Benefit of Writing Comics: Releasing Material
January 16, 2015
Welcome back for my second installment on the benefits of writing comic strips. Last time I discussed the benefit of constant, regular practice inherent in my semimonthly Cubes comic strip. This month I’ll be talking (writing?) about how comics can help you conquer your fears. At least, they can help you with getting used to the fear of releasing your material into the wild for others to see.
Many moons ago, I read somewhere that more people are more afraid of public speaking than of dying. Society, from the school system up, tends to pressure people into conforming and not standing out. This can be problematic when it comes time to publish or otherwise release material to a general audience.
I can trace my interest in producing and releasing creative works back to the first comic “book” I ever did, Hot Dog: Canine Defender of the Innocent. In 2002/2003 a comic book publisher, Dark Horse Comics, was looking to produce a special comic with submissions from the general populace. They had an open submission policy—anyone could send something in—and very few requirements beyond size (800x600 pixels) and maximum page count (6 pages).
I had been interested in comics since I was a little kid. The chance to actually have something of my own in print was an exciting one. At the same time I was plagued by doubts and fears. What if I sent in a comic and it wasn’t any good? Even more terrifying, what would friends and family think of my first attempt?
It took me a little more than a month to produce the six page comic working in my spare time. Throughout that entire month, those fears nagged at me. I kept telling myself, “Well, I’m having fun doing this and that’s probably enough. Maybe I won’t bother sending this in or showing it to anyone else.” I persevered and finished the comic. It took almost two weeks after that to build up the courage to put it in an envelope, stick a stamp on it, and fire it off to the comics company.
Of course, this is real life and not a fairy tale and my comic didn’t get selected to go into the publication. No happily ever after here. In fairness, when I look at that comic now, years on, I can see that it is just pretty meh. I’ve debated a few times taking it off my other website but decided to leave it there (a) because it’s an interesting historical curiosity, (b) it shows how far I’ve come as a writer and artist, and (c) I’m just too lazy to remove it.
After receiving the rejection, I suspect I probably felt bad for a few days but I honestly don’t remember now. That’s an important thing to note right there. My comic didn’t get picked but the sky didn’t fall and the ground didn’t open up and swallow me. And I had done it.
I had overcome that internal fear of putting my work—putting myself—forward.
My next creative project was a weekly comic strip also featuring the character of Hot Dog. I’d print copies of this comic and stick it on the wall of my cubicle at work each week. That was the width and breadth of the “release.” It took a few weeks for people at work to notice, but when they did they were interested in more. That comic ran for about a year from late 2003 into 2004 and I did keep taping up new comics each week. And it got easier.
I started my current semimonthly comic strip, Cubes, in the fall of 2005. Cubes has continued from that day to this and has been the main project that I publish regularly. New installments release the first and third Wednesday of every month. Here I upped the ante a little when I first started. In addition to taping the comics to my cubicle (actually, office by that time) I started emailing them out to friends and family who were interested. Here again fear welled up inside me.
It’s one thing to casually tape a comic to your office wall and wait for people to notice it. It’s another thing—at least it feels like it—to actively send your work out to people. Initially, I had planned to release the comics on the first and third Monday of each month, not the Wednesday. However, Cubes was based on my real life experiences and the experiences of those around me and so was even more personal than the Hot Dog comics. I finished the first comic ahead of schedule but I couldn’t bring myself to send it on the Monday. It took two more days to build up the nerve to finally send the comic out.
Aside: Whenever new people express an interest in receiving the comic they invariably ask me why it’s the first and third Wednesdays of the month. I’m not usually comfortable talking about the fear I had at the time so I tend to say something along the lines of “because Wednesday is funnier” or “because people need a pick me up in the middle of the week.” But now you, faithful reader, know the truth. Impress your friends.
Releasing a comic twice a month gave me a lot of practice with overcoming that fear of publishing, of putting myself on display. Ultimately, that led to the opening of my first website, www.CubesComic.com, in the fall of 2007. And there again I was afraid. I was afraid because now my work was, in theory, going to be out there and available on a global stage. I put the website online anyway. And it was out there.
Every creative project I’ve ever done and released has always gotten the butterflies going. Even when I released my first novel, Satin & Sutherland – The Golden Curse, this past December I felt that fear again. However, I’ve had over a decade of experiencing that fear due to the regular release of the Cubes comics twice a month. That fear of being judged, of not measuring up to someone’s expectations is always there. It never goes away completely. But I have grown accustomed to it. And it’s good.
Everyone has to find what works for them. For me, small doses of “release terror” over the years have helped me overcome the larger bouts when I release something major like a book or a computer game. Hopefully, you too can inoculate yourself against these fears.
Join me next month when I start into the specific benefits of comics on the writing process itself. In the meantime why not check out the rest of the series.
- Part 1: Constant Regular Practice
- Part 2: Releasing Material
- Part 3: Character Growth
- Part 4: Long-term Story Planning
- Part 5: Writing Tight
- Part 6: Pacey Dialog
- Part 7: Humour or Humor