I started this blog to share things. Behind the scenes stuff, advice, and sometimes just to work out my own problems so maybe somebody else can gleam something useful from it. Today I’d like to talk about standing still. Specifically the feeling of standing still. What do I mean by that? I mean there are times when we regularly take stock of ourselves and our achievements. Sometimes we find we’re not going anywhere or even going backwards in our efforts. I’m a believer in being proactive about our lives. If there’s something we want to do and we aren’t we can change our own fate.
That’s not to say we’re going to climb the mountain over night. We must take each day and each task one at a time. We must make decisions on what is or isn’t what we want for ourselves and strive for what we desire. Sometimes we become bogged down by other things – distractions, outside circumstances or influences, the occasional lie we tell ourselves that we need to overcome in order to make something of ourselves. The truth is we need to make something of ourselves in order to make something of ourselves. The hero doesn’t just become celebrated but has to earn it first. I’ve mentioned this before in my posts Being Happy, Be Careful With Your Dreams, and Cultivating Inspiration. We need to be aware of our lives, take responsibility for them, and work on being happy with them.
Sometimes there are days when I don’t feel like doing anything. I’ll be depressed, stressed out about something or somebody, or just drained in some way or another. Every now and again you need to rest and recharge. You also have to look at your life and the things that aggravate you and decide how to deal with them. This person frustrates me, they’re asking too much of me, they’re not considering my feelings, whatever the problem is. Figure it out and deal with it. And sometimes the problem isn’t somebody else, it’s you. Yes, you can stand in your own way sometimes and you need to account for it.
Remember the scene in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure where our heroes discuss when they’re going to be famous? One believes they’re not going to make it until they get Eddie Van Halen on guitar. The other believes they need to have a good music video. Eventually they realize the problem is maybe they need to actually learn how to play. This may be a fictionalization but conversations like this happen all the time in real life. I can’t start my epic masterpiece until I have a Wacom Cintiq to draw it on. Nobody’s coming to my site because all the successful webcomics are elitist frauds who make up fake followers on Twitter and lie about their traffic. (There are actually people who believe these things.)
Merlin Mann gave a talk recently where he asked folks to consider what was really important in their lives. You might say your family, your career, your kids, whatever. But if you tracked their time based on what they’re actually doing with their day, you’d think the most important thing to them would be Facebook. There’s a lot going on in this talk so I suggest you watch it yourself and see what insight you can pull from it.
He makes a good point when he stresses how our e-mail alerts call us to come check what new thing has come in, making us put down whatever it is we’re creating at the moment. Should anything have that power? Should a mechanic put down their tools when anybody walks into the shop and decides to talk to them? Should a person become reliant on that inbox to tell them what person they have to be that day, what duties they have to perform, and whether they’re going to have a good day or a bad one? I admit to using e-mail alerts to let me know when I have something new. (And I also complain when I’m sent yet another useless “This week!” newsletter for some site or service I don’t regularly use much less care about.) I also use Twitteriffic to keep up with tweets from people I’m following and I keep signed into my IM clients in case anybody wants to talk to me. Should I do that? Or should I totally disappear from the internet until all my work is done and play catch up at the end of the day?
This is why people use applications like Rescue Time to track what they actually do with their day, Concentrate and Isolator to stay focused, and Freedom to intentionally disconnect themselves from the internet for a specific period of time. I’m not too crazy about these “save me from myself” applications. I get that they serve a purpose but it’s not particularly empowering to me to decide you’re so reliant on these other apps that you have to use another one to drag yourself away from them. This is where keeping regular hours and a schedule or routine is important. I like getting up early, working on things, then calling it a day when it’s time to rest. Of course, webcartoonists often do the cartooning thing after their 9-5 day job and if you watch Twitter you can see the night owls going to bed just shy of when I try to come into the studio. You do what you have to for the things that are important to you. Sometimes that means staying up all night to get that page finished or you’ll never get it done. Other times it means calling it a night and going to bed because you know you’ll only ruin things if you try to work without enough sleep. Managing your own time can be hard but it’s an important thing to stay on top of. There are days where I can’t even get to drawing because there’s some website issue I have to resolve, or I need to do some writing, or some other crisis needs my attention.
This goes back to the whole standing still concept. If I spend my days writing blogs as opposed to drawing comics am I going forward or standing still? I could take a nod from Kevin Smith and turn those blogs into a book or something, sure, but I don’t want them to be a regular focus of the site. Like I said, some days I just can’t get to the drawing table. Or even if I do I won’t always finish a page a day. That’s a pretty tall order when you think about it. So what I need to do is work on a great big batch of pages at once. I worked on a more bite-sized batch when I made the Prologue and it felt good to have a bunch done at once. I really like working that way, too. The only problem is how quiet the site gets while I build up that buffer. But I’ll be posting things I learn as I work in making probably the biggest batch of comics I’ve worked on all together at one time ever before. There are habits I had when working on the Prologue that improved the way my pages came out and there were some that slowed it down. I’m curious what things I’ll pick up this time around.