One-track mind: writing OR graphics mode

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I MISS WRITING IN THIS BLOG

I realize I haven’t been producing original content for this blog for a while now.

The impulse is there: I’ve started around thirty posts, with a few words and a basic idea, and have gotten nowhere.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I simply can’t multitask, and that includes switching from writing mode to graphics mode, and back.

No, I have not gone hiking in the Himalayas

That’s next year’s project. And next book’s.

I have thousands of words in my Scrivener project: Pride’s Children Finish BOOK 1.

A quick check reveals I’ve written 50,000 words over the last two months. But every single one of them has to do with learning graphics and working on the cover for BOOK ONE.

And there I started as a rank amateur, with four years of reading the blogs and ebooks from self-published writers about cover design, a strong desire for a particular sunset image I had fallen in love with (and secured the rights to use), and not much else.

Oh, except for the desire and decision to do it myself.

My reasoning there is that this is fun, I’ve always wanted to have an excuse to learn something like Photoshop, I wanted to be able to interact with a professional if I decided to use one, and the belief that many things rise to ALMOST the level of art if you become very good at craft.

TOOLS

Following these impulses, I had already purchased both Pixelmator (a wonderfully inexpensive Mac graphics program that has most of the basics in Photoshop) and Learn – Pixelmator 3 Edition, a video course for Mac user with over two hours of detailed tutorials (most under 2 minutes). I have watched these tutorials over and over, finding layers and layers of information as I was ready for it. Thank you, Mac. U.

To that I added accounts at several of the companies online which supply images and arrange licenses (because my drawing is rudimentary, and I had an idea which required a figure of a woman on the cover).

Many of the videos on the web are made for Photoshop users. I early on exhausted the Pixelmator ones, absorbing things as I went.

I have a few references for specific pieces of craft, such as a nice discussion of what the various blending modes explained are (and what that means).

I have learned to use Google Images – something I’d never done before because I really don’t think visually, and had no particular need to go through images by the thousands. I have now – and found out fascinating things such as that most books about Africa have 1) a sunset (very red/orange), and 2) a single tree in the middle of a vast plain (Acacia tree?). That image instantly says ‘Africa’ to readers when used as a cover – something that is both useful and sad at the same time.

We all know that the Romance covers have gotten stereotyped to the point where is the cover has a man’s naked abs, and it isn’t obviously about bodybuilding, it’s Romance.

Amazon has become my go-to tool for book research. I looked at hundreds of book covers. I read their descriptions, perused their interiors and samples, I paid close attention to their prices, and especially examined the typography: the last thing I want to do is pick a cover which somehow screams to the cognoscenti that the book inside is genre X – if I don’t think Pride’s Children falls within Category X by a thousand miles.

Branding – in the future

I may still do my own thing – this is called ‘branding’ when you do it on purpose (and know what you’re doing) – but it won’t be OBVIOUSLY sending the wrong signals. Of course ‘branding’ isn’t much of a concept if you are putting out your first book – but it pays to think ahead on these things.

One of the nicer things to come from all this research is that I still find myself in uncharted territory, rather than finding out, depressingly, that I had simply picked up on the universal gestalt and was rewriting the latest memes.

Not that I think writing ‘the same, only better’ is wrong – but it certainly isn’t what I’m aiming for. If so, I could have saved myself an awful lot of trouble.

CREATIVITY

It basically comes down to me only being able to do one semi-creative thing at a time. It’s been visual/graphic for the last two months

And, because I don’t want to do a cover reveal until the whole is finished and available for sale, I can’t bring myself to put many of those thousands of words into blog posts.

Maybe afterward – when I feel I have something to show. I have even considered writing ‘The Making of the Cover of Pride’s Children,’ because a new designer is going to need to go through the same steps. I’m held back by the sheer ego of the idea: who am I to teach anyone how to suck eggs?

Biting off more than I can chew

Truth be told: I probably couldn’t have picked something much harder to try. This is said in retrospect, with little of that massive ego in it.

I have attempted to produce a composite image as if it were an actual photograph, out of SIX photographs, TWO vector shapes, and an artificially-created sun.

At worst, I have constructed a magnificent failure, just enough ‘off’ in every direction to annoy the subconscious mind. At best, well, let’s just say that NEXT TIME I am going to find a model, locate the right house, and camp out there until the sun does what I want it to do – and it will still save me time.

Question for today: can YOU do several creative things at once, or do you get lost in a single mode for months on end? Or is this mostly an artifact of either my CFS brain – or aging?

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8 thoughts on “One-track mind: writing OR graphics mode

  1. Thomas Weaver

    My answer to your first question is, Yes. Sometimes I multi-task, and sometimes I focus on one kind of creative project for a prolonged period. Actually, I multi-task to SOME degree pretty much all the time, because no matter what I’m focused on, other projects and ideas are bubbling away in some back corner of my brain. (I’ve been told this is NOT a good thing, though, to be working with both pictures AND words. We’re supposed to pick one mode and stick with it, or something like that. I don’t claim to understand that, myself.)

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Ignore what other people tell you (except for trying the ideas out to see if they fit you) – it’s hard enough to figure out how YOU work without THEM trying to change you.

      It IS what it is. ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ are judgements. Not very helpful – unless you’re having trouble getting either done, and need some suggestions to focus for a while. The connection with morality is unfortunate. Try ‘Helpful’ vs. ‘Not for me.’

      Trust yourself – you’ve lived with yourself longer than anyone else, and are most aware of your thoughts and feelings.

      Anyway, that’s what I would go with – because I’ve found things that work for me for now, and I think I’ll be capable of figuring out changes in the future.

      I didn’t pick this mode – it sort of picked me!

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  2. Lily White LeFevre

    I tend toward hyperfocus, therefore i tend toward only one pursuit at a time. This is counterbalanced by ADD (actually hyperfocus is a sign of ADD) so i also have long periods of flitting from one thing to another (both project and medium) and geting little done at once. If i aim to finish something and do it well? Hyperfocus.

    It’s why i stopped writing 2 summers ago to sew for dragoncon. It’s why i so desperately want to finish WIP before moving to the Summer Project.

    I look forward to seein your cover – whenever it’s ready!

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Soon and VERY soon – I quit futzing with the image a few minutes ago.

      Now, the words and the fonts for the cover – and then to get comments. Sometimes things aren’t perfect – and also they seem as good as you can make them. I think that’s a good place to stop. J. M. Ney-Grimm has been giving me comfort and support – she’s really good at covers.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      That’s so sweet, Alice.

      I’ll be back writing VERY soon now. Something came to a boil, and the image is locked (barring comments from my mentor, who sees far more clearly, from her experience, than I do).

      Now for Typography!

      And those dratted decisions about what, EXACTLY, you are going to WRITE on your cover.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      The ol’ brain keeps coming up with ideas: it thinks there is no reason I can’t walk properly again if I just find out WHICH muscles and nerves need what KIND of strengthening.

      There IS nerve transmission – just not enough.

      Once this book is up for sale, I’m going to find me someone who knows what they’re doing, and fix it. I planned to spend my declining years hiking, and I am darned if I’m going to give up yet.

      So there. If it doesn’t work, it won’t be from lack of trying!

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