I’m a member of a few different webcomic communities, and it seems like not a week goes by that someone will speak up about feeling how they’re feeling depressed with the state of their creative efforts. Sometimes it’s tied in with asking for advice on how they can get more readers, or more exposure, or somehow make some money off of this thing they’ve been pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into. Sometimes it’s just a cry for help and commiseration, seeking solace from fellow travelers who might understand the craziness of spending week after week, month after month, even year after year hurling a story out into the blind void of the Internet. “How do you keep going?”, comes the refrain, and no matter how many times it’s asked, the question is answered with compassion and patience. I suspect this is because we know we might be wailing that question ourselves before long, even if we don’t necessarily post it on Facebook. If we’ve already thought it through and answered it for someone else, then that answer will be there, echoing back to us, when we need it most.

Oddly enough, this is similar to a technique used by professional psychiatric counselors. “Doc,” the patient will say, “I feel my sibling is overstepping their boundaries with me when they put their hands in my pockets, tear out my phone, wallet, and keys, and throw them into the swimming pool, but I feel bad confronting them about it.” Now the doctor could just tell them what a damn wuss they’re being, but they’re already in a bit of a sensitive state— plus also paying for the session. So instead the doctor will ask something akin to, “What advice would you give to someone that was happening to?” Whereupon the patient answers, “Oh. Hmm. Well doc, I reckon I’d tell them to choke out that sibling like Anderson Silva on fight night.”

I don’t know if there’s any specific sociological or psychiatric term for this phenomenon, but it doesn’t seem like rocket science to observe that people are far more able to comment on and analyze situations that they’re not hip deep in the middle of. You know that bad relationship your friend is in, and you and all your other friends can totally see it but they can’t? Perhaps you’ve been that friend in the relationship? Remember when things finally fell apart and everything was a house of cards and you wondered why no one ever told you, and then you realized that all the signs were there and your friends had tried to warn you but you just ignored everything until it was too late?

Where was I? Oh yes. Basically what I’m getting at is that sooner or later everyone making a webcomic is going to experience that existential time of frustration and depression where they wonder what it’s all about and whether they should keep going, and when it hits, you’d best believe digging yourself out of that hole isn’t just a matter of turning on the “positive thinkin'” switch, because the positive thoughts are going to be hard to come by. Unless those thoughts are already out there, waiting to bounce back to you. If you’ve helped others, if you recognize that what you’re going through is not unique, you may be better equipped to step back and ask yourself “How ya doin’?”, and give a more honest accounting of that than you would otherwise.

Or if you’re really lucky(?), you could be The Tick.

The Tick (seeing a giant statue of himself) Whoa! What is that?
Tick’s Mind: Oh, sure. Now you wanna know. Tick, this is your self-image.
The Tick: Hey, I look pretty good.
Tick’s Mind: You can ask it only one question.
The Tick: Uh, what question?
Tick’s Mind: The “why are we here” question!
The Tick: Oh, right. (to statue How ya doin’?
(statue gives a thumbs-up)
Tick’s Mind: That’s your big question?
The Tick: Hey, thumbs up! We’re doin’ good!

I’d leave it at that, though, or little blue men might jump out to hit you with fish.