This is where we’re going to drop all niceties, false pre-tenses and notions. This is where we get serious. Don’t make excuses. Stop finding reasons not to finish the job. Stop using your own weaknesses or gaps in skills as an excuse not to draw your comic or write your book. Just because you don’t have the skills yet doesn’t mean you can’t work on your project while you’re learning. One of the best ways to learn is on-the-job experience and the same goes for drawing and writing and finishing your graphic novel. Don’t wait until you’re done reading this book to start it. Read this book as time allows, bit by bit or chapter by chapter, when you’re not busy making your comics. Put the work first. I will talk more about that later in the book, but in the meantime, let me enlighten you as to how you can make changes in your life to make completing your own comic, graphic novel or book possible.
Not everyone is blessed with the skills for success the way I am, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took many years for me to master the various skills and stages of making my own comic books. For many years I could only handle one, maybe even two, parts of the entire concept-through-production cycle, if at least one of the parts were small. Remember how I mentioned learning from other professionals in the previous chapter? Well the same professionals can also help you create your own book. You can find skilled and helpful artists, colorists, letterists, writers or whatever you need at any price level. All those friends that you made at conventions? Some of them are really good colorists, some of them are writers working as letterists until they can get their big break. There are a lot of ways that you can work together with people. Check out comic book chat boards. Make friends and let people know that you’re looking for collaborators. You might have amazing writing skills, but can’t draw a stick figure. That’s okay. It is okay to seek help and work together with other talented people. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t worked with some amazingly talented people who created amazing artwork that I had the privilege of coloring or lettering or writing the script for. There are a plethora of opportunities.
Go online and look at websites like digitalwebbing.com, where you can post an ad looking for collaborators to share in the work of making your comic. There are separate sections where you can post an ad for people looking for paid work or those looking for collaborations. If you’re on a limited budget, then you’ll likely want to focus on those willing to collaborate with you. Just be aware you usually have to offer some incentive like a share of any sales when the book is finished and published. If you’ve got a little bit more financing to work with, then you may want to post an ad and offer a page rate for whatever it is you need help with in order to complete your comic book. You can also look at professional freelancing and book industry related sites like bibliocrunch.com or upwork.com. You can even find handy designers and artists at fiverr.com; just be aware you get what you pay for. You may want to talk to an artist first before clicking a hire button. Talk about the entire scope of what you need and expect and ask what they will charge you before you go ahead with the plan. Buying a basic $5 gig will often not fill your needs of professional presentation.
Make a habit
Start being a comic creator every day. Make it a habit. Every morning when you wake up, draw a panel before you do anything else.
Gerry Roberts, public speaker and author of books like The Millionaire Mindset and Publish a Book and Grow Rich, suggest that you attach new productive habits around your existing habits. For example, he says “write for five minutes before and after you brush your teeth. Do the same thing before and after you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.” Find a couple other habits during the day, positive things, part of your regular schedule that you don’t think about, and do your creative work for five minutes before and after. Once you got that down and aren’t struggling to do it, stretch the time before and after your current positive habits to 10 minutes of work before and after. So now you’re writing or drawing for 10 minutes before and after you brush your teeth and before and after each meal. Now slowly, over time, increase that amount of time and don’t allow other distractions to interfere with it until you’ve done your full time. You’ll soon find that the non-productive or distracted gaps between your daily habits get smaller and smaller. If you keep at it, those unproductive gaps will close up entirely and you’ll find yourself focusing for long stretches between your daily chores and getting a lot more work done.
Make a schedule
Start using a schedule. Plan out your days and weeks in advance. Know what you want to accomplish with clear goals and put them on your schedule. Do whatever it takes to meet those self-imposed deadlines. The best thing you can do is put it onto a real surface, on a real schedule that you can look at and say “I need to do this every day” or “this is due by the end of the week, so I have to focus on it.” If you’re using a digital calendar, have it give you automatic reminders on a daily basis. There are a number of free apps as well for mobile devices where you can create to-do lists that you can check things off as you finish them. As a result-oriented person, it feels great to look back at my to-do list and see all the things that I’ve checked off. Even if it starts out as just one or two hours a day where you focus on your creative work, do it just like we talked about making a habit above. Make it a habit, schedule and stick to your schedule and don’t let anybody or anything intrude on it. Make sure your family knows that you’re spending an hour after dinner every day writing and you’re not to be disturbed. Or instead of wasting time watching television, TiVo that shit and hunker down in your writing area or basement studio and spend one to two hours working on your creative project. At least I think they still use TiVo, I don’t know, I’m more of a Netflix person, so I just watch what I want when I’ve got time to watch it after I’m done with my creative work.
Make a change
This is the final and best tip I can make for getting serious about your creative work, but also the most difficult. We all have bad habits, situations and relationships that interfere with our ability to do our best work and focus on creating our comics. Maybe you are a heavy smoker or you are in an unstable relationship that causes you a lot of emotional distress and makes it hard to focus. Try to make a choice. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. You’re worth it and you deserve success, so you need to make sure that the rest of the world knows that as well. Sometimes it’s painful, but if you make a positive change to improve your life, you will always find yourself in a better place once the wounds have healed. If you’re in an abusive relationship, I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t say to do what you can to get out. Obviously it’s not easy, but it is worth it. Do you have a friend or partner that is less than supportive of your work and ideas? Someone who’s negative and constantly telling you that you can’t achieve your dreams? Realize that this has nothing to do with you. This person has given up on their own dreams and subconsciously hates the idea that maybe they gave up too easily and if you achieve your dreams, they will realize what they’ve lost. It’s all about them feeling better about themselves for five minutes by pushing you down or belittling you. Nobody needs people like that in their life. Remove yourself from the situation and the negative people as quickly as possible. It doesn’t have to be a confrontation; one can simply and quietly choose not to spend one’s time with those people anymore. Surround yourself with people who love and support you and return that positivity, love and support.
Some of us have self-destructive habits. As a former smoker and recovering alcoholic there’s nothing that irritates me more than non-smokers and recovering alcoholics who preach to people who choose to smoke and drink, trying to convince them to stop. I can only tell you this: in my personal experience, smoking and drinking were not healthy for me. It took a long time for me to realize that I had a problem and working toward the point above, realized that I was worth saving and it wasn’t worth self-destructing or killing myself with poisons. I’m not taking a self-righteous stand against drugs and there are plenty of other things both legal and illegal that I know you can get your hands on. I know personally that if I hadn’t given up my bad habits, I probably would not be alive today. Everything is fine in moderation; I’m one of those people who doesn’t really do moderation, so for me things like tobacco and alcohol are an all or none proposition. They may not represent the same challenge for you. If you like to have a drink after work on Fridays or with the guys after a ball game on the weekend, all the power to you. I make no moral judgments. Just be honest with yourself. If whatever your drug of choice happens to be is interfering with your life and your ability to conduct it on a daily basis, then it may be time to consider making a lifestyle change. Many of your friends and loved ones may already be thinking that but are too afraid to bring it up to you. You’ll be surprised how happy and encouraging some of them will be when you make the decision to live a healthier lifestyle. On top of that, writing and drawing involve a lot of sitting. I have had spans where I was working on a project for months at a time, spending all of my waking hours in a day at a drawing table. I could literally feel myself getting fatter every day. I have gained and lost weight like a yo-yo between major projects because of this and in keeping with the sentiments from above about drugs, I have had to develop a much healthier overall lifestyle. It’s a big change, but I want to be here for another 30 years or more to keep telling my stories and sharing my knowledge with people. The way I was living before would make that impossible. So now, whenever I can, I do my work standing up. If I’m typing a script, I have a standing work desk so that I’m not just sitting and that I can move around. They say that standing instead of sitting burns at least 50 more calories an hour while doing the same activity, according to a BBC News report. The other thing is eat healthier. I used to eat a lot of processed sugars and desserts and meat and would shun fruits and vegetables. I’ve done a 180 degree turn and now the majority of my diet is plant-based with a small percentage of meat and skipping the high fat and sugar desserts for tasty fruits or homemade fruit smoothies. Have you seen this thing called Yonanas? It’s awesome. It turns frozen fruit into frozen yogurt without the actual yogurt. It’s just like going to a frozen yogurt stand in the mall, but it’s made of 100% ground fruit. It’s wonderful and the machine is like $50 at Target now. Love it. Exercise is good too. I’m not going to go nuts and tell you to go out and buy one of those new treadmill work desks that you can order online for many thousands of dollars, but I will tell you this, I am currently on a treadmill right now. So far I have written half of this book while walking on the treadmill. I did not go buy one of those crazy treadmill desks. My girlfriend insisted on buying a treadmill a few months ago as a positive health change. She didn’t force me to use it, she wanted it for herself for her own health and fitness goals, but because I wanted to make a change for myself I’ve started using it and now I do a lot of my work while walking at a fair and even pace on the treadmill and voice dictate my work into my iPad. It might sound crazy or like some douchey newfangled fad or a scene from a bad futuristic sci-fi movie, but the reality is it works for me and it might work for you.
There’s no judgment in this section. We are all human beings and are all imperfect human beings. We all have guilty pleasures and we all want to be loved. No one deserves to be judged or denied love because of character flaws. This is not about not being good enough or telling you to be a better person. It’s about loving and taking care of yourself so that you can share your talents with others for a long time to come.