The Four Jerkfaces of the Fearpocalypse!
I spent years stalled out on my art. I don’t draw much in my job in video games (unless you count the endless doodles of coworkers I draw in meetings).
My particular style doesn’t really lend itself to an industry whose tastes lean more towards Space Mercenary Death Babes in metal bikinis. My job relies on my other skills, rather than my drawing ability. Which means that for the longest time, I didn’t really put much effort into my personal work. It wasn’t until 2011 when I decided to really try again. I was ready, for the first time in years, to have my creativity play a bigger part in my life. I wanted to create again.
But as it turns out, Wanting Something and Getting it Done are two vastly different worlds.
Wanting is a magical land where Inspiration waves her wand, sprinkling good intentions and whimsical ideas hither and yon, planting seeds of genius that bloom into flowers of invention. A place where the gentle winds of praise sound like the applause of adoring fans, and the birdsong sounds like my dad singing, “Good job, son! Good job, son!”
Done is an unforgiving, excuse-free world where the bitter winds of reality blow, and Judgement Pigs poop reality pies all over your stupid little invention flowers.
And for me, that’s just the beginning. If I’m going to see an Idea through the badlands of Done, I’m going to come face to face with my fears, in all their forms. I refer to them as...
The 4 Jerks live in my head, in the space between those two worlds. Every time I get inspired to draw a comic, or work on a book idea that’s been floating around in my brain, I’m faced with one of these guys. Sometimes two. And if I stick with it, I know I”ll eventually have to deal with each of them in order to finish what I want to do.
For the longest time, I wasn’t even aware of them. They were invisible. They were The Truth. So I’d listen to them, and more often than not, I’d stop doing what I loved, because it was too hard, or I wasn’t good enough, or who did I think I was, or Hey, Walking Dead is on!
These are their stories. (Dun-dun!)
He’s always the first one I run into. He puts the “pro” in “procrastinator”.This guy is really convincing. I mean before I try to make a kid’s book, it only makes sense that I go out to the kids bookstore and buy a few copies of the latest best sellers. I need to see what they’re doing, to make sure I didn’t have the same idea! And I don’t want to start this amazing project in an old sketchbook, do I? I should go get some new pens while I’m at it. I’m tired. I should go get a coffee, maybe I can draw some people at the shop to get the creativity going. What time IS it, anyway? It’s so hard being creative when I’m tired. Hey look, the internet!
Next up: This guy. The Strategist always thinks Big Picture. He’s great at seeing the finished product and knows exactly how it’ll be received. Which is terribly. His sales predictions are always low. He’s very plugged into market data, and knows what people want (not me,as it turns out).
And on the off chance that I bring him a really good idea, one that I’m convinced is great, he comes up with ways to make it bigger and better. The problem with his plans, though, is that they’ll take me 3 years to do, involve skills I don’t have, and have so many intricate details to them that I get lost trying to figure out where to start. Maybe I should just put this one aside and draw something...less ambitious.
If I make it past the first two, I’m bound to run into The Critic. This guy knows good art when he sees it (not mine, as it turns out). Whenever I put pencil to paper, he’s standing over my shoulder, helpfully pointing out how crooked that line is, or how hands should have 5 fingers, or reminding me how I dropped out of art school, and how’s THAT working out for you?
He’s cooler than me, has better taste than I do, and is happy to point out when my work doesn’t live up to his standards. He knows a lot of better artists, too. He’s bookmarked their websites, go take a look! See, now THOSE people are artists.
If I make it this far, they bring out the big guns. 50’s Dad does NOT mess around. He’s HAD it with all of this artsy fartsy nonsense. Grown men don’t spend their days drawing robots in underpants! Following your muse doesn’t put food on the table! God forbid you had to do something USEFUL for a living. Stop doodling and start worrying about how to not get fired, you lazy sack of nonsense!
When all else fails, 50’s Dad always gets my attention.
(*I’d like to point out at this time that 50’s Dad bears absolutely no resemblance in any way to my actual dad, who’s always been supportive and kind, and has tolerated my maliciously misrepresentative caricatures of him on birthday cards since I was 6.)
When I finally realized they were even there, I got mad. I wanted them GONE. I figured they were just screwing with me.
I tried telling them to get lost. They didn’t pay any attention. I told them they were fired. They just laughed at me. I mean, these guys have tenure. They’re not going anywhere.
What I’ve learned is that they’re there for a reason; to protect me. From disappointment, failure, and (this one was a surprise) success. They wanted me to be prepared. Inspired. Well rested. They just didn’t want me to get hurt when I inevitably got rejected.
Once I realized they were looking out for me, in their own jerky ways, I had some compassion for them. So now, I don’t fight them. Because I know they’re not going anywhere. When they pipe up, as they do, I just listen, nod and smile, and get on with it as best I can.
The best ally I’ve found in tuning them out is Process. If I just stay right where I am and focus on the pleasure of just making something, purely for the act of doing it, the Jerks seem to get quieter. If I focus on how awesome it is, how grateful I am, just to draw something, I stop worrying about the outcome, how it’s going to be received, or whether or not it’s financially viable. I just enjoy the act of making something.