Dave Sim's blogandmail #113 (January 2nd, 2007)
HAVE YOU BOOKMARKED THE
BLOG AND MAIL YET?
YOU HAVE? IN THAT CASE, DON'T YOU FIND IT REALLY
ANNOYING THAT THE BLOG & MAIL KEEPS REMINDING YOU TO DO SOMETHING THAT YOU ALREADY DID ESPECIALLY SINCE THE BLOG & MAIL INSISTS THAT IT REALLY, REALLY
LOVES AND RESPECTS AND UNDERSTANDS YOU?
YES, THE BLOG & MAIL AGREES THAT
THIS COULD VERY WELL JUST BE ANOTHER
COMPLETELY DYSFUNCTIONAL DRAINING DEAD-END RELATIONSHIP, BUT YOU KNOW WHAT?
THE BLOG & MAIL IS STILL WILLING TO WORK AT IT.
YOU. AND THE BLOG AND MAIL. GOTETHER.
A letter from Alex Longstreth and Sean Robinson and that should see me caught up on the mail for this week. I'm juggling a lot of different tasks these days and still haven't reached a definite conclusion about how to do the Blog and Mail. I've learned to just let the occasional typo go. I proofread the stuff only in the sense that I reread it and fix it as I go along but I'm afraid I don't devote the level of time to it that I did with the Note from the President and Aardvark Comment "back in the day" but thanks to everyone who says that it has the same flavour. I managed to get a week's worth done in about a day or so but I really need to try to cut back to the four hours or so that I did the week's worth in when I got back from Salt Lake City. If I could get closer to that on a regular basis, I'd probably do this as an open-ended thing.
Anyway, Alex Lonstreth sent along pencil rough photocopies of a strip that he's working on that depicts him reading the Guide to Self-Publishing with me suggesting that you have a buffer of four completely finished issues before you print your first issue.
I scripted these two panels for page 7 of Phase 7 #011 but now I'm not sure if they are accurate. I reread the Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing and couldn't find this factoid in there. Is it advice that you have given before? Maybe in the back of an issue of Cerebus? Or did I pick this up somewhere else along the line and just attribute it to you?
I've penciled it out but will hold off on the inks until I find it, or hear from you (NO RUSH—with my school load, I'll be at this issue for another 4 or 5 months—UGH!) I just really don't want to misquote you!
Incidentally, in the scenes following these panels, my comic book falls further and further behind schedule until its current pathetic rate! Hubris indeed!
I'm not sure where the advice might have appeared, but what I actually said was it is pointless to attempt to do a bi-monthly comic, as an example, by having four issues "in the can" if it took you four years to do those four issues. That is, it's not just a matter of building up inventory, it's a question of productivity. If it takes you a year to produce a comic book you aren't going to be able to stick to a bi-monthly schedule no matter what. Or, rather, issues 1 to 4 will come out in January, March, May and July but—come August—if you are only halfway through issue 5, there goes your bi-monthly schedule. It is a peculiarity of the creative mind that it tends to want to get creative with scheduling and make time behave in a different way than time does: which is why I indicated in the Guide to Self-Publishing that you have to make use of external unbiased yardsticks to determine your capabilities: clocks and calendars. On the micromanagement level, what I suggested is that you draw for a period of time without looking at the clock and then before you check the clock to see what time it is, guess what time it is. If you guess that it's around 11 am and it's actually 1 pm then you don't have an accurate idea of how productive you are. You think you're faster than you are which means you are always going to be falling behind any schedule you set. Even three years after finishing Cerebus, when I'm drawing I have a pretty good idea—within 5 minutes usually—of what time of day it is and sometimes I even guess the other way—I think that it's around noon and it's actually 11:30. But I do try to guess what time it is before I turn around and look at the clock because it seems only sensible to do so. Consequently I have a pretty clear idea of how much time it's going to take me to do a given piece of artwork. I'm much slower than I was in December 2003, but I know with a fair degree of accuracy how much slower I am so I'm still able to meet my own deadlines.
On the macromanagement scale, I recommend the use of a calendar with large open squares and that you fill in what work you got accomplished each day. This was something I came up with for myself back in 1976 when I suddenly realized just how big a difference there was between myself and Gene Day in the productivity department. I was lazy, haphazard and drew when I felt like it and Gene was productive, organized and put in long hours 7 days a week. I also only put finished work in the calendar squares. A rough layout wasn't finished work so it didn't go on the calendar. This is another area where young guys tend to fall down by considering breakdowns and layouts and concept sketches as productivity. Whether you're self-publishing or freelancing there isn't a big market for rough pencil sketches or "ideas for pages". Comic readers pay for finished comic books, companies pay for finished pages. Any day you didn't get a finished something done is a day that you're not getting paid for. Put another way, if you start a page on Monday and finish it on Saturday, you're only going to get paid for Saturday.
So, it's not really a matter of anything as exotic as hubris, Alec. It's just a matter of common sense. In a commercial art field like comic books how productive you are is going to tell you what kind of a living you're going to make. If you're very, very, very productive, you'll make a good living—nowhere near what a stockbroker is going to make or a bank president—but a good living. Anything below very, very, very productive and the odds are that you're going to end up poverty stricken or very close to it. Read Steve Starger and J. David Spurlock's new book Wally World (ISBN 1-887591-80-X) about the life and hard times of Wally Wood, if you want to see what the fate of a comic-book artist who just won't look at the hard realities of life in general and his own life in particular is going to be like. You will get old, you will slow down so you better figure a way to put food on the table before you get there
I'm enclosing a quick anthology piece I did ("A Dragon Tale" check out Alec's website at www.alec-longstreth.com for this and his other titles) just to give this package some girth. It's the last of such side projects I'm taking on for the foreseeable future. I just need to get Phase 7 #011 out the door and it will be back to work on Basewood, never to stray again until is finished!!!
I'm not singling you out, here, Alec but I think this is as good an opportunity as any for me to point out that this is another one of those things that all young wannabe comic-book artists have to watch out for. The comic-book field is a series of bottlenecks that eliminate roughly 98% of the competition just this easily. 98% of the guys trying to get into the comic-book field say, definitively, what they are going to do and then they don't do it. 2% say what they are going to do and actually do it. You have to make resolutions and stick to them, not make resolutions and then break them two days later and then make the same resolution again and break it again and then make the same resolution a month later. I mean, no offence, but you've got three exclamation marks at the end of that last sentence which I think probably has more to do with your own unconscious doubt about your ability to stick to something you've decided to do than it has to do with any kind of definitive statement on the subject—or, perhaps, more to the point convincing me that you're serious. A new issue of Phase containing a new instalment of "Basewood" in my mailbox convinces me that you're serious and puts you in the 2%. Everything else puts you in with the 98%. It's your call, though—it has nothing to do with me.
I caught your interview on Indie Spinner Rack which was quite enjoyable and informative. I've been on the show a couple of times myself and it has definitely helped in the self-promotion department, so I hope it sends some more traffic over to your www.cerebusart.com website (and in phone book sales, of course).
I caught one of your interviews when I was staying at John and Siu's place and I appreciate you having the guts to actually credit me with getting you motivated to do your own comic book. As with everyone else who expresses support for me, I hope it doesn't come back to haunt you. I thought you did a very good job in discussing your work and I'm sure it won't be long before we see the first generation of Alec Longstreth clones coming down the pike.
And needless to say, I'm definitely looking forward to the next instalment of "Basewood".
REPLIES POSTED ON THE CEREBUS YAHOO! GROUP
If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:
Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2
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