Stop wasting time.
It's Tuesday. Any idea how happy that makes me? I mean, I get to come here and spout off about all kinds of things. Tuesday. It's what's for dinner. (You can't eat Tuesday, Steven.) [And you're starting early...]
And speaking of being early, we're going to talk about time this week. [I know I said I was going to talk about something else, but it got eaten. We're going to talk about this instead. It'll be fun!]
Time is the only thing in this life that is fair. It's the only thing that everyone has the same amount of. There are 24 hours in each day [leave the science out of it, folks!], and what we do in that time is totally dependent upon us. We have no one else to blame when it comes to mismanagement of our time. It's all on us.
So, we're going to talk about some of the ways we misuse our time, and things we can do to be more productive. Yes, your mileage may vary.
I'm going to tell you right now, the internet is the biggest time waster on the planet. It will cause you to not-write more than anything else. It's horrible, and it's needed. Let's see what we're talking about.
When I'm talking about time wasters, I'm talking about things you cannot get around. You cannot get around sleep. You need it. You need to eat, you need to go to work [unless your job is writing...but if that were the case, you wouldn't be wasting time here with me, wouldja?]. You need to spend time with family and friends, although the lessening of that [as well as sleep], will be called “sacrifice.” We're going to talk about that in a little while.
But the internet...there's nothing else that will waste your time more. It used to be the television, but that's supplanted now. Before that, probably the telephone and radio. But today, it's the internet, and it's pervasive, sexy allure.
Just about every home in America has an internet connection these days. I mean, I even set up a computer system, complete with internet connection, for the aunt and uncle of my ex-girlfriend—and they were newlyweds in their 70s!! If septuagenarians are getting into the online act, you know it's big and deep.
Most of us on the internet waste time looking at porn. I've said this before, so it's nothing new. We should be writing, but why write when we can watch people make ugly faces at each other, especially when it's for our enjoyment. And porn is not hard to find. Maybe quality porn, but not porn itself. Mix ease of location with a growing preoccupation for naughty bits, and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster.
You also have message boards. (Isn't this a message board?) Yup. It's great, isn't it? You can go to a message board and just lose yourself in it. The really good ones have a sense of community, and you can go there and do all and see all kinds of things. Horrible. You get to watch as a little, simple misunderstanding turns into a giant flame-war, and instead of working on Pen-Man, you're avidly watching to see what happens next.
Then, of course, you have the television, and ancillary to that and the internet, is video games. Each is a separate thing.
Television lets you just watch and mindlessly zone out on the programming. [I promise, I won't go on an MTV/VH1 and the lack of actual music videos being played rant.] So you watch Oprah and Montell and Real Housewives and the Surreal Life and whatever else. Like a bad accident, you start watching one of these shows, and you can't tear your eyes away. Before you know it, you've lost three hours, and you're behind.
Video games are even more insidious. They're engaging, and they're fun. You play Xbox Live on your PS3, or are online playing World of Warcraft, and you're lost in those worlds instead of writing. And we're comic book geeks. It's going to be worse when DC launches its game later this year, or when Champions comes out. [Is anyone playing City of Heroes/Villains anymore?] New games, new ways to either create your own characters or interact with your favorites, new special effects to a base set of powers in an effort to blow your mind. Video games. I love 'em, and I hate 'em.
For those of us with families, it gets even more complicated. Children are a big time sucker, especially when they're younger. If you have a young child in the house, I don't envy you. I know it isn't easy. And if your significant other isn't supportive of your goals, it gets even harder. Yes, I know the pain of wanting to do something, and not being able to.
I honestly don't believe you should seriously be trying to break into something like monthly comics if you have extremely young children in the house. Let me say that again, because some of you read that fast, and thus, missed some words. I don't believe you should SERIOUSLY be trying to break into MONTHLY comics if you have EXTREMELY YOUNG children in the house. Note what I said, and what I did not say. I used the words 'seriously,' 'monthly,' and 'extremely young.' I did not say that you shouldn't be writing, still honing your skills, looking to get things published like a small one-shot or a short graphic novel. That extremely young child is going to take up a good portion of time and care. And when I say extremely young, I'm talking about from newborns until they get out of the single digits. [Your mileage will vary.]
There are other time wasters/time takers, but those are the major ones. Let's talk about how to alleviate or ameliorate some of these in order to get some work done.
Porn. Just leave it be. Once you start, it's going to be difficult to stop. Don't get into the routine of watching just a little bit before you start working. A little bit will turn into a lotta bit, and then you have people wondering why you can recognize Ashlyn Gere and Janine Lindemulder when you see them in shows and movies. [And anyone who just said that I was behind the times in names—you're exactly who I'm talking about.] (Burrrn....)
Porn isn't going to do anything to make the words come out better. All you've just done is waste your time, and left yourself exactly where you were before. Unproductive.
Message boards? They're going to be there when you get back. Not only will they be there, there will be more for you to read when you finally come up for air! You can then sit back and relax and shake your head in wonder as you watch people say the most insane things. [Are you participating in the flame war? Nope. You're using your real name, remember? You have a reputation you're trying to build and/or maintain. It won't be helping your cause if Kletus Jerkovitch is in a flame war. Just lay in the cut and watch it unfold. You'll thank me later.]
The very instant you decide to post on a message board,. you can count on losing some hours to The Watching. (Huh?) That's when you post up a question/clever response, and then wait for the responses to start poring in. Every response is a validation of you. It says “I am worthy of being conversed with,” and the more responses you get, the more proud you feel for creating a worthwhile thread. It's a trap. Get caught in it AFTER you've finished writing.
Television. I don't recommend trying to write to it, even if you think of it as “white noise,” because it rarely stays that way. Some show will come on that will catch your attention, and instead of writing, you'll be watching the show, wondering where the time went. It's another trap. And no, for those of you with satellite and digital cable, don't think you can just turn to the music channels and be on your way. Unless it's something that doesn't have any lyrics[classical, pure jazz], you're eventually going to find yourself singing along instead of working, especially if you haven't heard the song for a long time.
Devin Greyson would make herself a mixtape in order to write. She found herself singing along to tapes she already owned, or anticipating what the next song was, so she made herself mixed tapes. You don't have to go that far as to make actual tapes anymore. You can make yourself a playlist on your ipod and get the same effect. But the general thrust is, if you're going to use music as noise to write, either something with no lyrics or something with lyrics you don't know. There really isn't much of a middle ground.
I'm not going to tell you to cut out video games. They're part of the natural scheme of things. I am going to counsel, however, to cut down on the amount of hours you spend playing Halo 12. I know that it's fully immersive, and the new cranial impacts allow you to feel every blow, but really, cut back. The more time you spend playing, the less time you have to write, and writing is the goal, yes?
Treat playing video games as a reward for writing. Do so many pages or a scene or two, then go play. You would have earned it. Don't play first and then go write. You're losing time that way.
Family? Family goes in the same realm as sleep: you have to make sacrifices. Just try not to have the sacrifices be too big when there are young children involved. A lack of sleep will affect your entire day, not just how you perceive the world, but also how the world perceives you. So don't skimp too much on it.
Also, don't sacrifice too much of your family time too often. It's about being a well-rounded creator, and if you have a family, they're a part of that. Cutting them off too often while you go into your cave to write isn't going to help you achieve that well roundedness you're looking for. When you finally get to the Promised Land, you may find you may have no one to share it with. If they're not supportive, explain what it is you're trying to do. Don't be frustrated and exasperated. Be calm, rational, and don't use jargon. You want them to understand. It helps if you use well-known movies as examples, too. Men in Black works well. (But everyone knows Batman and Spider-Man now.) I know. That's the reason I use Men in Black. Everyone's heard of it, but it's not really known as a “comic book” movie. But if you express what it is you're trying to do, and the things that can happen because of it, you'll more than likely be able to get the time you need to write.
That being said, though, it's better if you set aside a regular time to write. If you set aside a regular time and do your best to stick to it, it sends a message to everyone else that you're serious about your pursuit and you have a plan implemented to achieve your dream.
If you're lucky and good, there will come a special time in your life. There will come a time when you're juggling multiple projects. When that time comes, rejoice and be happy, then go look for even more!
I'm going to state the obvious a few times. (Like you don't do that already... The nerve of this guy!) Juggling multiple projects isn't for everyone. If you're the type of person that can only do one thing at a time, then DO NOT juggle multiple projects at one time. You'll only be hurting yourself.
With that said, you won't make a lot of money if you don't. As a matter of fact, you more than likely won't get far in comics if you don't.
Doing multiple projects at once is the lifeblood of the freelance writer. [That's you.] Just like in regular life, you need to be able to prioritize, schedule, and then produce. You're going to need that in order to produce a single script, let alone multiple ones.
The only person that can tell you what a priority for you is will be you. (See? Told you! I am master of my destiny!!!) Yup. But only up to a point. ('Splain.) Sure.
Deadlines. When I'm talking about priorities and scheduling, I'm talking about making your deadline. You know, the one the editor gave you, so that the book will ultimately make it to the stands on time. Deadlines are great things to have, and if you start setting them for yourselves now, you'll better be able to work under the gun when you need to.
The deadline is your master, and you will bow to it more often than not, or else you won't get work. You're just starting out, so you HAVE to be on time in order to continue to get work, building your brand. And I'm going to tell you the secret to setting deadlines.
Under-promise, then over-deliver. (Huh?) Here's an example: You're running Asshat Comics, and you want to have WatchWomen out on the stands in June. You're going to forgo Diamond, and do it yourself. So you contact Graeme McFreelancer in January, and you ask him how long it will take him to pencil a 48 page 1-shot. Graeme knows his speed is pretty quick. He can kick out 48 quality pages in 30 days. However, that's not what Graeme tells you. Graeme tells you he can do the 48 pages in about 50 days, give or take. Knowing that most artists draw about a page a day, you figure that Graeme wants to give himself a buffer of a couple of days, hence the fifty for forty-eight. Everything is cool, right? That's when Graeme drops a bomb on you: he's finished the pages in 35 days. He finished them all, and they're beautiful! You now have even more time to finish the rest of the process, because Graeme turned into Wile E. Coyote. (What?) [A super-genius.] What Graeme did was under-promise, but over-delivered. He looked like a saint.
And I want you to do the same thing. If you know it takes you a few days to kick out a short script, say it'll take a week. Build in that safety buffer of time, because you're going to need it eventually.
Do that with all of your projects, and you'll be fine.
Also, I want you to learn to automate! RSS readers, your blog...automate whatever and whenever you can.
And that's it. Thanks, and see you next week!
Any specific questions, ask them in this thread, and I'll answer them. If it's something of a more delicate nature, e-mail me. I check my e-mail constantly, and will do my best to get back to you within twenty-four hours, depending on the number of you who decide to flood my inbox. No attachments, please. They'll be deleted without being opened. (I know, I know, but blame the virus-makers.)
Stop wasting time.
I can't believe I read this article when I COULD have been playing my facebook aps games!
And, c'mon, man...why does noise gotta be white? Why you gotta go there?
"Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"