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I just discovered that Christopher Baldwin quoted me in his update for today’s Bruno. It’s kind of flattering to see that he and I are on the same wavelength about art…although that wavelength is sort of depressing.

For my own records, I’d like to quote my original message, Chris’ response, and my response to his response below. To add some background material for those who don’t read Bruno, the main character in this webcomic is a woman artist who I don’t usually agree with, and yet she is perfectly rendered as a character, as a person. Right now she is working in a strip club. She felt that it was something she had to do, something she had to face. I was responding to this, and the fact that her friends were being overly “understanding”. But then I just went off on a tangent. I know, hard to believe…;)

My Original Post

I wonder if Bruno is going to get tired of her friends being “understanding” about her stripping. They all seem to make the same kind of uncomfortable jokes, e.g., “Oh, you’re dressed to go out [to the strip club], I see”, and they are invariably wrong.

Okay, so it’s only happened twice…but more than once is enough!

I also wonder if she’s going to start making enough money stripping to quit her corporate job. If that happened, I’m not sure she’d be any happier, seeing as how she says she hates her “jobs“.

Whatever happened to that online editing she was doing? Did I miss her quitting or something? (I found that job fascinating because I would love to do that myself, but the only way I could really find to do it would be to start my own business. I couldn’t find any information about joining someone else’s.) Anyway, she seemed much freer when she was doing that–she could travel whenever she wanted to and still have steady work.

I suppose she could always become a “working writer”, but that seems to often cost more than it pays out. Many literary journals have submission fees, and then there’s postage, and often you only get paid $15, if anything. (Really!) I was actually surprised that she wrote a novel first, before establishing herself as a writer through short stories published in literary journals. My writing teachers all tell me that that is the way to go :>

Another option for Bruno might be a newspaper reporter or copy editor, but these positions typically require a degree. I wish she’d find a way to go back to school. Not because it’s what everybody does and therefore she should do it, but because it opens up so many opportunities. I feel bad that she’s 28 and stuck in these dead-end jobs. I mean really, where is she going to go? It seems like she could only move laterally, not up the ladder.

And the reason for wanting to move up the ladder are not so that you can make more money, period. The reason is so that you can have the freedom to do more with yourself…which unfortunately costs money in our society.

I wonder if Bruno’s depression doesn’t partially stem from the knowledge (assumption?) that where she’s at right now is where she’s going to be for the rest of her life, unless 1) her novel is insanely popular; 2) she goes back to school. That may be why she was so afraid to send off the book…that act signaled her entrance into the proving-ground.

I wish she had married Stanley, because then she could just live however she wanted to without worrying about money. Then again, that may be why she didn’t marry Stanley…she wanted to make her own happiness.

Pride, ethics, ideals, and the need to do more for yourself than just put food on the table are all hard things to juggle…

Christopher Baldwin’s Response

As someone posted on the bulletin board about bruno:

I was actually surprised that she wrote a novel first, before establishing herself as a writer through short stories published in literary journals. My writing teachers all tell me that that is the way to go :)

And you know, if you want to make money, that’s the way to go. I mean yeah, I am so frikkin’ poor, and money problems depress me more than probably anything else in life, I worry a lot. But I love art. I love it. And I don’t like short stories. It’s not about being “purist” or some high-brow crap. I love art. And to create it in any way other than from in me, something that i value and cherish, dampens and ruins it for me. I have a job as an illustrator for two years and have done a fair amount (and still do) of freelance. And it’s no good. i really think one of the worst thing that’s happened to art in this country is that the really good artists go into writing movies or television, or the good artists go to marvel comics or disney. I think that only the exceptions, not the rules, have been giving the real breath of life to most of today’s mediums. Yeah, fine, the Sopranos is a good show. But I can turn it off without any remorse. I can’t say that about reading Horricks’ “Hicksville” or watching Miyazaki’s “Totoro”. And every person who tell you that this is “the only way”, means it is the only way they can imagine to reach a certain goal. First, there may be other ways, and second, they may be imagining that everyone’s goal to be the same as their own.

Hell, if any of you have created a body of work which you have pursued out of beauty and love for it, and feel it would be welcomed by not enough people to ever get “seriously” published, feel free to send me a copy, maybe i’ll do it, or maybe help walk you through it and help sell it. I don’t know. Just, if you draw comics, and love it, fuck marvel. fuck disney. Eat rice and beans and give the world something worth reading.

And most of all, don’t listen to a word I’ve said, because I’ve been nothing but discouraged and depressed lately about ever escaping my 9-5 due to creating something “beautiful”. Bruno will never make me a living, and nothing else so far seems to either. There’s a joy I’ve only felt in that freedom of creating something which means SO MUCH to me, but it can also carry a hell of a price. And if life is (among possibly a few other lofty goals) to be happy, when does the misery of poverty and no free time to enjoy life catch up to you?

My Response to His Response

I am very flattered to be quoted…and on the front page no less! Of course, my smile :> isn’t exactly a :), it’s more of a smirk…I thought I’d point that out because I’m not sure I agree with my writing professors that “that is the way to go”.

I truly enjoyed what you wrote this morning, Chris, and I must say that I share your feelings on the subject. I’m currently getting a degree in English with a creative writing focus, and I’ve been focused on the short story–basically because those are all I’ve ever written. I tried to write a science fiction novel once, but I ran out of material in about three chapters. I think either the short form is all there is for me, or I need to grow as a writer more before I can handle a novel.

In any case, in my earlier writing classes we were asked to write one short story per week. These stories could be pretty much any length, but they typically wanted at least six pages. After two semesters of this I grew so frustrated that I wrote a short story about artists who were forced to “manufacture” their art forms in order to make a living. One of them killed himself because no one understood his paintings, and another, a journalist who really wanted to do creative writing, ended up having to chronicle the whole thing for the paper. The story was mediocre, but it was how I felt at the time, and still do, to a certain degree.

I sometimes feel like the people in my writing classes are on the “right track” and I’m just some sort of poser. I write when I want to, and that doesn’t seem to happen often enough for me to “establish myself” through short stories in literary journals. It’s kind of depressing, but at the same time I just can’t bring myself to “do what it takes”. Sometimes I wonder if I have any right at all to feel this way, or if I’m just being lazy.

I’m actually kicking around the idea of an online “coterie” of writers. Coterie, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a word from the Renaissance, and it refers to a group of artists who get together and read and help each other with art. Back then people would often write epic poems or plays together, not worried about who got credit for it. No one got credit, really, because it was underground–unpublished save through manuscripts that were passed around privately. No one got profit, either, which is why this was mainly a phenomenon occurring in the upper class. The lower classes couldn’t afford such leisure.

But I think the Internet can be–and is already, to a certain extent–the great equalizer. Even though the bubble has burst, there are still ways for people to get webspace and share ideas. I was thinking of using my personal website as a jumping-off point for writers (and other artists, eventually) to do the same sorts of thing as people did in coteries. We would all just get together and put up what we were working on at that time, and talk about it and see what we wanted to do with it. There would likely be no profit, unless we ended up putting out a publication, but that wouldn’t be a concern at the beginning. The concern would be the discussion, which I feel is missing from most literary journals. To submit to a journal, your piece pretty much has to be done. They often won’t tell you what’s “wrong” with it when they reject it.

So anyway, that’s just an idea I’ve been mulling over…I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford to upgrade my webserver so that I can do that (currently I can’t run scripts, which I would sort of need for a forum), so it’s all up in the air at the moment.

I think forums like this one sort of serve the same purpose…but not really, because they are generally targeted to a particular, ongoing piece of art. Elfwood is also something like what I’m talking about, but not really. I want to establish a teaching, learning community, where everyone’s voice is important and valid, but where everyone respects each other, too.

Ah, pipe dreams…

In the meantime, I’m wondering how I’m going to finance all this, and what (if anything) my English degree will do for me in the Real World. I think I will be falling back on my Linguistics degree, really…so that’s my Regular Job. It’s a good thing I like linguistics. But I do wish there was some way for artists to produce work that is appreciated by people without having to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

Anyway, Chris, I just want to say that it’s inspiring that you keep doing Bruno and your other projects, even though you feel that you won’t be able to make a living that way. I’m glad you can follow your heart, and respond to things with your gut, and present a new world to us every day. It’s really amazing that you’re able to do that.


So yeah. I have been thinking about that e-coterie, quite a bit. That’s part of the reason this site is set up with nonfunctioning “comments” areas. Someday, when I feel like coughing up more money to pay for cgi, Perl, and whatnot, I will expand my site so that people can comment on my work, and hopefully someday post up their own to be commented on. This is really a dream that I don’t want to die. Hopefully after I graduate and I’m making a decent amount of money, I’ll be able to afford it.