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Burning Out and Rebounding

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It’s been nearly a month since my last post, perhaps longer. I am not keeping track. After I attempted to create a deadline for myself to stick to and failed to meet it, the level of inconsistent dedication to my project has been inexcusable. I’ve become something of an unfocused unfulfilling project manager.

I have begun this week again to try and establish a routine that pushes my progress inch by inch further down the path. But while re-starting my engine again, I had come to learn something about my creative side… I was a little burnt out. I shouldn’t make such an excuse, but let’s be honest here- I am on month 17 of my first book, and that is a really long time to work on something.

So I thought I would find some good food for thought to share while trying to shake the cobwebs out of my dusty mind:

Find a routine that is custom made for you: There is such a thing as a positive balance between your life, your job, and your hobby or passion. If you exercise regularly, use this as a simple template to create time for yourself. Do you always do the same workout? Are you always on the same exact circuit? Do you have hard days and light days? The same can be done with your project. Just set some time aside each day or every other day to just sit there with it. Something will happen, and some days better than others, but make it a part of a manageable routine.

Don’t be so hard on yourself: On those bad or slow days, or days where you just don’t get much accomplished… don’t lose sleep over it. Of course that’s easy for me to say, I have lost an hour here or there wondering if I did something right, or could have done something better. I’ve even gone to bed annoyed wondering if it is even worth the time. It’s useless. You have a goal, right? Beating yourself up over it gets you nowhere near that goal. Call a bad day a day and move on. Tomorrow is another opportunity.

Find a way to enjoy your work: In times past, specifically with my drawing… I gauge my ability to draw other things if I find myself helplessly laboring over an image in my mind. Sometimes I like to check out what @sketch_dailes is tweeting, or @dailydoodle, or a number of other great cartoonists. Sometimes I look at the paper or visit http://nickandzuzu.com/ for hilarious inspiration and I create something original for myself or for others, just to get a much needed laugh reaction. Sometimes I use my characters. Sometimes I draw other iconic characters. I find a way to have fun with my work, by having fun with my skills. It makes my work enjoyable because it eliminates the feeling of failure. Just take some time out to have fun. Whatever field you are in, find a way to explore a way to share. That sort of interaction is always fulfilling.

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Thanks for visiting.

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Examining My Failure

93 days ago I declared I would hit my first real deadline of having a finished rough draft- color and all- done. 3 days ago, that deadline landed and I was nowhere near close to that. In fact, I never even got to the coloring phase. It was in other words a failure to meet my goal.
I felt disappointed and anticipated it. About 2 weeks away I realized I was not going to make it. If I was a full time illustrator with no other obligation (or full time job) to take care of, I was not going to get this done in the time. (I even posted a countdown on my twitter feed that kind of fell flat and silent.)
Creatively, I have been keeping a steady pace of work up. I can’t say I have avoided doing the work. I believe I could have done more, but I still believe I put in a good deal of work. Part of the reason for this failure over the last 90 days was my learning curve. I didn’t fall victim to any shortcomings by any stretch. In fact, my skill was improving and this was causing several issues with my rough draft. When I went back to work on some of the early pages, i could see my lines were better. It became clear to me that I could re-draw the book about two notches better than when I first drew my panels.
Looking back, I thought I did a great job with some of my initial sketches. But presently, it would have been a bit embarrassing to try and publish anything like that. Failure to meet my deadline was a good thing in point of view. It means I’ll be producing a better work. Will I create a new deadline? No… But I’ll be quick to update you of each step of progress along the way.
See below some of what I was talking about. I’m not DaVinci, but there is a positive change in quality. Thanks for visiting.

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Keeping Up the Motivation

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Finding motivation to get a project done can be as daunting as it is sometimes easy (once you’ve got the energy). Regardless of the project you are working on, it ultimately boils down to two things: Are you doing this for yourself, or are you doing this for others?

I find nothing wrong with the motivation of doing something for you. If it’s a simple project like a home improvement, art, diy, or selling something to put money in your pocket, all of these things have positive benefits. If you are doing something to benefit others, volunteering, assisting, working with the elderly, whatever it may be, well then there is nothing less than gratitude I have for you.

Regardless, the best way to keep that motivation afloat and your mission in action is to keep a constant reminder as to why you are doing what you are doing. For me, it’s reaching people. One day, I hope to take my children’s book (and future books) and reach as many people as possible to affect them in a positive way that encourages them to explore the endless possibilities discovered by reading.

Sometimes I lose that thought. I spend an awful lot of time drawing. Sometimes it’s less than successful, and sometimes it’s just plain monotonous. I spend a lot of hours at the table with my head down and this dims my perspective. It’s been nearly 15 months and I have little to show for in the way of a finished book. Every page is re-draft after re-draft. It’s been questioning my ability and my product. It’s been over-thinking!

But my best moments are when I get back into the idea of sharing, because that’s the motivation. Sharing is supremely positive because once you get into sharing I increase the chances of improving the lives of others- even if it’s just 2 minutes of entertainment, or a grain of sand’s weight of enlightenment. I’m sure one of these days I’ll stand out on a street corner offering my book for $5 (not just to make a penny off of it, but to help finance the next copy I will be giving away). It’s the thought in my head that says, “Yes, share, keep meeting people! Read to them! This is going to be fun!”

That feels like good motivation.

Past the Halfway Point

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It’s the halfway point of my deadline and I am almost ready to start working on the background, color, and details of my book. I am about 3-4 panels away from all the preliminary penciling to be complete. There is still plenty to add, but this was the hugest hurdle to jump on the way to creating my first children’s book.

I realize I am jumping ahead of myself a little bit, but I wanted to explore some avenues of distribution that have been roaming around in the back of my mind for a few weeks. It’s the long worn out question of do I publish traditionally or e-book it?

I am not going to assume that I can have my pick. Traditional Publishing is not a given by any stretch. The odds are almost against me, but just slapping my book online for all to download is not a given that it will be read either. In many ways it feels like dropping an unlimited number of messages in bottles hoping they will all make it to shore and be read… Who knows?

So I have taken the approach of doing this. I am going to e-book it while searching for a publisher. The reason for this is I want my story to be in as many hands as possible. I want people and readers to have access to it at a very fair offer, while seeking something more formal (and in an older sense- validating). This personal project and blog will probably eventually become a chronicle of how I attempt to get this book published: Letters, queries, status updates, and responses… all the while- you can read it in its entirety and appreciate it anyway. And you know what… if it never gets published, we’ll there it is.

(Don’t worry; I won’t become some weirdo on a publishing crusade. I will be making more books!)

I’m not sure if this is the wisest approach to go the way of the e-book. I’ve never heard of a publisher who was thrilled about a book already available to the public while trying to take a story into print, but since this is a children’s book I think print has its own kind of particular value that cannot be compromised. In the end, exposure is never a bad thing, right?

If you look through posts dating back now 14 months (holy crap I just realized that), you’ll see a lot of kind of boring, bland, pencil on paper sketches but soon a lot of this will be accompanied by color and background. It’s something I am excited to share. This is something I have been really looking forward to as I see one step of this great little venture coming completion.

Note: It’s been exactly 406 days of blogging and tweeting and I have still had zero negative feedback from a very highly supportive community. Thank you to everyone, and thanks for visiting.

Keep a Successful Frame of Mind

I wanted to share a quick post today. I am approaching the halfway point of my book deadline (49 days left) and I think it will be a crunch but I can still get it done. I am nearly done with every sketched out panel and also begun working on the front end with some colors that I am preparing to hopefully use.

I figured I would share a few things that seem to be consistent when I find myself on track (on the good days). So please keep these things in mind if you are working on a project yourself:

Never Stop Learning: I wish I were good enough to sit down and wing it on talent, but I’m not. Still, every time I run into a road block, it’s an opportunity to learn a new skill. Nothing helps further down the road than learning something new and being better equipped for the next obstacle.

Keep your Goals Specific: You don’t need to chase the big idea all the time. That can be daunting and could take days, if not weeks, or months, of zero fulfillments. Imagine running a marathon and the line is in view but never seems to come closer. I personally would never finish. So- to keep the metaphor, make the next corner your goal, and after that, the next street, or the next mile, and keep working from there.

Stay Modest: The most successful and accomplished people are modest. You might not believe me. You might say, “Hey that person is so high minded about their work.” It’s not true. He or she is proud. Their approach to work I promise you is highly modest. That means getting out of bed early, or staying up late, or passing on that down time, or fun time, to do what they set out to do. Forfeiture = modesty.

Be Supportive: Be a part of a something. Talking to others about their work (even if it is unrelated) can be invigorating. Everyone has their passion. Support theirs! They will support you. I’m a big proponent of positive energy expended. The more you support others, the more motivated you are to get back to supporting yourself. I have a roommate and we are working on vastly different things at times, but keeping tabs on the other is great motivation to have something to offer.

Don’t Overdo It: Ever hear the saying “3 yards and a cloud of dust”? It’s a football term. It describes an ugly offense that snaps the ball, gains three yards, and it’s just kind of messy. Well, ask any football coach and they’ll tell you, “That was a positive play.” Did I say great play? No, it’s positive, because it moves the ball down the field. Do the same with your work. Some days you will have a Great day. Some days you won’t. Those awesome days will happen when you set it up. It happens when you keep it simple and do one small thing at a time. In my case, I try to do one drawing a day. Just one. Sometimes it turns into 5 or more and then I’m on a roll. It’s always a step in the right direction even if it doesn’t feel that way.

Embrace the Struggle: I’m not offering hacks here. I am letting you know; sometimes you have to accept the difficulties that lay ahead. The more you embrace your struggle the more likely you are to accomplish your goals. Otherwise, don’t embrace them, quit… and never succeed.
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About this Blog

I wrote this in January of 2014. It’s on my original blog of the same name over on blogger. But as I slowly move to WordPress I thought this might be a good opportunity to repost this here. It’s basically my mission. Thanks for visiting:

2 years ago I wrote a children’s story for my niece as a personal holiday gift. It was a project that grew and evolved and became an obsession. It was a short story about two curious rumpled kids that met on a cold winter night and went bounding off into imaginary worlds together, to places big and small. It was a short story of love and friendship. It taught the value of literacy and the meaning of self-worth. It was fun to do and gratifying to finish. But something about it has always left me feeling unfulfilled. I wanted to do more, and I wanted to write about those kids again. Even more, I wanted to illustrate them. So it’s become my goal this year in 2014 to do this:
I’m going to write and illustrate a children’s book.
I have an idea written down but I still need to draw and I’ve never really drawn before, but I am teaching myself how to do it. I have no talent, but talent is overrated. All I’ve got is commitment.
This site was created to chronicle my progress. If I am going to do this- succeed or fail- it’s going to happen out in the open. Please, keep checking in to see the progress and how this children’s book (or series) gets made. I promise you, it will happen. And trust me, these kids in my head are cute.

Update: 59 Days Away

It’s been a while since I put up a blog post. I’ve been relatively silent as I put myself on this deadline to have a completed story by April 11th, which is now 58 days away. The pressure from a deadline is kind of fun. I haven’t come to terms with the fact that I absolutely must. It’s not a cop out. I promise you I will be done with this children’s book by then.

My progress to date is that I am about 80% of the way done with every panel, and I’ve already begun to mess around with some of the early panels with color and background. The coloring itself has been a delight as I have Silly’s pajamas down. They are blue, with a patch on the elbow and knee. Sam sports a cute red dress.

There was a portion of my story that required a little bit more drawing than I was used to. I don’t want to give away too much but Silly and Sam find themselves encountering a few characters. I think it came to about 8 in total. Different types, cowgirls, frogs, dragon, knights, etc… I had done so much drawing and learning to draw my characters that each new personality became a mini project itself. Chimpanzee drumline? Gee, where do I begin with that?

Anyways, the whole point of that was I had to stop and start over, over and over again. But the good thing that came of it was a great deal of practice. Different shapes, different faces, and different beings- from real people to anthropomorphic beings was a great page by page experience to pick up.

I’ll try and get back to more posts as I move along, but here are some of Silly and Sam as they emerge from a story they just traveled into and out of (they land back on the library floor).

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