Make Comics Forever!!

Make Comics Forever is a forum for cartoonists dedicated to improving their productivity. This is not a forum for wimps! This is not a forum for flakes! We are here to share tips and techniques on how to produce more work and better work. Become a comic-making machine! Join the discussion now! To become a member, email a request to robyn @

Sunday, October 02, 2005

"My name is Robyn, and I'm a procrastinator."

I see Make Comics Forever! as a 12 step program for the procrastinator and the productively challenged. I didn't know what the real 12 steps of AA were, so I looked 'em up:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Hmm... Maybe these steps won't work for me. I’m not big on tricking myself into believing in god, even if has results (no offence, I'm just not a believer.) But I'm interested in prayer and meditation, as long as there's no deity attached. Something to explore. Anybody who has experienced improved productivity due to faith or prayer, please add your thoughts.

Ok here's my 10 step program. What’s yours?

1. Admit you have a problem. Address the fact that you are not living up to your potential as a cartoonist.

2. Admit that you do have potential. With a little confidence and a lot of labor, you are capable of making great comics. Believe this, and be excited by it.

3. Dedicate yourself becoming more productive. Understand this means changing your behavior and initiating new work habits. Understand that this is very hard.

4. Create a master plan to improve your productivity.

5. Commit this plan to paper.

6. Share this plan with your friends and colleagues. Create an open dialogue with your colleagues about productivity and work habits. Our shared wisdom is one of our most useful tools.

7. Integrate your plan into your daily schedule.

8. Keep a regular record of how you implement your plan. Chart your productivity.

9. Assess these records and find out if your plan is working. If it is not working, create a new master plan.

10. Share your failures and successes with your colleagues.

Maybe it's a little dorky to make plans like these, but I'll do what it takes to get better!


At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 9:50 AM, Blogger Alec said...

These steps all sound great! This is a lot like what I do with my 10-hour schedule (which I'll hopefully make a post about after I get access to the blog!) I think step 9 is ESPECIALLY important. It's all well and good to make up a "master plan" but if it's not working you NEED to be flexible with yourself and adjust it to your life! Also because your week-to-week life will not always be the same. So you need to be flexible. If your "master plan" just becomes something that is unreasonable, which you can't meet, it will become a point of stress and make you feel WORSE. You know? Because of some experiences with this, I also came up with some 8 hour schedules (which I will also post soon!) which provide a lot more flexibility!

Anyways, I think this is a great start!

At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I try to make a bunch of short-term manageable goals, like, "Okay, let me get this thumnbail done by today" or "Gotta get at least a page complete by so-and-so day". What I love to do when I'm stuck and can't draw is do a jam comic with people. I'd love to see one going online so anyone can particpate anytime whether they're in a slump or not, but we'll see.

At 2:12 PM, Anonymous KevinColden said...

Hi Robyn, and everyone out there! Here are my feeble thoughts:

I myself have never really had a problem with the volume of my page output; I believe at SPX last week one of my House of Twelve colleagues said that I can sneeze and have a finished page.

That being said, I'll take a few minutes to deconstruct my workflow for the benefit of those who give a hoot.

My typical volume is anywhere between two and five pages a week, working around my eight-plus-hours-a-day job, actually having some semblance of a social life and just dealing with normal life stuff like fixing the leaks in the bathroom and cleaning the apartment and whatnot. I usually draw from 5-10 at night and on weekends, taking numerous breaks. It also helps that I only have rabbit ears on my TV, so I get no channels and no reception (hence, no distraction) although I really like to put on PBS while I'm working - there's something soothing about Stacy Keach telling me about the wonders of American history. But I digress.

I agree with Alec that you need to have a master plan, even if it's a loose master plan. I'm pretty lucky in that respect; I usually have deadlines to work against, and there is no better motivator for me; I spent all of my teen years and into my twenties working in a bottle factory where the quotas were something like 1000 widgets an hour, so I can take a lot of abuse, too.

In addition I spent a few years at the good old Kubert school, where they MAKE you crap out pages. It helped me learn to economize.

In my opinion, it's not the actual act of drawing that matters as much as your prep work. In my days as a housepainter, I was taught that the better you do the prep work, the better and easier the finished product; also, rule number one of carpentry is "measure twice, cut once." I draw every panel at least three times before finishing - once as a thumbnail, once as a small rough, and then blown up and traced onto my final paper. Then I tighten it up. This way, I can keep correcting my mistakes, and it allows my inking to as visceral and loose as I want because I have a solid foundation to work over.

I've also found the computer to be an invaluable tool for a number of reason. My eyes are really bad - anyone who's met me in person knows that I wear huge cokebottles - and I have astigmatism in one eye, which distorts my drawing in weird ways. So I scan in my roughs, flip them and correct them before blowing them up and printing them out.

The internet is an unlimited resource for photo reference too, and then with my handy Wacom tablet, I can further correct any mistakes up to the final scan.

All of this makes it a pretty quick process from thought to final product. It's a little "assembly line" in it's design, but I find that working within a rigid workflow allows me to be more productive and, in the end, more creative.

I've taken up far too much space, so I'll shut up now.

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Mikhaela said...

Making plans like this isn't dorky at all--you have to do whatever works and helps to wean yourself off of procrastination. I especially like step 2:

"2. Admit that you do have potential. With a little confidence and a lot of labor, you are capable of making great comics. Believe this, and be excited by it."

I say this because I think it's really easy to beat yourself up over missed opportunities and procrastinating and all the amazing comics you could have drawn and all the people younger than yourself who are doing amazing work blah blah blah. But this step says "So fucking what? I can and will do great comics in the future, and what I've done so far isn't too shabby, either, dammit."

I also like the idea of charting your own progress, because then you'll compare yourself not to other people who are crazy prolific, but to yourself. And that'll make any improvements feel even more exciting.

Another thing is, it's important to be realistic about your plan and set priorities, so when unexpected problems crop up, you can still get the most important stuff done. When I make overambitious plans ("I'm going to draw 10 cartoons in a week!") I find that I just become paralyzed, and instead of drawing 10 cartoons, I draw NONE. When I could have done maybe 2 or 3.

Anyway, I think I'll write a post at some point about prioritizing, as I think I've had decent luck with it. I break different cartooning-related activities into categories ("MUST be done every week" "Needs to be done at some point this month" "Things I'd like to do but aren't essential, only if I have time")...

At 3:34 PM, Anonymous Brent said...

These are some great tips but could you just send someone over to personally kick my lazy, unambitious behind into gear instead? Thanks.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger T said...

I think the idea of adapting the 12-step program to comics-making is a great one, but I'd like to see a bit more execution. I get the atheism, but AA's steps 4, 5 and 10 focus on a "mental inventory" of faults and shortcomings. I'd add talents and abilities to said inventory. Knowing yourself is the first and best step to becoming more productive. I've wasted way too much time trying to work as if I were someone other than who I am.


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