Issue 13: Feed the Beast
Cannibalizing myself, one bite at a time.
Hi. It’s been a minute. Are you staying warm? Are you preparing to celebrate the holidays with your loved ones? Are you surviving the collapse of Twitter? (Follow me on Hive Social at @weslocher)
I didn’t get a newsletter out in October, as I didn’t have much of interest to say, but in case you missed it…
What happened last issue?
In the last issue I revealed that my family was in the process of trading it cold, snowy, overcast Ohio for the water-surrounded shores of Wilmington, North Carolina.
In fact, when I pushed out the last newsletter I was only days away from jumping into a rented minivan with two cats and a dog—don’t worry, the wife and child were in another vehicle; they didn’t get left behind—and made the three-day trek south.
If you missed my reasonings for returning to the South, hit that link below.
In this Issue:
Onward and Upward!
Feeding the Monster!
Onward and Upward!
So, here we are four, five weeks later. What sort of craziness happened on that 10-hour from Ohio to Wilmington? Well, let me tell you! … Not a lot, if I’m being honest!
We spent half the trip driving up the Appalachian Mountains, and the other half of the trip driving down. The mountains were gorgeous, the roads were clear, and the van I rented was a hybrid, so I only stopped for gas when my wife needed it for our main vehicle. (Yeah! Look at me getting excited about a hybrid vehicle and showing my age.) The tabby cat screamed the entire trip. The other cat and dog both slept. I listened to a lot of podcasts.
Yeesh. Where’s the adventure? The drama? The big plot twist? Okay… here it is: Our caravan of courage got to Wilmington two days before our belongings, so we had to… stay in a hotel for two nights! (Gasp!)
But despite all that non-adventure, we’re here. We’re settled. We’re seven minutes away from the beach and life is… good? One of our goals in relocating was to live more simply. We traded in a 4,000 square foot house for 1,600. There’s nothing on the walls of our home. It’s wonderful. That’s the problem with large houses. You feel obligated to fill them with stuff.
And then there was the little matter of selling that big old house. You want drama? That’s where it all happened! The house was under contract, then not under contract, then under contract again. People lost funding… got cold feet… changed their minds… this happened four different times. Prices were dropped. Tears were shed. Frustrations were high. But, as of two weeks ago, the house is sold, albeit for much less than we wanted. Having bought and sold two homes over the course of four years, I have decided that home ownership is not for me right now. You enjoy it, though.
However, in the midst of all of this change, I’ve run into a new obstacle, and that’s why today I wanted to talk about…
Feeding the Monster!
It’s been a weird couple of months because I spent some quality time in, well, let’s call it “a creative rut.”
It wasn’t writer’s block. I don’t have that problem. I have whatever the opposite problem is. Too-much-to-write-and-not-enough-time-to-write-it-itus? Sounds good. That really rolls off the tongue.
I have things I want to create—desperately. Things I’d love to pour every last drop of creative energy into. Ideas that keep me up at night. But lately when I’d find the time to work on these things, I was either completely exhausted, or as I tried to force words onto the page, I found that things weren’t vibing.
I’ve been wanting to tackle some new forms of writing, to experiment and challenge myself. I have two exciting ideas for novels, but novels are such a beast to write. I’ve written two to date—the manuscripts for which sit in my desk drawer after countless literary agents told me they were “too offbeat” for their representation (I was flattered by that feedback, honestly). Instead of going long, I thought about going short and crafting some short fiction. I wrote rough drafts of three short stories, but they left me feeling underwhelmed… feeling that prose wasn’t my thang.
I have a nonfiction book that I’ve been dying to write for some time. It’s on a subject that I know a lot about, but I’ve plugged in 10,000 words on the manuscript and mostly I just open the file, look at all the work left remaining, and then close the word doc. It’s like digital exercise. Open, close, repeat.
I’d never been in a rut like this that I could remember. Usually I can sneak a few minutes before work, or after work, or before bed, where I let loose the words, emptying them from my brain bucket and freeing up some hard drive space in the gray matter.
Most importantly, I couldn’t figure out why it was happening. Was I just tired? Was parenting getting the better of me? Was it the holiday blues?
Since I wasn’t writing at my usual pace, I had lots of time to stop and think about it. You know, really think. Looking inward and dissecting and searching and discovering.
And then it hit me.
I wasn’t blocked. I wasn’t out of ideas. I hadn’t lost the passion. Instead, I wasn’t able to crank out the things I wanted to crank because I’d been spending so much time feeding the monster.
If I haven’t said it lately, I’m very lucky. I get to create things for a living. Comics and books. I’ve spent the better part of the last seven years working in the video game industry.
I know writers who want a life like that. Who’d give it all to do these things. Would kill to do these things.
But as someone who is paid to be creative for 40 hours each week, but still likes to write comics and books and other silly stuff that no one actually reads, you then have to be twice as creative. And that can be incredibly difficult.
When working on a game at my day job, I regularly need new ideas. Plots. Characters. Dramatic situations. And if I’m tired, or not working at 100 percent (for whatever reason) those ideas are still needed to ensure deadlines are met and production keeps rolling. So rather than come up with a new character, new plot, or new dramatic situation, sometimes we as creatives will borrow. However, in those moments, the only people available to borrow from is ourselves.
So we take one of the good ideas we have socked away in our brains, or from a notebook, or from a napkin where we jotted an idea down when out at dinner a few weeks back, and we use it to plug the hole in the day job ship.
And that is feeding the monster.
But as a creative, the monster is never satiated. When I have clocked out for the day and want to be creative for me, I must summon new ideas, generate new stuff. The monster doesn’t eat stale food. It has an addiction to freshness. I’m like a Whole Foods for this creature. And lately, the monster has been eating Thanksgiving dinner every night to the point where I’m cannibalizing myself. The monster is now eating my fingers and working it’s way up my forearm.
So that was my October and November. A lot of frustration and pacing and muttering under my breath. I hoped that with time—as frustrating as that can be—the problem would solve itself.
But! Since I don’t want to leave this tale of first-world woe on a downer note, I can happily share that I’m now back on the horse. I found a path forward and a project I’d been toying with finally clicked into place. It got me excited and filled me with a renewed vigor. I’m in the chute, strapped in, and the door is about to swing open. Now I just have to hold on for my life and hope I don’t get thrown off. For at least eight seconds.
More on that project in future newsletters.
The moral of the story is, when things are creatively bleak, keep pushing through and don’t give up on yourself. It’s hard enough having a creative career where you must look inside yourself and create something out of nothing to share with the world. Usually the world wants nothing to do with it and we suffer rejection on every conceivable level. But we feel better for having made that thing and we still beg people to give it a chance in hopes they might enjoy it.
That’s what we signed up for.
Hey, speaking of begging…
While I’ve added a new project to my hot plate, which is simmering slow and low as it marinates in its juices to ensure maximum deliciousness, there’s one project that’s still rolling along like a well-oiled machine, and that’s…
Issue #7 of my irreverent sci-fi/comedy series about inept Area 51 employees should be available for preorder by mid-December as part of Alterna Comics’ Winter pre-order campaign. This is a special issue that I will discuss further in the weeks to come.
Remember that issue of Unit 44 I teased last round, issue 8? Since that writing, I managed to steal a couple of minutes to get those pages lettered up and submitted to our publisher for a spring 2023 release.
Since Alterna Comics releases its titles quarterly—four times a year, for those playing along at home—that puts us six months ahead of schedule. But because series artist Aleks Jovic and I are having so much fun with this title, he’s already finished drawing issue 9, and it’s been sent off to colorist Andrew Pate.
That’s the joy of comics. The further ahead one gets, the more one can relax. I’d rather have that time leading up to an issue’s release to promote it, rather than rush to get things completed and rushed off to the printer.
The secret is, I want an issue of Unit 44 to be available for every release block the publisher does. I want to keep readers engaged and entertained, dying to know what happens next. It’s great that many new readers discovered the series with the release of the volume 1 giant, which collected issues 1-4, but now that I have those readers’ attention, I don’t want to let go.
Since we last spoke, Unit 44 #6 was released! Did you pick up a copy? Gosh, I hope so. Don’t make me beg. (I made it clear in the section above that I will do so.) It’s only $1.98 for 21 pages of hee-larity.
If you’d like to catch up on the entire series to-date, you can grab all six issues from my webstore! I’ll sign them and ship them to your door. You don’t even have to stand up—except to go to the door to pick them up. And maybe not even then. Perhaps you have a loved one, child, or service animal who can drag it inside for you.
While I have you, I’m curious: What’s the last book you read for pleasure? And how long ago was that?
We live in a world where so many things are competing for our attention: Netflix and other streaming services, video games, mobile games, social media, comics… Sometimes it’s nice just to enjoy words on a page (be that print or digital).
I’m Wes Locher. I’ve been writing professionally for a decade. I write comic books, video games, fiction, and nonfiction. I write whatever seems fun, cool, and inspiring. I also love helping other writers to demystify the process of making a living through words. This is my newsletter.
Thanks for sharing this experience! I totally get the whole thing about feeding the beast. I've been wanting to get serious again about my own writing, BUT... I edit books all day, every day and it's hard to get into that mode outside of working hours. I do hope you get that book written and that you keep us posted about it.
I think my last pleasure reading was a Star Wars novel, “Padawan”, by Kiersten White. Though a lot of the reading I’m doing for work, or research is really enjoyable, so it doesn’t feel as tedious.