What do you think is the hardest part of making a comic? Or pursuing any long-term goal? Is it the planning? The rough drafts? The revision, editing, polishing? Each stage has a unique set of difficulties to overcome, but I think there’s actually something else at play when we struggle to move forward. There’s a secret obstacle that we don’t even notice, because it’s developed very slowly.
We’re on bad terms with our dream project.
Think about it: how many times have you wanted to start working on this idea, but then told yourself it wasn’t important enough? How often do you daydream about drawing or writing, only to say ‘no’ to yourself? It’s probably way more common than you’d guess. If you’re like me, each time you see someone else’s success, you wonder what your success would look like… and then you dismiss the possibility. Or maybe you sit down to work on it, but you already predict bad outcomes and you give up.
There are so many ways we downplay the importance of our hopes, and even if that discouragement is subconscious, it forms a mental habit. It’s a cycle, and after a while, it happens so quickly we don’t even notice it. “Unfortunately not” becomes an intuitive follow up for “If only I could.” And when you decide to tackle a large project, one you’ve been dreaming about for a while, you have to undo months, perhaps years of habit building.
The antidote to this habit? Well, there are two key steps in the solution. The first is to clarify what your dream actually is. Lots and lots of people say they want to be artists, but they don’t know what kind of art field they’d like to be in: comics? Children’s books? Editorial? Be as specific with yourself as you can. You can always adjust your project later, but for now, go for clarity of vision. Drag your dream from the fog, and put it on a stage.
The second step is to know why this dream is a dream of yours. The importance of this project needs to be clear and personal, and you need to believe it. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s so easy to give ourselves superficial goals inspired by what we’ve seen on TV or on the internet. Why is this goal important to you? (I’d also suggest that your goal isn’t financial. Making money from a personal project is awesome, but it’s almost impossible to guarantee. Don’t set yourself up for heartbreak.)
I guess I could say there’s a third step in healing your trust in yourself: combine the previous 2 steps and say it aloud: “I want to create a graphic novel because I think it’s the best way to express my ideas to others.” Not because you’ll get famous, or rich. Not because it will prove your worth or merit. But simply because the project has meaning and purpose for you.
It’s hard to pursue a personal project in a world addicted to the appearance of productivity and the illusion of multitasking. But even if you have to whisper words of encouragement to yourself as you work, just remember: it’s okay to make your own dang dreams come true.
Fun fact: I’ve started stating my goals aloud when I sit down to work. It’s been especially helpful when I’m doing sketches or studies. I literally say “Let’s get one more page done for today, so we’ll have one less tomorrow.” The royal “we” is not necessarily required, but we do it anyway,