Summer 2018

The last few months have been hectic. My girlfriend was planning a visit but after some unexpected car expenses I decided to fly up instead. I finished my short for my 3rd Quickdraw Animation Society Lockdown, an adaptation of two versions of Little Red Riding Hood I found on Librivox.

It was a fun project – mostly an excuse to see how much work it would be to turn audio books into animations. I’d been itching to see how long a film I could make in the allotted time.

I’m currently trying to wrap up a pitch package to send off. I spent the evening slicing the project file into individual scenes to track my progress and reduce overwhelm.

NewGrounds is running their animation jams again this summer with the first deadline being the 27th. I like the Bad Dream theme but I’m not sure I’ll have time to enter. Right now I need to focus on paying gigs and other proposals I’m working on.

Making Progress

This is my second month of being in the new office. Things have been settling into place as I’ve been developing my daily routine. Currently I’ve been working on a pitch reel for my Bottled Spirits series, adapting the idea from my original short and adding elements from other episodes. I’ve been documenting it on my Instagram.

I’m aiming to finish it by the 21st. After that I’d like to work on pieces for my freelancing reel and other less time-sensitive pitches. I want to divide my time between animating and building up diverse revenue streams. Designing various prints, shirts, and fonts will be a nice mental break from the monotony of bigger projects.

Growing Pains

Moving from my home studio to the new office has not been without it’s hiccups. Aside from my Brother scanner the heavy equipment’s been moved. I needed to install a Wifi card for my computer which turned into an all day adventure, especially after we lost the screws that came with it. I upgraded my RAM to 24GB to replace the two original sticks that went bad. Last night I thought my speakers weren’t working. Turns out powered USB hubs work best when you bother to plug them into the machine they’re supposed to be connected to. The last lingering issue is my second display. It’s an old HDTV I have running through an HDMI/Mini DisplayPort. In my studio I had it on the right side of my Cintiq which often resulted in craning my neck to see. Once I got it in the office the power cable we had needed it to be on the left. It powers on but my computer isn’t seeing it.

growing pains 80s GIF

growing pains 80s GIF. Source: Giphy.

Speaking of all day adventures, I needed to replace the battery in my car again. I was worried when it wouldn’t start this morning but fortunately after my dad came by we deduced I’d simply tripped the security feature. Once it started we looked for the ice scraper I’d used last night only to find it wasn’t there. Seeing snow on the passenger seat we figured my mom took it. I originally considered working in the home studio this morning but, upon seeing the weather forecast for more snow the rest of the week, I decided to make use of a clear day for an Ohio winter. It’s supposed to be in the 20s this week, which I can’t complain about because it’s been zero or below where my girlfriend lives.

All in all, though, having an office to work out of is proving to be a good thing. I’ve met a few of my neighbors who seem pretty nice. It’s fairly close to home. It’s quiet. I just need to bring some more of my studio trappings over in small loads so I’m not constantly feeling like I forgot something.

Moving House

My home studio has been a real asset to me over the years. Having designated space for projects has helped keep home and work life somewhat separated. When marathoning sessions and crunching to get things finished it’s nice to be able to stay in pajamas. Next month, however, I’m moving most of my equipment to a new location where I’ll be sharing office space. I’ll keep a bare bones setup here but I’m looking forward to the new opportunities that will open up. There’s an energy you get from having others around. After college the closest I’ve come to capturing that sort of environment was my yearly trip to Calgary for the QuickDraw Animation Lockdown. “Networking” and “making connections” are buzzwords I’d like to abstain from but I am hoping to get to know new people, maybe make a few friends. That might result in future collaborations, finding somebody who can make use of what I bring to the table, or perhaps I’ll find someone who can help me out somehow.

via GIPHY

In my previous post I said I wanted to blog on Monday, Wednesday, Friday leaving Tuesday and Thursday for posting videos on my YouTube channel. I was hoping announcing plans would kick my butt into gear. Like all New Years mistakes it was overly hopeful, presupposing I was actually ready to start sharing content regularly. Since we’re nearing the end of January it’s time for a check in to see where I’m at and where things are headed based on what’s actually in front of me and not, like, holiday season fairy dust and magic, or whatever causes us all to expect ourselves to be somebody different after midnight.

YouTube Ad-Pocalypse: Partner Program Edition

For those not keeping score, YouTube have recently changed requirements for membership of their Partner Program. In order to be a monetized partner channels must now have 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers by February 20th. This means a lot of smaller channels, such as mine, are going to lose the ability to monetize through YouTube’s AdSense system. I’m not exactly heart broken over this news as even the most successful channels cite AdSense as their lowest source of revenue. Ads only really make serious revenue with large audiences, being on the Internet causes ads to be worth significantly less than they are on traditional media, and honestly I’m conflicted about advertising in general.

Advertising is a reality of life and business. In order for cool things to run creators need to get paid. This usually means running ads. Except ads today are a pain. They take us away from the content we came to see. Advertisers that pay the best often have the most generic ads aimed at the widest audience possible which results in a race to the middle. It also leaves creators beholden to their advertisers. YouTube’s ad money is very fickle. Back in 2012 Reply Girls exploited the algorithm and YouTube moved from favoring views to favoring watch time, making animators’ channels plummet in revenue. There’s also the broken content ID system, false flags, and a myriad of other problems with the platform. Still the fact remains the site is too big to leave.

I agree with Hank Green that no real competition for YouTube currently exists. If it did it would be dealing with the same issues any site of that size would. Services like Patreon and the recently relaunched Drip are going to be crucial if creators are ever going to move away from relying on ads for revenue.

Circling the conversation back, the partner changes impact me personally again in relation to Multichannel Networks, specifically my MCN the Channel Frederator Network. CFN found out about the changes at the same time the rest of us did. This left them scrambling to get things sorted for all of their members. If I’m unable to monetize my channel by the 20th, what’s my status with CFN and the tools/community it provides?

We are extremely proud to announce that although YouTube is disabling their partnership with some of you, we here at Channel Frederator consider you members in good standing. You will not be disabled from your partnership with us, you will still have access to our tools/platforms, and opportunities for growth to reach that threshold for monetization. This was decided on day one of this big change, a unanimous decision from all levels of management here at Frederator. We just needed to do some tweaking under the hood, and make sure that our dreams of still having you all with us can come true.

Below are some important notes we want to mention:

All members affected by Youtube’s new policy will still have access to the forums, all our tools, and opportunities while you’re still in contract with us.

After your contract ends, we will limit some of the services we offer until you’re able to monetize again.

For those who are interested, we’re dedicated to continue to help you reach the required 1K subs and 4K threshold. Then you’re more than welcome to be fully linked with us, and have access to everything!

I might not be the most active member of the community but I full-heartedly appreciate when they prove that “Frederator Loves You!” is more than a marketing slogan. I’ll be going into more details about plans and projects in future posts but I really want to take a moment and commend Channel Frederator on this. I planned on using their resources as I relaunch my channel with more regular content in 2018 and CFN have made me very proud to be partnered with them.

2018 – New Year, New Plans

I hope everybody had a happy holiday season. The New Year is traditionally a time of reflection, making resolutions, and then giving up on them by mid February when we’ve slid back into bad habits. I’m not much of a traditionalist but I do like the idea of setting markers for yourself. This is a good time to look back, figure out what went wrong over the course of 12 months, and to set goals for improving on the next dozen.

2017 in Review

What Went Right
Without a doubt the best thing to happen to me in 2017 was meeting my girlfriend. She’s been there to listen, to encourage, and to be a reminder that life is pretty awesome sometimes.
What Went Wrong
Nothing frustrates quite like wasted potential. As is common with ADHD I had a lot of good ideas but I enacted few of them. Some of it was lack of direction but a lot of it was insecurity. The perfect time to do something rarely ever makes itself available on its own accord. Instead it is up to us to shape our lives, to make opportunities happen, and to try our damnedest.

2018 Goals

Deadlines
Deadlines are something of a double-edged sword. They can bring on stress in a crunch. At the same time they’re a necessity when it comes to routine and staying on task. That’s why I’ve decided to start a Monday/Wednesday/Friday blogging regiment. I’m also relaunching my YouTube channel with a Tuesday/Thursday schedule where I’ll share each update on the blog, effectively posting five times a week.
Working Blocks
My plan for achieving this is to produce multiple chunks at a time. Rather than write one blog post I’ll write all three. Instead of one video I’ll make two or four at a time. This system is actually preferable for me because front loading frees up more room for working later. I get less burnt out when I’m bouncing between projects. It also makes it easier to plan things when I can see them in a week by week format.

I Didn’t Die

A problem I often have is falling into loops. These are important to distinguish from routines. Loops are cyclical and keep you in a rut instead of progressing forward. A loop I regularly fall into is researching. You’ve probably heard “Perfect is the enemy of good” before, meaning it’s better to get a project out the door in an acceptable state than to toil on it perpetually without ever actually releasing it. When I was younger I was more likely to start something on a whim. Of course many of those never got completed as I didn’t fit them into my schedule. As I got older I sought to plan things out in advance, to weigh my options better before getting started. Unfortunately this also led to not getting started at all.

The thing about loops is they’re comforting. They’re familiar. When you don’t look up from the wheel as long as it’s turning you think you’re going somewhere. I realized in school that talking about subjects you don’t fully understand is a quick way to show your ignorance. This got me in the habit of researching and learning everything I can on a topic if I expect to be working with it in any real capacity. Partly because my undiagnosed ADHD would make it hard to concentrate in class so I knew I’d have to study on my own and partly because of the anxiety and fear I had of embarrassment from looking stupid. ADHD isn’t simply a lack of focus, either. Sometimes I would hyperfocus on things to the point of obsession. Other times I’d see something new to learn about and be unable to fulfill my responsibilities to an older subject. Repeating the cycle of studying is safe. I know what to expect and there aren’t any repercussions for it. Eventually, however, you need to stop doing what’s comfortable in order to progress.

The unknown can be scary. If you don’t have somebody to reassure you things will be fine it can be downright petrifying. I’ve found plenty of people in life who stay in their comfort zones. And you know what? I don’t judge them for it. It’s very easy to play armchair quarterback and tell others what they should do with their lives. But are you willing to go with them to do all the things they need to do to get there? Will you help them wade through confusing paperwork and legal jargon? Will you show them healthy habits and how to prepare themselves for a better life? Or is it easier and more comfortable to sit back and point out everybody else’s problems so nobody notices yours?

Fear and danger can be managed. Whenever I do something new I can be completely terrified but I always take time to recognize what I’ve done. When I’ve planned and gone on a trip, after I’ve gotten to my destination and rested, I tell myself, “Well, I didn’t die, so that’s good.” Is my brain listing every possible thing that could go wrong the entire time? Yes. Is my family reminding me of all of these while also making a few of their own up? Of course. But I didn’t die. The further out I go and the more relaxed I let myself become the more I see the good in what I’ve done. Then I’m reminded of the line by George Carlin, “So now you can move along to your next embarrassing moment… which is probably scheduled immediately.”

I’m still trying to figure out how I want to use this blog. What to write in it that doesn’t feel like I’m standing on the street with a bullhorn, what I’m trying to say, how to say it most effectively while still actually getting in the habit of doing it regularly. I do know I need to concentrate more on doing things and less on worrying where they go before I do them.

Status of the Blog 6/12/17

YouTube Thumbnail for Moon Over My Monkey

Quickdraw Animation Lockdown 2017

I recently returned from a three week trip to Canada. Part of that was spent in Calgary at Quickdraw Animation Society participating in their annual Animation Lockdown. Over the Victoria Day long weekend teams worked on shorts loosely themed around Brave New Worlds. Here’s my entry, Moon Over My Monkey.

Lockdown is a fun event, even though you’re always under the pressure of a deadline. You learn a lot about yourself over a four day crunch to finish a film. I started attending last year as a getaway from my regular environment. A chance to join like-minded people as we toiled away in our respective studio spaces. As somebody with ADHD I have a love/hate relationship with structure. Left to my own devices I can get overly ambitious and fail to finish anything due to perfectionism. There’s no time for perfection with Lockdown. Even if you spend time beforehand prepping you still only have so long to finesse before the screening.

Retro Animation Website

Inspiration

The recent YouTube Ad-pocalypse has made me think back to earlier days on the Internet. Sites like Homestar Runner and JoeCartoon would feature animated cartoons that were entirely their own thing. Of course that was before Flash was a dead program walking. The Brothers Chaps have tested the waters with a comeback. Cousin Joe Twoshacks has a band now. Jazza did interviews with various Newgrounds animators in his The Tale Teller & Mini Documentary Series, particularly in part three, The RISE of INDEPENDENT ANIMATION.

He also made a video entitled The DEATH of Independent YOUTUBE ANIMATION? joining in the discussion of the future of indie animation on the platform. Can You Make A Career Out of Internet Animation? The Pegbarians Are Definitely Trying also brought about some passionate responses from those in the community. YouTube competitor vidme has been courting frustrated animators with their Original Animation category. I encourage all creators today to put their content everywhere. This increases your chances of being seen, of growing an audience, and hopefully makes it harder for freebooters to gain traction. That said, having your own domain to point back to is very important. At the end of the day you don’t own any of the other platforms you post on. It’s risky running a business on a system that’s out of your control. One change in an algorithm can dramatically impact people’s livelihoods over night. This need for stability and control, coupled with a desire to experiment, is why my next big project is going to be building my own site for my animations.

Laying the Groundwork

After using WordPress for ~10 years I’m eager for a little more flexibility. It’s tempting to just start making pages but I remember early in my webcomics career, after I’d built up something of an archive, “How am I going to change the footer on all these… Oh.” I spent some time researching and comparing various flat file CMS systems and at the moment have settled on Grav. I still need to experiment in my local environment but right now that’s what I’m going with. I’m also going to be testing Animatron to make HTML5 animations with interactivity that should work on mobile devices.

Month in Review – January 2017

January 2017 is almost over. This is where a lot of new year’s resolutions fall apart. Rather than set a bunch of unrealistic arbitrary goals I want to use the calendar to track my progress at improving myself. Weekends are good for looking over the previous week and planning the one ahead. Each month a stretch on the marathon that is the year. I should start doing a proper monthly wrap up post in the future but for now I’ll keep this more informal.

This month was the soft relaunch of the blog. I spent a lot of time behind the scenes restructuring the site and I still have work to do. I built a local mockup thinking I’d start from scratch and eventually decided time would be better spent fixing what was broken. I declared my intent to blog twice a week and to restart my podcast. While doing this my microphone stopped being recognized and my sleep schedule went off the rails. I’m not making any excuses. I’m merely sharing how I lost control of my time and days in an attempt to stop myself from doing it in the future.

I forget which stand up comic this bit comes from, but when tired his body becomes inhabited by a personality known as Sleepy Dave. He’s not a bad guy but he’s also not a very good employee. When the alarm goes off in the morning, the responsible person gets up. Sleepy Dave goes, “Why get up when you can stay in bed and ski down a mountain of syrup with French toast sticks for skiis?!” I have my own Sleepy Dave. I plan things like a logical grown up. Then when it comes time to actually implement them a scared and sleepy child comes out who really needs an adult. These are both parts of my personality that I express differently at different times. I can tell myself I need to go to bed early if I want to get up at six the next morning. Actually communicating to the people I’m talking to that it’s my bedtime is an entirely different situation. I’ve had whole evenings swallowed up where I haven’t had time to think for myself until I’m in bed ready to fall asleep. The advice of, “Just tell them you’re going to bed,” is about as helpful as, “All you have to do to lose weight is exercise and don’t eat so much.” If it was really that easy we wouldn’t have entire industries devoted to it.

I’m naturally an introverted and non-confrontational person. Once I’ve talked to you for about an hour, I’m maxed out and need to recharge. There’s a range of responses to this depending on how well the person I’m with empathizes with me or picks up on hints. Some shrug it off like I’m joking. A few get bossy or guilt me for not doing what they want. Others try to distract and always seem to have one more thing they want to ask me about. Sometimes I’ll be talking with somebody I really like who I enjoy spending time with, conflicting what I want at the moment with what I should be doing. This creates a cycle where I’m not rested or thinking clearly so I can’t correct myself. When it’s already the season for early dark and you’re waking up after the sun has gone down all you can really do is try to right your ship the next morning.

Some people may think I sound like a coward for not sticking up for myself. It’s very easy to look at moments out of somebody else’s life out of context and blame them for their problems. It’s much harder to actually listen and provide useful advice. The fact is I have stood up for myself on many occasions. But when others don’t listen to you, gaslight your words to make you second guess yourself, and when it happens regularly enough when you’re exhausted you get worn down. I’ve called my dad, agreed to meet him the next day at noon or one for lunch, and he’s shown up at more door at nine in the morning ready to go out. My mom still doesn’t understand that sometimes I’m open to talking and other times I need to have quiet. I’ve taken to wearing my headphones while out, even though I know it can seem rude, because I need to be able to step back before I have a panic attack. This is the reality of my situation right now. I love my family and friends but they don’t always listen to me or pick up on my social cues. To combat this I’m scheduling my devices to be in Do No Disturb mode during work hours. This may make it harder for some folks to contact me but I need to regain control of my own schedule.

Ultimately I need to have time to myself to think. This last month I kept finding myself on the night before something (if I was lucky) trying to even sort out what I wanted to do. That is not how I want to work. I can’t be pulling all nighters every night for everything. I’ve tried setting hard and fast rules only to frustrate myself when I can’t meet them. The key is going to be getting myself enough rest, quiet time, and keeping myself out of situations where others can have power over my decisions. I see confrontations in my future as people wonder where I’ve been, but not answering my phone when I’m unavailable is less awkward than being put on the spot when I do answer.

Plans for February include more regular blogging, new podcasts now that I’ve replaced my mic, and I’m going to try posting animation on Twitter. I’d like to experiment in the 30 second to two minute range and Twitter sounds like the best place to roll that out without fiddling with square aspect ratios, portrait mode, or any silly restraints other sites with video (remember Vine?) impose. I have fan projects I want to work on as well but I can’t share the content from those until they’re done so Twitter video experiments are a nice regular thing to work on and share. I’d really like the month to be more about structure and routine. I didn’t spend much of January drawing at all. Every time I opened an art program I felt out of practice. My therapist and I worked out some affirmations I’m going to be repeating to myself regularly about permitting myself to work, feeling capable in what I can do, and not letting the negative things that have creeped into my head push me around anymore.

Review: Bose QuietComfort 25 and 35 Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Full disclosure: I was not paid for this review. If you purchase anything on Amazon through my affiliate links, even if it’s not an item from the review, it’ll help support me without costing you anything. Just be sure to clear your browser cookies first. Thank you 🙂

I’ve mentioned before that I have sensory issues. Certain sounds cut straight to my ears and distract me. Voices specifically steal my attention making it hard to concentrate if there’s a TV or radio on in the room. Most people can tune that type of noise out but to me it’s like somebody’s calling my name repeatedly and I can’t not hear it. Eventually I need a break from the noise or I’ll get on edge. This is why I decided to invest in some noise-cancelling headphones. I originally wanted something wireless but at the time everything I’d read suggested wireless sets weren’t really there yet. I’d been aware of Bose for some time when I tested a few different brands on display at the local Best Buy. If you’ve ever been to Best Buy you’re aware of how loud all the displays get. I slipped the Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones on and suddenly that went away. This immediately caught my attention and at a nearby Target I tried another set. They had a demo of the noise onboard an airplane and again things we quieted. I made up my mind to order a pair online since I could get them cheaper than in store. Even at discount they were still the most expensive headphones I’d ever bought for myself at that time.

Bose QuietComfort 25 Noise-Cancelling Headphones

I got the Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones in white to match my iPhone. (only available in black and white at the time) They came in a nice travel case with an adapter for airplanes, a cable with inline controls to connect to your device, and a AAA battery. As an over-ear model they offer inactive noise-cancelling by physically cupping your ears. Talking with them on can feel weird as your own voice sounds muffled. Once you install the battery and flip the switch on the right earpiece they go into active noise-cancelling which means they produce sound meant to counter that coming in. It took a bit of wearing to get comfortable leaving them on as my ears would get warm and you can’t really rest your head on your side but neither of those are deal breakers. I’ve noticed the active noise-cancelling can distort music if you’re more concerned with sound quality and leaving it on for extended periods starts to hurt my ears after a while so I tend to leave it off when I’m sitting at my desk. When I’ve flown with them it made a very noisy flight feel like a more tolerable bus ride. My ability to hear the announcements over the intercom was improved where without they were barely intelligible. I’m not an audiophile but I like the quality of sound they produce. They’re soft yet solid and well made. For my needs I couldn’t be happier with them.

Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Looking for a link to recommend I saw the Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones bluetooth option was available. Being tethered to my desk, while not the worst thing in the world, is still something I’d rather not deal with. The updated model could also pair with multiple devices. I jumped at the chance and ordered them in black since I couldn’t find a silver pair marked down. They arrived in a similar configuration to the 25s, only no AAA battery as they came with a rechargeable lithium ion battery installed and a USB to micro-USB cable for charging. There’s concern eventually the battery will need replacing but I see more devices going this route. It comes with a cable for using it as a wired headset though the volume controls have been moved to the right earpiece. Pairing was a little confusing at first since I wanted to try figuring it out without the instructions. Basically you flick the power on switch all the way over and hold it a moment to pair a new device, flick to cycle through paired devices. A voice prompt tells you how much life you have left in the battery and which devices you’re connected to. The sound quality once paired is good. The range works nicely if I’m on the same floor as my device. If I’m connected to my computer downstairs and go upstairs it starts to break up. I’ve also had it break up while in the same room as my device depending on how I’m laying in bed. I’ve used the microphone on Skype calls and for the convenience of what it is found it acceptable. When the mic is enabled it makes a tone and the sound quality drops a few seconds then goes back to normal. The active noise-cancelling is less aggressive than on the 25s though the inactive isn’t as good. I’ve worn both while turned off and the 35s let more sound in. If noise-cancelling is your main goal, stick with the 25s. That said, the 35s are more comfortable to leave on and to listen to along with the benefit of being wireless. In most instances I’d rather have the 35s for their options and ease of use, save situations where I really need a better noise barrier. They’re both excellent headphones and I recommend trying them out if this review has peaked your interest.

How I Deal with Anxiety/ADHD

Ben's Medications

I’m not a doctor. If you believe you have anxiety or some other condition please consult a professional. I am, however, somebody who deals with anxiety and ADHD on a day to day basis. This post goes into how I deal with it personally and I encourage anybody reading who deals with similar issues to share their experiences and suggestions in the comments below. Keep in mind we’re all different and there’s no one size fits all cure.

I’ve said elsewhere I don’t want this to turn into Ben’s Anxiety Blog but as anxiety’s a part of my life it’s something worth talking about here. There are different types of anxiety, it manifests itself in different ways for different people, and there are various methods of treating it. Anxiety itself isn’t necessarily good or bad. It’s one of the ways the body responds to certain situations. Sometimes a fight or flight response is called for. If you’re trapped with a wild animal it’s perfectly acceptable. Other times, when you’re sitting at a desk breaking into a cold sweat, not so much. If you regularly have stressful reactions to seemingly minor things, or even to seemingly nothing at all, then you may have an anxiety disorder. For me, anxiety was like the constant buzzing of a fluorescent light. Always kind of there, sometimes in the background, sometimes loud and up front. When I described it to my doctor he decided to put me on Celexa.

Medication

Some people and groups don’t believe in treating psychological problems with medicine. I will say right now, for the record and for anybody considering commenting as such, kindly fuck off. There’s enough misconceptions and stigma dealing with mental health. If I could simply “snap out of it” or “stop feeling bad” I would have done that long ago. There is no shame in wanting to feel better.

I take Celexa once a day and Buspirone twice a day. Celexa is the one that helped me to even be able to talk about my issues at all. Before then I was terrified of seeming abnormal. I still get terrified, sometimes, but now it’s more situational and something I can deal with. I started Buspirone after telling my doctor I still carried a lot of physical tension around even with the other prescription. It’s easily the worst-tasting med I’ve ever been on but it does help. Once we determined I had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder I was prescribed Adderall. It helps me keep my concentration though we had to increase my dosage. For a few frustrating weeks I felt like I was of two minds, able to observe my actions but unable to act. It’s also a controlled substance which makes getting refills frustrating and traveling more complicated than it needs to be.

Therapy

I asked my doctor to recommend me to a therapist because I knew I had some issues to work on. After some issues with my insurance I started seeing one once a week until she retired at the end of November. She helped me identify I had ADHD and sensory issues. Once we figured that out it became a matter of accepting and coming to terms with it. People with ADHD are more prone to develop problems with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. and though I’m pretty sure I inherited mine, being undiagnosed ADHD growing up probably added to my frustration. Therapy for me has two benefits. Having a safe space to get things off your chest is important, especially if you don’t have one otherwise, and it gives you reassurance you’re thinking logically. It also helps you plan. I booked a trip to Canada after my therapist suggested going to an event with like-minded people to get away for a bit. She was genuinely impressed I was motivated enough in my own treatment to do that. I believe in being proactive and, even though doing new things can be scary at times, conquering that fear is part of the reward.

Family and Friends

If you have a good support system set up you’re going to have an easier time. Likewise, if your friends and family aren’t on board, things get more difficult. I love my family but they’re a lot like me in some ways and very different in others. My mom doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with me. She’s convinced it’s just part of my personality. My dad doesn’t really grasp what I’m in therapy for, either. They grew up at a time when you didn’t talk about mental issues. If you had them you were simply nuts. With that mode of thinking admitting there’s anything the matter with me means accepting there’s potentially anything the matter with themselves and they’re not ready for that.

My friends have been very compassionate. I only wish I were closer with more of them. When the only way you keep in touch with most people anymore is through Facebook you miss deeper connections. I fully accept my own blame in this regard. I haven’t been the best person to get close to and it’s something I’m trying to get better at. I care about people but I also get terrified I’ll do the wrong thing and be rejected. I’m also introverted and burn a lot of energy when I’m with others. I’m working on getting better at saying no without feeling horrible.

Journaling

I’ve journaled off and on since I’ve been able to write. As I’ve gotten medicated I’ve been able to think more clearly address my thoughts/emotions. I try to write every day now as a way to get things off of my mind and to do something constructive with them. Some days it’s just a string of obscenities about whatever’s making me angry. Other times I can have a revelation by actually taking the time to write my feelings out. It’s easy to get busy and spend all your mental energy just being reactionary. It’s a good pressure valve to look inside and sort your own thoughts out. My current favorite method is to type in a TaskPaper document on my computer. I used TaskMator on iOS for awhile but the ability to fold entries up once I was done with them was too important to me. I recently got Editorial and it’s very elegant.

List Making

I mentioned TaskPaper specifically because I sync to my mobile devices through Dropbox to keep things organized. This means I can be waiting in line, pull out my phone, and type something up to get back to elsewhere later. The TaskPaper format makes it very easy to search, tag, and organize. Lists are important to me because they gave me a way to structure the things I dump in my journal entries into actionable plans. They’re also good because we all tend to carry too much in our heads. When something comes to mind, write it down so you can pull it out later. A lot of anxiety can be resolved by planning and feeling secure there’s a plan in place. Lists can always be changed around and re-written, too, so they’re low pressure.

Taking Action

Plans and lists are great tools but they’re only tools. Some people can spend their days debating what hammer they should buy and never actually get to that home improvement project. Settle on the tools that works best for you then take action. In my case that means actually writing the blog post I plan on writing, on opening that art program and designing those characters I’ve been meaning to develop. It’s easy to get swallowed up in just one type of task. I’ve spent weeks tinkering with PHP and MySQL, fiddling with WordPress plugins and CSS, only to realize I haven’t drawn anything in ages. Once you lay out your plan you need to stick with it. Some days I might not feel like writing. Others I can fill pages before lunch. The trick is giving yourself enough room to feel comfortable. One thing I learned doing webcomics is it’s very easy to fall into a strip a day mentality with projects. If you only focus on doing a thing a day you can fall behind easily. Eventually you’re waiting until you’re right against a deadline. I really recommend laying projects out further. I’d pencil a week’s worth of comics at once, for example. It was much more fulfilling getting ahead and getting more done though it did require more lead time up front.

It’s important to have clear goals when sitting down to work. When I’m planning I pull out the calendar and know the constraints I have to work with. How many weeks do I have to work on this? I try to set my own deadlines ahead of when they outside factors influence them. In college when I had to finish something over the weekend I’d stay up all night Friday or Saturday so I could recover on Sunday. Once I know what I need to do I can delegate the different parts as needed. If I’m going to be drawing all day I put myself into drawing mode. Gestural layouts are a different mindset from refined lines and inking, for example. It’s also good to divvy things up so you don’t over extend yourself. If I have to spend multiple days on the same stage of a project I get worn down quicker. If I’m doing an animation I might do the basic planning on the whole thing but the longer it is the more I’m going to subdivide. I’ll work on one segment in rough keys, then refine it, then move on to the next instead of trying to completely rough animate an entire sequence out. I need to feel like you finished something each day, be it that week’s pencils or the rough animation on a segment. Otherwise I can have trouble switching modes and getting back to writing when all I’ve done is draw and vice versa.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Distraction and Ritual

I stated earlier I have sensory issues. I’m still sorting out what that means and the proper ways of dealing with them. I know I’m light sensitive and get migraines regularly. Sometimes when I’m overwhelmed I’ll turn the lights out in my studio and lay on the floor until I calm down. I also have trouble with background noise, voices in particular. If a television is on in the same room as somebody I’m trying to have a conversation with I can’t tune it out. My mom tends to leave the set on because she likes the noise. To me it’s like constantly hearing somebody call out my name. It’s really distracting and it cuts through to my ears. I’ve started wearing noise-canceling headphones to block sounds like that and to channel my focus on things I actually want to listen to like some of my favorite playlists.

This ducktails nicely into the idea of creating ritual and routine. I have playlists of music I work to because they have an energizing effect on me. They also reinforce the idea that now it’s time to concentrate on work, helping me transition from whatever mode I was in before into one for working. Likewise I also have relaxation playlists for winding down at the end of the day and accepting work time is over. I can get fussy and repetitive with my music, listening to the same artists over and cover as I find it comforting. I listen to a lot of instrumental tracks so the words don’t distract me, unless it’s an album I’ve listened to so much I’m used to it. I try to do as much mental heavy lifting early in the day as I can so my decisions are sharp. Laying out images takes up more headspace than the straight forward tasks of refining and inking or coloring them. It’s easy to get bored with ADHD I need to give myself enough wiggle room to play and enjoy what I’m working on. I don’t want to be my own version of the coworker who did all the creative work on a project and hands it off for the grunt work.

Anxiety tends to be triggered by regular factors. These can vary from person to person so it’s good to know what things set you off so you can avoid them. For me it’s situations where I might not know enough about what’s going on and fear looking stupid. This ramps up when I see others don’t have confidence in me. I hate being rushed or held late, especially when I’m tired and having trouble focusing. This happens to me more than it should as I have trouble excusing myself because I’m afraid it’ll be awkward.

Ben's cat Hope

Being Well Rested

Sleep has a lot to do with how we feel. I know it’s hard to get enough rest, especially when we’re busy, but I really do notice when I’m stressed out that I haven’t been sleeping regularly. We’ve all tried that sleep math of a nap here, a few hours there, hoping it adds up. It’s not just the amount of sleep but the quality of sleep we get. If you sleep through the night you’ll feel better than you would if you woke up every hour. When I haven’t had enough sleep I’ll be irritable. I’ll try to work and nothing will feel right. Even if it’s something I really want to work on I’ll be struggling. Sometimes this leads to getting frustrated with myself and it’ll spiral from there. It’s something I’ve become aware of and need to take steps to prevent from happening.

Now and then I need to remind myself to step back. I have to give myself permission to relax and take some time away from what’s bothering me. Occasionally that means calling it a night and coming in fresh the next morning. Once in a while it means scaling back my expectations so I don’t push myself too hard. Plenty of times it means snuggling with my cat and being ok with what I’ve gotten done for the day.

I’m sure I’ll be writing more on this topic in the future as I get better at recognizing what sets off my anxiety and compensating for it. I’ve learned to not fight with the anxiety so much as accept I’m going to feel it, that it’s ok to get upset sometimes, and remember it’s not going to last forever. Everyone feels anxiety at some points in their lives. It’s a matter of not letting it control us or stop us from doing what we want with our lives. I’d like to thank you for taking the time for reading this far. If you have any advice or comments you’d like to share I’d love to hear them. How do you handle your anxiety issues?