Full transparency: I’ve never deliberately looked up blog topics (so far as I can recall) but for fun, this morning I decided to do that and see what’s currently out there for blogging ideas. “The Toughest Part About Being a . . .” prompt was something I came across and, maybe because I’m still groggy, resonated with me the most this fine winter morning.
So that said, here is the toughest part about being a writer/artist as per how I feel at the moment I’m writing this:
When people ask what I do for a living and I tell them I write stories and draw, I’m met with two general responses: “Oh man, that’s so cool!” or, “That’s nice. Maybe one day you’ll get a real job instead of playing all day.” The latter isn’t explicitly stated but is certainly implied by tone, facial expression, and body language, all with an air of disappointment.
The first crowd is, of course, the most pleasant to deal with. Their eyes light up and they smile and are genuinely happy for me. They often become my readers and usually follow up with me the next time I see them and ask how things are going and if I’m still doing it (the “still doing it” part hinting they understand it’s an unstable job but they have my back and are in my corner even if my answer is “No”).
The second crowd is the one I don’t understand. The general formula for a working adult is you get out of bed, go to work, come home, eat dinner, then get on with your evening, which may or may not include doing more work. That’s the formula I’ve lived by my entire working life–whether working in the arts or elsewhere–and the formula every working adult I know follows. The only difference is I work from home. So when I “go to work,” my commute is measured in hallways and staircases as I make my way down to the Central’s bunker to get started. I work all day–and get paid for it–turn the computer off, then reverse my commute and wind up back upstairs with the rest of the household. But mention you write stories and draw pictures for a living and suddenly you don’t have a real job (see the “On Freelancing for a Living (This is a Job)” blog post). Upon thinking about it, it’s not even the working from home part that seems to rub people the wrong way (though this can happen). It’s the specific what I do for a living. I’ve seen firsthand where others who work from home who don’t write stories and draw pictures are met with a metaphorical handshake. Me? It’s a metaphorical hands-in-their-pockets.
There is a disconnect that happens–usually with the older generation(s)–where, in the old days, work was something you left the house for and something you didn’t always enjoy. Work was actual work, like a chore, or work was something that demanded such a hard effort that every day ended the same when one came home: a collapse on the couch from mental and/or physical exhaustion. I believe the disconnect also happens because a lot of people tend to forget the entertainment they consume had to be created by somebody. Those books you read? Somebody took a lot of time writing them. Those comics you love? A group of people had to spend a lot of time writing, drawing, coloring, lettering, and printing them. Those movies you go to every Friday night? A whole slew of people had to go somewhere to play dress-up and pretend for a camera to tell you a story. That video game? Tons of people. Tons of artists. Even the very computer or smartphone this entry is being read on was dreamed up and sketched out by people who went to work. Somebody had to write all the code used in that phone. Somebody had to draw all those app icons. Somebody had to make science fiction science fact. Oh, and they got paid to do it because they need food and shelter, too.
Why is my job not normally respectable? Is it the non-steady paycheck? Is it the fact I like it? Is it because I’d rather spend a third of every day enjoying myself versus dragging myself through the motions? Is it because I made up my mind and chose what I was going to do with the old statement that you can either work towards making your own dreams come true or you can work for someone else to make their dreams come true?
Why does a lawyer get the handshake and I don’t? Why does a doctor? Or an accountant? Or a factory worker or a mechanic? Their job puts food on the table and keeps a roof over their loved ones’ heads just like mine does. My income goes towards food and bills, getting stuff for the kids and gas in the car. It buys Christmas presents and pays for date nights. It funds life just like their job funds life.
I work. You work. We all work.
And like I posted to social media forever ago, I want to repeat here: Everything is art. Every. Single. Thing. Creation is God’s canvas and nature is His painting. The stuff humans have made? It’s all based on someone dreaming and asking themselves, “What if . . .?” Then writing it down and drawing it out. Designing your couch is an art form. Writing the code for your car’s computer is an art form. Coming up with how to safely make a handheld drill is an art form. And so on.
Everything is art.
In the end, I’ve learned to live with the hits and learned my career choice will be frowned upon by others. But there are also others who don’t frown and instead smile. Those are the people who give respect. The others? I’ll still respect their work because they are my fellow human beings, and perhaps one day I’ll get the same occupational respect in return.
Author’s note: This article isn’t about complaining. It’s pointing out a disconnect that some people seem to have and is hopefully encouraging to those who might be in the same boat.
The snow that hit earlier this month had melted but this morning the yard is white. It may or may not stick around, but even if it goes away, it’ll be back with a vengeance because snow is what we do six months of the year here in Winnipeg. And while the possibility of doing things outside gets greatly reduced during the winter months, being locked indoors for half a year has its advantages when you make books and comics for a living.
You get to just, simply, work. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t plan for out-of-the-studio excursions in the New Year.
If you go to the Convention and Book Signing Schedule section of this site, you’ll see that I didn’t do events in 2019. There are lots of reasons for this, some of which had to do with being unwell. With the loss of the Central Canada Comic Con–my “default” show for every year except for last year–I have to do some research for local events over the winter so I can book on time for the 2020 season. If I succeed in what I have planned for the winter, then I’ll have a lot of new material for next year’s shows plus any book signings along the way. There has also been talk here at the Central about leaving the province–possibly even the country–for a few events next year. Once dates and locales are locked down, I will announce them here. I’m eager to connect with fans again at these venues. Always a joy to see them.
In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to just working throughout the winter season. It’s been a good long while since I was able to create without hindrances. I can’t wait to get back to it again.
Ps. A new behind-the-scenes entry is scheduled to go on my Patreon page later this week. Join the journey to catch the post plus other behind-the-scenes goodies already on the site. Of course, getting access to a serial novel, essays, patron-only posts and patron-first announcements along with an exclusive membership card isn’t a bad deal either.
Outside, fall has settled. The gray clouds are out. My kind of weather.
This is a fitting picture of work life at the moment. Lots of work in progress (the leaves), with ominous gray clouds hanging overhead (projects yet to be done). It’s been a long time since I’ve had sixteen thousand things on the go. (Okay, not that many but you get the idea.)
I’m thankful to be working again. I’m thankful to have enough on my plate to keep the creative machine going.
I’m thankful I’m no longer in my own personal gray forest. Just a gray forest of work.
Though this demands a full article, here is the brief version on creative freelancing for a living.
It’s a job. A fun one, but a job. The common misconception people have of those working from home is that it’s all playtime and games, sleeping in and working here and there. This isn’t true. During the day, home becomes my workplace. There is a start-of-work time and an end-of-work time. (Except during deadline season, then it’s work until it’s done.) I have clients who have me on the clock. I have personal projects on the clock. Everything is scheduled. If I don’t adhere to the schedule, I lose the job with a client and/or I lose income generated from regularly releasing books. I have my Patreon to attend to with hard-earned money being spent by people who have trusted me with it in exchange for entertaining them. I have a career built on a reputation and if I wreck that reputation, I can’t get it back. This is all taken very seriously. My career is zero without my readers and clients. My ability to eat rests on ensuring they are treated well and quality work is being brought to them.
While working at home has some advantages like not needing to commute or not needing to pack a lunch, or endless coffee and the ability to vape inside, it’s still treated like an out-of-home job. It has to be. I’m working whether I feel like it or not. I’m putting the time in whether I feel like it or not. This idea that working from home isn’t the same as a “real” job needs to stop. What is a job? It’s a task(s) you do in exchange for something. It’s a task(s) you’re depended upon to do. Any freelancer who knows their next meal is dependent on getting the job done knows this.
As much as I tout working hard and keeping busy, a person also needs time out now and then to rest and recuperate so they can go back to working hard and keeping busy. Proper rest ensures you do your job well and produce quality work. It also keeps you from falling ill or just plain feeling crappy. I’m personally still working on knowing when to take a break, but the days I do allow myself a breather are treasured and are appreciated after the fact when I feel rested and restored.
It’s all about balance. Too many rest days and you won’t get anywhere. Too little rest days and your work will slide.
Just trying to help, is all. Lots of creators ask me questions because I’ve been in this business for so long. These little posts I’m broadcasting are meant to answer some and also provide encouragement to those who feel like throwing in the towel. Are they annoying? Maybe. Are they helpful? Maybe, too. Hope they are, anyway.
Time to keep working. If you have questions about any aspect of publishing, send me an email and I’ll do my best to answer in a timely manner.
This is a note to let you know I’m still alive albeit working hard down in the mines. The picture you see is the current art table complete with stimulants to keep things going.
I’m prepping two series for Instagram, and writing Axiom-man/Auroraman: Frozen Storm. Progress is being made on all three fronts.
This is also a friendly reminder to tune into my weekly newsletter, The Canister X Transmission, for updates as to what’s going on and how insane I’m getting chipping away at these rocks somewhere around the planet’s core. Trust me, I’m starting to lose it down here.
Presently, I’m sitting on a block of work outside of the aforementioned projects. There are four books already written that need to go through the production process before release. The Axiom-man/Auroraman title makes it five. Once this superhero book is done, it’s off to the races and to pumping out book after book in the hopes of entertaining you guys.
Then I’m gonna nap. Forever.
But on the off chance I awake, it’ll back down here with the shovel and pick-axe, working away.
We’re getting there, people. New books are coming.