The Struggle To Create
I’ve been slowly finding time The Walk, but it’s a struggle. I started working on this comic in the summer of 2013, after I graduated from the Center for Cartoon Studies. That’s four years ago now. I’ve been trying to determine what my roadblocks to success have been.
When I returned home from Vermont after I graduated, I started to work on The Walk. I was working as a freelance designer but soon found a job as a creative director. I noticed that my energy levels plummeted throughout the day though. I figured it was from working full time again for the first time in a couple years. Little did I know I was starting to go through heart failure. That was two years of coming home wanting to work and having no energy to do it. After surgery, I have a lot more energy, as long as I take care of myself. I need to exercise at least three times a week and stay on a low sodium diet. That also means watching my alcohol intake and getting a good night’s rest. I used to have a couple drinks every night and get about 5 hours of sleep. Now I have a couple drinks on the weekend and get about 8 hours of rest. Even if I’m not tired, I’ll lay in bed and read until I’m sleepy.
I saw an energy boost immediately after surgery. My heart was working well for the first time in years. But taking care of myself has added another boost.
Achieving a proper work/life balance is tough for me. I love to work. But after working all day, somedays I need to relax and spend time with loved ones. My comics ambition is very high though. I have so many stories I want to get out of my head. So I end up being cranky all night and not doing anything right. I’m not relaxing, and I’m not working. I’m agitated.
By the time the weekend comes around, I don’t want to sit at a desk at all. I have been using Saturday and Sunday to recharge for the coming week. What I’ve come to tell myself is that it doesn’t have to be war all the time. You don’t have to do a page a night. Sometimes I only have the energy to do a panel. And that’s okay! But working on it every day is the important thing. It’s like exercise. As long as I do something, most of the time, it all starts to accumulate.
Again, before I went to CCS, I’d work a 70 hour work week and still draw comics into the early morning. I’m almost 40 now. I can’t do that anymore, so I need to adjust and not kick myself when I’m having a less productive night. And that it’s okay to relax.
All artists doubt their abilities. That’s a given. I’ve always pushed through those doubts and did the best job I could. But now I’m too much in my own head. I’ve redrawn entire sections of the book into a different style. I’ve almost ditched the project because I don’t know if anyone will read it. I sometimes think about bringing the story back into draft mode. I start thinking about different techniques I can do with the art to make it stand out.
I keep a private journal while I work on comic projects. I re-read some of my entries and got sick of reading all the self-doubt. This isn’t rocket science. I have to draw and finish the thing. Push through. If no one cares, no one cares.
Space sucks. Don’t do space stories.
The other sticking point that makes me doubt everything. Doing anything set in the future. The Walk is about an astronaut on a space station. I thought, hey, space is simple to draw!
What I didn’t foresee is how much research I’d do into what space stations could look like in the future. What ships would look like. What kind of spacesuits would be possible. What a waldo is. It’s maddening. I’ve wasted a year of my life reading about space.
And then I had a realization. No one cares. No one cares if you predicted any of it right. No one especially cares if a comic book predicted what a space suit in the next century looks like.
I did finally find a design theme that works with the story. But I wasted a large amount of time trying to get it right. Now, I’m cherry picking the designs of all my favorite space stuff. I want the reader to feel like maybe none of it is real. Maybe the events of the book are in the protagonist’s head the entire time? Maybe he’s assembling his life as an astronaut with pop culture references? Nothing is a blatant rip-off, but a lot of it is close enough that I hope it makes the reader notice.
How to Succeed
To recap, here’s what I’m doing now to keep working:
- Don’t doubt.
- Don’t research anymore. Work.
- Don’t get discouraged.
- Take care of myself. Rest.
- Work when I can.
- Start posting online again.
The last one is important to me. I haven’t posted any comics online since 2012 when I ended Drunk Elephant Comics. It’s time. Working on a schedule, posting online, and getting immediate feedback was so important to me as a young cartoonist. I’ve been wanting to start a Patreon for a long time now, and I have enough work done on this story that I can start posting. I have permission from my publisher to post online also. There’s nothing stopping me from doing it.
More importantly, I have two more stories ready to go, enough for 8 years of regular doses of comics from me.
February is a tough month for me. Lots going on with taxes, and marketing budgets start getting allocated to clients. So bear with me, but expect to see The Walk online soon on this site.