I am a junkie. I love the comic making process, probably because I know enough about it to get me high on my own fumes, and to saddle me into my high horse on Twitter, and most likely to awkwardly kill myself, but not yet enough to really give me the Vertigo visions and so chase on I shall. Ever imbibing, forever tilting at the windmills of four colour knowledge, and never knowing when to shut my gd trap.
This column is going to be a lot about the comic making process but only really as I see/know/do it through my peepers. It’s going to be eclectic, it’s going to no doubt be false, it’ll be a classroom with no teacher and all of us groping blindly through texts to see what purchase our thirsty fingertips can find, and it’s certainly going to be personal. As such, I have titled it ymmv so I don’t need to reiterate that point repeatedly.
Now, let us do this. Our guide on the path of false truths shall be a number:
That’s how many people live in my house.
I am a writer, but I’m also a husband, a father, a family man, a human away from the page and the worlds and the goddamn buzzing Twitter hivemind always one salacious subtweet away from nirvana. I’m a teacher, a guy who always wants to be just that bit more fit, a dude who does not call his extended family anywhere near enough.
Like everyone, I am a human with a list of priorities, and I am meeting none of them to an exemplary degree. Well, I think I’m a good husband/father– I kind of have to be, they are the top of the list and the ones I will never accept a redundancy package for.
But, I am a writer, and that’s a wickedly self-involved profession. As such, a balance must be found and struck. A concept which will make you lol hard if you are in the same position.
There’s a great quote from Matt Fraction in the HC rerelease of Casanova Vol. 2: Gula where [as he contains annotations of his previous single issue back matter] he reflects on the time he initially wrote:
“Summer: lost in Robert Schneider’s pop symphonies, walking the dogs in blast furnace heat, thinking about baseball and CASANOVA. When I figured out the Big Secret in 14, the apples were on. It was Friday; me and Kel went out for sushi. I was distracted.”
And annotating Fraction writes about this old statement:
“I RUINED A DINNER because I wouldn’t push pause on the idea. That was the end of my belief in the writer’s saw about the work just taking over. Bullshit. You’re being rude, antisocial, obnoxious, or receding from social obligations. Don’t talk about writing like your ideas are malevolent spirits. You just don’t want to do shit and like being alone, jackass.”
I love this exchange between the many Matt Fractions of space and time because it shows that writers are and might forever be rotting sacks of self-involved batguano, but that we might also eventually and finally transcend our ego-obsessive romantic bullshit to understand John Donne was right, we aren’t islands, we are difficult to access tips of land jutting out into ferociously dark and bitter waters and if you want to keep eye contact with the other fixed points of land then you have to hold fast and damn well concentrate on it.
You are not going to do anything great subconsciously.
You want to be a great comic maker, then roll out your curriculum, study, improve, and grind down the stone with your nose every single day.
You want to stay married to that gorgeous bird currently slumming with your tired daydreaming ass. You want to spend quality time with the kids, time you aren’t breaking story behind your faux smiling daddy facade, the one those little social codebreakers see through in 3 seconds flat.
You need to consider the 4 people in your house. You need to prioritise time. You need to become efficient, laser focused, a peep who takes procrastination and delivers unto it a swift kick to the dick [because yes, procrastination, with all its empty promises and wasted hours is totally a dude, and most like a sweaty dudebro].
Then you need to know, and I mean deeply realise and understand, that you are going to fail at this. You are going to screw it up, you are going to do it wrong, and you are going to hate those times. But those times won’t be all the time. I hope.
As a writer, you are geared to think about the 1 from time to time [or the eleventy hundred characters under your stewardship at any given time] but you need to sit up, stretch, and remember the other 3 you have. And don’t trick yourself into thinking if you keep working harder at those comics that it’ll provide for them and then you are thinking about that 3. Wrong, you are creating a divide, you are pretending you are only thinking of the 3 and you aren’t considering them as part of the 4.
Plus, you are making excuses so you can squirrel away and play with your toys. Put the taun taun down, search your feelings, you know this to be true.
So, instead, take a night off and rub the wife’s feet. Go outside and play with the kids and give them your full attention. Save up and take the family to the coast for a few nights.
Step away from the words. If you are worth your salt, they’ll always be waiting for your return. Don’t burn the apples, know when to consider you aren’t the only one.
For me, number 4 is the very first number that matters and that I need to consider. Right now my to do list is at 10, with 2 other things already crossed off, my inbox just pinged up to 11 [a great number for me, I worked hard through July to bring it down and now I’m determined to do that – usually maintaining a single digit before sleep each night], I have maybe 90 minutes before I really need to be in bed, so that still gives me 5-10 minutes of solid Tumblr surfing to cloud the mind before sleep [of which the number of hours is never enough], and then up early to go teach 28 kids and not fall asleep in front of them.
I juggle numbers all the time but the only one I never throw in the air is 4.
4 is my constant.
4 is my priority.
Dedicate yourself to the craft but be a human first. You’ll find it actually helps your creative process in the long run. Maybe, ymmv.
Ryan K. Lindsay is a comics writer who has logged time at Dark Horse, Monkeybrain, Vertigo and other esteemed publishers. He currently writes Negative Space, a comic we here at Loser City love quite a bit. You can (and should) pick Negative Space up from your local comic shop or directly through Dark Horse.