I hope you don’t think I know what I’m doing. I hope you don’t think I have it all together. My comic essays aren’t about truths I have mastered, but about truths I struggle to embody everyday.
I’m currently in a season where I struggle with fear.
My publisher has decided to wait and see how well my books sell before they offer me more work. It is a time of waiting and wondering and watching the money in the bank dwindle. I’m afraid.
Have you ever felt like the money you have in the bank is like a fuse on a bomb? The money burns down and down, and when it all burns up, your life will blow up. If only I could make that fuse so long I’d never have to watch it burn. I’m afraid.
So let’s talk about fear, everybody. I think many artists struggle with fear, but don’t talk about it nearly enough.
I wrote an essay about this, I should know better, right? But one of the reasons I’ve been struggling so much lately is I keep believing that being a successful cartoonist will make me happy. This flawed belief paints my situation in a radically fearful light. A small gap in cartooning work turns into a huge crisis where I wonder if I’ll ever have a chance at being happy again.
Someday I hope to start a family, but lately I’ve wondered if I’d be able to support a family by drawing comics. Perhaps I’d have to leave the job I love and find other work. And suddenly, I find myself in a dark place where I begin thinking that a wife and kids would be a roadblock to my happiness. Do you see how poisonous is the lie that art will make you happy?
I’ve begun to draw a lot lately in an attempt to improve my skills. My theory is that the more skill I have, the more job security I will have.
This has lead me to a bad head space where I feel like what I see on the page is an arbitrary indicator of how well I’m doing in life. If my drawing is good, I feel like life is good, and I will be okay. If my drawing is bad, I fear for my career and my future.
If you were to ask my insanely talented artist friend Nicholas Kole if great skill provides great security, he would laugh at you. Take a look at this series of beautifully designed monsters Nick did as a concept artist at 38 Studios. He’s great, isn’t he? I admire his stuff a lot, which makes it hard for me to accept that he’s currently looking for work after 38 Studios abruptly went under. Being talented has nothing to do with job stability.
Do you feel my fear? Are you scared now too? Don’t be afraid– here’s some encouraging thoughts:
The truth is, you are not in control, and that is a good thing.
Life is such a myriad of diverse variables it is a nightmare to try and control. You are not in control of everything, so give yourself permission to stop worrying about what you can’t change.
Furthermore, when you think about it, do you really want to be in control?
When I really think about it, I don’t want my life to be the story of how I willfully seized everything I wanted. A good story involves struggle, hope and perseverance. It is the very possibility that I might not make it in the art world that fills me with excitement and thankfulness when I do manage to achieve something.
So I will keep hoping and waiting and struggling. I do believe I’m going to make great work someday, but even if I never find the success I’m hoping for, that’s okay. I am not defined by my art, and my happiness does not lie in my art. I will be thankful for the people in my life who love me, not for my art, but because I’m me.
I’ve been starting new projects and searching for new types of income, so I’ve had little time to work on the Doodle Alley essays, but fear not, I do plan to finish this series of comics about creative sustainability. In fact, I’m currently looking for a publisher who would consider making this collection of essays into a book. Does anyone have any ideas?