Those who have met me for longer than, say, 10 minutes will know that I am a worrier. I'm also a planner and an organiser. Although these qualities can bring on little spells of anxiousness, for the most part they help me achieve my goals in a timely fashion.
I make lists of what I need to get done, what blog posts I'm going to write, and what my goals are for the future (both comics and life related). I write daily, weekly and monthly lists. And this year I have even written a general all-year plan.
I think about things I want to do before I turn 27. I think about skills I need to gain to improve my comics. I think about things I want to know about to make me a more interesting person. And then I write lists about them.
I use colours to indicate which day I complete the tasks on my weekly studio To Do lists, so I can track how much I get done in one day. All these things are great and all and even can help me to remember/put straight all the ideas and things I've got to get done. But at the moment I don't feel like I have enough things on my To Do list to justify the time I put into them.
As part of finishing off the first draft of my script (read the post about that here), I've kind of ended up in a bit of a post-project slump (unfortunately, I haven't even finished the project, just a draft of a section of it). I know I've done quite a lot of work towards my graphic novel book and there is nothing wrong with wanting a little break or breathing space from the work. Working on a personal story like Oh Brother means that some days in the studio are quite emotionally draining. The work gets me to think about a lot of things to do with my brother, both past and future, that scare me. It feels weird finishing off something big, the biggest thing I've ever done (in comics), and I feel a little lost.
So I've been taking a break while waiting for feedback from a variety of people I've asked to read my rough draft script and during this break I've been in a limbo of wanting to do more work on Oh Brother and wanting to just draw stuff for fun. In the past week I've had a huge urge to write something fictional or to start experimenting with different art mediums (coloured pencils being a favourite at the moment). But I feel guilty for wanting a break from the work, for wanting to get out of the studio and sit in cafes and sketch and think about fantasy worlds and just draw things I really like drawing (instead of having to draw my brother or me over and over again).
It's not like I don't have things to do. I have plenty of emails and a few commissions that I'm finally catching up on. But the To Do lists seem to mock me; they are filled with days sitting at a computer and my body just wants to get out there and draw and experience the world. And then the guilt comes in and I get stuck in this middle zone of not sending emails and then spending time out at cafes thinking about the emails I should be sending, not enjoying being out in the world.
At the start of the year, I had it all worked out. I put in wiggle room (just in case I couldn't do things as quickly as I thought I would). I sent the outlines to my mentors, proud as punch and determined that I would finish the whole book (final art and everything) by the end of the year. I would achieve this while working part-time and playing roller derby and seeing my friends and family occasionally. My mentor Pat's first email told me not to rush the book. That I shouldn't worry if I didn't finish it by the end of the year. And I soon realised that he was right. By March/April I had changed my overall plan to finishing the final art for part one of the book, along with the scripts for parts 2 and 3. I would be able to get that done no problem by the end of the year. And again I soon realised that no, if I still wanted to work part-time, play roller derby and ever leave the house/studio to see daylight, I would either need to cut down my goal or cut out another factor. This was when I realised that I wanted to make a go at drawing comics full-time and took 6 months Leave Without Pay from my work.
Since starting my leave from work a couple of months ago, I have hung out with Pat and worked on my written script, learnt how to thumbnail and then completely thumbnailed my script, and created a 100 page readable rough draft of part one of my comic. I felt like I was on track to complete my goals for the rest of 2016. I felt like I had made the right decision. I have loved being in the studio full-time and wish that it's what I could do for living. But then I worry that turning making comics/illustration into something that I rely on for money will take away the magic or worse I won't be able to be self-motivated enough to keep finding work. But sometimes when I think about going back to an office job I just can't imagine me doing that right now.
However, at one recent feedback session with two comics pals (Greg Holfeld and Robin Tatlow-Lord), they suggested that maybe I shouldn't jump right in and do finished art for the whole of part one, but rather maybe pick a section/story and just finish that as a sample and then send the publishers the full draft and the sample story with finished art. This was good advice, or at the very least something to think about. Unfortunately it meant that I couldn't just jump straight into my plan of doing the final art for part one. I needed to sit down and figure out what to do next.
And that's pretty much where I'm at. Not sure which way to go and waiting for feedback. Not sure about what I want to do in my near future. Knowing that in January I head back to a good office job and that I would be crazy (from a stability point of view) not to want to go back. But I just can't shake this feeling that I need to try to make a go of drawing comics for real. It's not just something I want to do, it's something I feel like I need to do.
So, while I wait until that moment I finally decide what I'm doing next (which I'm sure will change regularly), I will keep writing lists upon lists, trying to figure out what I need to get done today, this week, next month, in five years, until I figure it out.
Phew! Sorry for such a wordy post. I promise to have some more illustrated ones soon.
Stay classy folks,