I’m writing this because I’m concerned of a continuing trend among aspiring artists, or artists who are trying to get their first project off the ground. Are you ready for a little tough love?
It really doesn’t matter how perfect you think your first project will be. Just finish it. I learned that the long and hard way. After quitting college, I had big plans. Some were attainable, and some were just downright silly. But I wanted to finish a book, that much was clear, and I wanted my first book to make a splash. I initially dabbled with several projects (including what is now Nanjing), but the bulk of 2002 – 2003 was spent developing a teen superhero book, and I even finished an entire first issue. Then I decided to redo that issue, to make it better. Then I redid it again… and again. And now you get the point.
I was a perfectionist (and part of me still is), but constant perfectionism is also a fear of failure in disguise. Yes, I wanted to make a big splash with my first project, but let’s face it — subconsciously, I was prolonging the release, thereby prolonging the inevitable criticism (or worse, backlash) of my work. You want every line to be perfect because you want your work to be beyond reproach and beyond critique.
But it’s an impossible standard you build for yourself. And here’s the dirty little secret… say it with me… NOBODY GIVES A SHIT BUT YOU. I don’t say that to be dismissive, I say that because it’s the cold, hard truth.
Your first work will most likely go ignored (and there are very few exceptions that prove the rule). Most likely, you won’t get many freelance jobs from your first work. You’ll probably have a few professional doors open for you, but said doors are really just leading you to another waiting room.
So, all aspiring artists — all you peeps who are stressing over every line, every page, every word bubble — please, take it from me: just finish the damn book. What’s your biggest fear, a terrible review casting a dispersion on your entire legacy?
“I liked this person’s debut graphic novel, but this one scene was a tad mundane, and so I’m giving them an F!! Nobody buy this comic!”
Here’s what your first review will actually look like (if you’re meant to do comics for a living): “Pretty good debut comic. A little rough here and there, but overall good. Recommended for new readers.”
It’s simply part of paying your dues. I allowed this neurotic behavior to control me for way too long. I mean, come on, even after releasing the original Tails mini-series, I reworked ALL of the content and even scrapped an entire sequel (the sequel was 100% finished). Yeah, it made me into a better draftsman, but it also stalled my career for 2 – 3 years. It also proved a point to NOBODY. That first Tails mini is crude as crap; it was my first series, my first foray into croquill inking, my first accumulation of debt. But it was all worth it.
Yes, you get better with every page. Yes, you get better when you truly learn to evaluate your own work with a critical eye. But you wanna know how to get A LOT better? Finish a complete book.
Then finish another one.