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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, December 04, 2005

Fighting Distraction, Fighting Boredom

It's tough for me to put in long hours at the drawing board. I get bored, I get distracted, I get depressed. For me, there are three things that are key to maximum productivity: variety of work, variety in setting, and a balanced schedule.

Variety of work:
Doing one task for 11 hours a day drives me batty. It gets monotonous and frustrating. Progress can be slow. I'm most comfortable as a cartoonist when I have several project going at once. If I get tired of thumbnailing my graphic novel, I'll pencil in my sketchbook, or ink my mini comic.

Variety of setting:
This is a step I take towards making drawing a more social event. When I lived in Brooklyn, I would draw at a friend's apartment, or in a coffee shop. Now I live in a small town in Vermont, there is no coffee shop. I've had to become creative. I've gone to restaurants, public parks and bars.

A balanced Schedule:
My weekends are the only time I have all to myself, so I really try to make some progress then. I’ve dedicated my Saturdays to Alec's 11-hour schedule.

Here's how this Saturday went:

11:30 (Damn, I slept in again) I go have some lunch at the Tip Top Café, the only restaurant in White River Junction with a reasonable vegan selection. I get there when they open and order a meal I can nibble on. My mind is most sharp early in the day, so I do work that requires thinking: writing and thumbnails. When I get bored of this, I'll switch to some inking.

2:30 I feel like I'm wearing out my welcome, so walk a block to The Upper Valley Food Co-Op. They have a small cafe area where customers can eat sandwiches or drink coffee. I purchase a vegan cookie and draw for an hour. I switch from inking to thumbnails again.

3:30 Break time! And how convenient, I'll do some grocery shopping, then some errands around town.

4:30 Now back to my apartment – another change of scenery. I work for 3 hours. I listen to various music and audio books to keep from getting bored. I write a little, but then I switch to sketching and inking.

7:30 My biggest block of work is behind me, and I’m not bored or exhausted yet! Now for a big break. I mess around on the computer and call a friend.

9:30 Ugh. I’m not eager to start work. I put in my Ghost World DVD listen to it while I draw in the other room. I do some mindless inking and plough through. When the movie is over it’s almost time for my break.

11:30 Break time, call another friend. I need support.

1:30 This is the tough work block. My brain feels a little mushy. I put on some comforting music make it through. I tell myself I sure am lucky I'm not in relationship, I'd never be able to pull something like this! Yes, very lucky.

3:30 I fall asleep immediately.


At 10:42 PM, Anonymous Will Wheatley-Uhl said...

I need to become more disiplined in this fashion... Could veganism be to blame for our lack of attention spans?

At 11:38 PM, Blogger Alec said...

Ack! Robyn-- I really don't recommend that 11-hour schedule. I only mapped that out for end-of-project, meeting-deadline crunch times! I mean, I guess if you are only doing it one day a week, but still--11 hours of drawing to 5 hours of breaking isn't very BALANCED (especially if you don't start until 11:30am!)

I really think the 8 hour schedules are a lot more realisitic/reasonable, especially if you are having a hard time staying focused. 8 hours of drawing in a day is still A LOT and it allows for a full 8 hours of break time to deal with the rest of your life!

(For others who don't know what the hell I'm talking about you can read this previous post about Schedules).

At 7:50 AM, Blogger robyn said...

Maybe your right, Alec. I am pretty burned out on Sunday. Maybe I'll try two 8 hour schedules instead, Saturday and Sunday.
I try to start drawing before 11:30 but it just never seems to hapen!

At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There could be other ways to make comics more of a social activity- like next quarter when we have more time, maybe nect quarter when we all have more time, organize drawing parties at Inkys or someone's house.


At 8:58 AM, Blogger Mal Jones said...

Lately I have had no patience/attention span for doing comic work. I'm working on cleaning my plate of freelance design work in order to free up my brain for more comic work, but with the holidays (and rent) the freelance design work keeps taking priority.

Money is the biggest distraction. The love for the medium is taking a hit this holiday season.

Robyn: To go to the Center for Cartoon Studies?

At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Allie said...

Hey, Robyn! Damn, I forgot about this blog after my first look over a month ago. I should read more regularly.

Wow, that sounds intense. I'm not sure I could spend that much solid time on cartooning; 11 hours is certainly a lot longer than a regular workday. I think Alec probably has a good point.

Then again, a day when I have the opportunity to just draw is so rare that there'd be a certain novelty to it.

When I am working on an onerous project, I tend to have TV marathons, usually with DVDs of my favorite sci-fi shows (not in the next room, but right in front of me). Since they're familiar, I don't have to watch and can draw, but I can look up if I need a little break. It keeps me fresh. Or I take a break to read a few comics or browse art websites (a fabulous inspiration source, for me, though occasionally intimidating).

Drawing with people is great too, but I know you already know that. You must have some decent opportunities to do that, being at CCS and all. (Lucky.)


At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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