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B&N Week 96: Become A Better Creator–Vacation

| October 23, 2012

It’s another wonderful Tuesday! I’m absolutely loving this! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: getting to spend time with you is the highlight of my week. You can take that to the bank.

We’re still talking about what it takes to be a better creator. This week, it’s going to be something that is very, very important: knowing when to take a break.

Here’s something that I want each and every one of you to understand: creating comics is hard. It can wear you down, it can burn you out. Most of us are going it alone as we create our comics. By alone, I mean there’s no editor, there’s no marketing machine, there’s no publisher, there’s no buffer between you and retailers. There’s just you and possibly the team. That’s it. That’s all.

Going it alone will beat you up and grind you down. Know what happens after a while? It starts getting harder and harder to get things done. You’ll find it harder and harder to find gumption to do even the easiest things, such  as write a plot, make some notes on art, answer e-mails, or read your own stuff.

It’s almost like depression. You just wake up and you don’t want to do it. That’s when the spiral begins. The more you don’t, the more you won’t, and the more you won’t, the more you don’t. The time starts slipping away, and your comic friends start to “get the message”, and you eventually find yourself on the outside, wondering what happened.

I’ll tell you what happened. You didn’t take a vacation.

It’s so simple, but it can also be difficult to do. Creating comics is a merry-go-round, and when you have deadlines to meet for shipdates in order to get books to retailers and readers, it makes it ever so difficult in order to take one.

But you have to. It’s imperative to your comics career. Without that recharging of the batteries, you’re going to be done.

So, what does a vacation consist of? It’s different things for different people, but it should consist of the basics. The very first thing, the very major thing, is to be considerate. Without being considerate, you’re going to find yourself having some ‘splainin’ to do, Lucy.

By being considerate, I mean you let people know what’s going on. Tell them you’re going to be out of circulation for a bit. Give them a timeframe. Let them know you’re only going to be answering only the most important emails, and only do the bare minimum in order to keep whatever projects you have going.

Another part of being considerate is to plan your vacation in advance. If you know you’re going to take some time off, just don’t pop up and say, “I’m headed out for a couple of weeks, and only e-mail me if it’s of dire importance.” That’s not fair to the rest of the team, especially if you know there’s a timecrunch coming. By letting the team know well in advance, you can keep tensions low. (Hey! That sounds an awful lot like when you talked about Communication!) [I’ve told you that everything works with everything else in comics. There is no part that stands alone.]

Keep your timeframe reasonable. Treat it like a real vacation. That means, take only a week or two. Even if you have another job that pays the bills and can’t get away from it, you’ll be surprised at how refreshing it is to not have the crush of comics to have to deal with on top of that. You can just go to work, come home, and then relax so that you can do it all again the next day.

Keep an eye out for emergencies. They pop up from time to time, and even if you’re on vacation, you’ll have to be prepared to put out some fires.

The easiest way to take vacations is to build them into your work schedule. If you’re lucky enough that you’re wanted and are getting steady work, then the worst thing you can do is to overwork yourself, overextending so that you start to fail on the timeframes and assignments you take on.

Once you start getting that steady work, you can under-promise and then over-deliver. (Huh?) If you take an assignment and you know that it will only take you a few days to do it, say that it will take you a week. That’s under-promising. Say it really took you three days to do the work. Deliver it on either the fourth or fifth day. That’s over-delivering. And you know what you’ve done? You’ve got a two-day break in the work.

Let’s say you’re on a project, and you know when it’s going to wind up. You start looking for work, and you get it. However, instead of scheduling it for immediately after the current work, you give yourself a few days to rest and recharge before starting the next assignment. Know what you’ve just done? You’ve built in a short vacation.

Want to be a better creator? Remember to take vacation time for yourself. Your career in comics will be longer and more fruitful if you do.

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 for rate inquiries.

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