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Revisiting Past Goals

| December 31, 2010 | 3 Comments


Does today’s date read like a clean slate, or what?

While it seems like EVERY January is a time for renewed focus, resolutions, goal setting and the like, this one feels special.  There’s a reason we do this every year.  Human beings are hard-wired to be achievement oriented beings, and if we aren’t striving for something, if we’re not on path towards reaching our goals, whatever they may be, then we’re not living up to our potential.

With all the focus on the year to come and new resolutions, it’s easy to forget about many of the goals we’ve set in the past.  Remember those?  I think there’s a reluctance to look backwards, because we’re afraid to be reminded of what we haven’t achieved.  The problem with setting lofty goals, is that they’re lofty for a reason.  They’re hard to achieve!  Being reminded of things we’ve failed to accomplish can be depressing, so we often push aside all that’s past and try to start fresh each January.  But when you do that for long enough, you start to wonder what’s the point of it all? If we never achieve the goals we set, what is the point of making them in the first place?

As goals are personal, I’m going to look back at one particular past goal of mine,  a goal I have yet to achieve:

A comic book in every comic shop within two years.

A year and a half ago, I publically declared this to be my big comic related goal.  At the time, I had a few completed comic books under my belt, had earned my first professional paycheck thanks to the now defunct Zuda Comics, had multiple projects in development, and decided I needed clarity about what I was striving for.

Fast forward to today and I’m afraid the clock is running out on the time table I set for myself to achieve that goal.  Considering how far in advance things need to be ready for the direct market, it’s pretty clear I won’t achieve it.  So what now?  Am I bummed?  Do  I consider myself a failure?  Was it a fool’s errand to have set that goal in the first place?

Not at all.

Setting that  goal was a declaration, both to myself and to the universe, of a specific achievement I’m planning on making a reality. EVERYTHING comic related I’ve done in the past year and a half has been with this goal in mind.  No, I haven’t reached my goal.  But in pursuit of it, I’ve achieved much, and my goal is much closer to a reality than it was 18 months ago.

Here’s a small list of some of things I’ve achieved in pursuit of my big goal:

  • Produced 200+ pages of comics, including a complete graphic novel and three floppies.
  • Completed more than 175 commissions, from tiny sketch cards to full 11×17 pieces.  Sorry Mom, but you no longer have the biggest collection of Tyler James’ original art.
  • Learned how to run a webcomic, and all that entails, and created content and sites that have collectively received 100,000 visits.
  • Attended 12 conventions, half of them as a featured guest.
  • Sold ~250 books (online and in person.)
  • Partnered with five (soon to be six) digital distributors to get my work out published through new online and mobile channels under the ComixTribe imprint.
  • Done a dozen podcasts, interviewed by people genuinely interested in my work.
  • Collaborated with some incredible talent, including Matt Zolman, Damian Couceiro, Koko Amboro, Ty Tyner, and Miguel Marques.
  • Had conversations with a many incredible working professionals, and tripled my peer network of hard working, talented creators.
  • Established relationships with  local retailers who have been extremely supportive of my work.
  • Built a network of more than 1000 people (email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) who have given me permission to keep them informed about my comic projects.
  • Orchestrated the 30Characters Challenge, which has united hundreds of writers and artists, who have created more than 2000 new characters.

If this comes across as navel gazing or beating my own chest, sorry, that’s not my intention.  Rather, it’s to show that the above is what you accomplish on the way to achieving those big audacious goals.  Very rarely are big goals all or nothing propositions.

Still, the question remains, what to do now with that past goal that it doesn’t look like I’m going to reach?

One option, is to keep that goal and extend the time frame.  Another is to change the goal.  The spirit of that goal was what it would MEAN to have a book in every shop.  It would mean I was producing work at a high enough caliber that I could expect it to sell thousands of copies.  It would mean there was confidence/approval of my work from several outside forces (publisher, distributer, retailer, readers.)  It would mean my comics creating was financially successful (although, today, just having a book in stores doesn’t necessarily mean it’s making any money.)  But at its heart, this goal was about producing a quality comic product that could sit on the shelves next to anything else out there and not feel out of place.  I don’t have control over publishers, distributors, retailers, or readers.  The only thing I have true control over is the quality of books I create.  The more I do this, the more confident I am that when my work is TRULY good enough,  it will find success in the direct market.

But the great thing about creating comics today, is that I don’t need to wait until that point to tell my stories to a receptive audience.  Through webcomics, digital distribution platforms, conventions, and local events, I can continue to get my work out there, and connect with readers and other creators.  The direct market is great, and it’s still important, but its days of being the be-all, end-all in comics are over.

I was cleaning up my studio the other day, and came across a scrap of paper from January, 2001.  My handwriting read: “I will write a movie screenplay.” As it turned out, it wasn’t until eight years later that I had the inspiration, passion, and drive to actually complete a feature-length screenplay.  Sometimes things don’t happen on our preferred time tables.  But if you want them bad enough and are willing to work hard enough, they do happen.

Yeah, I believe in setting goals.  The great thing about looking back at past goals, whether you achieved them or not, is that as clichéd as it may be, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.

Next:  Three Goals for 2011, and EXACTLY how I plan to achieve them!


Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, and educator residing in Newburyport, MA.  He is the writer and co-creator of EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and Tears of the Dragon, a swords and sorcery fantasy.  His past work includes OVER, a romantic comedy graphic novel, and Super Seed, the story of the world’s first super powered fertility clinic. His work has been published by DC and Arcana comics.

Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, a new website empowering creators to help each other make better comics.

Contact Tyler via email (, visit his website, follow him on Twitter, or check him out on Facebook.

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About the Author ()

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, educator, and publisher residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of THE RED TEN, a superhero murder mystery, EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and TEARS of the DRAGON, a swords and sorcery fantasy. Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, which is both a new imprint of quality creator owned titles, and an online community where creators help creators make better comics. Follow him on Twitter @tylerjamescomics, or send him an email at

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Effective Goal Setting | ComixTribe | January 10, 2011
  2. Coming Up Short on Your Goals…Now What? | ComixTribe | February 3, 2012
  1. John Lees says:

    Good opening column! It’s impressive seeing how much you’ve done, looking back on that list of accomplishments. I myself took part in the 30 Characters Challenge back in 2009 and loved it, and though I didn’t take part in 2010, I was happy to see how much the event had grown one year on.

    In terms of my own past goals, I think I’m guilty of, with regards to comics, not setting specific goals in my mind, but instead only vague aspirations. And I think this is a major weakness of mine that I have to overcome: namely, the fear of setting a specific goal, in case I’m unable to accomplish it. And as like any creative field, rejection and setbacks are an inherent part of writing, so a fear of them can be paralysing and lead to you getting nothing done.

    So, as New Year’s Resolutions, I’m going to actually set a couple of specific goals for 2011:

    1. Become a comics writer.

    By this I mean, I want to be able to actually say that I’m a comics writer. Not that I’m “an aspiring comics writer”, or that “I’d like to write comics,” but actually start doing it. “The Standard” has been in development since 2009 – I want this to be the year that it is published, that it becomes available for people to buy. Fame and fortune is not the goal, though breaking even would be nice. No, my goal is simply to be able to say that I’ve at last worked my way through the complete process of creating a comic, right up to selling it, so I can stop “aspiring” and start “doing”.

    2. Do more to support fellow creators.

    I buy plenty of comics from the Grant Morrisons, Geoff Johns and Robert Kirkmans of the comic world, and will happily continue to do so. But this year I intend to do more to support creators who, like me, are trying to become established and raise their profile. I was pleased to hear of the success Mark Bertolini is enjoying with “Breakneck”, and hope to add to that success in my small way by buying each issue of the series. Jonathan Rector – the artist on “The Standard” – will soon be releasing an art book that I will be picking up. And I’ve heard nothing but good things about “Over”, so I intend to seek out the collected edition of that too. We are a community, and I think it’s good that we support each other and enjoy each other’s success rather than simply worrying about our own.

    3. WRITE MORE!

    This ties in a litte to my first point, but I often hear of other writers juggling multiple projects, blazing through entire scripts in the time it takes me to write a page, and being very productive and active in their chosen field. Meanwhile, it seems like it takes me an eternity to get anything written. Steven Forbes said in an earlier Bolts & Nuts column, “The more you don’t, the more you won’t.” I intend to take that to heart this year, and work on writing multiple scripts for various projects and – even if I don’t go forward in producing them all – it means I have a back catalogue of work at my disposal, and with every script I’m learning more about the craft of writing.

    Those are the resolutions that spring to mind right now. If I come up with any more I’ll write them. We’ll see how well I’ve kept to my vows come January 2012!

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