By Shawn Perry
Greetings True Bleeders!
If you’re reading this then in all likelihood it is because you have an insatiable passion for storytelling that drives you to engage, understand and, whether you act on it or not, create. Personally, the reason I have come to this site so often over the past few years is because it is, in a nutshell, about the construction, execution and celebration of modern storytelling. But whether you come to this site to learn about shocking new comic book storylines, keep tabs on the production of your favorite big-screen projects, study the insights of the artists you like, or just to get some honest editorial opinions on the quality of a new release we bleeders all share a passion for storytelling and, I would be willing to bet, for many of us that passion is indicative of a deeper desire to create.
Which brings us to the crux of this piece on how to make time to be a storyteller, or in other words, how to not break into comics like a bleeding fool.
So how does one break into the business of storytelling, specifically comics? It’s akin to learning a new language or getting in shape in that the only way to achieve is through self-discipline, systematic exercise and an overabundance of patience. Having a little help from your friends can go a long way too, as Tom Raney (Image Comics’ StormWatch, and the upcoming DC Futures End #30) explains using the classic gym metaphor.
I got started because I had friends that were interested in ‘the gym’ so I did that as often as I could and now I just do it whenever I can. It’s tough to balance real life stuff because the job does tend to be all-inclusive in that it takes as much time as you’re able to put in. It works but you have to work at it all the time. If you want it, just do it.
Now some of you might be saying to yourself ‘Just do it, what kind of advice is this? Forget it. I’m going back to reading spoilers and con coverage.’ Quitters. But for those of you still reading I have to reiterate that it is one thing to have a dream and quite another to pursue it so as obvious as this stuff might sound to you it can help to hear it especially when you get down because we all at one time or another discover that the path to achieving our dreams – or just living our lives the way we want to – can be a truck-ton of hard work…and sometimes the obvious things are the easiest to forget.
The visionary Aristotle was dead-on when he said: “Excellence is a habit not an act” because the only way to get what you want in this life is with the right habits. In regards to comics, just what are those habits and how does anyone find the time when you’re not being paid yet? For that answer I went straight to the source and asked a number of successful artists and writers how they manage, such as Keith Gleason (Hero Envy) who explains:
You have to stay disciplined if you want to get anywhere in comics or storytelling. When I get home from work, instead of turning on the Xbox or Netflix, I try to take a couple hours and work on comics. I try to that consistently three or four times a week and definitely on weekends. Sometimes if I’m really into something it takes up more time but I consistently try to write or draw a little something every day.
This sentiment was echoed by Mark C. Frankel, who along with being one of my favorite self-published writers is the CEO of Wayward Raven Media:
I would tell anyone out there who has a desire to make a story to just do it. The work you will have to put in is hard, especially at first. A lot of the time I wake up early and do things before going into work and then maybe do some more at night. It’s just like anything in life the hardest part is getting started and then staying disciplined but if you have this dream in you then you have to do it because you are only going to regret not pursuing it and the feeling you get from finishing what you started and holding your book in your hands is so worth it. It is absolutely worth it. My advice is to just take it slow and see where your passions take you.
Now I admit that if I spent half the time I spend thinking about storytelling actually creating and writing stories, I would likely have a pretty impressive bibliography by now. Unfortunately, despite my light social life, this frustrating penchant I have for procrastination as well as the many responsibilities I have as a grown-up man-child take up a lot of my time and make achieving my dream of being a storyteller a bit, well…lets call it an on-going process in effective time and self management.
The biggest trick, I have found, is to find a way to pursue your dream effectively while not working at it so hard or obsessively that you lose sight of what made you love it in the first place, as Rian Miller (Man-Gull) of Stockpile Comics explained earlier this month at Boston Comic-Con:
Well my method is probably not preferable but I find that a deadline kicks me into gear so two months before a convention I just kind of go into panic mode and all the other things I do in my life be it reading or hanging out with friends or playing video games goes down to a minimum and all of a sudden I’m just at the desk constantly.
But I have a job where I work in the evenings and I’ve always been a night-owl anyway so I’ll generally come home from work around 10-1030 and stay up until 4-5 in the morning and then sleep until noon and go to work so I don’t have much of a social life because of my art and my job but you do what you have to and you find the time when you can but it also helps being influenced and inspired by other people not only artists that I like but a practice we [at Stockpile Comics] have been doing for a few years now is that every Tuesday night a group of us get on google hangouts or skype and from midnight until 4-5am everyone will kind of stay up chatting and drawing and having someone else to talk to while you’re doing it to keep you inspired that helps a lot too.
Comics are something you can do with nothing else just a pencil and a piece of paper but doing it in a void, I don’t know, there’s not as much enjoyment. I could just cut myself off from everybody entirely and just go to shows and work on comics but that’s not as fun. I mean, it has to be enjoyable because once its not fun anymore then you might as well be working at a supermarket stocking chicken breasts or something but coming to a convention sitting at a table with friends like Joel [Lolar] it makes it easier.
There you have it, that’s the simple truth and despite the requisite long-windedness of certain panels (and journalists) you will always get the same answers – writers write, artists art, actors act and bleeders bleed their drippy, wet passion for storytelling. That all folks, and if you don’t like it you can sew buttons because you have to make the time to pursue your dream (whether that’s comics or something else) because if you don’t then you’re only cheating yourself. If any of this is hitting you square in the heart bone then I encourage you to get busy and if you ever need someone to talk to feel free to shoot me an email because, like the artists at Stockpile Comics, we bleeders are strongest when we bleed together.
For my full interview with Rian Miller, as well as fellow Stockpile Comics artist Joel Lolar (Forever Winter) check out the video below.
Shawn Perry is a comic book and film enthusiast striving to be here now. He currently resides in the wonderful town of East Hartford, Connecticut. Tweet him @thesperry and email him about anything at Shawn.Perry88@gmail.com.