Tattoos frequently pop up in science fiction and fantasy stories (and erotica *shudder*). They look cool, they tell stories of their own, they add a bit of an edge to a character, and sometimes they can even be magical. As with all things, our imagination exceeds reality. But let’s step out of the realm of fiction and into the real world. What would you say if I told you that getting a tattoo is a lot like writing a book? Having spent considerable time doing both, I can testify that writing and getting tattooed are remarkably similar experiences.
First, there’s the idea. You find inspiration everywhere, and ideas drift across your mind like seeds falling on fertile soil. Some are blown away, others sprout but wither and die. And some take root, sending up feeble shoots at first, but then blossoming into more than just an abstraction. You think, “Oh yeah, this is it. This is what I’m going to do.”
When the big day arrives, there is no insignificant amount of fear, but there is also excitement and eagerness to get started. You sit in the chair, take a deep breath, lower your head, and say, “Let’s do this.” You know it’s going to be no easy task but you’re stoked. You can take the pain. You’re a beast.
After a short time, you soon think, “What have I gotten myself into?” It’s starting to hurt. A lot. The euphoria hasn’t completely worn off but you’re starting to realize how long this is going to take. You begin to worry and feel nervous, because the end is still a long way off.
The pain keeps coming. You grind your teeth. You grip your chair. You think, “Why the heck am I putting myself through this?” It seemed like such a good idea in the beginning, but now you’re stuck in the middle, bleeding everywhere, and you’re nowhere near finished.
“I can’t do it. I’ve got to tap out. I’ll look like a wimp, but I have no choice.”
“Yes, you can. You’ve made it this far, and how will you look with a half-finished result? Just power on through. You can do it!”
“No, I can’t. I’m going to die. This is how it ends.”
“You’re an embarrassment, you know that?”
An eternity passes. You’re disoriented, maybe even delusional. You feel like a train wreck. Suddenly, you realize, “Whoa, I’m almost done. Wait a minute…I’m almost done!” You can’t believe you’ve made it this far. And yet, strangely, you feel kind of sad that it’s ending. You’ve been on this painful journey for so long, you have forgotten what it’s like to unclench your fists and relax your shoulders. The pain has become almost comforting.
It’s over. It’s finished. You feel a twinge of regret, wishing that it could perhaps go on a little bit longer, but then you realize that you made it! You want to raise your arms in victory and pound your chest, but you’re too sore do to anything except exhale a long, slow breath. You walked through fire and came out alive.
This deserves a celebration, or at least telling all of your friends and family about your tremendous accomplishment. They’re probably not as enthusiastic about your ordeal as you are, and a few are rather patronizing, but you’re too happy to notice. You walk around like you’re ten feet tall. The people you pass on the street have no idea of the mountain you’ve conquered.
And almost immediately, before you’ve even had a chance to calm your exuberant spirit, the next idea starts to take root in your mind…