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B&N Week 186: Do You Fail, or Do You Learn?

| July 16, 2014

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It’s another Tuesday! Know what that means, dontcha? Time for this week’s Bolts & Nuts question!

This week’s question: do you fail, or do you learn?

A few years ago, I met a guy who had created a bad book. This was my last trip to the San Diego Comic Con. He’s a martial arts grand master, and was peddling a book that was just terrible to behold. There was dialogue but no word balloons. Some dialogue had sticks pointing to the speaker, and some dialogue had arrows pointing to the speaker. The art was done in a way that was not conducive to storytelling. The characters weren’t well developed. It was, in the simplest of terms, a hot mess.

Now, listening to the man speak, you get the sense that he is extremely self-involved. Everything revolves around him. He’ll tell you, multiple times, that he won the tournament that made Chuck Norris a superstar, and that he won it seven times in a row. He’ll tell you that he won gold medals at the Goodwill Games in the 80s. He’s proud of his accomplishments, as he should be. And he’ll say why he is such an accomplished martial artist and businessman.

He never lost. He learned.

When he was in the ring, fighting, and the other opponent won? He didn’t lose that fight. He learned from it. And then he would train harder and come back and win.

In business, he didn’t lose this or that. He learned.

While making the comic, he didn’t—you get the picture.

Losing is another word for failure, so that’s the word I’m going to be using. So, this guy didn’t fail, he learned. (So he says. How hard is it to make a decent book? Arrows?!) [Shhh…]

There are many, many ways to lose in comics. The biggest of them is simply to give up. Know what you learn when you do that? How to be a damned dirty quitter. Quitting should be the last resort and done after a lot of deliberation.

Another way to lose is submitting pitches. More than likely, you’re going to be rejected. That’s just a fact of life. Rejection is par for the course, really. How you react to that rejection is totally on you. [Also, how professional your submission is.] I promise you, although it may feel like it at times, the rejections themselves aren’t personal. If you respond with anything but a “thank you,” you’ve lost…a lot.

What about creating the book itself? Ways to lose are not doing the work, not doing your homework, not thinking past just creating the book, and not saving your money so the work can get done.

There are tons of ways to lose…when you don’t learn from the mistakes, either your own or of others.

A recent Kickstarter that was successful in that it had reached its funding goal, was having trouble fulfilling international orders. It looks like the creator of the Kickstarter was something of a victim of their own success, in that they reached their goals, had some stretch goals, and that changed the size and weight of the book. Those changes made the international shipping of the book skyrocket, and the creator was stuck with a large bill in front of them.

This creator, however, doesn’t seem to learn from their mistakes, because they had another successful Kickstarter, but the book still hasn’t gone on sale. And it was funded two and a half years ago.

How do you learn? By not making the same mistakes that you made before. [And I know you made them, because we’ve all made them. It’s part of the learning process.] By studying the mistakes of others. Those mistakes are all over the place, and are easy to find. Lots of creators talk about them as they continue their journey of making funnybooks.

Learning isn’t difficult, folks. All it takes is a little bit of awareness and a little bit of effort on your part. Just a little bit.

I recently had a first: I rejected a script submission for The Proving Grounds. The reasoning was pretty simple: the writer wasn’t ready, and was never going to be ready. They weren’t willing to learn. (Huh?)

The script they sent over was a screenplay. It even literally said “Hollywood screenplay” on the title page. And it wasn’t broken down into anything resembling a comic format, either for full script or plot-first. Even though we’ve never gotten a plot-first script at The Proving Grounds, I would have accepted it. I told the writer that the format wasn’t acceptable, and that if they wanted to resubmit it after putting it into an acceptable format, they flatly refused, stating that editors were no-nothing monkeys, and that they had the proof, because Hollywood hasn’t produced a worthwhile movie in 70 years.  [The rant went on longer, but the gist is that the creator refuses to learn.]

Do you fail, or do you learn? That’s a question only you can answer. Look at your past failures and mistakes, and ask yourself what, if anything, you could have done differently. Would that have changed the outcome?

That’s all for this week. See you in seven.

Click here to discuss in the ComixTribe forums at Digital Webbing!

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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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