Well, this came out longer than I expected. Sorry, but I do cover a lot of ground, so have a cup of of your favorite beverage, and have a leisurely read.
Just today, Tynan suggested I make a post on the community board. Here it is. I thought it would be appropriate to introduce myself rather than try and wow anyone—not that I'd wow anyone necessarily, but I'd be kidding you if I said I wouldn't try.
That said, my name is Richard Crockett. That's how I introduce myself in formal situations, but I go by "Rick." It's too hard to say "Rick Crockett." It sounds like "Rick Rocket," and though that would be a cool name, it is not mine. I always put the "G.," for "Garrett," in the middle when I write it out. I started doing that so my friends could find me on Google. Later, one of my author friends told me to stick with that because an artist's name is his brand.
In my little bio, it says, "Professional woodcarver, amateur writer, eternal student." That's true enough. I make a living carving wood—not much of one, but a living. I could do better, but I have so many activities that my time gets spread thin. My favorite girl says I should not say "amateur writer" because that implies you are not serious or not really competent. I pointed out to her that it is only when you say amateur alone that it is derogatory, but when you use it to modify another word, like "athlete," it just means that you don't get paid. In no way does it mean that you are lousy at something, and reasonably educated people understand that. I write a lot. It so happens that I wrote a Roman period historical novel over the summer. It was a continuation of a an earlier project that I could not complete because I did not know enough history and enough Latin and Greek to read original sources. I actually am a college student too. I returned to school because I wanted to rewrite my first draft with higher skill and understanding. I have heard of people who could teach themselves Latin and Greek on their own. I'm not one of them. And the books that I thought were good history books turned out to be hardly better than children's introductions to the subject. This I discovered when I got into graduate school where I study history at Fresno State in California. I got my BA in classical literature and language last year. No brag. In my final year, the bar was so high I could barely pull "C"s. But I did learn how to read primary sources in the original languages—just not fast enough to score well on tests.
Did you like that long paragraph? That's supposed to be a no-no when publishing on the web. But screw that. My thesis required that I cover my bio. A paragraph break would disrupt the flow. I'm kinda old-fashioned.
Before I returned to school, I did a whole bunch of things. If you have ever read Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, you will have read something very close to my biography. If you were to substitute a painter for a writer as the main character, you'd have the story. Some artists need to experience a lot of life before they are ready to go pro. I am one of those. I'm a late starter. I remained a teenager for twenty years past my teens, but I cannot say that I've progressed much beyond that, for I never bought into the skepticism and defeatism that characterizes most people my age. I did, however, eventually, get VERY serious about work.
At this writing, I'm working on a new website which will host my novel and an associated blog. It'll have a nice picture gallery of my carvings, and... uh, I forgot to say that it's an illustrated novel! I started out from high school determined to be a rich and famous painter by the time I was twenty-five, and though that did not happen, I got pretty good at drawing and painting.
But regarding my novel, I'm in love with the idea of giving it away for free. My readers think I'm crazy. They keep saying I could make ton of money by publishing through a "reputable" publishing house, but I don't care. I have a burning desire to just. flow. out. That makes me feel happy. It is that simple. I like nice things, and I like nice toys, but I'm really not very materialistic.
I'm not ready to link to my new site yet. You'd just see "Maintenance Mode" anyway; besides, my intent is not to pitch my own stuff. Later, if anyone is interested, I'll do that. Some of you might like my "heroic fantasy meets social history" take on that period. For now, I'd just like to be a part of the conversation. I enjoy Tynan's posts, and I like the quality comments I see. You all seem like a cool group to me.
One last thing: I've decided to learn Ruby programming. Rails is hot (so I hear) but I'm not into that—yet. I'm just learning, starting with basics, and using my old Perl scripts as starting points to convert to Ruby. I like Ruby's elegant simplicity. I like the way it reads like a natural, human language with a Japanese soul.
The photo, by the way, is a set of a couple of my bird carvings. Like all my work, it managed to get into a private collection before I ever needed to bother with a gallery or a shop. I pretty much do business by phone and email through my contacts.
Now, I don't know if anyone is interested in the techniques of woodcarving or brush and ink drawing, but besides writing, (and dead languages), and bicycling, and guitar playing, and... oh, enough, those are my artistic kicks. From all that you might gather that I can enjoy a lot of different kinds of conversations, and I look forward to rewarding exchanges with you all.
Thanks! I rough 'em out with a chainsaw then follow with a power chisel. I have several angle grinders with various blades and disks too. But I like the way the chisels leave this polished surface. Finally, I'll use traditional hand chisels and knives. I'm in the "let the tool marks show" school. I loathe sanding, but I will sand down an occasional whirl mark or splintery edge. I like (need) to work fast. Often, I finish a piece in a few hours.
I read those books too. The old "boy's handbooks" all say to start with easy carving wood, like "basswood." But that stuff does not grow in California. Mondo hardwoods like this stuff--some salvaged valley oak--are so tough you can make nails with them, so a knife is not much use.
I got into chainsaw carving, btw, after going broke one summer trying to cut and sell firewood; my customers were happy to buy carvings at good prices though they balked at the firewood prices. I put my first carving by my sales sign, and people stopped for that rather than the firewood. Interesting, huh? I got the message!
I have a rule for myself that I have to shut my computer off at midnight every day. I allow myself to stay up until three, which means that after cleaning the RV and scratching a bit on the violin, I have two hours and change to read. So I read a lot of books. Usually I read non-fiction, but after a spell of three or four books about the brain, I wanted to read some fiction. With no particular title in mind, I went to Amazon and bought a book that was then the #1 editor's choice and a NY Times Bestseller. With both awards, it must be pretty good, I thought.
The idea for the book was interesting, but the actual plot was poorly constructed. The foreshadowing was so obvious that I couldn't help but hope that it was a red herring and that the actual twist at the end would be something more interesting. It wasn't. Worse, the author made so many amateur writing mistakes that I actually found it hard to read (things like using a lot of adverbs and using difficult words that aren't more descriptive than the simple ones they replace).
It was a disaster of a book, yet it was successful and fairly well liked. I thought about how that could be possible and came to the conclusion that the bar for writing a good book probably isn't set as high as I would assume. And, under scrutiny, that actually makes sense.
A few days ago, I wrote an open letter to a good friend of mine - "I Think Greatness is Something You Are, Not Something You Do" - I said to him, I'm not a great man, just a normal man working on great things. Greatness is something you do, not something you are.
To give you some background, my friend Brendon is just one of the most amazingly good people in the world. He takes care of everyone around him, his mind, body, and spirit are sharp. He's a black belt, an excellent programmer, a philosopher, a Shodan in Go (actually, even stronger than that - he's a Shodan under the Asian rankings, so probably even higher in America), a hard worker, extremely loyal, a clear and free thinker, widely read and knowledgeable, and again - an amazingly good guy. I've learned a lot from him (notably, he taught me how to play Go, sysadmin Linux, understand basketball at a very high level, improve at martial arts, improve my fitness, and other good stuff - we'd usually go drink green tea and play Go at Samurai Restaurant in Boston, go fight in the park, talk philosophy out at nightclubs, do stuff like that).
He wrote back to me about greatness and humility. I think this is a really beautiful piece, so I asked him if I could gently edit it and put it up. He graciously agreed. It's long, but go ahead and just start it and give it whatever time you have - there's a lot of amazing insight in here.
A Quick Favor Request - if you learn from this or it helps you, please send Brendon a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org - he was actually a little gun-shy about having such a personal piece put up with such raw power in it. He only agreed when I told him how many people it could help - so please, drop him a short line to say thanks if this teaches you as much as it did me.
Without further ado...