B&N Week 102: Become A Better Creator- Do The Work

| December 4, 2012


It’s another glorious Tuedsay! We’ve got sun, some warmth, and short days here in North Carolina. It’s real weather, though, and for that, I’m happy. Mother Nature is putting in the work. I’m just looking forward to the longer days again.

We’re still talking about what it takes to become a better creator, and one of the biggest things to doing that is doing the work. That’s something that a lot of you aren’t doing. You’re talking the talk, but aren’t walking the walk.

I love movies. You know this. I can watch movies all day and all night. Of course I’m partial to horror and scifi movies from the 60s and 70s, but really, I’ll watch any black and white horror movie. Today’s movies? I enjoy those, too. B-movies and below, independent movies on shoestring budgets with terrible storylines and worse acting I enjoy them.

Why? Why do I enjoy these terrible movies? Because these filmmakers have something that a lot of you don’t: a finished product. No matter how bad the film, how terrible the story, how laughably bad the acting, or how horrible the special effects, these filmmakers found money to pay for casting, crew, film, editing, and effects/creature makeup and design. They then got the film distributed so that they could make some money in order to do it again.

All of that costs more than what it takes to put together a comic. More time, effort, and coordination, too.

Those creators got together and put in the work. And what are you doing? You’re sitting there, watching others do while you do nothing. You talk the talk, but aren’t walking the walk.

Want to get a good gauge of where you’re at? See what your contemporaries are doing. And by contemporaries, I don’t mean those currently working for Marvel/DC, IDW, Dark Horse, or whomever else. I’m talking about people who are trying to break in at the same time you are. Are they getting any traction? Are you seeing their name on news sites and doing interviews? Are they getting the work done and are showing it?

What are you doing? Anything? Playing video games, reading comics, watching movies, going out with friends, sleeping? All of that while grousing about why your comic career isn’t going the way you wanted it to?

Here’s the thing: you can’t get far in comics if you’re doing everything besides making comics. Between   your regular day job, familial obligations, and whatever else you have going on, you should have little free time once you add in creating comics. Ask your contemporaries how much free time they have. You’ll see how much time and effort they’re pouring into their dream while you’re not doing much more than sitting and watching.

The formula, folks, is exceedingly simple: if you want to be in comics, then you have to do the work. You can do all the studying and preparing and information gathering that you want—eventually, you’re going to have to do a self-check, take a breath, and then take the plunge into making comics.

You want to succeed? Then you have to fail. And you have to fail lots of times, in lots of different ways. Each failure is a learning process. If you succeed right out the gate, then you haven’t learned much. No, I’m not saying to go out and do things that will intentionally fail. That isn’t what I’m saying at all.

What I’m saying is that you’re going to come up with plans and do things and things will happen that don’t necessarily turn out the way you want. Those are failures, and those failures are learning experiences.

I did some work for a martial artist once. He said that, when he was fighting in the ring, he never lost. He learned. He didn’t lose, he learned. And he kept learning until he succeeded.

Word games and semantics. Whatever allows you to sleep at night. However, the takeaway is that you have to get in there and do it, and you have to learn from the lessons that aren’t successful.

I’ve beat this drum so much that I had to get another one because I wore the first one out: doing comics is hard and expensive. But if you’re going to do it, then you have to do it. You can’t just sit on the side and dip your toe in the pool. You have to get in, and either sink or swim. Those are your options.

There are a lot of people out there looking for jobs. You have to learn to do yours to the best of your abilities. You have to learn different styles, different techniques, different ways to get information across. Do you call yourself a letterer? What do you know about logo design? Are you an inker? Can you make metal look shiny or rusty? Colorist? There are so many layers to your discipline that it’s hilarious.

You want to hone your skills? You have to do the work. You want to get gigs? Then you have to do the work. Want to make a name for yourself? Then you have to do the work.

I mean this in a very literal sense: nothing else happens if you don’t do the work.

I’ve heard stories about artists that showed work on the convention floor and were ready to be hired on the spot but then didn’t do the work or any follow up with the editor in order to get work.

Doing the work is the single most important thing you can do. That is with everything you do. Want to get paid? You have to go to your job and do the work. Work in comics is no different. Does it take discipline to get up every day and go into a place you may hate, or even mildly dislike? Yep. But it takes even more discipline to come home from that job and then go back to work on your comic.

I come home every day, and I tell my wife and kids that I’m going to work. Sometimes they join me, asking what I’m doing. Sometimes, they say okay, and I’m kinda silent for a while. And then I come out and have some family time.

But I’m doing what I have to in order to get the work done.

Want to be a better creator? It’s simple. Do the work.

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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