Back to the grind

The last few weeks have been filled with ‘life’ things, so ‘comic’ things have had to take a back seat. It’s been pretty hard to break back in.

Since mid-October I’ve been doing a lot less art and comics work. Preparing for MCM (and then tabling at it) took up a lot of the latter half of October, and since November started I’ve had a ton of stuff to sort out, not least my heating system falling apart on the cusp of winter leading to me having to quickly get the whole thing replaced. Picking up a pencil has been hard enough, let alone trying to find time and space to actually do anything with it.

This week I finally got back on the horse (luckily I didn’t choose to draw it as well; that may have broken me). I actually found it a lot harder to do that than I expected. I’ve only had a few weeks away from it all, but I came back to things feeling completely unable to do anything. I was picking up half-finished pages of Heads! and feeling like I wasn’t able to create anything up to that standard. I thought I’d try something different, but all the ideas I had seemed even harder to achieve. Even doodling stuff was futile; I found myself making pointless, low quality images which made me feel even more inadequate.
One of the things that got me was timing. I realised that I wasn’t getting to draw at the times I wanted to draw. Sadly, life doesn’t allow us all to fully command when and where we do what, but I decided to try and pick moments rather than seize moments. I am a long distance runner and am well aware of how defeating it can be to force yourself out to do a long training run when the timing isn’t right. However, I thought about what was good about the bad runs. I remembered that if I felt like I was running for the sake of running while I felt low or tired it was a useless run. I would be more tired afterwards, wouldn’t have achieved anything other than sweat patches and would feel like I was further away from what I was aiming for than when I started. However, if I set out on a run with the intention of just enjoying it no matter how well I did, I found I ran better than I expected and, in some cases, actually did a decent time or distance.

The main way I managed to do this in running was not wearing a watch. I usually time my runs so that I know how well the training is going (particularly if I’m training for a race). But without a watch to keep time I would only be able to judge how well I was doing by how I felt. Putting down the one thing that I was rating myself against gave me back the freedom to just enjoy it for the sake of it. But how could I apply this to drawing comics?

I thought about what I most wanted to draw. Right now, I want to get the third issue of Heads! finished off (I’m just over halfway through). That felt like the thing that would please me most. Then I thought about what was unenjoyable about drawing it. I had a pang of discomfort as I realised that my desire to have the whole thing finished by the end of November was bugging me. A lot. It made me understand that my self-imposed deadline was looming and that I couldn’t achieve it. That made the whole thing feel not just difficult, but a little bit pointless.

So I let it go.

The deadline was there to keep me motivated (see my previous blog for more details on that). If I was working for a publisher on a contract and the deadline was ‘real’ I would have been working in a very different way from the start. So I let it go. I accepted that it is more important for me (and for my readers) that the finished issue is of the best quality work I can produce, even if it takes a bit longer than planned.

Unburdened, I felt able to draw again. The resulting first page I completed was a joy to create and turned out to be much more intricate than I ever expected, so it will really soar in the new issue. I’m not going to have it all done by the end of the month, but you know, it’ll be worth the wait.

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