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B&N Week 131: Support

| June 26, 2013

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It’s another Tuesday! Let’s just dive right in, okay?

This week, I wanted to talk about something that doesn’t get talked about enough. I want to talk about your support network. This network is going to be extremely important to you as you toil in obscurity those first few years, and without them, you’re not going to make it very long in comics.

Your support network is just that: people who are supportive of your endeavor. These are the people you trust, to whom you bring a problem, and even if they don’t have a solution, they’ll hear you out and give you some truth. Truth, folks, is the greatest boon anyone can give a creator.

When I was first starting in comics, my ex-wife was pretty supportive. I had my ideas, and they were gold. I just needed to find an artist to bring them to life. What did she do? She went and researched on the web, and finally found Digital Webbing, and I’ve been there ever since.

However, after a year, she was growing tired of nothing but thoughts about comics coming out of my mouth. She literally asked me if I ever thought about anything else: her, the kids, anything. We had a terrible argument about comics, because she thought I wasn’t paying her enough attention. [Yes, there are two sides to every story: I was working, she wasn’t; she’d ask me about my day, so I’d tell her; I’d spend some time with her and the kids; she’d then ask me what I was thinking, and the latest thought about my comic would come pouring out.]

Long story short: I lost her support. She wanted me to write novels instead of create comics. [She wanted me to write romance novels, at that.]

It is a terrible, terrible thing to lose the support of a loved one in an endeavor that is near and dear to you. When you have their support, you feel like you’re on top of the world, and that not only do you feel like anything is possible, you also feel like you can do anything.

However, the opposite is also true. Without their support, or a loss of it, you feel like you can’t do anything. Being a creator becomes that much more difficult.

My present wife is another example. She knew going in that I was a creative person, and that comics were my passion. She not only listened, she learned. She learned something of the lingo, she learned what to look for, she learned a bit of what she was looking at. And she did it in support of me. She went from not understanding that Spider-Man and Superman were in different universes to understanding the difference between the 616, Ultimate, and Toby Maguire Spidey. She can name characters, she can tell the difference between a movie storyline and a comic storyline, and hold them both in her head. We can have discussions about them.

Support.

That is something precious to have. Support should start at home. Even if your significant other doesn’t go the entire way, they should hopefully give you enough space for you to heed your calling. They may not always understand, but they should at least give you the leeway to be able to do it. [This doesn’t mean that you exclude them or ignore them, either. You still have to spend time with your family, doing something besides creating comics or talking about comics. Give yourself some down time, and your family will support you all the more, because you’re not killing them with it.]

The next part of support will be your creative peers. Make some of these people into your friends, even if it is only online. The internet is ubiquitous, and there is no reason why you can’t find a few like-minded individuals to not only make comics with, but with whom you can actually forge a friendship with.

These people are going to be important to you. First and foremost, they should be truthful with you. You have an idea? Bring it to them, let them know what’s going on in your head, and then let them take whacks at it to see if the story is sound. You should be able to do the same thing for them.

If it’s on the internet, these are the people you shoot the breeze with through social media or through email. They are also who you turn to when you have a storytelling problem.

If you’re lucky enough to live within reasonable driving distance, they’re the people you can have the occasional drink with, or lunch or dinner. If they live within quick driving distance, then you can get together more often.

There’s also the telephone. [I, for one, hate talking on the phone, but only because I do it for a living.] There’s nothing saying you can’t talk to your friends on the phone, unless international calling is cost prohibitive. [For me, calling to Canada is fine. Calling to Scotland? Not so much.]

Then, there are forums that you can visit. ComixTribe has one that is growing. There are others that are more established, such as the aforementioned Digital Webbing, as well as PencilJack. Then there are forums at places like CBR, Jinxworld, Millarworld, Bleeding Cool, and more. John Byrne has a forum. There are forums all over the place where you can meet and interact with like-minded creators [and fans] who can give you the support you’re looking for. When it comes to forums, your job is simple: interact, without being overbearing.

There’s also social media, with the usual suspects at present being Facebook and Twitter. You have to interact there, too, without being overbearing. I’ve seen people who are on Twitter who follow a few hundred people, but they are only followed by a couple dozen. I’m almost willing to bet that a few of those are spambots.

The more you interact with a group of people, especially online, the more they’ll come to form an opinion about you. That opinion can be positive or negative. If positive, then you’re growing a support group for yourself, and are to be commended. If negative, then you’re just alienating those who could help you. Everything doesn’t have to be all roses and kumbaya, but you should limit the negativity. We’re creators, and as such, can be sensitive by naure.

Support is a wonderful thing to have. But it isn’t all a one-way street. Don’t take unless you’re also are willing to give. It doesn’t even need to be comic book related. A friend of mine gave me some shocking news recently, and it was nowhere near comic related. I was both awed and humbled that they felt they could share their news with me. But it’s all part of the network.

Homework: look at and identify people you know whom you want to be in your support group. Talk to others with whom you might have common interests. Build a trust. That’s the only way you’re going to have longevity in comics.

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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