I originally titled this post “Happiness in Slavery” before deciding that was just slightly overblown as a headline, even if it makes for a snappy Nine Inch Nails reference. Last week I spent some bandwidth discussing the whole idea of the boundaries of “professionalism” insofar as making an independent comic goes, and in a sense you could contend that some creators become slaves to their creation, in some extreme cases even sacrificing personal health and welfare for the sake of getting those pages out to an ever-hungry public.
But slavery? Not really, even if much of the time the lack of monetary compensation seems to fit the bill. Any floggings tend to be self-inflicted (and hopefully figurative). If you run off on a hiatus, no one’s going to hunt you through the woods with hounds and return you to your computer and/or drawing table in chains. There may be some choice flames flung your way, but even if you somehow stir the Internet hornet’s nest enough that someone goes to the trouble of an entire site dedicated to how much you suck, it’s still insane to compare that to even the most enlightened models of indentured servitude.
Perspective, you see. I brought up the idea of perspective last week, and I’ll bring it up again because it’s important. Perspective is, for example, what prevents you from declaring your life is over because you woke up with a zit on your nose before the big dance. Teenagers can be notoriously lacking in perspective, but it’s still an issue going into adulthood.
For example, in recent months Dawn had been having such stability troubles with her computer that we never knew if it was going to function correctly when she turned it on. I tried and tried to fix it, stressing myself to the point I eventually twitched into an instinctual fight-or-flight response every time she pushed the power button. That computer was MISSION CRITICAL to getting the comic produced, and she never seemed to properly understand what a disaster we were constantly teetering on the brink of.
Actually, her plan was to hook up the drawing tablet to our laptop if worse came to worst and get things done that way, even if it meant having to start over. Maybe we wouldn’t make our weekly deadline, but she was okay with that in a way I couldn’t fathom. There would be a ZIT. RIGHT ON OUR NOSE.
I mean, this all came from a good place, the idea that we made a commitment to the readers that if they swung by on a Wednesday, there’d be some new content for them. Even though no one’s paying us for it, even though there’s no editor looming over our shoulders, that was something I felt should be striven for. But as I mentioned last week, once I realized I’d gotten to the point where a single minute past midnight felt like a crushing failure, it was time for perspective. To ease off the throttle some and let happiness creep back into the process. I mean, the fact is that the one time we’ve been significantly late (by more than an hour) in the past year or so was due to an unavoidable server issue. True, we also take the occasional filler break, such as the traditional chapter break we’re doing now, but even then it’s still new content even if it doesn’t happen to be specific story progession.
But it was vitally important for me to find the happiness in what I was doing again, which not incidentally lets Dawn be happy as well… because a twitchy, worried Clint tends to cramp her style. I think the last couple months of the comic have actually been the better for it. The quality has remained the same (or better), but the creative team is a more cheerful bunch. This is also important when you happen to be living together as husband and wife.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I finally seem to have gotten her computer working stably again. Really, perspective also dictates that these are amongst the firstiest of first-world problems (though not quite up there with deciding whether to drive the Porsche or the Jag to your Summer home), but occasionally we all dip into that well of my-life-is-over hyperbole. The important thing is to recognize when it stares you in your zit-schnozzled face, and agree to disagree.