From the moment I saw your face
I knew I could never take living for granted
I froze right in my place, as I became aware
of the ground on which my feet were planted
I owe you an apology
For all the days I just let slide right through my hands
You are the woman with the strength of 10,000 men
Earlier this month my wife had a heart attack. Please understand that in no way I am looking to trivialize such a serious event but I am not going to get into a lot of detail in this post. Since this is a public blog I am a little reluctant to share a lot of personal information here but please know that Amy is recovering and is progressing as expected.
It’s impossible to experience something like this and not reflect on making changes in your day to day life or think about your plans for the future. It also really reminds you of what is important.
So, big surprise, but family is the most important thing in my life. I’m sure it is in yours too. Sitting (well, pacing frantically) in the waiting room while the doctors put two stents into Amy’s arteries really put me through hell. What Amy was experiencing was worse. I remember stalking around the waiting room, gripping my phone and waiting for a call from the nurse who would check in with updates while Amy was in her procedure. My phone dinged to let me know I received an email from a publisher passing on my picture book. With everything going on, this email and the subject matter seemed like the silliest thing in the world. Normally getting an email like that makes me cranky for anywhere between a couple hours to a few minutes but the idea of caring about anything else at that moment was ridiculous.
Over the next few days we spent a lot of time in her hospital room. Amy was hooked up to machines that read her blood pressure and other vitals which would beep or send an alarm occasionally. How Amy kept smiling and making sure that I knew what time Sophie needed to be at the bus stop is just a testament to how strong and resilient she is. She would sleep and I would sit and just…think. I would think about what her recovery would be like, what plans needed to change and how to move forward. Mostly I reflected on how lucky we were.
After Amy got home and started her recovery and physical therapy and things returned to…well, not normal, but a new kind of normal, I was able to think a little about my art and what I wanted to accomplish. I thought about what I wanted to work on in 2019. But the thing I kept coming back to was why I ever thought being liked was important.
I’ve previously written about how to gain more Twitter followers for The Retros or gaining some buzz on Instagram for my artwork. I wanted to have a big following because I thought it’d be cool to be discovered by a literary agent or to have The Retros gain a huge audience to attract the interest of a publisher.
Sure, that would be cool. But let’s face it, either of those scenarios is so unlikely that I wonder why I ever thought there was even a remote chance of that happening. Why did I even put any energy into hoping for that? I may as well wish to win the lottery or seeing a dinosaur in front of my house.
What difference would it make if The Retros had 135 followers on Twitter or if they had a thousand? Would it really matter? Would I be happier? Would I feel more validated? Would that make me think that I was a better cartoonist? When I put it like that…no. It wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t change a thing. It might even make things worse. Between two jobs and actually writing and drawing the comic itself I can’t imagine trying to find time to be more active on social media.
I am not the best cartoonist, I am not the worst. I don’t draw nearly as well as most of my artist friends but I’m not bad. How I draw, however, is perfect for the type of comics I write. Can you imagine Jim Lee drawing Uptown Girl? Can you imagine what Frank Miller’s The Retros would look like? I realized the other day that I would rather draw how I draw and have a small number of followers as opposed to having a huge fan base and not being happy with my art.
I post my stuff because I am proud of it. I like how I draw, what I create. If others like it, well, that’s a bonus. When people ‘like’ or retweet something, that makes me happy. But it doesn’t change anything. If I lost every follower across Twitter/Instagram/Facebook I wouldn’t change anything. I’d still post, I’d still upload The Retros each weekday.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I appreciate every comment, every like, every retweet and every fan I have. I really do. I like seeing people like my stuff. What I am realizing is that it’s the art and the work that is important. I honestly feel like a weight has been lifted and I’ve experienced a moment of clarity. I don’t want to spend another second being frustrated about not growing a following. I want to create art.
Brian Michael Bendis, the current writer of ‘Action Comics’ and ‘Superman’ recently did an interview where he talked about a health scare he himself had. He stated that after surviving that, he wondered how he could spend a minute of his day doing anything but fathering and creating. I know what he means. After almost losing Amy (no exaggeration, half of heart attack victims do not survive), worrying about Twitter followers seems so…well, stupid.
It’s time to create, it’s time to be what it’s important.