Saturday, May 22, 2010

Going the Distance

An unexpected and ironic side-effect of finishing a project like this is the overwhelming sense of having failed. You feel like you're driving a Rose Parade float at the Indy 500. Somebody else won the thing weeks ago, the stands are empty, and the reasons to pull over start to outnumber the reasons to keep going. There's only one lap remaining, but there won't be any victory milk waiting for you at the finish line.

You go into something like this with expectations. You think your actions will bear fruit. You fantasize about your debut at San Diego Comic-Con, and how your heroes will invite you into their club. You've seen too many montages -- you think the world will pay you back for your effort, with interest.

Then San Diego flies by, and you're not ready. That iron has gone cold and you never struck it.

The thing is, this isn't your moment of failure. This is actually the most important chapter of  the whole odyssey. This is where you discover that work can be its own reward, and that you've got some hidden tenacity in you. This is where you become a grown-up.

In the end, you're going to have a comic book. Does it seem like a small thing, compared to the time you put into it? Ask yourself what you have to show for the 34 years that went before this one. Your list of accomplishments just went from zero to one. You improved more as an artist over this last year than over the whole decade that preceded it. You got 2500 hours closer to that 10,000 hour grail. And maybe best of all, you made some new friends.

Besides, you'll do better on the next issue.

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A side-note: The Livestream client blue-screened my machine twice. I'll have to put that idea aside until I've got a computer that can handle it. It was fun while it lasted, though. For anyone who missed it, I look like Keanu Reeves.

55 comments:

  1. Nate, this blog has more interesting people in its comments sections than any other venue, Rose Parades included. It is like an online Comic-Con. Thank you. You won!! This has been an unparalleled learning experience -- for us too!

    ...looking forward to the next twenty-five hundred hours!!

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  2. I know what the weird mix of feelings you're talking about from making records. Everyone you know wants you to be excited and they're a little disappointed that you are only smiling a little bit, and quietly a little more disappointed still because they know you're only smiling at all to satisfy their expectation. For me, should I have been most excited when making the music, doing the production, receiving the promo copies? For you, is the apex of happiness supposed to be in the drawing, the rendering or the print job? For everyone else, it's seeing it in print. By then, you're overly familiar with the work.

    It's not that you're negative but it's strange to feel so ambivalent, and it's such a strange feeling that it could be mistaken for a negative emotion. However, I think it's good to not be overly buzzed and maybe it's even undesirable to do so. As you say, there might not be the sense of achievement you once expected, but there is the knowledge of accomplishment.

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  3. Hi Nate, did you finished the first issue?, congraaaats!
    "Besides, you'll do better on the next issue."
    yeah thats the spirit, i like to read your blog because i can relate how one feels making comics, keep the good work!

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  4. Getting to that point where the work is its own reward is amazing... a lot of the BS surrounding the work just fades away, and it becomes almost impossible to fail. Glad to hear you've reached that milestone Nate, and rest assured that you DO have a fanbase, eagerly awaiting your next post!

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  5. Congrats Nate! You finished the issue and as I commented in Aug or Sep 09 in your blog... you made it well under the 3 years it took Warren Ellis and John Cassaday to finish their final issue of Planetary (which I still recommend as a series if you havent read it)!

    I can only imagine the let down of not having a physical "finish line" to run through after this marathon, but hopefully when you see that issue published and on a shelf it will inspire you at least a little. I know Im still as excited about it as when I started following you in May 09.

    Im not sure if there is some obligation your under that doesnt allow you to say, but if not, when will it publish and do you know for how much? I got my wallet ready bro.

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  6. My heartfelt congratulations, Nate. You and Scott inspired me to get started with my own comic.

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  7. Congratulations Nate. You had a dream and you pursued it fully. Now you'll get to show it off to all of us Followers, and the many more oblivious comic-readers who are about to fall in love with your work. Think about it: it's a creator-owned product, one you worked on single-handedly...so you can freely advertise it anywhere you like across the interwebs!

    May Project Wald-emic begin! :)

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  9. This is exciting Nate! It's been so much fun to watch your evolution throughout the last couple of years. I knew from the very beginning just how important this would be to you and your family and what a great contribution you'll make to keeping comics alive and exciting. I'm thrilled for you man! Congratulations!

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  10. Exciting! Are you excited? I'm excited. Let's all be excited!

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  11. Hey, I sort of know how you feel...when I finally finished my first and so far only comic in 2005 I felt pretty disappointed at the quality of the work. So much so that I still have 14 pages of the next issue gathering dust. But I was happy that I did finish something.

    But you have made an amazing leap in quality compared to Gordon and the Stareater. Plus you got a lot of interest in your book like I told you that you would. So you should feel proud of what you did. Now having said all that ...get back to work!

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  12. Keanu Reeves in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure or Keanu Reeves in the Matrix?

    Just kidding.

    Don't ever have any regrets about missed opportunities. There's plenty of time to make new onnes, and when you're presented with them, make sure you kick the door in and make an impression.

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  13. Post-natal depression? Hee. I think all creators feel that way when they're done with a major project. When you've lived with it for so long, it's hard to feel impacted by the finished product – but it's there, it IS a child of yours that's going to be there for a long time, and that's an amazing, amazing thing.

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  14. PS: When it's printed and we're all tripping over ourselves to get our copy, you'll feel differently again!

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  15. What a cool post. I love reading your thoughts.

    I'm so bummed because I missed the Comic Con 3 times since I started my dumb comic. Haha I finally just gave up trying to get it done for a specific date and said when it's done then I'll plan my con adventures. Although now I am looking at 2011 as my goal. Talk about a long way off.

    I'm really excited to buy your book. All your hard work is totally obvious. You've been looking at your pages every day for 10 hours a day for a year now. It's easy for you to be critical of every detail and think it's not where it should be, but to everyone else who hasn't been able to get a peak, we will be totally floored when we get to see it all in a nice finished package.

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  17. Hey Nate!

    I'm passing a KREATIV BLOGGER award on to you! Look here:

    http://ultimateconanfan.blogspot.com/2010/06/groovy-blogger-award.html

    Really enjoying your trials and tribulations around here!
    Cromsblood

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  20. I appreciated your insights in this post (as well as the critical essay on montages from cracked.com) - anybody trying to accomplish something creative should be able to identify with this.

    I also watched the original _Rocky_ movie this afternoon. Rocky trained, then he went the distance. It was inspiring.

    Observing you completing your creative project by way of spending a few minutes every few weeks reading your blog is kind of like watching a montage sequence which starts with you as a 90-pound weakling and culminates with you looking like Dolph Lundgren, the Dolph Lundgren of comic books.

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  21. Intentionally Imperfect -- Wow, your website is pretty spectacular. It is to my blog as Disneyland is to a Les Schwab tire center. Thanks for the encouragement, as always! I am grateful that so many commenters have been this generous with both their time and their feedback. Makes me feel a little bad that I don't have more interesting info to post here, but with any luck that will change soon. Thanks again!

    Doubleclick - Man (or woman), you hit the nail on the head. I'm not sure that I'll ever feel a huge sense of accomplishment, but I do think my relief-o-meter will max out on the day I hold a printed copy of the first issue in my hand. The trick will be not to let my energy level dip in the interim -- I've got to dive right into the second issue without missing a step. Maybe I'll give myself a whole weekend off. Probably shouldn't, though.

    All that said, I've been a little surprised to discover that the greatest pleasure comes to me during the coloring process. I think that's partly because it's the task with which I'm least familiar (so there are lots of surprising discoveries), and the whole thing feels a little like raising the dead. Everything looks so sterile in black and white, but some kind of life leaks onto the page when the color arrives.

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  22. Diantres - I've finished the first issue only in one sense -- the linework is there for all the pages, but I've got about another week of polish to go (some of the panels are so icky that they keep me awake at night). And after that, there's still a whole lot of coloring to do. And I have to find a new font for the lettering. And I have to draw a cover. And I have to find a publisher. And I have to revise some of the dialogue (my writing seems to veer from embarrassingly on-the-nose to impenetrably vague). And then I have to throw it all away and start over.

    Just kidding about that last one.

    Thanks for the support, Rodrigo! The stuff you've been posting on your blog is just mind-blowing. I am very, very jealous of your flow. Please post here the next time you've got a comic out -- I will sing your praises from the mountaintops! Man, what a talent!

    Ripsey - Thanks, Stefan! Gone to Ground is looking great so far -- when are we going to see some more? I love the idea of turning the sound effect into a panel framing device. That's some avant-garde ninja action, right there.

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  23. capt_parsons - Thanks for sticking around for so long, man. You were one of the first guys to comment around here, and you're still reading -- that's some real patience, especially since I stopped posting art months ago. That kind of support keeps me going when I'm having trouble seeing anything good in the work. I can tell myself there must be SOMETHING interesting on the page if guys like you keep coming around.

    As for pricing and publishing info -- nothing has been signed yet, so I have nothing to report. I can say that discussions are ongoing with multiple publishers in multiple countries, and the general attitude seems to be "finish the first issue, then we'll talk." So let's hope I can get that done sometime before my long white beard begins to interfere with my drawing hand.

    Sandra - Congrats on your new comic project! If Mopey the Clown is the comic in question, I have only one thing to say: you had me at "good night, sleepy head." That is the best line ever. You've really got something going with the mixture of 3D and 2D elements, too. And you're already on page 17! Go, Sandra, go!

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  24. JimEl - A Project Waldemic would be beyond my wildest dreams. I'd be happy with a Project Wald-sniffle, or perhaps a Project Wald-communicable rash.

    As to being the sole creator -- that's the great thing about drawing a comic, isn't it? It's just about the biggest thing an artist can do while retaining control over every element. I suppose for the superhumans out there, there's also solo animation (see Sita Sings the Blues, or even the fan-made video for Two Weeks, by Grizzly Bear). But for those of us who don't know diddly about animation, this is pretty much the end of the line!

    Now I want to go learn animation. Sigh. Thanks for the kind words, JimEl!

    Rayford - Ray! This is all your fault! Are you coming to town again this year for the Solstice Parade? If so, we should hang out. I need to tell you in person how sweet your Moby Dick drawings are. I hope you end up publishing the finished work. The illustrations are looking absolutely fantastic so far. I love your work, and I love the book. Like chocolate and peanut butter. My wallet is cocked and ready to fire money at you.

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  25. Nobbynob - Yes! I'm excited that you're excited! Is your name a reference to Noby Noby Boy, by any chance? If so, I'm even more excited! And now I've got that song in my head. "Noby No-by No-by Boy, Noby No-by No-by Boy, Noby Noby Noby, Noby Noby Noby..." Ahhh, make it stop!

    tormented - Dude, yeah! I sure would like to see your mystery comic. What are you up to these days, anyway? I haven't seen anything from you on DeviantArt lately. And you're telling ME to get back to work! The NERVE! Thanks for the kudos, though.

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  26. Drezz - That Keanu thing... I met somebody the other day who had read my blog but never seen me, and the first thing she said was "you don't look anything like Keanu Reeves." Sigh. Yes, I know. I fibbed a little. To be perfectly honest, I look exactly like George Clooney.

    As for having no regrets, your advice is right on. I can't think of anything better I could have done with the last year (except for maybe dedicating my life to feeding the poor... which, come to think of it, is probably what I should have done). Thanks for the encouragement, Drezz!

    Joumana - Yeah, that's a really good point. In a weird way (and this is going to sound morbid, but bear with me), when you make a comic you're leaving behind something much more lasting and positive than a plain old gravestone. In the best case, it's self-replicating, it spreads some happiness, and it even carries a little of your life-spark. When I go, I think I'll just leave a url on the stone, pointing to this blog.

    Thanks for being so nice, Joumana. And as always, great work on your comic! Leaps and bounds, every time.

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  27. Jason - Dude, thanks. It blows my mind that you've stuck with your book for three years, but man is it paying off now. We'll both be at the con next year, and I'll give you a big old handshake. It'll be like when John McClane and Sgt. Al Powell finally meet at the end of Die Hard. I hope you don't have to shoot anybody, though. Keep up the great work, and thanks for all the attaboys.

    Cromsblood - Thanks very much! I'm stoked that you listed my blog among so many other clearly-better blogs. It gave me warm fuzzies. Your blog is crack for Conan fans, by the way. The internet is cool because of people like you.

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  28. James - Hiya, Mister Black. Yeah, that Cracked article really crystallized some stuff for me. When did Cracked get so good? There's tons of great writing on there these days.

    As for me turning into the Dolph Lundgren of comics, there couldn't be a more apt comparison. As I draw, I'm connected to banks of stainless steel Soviet-era diagnostic devices, and I'm overseen by a statuesque nurse with a blonde flat top and a clipboard.

    Comics, I will break you.

    P.S. How's that novel coming?

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  29. I might have to add a character to my novel based on you.

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  31. Well I'm back in school, I'd like to get a Rad tech certificate. That way I can have some health insurance... But I do have two things that I'm working on. One is the mystery comic and the other is something that is in the early writing stages.

    I'm going to try and market the mystery comic so that is why I haven't posted anything yet. But as soon as I pitch it I'll let people knowwhat is up.

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  33. @Nate: Yes, Mopey the Clown is the long-form comic that I’m trying to make.
    Thank you so much for your encouragement and you go, too! I already know that your book is going to be great from the few pages you posted.
    Yeah, I’ve done 18 posts but each of those is only a third of a page so I’ve actually only done six pages so far.

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  34. Considering the positive responses everyone's had for the first eight pages, I can't wait to see how they respond to the rest.

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  35. Nate,

    Stumbled upon your blog through Drawn! I went back and read the blog starting at the first posts and have enjoyed following your progress. I look forward to seeing the final product!

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  37. James - Don't do that, unless you want a fantasy creature based on you. What am I saying -- you ARE a fantasy creature, you hot little thing.

    tormentedartist - It's great that you've got stuff in the works. I hope you consider distributing digitally -- if I could start this whole thing over again, that's how I'd do it.

    Sandra - Thanks, and good luck!

    Eagle - Yeah, I hope you're right. In case anybody is wondering who Eagle is, he's been flatting the rest of the book. I think I'll be talking about you more in the blog once the whole thing is done. Not that you need more work!

    Ann - Thanks. I hope there wasn't too much moping on the blog -- when you said you'd read the whole thing I went back and realized it's all quite mopey. Hopefully the finished comic will make up for some of that.

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  38. *does a little jig*

    I'm so going to pay for the break I took today.

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  39. I wish I would have found your blog some time ago. Looks like I am going through many of your same struggles and successes! I think your work looks great, I love the line work, I wish you would tell a little bit more about that process. I have tried out some of the tools that you have found (for flatting and self publishing) and everything is working really cool. I'm currently on page 9 of my self made comic book and man is it a looooot of work. But like you said, the work its self is becoming the reward. I have to finish this one book, just one. I have always said that I will do comics so I have to do at least one issue in my life from start to finish. The process is becoming more familiar now and so I am spending more time worrying about the art and not so much the process. That in it's self is a cool place to be! Thanks for inspiring us all and sharing your knowledge as well! It is a huge deal, you are blessed my friend and you are passing that along. Love it! Peace -NickZ.:)

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  42. NickZ - I love how your book looks in Issuu. Gorgeously rendered and beautiful, moody lighting. I'm glad you've decided to get that one book done. I think the way it probably works is that once you've got that one out the door, you're so used to the process that you can't help but start another issue!

    Keep up the wonderful work, Nick!

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  49. I just wrapped up a 50 page storyline , which felt strange cos my longest previous comic story was 8 pages ;-)

    Now I've got to shop it around as a one shot , should be interesting .

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  51. Well put. You hit it on the head. Now I just have to take it to the next step.

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  52. Dominic - If the one-shot you're talking about is Bad Beat City, I predict you will have little trouble finding a publisher. Please let me know when it's out -- I'm a guaranteed customer. Congrats on finishing such a big project!

    Frank - Your work is very, very impressive. I wish I had that kind of range and style. Beautiful work all around -- I can't imagine what's in store for us when you "take it to the next step!"

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