#4: Productivity & emotional baggage

Hey – we’ve finally got a name for this newsletter: WHAT’S ARP? It’s two questions, a pun, and a massive dad joke all-in-one. It’s perfect!

I’d like to take credit for it – but I can’t. One my peeps from Kids Comics United made the suggestion after I posted my ideas there for feedback (you can read up on KCU in my post on finding community). So a shoutout & big thanks to Nadia! (I’d link to her site but she keeps a low profile.)


What’s Arp thinking?

Big Pun
This is the rapper Big Pun. I don’t know his music but I’m going to assume that he makes a lot of puns and stole my rap name.

The puns are never going to stop now. And I’m going to talk about myself in the 3rd person like an athalete.

Please direct all complaints to Nadia.


When you choose to do one thing with your time, you’re choosing not to do another. So don’t be “busy.” Have priorities.

Jessica Abel

I’ve gone back to reading Growing Gills by the inimitable Jessica Abel in the past week. I had started it 6 months ago but the election and more shit hitting the fan every day put the kibosh on it until roughly 2 weeks ago.

Click this image & buy the book so Jeff Bezos can give me 0.00000000000000000000001% of his wealth

It is a life-changing book.

(I’d say potentially but adverbs are bad.)

It’s the basis for her Creative Focus Workshop, until she evaluated and realized that she could do it better as a course with community and accountability. This is the book’s promise:

Go from overwhelmed, anxious, and stuck, to consistent, clear, and in control of your creative life.

That’s a brilliant elevator pitch that speaks to creatives everywhere. I can tell you that what I’ve done so far works.

As expected, it’s not easy, because of baggage – procrastination is all about emotional baggage. Avoiding work until the last minute because it doesn’t speak to your soul, combined with fear of failure/exposing yourself/being successful/etc/etc/etc is powerful af. Then there’s the time & energy aspect of being able to commit to creative pursuits after attending to work & family.

Does this capture emotional baggage or what?
Does this capture emotional baggage or what?

Getting your fulfilling work done is hard.

Coincidentally (or not), I found this article on Monday: You Procrastinate Because Of Emotions, Not Laziness. Regulate Them To Stop Procrastinating!

Or more simply:

People procrastinate or avoid aversive tasks to improve their short-term mood at the cost of long-term goals.

Like checking social media for a quick dopamine hit. Doing something ‘productive’ like reorganizing a bookshelf or ‘doing research’ instead of plowing ahead with the task at hand.

You know what I’m talking about – we’ve all been there. Too often.

Being able to get creative work done feels like overcoming hurdle after hurdle after hurdle. Eventually the hurdles are gonna run out … right? Right?

(Someone please tell me they’re going to run out.)

shallow focus photo of people playing track and field
In real life I’d do a face plant trying to leap over a hurdle. Face planting is often what creativity feels like.

Wholesale changes don’t happen overnight. We have to take little steps every day, find out what works for us, and create habits to get our stuff done.

(I just changed work to stuff. I don’t like work so I dunno why I keep calling what I want to do ‘work.’ I’m open to suggestions on what to call it instead – what do you call it?)

So far what’s worked working for me is the following:

  • Waking up early (latest by 7:15am), preferably before everyone else in the house. I really like having the all to myself, but this doesn’t happen consistently. I don’t kill myself if it doesn’t happen though, there are usually logical, extenuating circumstances.
  • Sticking to a (rough) schedule. I don’t know why but it works for me and on the days where my morning sequence is disrupted, my day is thrown off-kilter (but I’ve stopped killing myself over it). The schedule is not set in stone but I tend to keep to a specific order:
    • Get out of bed & immediately do 25 pushups. 1) I want to avoid moobs at all costs & 2) this is the easiest way to tell if I’m sick or need rest.
    • Drink water. Make coffee. Take dog out. Maybe feed cats.
    • Exercise, either yoga, kettlebells, or bodyweight exercises. I have to work out at least 5 times a week. It helps me sleep and keeps me upbeat, if I skip a couple of days, I feel physically creaky and mentally down. I didn’t feel like it this morning but since I skipped day before yesterday I made myself do a short but hard 4 minute workout. Yoga is 15-30 minutes, harder workouts are 4-10 minutes – enough to feel better but short enough to reduce excuses to skip.
    • Drink coffee (with 20-30g of protein blended in so I don’t need nourishment until lunchtime) & read for pleasure, except Saturday mornings when I’m writing. This is when I read for self-improvement and when I read most of my comics.
    • After reading I tend to surf a bit but I’m working on cutting this down, 5 minutes can become 20 too easily. Ideally there’s new stuff at Kids Comic Unite that I can engage with instead of dicking around on Facebook.
    • At least 30 minutes of drawing, either a comic I’m working on or exercises for improvement (for example, I was into life drawing daily for a few weeks, then I spent a few weeks with Alphonso Dunn’s Pen & Ink Drawing book (digitally, of course).
    • I might do 30 minutes of non-drawing comic work (writing, re-writing, etc) or save that as something to look forward to after the day job.
    • Lastly, keeping track of my exercise, drawing & comic work. This is Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t break the chain method of productivity. His version is a calendar on the wall, where he crosses out a day with a big red X after he’s spent time writing jokes. After a while you get a string of red X’s and your only job is to not break the chain. I use the free version of a simple habit tracker app called Done & have a minimum number that I track per WEEK rather than daily.

I firmly believe in a pay yourself first approach

This is what’s guiding my entire schedule – taking care of my needs first.

confident young woman leaning on entrance of parking
I’m parked at a desk and paying myself. Dolla dolla bill y’all!

I got this idea from the realm of side hustles (ie making money outside of a day job). Every creative who’s not making a living from what they really want to do is engaged in side hustling.

To me, this means taking care of my needs before the day job – all of them. Not only does this help me make progress on my creative efforts, it reduces guilt by a metric buttload, which makes it easier to engage in creative efforts.

I might have to start a Resources page for this stuff.


What’s Arp doing?

My graphic memoir

I’ve been making steady progress on my graphic memoir. I’m drawing a 6 page sequence about a significant life event, which I see as a preview/test run/feedback collector for the whole thing. Working on it 30 minutes a day doesn’t feel like enough but it’s getting easier as I understand and shed the baggage involved. And working on a memoir involves a metric shit-ton of baggage.

Maybe I’m writing this for the eventual catharsis. Who knows?

Hourly Comic Book Day

Hourly comic day 2021

For the first time ever, I participated in Hourly Comic Book Day. Usually I’m all hung-ho that I’m definitely mostly kinda maybe gonna do it this year. And then I either get waylaid by ‘work’ (which I now see as avoidance/emotional baggage stuff) or I trash it after the first panel proves too much a pain (also avoidance/emotional baggage stuff).

This year I set myself up for success by setting some parameters:

  • no pencils, just inks & undos
  • hand lettering only (no messing with text layers in Procreate)
  • keep it messy
  • trace stock images if needed

And it worked! Hooray for little wins.

Website upgrades

I have a running list of website upgrades, all related to a goal of having an income-generating membership site (ie Patreon). This week included adding a proper call to action at the top of my newsletter archive page, and updating legal policies.

The newsletter, btw, is the crux of my non-skeevy marketing efforts. I like how Jessica Abel uses the term marketing bros who are focused only on numbers and not building relationships. It’s an excellent differentiator between being genuine and being a skeevy turd.

A blog post on making a Linktree style page of buttons


What’s Arp reading?

Growing Gills by Jessica Abel

(see above)

Second Generation by Michel Kichka

Second Generation by Michel Kichka book cover

An exceptional graphic memoir by a Belgian/Israeli comic creator about growing up as the child of a Holocaust survivor. His life and his memories are compelling and his art is outstanding. He’s influenced by that European, cartoony brush ink style and he’s damn good at it – I had to save some screenshots for technique reference. This was another find on Hoopla, which is pretty much a digital library.

Uh oh Plato by Charles Pepin; The Daughters of Salem by Thomas Gilbert; and The End of the Fucking World by Charles Forsman

I couldn’t read more than a few pages of these. The philosophy book was a conceit that didn’t work for me and the other two were too depressing and/or heavy.


Again I ponder: are graphic memoirs just reality tv for nerds?

Since I seem to read 2-3 of them every month. What do you think?

Send me a quick reply with your thoughts.

Leave a Comment

Already a member? Login here.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.