B&N Week 190: What’s Stopping You From Starting?

| August 12, 2014



We have another Tuesday! It’s actually going to be cloudy with a chance of rain here in Tucson, and I’m loving it. It’s great. Rain brings some cooler weather, and that’s always a plus when you’re in the triple digits.

This week’s question is: what’s stopping you from starting?

Some creators, for whatever reason, get it in their heads that they have to get something completely perfect, or they have to have a complete understanding of a subject, before they are able to move forward and do the work. So they do a lot of studying, and they find more things to study and research, and they find other things to research and study, and so they fall down a rabbit hole called getting ready.

There are other creators who have a fear of failure, and that fear stops them from beginning anything they feel strongly about. Fear of failure is strong, and not easily overcome.

For a lot of creators, the thing that’s stopping them is a lack of time. Face it, making comic books is a huge time-sink. You draw, write, color, ink, letter, edit, revise, re-plan, trying to make sure that things are just right but that cuts into time with your friends, your significant other, your kids, family time, sleep, or just basic me time.

And still for other creators, it’s a lack of money. Besides sinking a lot of time into a comic book, if you’re going to do it well, you’re going to sink a lot of money into it, as well. That’s just the nature of the beast. Creators don’t work for free. Not those who know their self-worth. They may work at a reduced rate, but not for free.

Those are the main barriers that creators will face when it comes to starting a comic project.

I’m here to tell you that most of them are crap. For the most part, they’re reasons to be lazy. The only one that I’ll be lenient with is the last one. But let’s look at these one at a time.

Complete Understanding: it’s a crock. You’re making comics, and it will always be a learning experience. Every project, every page. Some of them may be easier than others, more routine, but there will come a time when you’re looking for something different to happen. The panel description will call for something strange, causing the rest of the creative team to scratch their heads in trying to bring the idea to life. And that’s when things get fun and exciting.

You can research and gather information and prepare forever, but you won’t really learn that much until you start your first project. And that first project is all there is. Want to mitigate the mistakes? Hire a competent editor. You have to do the work, though.

And you will always be learning. You’ll learn how to work with other creators, you’ll learn how to do aspects of your job differently, you’ll learn different aspects of your job, you’ll learn some aspects of other creator’s jobs. But you’ll learn, and you’ll continue learning as long as you create comics. It’s an ongoing process. Be ready to be a perpetual student.

Fear of Failure: it’s a crock. If you fear failure [or conversely, success], then you might as well quit now. When you first start out, you’re going to have a lot of failures. That’s the name of the game. It’s how you’re going to learn. You think Mozart came out the womb knowing how to play the piano? No. He put in the work, and wasn’t scared that he would fail or succeed. If you fail, you pick yourself up, learn from the mistakes, and do it again in a different manner. [I can’t see being in comics and fearing success. We all measure it differently, and we’re all in it to succeed according to our personal measure. Besides, it is much easier to fail than it is to succeed.]

Lack of Time: Anything you want calls for sacrifice. The overwhelming majority of the time, what gets sacrificed is time. If you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand anything. Even the most spoiled child understands that they can’t do everything at once, so playing with one thing will have to be sacrificed in order to play with another. Your friends and family will have to understand. [Also, understand that when I’m talking about family, I’m talking about extended family. Your immediate family will have to understand some of the time, but you shouldn’t ignore them so that you can create your masterpiece. Especially if you have kids. Moderation is the name of the game.]

If you want to create comics, you’re going to have to sacrifice time. Less video games, sleep, hanging out, drinking, watching movies, and other things that will steal your creation time. (Sleep?! I have to sacrifice sleep? C’mon, Steven!) Yes, sleep. You don’t need as much as you think you do. If you cut out 30-45 minutes of sleep and instead use that time for creating, you’ll see steady growth, work done, and deadlines made.

Lack of Money: Again, this is the only reason that I can call legitimate, but barely so. If you want to make a comic and inject quality into it, this will often require that money be paid somewhere along the line. If it isn’t to the creative team, it’s to a printer of some sort. You can get away with not paying a creative team anything up front, saying you’ll pay them on the back end of a collaboration [back-end deals almost never work, meaning work was done for free], but a lot of creators aren’t going to go for it.

The reasoning, as I said, is that most of the time, they’re working for free.

If you want to get a creator working for free, the best thing to do is to tell them upfront what the deal is. Then if they want to come aboard, they can. I know of a creator who’s gotten several books published with a smaller publisher by going the back-end route. First, it was back-end for money, but after the first couple of books were published, it was I’ve gotten books published, wanna hop aboard this project with me? [The secret there, of course, is to have a shorter book planned. This isn’t where you go to try to get an ongoing done. The shorter the project, with guaranteed publishing, the greater the chance a team can be gathered to do the work.]

What’s stopping you from starting? When you strip away the excuses, they’ll generally boil down to one of the above reasons. Then you’ll have to see if this is what you really want. At some point, you’ll have to make a decision, and it’s only that only you can make.

What’s stopping you from starting? Only you will really know.

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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