urge to either steal the sign or drive up into people’s lawns to destroy them.
  • It is possible that the whole home-isolation thing is affecting my generally genial and go-along-to-get-along personality, I’m not sure.
  • I think Mike Pence probably has tested positive for coronavirus, because there was an announcement today that they were isolating him from that other person. I do not think that there is a single chance in hell that the White House would tell the truth about either of them being infected. Hell, I’d trust North Korean media about Kim Jong Un before I’d trust this White House to tell me the truth, and that’s kind of scary.
  • I am Back on My Shit in a number of ways recently, and in my idle moments today have been researching larger monitors for my computer (utterly unnecessary, as my iMac is already the largest possible size and I sit no more than two feet away from it, plus I already have a secondary monitor) as well as bikes for fat guys (they exist, and as far as I can tell America’s fat men have already bought them all, because none are in stock anywhere) and green screens for my office, which will become much less necessary tomorrow, when I’m done recording e-learning lessons for at least the next few months.
  • I have not been on a bike in over 30 years, as I basically learned how to ride one because my brother wanted to learn and then never did it again. If it is possible to forget how to ride a bike, I have done so. This is an exceptionally poor idea, especially given how much any bike robust enough to support my fat ass would cost.
  • I am wearing shorts. It’s not warm outside or anything like that, but it’s fucking mid-May and I’m wearing shorts because fuck you, mid-May.
  • We just ordered a new refrigerator for our garage, because I need a place to store my many beverages that will keep them cold. I do not actually drink alcohol, so yes, I’m actually envisioning an entire refrigerator filled with Pepsi, tea, Mountain Dew, and Gatorade.
  • Additional Back-On-My-Shittery: I’m back on oh man I really want to do a podcast I should buy a bunch of equipment for podcasting pay no attention to the fact that I still don’t have the vaguest idea what my podcast would be about I just wanna buy shit.
  • That said, my Blue Yeti desk microphone has finally earned back the money I spent on it over the last couple of months, as it really does sound a lot better in my videos than the internal mic on my computer. It’s also not entirely impossible that I’ll let myself invest in a better webcam than the one that’s built in, but I shouldn’t.
  • Lurking in the back of my head is the certainty that we will absolutely be needing to teach from home again this fall. That will probably be what ends up getting me to pull the trigger on the greenscreen, at least.
  • I also spent a few minutes yesterday looking into an online Ed.D, which … nah.
  • I’m listening to Post Malone right now, and this track he does with Ozzy Osbourne is amazing.
  • 3:42 PM, Tuesday May 12: 1,358,901 confirmed cases and 81,650 American deaths.

In which we build, ctd.

IMG_0004

Something happened today that, somehow, hasn’t happened yet, despite the fact that the boy is in first grade: he woke up feeling sick, and I decided to call in myself and keep him home for the day.  By noon my plan had been shown to be less than wise; a headache so bad that it had him swaying in the morning had given way to, well, nothing, and I’m finding myself fighting off a slightly delayed case of con crud.  I think it’ll run its course today and be done tomorrow, but I’m definitely low on spoons, if you know what I mean.

We spent the morning in Minecraft again, and I added a floating cabin, complete with waterfall and a manmade lake underneath, plus the totally-made-up flaming magic rocks that help it float– the floor in the house is actually made of glass covered in carpet because glass won’t burn and nothing else I was putting down was keeping the fires from getting through.  All of this is across the river from yesterday’s efforts.

In the background there is another floating fountain made of emerald.  Yes, there’s apparently a theme in this world; much like IT, everything floats down here.

Less mangled children, though, I suppose.

I’ll try and write something that isn’t about Minecraft tomorrow.  If nothing else, I have a book review or two to write.