Webcomics and comics in general is a staggeringly hard field in which to find success. Even a casual fan knows this. Which probably means your spouses, parents, siblings, and friends know it too. In a world of “STEP 1: go to school and get a degree in __blank__, STEP 2: get a job in said field, and STEP 3: coast along until retirement“, shooting for the stars in fields like music, pro sports or the arts seems like a lofty, irresponsible, aspiration. Sure, you can tackle STEP 1, but after that your odds grow smaller and smaller. A “Plan B” is a necessity. Most of us have worked out a Plan B and are coasting along on it, while still chasing our hearts and following the stars, or what have you. Instead of having a job and a hobby, we have a job and an aspiration (or even a supplementary income). We managed to find a balance. So, things are cool, right?
Nope. Not for one (or even a couple) important people in our lives. We’ve all been there. Trying to explain our love for comics and the need to create to people who don’t “get it”. However, for those who don’t have that creative spark, or don’t have a “dream job” they aspire to despite the pathetic odds, grasping this aspect of our lives may be difficult. You may hear “why do you bother?” or “you need to grow up” or “just forget it and stick to your real job” (or “get a real job” in some cases). Coming from someone close, this is hard to swallow. But supporting someone’s aspiration that is an incredible time-suck, and watching them throw themselves head first towards a goal that they probably will never achieve is really hard. That’s what you want, what you need, regardless. So, where do we go from here?
A respectful discussion of priorities and both party’s needs is the best bet to saving the relationship. Face-to-face is ideal, but sometimes emailing may be a better option. Below is a generic letter I am offering as an ice breaker, for anyone who wants to start the conversation. Use it as a template or share a link if you like. Go into the discussion knowing sacrifices will need to be made on BOTH ends, and each party will need to be flexible. Listen to them, and they should hopefully listen to you. “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them”; the great Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird said this, and it’s one that has always remained with me. Be prepared to swap shoes.
Dear Loved One;
Today I would like to discuss with you a long-time love of mine, and my feelings on how it works into my life. I would also like to listen to how my passion affects your life, and discuss how to improve this for you. I am hoping for a give-and-take, so ideally we can work out an outcome that’s beneficial for both of us. Please know that my efforts here are proof that I care for you and want you in my life… so much so that I am willing to consider sacrifices. However…..
Call it a hobby, or an aspiration, or a calling, or a career… I need comics in my life.
Comics, or sequential art, have zeroed in on something deep within me; the combination of the storytelling, layout, and art is the recipe for exactly what I do best and love the most. Sure, drawing & writing comics can be a side hobby; something done for fun and placed on the back burner so as to not interfere with anything else. I feel so passionate about the field that I would like my “hobby” to be some source of income or at the very least something I dedicate a good portion of myself to for a long while. Doodling here and there is one thing, but I aim for bigger things, like holding a full printed book of my work in my hands, and seeing others enjoy what I create. In fact, that aspect to comics is JUST as important as the actual creation, to me. This requires time and experimenting and learning curves and a community to lean on. I assure you, my life without expression via this medium will feel black & white in comparison… and it’s hard to give back to those I love without feeling like I’m in full color. Which is why I need to emphasize….
Comics aren’t ALL I need in my life. I need you as well.
I know I focus a lot… A LOT… on creating comics and all the aspects that come with it. Though I understand it may seem like that means you rank lower on my priority list, that’s far from the truth. I respect you, and your opinion. I hope you feel similarly about me. I want to fully understand where you stand and why you feel the way you do, because I care. Life is a balancing act, and sometimes I need a nudge to remind me what is tipping too far to one side. So….
I am asking for your help.
I am not perfect. I may have thought I was balancing my life as best as possible, but it’s obvious I cannot do it alone. I do not want to neglect anyone! We may be very different people with different goals, but with open-minded discussions and some empathy, we may be able to see eye to eye a little better. I want to feel understood as much as you do, and communication is the only way to achieve that. That’s what this letter will spark, I am hoping. A respectful discussion of how I can have what I need, and still offer you what you need. But first…
Being an artist, a creator, a writer isn’t cut-and-dry. I need flexibility, but with limits.
A simple solution for some aspirations may be a set time-limit on certain days… strictly scheduled to ensure others will not be neglected. However, with many creative endeavors, flexibility is required. Some aspects to being a comic creator are open-ended… I may need 3 hours to create what I need to, or maybe I can power through it in just 2. The writing side of things can really fluctuate, as you have probably heard of the term “writer’s block”. What I am asking is for some patience with me, and to know that for the many times it takes longer than expected, there will be other times where I am simply not “feeling it” and will take a night off, or will find I can complete tasks faster than usual. Just keep the lines of communication open, because there ARE indeed priorities that I hold above comics. I need your support; maybe not involved support like helping me carry my stuff to comic conventions, but at least the knowledge that you’re OKAY with my aspirations. Just hearing me out in this letter is supportive! In that vein…
For this to work for the both of us, there needs to be a compromise.
We are intelligent, creative people. A solution for something like this will not be easy… but with some positivity and outside-the-box thinking, I’m sure we can come up with some ideas to ensure we each have a happier future. It will require some sacrifices from each of us, such as giving me the space I need to create, or setting aside a weeknight that will always be devoted to hanging out together. It will also require us to bite our lips and remain congenial to each other even when the other is being too demanding or neglectful. Lets use this letter as the starting point, a chance to take a fresh look at each other and what we need. I will listen if you do, you have my respect if I have yours. And if things get heated, we agree to call “time out” and readdress this later rather than chance the tension worsening.
I am confident we can work together towards a better understanding, with a compromise that is equally beneficial. Please take your time and give this letter some consideration. Life without comics would be like life without you: colorless. I want both!
Thank you for reading.
Dawn Griffin is the resident “crazy chick”. She likes steak, Cleveland sports, video games and oh yeah, comics. She spent her formative years either playing street basketball, pitching, or drawing comics and submitting them to syndicates. Once she –accidentally– discovered the world of webcomics, the syndication route became a pointless hurdle. After all, “Crazy Chicks” do things their *&%$ selves. Dawn is the mastermind behind Zorphbert and Fred, and you can find her portfolio site HERE. She can be easily bribed with ice cream.