Just give me a second to blow the dust off.
A self-managed website is, in many ways, tougher than writing for someone else. The only person holding you to account is you, and if you can’t do the work your boss sets you, well, you can expect a stern talking to yourself later.
For a while, I found it impossible to write here, and not just because work/wedding planning/moving house/pretending to mow the lawn all vied for my time. Any pop culture opinions I had seemed rudimentary or just boring (or, more often than not, spoken by more articulate folk). My comic reviews became largely positive and lost their bite, since I no longer have the disposable income to afford all those terrible books. More than anything, though, I had lost my drive – the innate desire to put metaphorical pen to paper and scribe my thoughts for all the world to see. It seems like there’s more than enough of that happening anyway.
But all that’s about to change.
The “why” is both complicated and not all that interesting, but it largely boils down to a few factors:
1 – I’m sick of not writing, and I’ve got some demons to exorcise.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” indeed.
Ironically, it’s very hard to write when you’re an academic, especially if you’re teaching. A big part of it is motivation; many’s the day I’ll come home from a day of tutorials and want nothing more than to flop onto my broken couch and fire up Archer on Netflix again. But to succeed in my field, you need to be writing. You need to write some more. Then, just to be safe, you should write a bit more on top of that.
Between conference papers, a few academic articles, tutorial plans, wedding vows and the odd review piece over at my second e-home, Geek of Oz (where I’m also galvanised into producing more content this year), I had no gas left to pen anything that I had to, let alone what I wanted to. There’s being tired, and there’s being lazy; I started at the former and succumbed to the latter. It’s way too easy for me to declare that it’s been a long day/week/month/century and just call it in.
I want to write a lot more than I have been. I want to write things I take time to edit, refine and sharpen into the perfect verbal spear. I want to write stuff that’s completely off-script and takes five minutes to put down. I’m buzzing with ideas, and after a long time of not regularly committing to this thing, I want all of you to start to see those ideas – or, in the words of my collaborate Stu, I’ve got some demons in my head that need exorcising (but these are good, nice demons, not the kind associated with clinical depression or satanic massacres).
2 – I am more determined to go “pro” this year.
The term professional seems malleable these days, a fact I tell my students all the time. It’s much easier for randos like me to break into creative fields that were hitherto restricted to the classically trained. Now, we’ve all got the online capacity to apply for outlets, or to just make our own.
I plan to do both.
I’ll be continuing to write at both Geek of Oz and here at The Genre Fiend, but I also want to build up work that I can send to other outlets. Maybe you’ll see my rambles on a much bigger site someday…
3 – I want to write more NTROs.
In academia, a Non-Traditional Research Output (NTRO) is a piece of work that furthers academic knowledge on a particular topic, but isn’t published in a traditional research output (eg. a peer-reviewed journal or monograph). I put out my own NTRO last year when I was inspired to write about Horizon Zero Dawn‘s feminist leanings, and I’d like to continue that with a few other topics rattling around my head. The University of Sydney has a great guide on NTROs, so check it out to get an idea of some of the kinds of stuff I might be throwing your way later this year.
4 – Christof Bogacs
So there’s this mate of mine who’s broken into the comics business. His name’s Christof Bogacs, and he’s pretty awesome.
Over the last few years, Christof and I have wiled away many a lunchtime bitching about the comic book industry – the state it’s in, the saturation of capes and cowls, the indie gems we manage to find from time to time – and now, he’s finally getting in there as a comic book creative practitioner. In partnership with some sterling artists, Christof’s got some published comics under his belt (here are just a few of them) and is currently working towards getting to Emerald City Comic Con in March 2018 to pitch his work to creative bigwigs.
So what does a shameless plug for my buddy have to do with writing more here?
Seeing and hearing about Christof working his ass off for the last few years has been as inspiring as it is gut-wrenching. It ain’t easy breaking into any creative field, comics more so than most, but Christof’s determination and drive in putting in the hard yakka has really put my own lack of motivation to shame. His work has inspired me to put in a lot more work than I’m doing right now, and probably with far less grace than he has.
Oh, and I strongly suggest you sign up to his “You Snooze, You Newsletter”, not least of all because it is the greatest pun of all time.
5 – I’ve recognised that I am not a bad writer.
It’s the age-old problem that plagues even the most professional, steely-eyed of writers: wrestling with the internal doubt that your work is not up to snuff. To think of your work as great makes you big-headed, but to think of it as shit makes you an angsty buzzkill.
Here’s the thing that took me the better part of twenty years of writing – through ten-word dinosaur stories in pre-school to full-blown academic book chapters – to finally figure out: I’m not a bad writer.
That’s not to say I don’t write bad stuff sometimes (for example, please do not look at this appalling parody fanfiction that I wrote seven years ago). But I’ve realised that I can be happy with some of the things I’ve written, or at the very least feel that it’s of decent, readable quality. Having some godawful work under my belt doesn’t equate to being a scribe of a similar caliber. I can acknowledge that I have a talent, and that I am determined to see that talent pursued as far as it can be. I don’t say any of this to sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but rather to acknowledge something I have, something I’m capable of, and something I love doing.
I love writing, and I think I’m not too bad at it.
This wasn’t a realisation I simply came to after listening to too many Writing Excuses podcasts (though they certainly helped). As with anything worth doing in life, I’ve been encouraged in everything I’m doing by remarkable people, personally and professionally.
By my mother, her partner and my brothers, who are some of my loudest cheerleaders.
By my Geek of Oz crew – Christof, Stu, Billy and Ryan, all of whom have been critical voices of reason and gave me another place to exorcise those demons.
By my Nerd Cave family – Dave, Ben, Tau, Josh, Chris, Sussan, Matthew, Adam, and everyone else who fosters my love of my favourite subject matter, engages me in stimulating nerd debate and (occasionally) takes reading recommendations from my review work.
By my academic colleagues – Kay, Liz, James, Ben, Nat, Ann-Maree, Catherine, Elizabeth, Brent, Olivia, and so many others who continue to encourage me to think critically and keep on keeping on in the tertiary education ballgame.
And, of course, by my lovely wife, who couldn’t be more encouraging if she tried (and dammit if she doesn’t find new ways of topping encouragement every day).
Because of them, and because of those ideas I have, the inspiration I get from seeing my friends kick ass, and the drive to spread my words to other corners of the internet, I can safely say that I am not a bad writer*, and I’m going to keep on writing.
*I might just be an ok writer, instead.
6 – I got given some sick noise-cancelling headphones for Christmas…
…and they make writing anywhere so, so much easier.