writing

Burning Out and Rebounding

Screenshot_2015-04-28-23-00-39-1

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.

Screenshot_2015-04-28-22-59-48-1

Screenshot_2015-04-28-22-59-53-1

Screenshot_2015-04-28-23-00-04-1

Thanks for visiting.

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.

image

image

image

image

image

Keeping Up the Motivation

Screenshot
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

image

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.

Accomplishment-producing Habits

My last post discussed how I’ve put myself on a 90 day deadline to create my children’s book. I don’t know how far away that is right now (I would assume somewhere in the low 80s or high 70s), but I’ve been jotting down some thoughts that would help guide me along the way. I thought I would share some of those things that will help keep me on the straight and narrow while focusing on my goals.

Let’s start with sincere honesty: I don’t have the creative imagination to pull out a sharpie and create someone or something that will illuminate paper and speak to the reader. But with enough effort and practice I still genuinely believe even the most ambitious goals can be met. It’s just going to have to take some focus. Below are some of the things to keep in mind that I think are going to help with managing my goal approach.

Understanding my daily habits: I need to focus on time. This ranges from lost time to lost productivity, and good energy habits to bad. An example of this would be watching TV. It’s not a bad thing to sit and unwind for a time, but to drift into a lost night without doing anything? We’re all guilty of that from time to time.

Setting short goals: The best way to make progress is to accomplish a lot… often. Anything, all things, start making goals. Some good goals for me will be creating a rough draft layout of the next page, or even just a rough draft of one character sketch that could be used on the page. The simple act of progress is a great goal. An example of this is if you are trying to lose weight. Walking a mile might be the better goal. You’ll achieve that goal 100 times before you get to the weight loss goal you set.

Speaking of the next… Personal Health: live healthy. This sort of thing is admittedly harder. It’s a real habit breaker if you aren’t already in a healthy routine. Health has an incredible amount of benefits. It’s great for energy, mood, positivity, and discipline. People who are healthy have more motivation to do whatever is in front of them.

Practice moderation. This can’t be emphasized enough, especially when someone is being creative. I have found that some of my most productive days are when I am completely sunk into my project. The music is going and I am in the zone. I work like a dog and love the struggle. That energy is clearly passion at work. But you know what happens? I go a whole day or two or three or more (!) without achieving the same kind of production. My best days are when I am engrossed in my work. My best weeks are when I am doing a little each day. 1 good week is 7 good days.

This one might be the hardest: Reject self doubt. This creeps up all the time. It’s heart breaking. I’ve learned to deal with rejection. I am actually not too bad at that. Perhaps I am fortunate. When someone says no, I usually think to prove them wrong or do better. But rejecting myself? That’s the worst. Self Doubt is the absolutely hardest thing in the world to handle for me. The best way to beat self doubt is just to do it. Fail in front of yourself. Fail. Not kidding. Drawing has been such a difficult experience. So many lessons have been agonizing. But most artists that I have been learning from all say the same thing, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” And you know what? They are right! And you know something else? I got better, despite my obvious doubts. And despite my terrible results.

My favorite one might be this (and clearly something I am not doing right now): Shut Up. Listen, take something in. Find the value in what you see or hear, or who you are talking to. The best kinds of people, the most intelligent, and the most accomplished are listeners. You know why, because listening is the best way to make the most of all of your resources, even if they don’t seem like good ones.

My last is: Know why you are doing this. I should ask myself this all the time. I don’t do it enough. Why am I doing this? I know the answer (kind of). I am creating a children’s book to share as much as possible. Share what? Share this story and more when I make them. I want to share positive stories, thoughts, fun, imagination, creativity, and as many playful experiences as possible. I want to put a smile on someone’s face. Happiness and wonder is an experience that sometimes loses its value. It’s not lost on me. The Why is to Share. Simple.

The last one gets me on the straight and narrow more than anything else. It’s my real fuel. It makes the feeling of my motivation legit. I hope this was a help to you. Thanks for visiting.

90 Days Away

This weekend I made a spur of the moment conclusion that I was 90 days away from finishing my children’s book. I didn’t say anything until yesterday about it. The few people I told said, “Great!” “Really?” and “I’ll hold you to it.”

Not because they didn’t believe me, but I realized something needed to be said. I have been working on this project off and on for a year now and though progress was being made, there have been less and less updates on the work itself. I spent a lot of time chronicling my development in learning how to draw (always going to be a development I think) and I used a lot of that time as motivation to keep going, but the book was slower, more deliberate, and decidedly difficult. My limitations have been extensive and I’ve had to work around them. Its hard tackling a creative project with a flawed short term logic based strategy plan.

Still, I just opened up and said it. 90 days. I think I said it only a few moments after I told this to myself. That’s always how I worked.

By saying something, I made it real. It wasn’t a day dream. It was a reality. And part of that reality goes a real world commitment. So I have had to kind of piece together an approach to how I am really going to make this all come together 90 days from here. I’ll have to put together some kind of a routine or strategic approach to get things done. Being creative is fulfilling and fun, but sometimes you have to meet the deadlines. I can’t meet one without one being made first. I have it… April 11th.

To Reach One Million

This post is a little unusual for my blog considering I’ve mostly been documenting my progress on learning how to create my children’s book. It’s been one year since the process has begun (349 days to be exact). I can say with absolute certainty that my book will be done in the first half of 2015. It’s a bit behind schedule, and I have a few more hurdles to clear, but I can see some day light as I get into scribbling the second half of my words into pictures.

My outlook has admittedly changed. It’s always been the same goal (to complete a children’s book) but everything about my venture evolved into something different at the same time. Writing and drawing has so much become a part of my routine that not working on it can sometimes leave the day feeling unfulfilling. It’s pretty safe to say that given the opportunity I would do this for a living.

It’s because the community of artists, illustrators, and writers who I’ve crossed paths with has been nothing but gracious and appreciative. To date, I have not gotten one piece of negative feedback from family, friends, and strangers. I’ve been encouraged by those who have followed me online, and visited my website. I’ve sampled pieces to adults and children and received the same response: They want more.

I don’t anticipate a line around the block forming for my first children’s book. But whether one appears out of the blue or not I will get on with writing my next. It’s just something I’ve come to love. It’s something I will do regardless of whether I sell one or one thousand copies.

In the end, my goal has evolved into this idea in mind that I don’t want to make a million dollars from this. I’d love to. I mean, who wouldn’t? Imagine: do what you love and make a million dollars? That’s an easy answer, but I hate tainting my little goal with something so intrinsically covetous.

I’d hate to one day tell a friend “I started writing children’s books to make a million bucks.”

That’s cheap.

But I have come to the enjoyable conclusion that I want to reach a million people. That’s what I’ve gotten from all this feedback. I want my stories to reach one million people. The money from that? I don’t know. I hope one person takes my book (or books) and shares their copy with 10 people. That’s how much I am thinking about the buck on this idea.

That’s my ever growing drive: to share. Share as much as possible.

This is book one and I’m 65% of the way to completion. So pardon me now if one day I start hocking the crap out of my story. I could really be annoying. But trust me, you can have it for free (if I can swing it). I won’t be doing it because I want to take anything from you. It’s too much fun thinking about scoring on a share. I find myself smiling when I think about what it would be like to give.