Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2014: a year in writing

Recently I finished a project where I collected and released everything I wrote in 2014.

You can find it here.

I scanned all the notebooks I wrote in, collected all the files, blog posts, and posts I made on one forum. Then I made tables of contents and covers and such. It was a huge tedious effort! It ended up being 2400 pages!! I'm so happy.

Wow! You don't actually think anybody's gonna read all that, do you?

Nah, not really... I don't expect anyone to read all of it. Or half of it. Or even like, a tenth of it.

My intent wasn't to do that. I wanted to do it more for myself. I thought it would be a good way to get over my fears of releasing content and such. I had this cycle where... I'd want to release writing, but I was scared to put things out that I found too personal or intimate or, idk, "tryhard". So I'd release some stuff that I found "tame" or "neutral" or whatever, and I'd promote it to that extent, and then I wouldn't feel very represented or actually "out there".

But this, oh man, this has EVERYTHING, uncensored, unabridged. Basically every thought that I had in the last year that I sustained for long enough to hold a pen or go online. How could I be afraid of exposure now, when all of this is out there? Conversely, though, because there's so much stuff, I feel secure that each thing I'm embarrassed of won't be seen by anyone.

Honestly, the sheer scope of it really appeals to me. The fact that I produced 2400 pages of writing in 2014 makes me really happy. I wish I had some way to print it off in a single gigantic Infinite Jest-looking doorstopper that I could plop on my shelf... but I can't even manage to create a single file like that without major memory issues (if anyone has any tips wrt this, please let me know!). I haven't heard of anyone trying to collect all their work like this, and the feeling of watching it come together and grow was really novel and exciting.

Okay, that's all good for you, but what about us?

I think there's a few things about this project that are kinda cool and unique. Like:

-There's a ton of stuff, with a ton of variety... lots of different mediums and styles and whatever. There'll probably be a few things you like, maybe some you don't, but if you explore around the books, you'll hopefully have a fun time.

-The feeling of exploring a project like this is I think pretty unique. You can find things and be reasonably confident that no one outside of you and me have ever read them before! That seems kinda cool, right?

-The intimacy is also pretty unique. This is as raw as it gets, completely unedited. Mistakes and bad ideas and crappy drawings, it's all there. Stuff that I never thought anyone else would see. And I am incredibly open and eager to hear and respond to any feedback anyone has about anything I've written! This can be a sort of "dialogue" reading experience, if you want.

So what does this actually contain?

It starts with the fiction I typed on my computer in 2014 (that I could find... I remember emailing myself some stuff, and saving some stuff on thumbdrives, some of that might be lost now.) Some of it is things I had handwritten and later typed out. Some of it is poetry or something. A lot of it is really unfinished, most of it hasn't really been edited at all. Some pieces were conceived as novels, but they didn't get that far.

Next is my school work, which I don't think anyone wants to read but I wanted to include for the sake of completeness. A lot of the assignments I worked on entirely at school I must have saved somewhere I can't find anymore.

Then we have my blog posts, which were posted... on the blog you're reading now. I also included some things I was working on but never finished. Exciting??

The typed section finishes with all my posts on the Outsider forums. Outsider is a forum I've been frequenting for around eight years. It isn't very large or active, but we have a tight knit, intimate community. Most of the posts are meaningless without context, and barely meaningful even with the original context, but you might stumble across some where I made an effort.

Then we move into the handwritten content. My handwriting is often illegible, so please be patient and do your best! If you have difficulty reading something that you find especially interesting, let me know and I'll transcribe it for you.

The first handwritten book is my daily comics log. For about five years now, I've been trying to write a small, 3-panel comic every night before bed. I sometimes forget, sometimes I'll have long lapses, but generally I get it done. I found the format was a good way to summarize the day's events without getting too long winded, but still requiring some effort. I also record what TV shows I watched, albums I listened to, books I read, and video games I played. I sometimes forgot to do that, though.

Then I have my series of chapbooks or "little birds". These are small books I made by folding, stapling, and cutting a single large sheet of paper. I made twelve books, with eight pages each. They've got little games and such in them.

Finally, we have the sketchbooks. These are spiral bound notebooks that I wrote in during class, while travelling, before bed, and generally any other time I get the chance. There's seven books, some of them I had used partially in previous years so they have less pages. This is where the majority of the content is, but it might be difficult to navigate it. I hope you have fun exploring them anyways. I've marked off what I thought were notable passages or things I especially liked in the table of contents.

What doesn't this contain?

I didn't bother putting in my reddit comments, torrent comments, Youtube comments, or posts on non-Outsider forums. I didn't include any private messages, emails, Gchat or Facebook messages. These all just seemed too insubstantial to include. I would really have liked to include all of my 4chan posts, but there was no way to track them all down.

I considered including other media, like... pictures I had taken or made, videos I recorded, or code I had written, but this seemed unfeasible.

How did this start?

I really like doodling and such as I take notes in class or write stuff or whatever. The thing I draw most often is the character Yuno from Hidamari Sketch. Last year, at the end of 2013, I got curious about how many times I had drawn Yuno that year. Then I figured... if I was gonna bother counting, I might as well scan them too. And once I had done that, I figured I'd dump them on /a/. I thought it was worth doing because there was a lot of them. I knew the drawings were bad, but the novelty of how many there were could overcome that.

Then, this year, when I thought of doing the "little birds", I figured they might be something that I'd want to scan and share with people. My idea was that, again, even if I wasn't particularly proud of any of them, the sheer number of them could be interesting to someone. Well, making the "little birds" was harder than I thought, but I realized I could just scan... like, absolutely everything. This happened around May, I think.

I started working on putting together the book (now books) at the start of 2015. It was often tedious, I made a lot of mistakes, I had a lot of technical issues... a "learning experience", I guess... but there were fun things, too, like coming up with titles for things that didn't have titles, and making the covers, and stuff.

Didn't the knowledge that you'd eventually release this online impact your writing?

Hmm, maybe? I don't think so, though. I still felt completely uninhibited, comforted by the win-win scenario that either a) no one will read this and my embarrassing secrets are safe or b) at least people are reading my work! It did make me want to write more in general, though, which I think is great! The more I wrote, the more secure I felt each individual piece was from scrutiny. But also, the more I wrote, the bigger the overall collection would end up being, and the more proud I could be of the whole project. Most importantly, there is no better way to improve at writing than by writing, and I honestly feel that this, my most productive year, has coincided with my largest improvement. Writing has never felt easier, more fulfilling, and more fun, and I think I have this mentality to thank, in part.

And here's stuff about the covers

The "typed" cover is Shaymin's flower repeated a bunch. Then I used photoshop to apply a gradient.

The "daily comics" cover is a blurry picture I took at Comiket with a bunch of photoshop stuff on it.

The "little books" cover is a picture I took of all twelve little books, plus a Yuno figure, plus a bunch of candy wrappers, plus some photoshop stuff. The theme of all the covers is "screwing around in photoshop".

The "sketchbook 1" cover is a Hidamari Sketch picture that I dumped a bunch of photoshop stuff on. I redid Yuno's hairpin over top in what might be the crowning artistic achievement of the whole project.

The "sketchbook 2" cover is Mega Rayquaza's sprite spammed everywhere with some photoshop stuff.

The "sketchbook 3" cover is a closeup of my face with MS Paint stuff on it. Nah jk I mean photoshop stuff.

The "sketchbook 4" cover is sprites I made for the (incomplete, barely started) Super Hidamari RPG.

The "sketchbook 5" cover is me figuring out how to use content aware fill and then spamming it on a picture of Saki characters.

The "sketchbook 6" cover is the pattern from the album cover to mum's Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today is OK.

The "sketchbook 7" cover is one of my Yuno drawings.

They aren't amazing, but I'm happy with them for the work I put in. I want to make something more substantial and professional for the two "definitive editions" - the selections and the complete edition.

Oh yeah, here's how you can help!

I've had a ton of huge headaches trying producing a complete edition, that is, all 2400 pages in one file. MS Word refuses to deal with any file bigger than 512MB, and we're looking at something like 2.5GB. If anyone has any alternative ideas or experience with this, please let me know.

Also, I'm anxious about what to include in the selections edition. I want to put together a ~200 page "best of" collection. Please let me know if you have any suggestions after looking around the books.

If you edit any zines or websites or whatever and you see something that looks like a good fit for your audience, please let me know! I can work to edit or transcribe any portions that you feel have potential.

You can contact me about any of these things at keatsta@gmail.com. Feel free to send me any thoughts or feelings about anything you've read, too!

Please spread the word to any of your friends who you think might enjoy looking through this work. In the end, all I want is the feeling that someone is reading my work, or at least could be. The wonderful feeling of release I get when writing is only matched by the reciprocal feeling that others might be reading it, understanding it, being impacted by it. The emotions and ideas that produce my work don't die with me, but could find home in another.

Thanks to:

All my friends and family for their continued support and camaraderie. It's pointless without it.

Anyone who read my work and offered suggestions or praise or criticism or even just indication that they had read it. And even those who read it and didn't give any indication. Just imagining these hypothetical people can be very comforting.

Special thanks to G. Nikonov and S. Ye for their especially immediate and direct encouragement of my writing.

Okay, that's it

I hope you enjoy my 2014 efforts.

No comments: