My 2017: What Worked and What Didn’t

Futurama - Fry about to fall into cryo-chamber

Hey, so 2017 was pretty crazy, right? It was pretty crazy for me, too, with a lot of successes and failures personally and creatively. As a sort of personal therapy, I’m reviewing what worked and what didn’t work this year, both to get it off my mind, and to put it all in a central location for future review and self-embiggenment. Maybe it can help others who happen to stumble upon it, too.

What Worked?

Six Legs, No Heart I finished up my fun, but creepy comic book about giant bugs in March. It took basically all of my free time in the first three months of the year to get it done in time for Cape Comic Con, but I’m happy with the outcome. Ultimately, there are some things that could have been executed better, but the level of detail was far deeper than any previous comic work I’ve done, and I’m proud of the final product. It, like any project, was a learning experience. I hoped that successfully completing Six Legs, No Heart would give me the boost of skill and confidence I need to tackle bigger, future projects, and while I haven’t made it past the preliminary stages of those projects, yet, they feel much more possible now than they did in the past.

Somewhat Better Twitter Usage, Maybe? – I’ve been trying to engage with people and having conversations, rather than just saying funny things and hoping that somebody sees them. It’s made Twitter, which can either feel like a cesspool of filth and negativity or an empty void, depending on the day, a more fulfilling experience.

Positivity – Listen. Everybody has personal taste. Some things fit it, and some things don’t. If something doesn’t fit your personal taste, it might fit somebody else’s. Rather than ragging on the stuff that I don’t like, I’ve tried focusing on talking up the things I do like. In the same way, I’ve been working on not dwelling on negatives, and instead have tried to either turn them into learning experiences, or ignoring them outright in favor of positives.

I Played a Lot of Video Games! – I beat over 20 games this year, which is an impressive feat, especially since I put over 100 of my limited gaming hours into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I also purged over 20 games from my collection that I will realistically not play again (and some I never played at all, haha, whoops). It can be difficult to get rid of stuff, but once I do it, I almost always feel a lot better. I’ve found that having too much stuff gets cumbersome, and I’m going to talk more about that concerning video games in a future blog post.

Exercise – Exercise will also appear in the “What Didn’t Work?” section below, so it’s a split decision this year. What did work was doing a lot of pull-ups, taking the six flights of stairs at work as often as possible, and generally throwing together a quick program while I’m in the basement cleaning litter boxes. It hasn’t been organized or goal-oriented, just happening because I needed it to.

Personal Health and Responsibility – In the last few months, I’ve really had to step up in some areas where my wife has been more and more unable to, including cooking, dishes, laundry, and some errand-running. I’ve also become more health-conscious and, after dealing with a lot of gut issues, I cut most gluten and dairy from my diet (except for over the holidays—ouch), and have seen major improvement. All of this has gone well overall, and this is important because….

We Had a Baby! – This happened just a short time ago, and the reality of it hasn’t quite set in, but we love her! Everything changes now. It’s a major adjustment, but thus far, I think we’re doing a great job of keeping up with both her and things around the house. We’re still super new at this, so it’s hard to say how exactly this new tiny human will impact our lives in the big picture (other than providing lots of poops and snuggles, that is). Let’s just say we are proceeding with caution and with the expectation that time is now an even more precious commodity.

What Didn’t Work?

Work on Projects Other Than Six Legs, No Heart – Partly due to burnout, and partly because we knew a baby was on the way, I didn’t work very hard on creative endeavors this year after Six Legs wrapped up. Amanda and I knew this was our last year to take it easy, if you will, so we didn’t push ourselves too hard or set a lot of goals. It worked in the moment, but I now wish I had taken some of that unprecedented free time to be more productive. Not necessarily to work on anything in particular, but just for freeform drawing and writing practice, if nothing else.

Six Legs, No Heart Marketing – I finished a brand new comic book that I put a lot of hard work and passion into, hyped it on social media before its physical release and when it came out on Comixology, and then basically never mentioned it again, other than right before convention appearances. You guys. I have got to get better at this sort of thing. I have got to get over the fear that praising or promoting my own work will be perceived as bragging. It’s not! This has got to stop. I have to be able to promote my own work, and if people get annoyed with it, I need to suck it up and deal with some unfollows, for goodness’ sake. For a brand new indie comic, I think Six Legs, No Heart has done okay, but because of my failure to promote it well, I think it has underperformed.

Social Media and Marketing Strategy, in General – See above. How often do I make something, then never advertise it, and assume it’s a failure? Always. Like, every project. This has to stop, and the lines of communication need to remain open. I haven’t made a post on the Big Skink Tales Facebook page in 66 days, as of this writing. Even if I don’t have any new projects to talk about, I can at least find some way to engage my audience. You know, maybe I could remind them that Six Legs, No Heart is a product that exists and that I’m proud of and that they might like…?

Comic Conventions – I love exhibiting at conventions, but I overdid it this year. I spread myself too thin and didn’t have much energy at shows, nor did I have the time to put together a booth setup/presentation that was effective and that I liked, and I paid for it in lack of sales and lack of even the most remote interest in my work. It felt like a major misstep, to the point where I’m starting to wonder if I don’t yet have the pedigree or body of work necessary to stand out or succeed at conventions away from my home base. Whatever the case may be, a slow 2017 and a new baby are both likely to make me take a step back from conventions this year. I’ll be at my hometown Cape Comic Con, but beyond that is uncertainty.

Sketching – I’ve been sketching for the wrong reasons. Right now, I sketch for social media content, when I need to be sketching for practice and hashing out ideas. I spend too much time trying to craft every little doodle into the perfect drawing that I can then feel bad about when it’s not actually perfect and doesn’t get a lot of likes on Instagram. Finished, not perfect is a mantra I’m trying to pick up from Jake Parker, but it hasn’t quite set in, yet.

I Bought too Many Video Games – With all the headway I made in beating and purging games, I negated some of that gain by buying too many new games. Not as many as in years past, but way more than I will get around to any time soon. Again, I have a new blog entry about video games and buying habits in the works.

Exercise – Cardio took a big hit this year, as did walking to and from work. Part of this was by design—instead of walking to work, I walked with Amanda in the mornings to help make sure she was getting some much-needed exercise while pregnant, so it wasn’t out of laziness, but it is something I would like to pick up again. My exercise programs never really have any goals, either, so I would like to establish some of those this year.

Increased Introversion/Withdrawal – This is the thing that bothered me the most in 2017. I used to have trouble being the quiet one in a group of people. I do a lot of listening and thinking, and not a lot of talking. I used to worry that I wasn’t smart enough or witty enough to hang with others in a conversation, but I’ve learned that’s not the case, and have kind of embraced my role as the quiet, introspective one. However, in recent months, I have found myself really struggling to say anything, even in the spots where I normally would. People will ask me, “what’s new?” or “how are things going?” and I’m having a lot of trouble coming up with simple answers, even though I know they’re there. I don’t know if it’s exhaustion or if I’m distracted or what, but I’m to a point where you’re not gonna get a good conversation out of me. Maybe a very awkward one, at best. That needs to change. Being the timekeeper for Cape Championship Wrestling (I’m licensed and everything now!) has made this withdrawal that much more taxing because wrestling is a business where you’re supposed to introduce yourself and say hello to everybody. I don’t do that, and I know that I need to.

2018 is going to be an important year. This is the year in which I will be tested as to whether or not I can maintain any sort of creative outlet and personal well-being with a new baby in the mix. She’s going to need a lot of care and attention, even more than video games! I know that I will be up to the task of taking care of her, but how will I do elsewhere in life? I just want to be a good father, a good husband, and a good human. I hope I can pull it off.