Right now I have (by my estimate) six comics projects all in active stages of development, ranging from short anthology pieces to work for hire illustration gigs to books.
I really only get to talk about one – Family Man – with any regularity. The result is that I feel like I must not be doing enough. I am functionally in six different holding patterns, and part of my brain suggests that clearly I need to come up with more ideas, either to resuscitate my own sense of joy (which has lately been lacking) or to submit to markets that might work out for me. I am throwing every goddamn thing at the wall and anxiously waiting to see what sticks.
For the first time, I’m really trying to make my living by telling stories.
And telling stories I can do; give me a prompt and away I will go for hours or weeks or years on end.
Telling stories in a way that is self-sustaining is another matter entirely. I like to tell all kinds of stories in all sorts of ways, which presents a sort of problem in itself; I can’t just singlemindedly Do My One Thing until it breaks (or until it becomes evident that it’s not going to and that I need to support it through other means). I can always be pressuring myself to try something radically different.
The result is a sort of self-induced morbid panic. Any tiny green shoot of an idea I come up with is immediately blasted with the high-grade radiation of: But is this literary/popular/important/fun/imaginative/serious/stylish/etc enough to be “successful”? Is this the sort of thing that I could be happy doing forever?
When I haven’t yet gotten any real feedback from the world about many of my still-larval attempts, it’s rather mad to try to intuit the standards for success in advance, and rather madder to assume that anything that does achieve a measure of success will be the mold for everything I do subsequently.
More characters and storylines have died a swift and joyless death in my head this past winter than have in the last five years of my life.
Add to this soup a fairly enormous amount of personal life stress (on my personal scale of measure to-date); some horribly sad deaths in the family and the attendant fall-out and grief, a partner stuck in crutches, parents operating under various exhausting burdens, integrating two homes and three panicky animals (I’ve cleaned up more turds and pools of urine than anybody without a baby should have to), the distinct lack of money currently at my disposal.
At such a time as this, I want nothing more than for my friends to come back; the people who have always lived inside my head, who experience joy and fear and sadness and rage in ways that I can’t; who live in the past, who live in another world, who explain everyday things to me in new ways and make mistakes with their integrity of their essential selves. I want them to come back so that I can share them with others, so that we can feel either less alone or more at peace with our solitude.
So that I don’t have to spend my life doing something more “real” but less vital.
I have faith that my fear and self-doubt will wane, that the world has a place for me, that I will get to be many people over the course of my life. I hope that I’ll look back on this period of terror and realize that it was germinal rather than terminal, that I was in fact Doing The Right Things.
Right now, though, I’m scared; that I’ll fail, that stories will never come to me again, that I’ll succeed and hate it all anyway.
Wish me luck, gang.