April 27th, 2015


Illustration and Writing

Inspired by the header illustrations haikujaguar did for Some Things Transcend, I decided to try doing headers for A Rational Arrangement.

The headers are simple digital images. I made a standard 5" x 1" template, with a parchment-style background and a frame. The illustrations are stylized: brown silhouettes with white "ink" where figures overlap and to suggest some details.

So far, I've made 12. I am not sure how long I've spent on each one thus far, but my estimate would be somewhere over an hour each. I divided up the story into pieces for the serial, and it has 134 posts. So if I do a unique header for each post, I need 122 more headers.

... that's a lot of headers. And a lot of time. Micah helpfully suggests "do not do a unique header for each one", which is good advice and I should take it and I don't know what I'm going to do. Most of the headers I've done so far are scene-specific. Three or four might be easily re-useable. I don't know. I do know that I'm not going to wait until I'm done making headers before I start serializing it. (Serial starts in May! Probably May 4th.)

For me, the difference between writing and illustrating is weird. It is both easier and harder to create an illustration than it is to write a scene. If I make myself sit down to write for a set block of time, I'll average about 500-1000 words per hour: faster if I'm inspired, slower if I'm slogging. Usually not slower than 500 words an hour.

But that requires making myself write. I always want to have written but I very often do not want to write. Not even blog posts like this one.

On the other hand, once I have an idea for an illustration, it requires very little effort to motivate myself to draw it. Or to continue drawing until it's done. In general, I will contentedly work on the same picture for a couple of hours without looking at the clock or wishing I could take a break or thinking "why won't this picture draw itself?" I only get impatient with illustrating if either the picture is turning out badly and I've been unable to fix it, or it's a very complicated piece that'll take 20+ hours to finish. The headers are simple things, and they haven't hit either of those problems. If I looked at the entire group as one project, they ought to hit the time one, but my brain considers each one discrete and so doesn't care that I've got 122 more to go. I did 12! LOOK HOW ACCOMPLISHED I AM.

So illustration takes more time-spent-actually-drawing, but much less time spent thinking-about-drawing, planning-to-draw, whinging-about-drawing, and wishing-I-would-shut-up-and-get-on-with-drawing-already. It'd take me six months or more to do 134 hours of writing, but I bet I can do that much illustrating in two or three.

Which still doesn't mean it's the highest and best use of my time. I haven't written anything new since January, and I don't feel like I've been "working on fiction" since I finished the first draft of A Rational Arrangement at the end of 2013. (The 20,000 words or so I've written since then apparently Do Not Count. And is not much compared to the 240,000 I wrote in in 2013.) I can easily motivate myself to make illustrated headers for RA, and motivating myself to write is hard -- but doing the first means I literally do not have time for the second.

On the other hand, I don't want to fall into the trap of "do nothing but your top priority", because for me that too-often works out to "do nothing". If my mind settles on "I Must Do X First", then I will decide "but I don't waaaannnnna" and I will procrastinate on it by playing games or web-browsing. And I won't do anything else productive, because I need to Do X First. It's lose-lose.


I don't know. I'll make some more headers for a while, anyway.
Me 2012

Herb Witch and Herb Wife, By Elizabeth McCoy, & The Chocolatier's Wife by Cindy Lynn Speer

It has been SO LONG since I did a book review. I got far enough behind on writing them that I stopped reading books. Also, I feel guilty for asking for nonfic recommendations, and checking out a bunch of nonfic books, and then not finishing any of them and reading fantasy romance instead.

ANYWAY. I am gonna do some short reviews at least.

Herb Witch & Herb Wife by Elizabeth McCoy
These read more like one long book than two separate books: I bought Herb Wife as soon as I finished the first. The split into two books isn't wholly arbitrary and the end of the first book does signal a shift in focus. But neither volume is meant to stand alone.

I enjoyed the books more as fantasy-slice-of-life than anything else. The setting is well-developed and interesting, and the characters are plausible and nuanced. The magic of the setting -- alchemy and herb-witchery -- is low-key by fantasy standards; it's almost believable as a form of chemistry instead of being magical. The central plot is technically a romance: it's mainly about the relationship between the two protagonists. Still, it reminded me more of Bard Bloom's irromances: it is more about making a relationship work when you're stuck with it than about finding a soulmate or getting swept up by a grand passion. There's also some mystery and adventure elements. Overall, I liked it: I'll give it a 7.5.

The Chocolatier's Wife by Cindy Lynn Speer

This is a rare example of a book that bard_bloom gave a positive review to and which sounded like something I'd enjoy. (Bard's reviews tend not to be very positive, and some of the few endorsements have been books that sounded WAY depressing). So I picked it up, and was not disappointed. It's a lively, quick romance/mystery, with a charming archaic voice that sounds almost fairy tale-like at times. The characters are engaging and likeable; the author has "flashbacks" to letters exchanged before they met, which I found especially sweet. A few times the narrative struck me as a bit off, like the characters might express a feeling which doesn't make a lot of sense and seems to be stuck in purely in an unnecessary effort to add drama or tension. But overall the story is enchanting and I had a lovely time with it. A solid 8.

Me 2012


My department has a task that has required a person to spend a few hours every week pressing a button, waiting for the computer to process it for 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, and then pressing the next button. Repeat 76 times or so.

We have been trying to get the system folks to automate the button pushing. For a year. I kinda thought this was a job for a batch file. They apparently feel otherwise. It got booted around for a while.

Last week, they came back with their final offer: "we'll spend dozens of hours coding it so specific pieces of data are available in another system. Then you can spend dozens of hours rebuilding all your absurdly complicated reports in a way that wil not quite mimic their current form in the new system. That allows scheduling."

I whinged at bard_bloom about this. Bard pointed out that automating the reports should take like 50 lines of VBA code. If you do it badly. I whinged more.

My boss told me to write up all the details of all the data that we need so we could start the hundred-hour process system support wanted us to embark on, that they claimed was the only option.

I looked at this. I though, I bet it would take less time to figure out how to code the automation in VBA than it will to tell them everything we need, never mind the rest.

Three hours of searching, coding, and experimenting later, I have my proof-of-concept. Heh. I can do this after all!


I should've done this two years ago. -_-