Dear Loved One: Why I Need Comics In My Life

dearlovedone

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.

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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.

Signed,
Me.

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DawnPicDawn 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.

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12 Comments

  1. For me comics saved my life.

    Im still waiting to launch my webcomic but have been writing the scripts for it for the last six years. following a very bad relationship breakdown I was close to loosing my mind and my life, but then I started writing and every pent up emotion turned into a character,before long I felt better because everything I had bottled up inside was no longer eating away at me but had become part of something new and full of drama, my anger turned to an evil bad guy my sorrow turned into a misguided teen writing comics has become part of me and I can not do without it even if i never publish i will still write them.
    As for the job, art is all I know and all I’m good at despite what some critics may say. I have had loads of jobs but I am never happy working for a boss, working for myself is the only way, The last thing I need in my life is someone thinking they own me just because they pay me. (And if all goes wrong and I end up living in a cardboard box, at least I can draw on the box )
    we all have a story to tell and comics is the best way to do that its more than just art its therapy.

    regards
    Aron

    • Your comment is quite inspiring, Aron. For some of us, drawing comics is a fullfilling hobby/aspiration… but without them we can get by for a while. For others, it’s so ingrained to our DNA, to us as people, that it’s almost like a medication. How you describe it is like a vessel for expression, for telling your story, in the most fitting format possible. I dig it. I’m glad you found the medium and are able to find balance in your life! I hope you can surround yourself with supportive people :0)

  2. I have been experiencing the same sort of thing with my family lately. The only thing that keeps them from launching a full, all-out mutiny is the fact that I also have a full-time job, so my “obsession” with my webcomic doesn’t appear to be too overly insane.

    My wife was actually my biggest supporter back in the day. She even motivated me to get my own website in which to showcase my comics. She was my proofreader, muse, and the very first person to read whatever strip I was working on. After a few years of “hopeless futility” however, I can barely get her to click “LIKE” on my comic post on Facebook, or even read the strip when it comes out.

    I know it’s not a hate thing or whatever, and I know that she’s just grown tired of not seeing the fruits of my 365 days a year for over five years labor. Yeah, I get a few dollars occasionally thru the website for this and that, but that’s gone as soon as it arrives (and it’s not enough to get her a paper bag much less a Coach bag).

    My kids’s friends are pretty avid fans of my comic, but my kids aren’t per se. If it was on TV, my son says he would pay more attention. It’s not their fault, their generation doesn’t do any reading of any kind. My son is a gamer, but won’t even search out cheat codes if they’re in a book. He’d rather get the info from YouTube.

    For me, making my webcomic is an obsession bordering on addiction. I’ve GOTTA create this thing. I have to catch myself from constantly pondering strip ideas or thinking of new ways to market the comic at every moment. I’ve ceased really talking about my webcomic to my family unless they specifically ask or if something remarkable or lucrative occurs.

    All I can do is keep striving and hope that one day my efforts will not have been wasted. Hey, even if nothing ever comes of it in my lifetime, maybe I’ll have a legacy to leave my future generations.

    • Sorry for the late reply, Hank. Your story here is part heartbreaking but also inspiring. It’s one thing when you start out and the possibilities are just hanging in space for you to grab… that’s an easy time for loved ones to jump aboard. But when it comes to creative endeavors where simple talent and schooling isn’t enough (you need LUCK, right-time-right-place type luck)… after a couple years it’s hard to keep up that level of excitement. It’s frustrating on both ends. But it’s nice to see your passion and determination hasn’t faltered without the hands-on support of your family. Hopefully, as you seem to be doing, they can accept it as a non-monetary endeavor for now… and be ok with that.

      That said, it also saddens me to hear that reading in general is falling by the wayside with the next generation… but it’s true. Only readers raise readers- keep them reading and limit TV/gaming. With all the other entertainment options out there, it’s just easier to play a video game than use imagination and read a book. Something we all have to be aware of…

      • I really appreciate George living such a heartfelt comment here, and I can definitely relate with his plight.

        I think it’s a cop out for Dawn to mention “reading in general is falling by the wayside”. There are plenty of successful online comics these days and they are being read by all sorts of people, young and old.

        • I didn’t mean to slight the comics out there, online or just in print… there are some great ones for sure! I just have seen too many kids (preteens and younger) who, like George said, would MUCH rather play games or watch TV than pick up a book. Even a comic book. It’s not entertaining enough for them– they need a full sensory experience. This is why there’s so many comic artists who are trying to animate “previews” of their comic, as if it’s a movie preview… as part of a Kickstarter or just to hype up a debut. A sign of the times. The young readers who love comics, whom I know at least, have parents who love to read and love comics and will gladly keep their kids buried in books. But I guess that’s not ALWAYS the case– as we see in George’s case.

          I’m just saying reading and imagination need to be nurtured and encouraged, in this sensory-overloaded world that leaves little TO the imagination.

          • My kids were toddlers when Sam Raimi’s first Spiderman movie came out. They hit the ground running, knowing what Spidey looks like swinging thru the sky. They heard the ‘thwipp’ way before they ever read the word. My son knows the sound of ‘snikt’ but hasn’t seen that word either.

            In this day and age, imagination isn’t necessary nor mandatory to the kids. I try to toss ’em a few comics because I know they like certain characters, but they’ll flip thru the books within seconds, admire the art, then go watch the marathon animated series of the same characters.

            I guess I became a reader due to several factors. One, my mom was a librarian. Two, I was an only child raised in the middle of nowhere. For me, cable was just that. A cable. Cartoons came on on Saturdays, and if I missed them that day, oh well…

            I was also raised in an age where home video games didn’t premiere until I was in sixth or seventh grade. So, without all of that stuff around, my only source of entertainment was to read.

            I can’t really blame the kids because it’s hard to pick up a book when there are so many other delicious distractions out there.

            Shoot, I’ve had to start shutting my computer down because I’ve received a slew of new books that I’ve avoided because it was much simpler to spend my free time watching Netflix, Vine videos, World Star Hip-Hop beatdowns, or working on my webcomic and doing the social media thing.

            I have no good clue about how to get the next generation to read anything that doesn’t come on a monitor or phone screen. Sigh….

  3. Dawn, first off the post above by Steam Key Generator is spam and is giving a bad impression of a fantastic post.

    I grew up in a world where art was something only rich people did to amuse themselves, so you can imagine what it was like having a burning love of creating art, where being caught in the act of drawing got you a clip on the ear and put to work at some mundane domestic drudgery. If I could have sent them your letter they would have laughed while to sign it in the garbage half unread. They were not believers in creativity, or art, and comics! Lord! don’t talk to them about comics!
    Which is why I was in my early fifties when I started making my first sequential comic. Not being able to do this now would feel like I was drying up and dying. Like George Ford, I HAVE to work on it. I admire him so much for the quality and quantity of his comics. I’m sad that his family no longer supports him, because it doesn’t bring in enough money.
    You letter to a loved one will be a boon to many people even if it only serves to spark people into addressing a problem they may barely even perceive. I would add one thing to it, though.
    Where you suggest a “time out”? Don’t just think that, or even agree that, you will get back to it later. Make an appointment with each other to do so. A place and a day/time. Its so easy to put off getting back into it, otherwise.
    This should go viral, because it not only addresses us comic creators, it hones in on the areas where anyone who needs to create is living with or relating with others who haven’t a clue what it feels like.
    I lived for a long long time with no idea what my life could be like if I shared it with some one who believes in what I do the same way that I do, until I met my husband, James. Now I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven, and have lived in heaven for over fourteen years.
    This is going to sound terrible, but if anyone uses your letter and doesn’t get positive results , then I personally believe you should let them go and find someone who will support you. Life is too short.

    • Our old hosting company had severe spam issues and a HUGE number of spam comments attacked the site. Sometimes 1000’s a day. A few would actually get by Askimet and end up on posts. I tried to keep an eye on them, but some went unnoticed. Thank you for pointing it out.

      We’re on a new host now, and hopefully the spam will slow down.

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