Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Terror of The Magnum Opus!

As I break from working on my book/grant proposal, my thoughts turn to creators who have inspired me in different ways.
Today's venture takes two turns, beyond the already posted notes on the human tornado called Ellison.
Next up is Jeff Smith, creator of Bone, the much neglected Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil, and the sporadic but worthwhile RASL. All Jeff's work deals in themes of common beings surviving their roles in large, mythic battles a la Tolkien or Eddison.
Well, turns out there's a documentary on Jeff.

Then there's Terry Moore.
His Strangers in Paradise is now collected in an Omnibus edition. How he managed to do this and keep on schedule with his new book, ECHO, is beyond me, but he did it.
This invites the next issue.
A Magnum Opus can kill you if you let it.
The idea of creating a single work of such weight and import can be such a heavy burden that it renders the work insurmountable. If you let it be that.
I suspect the way through this is twofold.
First, don't try to create something big. Create pieces of the big thing. Just say what you have to say, using the time you have to say it as well as you can. The 2200 pages of Strangers and the 1400 pages of Bone were all done page by page, the only way it can be done.
It took me 6 months to do a page once, and I did 12 pages in 14 hours another time. It takes the time it takes.
Second, while you must keep at it (or in my case, all the various "it"s), you can't punish yourself if you lose pace. Self-recrimination takes time too, and burns up, wastes, energy that could go into the work.

How sharp can you get?

You know how it can go- life takes a downturn, you begin to doubt this and that. Am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing, why is everything going South, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Like Ray Manzarek said on his first solo album (lyrics inspired by Beckett's Waiting for Godot):
Why ain't I pretty?
How come I'm stupid?
Why do I have this here fear?
Pretty maudlin, huh? Well, you can get over it if you try. With help.
So a couple things come into the melee to help me get over myself. First, a great conversation with someone I trust. Then a forwarded link to this New York Times piece on the very topic. Eminently useful, and I suspect I'll be revisiting it often in days to come.
Finally, the impending screening of the Harlan Ellison documentary, Dreams with Sharp Teeth, on Sundance this coming Monday eve, and the DVD on sale the same day. My buying is way down these days, but hey, it's Harlan. Here's a look, and it's on point with the idea that an artist can determine his/her worth by refusing to agree that the work, and by extension the artist, are worth less, or even worthless.
Time to get a little fire back in your belly!