“Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on.” — Terry Pratchet, Hogfather
So, I’ve rediscovered my love of painting miniatures.
(So that’s where you’ve been! I hear you cry. No, actually, this was only a couple weeks ago, I’ve been AWOL for a lot longer than that. Or maybe I don’t hear you cry, maybe that’s the sound of the crickets outside my window. Who knows.)
At any rate. I also managed to infect a couple of friends with a love of miniature painting, or infect one and reinfect another, maybe, and in the process managed to get myself appointed mini painting tutor. Because she kept fussing at problems and I kept going “Well, this is how I solved that…” and she kept calling me a genius and I kept telling her, no, I’ve just digested the brains of many geniuses in my wanderings, and at the end I decided I might as well just compile all my various learnings about mini painting into one giant document and paste it on the internet.
And then listing off all the equipment I use, from a quick glance around this corner of my craft room, took about two hours and encompassed several thousand words. Never mind the whole initial painting post, which doesn’t even get into various techniques and things. I didn’t realize I’d accumulated a novella’s worth of mini painting information given that I haven’t done it in a couple of years. I’m not even that good at it, I don’t think.
It’s not even that I blather on (although I do, just take a look around here) or even that I soak up information like a sponge (I do, oddly this doesn’t come in as handy as you’d think), it’s that I refuse to stop learning. Which is harder than you might think. In every discipline or craft or hobby or field of study there are always going to be people who say, you’re doing it wrong, which automatically raises hackles and causes one to instinctively shout back no, you. Which is all well and good except a) that’s no basis for communication and b) you might actually be doing it wrong. I’ve been doing feathering wrong for a few years, as it turns out! A different tutorial explained it to me in a way I understood much better. Turns out what I was doing all this time was layering, which is fine for some things but also doesn’t create the effect I was going for elsewhere. C’est la vie. Now I will practice proper feathering, and probably fuck it up several times before I do it well. Again.
To put it another way, there’s a lot of people out there who say you don’t need a degree in Creative Writing or English to be a professional writer. There’s a lot of people who say you do! I take strong issue with with those who say you need a degree in either and preferably both to be a writer; to me, writers write, if you are a noun you must verb the noun, or something that makes more grammatical sense than what I just said. You get the idea, because it makes instinctive sense, because you know what I’m talking about, because I’ve written a lot of stuff like this down. Writers write. But is there only One True Way to write? Or to Become A Writer, which is again in my opinion largely a self-defined process anyway, apart from the writing. Not hardly. There are as many ways as there are writers, probably ten times that many.
But, like mini painting, like everything else in life, there are techniques, and tricks, and other things to make your life easier. And these things you must learn, else you will be doomed to reinvent the wheel or the layering forevermore, and really, why bother? That’s time you could be spending writing your next novel or play or screenplay. Even if you just take some time out to look at a forum and the discussions it offer, or if you run into a problem and go through some of your favorite authors asking their advice and seeing if they answer, learning from someone else’s fuckups is starting a few steps ahead of where you were, which is a few steps you don’t have to take yourself.
I’m not saying I know everything there is to know about mini painting, or writing, or sewing, or any of the other crafts I’ve practiced. I’m also not saying that this is the be all and end all approach; as with all bits of advice, your mileage will vary. You may need to make all the mistakes to embed them properly in your thinkmeats, I am not you and therefore do not know your particular brain processes. But I will say that in my experience, and in what seems to be the experience of a number of other people I know, it’s just easier to learn from other people’s mistakes or bad habits. Or to find that approach and discard it as not for you, and then that’s one thing you don’t have to try. Either way.
It is a very large world out there full of people who wish to dispense advice, including myself. Go forth, my children, and partake of the wisdom of the world’s people. Become infected. Pass it on.