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  • The Toughest Part About Being a Writer/Artist

    A.P. Fuchs Books
    Some books from the A.P. Fuchs library.

    Full transparency: I’ve never deliberately looked up blog topics (so far as I can recall) but for fun, this morning I decided to do that and see what’s currently out there for blogging ideas. “The Toughest Part About Being a . . .” prompt was something I came across and, maybe because I’m still groggy, resonated with me the most this fine winter morning.

    So that said, here is the toughest part about being a writer/artist as per how I feel at the moment I’m writing this:

    Getting respect.

    When people ask what I do for a living and I tell them I write stories and draw, I’m met with two general responses: “Oh man, that’s so cool!” or, “That’s nice. Maybe one day you’ll get a real job instead of playing all day.” The latter isn’t explicitly stated but is certainly implied by tone, facial expression, and body language, all with an air of disappointment.

    The first crowd is, of course, the most pleasant to deal with. Their eyes light up and they smile and are genuinely happy for me. They often become my readers and usually follow up with me the next time I see them and ask how things are going and if I’m still doing it (the “still doing it” part hinting they understand it’s an unstable job but they have my back and are in my corner even if my answer is “No”).

    The second crowd is the one I don’t understand. The general formula for a working adult is you get out of bed, go to work, come home, eat dinner, then get on with your evening, which may or may not include doing more work. That’s the formula I’ve lived by my entire working life–whether working in the arts or elsewhere–and the formula every working adult I know follows. The only difference is I work from home. So when I “go to work,” my commute is measured in hallways and staircases as I make my way down to the Central’s bunker to get started. I work all day–and get paid for it–turn the computer off, then reverse my commute and wind up back upstairs with the rest of the household. But mention you write stories and draw pictures for a living and suddenly you don’t have a real job (see the “On Freelancing for a Living (This is a Job)” blog post). Upon thinking about it, it’s not even the working from home part that seems to rub people the wrong way (though this can happen). It’s the specific what I do for a living. I’ve seen firsthand where others who work from home who don’t write stories and draw pictures are met with a metaphorical handshake. Me? It’s a metaphorical hands-in-their-pockets.

    There is a disconnect that happens–usually with the older generation(s)–where, in the old days, work was something you left the house for and something you didn’t always enjoy. Work was actual work, like a chore, or work was something that demanded such a hard effort that every day ended the same when one came home: a collapse on the couch from mental and/or physical exhaustion. I believe the disconnect also happens because a lot of people tend to forget the entertainment they consume had to be created by somebody. Those books you read? Somebody took a lot of time writing them. Those comics you love? A group of people had to spend a lot of time writing, drawing, coloring, lettering, and printing them. Those movies you go to every Friday night? A whole slew of people had to go somewhere to play dress-up and pretend for a camera to tell you a story. That video game? Tons of people. Tons of artists. Even the very computer or smartphone this entry is being read on was dreamed up and sketched out by people who went to work. Somebody had to write all the code used in that phone. Somebody had to draw all those app icons. Somebody had to make science fiction science fact. Oh, and they got paid to do it because they need food and shelter, too.

    Why is my job not normally respectable? Is it the non-steady paycheck? Is it the fact I like it? Is it because I’d rather spend a third of every day enjoying myself versus dragging myself through the motions? Is it because I made up my mind and chose what I was going to do with the old statement that you can either work towards making your own dreams come true or you can work for someone else to make their dreams come true?

    Why does a lawyer get the handshake and I don’t? Why does a doctor? Or an accountant? Or a factory worker or a mechanic? Their job puts food on the table and keeps a roof over their loved ones’ heads just like mine does. My income goes towards food and bills, getting stuff for the kids and gas in the car. It buys Christmas presents and pays for date nights. It funds life just like their job funds life.

    I work. You work. We all work.

    And like I posted to social media forever ago, I want to repeat here: Everything is art. Every. Single. Thing. Creation is God’s canvas and nature is His painting. The stuff humans have made? It’s all based on someone dreaming and asking themselves, “What if . . .?” Then writing it down and drawing it out. Designing your couch is an art form. Writing the code for your car’s computer is an art form. Coming up with how to safely make a handheld drill is an art form. And so on.

    Everything is art.

    In the end, I’ve learned to live with the hits and learned my career choice will be frowned upon by others. But there are also others who don’t frown and instead smile. Those are the people who give respect. The others? I’ll still respect their work because they are my fellow human beings, and perhaps one day I’ll get the same occupational respect in return.

    Author’s note: This article isn’t about complaining. It’s pointing out a disconnect that some people seem to have and is hopefully encouraging to those who might be in the same boat.


  • Entertainment isn’t an Escape

    One of the main reasons people enjoy entertainment–whether that be books, comics, or movies–is because they say it provides them with an escape from everyday life. And let’s be honest: the world isn’t too pretty right now. In fact, if people needed an escape from reality, 2019 is a good year to hammer down on that.

    It’s often claimed people don’t like to think when being entertained. They just want a break from life, be told a good story, and that is all.

    Except . . . that doesn’t happen. Entertainment immerses you in life under the illusion of escape.

    See, there is a reason that while we’re in the middle of being entertained we like what we’re watching/reading, why we have favorite books or movies. The reason is this: we can relate to the source of entertainment on some level, whether overtly or subtly. Whether a scene is plain-as-day relatable (someone at work getting a cup of coffee while talking to an intense co-worker) or something metaphorical even if just on a subconsciously-recognizable level (good guy fighting a bad guy, equating to us wrestling with our own issues), everything in a piece of entertainment is a reflection of real life, the very life we’re trying to escape from.

    (Even something as whacky as watching a psychedelic cartoon is akin to us closing our eyes and watching the colors swirl by.)

    You get my point.

    There is no “escape” into entertainment. It might feel like it with your brain sending reward chemicals throughout your body and you’re muscles relaxing while you slouch in your recliner; you might even forget your problem(s) for a short time, but in actuality, you’ve simply just changed your perceived interaction with the world.

    If anything, entertainment is an avenue that gives us the tools to deal with the world around us. How many times have you watched a movie or read a book and related to what’s going on, whether to a specific person or situation? How many times have you looked at how a character handled something and applied a similar or same idea or solution to your own life? How many times have you quoted memorable lines to yourself whether for encouragement, wisdom, or humor? How many times have characters reminded you of people you know thus creating a bridge between you and them, even bringing some understanding as to why your friend Joe does what he does? The combinations of these things are nearly endless.

    Entertainment speaks to us on multiple levels and automatically puts us in a state of active or passive engagement. And it’s this engagement that immerses you in entertainment. Your brain is always working. It never shuts off. Even when you sleep, it’s working and showing you stuff and telling you stories.

    As you’re being entertained, you’re processing what you’re reading or seeing and correlating it to what’s already in your head and the world around you to help you make sense of life. It’s impossible to escape into entertainment, that is, truly escape. Entertainment is simply another window through which to view the world. (Even fantastical worlds, which were created and written with some, even minute, connection to reality.)

    All this isn’t meant to put a damper on entertainment value but rather add a new layer to it, a recognition of what’s really going on when we try to get away from planet Earth 2019.

    Entertainment isn’t an escape from life.

    Entertainment is an immersion into it.


  • 5 Books that have Influenced me as a Writer

    Like all writers, I’ve read countless books over the years. Some were awesome, some so-so, and even the ones that weren’t that great I still appreciated for the story even if the writing needed some work. Out of all those books, some have impacted me in different ways both personally and professionally.

    Here is a list of 5 books in no particular order that have influenced my writing. I’ve stuck to fiction for this list instead of any writing how-to book.

    1. Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind – an ultra long read, but worth every page. The dude knows how to paint pictures in your head with his words and, aside from Stone of Tears being a killer story, it was this word-painting that stuck with me and set the bar for how I paint pictures for the reader in my own work. Not saying I’m anywhere near Terry Goodkind’s caliber, but his great description definitely stuck with me over the years.

     

     

     

    2. Batman: Knightfall by Dennis O’Neil – The first superhero fiction book I ever read and my favorite book of all time. (Yeah, I have a soft spot for superheroes, as you well know.) This book got me in Batman’s head in a way the comics didn’t, and humanized him in a way I could relate to on different levels. It also showed me superheroes didn’t have to be confined to four-color comics or to movies. Clearly, this influenced me later on when it came time to write The Axiom-man Saga.

     

     

     

    3. The Summer I Died by Ryan C. Thomas – Easily the most brutal book I’ve ever read, and I don’t mean brutal as in bad. Not only is it an intense story–people kidnapped by a madman–but the violence level in this thing is through the roof. I loved reading it, and I hated reading it. Ryan made you live each terrifying and painful moment his characters went through. Like live-live. Crazy. But it showed me how to get nasty with violence when needed and how to draw the reader in when it came to someone getting hurt, and it reemphasized for me the importance of ensuring the reader is indeed in your characters’ shoes and not outside of them no matter what is happening.

     

    4. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks – Such a bittersweet love story, and it was this book that demonstrated the difference between a romance book and a love story book. It was the love story between the characters that impacted me the most, not their romance, and nowadays when I write two characters in love, I play up the love story angle versus the romantic one. I did this in my book, April, written under the name Peter Fox. To me, love stories have so much more heart than romances.

     

     

    5. Left Behind by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye – Aside from the entire series being an interesting story of the Earth’s last days before Christ’s return, the writing takeaway from this book–and the rest of the series–were the constant cliffhanger endings to each chapter. It was just non-stop, and since I’ve read them I’ve done my best to cliffhang each scene and each chapter in my own books. Even cliffhang the ending of book one of a series to get the reader pumped for book two. Cliffhangers keep those pages turning.

     

     

    So there you have it. A quick list of 5 books that impacted me as a writer. There are more, but I’ll save those for another post.

    What books have influenced you, whether personally or professionally? Sound off in the comments below.