That Voice Again

So things have been pretty…boring and exciting and humbling and discouraging and pointless and full of endless potential all at the same time and its overwhelming to go from one sweeping extreme to another, often over the course of an hour or in the time it takes to ink one small panel.

So let’s take about what you came here to talk about: professional athletes.

Growing up, I wasn’t good at sports.  I was terrible.  I had a lot of friends who played sports and since I wanted to hang out with them, I played sports too.  In grade school so many of my friends dreamed of becoming a professional athlete.  I saw my friends play on little league teams, then on teams in junior high, and in high school and so on.  The careers of pro athletes start early.  There seems to be a finite time that one has to make that dream come true.  If you want to play for the Yankees (but why would you?) and you aren’t on a minor league time by the time you’re…what, 22?  It’s probably not going to happen.  And of course once you hit 30 that dream is probably unattainable.  And one dislocated ankle can derail all those dreams for the rest of your life no matter your age.

Growing up with dreams of my own, I could understand the drive that my friends had.  I could also sympathize with them knowing that there was such a short span of time to make that dream happen.  I listened to my friends when they were worried about getting hurt during practice and how that would affect their future career.

My dream was different.  I could hurt or lose all of my limbs except my right arm and still make a decent shot at my dream of being a cartoonist.  I didn’t have that age deadline or time limit either.  Of course, as I get older it seems more unlikely my dream will come true but up until recently that didn’t bother me too much.  “After all, Jack Kirby didn’t draw the first issue of ‘The Fantastic Four’ until he was 44 years old” I would tell myself.  That was encouraging.  But then that little voice pops up and reminds me that he was making a living off of comics before he was twenty years old.

As November and my 40th birthday gets closer I admit I am getting more and more discouraged with my creative life.  That little voice gets louder and more annoying and in addition to reminding me about Jack Kirby, that voice also starts telling me that the likelihood of me moving my family to New York and living in a loft while I work on The Retros comic strip (syndicated in over one billion newspapers) or moving out to Los Angeles for my career as the producer of the Uptown Girl animated series (and the basis for several box office blockbuster movies and Broadway smash) is dwindling rapidly by the minute.

When I start to listen, or believe that voice, drawing comics becomes a lot less fun.  Not necessarily because the dream won’t come true, but WHY the dream won’t come true.  “You’re not good enough” the voice says.  “And you know why you aren’t good enough?  You cared more quantity that quality when you were publishing Uptown Girl as a mini-comic.  If you spent more time working on your art and weren’t trying to hit an arbitrary deadline of getting a comic out once every four weeks, you’d be a better cartoonist”.  The voice also reminds me that I should’ve drawn a little longer last night instead of playing Smash Bros.  Or going for a run.  Or working on my blog.  Or a million other things.  I hate that voice, and I hate that the voice is right.

The voice can’t really be reasoned with.  It’s pure passion and drive.  The voice is encouraging me in its own way.  It works sometimes but I’ve other responsibilities and there are other things I like to do.  Sure, playing Nintendo with my kids isn’t going to get me an animation deal but it’s fun.  Spending time with them is important for them and for me.  King Features might be more interested in syndicating The Retros comic strip if I worked on it last night instead of having wine with my wife last night.  And of course, I bet I’d be a much better cartoonist if I wasn’t at work for 50 hours a week.

The voice was pretty loud the past two weeks but a few things have gotten it to shut up a little.  Some things I can talk about, some I can’t.

Here’s what I can talk about:
1) Uptown Girl – Imitation of Life goes to the printer on Friday

2) I am going to be at Jimmy Jams Comics in Winona for Free Comic Book Day in May

Here’s what I can’t talk about:

1) That thing

2) The other thing

Making progress on stuff, validation for my creative work helps with that voice.  When good things happen, the voice is a little nicer to me.

And before anyone gets too worried, yes, I know the voice isn’t real.  It isn’t telling me to burn things or that there are government agents tapping my phone line.

Also, just so you know that my life isn’t all conversations with imaginary voices and video games, here’s some recent art from Uptown Girl – The Lazarus Heart and The Retros.

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