I am kind of sort of burned out.
Work on Awesome Moments is at present stalled out. I’ve received proofs, done some out-loud read-thru edits, which I need to translate back into the PDF, and…
This post is gonna be long and self-indulgent, so I’ll stick the fold right here, and less a progress report than me writing down thoughts on why progress is stalled in hopes that explaining the problems to random people on the internet will cause my mind to settle on a solution I actually like.
Kickstarter wants proof of ID and a bank account. Reasonable enough. I’ve done it before, but a couple of years have passed, so I can’t fault them for wanting to know I am who I say I am. Problem is, I left my day job when I left New Jersey, and closed out all of my accounts.
As a teen, I was misdiagnosed with an emotional disorder. A couple of years ago, I learned that whatever my status as a teen, my problems were now caused by my medications when circumstances forced me to quit cold turkey and, after a hellish withdrawal, I was fine. As a result, my entire adult life consists of decisions made under the influence of mood-altering drugs, and I’ve used my recent move to another state as an opportunity to cut almost everything off, and then go through, one by one, and re-attach myself to adult life based on decisions made without the drugs. This is why, after two decades of continuous employment, I’ve allowed myself to stay on the dole for the last six months. I’m not going to jump blindly back into a job situation I accepted when I was compromised. I’m going to take my time and think about it.
Upshot is, I don’t have the stuff Kickstarter wants anymore. Which means I need to choose between reattaching myself to that portion of the “adult world”, seeing whether Kickstarter will accept my wife’s stuff in lieu of mine, or trying a different, more seedy crowdfund site like Indiegogo.
These are all valid options, with nothing to recommend one over the other. I will almost certainly decide I want to resume banking like a normal person. I may think the choices of modernity are fake and gay, but it’s probably best to have that point of contact with it. On the other hand, I see no great advantage to rushing that decision. Using my wife as a point of contact with Kickstarter unless and until I decide I need a bank account is fine. And while Kickstarter is a more prestige site than, e.g., Indiegogo, I’ve never been the sort to care much for prestige.
Another option presents itself: just forget about crowdfunding and produce the book.
One way or another, if I wish to continue operating as a creative, I will probably need to work with crowdfunding. So even if I chose not to crowdfund Awesome Moments, thereby ‘bypassing’ this hurdle for now, I will want to crowdfund Last Legend I, and it would have been better if I’d crossed the hurdle in Awesome Moments, and succeed or fail, learned something from it.
On the other hand, Awesome Moments is a unique sort of project for me.
I want Jump the Shark, or Hat Trick, or Last Legend to go viral, blow up, become famous, and earn a bazillion dollars and a pony so I can build a studio compound in the wilderness and never need to consider gainful employment again. To a certain degree, Awesome Moments has that potential. But in some ways, I don’t even want to make it to begin with.
I think Awesome Moments is a needful thing. I am not creating it because I think there is a lack of children’s Bible Story books on the market. Nor because I think there is a lack of exciting, engaging Bible materials — The Action Bible is a thing, made by better artists than me.
I am making it for two reasons. The first and lesser reason is that the Scriptures themselves teach us to read the Scriptures typologically. Jesus insists the Old Testament is all about foreshadowing Jesus. But the top-shelf children’s Bible materials doesn’t do this. At best it presents the Old Testament stories as historical narratives (which I do indeed believe they are; I simply think God has the power to make real history rhyme). At worst, e.g., in the case of Veggie Tales, it cuts Jesus out entirely, reducing the Scriptures to a pale imitation of Confucian proverbs.
And this error compounds. The Scriptures teach both Truth and Grace, Law and Gospel. And they present both not only to the unbeliever, but to the believer. But by reducing them to morality plays, Bible Story books stifle Gospel and give only Law. And half the time, the Law given is what modernity ordains instead of what God ordains. We lose sight of Do not Murder, Do not Steal, Love God, and Love Your Neighbor in favor of Do Not Fib, Don’t Be Racist, Tell Teacher If Another Boy Bullies You. To be sure, as often as not, the modern morals are valid applications of God’s Law… but I still think we ought to prefer the formulations He ordained over the ones dictated by the zeitgeist. And we mustn’t lose Grace to Truth any more than we ought to lose Truth to Grace.
Over the top of this is poured an anti-supernatural gravy. The rich tapestry of gods and sorceries, of angels and demons that everyone walking around in the world of the Scriptures takes for granted is muted. I think there is good reason to believe that the Serpent of Eden was a flaming bronze dragon angel. But the average Bible book will represent him as a rattlesnake. I contend that my interpretation is no more speculative than the average one.
All of this, bound up together, is the lesser reason why I need to make these books. Namely, that I have a perspective that I think is good and valuable and that I think ought to already fill a good percentage of the Christian children’s media, but which is nearly absent and hard to find. That perspective is first, second, and third Christocentric, fourth as concerned with Gospel as Low, and fifth supernaturalist and antimodern.
But I am extremely wary of this reason. I speak only two or three sentences of Greek, and no Hebrew, Latin or German at all. I am no great theologian. My knowledge of the Scriptures is filtered by English translations, and of the church fathers and the social and historical context is second or third hand. Moreover, the Scriptures say any man who desires to teach should beware, for he will be judged more harshly. I have believed falsely and taught falsely in the past, and I am reluctant to tender my opinion so boldly a second time, even if I am now much more sure of it.
The greater reason why I need to make these books is that a father has a duty to catechize his children. Indeed, I used to believe that a father’s duty to his children was to chiefly provide and protect, but looking back, I see that while these are good things, the main charge the Scriptures give to man is “teach these things to your children.” It may be that I will be held doubly accountable for presuming to teach, but I will certainly be held accountable for failing to teach my own offspring.
Moreover, not only does God command that I leave my faith to my children, I want to. My religion is hard won. I grew up hating Christianity, though I thought it was true, and through a long struggle with God I have learned to love it. This is a treasure of surpassing worth, and having dragged it out of years of sorrow and anguish, I want my children to have it without having to suffer for it as I did. It is not enough for me to simply read a well-vetted catechism to my kids. I need to leave them a record of how I love the Truth and why I love the Truth. I need the realizations that turned me from a reluctant Christian to an enthusiastic one.
This all informs the secondary point of my blog post in this way: I view a crowdfund as a way of judging public interest in a project, as well as at once an advertisement for it. But while, again, I want fame and fortune for my other projects, Awesome Moments would serve my needs better if I finished it quietly, sold it to no-one, and only had copies of the books for each of my children to enjoy.
If it exists for my children, it may as well exist for yours. And it must exist for my children, for I am Called by God to pass the faith on to them. But I am leery of bumbling about flaunting my theology for the general public.
So. I will need to clear the hurdles of crowdfunding eventually. It would be good for me to do it sooner rather than later. But it would also be well for me to complete this project without making a public to-do of it. These goods are measured in different terms, and it would be a category error for me to weigh them, one against the other, in any terms other than my own preference.
So: I can spend the next few weeks trying reattach myself to the credentials expected of modern man so that Kickstarter will accept me. Or I can use my wife as that contact point with the modern world. Or I can try a less reputable crowdfund service that will be less demanding. Or I have good reason to avoid crowdfunding this precise project and just try to build it in my spare time either as I search for a day job, or on the dole.
That, too, is a choice I need to consider carefully. These last six months have been a much needed break, but it is long past time that I decided how I ought to take responsibility for my debts and expenses. Remaining on the dole will make increasingly me lazy and unproductive. It is better for a man to earn his way.
In preparation for the idea that I may soon be spending more of my life than I would like on gainful employment, I’ve been looking for a low-effort way to prototype my concepts.
What I’ve more or less settled upon is a comic. In some iterations, it is a sprite comic. But recently, I decided even that was too high-effort, and tested printing a template and scribbling it in ink.
This format is perfect because I can present it horizontally on a monitor, vertically on a phone or in a book, and 2×2 with a title image on Twitter. And I can theoretically crank out two to five comics a day, even with a day job, and then at the end of the month pick 30 comics from the 70-odd I’ve generated. I get the benefits of Pulp Speed, build an audience, and then, after the fact, get to crowdfund and produce high-effort books.
Except for the past few days I’ve had the goal of doing a minimum of 2 comics a day, regardless of how stupid, to start building up my backlog. And… nothing.
Burnt out. Creatively bankrupt.
I need to spend some days consuming media rather than producing it, I think. Play some vidya. Watch some movies. Recharge my batteries.
Thing is, it doesn’t matter that much for Awesome Moments. There’s very little actual creativity involved in producing my Bible Story Book. All the decisions have been made. All that remains is execution. And Awesome Moments is Project A. The project I need to focus on. I can start doodling comics later, after I finish my book. It would be nice if I did the comics now, as ultimately my goal is to produce them while I am producing whatever else. But it’s not necessary. I’m not even truly committed to them as a prototyping medium yet.
So, for Awesome Moments, do I focus on Kickstarter, focus on Indiegogo, or try and build it with zero funding? How do I deal with searching for or not searching for a day job the while? Should I worry about recharging my batteries and producing my prototype comic while Project A is in limbo, or should I focus all my energies on Project A?
I haven’t decided. I’m not agonized over it. I’ll sort something out. But I needed to collect my thoughts. So here they are.