Farnsworth and Tate think about math

Refocusing

I just finished a freelance job building a website for a friend. It turned out really well. However, through no fault of my friend, who was extremely patient and understanding throughout the endeavor, the project was way more of a mess than I expected. Aside from the e-commerce aspect of the site, which my wife would be handling, the design was complete, and the site was built and ready to launch. However, something was wrong. The website was throwing frequent internal server errors (just one of the many versions of the “white screen of death” you’ll see when a website is not cooperating), caused by the site using too much of the server’s available memory. To my dismay, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong or why the site was being such a hog. I’ve built numerous sites the same way, using the same tools and the same platform. Despite most of those sites being more complicated and resource-hungry than this one, they all worked as intended. This one did not, and no amount of Googling or tech support or uninstalls-and-reinstalls could help me find a solution that worked. Unsure whether to laugh or launch my computer into the sun, I ended up rebuilding the entire site from the ground up using a different framework.

Radioactive Man punches Dr. Crab into the sun!

Dramatization of what almost happened to my computer, featuring Radioactive Man in the role of me; Dr. Crab portrays my computer.

The bad news to come out of all of this is that I had to put much more time into the project than expected. The good news is that the website now works and works well, and my friend is happy with the results. The best news is that the experience concluded with an eye-opening moment. It turns out website design might not be my passion. Yeah, I know a lot about it, and I’d like to believe I’m fairly decent at it, and it makes up a good portion of my day job, and I have opinions about it. It’s a big part of my life, for sure. But, it’s not my passion. That distinction falls to writing and drawing, and the amazing medium where those two activities intersect: comics!

If you’re a longtime reader of This No Good Blog, or if you know me personally, you know I have a thing for comics. I read comics, and I make comics. I even ate a comic one time! However, far too often, comics (as well as all of my other writing and drawing) take a backseat to the many other activities in my life, and for long stretches of time, at that. I get busy, I get irresponsible, I might even get a little bit lazy from time to time. Whenever that happens, writing and drawing are always the first casualties. Facing this conundrum for the millionth time, I’ve decided to refocus my attention on writing, drawing, and comics…again. This time, however, I am maintaining some guidelines to keep me in the proper headspace.

daily workflow

My daily workflow, presented in glorious Technicolor®.

Daily Workflow

I’m prone to dropping everything in order to play video games, including things that are more important to me, or even things that have to get done. The daily workflow was developed to ensure that video games are the lowest-priority activity in my daily routine, and a reward for getting the important stuff done. Let’s break this down:

  • Exercise – Gotta maintain the dad bod. I also really like to eat, so the exercise serves as a countermeasure.
  • Chores – My wife and I had a baby in December, and my wife is now a full-time mom. She has very little free time, so if there is work around the house that she can’t handle or doesn’t have time to do, there is no excuse for me to be sitting around playing games while there are dishes or laundry or whatever left undone.
  • Work for Others – This applies to any freelance jobs, favors, or gifts for others, and also encompasses anything I need to do for wife and baby. Including these jobs in the workflow helps to ensure I am working on these tasks every day, even if it’s only in short bursts, and not putting them off until the last minute.
  • Work on The Game – This applies to Staff and Shadow, a PC game some friends and I are working on. I’m creating all of the artwork for the game. It’s a long-term passion project, and therefore one of the first things to get pushed to the back burner in favor of paid work. But, we’ve gotta finish it someday!
  • Work for Myself – Here’s where comics fall on the list. After a long day, it’s tempting to disregard work for myself and veg out with some games. However, games are not as fulfilling, and they don’t carry the same “I have to do this” weight as comic creation.
  • Play Games – Okay. Now I’ve earned it.

Limit Freelance Work to Graphic Design and Illustration

Website design has proven to be too time-consuming and too prone to flaky webhosting issues outside of my control. I also don’t know enough about website backends to handle those server-side issues when they come up. At my day job, there is a team of developers I can rely on to help me through troubleshooting. Working alone on freelance jobs, I just feel like a hack. I love the design portion, and I like being helpful to friends and others who need websites, but I ultimately feel unqualified. However, freelance jobs that are graphic design or illustration-focused better fit my passion for drawing, and can be cranked out in a lot less time.

Don’t Try to Do Too Much

I have lots of ideas in mind for new comics and projects, and while I think working on two or three things at a time keeps the work varied and interesting (and gives me a second project to turn to when I get stuck on the first), over-diversifying leads to work overload, not making enough progress on any single project, and faster burnout. Self confidence benefits from occasionally completing a project, so I don’t want to work on so many things at once that nothing can get done.

Have Fun

I found myself not enjoying website design like I thought I did. While a periodic bad day is normal for any passion, the bad days were becoming more and more consistent. I wasn’t having fun anymore, which meant it was time to take a step back and re-evaluate how and where website design fit into my life. At my day job, it’s perfectly fine. When it’s essential to have a website for one of my personal projects, that’s okay, too. However, I no longer wish to devote my time to websites for others (other than the handful I’ve committed to maintain), and I have to stick to that, even when it pays well and it gives me a chance to help someone else. Simply put, it gets in the way of things that are more important to me.

All That Said, Let’s Get to Work!

I have my workflow. I have my priorities in line. Now, it’s time to stick to it and make some comics! Next time, we’ll take a look at how I got into comics, briefly profile the comics I’ve made, and talk just a little bit about what I have in the works. See you then!