“Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” (Happy Holidays!)

Happy Holidays, folks!

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I tend to be a bit more retrospective than usual. I like to look back at the previous year and see what I’ve accomplished, what I enjoyed, what I struggled with, and what I need to learn. A new year approaches, a new chance to start fresh to set new goals, new objectives (but hey, you can do that any time you’d like). This year, especially, the last full year in my 20s, I’ve thought a lot about what I’d like to accomplish, where I’d like to see myself in the future, asking myself the classic job interview question, “Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?” That’s a question has always been a little tricky for me to answer. It’s easy to identify what you’d like to be doing at that point, but what actionable steps are you taking now to reach that?

I have a note on my laptop that I reference pretty often called my “lofty list of goals.” I’m always thinking of things I’d like to achieve and accomplish within the scope of art, such as publications I’d like to be a part of, projects I’d like to work on, and skills I’d like to develop. For instance, from the time I was in college, I’ve always wanted to be a part of the “Spectrum: The Best of Contemporary Fantastic Art” annual. This is basically the who’s who of illustration, featuring another of my end-goals, to create the card art for a MTG card. These are both terminal goals. I am far from reaching either of them with my current body of work and skillset, but they’re goals all the same. So when I answer the “Where do you see yourself…” question, the answer is easy, but how do you get there? Well, I try to set intermediary or tertiary goals to achieve to set a sort of “path” to reach them. Too much of a disconnect between where you’re currently at and where you’d like to be and it’s easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, and give up. Even with all of these things in mind, it’s an issue I’ve battled with a bit lately. I was watching an interview with my current favorite draftsman, Kim Jung Gi, and it gave me a lot of perspective. For reference, the following video is a drawing from Kim Jung Gi. He’s a world-renowned draftsman, known for his ability to draw massive compositions, in ink, without sketching, with remarkable likeness. It’s easy to look at it and thing, “Sheesh, I can never get to that point. The guy is just too good.”

So in the interview, he says that he draws, constantly, every single day. His memory is no more spectacular than anyone else’s, he just spends so much time practicing his craft, learning about as much as he can to dedicate to his visual memory. If he wants to draw a lion, he’s probably drawn a lion enough before to know how they work. By extension, a tiger likely works similarly, so it’s not a far stretch to draw a tiger given his practice with lions. Years of this practice leads to mastery, and leads to meeting those goals you’ve set for yourself. Finding those small steps that lead to the larger goal makes them much more feasible. Instead of winding down at the end of the day, instead of going directly to Netflix, put on some headphones and draw instead. Of course, this can be used for much more than art. Maybe you’re trying to write a new character. Maybe they’re from a different culture, with a different background and upbringing. How do you write them? Meet people that you can draw reference from. Have conversations with them, learn from them, and commit it to memory. The more you experience, the easier it will be to write more naturally. It’s the same way with drawings like the one below (Also from Kim Jung Gi). Looking at this, I am completely overwhelmed thinking about planning a composition such as this, but these are composites from years of experience, studying, and observation.

So as the year winds down and comes to an end, spend time with folks you’re closest to, immerse yourself in things you’re inspired by, and let’s go into the next year full of creative energy to work on A L L of the goals. I’m excited to see what you all create, and what you send to us. What kind of goals do you have for your work in 2019?

From all of us at The Ginger Collect, have a happy, safe, and creative holiday season.

-Jonathan

 

 

Non-Fiction Inspiration

Having kept journals since fourth grade, non-fiction naturally tends to be my go-to writing genre. In school, my creative non-fiction workshop class was one of my favorites, as well as all of the people I met and bonded with over writing. There’s a lot to say about why people stray from non-fiction and in some cases, I think it takes a certain person to want to put their personal stories out there. In my case, I like to put it all out there because, at the end of the day, we’re all writers.

When we decided to start accepting non-fiction submissions, I was, of course, so excited. I knew that I wanted to write one of our blog posts about something non-fiction related, but it took me a bit to narrow down what I wanted to say. Overall, the objective of my post is to encourage exploration in non-fiction writing. With that said, I want to mention some of my favorite creative non-fiction books I’ve acquired and hopefully spark some writing ideas and show that not all non-fiction is about trauma or self-realization, although it still can be.

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I have to start with my favorite, who first inspired me to pursue journalism: Hunter S. Thompson. I know he’s quite radical and edgy, but his style of writing, gonzo, inspired me to write a lot of my own pieces similarly. This would be, going to an event or going on some adventure with the intentions of writing about it. You have probably read these famous stories such as, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “The Rum Diaries,” “Hells Angels,” and a short story close to the heart of Kentucky- “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” The key in all these stories is that he was sent to report on one topic, but ended up writing about the other mishaps he encountered, or as I like to call, the behind-the-scenes, in-between-the-line stories. I could go on forever, but my point with Thompson is that you may not have a non-fiction piece in mind to write about right now, but you could decide to try something new, travel somewhere, attend a local event or group meeting- literally anything and I’m sure if you’re adventurous enough, you can make a story out of it.

A more modern Thompson is A.J. Jacobs. He has a collection of books, all similar styles of gonzo-type writing. The particular book of his that I read was, “The Year of Living Biblically,” where he set out, for a year, to follow the Bible as literally as possible. Yes- that takes a lot of dedication, but the outcome was amazing. Again, another situation where you can pick something that interests you or something you think that might interest other people, explore it and just tell us how it went. We like spooky and weird things here at The Ginger Collect. If you’re really up for a challenge, shadow a mortician for a week, work in a graveyard, sleep overnight in a haunted house, interview someone who has been abducted by aliens- you see where I’m going with this.

William S. Burroughs is also similar to Thompson, but I wanted to mention him for one specific book of his that I read, “my education.” This book is literally a memoir of dreams. Now, dreams tend to be controversial in the fiction/non-fiction realm, but in the way that he wrote his book, it’s literally his dreams, one after another, some a few sentences long, others pages, I personally consider it creative non-fiction. A way that you could make this more non-fiction is to add a narrative voice.

One author, James Bowen, wrote a whole book on a cat he met in the streets of London. “A Street Cat Named Bob,” sold millions of books because, for one, people like cats, but two, because it was a true story. So yes, you can write non-fiction and not put your life in danger, it just might not be as exciting, so you had better find a character that people can love.

Lastly, it’s okay to write personal memoirs. In Brenda Miller’s, “Season of the Body,” she weaves a braided story of current and past tense experiences through massage school, relationships and very personal overcoming. While this book is described as essays, I like to call it inspirations. Sometimes your non-fiction doesn’t have to be hell-bent and life-risking or altering. As much as you can use your words for entertaining, you can use them for helping.

I hope this brief look into non-fiction has sparked some creative ideas to explore and try. Just remember, there is always a story out there waiting to be told! I hope to see some of them in our submission inboxes soon!

-Brittany

Proceed with Caution: Writing Workshops and You and Me and You and That Guy

I’ve been around the sun long enough to have a few well thought out opinions and theories. The downside of this is that most of the subjects that I have a solid foundation of knowledge and theory are things that aren’t useful to you, dearest of readers, or even to me. Large portions of my brain have been dedicated to the useless. For example, I could, at any time, close my eyes and draw the original Call of Duty: United Offensive maps. Or, I could talk about the lore behind World of Warcraft, Warhammer 40k, or expound on how great and amazing Ants are. But none of this would really concern you (but if it does, look me up, we’ll have coffee and pretend to talk about uppity things in public) except that sometimes I think about writing.

And I’ve been thinking about one aspect of writing that is overlooked or maybe, needs a rework: the writing workshop. If you haven’t been able to take a creative writing class as of yet, a writing workshop consists of a mentor/leader/teacher with a group of writers of all different skills in a room sharing their work and getting constructive criticism. And for those of you that haven’t had the opportunity to do so, you need to do this, especially if you’re new at this.

There are benefits to a writing workshop and I could spend all day sharing the moments that I’ve had that forever changed my writing and person. Instead of regaling you with the good old days brought to you through the lens of Patrick Johnson, I’ll just throw a few reasons as to why workshops are a good idea.

There is community building. The idea of throwing a bunch of writers in a room and forcing them to read their work out loud to one another does something. Everyone feels vulnerable and exposed and because of this, the peers can become some of the best people to share with for the rest of a writer’s life. And working with a published writer is always a valuable experience. They have a different perspective and can open doors to ideas about writing that only comes with experience. And on top of that, at the core, a writer will get numerous new perspectives on their work that they can use to improve their work.

The previous paragraph does not, and should not be what people take away from this. Again, a writing workshop is so much more than what I could ever say. It’s a special experience that everyone needs.

But there’s something I’ve been worrying about when it concerns workshops. Though they are useful, sometimes I watched a good piece of writing from someone become a mediocre piece of writing. And I could never figure out why or what was happening until I had a discussion with one of my colleagues who has moved on to better places.

We spoke about how having a reader’s perspective on work is a great thing to have. Writers struggle to find active readers that do more than read something and say “that’s good” and then wander off. So having a room full of them has to be great. Right? And this is where I have to say that no, it’s not always good.

Because we desire feedback so much, sometimes we take everyone’s ideas and opinions and try to incorporate them into the work to please the workshop community. And though it is hard, we manage to do this and they, at the end of the year, read our revised work and praise our improvement. Then we move on with our lives and find, later, that the draft isn’t as good as we thought it was. And why is that?

During my conversation with my colleague, we came to the conclusion that when we’re in a workshop, we sometimes try and write to please the workshop. And though that seems like something we should be doing, a lot of the ideas that are given to us during that time may sound good initially, it turns out later, that it wasn’t such a good idea.

This has went on longer than it should and I can tell, if we were in a room together you’d have a glazed over look or be thinking about food. I know I’m thinking about food. Anyways, the whole idea is that workshops can be beneficial, but at the end of the day, a writer ends back up alone with their work and they have to know what’s good and what’s not. So take caution when in workshops. We’re all still learning.