See this picture? This is a picture of me on a Saturday night. But, it could just as easily be a picture of me on the other six nights. Or mornings. Or a really weird and dark afternoon. If you were standing in my backyard (hope you called first… just standing there without me knowing is trespassing) this is what you’d see.
This stuff is hard. And parts of it never get any easier.
Mechanics get easier: the prepping, the inking, the scanning…I’m damn near robotic when it comes to that. Getting to the mechanics… that the bit that never gets easier. The staring at a notebook. The premise that doesn’t fit the characters. The paralyzing fear that I’m going to plagiarize myself (also known as repeating myself). That dialog that is not good. That idea that, even with adrenaline needles stuck in it, just doesn’t want to live.
I’m not stating that to get credit or sympathy… but it’s true.
I took this picture because I wanted to see what the hard part looked like.
Middle age is odd. On the one hand, you’ve amassed an archive of life experience from which to draw upon for your work. Any problem that you face can be kinda sorta dealt with based on prior experience. On the other hand, you also realize that you know absolutely nothing. The new is too new and too exhausting to keep up with. You make a valiant effort to try and keep up but the pace seems to get quicker and quicker… even if it’s not changing.
The pace hasn’t changed, you’ve changed. And sooner than you think, there’s more behind you than there’s ahead of you.
I say there are things that I’m not going to do. I say there are things that I’m definitely going to do. If I manage to get 50% of any of it done that’s a win, right?
I’ve been struggling with the strip lately. This also accounts for my lack of posts. That struggle is nothing new. Do something for 15 years and you’re bound to have a few off days. Maybe the thought of the 5,000th strip approaching intimidated me. I don’t know. Lately, the off days have stretched into off weeks. It genuinely scares me. I can’t do the thing that I do as easily as I once was able to. But, I’m still in the game…. and I’m still drawing. Below average work is still better than avoiding work altogether.
I think about the baseball player Ichiro Suzuki. He’s played professional baseball in Japan and the U.S. since 1992. I only became aware of him when he was traded to the NY Yankees in 2012. He wasn’t a home run hitting guy, he wasn’t flashy, he was just Ichiro. He got on base with singles. Sure, he’d knock one out here and there, but he was clutch when the team needed clutch. He would do the exact same stretch routine every time he got in the batter’s box. He had a weird swing that worked for him. AND, he could field like a teenager. Even if he struck out, I really looked forward to his at-bats. He was professional, reserved and just awesome.
He was traded to the Miami Marlins, at the age of 41, at the beginning of 2015. He’s still playing today. He may not get as many at-bats anymore, but he’s still important. he’s still relevant. From the Miami Herald:
As the iconic outfielder for the Marlins prepares to embark on his 25th season in professional baseball — the past 16 of them in the U.S. majors — Ichiro is an enigma.
At 43, he is the oldest position player in the majors. Only Braves pitcher Bartolo Colon — 51 days his senior — is older among active players. And yet there is no sign of quit in him.
He said he wants to continue playing until he’s 50.
“I’m not joking when I say it,” Ichiro said.
“Physically, unless you have some kind of injury, you don’t really need a break,” Ichiro said of his relentless work ethic. “I think mentally you sometimes need a break. But for me, my body is built so that if I don’t work out, that’s when I put more stress on my body and get more tired.
He still puts in the work. Even if his role on the teams has been diminished, that’s no excuse to stop working.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned to LOVE the work. If my daily routine (and I mean DAILY…no off days, weekends or holidays) is disrupted in some way I make it up. If the struggle is too much, maybe I need to change the work out. So that’s where I am now… looking for a way to change the workout and in turn helping the work. Fine tuning it and making it just as good or BETTER than anything I’ve done.
It’s still exciting to me. Not many people can say that about something they’ve done religiously for a decade and a half.