The last time my dad was in town, we were at my sister’s house about to have dinner. We sat in the living room, my dad in the recliner absently staring around with his gray eyes, me on the couch scribbling in a sketchbook. He can’t see very well anymore, so he stared at me for a while, trying to figure out which one of his sons he was looking at. After a while he announced, “John would be perfectly happy alone on a beach with his sketchbook and journal.” I couldn’t help but laugh. After 30 years, he had figured it out. I mean, I’ve put myself here on a figurative island with my little sketchbook and journal, now I’m just trying to find the happiness part.
Creating something is isolating. Its not like building or fixing something. That’s where you take a set of pieces that are supposed to be arranged in one particular way and you make it that way. Instead, creating is taking an idea in your head (probably made up of borrowed ideas) and fabricating it out of thin air. This is my favorite part of any creative process: Brainstorming, idea-farming, and discussion.
But going from idea to execution is always the real work. “Okay, I’ve got this great idea for a comic book where a robot has survived the rapture and is looking for mankind.” My next step, make the comic.
“No one will ever be as passionate about your idea as you are.” Tony Parker said that in one of my classes. He used it to describe why many comic book artists also have to write their own script and vice-versa. There’s ways you can motivate people to be passionate about your project, money, published work, etc. But simply being the creator of something automatically makes you the most passionate person on that project. On one hand, if you are a very energetic and exciting person, you can use your passion to inspire people to be excited about the thing you are creating. But, if you’re a less excitable person like myself, you end up just deciding that you don’t need anyone else and that people will be stoked about that rapture robot comic when you’re done with it. The idea of being passionate about a project ends up being a burden of responsibility. If people don’t see how hard I am working on this robot comic, I’ll become irrelevant or stagnant. Simply put, if I don’t do it who will?
This leads to all kinds of isolation. I want this robot rapture comic to happen so bad, I’m going to stay in all weekend and work on it. If I do go out, it might be the only thing on my mind. I’m going to the bar to watch football on Sunday morning, and I’m bringing half of my desk and office with me. That’s not to say that I get any more work done if I do stay in. There’s more distractions in my home than anywhere else. But at least I feel like I’m working.
Creating something requires you to compare yourself to the highest standard. And the internet makes it easy to see very highest standard out there. I’m not following people on Instagram that are my same skill level. I’m following industry professionals and people that have been doing this for years. Now, I’m the only person working on this robot rapture comic AND I’m not as good as the guys at Marvel.
It’s because of passion that makes me check out of writer’s conferences, or comic-cons, or even public readings. I look around and think, what is everyone doing here talking about writing, when they could just be at home, writing? You’re there because you want people to care about what you are writing, but you already know the person that’s the most passionate about your project: Yourself. And the cycle goes on and on, until I’ve wasted more time wondering where I should be, and not enough time being where I am.
The best trick I’ve found is to pretend like I’m not thinking about it. This thing that I’m creating is the very best work I can make right now. The next thing I make will be even better. And instead of trying to make the best comic book ever, I just have to make the best comic book I can make in this moment.