wa-are-you-feeling-it

Are You Feeling It?

(Note from Byron: This is a guest article by Mark Stokes, a long-time reader/listener here at the Alliance. You can find Mark’s comic, Zombie Boy, here: http://www.zombieboycomics.com/)

Are You Feeling It?

We all have those days when we just don’t feel inspired. We don’t feel creative, and there are so many other distractions for us that putting out a comic seems like such a bother.
I’m going to open up with you about something that’s not so easy for me to express, but I think it might be helpful to some of you. Since I started drawing the Zombie Boy comic strip, I’ve been through some very trying times. In my second year of drawing the strip, an eleven year live-in relationship unraveled with all the pain, anger, and sadness that comes along with it. In my third year, I was laid off of a ten-year job that I expected would last forever. In my fifth year, I lost my beloved pug, Pooj, the inspiration for Zombie Boy’s best friend, Gorr, a personal devastation that left me at one of the lowest points in my life. I’ve experienced periods of profound loneliness and depression, anxiety, heartbreak, fear, and loss, and yet, through it all I’ve consistently updated. Even when my life was splintering into pieces and falling down all around me, the strip got done.
I’m no Hercules, I’ll tell you that. I’m not one of those guys with such steely determination that nothing would stop me when I set my mind to it, either. I just love making this comic and I’ve set a schedule that I’m committed to. It’s no great shakes to have to produce three comic strips each and every week. It’s not something I’m obsessed about either, it’s just something that I truly enjoy and that my work might brighten someone else’s day makes it worth it.
But there are times when I’m having a terrible day, things don’t go as planned, I’ve been called into the boss’s office, or a good friend lets me down and I feel very low — still, the strip gets done. There is a redemptive quality to producing the work, even when I’m not entirely feeling it. I’m all about the endorphins, and if my work brings a little blip of joy or a chuckle, well, that’s a strong motivator.
I’m not telling you this to illicit your sympathy, it’s just that I’m hoping you can glean something good from my experience. Many of my most joyous strips were created at very low moments in my real life. Being able to tap into that part of me that can feel that joy, even though it is not manifested in my exterior life, has been a true blessing. It’s not a matter of can you do it, it’s a matter of can you make yourself do it. Life goes on whether you create or don’t. No one is going to care more than you. Personally, for me being able to produce without that perfect mental state has been a redemption. No one else is responsible for what you do or don’t do, only you have that power.
Let me make a suggestion. The next time you feel low or uninspired, or you just don’t feel like working, go ahead and try to anyway. Or take a walk and think about what you might want to do and then get to work. Waiting around to feel inspired or more “in the mood” is just a waste of time.
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Posted in Guest Posts, Helpful Hints and tagged , , .

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for the article Mark. I think we as artists have a lot of those same feelings. I know I have been struggling with just myself let alone my comics.

  2. It’s a never-ending battle, Sean, and a two-edged sword. If we were immune to the effects of our inner voices and emotions we wouldn’t be able to express ourselves with all the feeling that we do. I don’t think it’s possible to completely conquer it, but if we can at least calm all that background noise enough, we can get work done.

  3. I struggle with this, too, and commented not too long ago on a WA podcast about confronting my own anxiety. You hit the metal fastener squarely on the roundish striking surface here. “…and if my work brings a little blip of joy or a chuckle, well, that’s a strong motivator.” As much as I write and draw a comic for my own enjoyment, I take a deep sense of satisfaction from two things: 1.) My work might bring someone else joy in a difficult time. 2.) There is a community you become a part of when you dare to share work that is so intensely personal. There’s no better evidence of that than your article here where we can come together and say, “I feel the same.” Thank you for sharing, Mark. It has been a difficult month for a variety of reasons, and reading this was a moment of clarity I desperately needed. I’m going to go draw some stuff now 🙂

  4. Isaac, I think self-doubt and anxiety are common denominators among creative people. Seems these things go hand in hand. In the end I think the only thing that matters is what we accomplish, not what we could or should have done if only those little doubts and fears hadn’t crept up. It’s very heroic of us to smite those fears down not only to do the work, but to share it with others. Creating is a process and for me, overcoming those feelings is part of the process. Few of us ever look at something we really admire creatively and think: “I wonder what the creator had to overcome to put this work together? Did they doubt themselves? Were they paralyzed by their own insecurities?” Did Michelangelo ever have “one of those days”? After all is said and done, none of those things matter much, do they? It’s the work that says it all.

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