#16: Process, ego & revealing my next project

Welcome to the new shorter version of the newsletter! (Editor: NOT.)

First, some good news!

I have been honored with a BIPOC scholarship by the Center for Cartoon Studies! They offer scholarships for their summer workshops and I applied for Creating Graphic Novels for the Young Adult Market. I chose this to get better at a “crafting authentic, relatable teen characters and narratives.” Can’t wait til August!

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That’s most people’s problem: they try to learn a magic trick instead of learning how magic works.

Brian McDonald

I’m still grooving to Brian McDonald’s podcast, You Are A Storyteller (though I’ve given it a break this week as we had some stress and disappointments that made this past week one to muddle through). And I’ve got two nuggets of wisdom from him to share.

The first quote is from an episode called Denying the Ego and it has a few ‘scales fall off the eyes’ moments.

(I really need to look that idiom up, it sounds gross af.)

This one hits home – hard. I admit: I have tried to find the magic trick instead of learning how the magic works. Probably since I was a kid.

I spent so much time drawing biceps and muscles without learning about the underlying structure of the human body.

I played tennis in high school, eventually captaining the team – but I never practiced with any focus or purpose.

I made electronic music for years and was obsessed with sounds rather than understanding how the structure & conventions of the music made it work. I loosely tried copying song structure, but more along the lines of I’ll kinda copy that, using my own sounds.

That sounds a lot like strictly following a story structure like Save the Cat, no?

Been there, done that too.

The point is that I am guilty of looking for shortcuts – the magic tricks, vs the magic itself. You might be too.

Now I’m not saying that all shortcuts are bad. Making comics is a time consuming process and for all of who don’t make their full-time income from it (and some of us who do), figuring out ways to do things faster is a boon. All the benefits of digital art apply here – undo/redo, layers, bucket tools, yada yada.

It’s the important stuff that can’t be fixed with tricks. Story structure doesn’t magically tell a story or make it good. Skipping steps in the art process doesn’t make the art better, or even good.

I’m sure you can think of other examples.

I haven’t even finished this episode and it’s got more wisdom that rocked my world. It’s titled Denying the Ego and talks a lot about what our motivations are to make our art. Are our actions in service of the story, or in service of something that feeds our ego (likes, clicks, recognition, fame, etc.)? Are we being stubborn about aspects of the story/art just because we think it’s cool, instead of being stubborn about what serves the story best?

It’s a lot to think about that will help us make better art in the long run.

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You have to be process-oriented rather than goal-oriented.

Brian McDonald

Another gem from Brian McDonald’s podcast, this time from the Good Stories Last Forever episode.

Understanding this is critical to a creative. Or, to be perfectly frank, to anyone who wants to do anything.

This is talking about practice.

This is talking about habits.

This is talking about process.

Making a daily habit of writing makes writing easier. Making a daily habit of drawing steadily improves your art.

Great coaches drill into their players that taking care of the little things makes the big things easier (often simplified to Practice Make Perfect).

This is easiest to see in artists, where comparisons of art from 5 years ago with today always show a significant improvement.

But I see this in writing too – making a daily habit reduces writer’s block (something I’m coming to understand is more about fear or an innate understanding that something is wrong with my story).

Goals are great measuring sticks for progress. But I guarantee that no goal can be met without process.

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What I’m working on

My current focus is completing the outline for the first part of my episodic mythological story.

I’ve loved mythology since I was a kid and this is the story I’m writing for 10 year old me.

I grew up with Hindu mythology, then discovered Greek & Norse mythology. And as much as I enjoy individual mythologies on their own, I always wondered:

What about gods and goddesses from different places? What happens if Zeus travels to India or if Shiva goes to France?

Mostly, I want to see beings from different myths fight.

I want Mythological Fight Club.

That’s what I’m writing, though it will be a proper story and not just fights. Samurai Jack is another major influence for this project.

I expect to have this outline completed by the end of next week at the latest (stating this publicly to keep that fire under my ass lit).

Also, I’m not going to be drawing this. My art’s not bad, but it’s not action-oriented either. And I need a better draftsperson for this.

I expect to go the traditional publishing route, where it’s common for publishers to find an artist appropriate for the project (note to my future publisher: I’m picky af about my art; if I don’t have final say on the artist, I won’t work with you).

I will do some character designs, which I’ll be sharing here for patrons only (I need to make a process to finish up my DIY patreon…).

I’m also open to finding a artist collaborator interested in mythology and creator-owned work.

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What I’m reading

The Department of Truth

Holy cow – I can’t think of another comic that feels like it was written for my exact set of interests right now. It delves deeply into modern politics, modern conspiracy theories, and the concept that belief influences reality. And based on its references (like the D&D is satanic bs from the 80s), it’s written by someone (James Tynion) roughly the same age as me.

If you are a political news junkie like me, wonder wtf at all the literal fake news being fed to gullible/receptive magats, and like fiction speculative af, you need to read this. Treat yourself to the first five issues on Hoopla.

Twilight Man

I have loved The Twilight Zone my whole life. It’s what got me into speculative fiction long before I even heard of the term. Reading a biography of Rod Serling was a no-brainer, and this book delivers – including being a clever homage in its own way.

It’s an interesting look at the birth of television and the business of Hollywood. It’s surprising that it even made it on tv (and I can’t believe Serling sold his share of the property before it went into syndication).

He led an interesting life but needed to work on his mental health. I guess many of stories wouldn’t have been written if he didn’t have trauma to work through, but I’m not sure I want someone to be troubled just to entertain people.

Also, I wonder how much Koren Shadmi, the writer & illustrator, made from the book. (The business side of the industry always creeps into my mind…)

Read the whole thing on Hoopla.

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That’s all folks!

I failed in my attempt to keep my writing to 45 minutes. But what can I do if I have a few thoughts to wrap up?

Tell me:

What do you think about Mythological Fight Club?

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I write about life as a creative, how to make money without being a skeevy marketing bro, good reads, and more. Free exclusive comics may or may not be involved.

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Each issue is written straight from the heart. I write about life as a creative, how to make money without being a skeevy marketing bro, good reads, and bad jokes. Free exclusive comics may or may not be involved.