What do you want to do with your day?

  • On October 17, 2009 ·
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This is a question posed by Merlin Mann recently in an interview with Scott Kurtz for Webcomics Weekly. As I understood it, Mr. Mann believes this is the question guidance counselors should be asking instead of the abstract, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You could answer such a question with, “An adult.” The true heart of the matter is, what do you want to spend your time doing? What’s important to you, what activity makes you happy and feel most accomplished spending your time on? Do that. When you say you wanna be a cartoonist, or a doctor, or what have you, you’re clinging to some idealized end goal. Everyone tells the kid who wants to be a doctor, “Hey, that’s great! Good luck with that.” Then he realizes how hard it is to get into med school, and how long it takes, how much work is really involved. So instead he becomes something else – possibly related to medicine and possibly something else entirely.

I was pondering this when my alarm went off at 6 this morning. 6 am on a Saturday. Why would any person set his alarm for such a time on the weekend unless he had to be somewhere? Because I need to be here. I need to get some work done on this project so I can launch it. I need to draw this thing I’m seeing in my head because it looks really cool and I’m eager to show other people what I’m seeing. The cat and I are the only ones up in the house right now, the folks I stay up late talking to are all asleep, and honestly I love being up early in the morning. I feel productive and it’s when I actually do some good work. What other reward is there for being up this early except the satisfaction of being able to work in peace? I was eager when I went to bed. I really wanted to get rested and start today off.

Is it hard to do this reliably? You bet. I’ll get up early a couple days in a row, then something will happen that’ll keep me up until one in the morning, or I’ll be wiped out and can’t get out of bed until noon. So why do it? Because I want to be here at this hour. I need to be here. Every day we gets preempted by other people, their wants, their needs, their problems. And you can make an honest effort to help them and give of your time. But sometimes you give too much of yourself. Sometimes to the point where you’re frustrated and sometimes to the point where you’re wondering what happened to your own work. I’m still trying to learn how to properly deal with other people myself. But what I can do is be proactive about my own time. That can mean telling people I need to go to bed when I know I’m up early. Or it can be persevering in the morning even if you haven’t slept much. Whatever’s most important to you is worth pursuing.

Steve Jobs once said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” It’s important to do what you want to do. Too often we forget this on the small scale and it comes back to bite us on the large scale. Some of the most productive and interesting people have a regular schedule they keep to because it makes them comfortable and the ritual puts them in the mindset to work. Stephen King has compared getting ready to work a lot like getting ready for bed. He’s also said, â€Å“My own schedule is pretty clear-cut. Mornings belong to whatever is new – the current composition. Afternoons are for naps and letters. Evenings are for reading, family, Red Sox games on TV, and any revisions that just cannot wait. Basically, mornings are my prime writing time.” He writes when he’s fresh and ready to work, deals with other stuff after. I know so many people my age who wait until they’re done with everything else before ever starting their own work. And really, is that what you want to do with your day?

Game Plan

Currently I’m working on the prologue that’ll introduce us to the new comic. I’ve got a launch date set but I’m not ready to announce it. (I’d like to have material done in advance first.) What I can say is I’m figuring more out about the comic as I work on it. I’ll be releasing it in subchapters with each update being as long as that segment of the story requires. Once it gets rolling I’ll post blogs about the previous update with pencils, design sketches, and other development stuff. That way the site won’t just sit dormant in between story updates.

I think I’ll share some stuff now while I’m at it. I linked these on my twitter awhile ago asking for opinions on the rendering styles. It all started with a sketch of one of the main characters, Virgil.

Early sketch of Virgil, one of the main characters

From there I tried some toning techniques on him.

Various B/W toning experiments with some color trials as well

The first couple I tried different halftone fill patterns which can be a little unpredictable if they’re not uniform. I’ve done projects with them before and I know the headaches of trying to keep the same patterns consistently over multiple pages. By the 3rd I’d moved on to using grays. Then I thought I’d try using some colors so I could just play with the saturation levels. This would be handy for the things I’m going to do in color (Covers, posters, etc.) but I don’t want to spend the time rendering in color if I know I can’t print it like that. I also tinkered with knock-outs by coloring the outlines, which disappears on thin lines, especially when shrunk down.

Sketch of Virgil with outlines knocked out in color

I also tried to overlay a halftone pattern because I really wanted to invoke the feeling of an old newspaper comic or something salvaged from that era. Lowering the saturation on the second line of tests aged it a little but it also makes me think of tones in movies. If you look at the tones on Superman’s suit in Superman Returns, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I didn’t want the styling to call that much attention to itself so it’ll probably be more subdued in the end.

Sketch of Virgil toned in gray with halftone overlay

This is also just an early development sketch. His costume isn’t going to be as overly retrofied as this and his hair is going to be different. Over-all though he came out like I was visioning him. His structure is fun for dynamic posing and I’m looking forward to seeing how he looks in clean inks and finished rendering. I’m going to pencil each page per subchapter, then ink them, then render/letter them all. Cycle, rinse, repeat for the next subchapter. Meaning I need to complete each stage before I move on. Hopefully this adds some consistency and a little more polish to the whole thing.

Come join the 24 Hour Comics Day tinychat!

UPDATE: Room has changed to http://tinychat.com/24hcd due to the flood of people not doing anything related to comics

All day long, come on into http://tinychat.com/24hourcomicsday and stream or watch people stream as they make comics!

24 Hour Comics Day Approacheth

Ok, so Saturday is 24 Hour Comics Day. Usually I forget and find out about it after the fact but this year I’m gonna try to get involved. I’ll be doing the webcomic equivalent which is getting ahead on pages for my next update. If it turns out to be 24 pages that’d be handy but I won’t know until I get it finish the layouts. I’m looking forward to following other artists as they stream online. I miss working in a big, busy, noisy studio. I might even open up a room on tinychat if anybody else is around and wants to join in. I’m probably not going to be working the full 24 hours but Saturday is going to be a very productive day. I’ll try to update the blog as it goes, too.

Posting for the dot

My last couple weeks have been pretty crazy. Lots of unexpected stuff popping up. I’ve been trying to sort it all together to even figure out what I’m doing, much less make a post about it. Anyway, here’s some news you can use.

Tweetboard

If you looked on the left side of the site you’ll see I’ve added this nice little tool called Tweetboard that takes twitter and turns it into something of a threaded forum. What’s the point of this when I already have the Community and my twitter posts in the right sidebar? Well I figured it might be a more interesting way to display twitter and interact with you folks out there who use it, too. The Community is a great place to have more complex discussions but Tweetboard is a nice way to replace comments – which, let’s be honest, I can’t turn on because of horrible horrible spam. It’s an experiment I’ll work on even more as I find more time to post on the site.

The Comic

I’m going to update it in batches, maybe subchapters at time, as I finish them. I have no idea how regular they’ll be but they’ll be more frequent that way than if I tried posting a page at a time. I want to start posting my concept and development sketches in the blog, I’m just concerned with how much will actually find it’s way into the story and I don’t want to spoil anything. And speaking of story, that’s evolving as I’m figuring out the world in which it takes place. I’m working out the backstory and history of 2071 and I keep coming up with different things to add like 3 chapters in. But that’s the way it works. I’m letting the ideas flesh themselves out and then going back to the opening and making it as exciting as I can based on what’s developing.

The Blog

The home page here is going to host my expanded thoughts and comments on the day as well as the latest chapters of the story as they come out. I’ll have a sub-page dedicated just to the comic but this will be more of where I tell you what’s going on and show you drawing board stuff. Don’t be surprised if characters or story segments are completely different when they reach the final page from the stuff I show in blog posts.

Back to the daily grind

I’ve been doing research/design work lately and it feels like I could plug away at that forever and not really get anywhere. I should really move onto actual pages. So starting tomorrow I’m going to be doing just that. And even if I go to bed at 3 in the morning again tonight I’m getting up to draw. Half the time I’m up because people I’m talking to keep me up and the other half I just can’t make myself go to bed because I’ve been up late too many times in a row. I’m not going to chew myself up over it. It’s normal for people my age to be up late at night and have trouble getting up early. I sometimes pop over to ustream.tv and watch other webcartoonists. It’s like going to Denny’s or IHOP. Everybody else is there and it reminds me that I’m not the only night owl.

I’m figuring I’ll draw a prologue and post that before I start regularly posting updates. I’m still not sure what the schedule’s going to be yet as I need to get a feel for how the story reads and how long it takes me to draw. Ideally I’d be posting something every day and strips on weekdays. I’m a little concerned that the story may move to where one page at a time isn’t doing it justice. Nobody wants to read an update that just moves the story forward but doesn’t go anywhere in and of itself. In that case I’d post several pages at a time. But I hate dumping a whole bunch at once if the traffic isn’t there yet. I’ll sort it out as I come to it.

Be on an episode of the No-Rights Podcast! Watch free movies! #mne

I know I’ve mentioned it in the Community but I figured I should post it here, too. Tonight at 9pm EST I’m gonna be hosting a show on tinychat.com (Specifically tinychat.com/norights) and you’re all invited to come! We’ll discuss 4 movies I’ve been meaning to review and then watch some public domain films together, critiquing them MST3K style as they play. You can just tune in and watch, participate in the chat, or even use your webcam and join in the discussion! It’s gonna be a fun time for all and I’ll be recording the audio for the next episode of the No-Rights Podcast. See you there 🙂

Twitter apps

I use twitter a lot because it’s flexible and an easy way to keep track of/contact a lot of people. I use it to update my Facebook status and it’s great for finding useful links. The home page is nice and useful but you don’t always want your browser open. So I’ve downloaded an assortment of different apps and I’m going to show you the ones I keep going back to.

Twitterrific sits in the menubar. You can click the icon to bring out a Heads Up Display to view the timeline of who you’re following and to post your own tweets. You can set growl alerts to show new tweets as they come in at your own discretion. It’s lightweight in the good way. It stays out of sight until you need it and the growls let you know if anybody’s saying anything you want to check out in the full timeline. My problem is I follow a lot of people and would like the ability to limit growls to just the group of folks I really want to hear from without having to look at everybody.

TweetDeck is the beastly do-everything app that uses Adobe Air to run across different operating systems. This is nice but it doesn’t make use of Mac-specific features like growls and it eats up space in the dock. I’m sure for a power twitter user it’d be awesome but it’s overkill for me and I’d rather use an app more native to my OS.

Tweetie is native as hell on the Mac and very sexy. It has a menubar icon that shows and hides it, though it still keeps an icon in the dock for some reason. Downside is it doesn’t use growl or groups. It’d be very nice for posting but not so much on the following.

Mac Lounge had an interesting beta, but that’s apparently between versions at the moment and you can’t use a version that’s expired. Apparently they believe giving you a screenshot is more useful than a less-than-perfect but usable release. (I thought that’s what a beta was?)

Nambu is interesting in that you can configure it in a lot of ways like Twiterrific. It supports groups, (and has a nice system for managing them visually using avatars) does growls, has a retweet button which boggles my mind that other apps don’t have, hides by clicking the menubar icon, even leaves the dock if you want it to. However there are a number of issues keeping me from using it as my main app. For example, whenever you remove the dock icon, you can edit preferences, but you can’t quit the app. The only way to do that is by restarting your machine entirely. And there’s no “load at login” option, either. Also whenever you click on a tweet for any reason whenever the timeline updates it stays on that one tweet, forcing you to scroll up. The only way to get around this is by clicking the top tweet, but that just starts the same problem all over again when new messages arrive. And although it has the best way to manage groups it gets very tedious when you follow a lot of people. Having to click their avatar, then right click, the going down in the group listing to find the specific group they belong to and selecting it, that wears you down. And if you don’t know you’re doing it wrong you can go through your entire list before realizing you haven’t changed anything. Then there’s the fact that, if you use Spaces, the window always reopens in the same Space, even if you’re on another one, and you get forced back. But the biggest problem with me is still simple growl notification. So I can make different user lists of people’s updates but I can only get growl updates for everybody. Why is this such a difficult feature that nobody’s been able to implement yet?

I know it sounds like I’m nit-picking here, but these are checkbox settings for an app I’d use all the time. Imagine if your IM client played an annoying sound every time somebody sent you a message and you couldn’t turn it off. It would get on your nerves pretty quickly. Since most of these are still beta-ish I’m hoping they’ll improve down the line so at least one will do everything I need. New apps and features come out all the time so eventually a solution’s bound to show up. I just thought I’d share some of the interesting ones I’ve stumbled across since there’s a boatload of ’em out there.

Goin’ to see Reel Big Fish tonight :)

Busy week ahead. Tonight I’m going to see Reel Big Fish. Then Kyle and I will be watching some movies and recording reviews for the podcast. Fun times will surely be had by all.

It feels a little weird, after spending so much time tinkering with the site, to have most of it done. There’s only a few things left to do now and some of them can’t even be done until later anyways. For example, now that I’ve been folding all the other domains under this one, I should move Lil’ Reaper Books over. That’s going to be the shop site where I list all the books and other things I have for sale. However, I can’t really put a page together until I decide what to put there. I’ve got some stuff on Lulu I need to take down (It’s not practical, designs are outdated, yadda yadda) and I’ve got 2 items on Comixpress I’d like to eventually stock and ship myself. But really I’m looking to take everything I have up already down so I can start fresh. I’ve found several interesting shopping cart systems I can try, I just need to actually have the items before putting a shop up.

I’m also going to organize a thorough About page with bio/contact info and details on the comics and other projects. I’ve got a pretty clear direction of where I’ll be headed for awhile and I’ll be posting here with updates and links as I work. It’s nice to have a main hub I can focus my energy on for now. I really spread myself out over those other sites when really I should be focusing on the work itself.

Come join the community!

Comunity’s Open!

The No-Rights Community is now up and running. Come get your free account and join in the fun. I’m looking forward to posting movie reviews and discussing all sorts of things. Cartoons, comics, bands… you name it. Gonna be a good time 🙂

Reviews of forum packages

I tried a handful of different forums trying to decide on one. Here’s a quick rundown of each

Simple:Press Forum

This plugin for WordPress is very easy to install, integrates into pre-existing themes fairly well, and users don’t have to register for a different system in order to log in. In the end I decided a standalone forum would probably be less of a resources strain.

phpBB

Arguably the most popular free option out there, it’s got a lot of features and my webhost offers it as a one-click install. Of course, when something’s popular it’s also more likely to come under attack. phpBB3 is a step up in security and anti-spam, but I was looking for something a little more lightweight. Also I have a bit of a philosophical difference of opinion when it comes to displaying posts. phpBB likes to organize everything into different forums you then have to click and open to look through. I can understand this if there’s a large user base with plenty of discussion categories established. Personally I’d rather see that people are actually posting discussions right up front.

BBPress

Automattic, the folks behind WordPress, have their own forum solution. It integrates with WP and puts posts above the categories in it’s display. It’s fairly lightweight, requiring plugins to provide extended features. The problem I had was with compatibility. If I want to integrate WP 2.8 with BBPress I need to use version 1.0 that recently had it’s official release. And with that I find plugins don’t work. I understand this is mostly a transitional thing and from what I’ve seen BBPress gets the short end of the stick whenever WP decides to change something in an upgrade. I could try the .9 series as a standalone but I’d really rather give 1.0 a couple months to a year to sort itself out and see how it shines. In the mean time I went with another option. (I liken this to my recent switch from ComicPress to Webcomic & Inkblot. Both are great solutions and whichever one fits my needs best at the time is the one I’m going to use.)

Vanilla

Lussumo have developed this simple forum framework that functions similarly to BBPress and I must say I was on the fence about which one I wanted to use for awhile. I figure WordPress integration isn’t the biggest deal-breaker as the community itself can sport the features it needs with plugins. (And Vanilla has some plugins going back to 2006 that still function fine.) Vanilla2 is still in heavy beta but 1.1.8 is so solid I’ll use it for the time being.