When I started to do ‘Uptown Girl’ comics, I was single, renting a room from a friend and working at a comic book store. Life was pretty swell. I was single, and I think that was one of the biggest reasons I was able to stick with doing a monthly comic back then. It required me to make the comic a priority. If I met someone while I was working on issue 3 or whatever, it would have been easy to let the comic go on the wayside while I started a new relationship. I had a hard time balancing things in my life for a long time. I would neglect parts of my life while I poured my time and energy into a new relationship. It took many ex-girlfriends to realize that this was a Bad Idea. For one thing, not spending time to do things that I love, like draw, would make me feel unhappy and unfulfilled. Which would lead to a relationship with two people, and half of those people feeling depressed. This dynamic would lead to…well, there’s neither here or there. The point is that I realized the pattern, and made an effort to find more balance in my life. Soon I was spending time with whoever I was dating, as well as with my drawing board. Everyone was happy.
In 2006, about three years into ‘Uptown Girl’, I started to date the girl whom I would eventually marry. Since I finally wised up and realized how to achieve a balance between my relationships and interests, the relationship was strong. In your face, space coyote. I was able to continue to stick with a monthly schedule and spend time with Amy. It was pretty sweet. We shacked up in 2007, and I was still able to find time to draw. I went from living alone to living with Amy and her son, Ryan. When I lived alone, I was used to coming home from work, and eating dinner while I drew all night. It’s not really wise to do continue doing that when you live with someone. I was still pumping out comics once a month, but my productivity was slowing. And of course, my daughter Sophie was born in December of 2007. Accepting that a new baby would destroy any chance of me continue to put out a monthly comic, I decided to end the series with the 75th issue, about a year off. Stopping the monthly series and move onto a yearly graphic novel format would help me achieve three things:
1) I could spend time with my new family. And for those that are childless, believe me, you want to spend time with your kids. They’re pretty awesome. The other day Sophie asked me “Do animals know what they are?”
2) I could spend more time drawing each page, which would result in a better looking comic.
3) I could probably work on other projects, as well.
How could I lose?
The first graphic novel was written by Brian Bastian and the script was around 150 pages of comics. I thought I’d have it done in 5 months, easy. I wanted to limit myself to one page a day, “forcing” me to spend as much time as possible drawing the page. In those days, Sophie would takes naps and go to bed early. I had a lot of time to draw at night and weekends. As the book progressed, the script went through some rewrites and soon the book almost doubled in page count. The book looked great, and I realized that the changes and the schedule was a good call. I didn’t have time for other projects, but ‘Uptown Girl’ is my main passion so it didn’t bother me too much.
Fast forward to now. It’s not as easy to put out a page a day. I still draw each night but it’s not always a productive night. Then the next night becomes me redoing the stuff from the previous night. I slow down, and when I try to speed it up a bit, I draw even worse and throws me into a tailspin. It’s a frustrating pattern. I love my life but there are a lot of things in my world that I didn’t have ten years ago, five years ago, or even two years ago. My life is filled with work responsibilities, I work almost every Saturday and until 8pm some evenings. I belong to a gym, I am a husband and a father to two kids. Most people don’t know this, but I also volunteer as a mentor twice a month. Uptown Girl, of course, is also a responsibility and a priority. But of everything in my life, it’s the one that can be neglected. Well, not neglected, but it’s the one that can be ignored for a bit. I can’t neglect work, that’s what pays the bills and helps finance the new Uptown Girl book. I can’t neglect my health and skip the gym, I am also not going to stop being a father and husband. I am home so little that it’s hard to steal an hour to draw when my family doesn’t see me enough as it is.
This has been on my mind a lot lately. I do want to simplify my life, but I don’t know how. I want more time to do everything…draw, hang out with my kids, play video games….but I don’t know what I can cut out. I mean, I can’t have MORE time, so I need to structure my life differently. I like to think that all the things I spend time on are valid things. I am not going to “the club” every Friday night when I could be drawing. I am not racking up some sweet kills on Call of Duty when I could be comic booking.
“But Bob! How can you say you don’t have time to draw when I am reading this long, boring whiny rant that probably took forever to write? Why not draw instead of complaining?”
Well, I’ve been working on this post all day. I would write for a bit, then go to the gym. Come back, write while eating my lunch. Take a break, and go to the library with Sophie. I am always doing something. Sophie is at this point in her life where she wants constant interaction. She wants to play with us all the time. I know, she’s a kid, kids play all the time, but she rarely plays alone. When I sneak into my studio, Sophie is next to me in a few minutes wanting to play Legos. Or she wants to make a comic with me. Or wants to color what I drew. I am not complaining, I love spending time with her, but it’s not easy to work productively on stuff when she is awake or home.
So, what is the point to all this?
Well, I realized that I can’t cut anything out. I can’t change the things in my life, but I can change me. Part of me thought maybe real life finally had made it impossible to create comics. Maybe it was time to quit Uptown Girl. I thought maybe it was. For a couple weeks, anyway. But the problem with quitting Uptown Girl is that I can’t stop thinking of ideas. I don’t think I could quit, even if I wanted to. What I decided is that I need to stop putting so much pressure on myself and focus on one panel at a time, one page at a time. Stop worrying about getting 250 pages done in a year. Just do the best that I can. Like legendary DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz said, “No one looks at a comic book and says ‘My God, look how on time it is’”.
I know in a couple years Sophie will not need as much attention, and yeah, that makes me a little sad, but I realized if I quit Uptown Girl, I would regret it eventually. I would regret when I would have more time on my hands.
You still with me?
So, long story short, I am just going to ride this out. Life will simplify itself, I hope. You know, like how one hopes that Check Engine light goes away by itself.