Comic Non-Sans: Where’d my buffer go?

Ready for my trip now.

I realize how horrible that title must sound to a lot of people and I refuse to change it.

The other night I was talking with an old (by way of acquaintance and experience, not age, bless him) webcomicker friend about how things used to be back when we were starting out.  You know, when we were casual and thought no one was reading and were amazed that the internet could enable us to draw comics and put them somewhere visible.  Somewhere between looking back with some relief on our changes in art style and wondering where the last ten years went, he brought up the workload.

Both of us are doing multiple projects right now — him far more than myself — and we’re both sticklers for updating exactly on time.  But in a borderline downer nostalgic way, he threw in, “Remember how we used to have a month or two of updates done so far in advance?  What happened to that?”

I mean, the answer I jumped to immediately was lifestyle change.  When I started working on my first comic, I was a college sophomore whose social life consisted of two weekly club meetings and occasionally sitting in Lodge 1 teasing sorority sisters about how my family wouldn’t give me $200 for friends.  Large portions of my life consisted of areas and situations where I could keep a pencil going over paper without actually missing any of what I was meant to be doing.  And yes, I am still one of those people to an extent.

There’s something a bit happifying* about having a handle on a large part of your life like that.  You’re handed a large theoretical chunk of time during which you can engage in theoretical social activities (or that theoretical term paper you were theoretically going to write two weeks ago).

So, finding myself almost ten years later with a 9-to-5 and a social life and convention appearances, theoretically I shouldn’t be surprised that I have occasional down-to-the-wire moments.  It’s completely possible that I could nudge myself a week or two into the future, but now it seems less an achievement and more a general help.  Somehow, the personal sense of accomplishment is gone from “finishing early,” and it becomes something of a necessity.

Even now, I’m finding it hard to believe that getting comics done is a part of vacation prep for me.  Though it’s likely been that way for others for years.  But I still look back and think of days when that never would have been an issue, because I was so eager to get my stuff out there that I could have died and no one would know ’til March.

So since that conversation, I’ve been trying to dig down and find that personal sense of accomplishment that comes from handing in your test early (or the comicky equivalent).  Do I get the same enjoyment and fulfillment out of my art that I always have?  Well, not every single day of the week, but usually, yes.  Perhaps it’s a maturing process: doing a page quickly is no longer as much a priority to me as doing a page well. Now, if both were possible at once …

The fact is, it’s been ten years.  My free time is compromised by freelance work, real-world work, and social arrangements that take a three-hour drive rather than a jaunt across the Sunken Garden.  So perhaps as we’re going as webcomickers — and as “adults” — it isn’t a loss of enthusiasm so much as a loss of time in general.  Getting a buffer built up in advance is no longer the isolated personal bit of pride it used to be; it’s how you’re going to have time to get to the store tomorrow night .  And when a comic is that much a part of your life, that happens.

I did finally rediscover that happy, though — and unfortunately for us adults, it has to go hand in hand with chores and groceries and family obligations.  The “happy” comes from that sudden moment of checking the absolute bottom-last thing off your to-do list and realizing your brain has nowhere else to go that night.  It’s a very perplexing form of freedom: freedom from something you actually want to do.

The only downside of that sort of freedom is that after five minutes you get inexplicably bored and go back to drawing.

* I’m an English major, so it’s a word.

Posted on December 14, 2010 at 01:35 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, Webcomics · Tagged with: