Every thousand years
This metal sphere
Ten times the size of Jupiter
floats just a few yards past the Earth.
You climb on your roof
and take a swipe at it,
Hit it once every thousand years,
'Til you've worn it down to the size of a pea.
Where you gonna be?
Where will you spend eternity?
I'm gonna be perfect from now on,
I'm gonna be perfect starting now.
-Randy Described Eternity, Built to Spill
When you're working on something big, the most difficult part is always the middle bit. Starting a project is easy -- you're full of new ideas, untapped energy, and naively optimistic notions about scheduling. And you'd be surprised what kind of spiritual reserves become available as the finish heaves into view. But the middle is a drag.
If you'll indulge another cycling metaphor: drawing a (slow) comic is like riding (slowly) in the Tour de France. The peloton has left you behind, the cheering crowds that lined the streets of the last hamlet can no longer be heard. The next town lies somewhere over the horizon, and the surrounding countryside does not change. There is no way to mark your progress, nor are there other racers against whom to measure your pace. The motorcycle-mounted camera has disappeared with the fast riders, so you don't even get the satisfaction of knowing your struggle is being shared.
There's just the sound of your breath to distract you from the pain in your legs. Occasionally, you pass a lone spectator who has waited patiently by the roadside to clap for you. There's also the rare heckler, who jeers as you wobble past.
But no matter how much the world begins to feel like a demense-covered treadmill, you remind yourself that the finish line is up there somewhere. It may be far away, but every turn of the pedals brings you a little bit closer. It took Lance exactly the same number of foot-pumps to get there as it'll take you.
The only way to fail is to stop.
I'm somewhere in the middle of issue 2 of Nonplayer. With my shoulder back in shape, my work-days are approaching their former length. But I'm comically late -- my milestone schedule mocked me today with the words "End Nonplayer #2." The drastic inaccuracy of that prediction would be funny if it didn't also trigger shortness of breath and a cold sweat. It feels like I'm failing. In slow motion. In public.
But I have to keep reminding myself: the only way to fail is to stop. All the predictions of doom and gloom, the retailers wailing about betrayal, the publisher bemoaning the loss of sales, the general sense of having been forgotten -- it's all immaterial, as long as I don't stop.
You may not see me, but I'm out there somewhere in the dark right now, pedaling. And knowing that there are other folks out there on their own stretches of lonely road, putting away the miles -- that's just about the greatest comfort there is right now. That, and this video.
Don't stop, you guys.
Phil Austin 1941–2015
1 week ago