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B&N Week 91: Be A Better Creator- Help Yourself

| September 18, 2012

It’s Tuesday yet again! I’m loving it! Just the other day, I was talking to myself [I do that sometimes], and I was saying just how much I wish it were Tuesday again. And here we are, all safe and sound and snug, wrapped in the goodness that is Tuesday. I love it.

Anyway, we’re still talking about being a better creator, and this time around, I wanted to talk about what you can do to help yourself.

The first thing that I’m going to say, though, is that the bulk of you are lazy. And not just lazy, but damned lazy. You don’t want to do the research, but you expect others to do it for you. You go onto forums and you ask the questions that all newbies ask, and then you just expect the answers to come to you.

Because you’re lazy.

I want you to stop being lazy. If you stop to listen and really understand what’s being told to you, then you have to understand that comics is a long, hard, expensive row to hoe. I’m here to tell you to stop being lazy, and to start doing the work for yourself.

Really, helping yourself is so extremely easy. There is a veritable treasure trove of information to be had on the internet, and the only thing you have to do is search for it. The first thing you need to know, though, is what to search for.

The very first thing you should be doing after you decide that you want to make comics is investigating the process. There are different ways to do things, but asking the questions of yourself first will help you to tailor your inquiries later.

When I decided to start making comics, I voraciously read everything I could get my hands on about the process. The internet was still relatively young, and you had to do all kinds of things in order to get your information. Know what I did? I printed everything I could find.

I remember printing some stuff that Dave Sim had put out about self-publishing. I remember going everywhere that I could in order to find answers, and I remember going through a lot of paper while in the Marine Corps.

You don’t have to print anything anymore [although that isn’t a bad option]. However, I suggest that whenever you find something you deem worth keeping, you do just that: you keep it.

(How?)

That’s simple.

The first thing you should do is create a folder of links in whatever browser you use most. [I’m a Google Chrome user myself. I find it to be virtually clutter-free, unlike some other browsers out there.] If it’s a big site that is never going away, such as the US Copyright Office, then you’d be safe in the knowledge that, while it may be updated, the information held there will always be available.

Government entities are the only ones I’d trust to stay forever, though. While having a link is a great thing, every other link that isn’t government sponsored has the ability to die. Either the website goes away, or they upgrade/move, but don’t archive what they had to begin with. That is possible with every site, even the seemingly long-running ones. Or, the archive gets too unwieldly, so things get pruned.

What do you do as a backup? Copy and paste!

That’s right! If I find something that is relevant, insightful, and that I believe will help me somewhere down the road, not only do I put the link in a folder in my browser, I also copy and paste it into a word processing document, and I put that into a folder of stuff to keep.

Here’s a perfect example: artist Eric Adams created a comic called Lackluster World. He also wrote a ten-part column on Newsarama entitled Sequential Smarts. That column was geared toward marketing your comic. Lots of good info in it. Know what? The links I had are dead, and doing a search doesn’t bring it up, either. I did a search on Eric’s site, and while the beginning of it is there, it has a link to Newsarama. Following that link takes you nowhere.

The information would have been lost to me, had I not had the forethought to copy and paste the information, as well as save the links.

You can do this for virtually everything you find online.

(I dunno, Steven. That sounds like stealing…)

Here are my feelings on that: if you’re going to a site and the author is giving away their thoughts, experience, or information for free, then it isn’t stealing. If you feel that bad about it, then you have a choice: do it, or not. Or, you could always write to the author and tell them that you really appreciate the work they’ve put in. That will always engender goodwill. No writer likes feeling like they’re writing in a vacuum. If you feel extremely bad, then you can always offer them some sort of financial recompense. Most of them won’t take it, but would offer you alternatives such as buying one of their books or something.

Let’s say you run across a very informative discussion on a forum. Copy and paste that sucker! Keep it! Don’t forget to title it appropriately.

While you’re saving this stuff, study it. Learn it. Understand it. Once you’ve studied, learned, and understood, taking it as far as you can go, then you can start to ask questions of people. You’d come off better asking a question from a place of being informed, rather than asking the same question that every newcomer has.

Things to remember when asking questions: every situation is unique. Just like every creator is unique, every comic story is unique, so every creation situation is unique. Your set of circumstances will be your very own.

That being said, especially when you’re first starting out, you’re not unique. (STEVEN!) I know. But the truth is, until you’ve got some projects under your belt and are looking to expand into other areas and types of books, all of your creating situations are going to be run of the mill stuff. That’s how it works.

Now, here’s the biggie. Here’s the most important part of everything I’ve said here.

After you’ve studied and learned and honed and understood and are creating, it is your civic duty to pass on what you’ve learned. You can do that in a number of ways: you could write a column, you could mentor a new creator, you could enter editorial. You could go to comic forums and answer questions that newbies put forth, and you can say, “I remember when I was new. Some jerk named Forbes called me a lazy turd, called me other names, and then put me on the path to helping myself. E-mail me, and I’ll set your feet on the path.”

By helping yourself, you’re putting yourself in a position to help others. By helping others, you are also helping yourself. But you’ve got to stop being lazy first. Buy the books, do the searches, read, study, absorb, understand. Put it all into practice. Make a book. Don’t keep asking questions. Don’t ask so many questions, trying to cover every angle, so that you don’t get any work done. Eventually, you’re going to have to take the leap and do the work. Do it. More importantly, finish it. Make mistakes. You’ll learn along the way.

Take those lessons and make your next book better. Keep that up. Move from strength to strength. Then, pass it on. Want to be a better creator? Help yourself, and then help others.

See you in seven!

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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