As you've probably noticed, progress on the comic has stalled out.
Let me start with where things stand: I have completely given up on my timetable. I've barely accomplished anything since my last update in the summer, and there's no way to get all the remaining work done in less than two months. I'm not going to set a new timetable, because that would just be setting myself up to repeat the same failure again. However, make no mistake: I absolutely intend to finish the project. I'm just going to have to make some major adjustments in my approach.
So let me take a moment to explain what went wrong, and then I'll go over my new plan.
Part of my problem is external factors. I have a job that used to let me work from home most of the time, and that's no longer feasible, which has added a two-hour round-trip commute to my ten-hour work days. There were also some health problems that I'm not going to get into; suffice to say that dealing with them tends to eat up time and energy, though I'm hoping that will improve somewhat in the near future. Inktober (more on that later) ate up my art-making time in October, and of course there was election season, and now there's the holiday season.
The other part of the problem is the burnout that I've mentioned multiple times before. Now, the plan was to avoid boredom by giving myself plenty of options for what part of the comic to work on. The problem is, I've already burned through most of the “fun” parts (namely, concept art and thumbnailing) and am left with mainly just the “work” parts. I got to a point where I couldn't look at any part of the project without instantly feeling exhausted. And once I got to the point that I wasn't working on the comic at all anymore, it got harder and harder to start up again.
So I went back to what worked before. Starting in May, I worked on a silly lionfish mermaid drawing. I never did finish it, but it left me feeling refreshed enough to get to work on the comic again. This time, I did the Inktober challenge, hoping it would have the same effect.
And... Kind of?
I mean, I have an actual sense of accomplishment now that I have the Inktober stuff finished and posted, even if I have complaints about the individual drawings (some more than others). Plus, it forced me to let go of my perfectionism and just get to work and make something in a reasonable time frame. The flip side of that is that I got sloppy with a lot of the Inktober drawings, rushing and not putting in my best work just for the sake of having something done by the end of the day. I'm also not exactly itching to get back to work on the comic; it's more like, “Phew, that's over with, now I can rest.”
But I think I finally found out what was wrong: I'm still drowning in prep work. I already knew this was a problem but I didn't realize it was such a big part of my burnout. But then I ran across a post by Meg Syverud , writer/artist of Daughter of the Lilies (which I haven't read):
Look, that thing you want to do? Stop being a weenie and just do it.
As of this writing in 2018, I am a Storyboard Artist at Warner Bros. Animation. I am now one of “””the professionals””” referenced in the third image. And let me tell you:
…I am still making things up as I go.
…I still don’t have character turnarounds.
… I have… some worldbuilding done. Not all of it, though. Thatâ€™s going to be a permanent work in progress.
…Making the comic is the character study/studies.
…I am still convinced I’m not working hard enough.
…You will never, no matter what you do or how far you go, ever feel like you’re completely ready to do something until you actually do it.
This was a revelation—all of it, but especially that last sentence: You'll never feel fully ready for something until you do it. That's a life lesson.
In what I can only think of as a sign from God, it was mere days later (maybe even the same day) that a fellow Stand Still, Stay Silent reader pointed me to a journal entry SSSS writer/artist Minna Sundberg wrote about the process of starting her first comic, A Redtail's Dream, which she drew as a "practice comic" so she could learn how to make SSSS. Sundberg writes:
[…] After that I quit again. I don't know why, I was pretty excited about the comic at first, but the more I drew the less feeling I had for my characters, and I can't draw a comic if I don't feel something for the characters! I was actually kind of bummed out about loosing interest yet again, at that point I had wasted over half a year trying to start a comic project and I was back to square one. For a few months I even resigned to not even bothering to try making a proper, full-length comic, because clearly I was unable to do so. I was ready to even let SSSS stay as a mere idea as I was pretty sure I would just get bored with it too if I tried.
And then one week by the end of my first year in uni I somehow came up with the idea for aRTD, became mildly inspired again and decided to give it one last try. This time instead of planning it out for month, which would mean risking to lose interest again, I planned out the story in about two weeks, drew a couple of sketches of Hannu and Ville and began to draw the first page I felt like drawing. Which was the page where Hannu and Ville wake up in the woods, I hadn't quite figured out the beginning of the comic yet, heh.
That's why I have so few early aRTD sketches. I deliberately avoided making them 'lest I would grow tired of the story and characters once again. Better just start drawing the darn comic right away while I was still somewhat interested!
Now, in case you didn't know, Stand Still, Stay Silent is one of the more popular comics on the Internet because of its unique world-building, compelling characters, gorgeous artwork, and clockwork-like update schedule. If it's not my favorite Webcomic, it's easily in the top five and probably top three. It ran for almost a thousand pages before concluding its first volume and starting the numbering over for what Sundberg calls the “second adventure.”
To summarize, the creator of one of the most successful Webcomics almost decided that this comic stuff was just not for her, all because she kept getting bored with the prep work.
And I have to admit, I've been tempted over these last few months to give up, to admit that I just don't have it in me to make a Webcomic. In other words, Minna Sundberg was in the same boat several years ago that I'm in now, and look at what she's doing now! If she can do that, I can do seven pages.
Once again, I'm not putting together another schedule from start to finish. I think I need the deadlines to keep me from slacking off, but I don't need the discouragement of having one missed deadline throw the whole thing off. Instead, I'm just going to take this one step at a time. So here's the new plan:
- At the beginning of each month, I'll pick one thing I think I can get done in that month, taking into account any life-stuff that would limit my available time/energy.
- I'll spend part of the month working on my chosen goal, but I'll also devote some time to relaxing with some no-pressure, goof-off art.
- If I finish the goal ahead of time, I'll go ahead and pick the goal for the next month and get a head start on it. If I finish really early in the month I may go ahead and aim to finish the next goal by the end of the same month.
- If I don't get the work done by the end of the month, I'll just make finishing it my goal for the rest of the month. If it doesn't take a whole additional month, I'll treat it just like any other time I finish a goal before the end of the month.
- As time goes on, I'll adjust my goal-setting to match how much work I'm able to get done. If I'm consistently finishing early, I'll set more ambitious goals. If I'm consistently missing deadlines, I'll back off a bit.
Initially, I was tempted to make my first goal finishing the model sheets for the two characters I don't have fully designed yet. But after reading Syverud's and Sundberg's posts? No way. I'm not even sure I'm ever going to finish them. Of course, I can't completely wash my hands of design work, because I still don't know what one guy's wearing or what the other guy's face looks like, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.
So the bottom line is…
Goal for December 2018: Get pencils done for page 1, panel 1.
I'll let you know how it goes.