It should be known that shortly after posting that last terrible entry, I got off my fat ass and did things, which the lack thereof was what I was complaining about.  I got my application submitted, got an interview (which went well and I’m pretty sure I’ve got the job) and worked on a few more chapters of my book, among other HIGHLY RIVETING THINGS (<behold: fiction at its finest).

I feel that I can safely say that I will be done at least scripting Book I of “SURPRISE!” by tonight and be ready to begin inflicting its terrible contents on the poor unsuspecting world by next month.  I’ve been wrestling with a lot of extremely terrible feelings of inadequacy and doubt lately, which tells me I must be doing it right.

On the other hand, despite Ethan Nicolle’s insanely awesome insight on the world of comic booking and whether it’s right for a person to take on as a career, his blog posts have been rather instrumental in me really, really truthfully examining my own ability to do these things I keep bragging about, and making me question myself honestly for the first time, and I have to say I hate it.   He’s a meany-pants for making me look at things logically and objectively and I’m harboring all this spite.  Thanks, Mr. McHonestDOUCHE.  (Seriously he’s awesome, I jest and I hope you all understand that.)

I’ve been slavishly following his latest work, Bearmageddon, which makes me wonder if I’ll ever be able to come up with a concept so effortlessly cool and epic.  Just stop and think about it: an all-out war between humans and mutant bears with octopod arms and neat things like that.  This is the sort of unobtrusively awesome thing we ALL wanted to see when we were little boys.  I’m offtrack.  I was on about honesty and all those other boring things.

The point is, he was explaining how you can really only pursue comic-cooking as a career if it is THE THING you can effortlessly churn out, the thing you’re passionate about enough to spend all your spare time on, the sort of thing that just flows out of you.  He went on to confess that early on, he truly wanted to make a living on his music, but it DIDN’T come as naturally as he would have preferred, so he stopped trying to force it and did what came naturally- drawing comics- and get this, HE DIDN’T EVEN NECESSARILY DEPEND ON IT AS A CAREER AT FIRST, but more as a hobby which just so happened to take off.  (I understand that’s the way you’re really supposed to go about it but, come on, who doesn’t have those naive dreams of sitting in their room and drawing all day for money?)

He also went into something that really roasted my gills- the fact that you can’t pick and choose which one of your works becomes the latest virally celebrated cult fad, that it’s your AUDIENCE who chooses that- and while I knew it somewhere deep down in my infected little heart, there’s that other part of me that went, “DAMN!” and slammed his fist onto the desk.  But we’ll go into that some other time.

Now here I am, as someone who truly has a passion and an interest in drawing comic books, and hell, I’d go so far as to even say a modicum of natural talent (though I lack the ability to back that up at the moment due to lack of scanner etc.,) but let’s face it- every single day that I try to draw, I DO have to force myself.  Once I get going, it flows fairly easily, and though I can draw happily for hours, it’s not up to my standards for a full work day, though I expect longer-term stamina will come more and more with time and practice.  But it’s absolutely a struggle to force myself to put pen to paper, a true test of will, and the only time I truly feel good about drawing is when I’m in the middle of it, or done with a sizeable portion of it.  I hate that I don’t get excited leading up into it- I get ANXIOUS.  Nervous, irritable, depressive, and that’s when the procrastination happens.  I make no excuses.  I won’t say that I CAN’T get myself to start, and blame it on a bunch of other things (despite my lazy ‘Murrikan upbringing desperately begging me to do so).  Some days, I just DON’T start, and that’s terrible.

Now, for three months straight I’ve made it my goal to strenuously break myself of this horrendous cycle with a regimen of self-discipline using every methodology I can think of.  From positive reinforcement to negative (as you’ve seen with me repeatedly slamming myself in my blog), to setting deadlines, to removing deadlines, to rearranging my room with motivational posters, to working on other projects, and just about everything they’ve ever written a self-help book on… just nothing seems to be working.  Yet.  I put that “yet” in there because I still hold out hope that I’ll find it within me some day to fix my spark-plugs.  But my biggest horror is waking up one day and finding out that this is ISN’T what I enjoy doing, that it makes me miserable and poor for no reason, that I DON’T have what it takes, that I’m not truly an artist, because it’s so horribly unnatural for me to just wake up in the morning and draw, and I may never be able to change that- that they’ve been lying to me all these years and you CAN’T reprogram yourself to beat the merciless tides of procrastination if you weren’t intuitively set to do so.

And trust me, art is what I’m best at.  It’s how I’ve defined myself for years, it sits right at the core of my identity, it’s how people in my community have come to know me, its evidence is strung all over the walls of this house.  If I wake up one day and come to the realization that I JUST CAN’T DO IT, then what does that say about me?  Am I just another nobody, working down at the convenience store with silent dreams that will never come true because I don’t have the natural ability to make them come true?  Is that what you’re telling me, Ethan- that since I have to genuinely struggle, HARD, every day, to make it come out of me… that I don’t have what it takes and I’d be better off picking something else to do with my life?  Well geez, I’m really good at scanning and bagging.  Where’d I put those cyanide pills?

YES, that was exactly the direction I did NOT intend this blog to go.  Sorry.  Anyway, I’d just like to put it out there that I’ve been considering what really does come naturally to me, which is honestly just writing.  I’ve put brief consideration into just making my story into a good old-fashion series of novels, but I’ve always envisioned it in some form of visual format and honestly feel I’d be cheating the story out of itself if I didn’t at least put it visually on paper.  I owe it to some of the people in this story to finally give them a body.  I MUST draw this, if nothing else.

So, I’m going to test myself.  Seeing as November is coming up, and November always makes me feel more productive what with NaNoWriMo (a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month- seriously consider looking into it if you’ve ever had any interest in writing at ALL), I’m going to take advantage of that creative energy and use it to draw my book.  Yes, I understand that the point of NaNo is writing a novel in 30 days, not drawing one, but I have no intention of collecting a reward, or learning to force myself to write.  I’ve got that down pretty good.  No, since I’ve got Book I essentially planned out and started, I’m going to force myself to draw the rest of it (or a rough draft of it, anyway) in 30 days, no matter how crappy it comes out.  I can always fine-tune later.

I’m aware that I may be setting myself up for disaster.  I’m not aware of a novice having ever crapped out a graphic novel of any considerable length in 30 days.  But hell, if all it does for me is get to me to draw AT LEAST ONE PAGE of my comic, every day, for 30 days straight, then I’ll consider THAT an accomplishment; if I wind up with a rough storyboard that I can commission a greater and more prolific artist to fine tune for me later on, then at least I’ll have another option to consider, and maybe, JUST MAYBE, I’ll wind up with a workable draft of my first Comic Book (rather than the one-page four-panel variety I’ve thus far cranked out), completed, and the sense of accomplishment I’ll get from THAT may just turn this whole thing around for me.  I’ve always heard there’s nothing for it but to just get your first book done, just to prove to yourself you can do it, and it gets at least marginally easier from there.  If nothing else, it gives me a solid deadline and a good reason to say “Sorry, I’m working on a thing” to all of my friends all month.  I can’t figure out any reason not to try.

I’ll only know one thing, if this doesn’t work out for me in any way.

It’s time to let go and figure out another direction for my life.

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About Tom H.

Peculiar.

2 responses »

  1. Steve says:

    You don’t know me. I stumbled across this post from Bearmageddon, and I read through it because it resonated with me.

    Years ago, I went to art school and earned a degree in illustration. My aspirations in those days were pretty much the same as yours, but, like you, I just didn’t have the drive to spend all day drawing. However, I had become slavishly devoted to the idea that I was a comic book artist (who, strangely, had never completed a single comic book) and so every day that I failed to draw became a day that I failed as a human being. I was convinced that if I wasn’t a comic book artist, I was a worthless pile of trash.

    I wasted years of my life thinking like this. It makes me angry to reflect on it, now; in retrospect, it all sounds unbelievably stupid.

    When I finally turned my back on that dream and admitted to myself that maybe I didn’t have an excellent idea about who I was when I decided that I was an artist – honestly, the vast majority of people have no idea who they are when they’re 18 – my situation improved almost immediately.

    It’s been four years since I decided that I wasn’t a comic book artist. I’m now a PhD student in mechanical engineering at an Ivy League school (fully funded and paid a stipend as a researcher). The lack of drive that plagued my half-baked art career is wholly absent from my work as a scientist; I can obsess over this stuff during my every waking hour.

    The funniest part? I can’t even remember why the idea of being a comic book artist seemed so important to me before!

    I’m not sure why it is that I’m writing this post. No one could have ever convinced me that I needed to abandon my aspirations as an artist – not even my closest loved ones – I had to come to the realization myself. There’s certainly no way in hell a random message from a complete stranger would’ve changed my mind. However, you sound like maybe you’re on your way to the same epiphany, and if there’s the slightest possibility that my own experience will help to get you out of that familiar place, it seems worthwhile to spend the time typing this up.

    I believe everyone has something useful that they can do obsessively and passionately. You need to find out what that is. Don’t confuse loving the IDEA of doing something with loving the ACT of doing something. It’s the latter you need; the former is useless.

    And most importantly, don’t think, by giving up on comic books, that you’re settling for less. That’s complete bullshit. That’s the story you’re selling yourself, even now at this late stage, but as soon as you find your real calling, the illusion will fall away, and you’ll realize that what comic book artists do isn’t any more important or magical than what you do.

    I make microscale robot parts using goddamn energy beams! I’m working to make impossible things become possible, and helping to drive the human race into a new era. So no, I don’t spend any time wishing that I was drawing graphic novels for niche audiences instead. Not anymore.

    • theillustriouskingofspace says:

      I fully appreciate your perspective and that you took the time out to help me, and I’m glad that things worked out for you. I’m making a space in my head for the idea that you could be right, and refuse to discount the probability of any possible future. Maybe I could be a lawyer or a social worker, who knows? But it only follows that I don’t yet fully abandon the idea that another alternate reality- the one where I kick the bouts of artist’s anxiety and procrastination and do the things I’ve always want to- could still be possible for me. I haven’t fully played this one out, that line hasn’t closed off for me yet. Every day I’m finding more and more drive, and it’s on the days where I CAN’T find it that I have these horrible doubts and fears about the future.

      I understand how finding another path could have worked out for the best for you, but the tone of your writing seems to imply that it’s the ONLY way to happiness, for EVERYONE, because that’s what led to yours- that basically anyone who’s having trouble finding their creative spark should find something else to do rather than work to beat the procrastination. It seems a little adamant. A lot of people tend to feel that way about the path they’ve chosen, or even the religion they follow- “this way of thinking works out for me, so I don’t understand why everyone wouldn’t follow it.” But the truth is that it worked out for you and nobody else, and every person is different, and every path is infinitely variable, and if I followed your path, I could still be unquantifiably unhappy. So for now, I’m still working on making this one work for me.

      I’m sure there’s going to be a parallel universe where, four years down the road, you get to come back and say “I told you so!” and I’ll smile and acknowledge how awesome your advice was and what a great career I’m in, and so I’m giving the sub-set of me who will be walking that path a directive to say “Hi” when he gets there. But for now, I’m going to choose to remain aware solely of a reality where I get my first comic book published by next year. If it doesn’t work out and the edges falter, I’ll jump back over to that line and pursue something along the lines of Economics and maybe I’ll even shake your hand when I get there. 😀
      -Tom

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