Motivating Through the Slumps

Sometimes it seems like all the creative roadblocks are stacked in your way, preventing your access so all you can do is sit there and stew and think EVERYTHING SUCKS. Bad reviews, nasty comments, struggling with a plot bit of a new story, etc etc. It’s tough - you put stuff out there for consumption, and it will be consumed - often in ways you don’t intend or disagree with.

The last few weeks I've felt especially tempted to sink down into some self-whining. One of the reasons is because I'm currently working on story pitches, which can be a bit taxing:

  1. Come up with a super idea!
  2. Explain it perfectly in ways that make everyone excited!
  3. Now throw it into a void and maybe hear nothing about it ever again.
  4. (. . . or only hear about it when it's soundly rejected by multiple people.)

It's hard to write these half-stories, these inklings of fun ideas because (if you're like me) a LOT of your ideas form WHILE you're writing the story, not before. I plan as much as I can stand ahead of time, but it's not until wading through the story with my characters that some things start to make sense. It feels weird to predict what they'll do or where they'll go without going through it with them. That's like cheating!

It's also easy to feel like - why am I wasting my time working on stuff I can't show to anyone (possibly ever) and no one might ever like? That's a larger issue of putting stuff out there to begin with - why bother?

The thing that helps me when I go through these slumpy-slumps is to remember that slumps end. They can be miserable, but also kind of fun in a wallowing way. Enjoy feeling put upon for a tiny bit of time ... and then get over it. Get back to doing what you love to do - CREATE! YOU know why you're bothering, so what if other people don't get it yet. You know there are stories you want to tell, things you want to figure out, things you want to show. Turn off the social streams that make you feel like you're not accomplishing anything. Turn off that voice that keeps telling you you're behind your peers. Remember that when you're in this biz -- or really any creative endeavor -- rejection is part of it. And so is work for work's sake - none of it is wasted. Even the tiny little pitches you keep murdering and burying, stacking one one top of another. Somehow, some day they will all feed into your future work and they will all be valuable.

Slump slump slump .... time's up. Get back to it!

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Five Things I Learned Writing Part-Time Princesses

The super cool Chuck Wendig let me join in his stellar series of "Five Things I Learned ..." posts to share what I learned writing Part-Time Princesses (available now!)

Check out the article here, and if by some reason you haven't heard of Chuck's blog before, it is CHOCK FULL (Chuck full?) of helpful tips and exercises for writers. His books are AMAZEBALLS and full of crazy twitchy characters I adore.

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That First Webcomic Love

Hey all you loyal, lovely Gods & Undergrads readers. I unfortunately have something really tough to tell you -- I've decided to put G&U on a sort of permanent hiatus for the time being. This is a really difficult thing for ME to do, but I'm sure for all of you out there who've managed to stick with it all this time, it's way more obnoxious! G&U has always been the book I've been MOST passionate about and the majority of people have been the LEAST interested in, and it was only recently after interventions from some friends and colleagues that I realized it was time to throw in this G&U towel for the moment. Not because I don't think it's worth it to put time and work into a story no one reads - hello, I'm in comics - but because the story itself is now REALLY suffering from my lack of attention. So I need to grow up and realize it and do something hard . . . like ending my first comic.

I started Gods & Undergrads wayyyy back in the year 2000 when first discovering an early love for (and awareness of) webcomics. While working at my college's art office and photo lab, I alternated between reading Scott McCloud's Zot, Derek Kirk Kim's Same Difference, and Jason Little's Bee Comix. I especially loved Dylan Meconis's Bite Me and Faith Erin Hicks's Demonology 101, too.

But what all of these people DID with their web sagas I failed to do -- they eventually finished them. They moved on to other things. While I, also, moved on to other things, other stories I wanted to tell . . . and yet I still dragged Gods & Undergrads along behind me, bumping it onto every pothole and street sign along the way. Leaving months, even years between updates sometimes. The audience I'd managed to build up until that point put up with a lot of unknowns, changes in style, even going from its initial full color format to all black and white, . . . but eventually most people have stopped reading. That's just one of the troubles with continuing a story after 14 years (and intermittent shoe-horning between other comics projects). It gets lost among the shuffle and doesn't get the attention and care it deserves.

HOWEVER, one of the reasons for me to tie it off now and put an (abrupt) ending on this 14-year-long saga is not just to stop me from dragging it through the mud, but also to give myself a chance further down the line of resurrecting it in a newer, more planned out storyline (rather than its current Frankenstein one). Oh, did I not mention that I would totally reboot this? I WOULD TOTALLY REBOOT IT.

So anyway - sorry for the lame news, everyone. I'm going to be posting the final, abruptly-cut-short 10 pages of Gods & Undergrads over the next few weeks. Sure, if I'd pulled the trigger earlier I could've ended it at the end of Book 3, with Lelaina gone and seemingly dead but WHO WANTS THAT ENDING??

I'll still have the books for sale (tons and tons of books) and will do sketches and things for anyone who wants them. And the archives will all remain online indefinitely. A BIG, HUGE, HEARTFELT THANK YOU to all of you who've kept up with the story all this time! Again, this definitely isn't the END end of Gods & Undergrads . . . just the end for now. *sniff*

And, of course, I'll still be doing Bonnie twice a week. And other comics. And I love you guys!

***UPDATE: I've decided this last chapter will be a FULL chapter, hooray! 48 pages of fun coming your way, so stay tuned! You'll have more G&U for a while yet. :)

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Wrappin' Up A Comic

Slidin' down into the home stretch, wee-hooooo!

As some of you already know, I'm finishing up my 2nd graphic novel for Oni Press, a project which has taken me a couple of years, some new tools, some dragging my family to amusement parks AND a healthy heaping of self-doubt to accomplish - and I'm NEARLY FINISHED!

I had planned to be finished early-mid July, but alas my neck and back had other ideas and took a moment to punish me for all my slouching. BUT physical therapy and lots of stretching have been helping, so I'm gearing up to punish my body all over again, wahoo! And if I can plug in ~30 hours a week or so for the next month, I'll be done come early August.

Now the reason I'm boring you all with the details of how long it takes me to do things is because I'd like to put a call out for guest artists for my webcomic Bonnie N. Collide! Seemed like a good time to do it, an opportunity to let my characters roam beyond my clutches for a bit, and a way to get all the readers out there to share their guesting skills! If you're interested, I'm looking for black-and-white, 839 pixels wide x 332 pixels high, having something to do with either the story or the world or the characters in which Bonnie n' friends live. You can email me whatcha got here. Browse all the archives for inspiration here!

Depending on how many (if any) guest strips I get, I'll be starting them the 7th of July and going through until August 6th. I love seeing other folks play around with my characters, so if you have any comic inclination, I do hope you'll be willing!

In the meantime I'll be over here guzzling coffee, and nerdily chuckling at The Thrilling Adventure Hour (for those of you who follow me on Twitters, you know I'm WAY behind the times and recently obsessed) whilst I draw endless crowd scenes. (ENDLESSSS) Thanks so much for all of your patience and support and HOLY GOD I can't wait to show you this book!

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Webcomic Week Day 1: My Obsession With the Subject Matter

I already mentioned in this post how I've been obsessed with Greek Mythology for a while now. I believe it started with this book:

And then it grew into an uncontrollable gorging every time I went to a thrift shop with a book section:

And peaked when I tagged along with my college's Ancient Studies Club to go to a trip to Greece in 2000.

Why was I so obsessed? Here's the thing. I was raised Catholic. Holy communion, weekly Mass, confirmation, awkward Sunday School taught by my father - the whole bit. And I knew I wanted to believe in some aspect of religion and myth and legend - just not all of it. Some parts were fun and story-tastic and awesome. Others, not so much. What I was really lacking in my religion was variety. All I saw were contradictions  - think this way but act another, strive for this even though you'll never ever get there, hate yourself, love everyone in theory but also judge them, etc. etc.

Then middle school and sixth grade English and Greek Mythology entered my life. Two elements getting it on, twelve titans, twelve Olympians, nine muses, three fates, three graces, three furies ... and a plethora of combinations and gods for every possible thing you were into. The more books and epic poems I read, the more I established my own opinion on what each of the gods were like. I kept trying to rationalize their behavior and give them personalities beyond what I'd read, so they'd fit into what I wanted them to be. It wasn't very difficult, which proves why they've stuck around in modern culture for so long.

  • Zeus - the lecherous dad. All-powerful, but also full of heart. Has a lot of trouble saying no - to women, children, and humans. The stepfather you'd like to have.
  • Hera - the politician's wife. Established and wise on her own, but continually forced to react to her husband's distracting and obvious affairs.
  • Poseidon - the brother who disowns his family. The stories say Zeus split up the world and gave Poseidon the seas and Hades the Underworld - I say he chose so he could cultivate his own world. He basically packed up and moved to the opposite coast from the rest of his family, so he could use that as an excuse for never visiting.
  • Hades - the younger brother who wants to do something "different" with his life. Hades is often painted as evil, bitter, and jealous of Zeus and Poseidon. In my mind, he made it seem like he got the short end of the stick when all he really wanted was to explore his dark side and be feared.
  • Athena - the daughter Zeus is so glad he had. Burdened with being the responsible one all the time, never allowed to cut loose and randomly murder a bunch of people like her siblings.
  • Ares - the son who's belligerent and starved for attention. He makes sure everything he does is loud and noticeable.
  • Hestia - the quiet homebody. She tends the fire, she respects home life. Therefore, no one wants to talk to her.
  • Demeter - the hippie mom. So distraught by what happens to her daughter Persephone that she's forced to become the overprotective mom she always had in her.
  • Apollo - the golden child. Zeus is eternally proud of him and he manages to rock the poet/artist that every woman (and man) lusts after. Chill, bright, his life is golden.
  • Artemis - Apollo's realistic twin, she sees shit how it really is, and knew long ago to pull the cord and go live in the forest with a bunch of ladies. Lesbian to the core.
  • Hermes - the fun-loving gossip. Got to deliver everyone's news and was clever enough to pull practical jokes on the other gods and not get murdered for it.
  • Aphrodite - everyone's favorite. Cynical, business-minded, but also kind of a sap.

So what do you do with all this lovely subject matter, which has already been tackled to death in every possible form wayyyy before you were born? You find some way to express your love and interest in it, using the tools at your disposal.

Tomorrow! Turning ideas and wishful thinking and a love of comics into story.