When you first start out as a writer, eager and inexperienced, you often find tons of advice out there. Over time you realize that this advice is mostly useless; the vanity publishers just want your money, the links to jobs are mainly outdated or the jobs don’t pay, all the tips on the craft don’t make any sense, etc.
Somehow as you go those parts that don’t make sense start to come together. You see what other people are doing, you make friends with other creators, you begin to find guidelines and templates and you begin to find your own style of writing. You start working on your first story, or if you make comics you finally find an artist that you click with and you put out your first piece of work. And people like it. When it is over, you seem to have barely broke even and you wait for the rest of the world to acknowledge you. And you wait, and you wait. And you wait.
Every once in a while when I post the old comicbook work people ask me why I don’t go back to it, why I don’t continue to make comics and part of it is commitment, the other is attitude.
I honestly don’t have the commitment, or the respect, for the industry that I once did. EVERY time you start a project, comics or prose, when you are doing it alone you are starting from the bottom. Without a publisher or an established fan base, you are ALWAYS back at square one. That sort of work takes a commitment I just don’t have anymore. Worse than that, I still have the Attitude Anchor.
Jim Zub, Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder, Jason Aaron, even Ben Templesmith. I was training for comics before most of them had written their first comic, saw most of these guys either come up through the same channels or suddenly appear out of nowhere. These guys have made some interesting career choices and all of them still have many years of work ahead of them. How did they make it and not me? Why does one guy get three Image books out and I can’t even get an e-mail or a rejection letter from them?
These types of questions can really eat away at you which is why I decided to talk about it here, if for no other reason than to purge and teach. I read all the same books as these guys, honed my skills off the same scripts, submitted work to the same people. Why have I given up then??
The reason is because it was not the work. No one ever said the comic was no good. No one ever said that I needed more practice, more experience, more training. Sure, making some better friends in the industry would have helped, but ultimately there was only one thing that held me back: The Attitude Anchor.
Imagine what it is like knowing that it was not your work, or your script, or your talent that makes people turn away from hiring or supporting you, imagine what it feels like knowing that the main thing holding you back is your ATTITUDE. It is not the work, it is not even anything specific that I’ve said, it is just ME. I am just not right for the business. That’s a tough pill to swallow. If you suck, you can improve, if you need more practice, you can keep at it. But when you are a toxic influence to people? How the hell do you get around that?
“We like your ideas, we like your craftsmanship, but what we don’t like is YOU.”
I mean let’s be fair, the comic industry is incredibly flawed, far too white and scared of real experimentation. I don’t lack the drive, or the talent or the ambition. I just lack the people skills needed to get them to give a shit about the talent, drive and ambition.
Not only that, but being a strong personality, being a person who can handle themselves, often works AGAINST you in the creative community. If I was a sad little girl with big weepy blue eyes, crying over my rejection letter, would you help me? Would you help the six foot black man, just got rejected from his dream gig, who throws the door open and stomps away angrily? I think we both know what support is easier to obtain with sympathy and sympathy often goes hand in hand with weakness. It’s why every contestant on American Idol now has a sob story to tell, when at first all they wanted to do was sing. Pulling at the heartstrings gains the support of the audience, it is that simple.
Once you get kicked out of a party, how do you go back?? Like a bad relationship that is far past the point of being over, every overture you make only makes you seem more pathetic, more dangerous, more desperate.
How can you prove your measure and your commitment in a society that thinks they can sum you up in a 140 characters??
That is why I stick with the prose books and digital publishing. I am working on being a more considerate and compassionate person but this is a battle I want to win for myself, because I don’t want to be jealous, envious and angry. It may seem at times that I am bitter but I am really not; I just see what an ugly industry it was and I don’t feel the need to pretend to love her anymore. In other words, being rejected means accepting my own flaws, which made me aware of the flaws in that which I was after. I still can’t bring myself to do a Kickstarter campaign because I just can’t deal with any more public failure.
Now I can write books myself, without dealing with artists, publishers, printers, colorists, letterers, critics and fanboys.
Instead of trying to appeal to an industry I just have to appeal directly to the readers. I am trying to find a middle ground that keeps me away from the craziness that infuriates me in the comic industry while still working with the characters and themes I grew up with.
Unfortunately your work doesn’t speak for you as loudly as you might like. Unfortunately your online presence is far more important than who you are in real life. The internet is slowly becoming the real world, it is wise to think of the online world as the biggest clique in history.
Don’t let your Attitude Anchor sink you. I know it is tough to see bullshit day in and day out, horrible creators making tons of money off some of the worst work ever scrawled on a dead tree, but you just have to ignore it. McDonald’s is garbage food but how many kids are going to like you for smacking the cheeseburgers out their hands?
If Orson Scott Card was coming up today, trying to find a publisher online for the Worthing Series, he wouldn’t say jack shit about his views on gay rights. The reason ANYONE is outspoken with their views is because they are FINANCIALLY secure. Without money to support it, your views carry all the weight of those of a homeless man. I’m pushing a cart full of treasure, but I am still the homeless ranting guy.
If you find it difficult to say nothing, simply stay off the internet! Meet people at shows, do signings and conventions and use the internet as a store front to sell your work and stay away from it.
Learn from my mistakes, don’t let idealism or anger distract you from the work. Just keep working. Keep the anchor up and you’ll set sail eventually, otherwise it’ll just keep dragging the bottom. I know it is tough for some of us to ignore the bullshit and keep quiet, but you have to. Bide your time, hone your craft and when you get into the captain’s chair, THEN you can stand up and give them all a big “F.U.!”