Sunday, August 7, 2011

Juggling Monkeys...

I hate it when they scream.

I recently asked some readers if there were any questions they wanted me to blog about regarding my work. I took some time sorting through the two responses I received and finally picked one: “How do you balance fitting your projects with everything else in your life?”

That’s a darn good question. I wonder that myself sometimes.

The answer really depends on the project. The longest so far was the “Passage” comic book project which went on from about 2001 to 2006. It was also the most difficult because it involved drawing page after page of artwork, which requires a minimum set of tools and paper. During this time, I was most often seen carrying a 9” x 14” clipboard with a few pieces of Bristol board (some to draw on and one for a cover sheet to avoid smudges) and a zip-up pencil holder bag with a few weights of pencils, a kneaded eraser, a blending stick, twisty-sharpener and some extra lead for my mechanical pencil. The nice thing about that is that you look quite innocuous going into any job with a clipboard; no one looks twice.

So, I’d draw at work. Most of my jobs during that time were answering phones, so between (and often during) calls, I would draw. Oh, and during training? Draw. Lunch? Draw after eating. I like to say that I’ve been paid to draw for years, but my employers just didn’t realize it. I didn’t let my work suffer for it; in fact I was never fired for drawing at work. They fired me for other reasons. But we won’t get into that right now.

After work I’d often go to my favorite Border’s Books café and draw, but sadly, they are now closed. I can’t work at home due to the distractions that are all around me. If I have the house to myself it’s a bit easier, but I still do better if I’m not in the same building with my bed, a couch, TV, or a computer with games on it. The only exception is the stuff I can’t do elsewhere, like digital painting or editing sound files for my audio book (which I’ve been doing for the past week).

My novels have been easier mostly because my productivity is so much higher. I can churn out half a chapter in a few hours, compared to one page of drawing. I write on a second-hand laptop (a Toshiba Portege M400) which I usually brought to the café after work or sometimes on my lunch breaks. The key ingredient here was lots of caffeine, both to stay awake and to blunt the headaches I’d invariably get from typing on a computer all day. Migraine pain pills were a must. I also channel creative energy through my Burning Bunny pin on the front of my laptop bag.

There was a point when I had enough in the bank to take most of a year off work and just write, and that was a dream-come-true. If I can make a living like that, I’d be happy. It was also during that year that Devon the Demon Duck was born from my surplus of free time.

Now I have a job where I work the night shift from 10pm to 6am. That gets a little more challenging. Daylight is now accursed and burns my eyes, so I only stay up for a few hours at most before or after work. My job also takes all my attention so I can’t write or draw, but I can listen to audio on the internet. I’ve found that lots of research material on self publishing is available on YouTube to pipe into my ears while I do my real job. If I learn something vital, I e-mail myself a note with the website address and check it out at home.

Recording my audio book was done almost every Saturday evening from 10pm to 12am or so, over a period of several months. Saturday was my only social-life day so I’d have to cut that a bit short to do the recordings, but that’s over for now. My work load has increased as my publishing goal approaches, and I’m finding it harder to balance it all. One week off work was not enough to finish editing the audio book and I still need to complete the cover. Suffice to say, I’ll have to cut back on my “fun time” even more, so all those orcs, Klingons and rift beasties can breathe a little easier for a while.

BTW, if you can't tell by now, I also don't have a girlfriend.

So the short answer is “However I can get away with it.”


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