I’ll admit that writing this post wasn’t something I wanted to do today. I’m currently working on the next issue of Bad Girls, promoting and continuing to write Pawn Shop, developing a new pitch with Footprints artist Jonathan Moore, and writing a new short story, not to mention slowly working on a different project that I can’t talk about yet. What I’m trying to say is, I’ve got plenty on my plate. But then, that’s relevant to this post, I suppose.
This morning I was engaged by a Twitter follower that had sent me an e-mail, hoping for coverage on a fundraising campaign he’s running for his comic. While the discussion began with him annoyed that I hadn’t responded yet (he sent the e-mail 4 days ago, and that’s a different issue entirely. See full plate above), it quickly evolved to a heated debate about “not being able to afford” making comics. His argument was that he’s floating by the skin of his teeth, with all of his money going to bills, rent, etc. And I identify with that, I truly do. Because guess what? Most people in comics are in the exact same boat. Few people are in this business to make money. Any art, really, should be done because you have an inexplicable drive to do it, no matter what.
But the fact is that comics are expensive, especially if you’re a writer. We have to pay not just a penciller, but usually an inker and a colorist and a letterer too. Many of my friends in comics have children and a spouse, and I don’t know how they manage, quite honestly. I live alone with a cat, and I’m barely floating by. Sure, he’s an expensive and needy cat, but I digress. My point is that — just like any goal in life — if you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. No excuses.
Things that are not legitimate excuses:
- Having no money
- Having no time
- Not knowing anyone in the industry
- Not being able to find an artist/writer/collaborator
And innumerable variations on those things. Not that I’m your drill instructor or something, but if those are the reasons you give me for not producing any results, then I won’t accept them. Know all of those creators that you look up to and admire? Or even the up-and-comers that you think you’re just as good as or better than? They all found their way to work past these “excuses.” That’s how it works. You do the work, you are rewarded. The work has to be quality, sure, but making it happen for yourself counts for a lot.
For three of the excuses I listed above — no time, no “contacts”, no collaborators — those are easily rectified. It’s a matter of just doing it. Seriously. If you can’t do those things, you don’t want it bad enough. End of story. You can make time. You can make contacts. You can find collaborators. No time? Wake up early or stay up late. Say goodbye to your weekends and nightlife.
For the latter two, that’s resolved in convention attendance. Go to a convention, talk to creators. Take a stroll down artist alley and meet people. Take an interest. If a convention isn’t possible right now — well, first think about moving because you’re going to need to attend them — then head to the creator message boards. Digital Webbing, Pencil Jack, Deviant Art are all places that I’ve met creators that I’m still working with to this day. Find creative people through your local comic book shop — I bet there are like-minded individuals in your town — and start a healthy creative group and help each other progress. Once you start building a network of collaborators, it will grow and grow until there are so many people you want to work with that you can’t possibly find the time.
As for money, well, that’s a bit more complicated. But it’s still feasible. In my own case, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m broke. I live paycheck to paycheck, just like almost everyone else I know. Things suck for everyone. I have debt — taxes, student loans, car payments, credit cards, medical bills, etc. Just like everybody else. And I’m paying it off. Slowly, but I’m working on it. But guess what else I do? I make comics. Because I need to. I literally can’t imagine myself existing without doing so. Is it the best way to plan for my financial future? Maybe not, but I’m damn happy that I’m making comics.
Of course there are situations that are exceptions: health problems, care of a loved one, etc. But by and large, people I’ve spoken to that are “unable” to fund their comics use the excuse of normal every day life. Well tough rocks, because that shit ain’t ever going to change. You work around it. Making comics isn’t easy, so you do what you have to in order to get shit done. Here are some things you can cut back on:
- Food: Yeah, I’m serious. Stop eating out. Stock up on Ramen noodles and pasta. Join a wholesaler like Costco where you can get a lot of easy-to-make food on the cheap. The money you spend on membership will be worth it.
- Entertainment: You know that new video game you wanted to buy? You can’t, you’re making comics now. You don’t need The Avengers on Blu-ray, you don’t need to go see a $12 movie, and you don’t need to see that concert. And, as blasphemous as it could seem, you don’t need to buy comics every week. Deal with it. It’s better to make your own, anyway.
- Luxuries: You don’t need a new TV or the latest game console or a tablet. You can sweat the summer without A/C. You can put on layers in the winter. You don’t have to go to the bar. You don’t even need to replace your computer (unless it’s for your job or something). Got a pen and paper and a library? You can make comics.
Once you tighten your belt, you can supplement your income:
- Get a second/third job: Yeah, it sucks. But you want to do something, you make it happen. When I started Footprints I was working two full-time jobs in addition to a bunch of shit freelance writing jobs. I still needed to Kickstart it and that STILL only covered a fraction of the cost. You do what you have to.
- Sell your comics/collectibles: Don’t get attached to your collections. Sell off the jewels of your collections, be they comics, games, toys, or DVDs. You’ll live.
- Garage sale: Seriously. There’s probably a bunch of crap laying around that you don’t need.
- Learn to do stuff yourself: Learn a skill that you’d normally have to pay for: coloring or lettering, for example. While ultimately you will have to invest in equipment to do these things on a professional level, there are cheap books and free programs to get you started on the basics. Ultimately, if you learn how to do it and do it well, this could save you a ton of money in the long run.
- Fundraising/Beg: This includes crowd-funding like Kickstarter or Indie GoGo. It also includes begging family and friends. You want to make comics and don’t have money of your own? Get used to begging for it from others. Once you have projects under your belt, hopefully, begging will become easier.
- Save: Yeah, saving sucks. Especially if it’s $20 at a time from your bi-weekly paycheck. But every bill put away is one step closer to your goal. Comics require just as much patience as they do money. Also see #1.
- Stop complaining: Every tweet, every blog post, every Facebook status about not being able to do something you supposedly love is one moment in time wasted, avoiding the very thing you’re complaining about not doing.
I realize I might be coming off as harsh or something. But if you aren’t willing to put in the time and effort and sacrifice, somebody else will, and they’ll get to where you want to be first. I’m not saying it’s a race — and especially in comics, we all need to be supportive of one another — but no one is going to slow down and wait for you, either.
If you’ve stuck with this rambling post this long, hopefully that means you genuinely want to make comics. Or paint. Or write music. Or whatever. This applies to many things, I think, but in my case it’s comics. My way won’t be acceptable for everyone, I know that, and it shouldn’t be. For one thing, there’s got to be a healthier way. And I’m working on that. After all, I can’t write if I’m dead. But I’ve given up a lot and have sacrificed relationships in pursuit of what it is that I want to do. I’ve made a ton of mistakes and will make plenty more and still have a long way to go.
But hey, I’ve got books on my shelf with my name on it, and that’s something I’m proud of.