Thoughts on the above. The sequel to Apropros of Nothing.
Between the ages of 16 to 22 I was quite into Productivity and Hustle culture. I read and did almost everything: Pomodoro, tips from every successful enterpreneur (usually in tech), etc. This obsession came from my love of efficiency, to maximise my time to do as much as I want. My to-do list reflected the full life I desired to lead.
Then something changed.
The shift came around the same time as my quarter-life crisis, when I was beginning to question the path I was running towards. I talked before about how my entire adolescence was centered around Study and Being Practical, and how that slowly became toxic, threatening my passion for lifelong learning and my spirit. All of a sudden I was disillusioned at every article about productivity (they were more or less always about the same thing, and sometimes the silly things that were expoused by so-called Productive Start-up Unicorns, like drinking water from the bathroom sink and shining lights into your eyes?ears? and most recently, eating a lot of sardines, began to look even more ridiculous). I still loved efficiency, and being productive, and living a full life, but there must be a better way of using my time well… in a way that didn’t orbit around scarcity and monetisation and being the best in the late capitalist rat race.
Coming out of that mindset is still a work-in-progress. The maxim of “Making more time to do less things” has been very helpful, though it hasn’t shown itself yet to the people who know me. (Every time I catch up with them I am always talking about my Juggling Three Projects at Once hell to the point that they deservedly make fun of me for it) I promise this will be my last year of living that life.
Large swaths of time to devote to craft. To restore my spirit. To reclaim some of the things from my youth that I had left behind in favour of the old path. To practice art more thoughtfully and healthily.
I’m looking forward to my Residency Year.
From Paulo Coelho:
The creative process follows the same pattern: the cycle of nature:
(a) Ploughing the field: as soon as the soil is turned over, oxygen penetrates into places it could not previously reach. We will thus be prepared for the miracle of inspiration. A good creator must be constantly turning over his values and must never be contented with anything he thinks he understands.
(b) Sowing: every work is the fruit of contact with life. The creative person cannot shut himself away in an ivory tower; he needs to be in touch with his fellow human being and to share his human condition.
(c) Ripeness: there comes a time when the work writes itself, freely, in the depths of the author’s soul, and before the author has even dared to make that work manifest. The creator must respect the gestation period, if he knows how to wait, the strongest plant, the one that withstood the elements, will spring strongly into life.
(d) Harvest: this is the moment when the creator brings to a conscious level everything that he sowed and allowed to ripen. Every artist knows that moment; although certain ideas are still not crystal clear, they will sort themselves out as the work progresses.
And what should one do with the fruits of the harvest? When the harvest is over, the moment comes when one must share one’s soul, without fear and without shame. That, however painful or glorious, is the artist’s mission.
Something that struck me funny recently was this creator culture we had built around webcomics. That we have to rush to produce a page (sometimes, a lot of panels per episode) within a tight deadline. Nothing wrong with this, I guess, about being consistent and diligent about one’s webcomic schedule, except when it stresses the creator to the point of burnout. But a lot of us are okay with this way of things, it’s pretty normal.
But I feel like this is the kind of cycle that someone is only able to maintain in their twenties… or if they have a team of assistants, or if they are doing a newspaper strip-style funny comic, nothing epic. What if you’re not any of those? How does a mid-career, middle-aged creator make a webcomic, while balancing changing priorities – when the goal isn’t to be popular or the most followed artist, but to be vulnerable and honour the deepest parts of your soul, while maintaining a small, sustainable following?
The luxury of self-publishing online is that you can do anything you want.
It’s almost May which means it’s almost June which means it’s almost…
I don’t think it has sunken in yet that Alexander Comic is happening. I am still acting as if things are cool… and well, I have to, because I am still doing my Juggling Three Projects at Once hell dance. (I’m 100% done with Project One and 2/3s of the way with Project Two. Project Three is Alexander.) Maybe I will disintegrate into freeze-dried icecream bubbles whenever Project Two is finished… and that’s something I am concerned about.
I’m very adamant about launching Alexander in June (followed by July – the launch is a two-parter). I think I have enough energy to produce the necessary pages for the launch. After that however…
Finishing Seance Tea Party in 2019 has proven to me that I need a month or two of NO COMICS to recover from the marathon of creating a graphic novel.
The problem with Alexander is that it’s a work of calling, which demands a particular level of care and attention. Having experienced The Carpet Merchant’s becoming and aftermath, I am aware of how sacred this sort of work is. I can’t expedite any part of the process, or rather, I can’t force it to happen, because somehow, this work is woven tightly to my present and my (hopeful??) future, which means it’s an extension of my body. Unlike a freelance job – which is a one-time event -, I can’t disregard my mental and bodily needs.
I don’t have an issue with listening to my body and abiding to my limits. This attitude has been the foil to my Workaholicism across the many eras of my life – no matter how much I work, I always get my 8 hours of sleep (I sleep until my eyes stop feeling prickly), eat my three meals a day, rest whenever I feel even an ounce of pain in my drawing hand (until the pain subsides… and an extra day just in case), schedule breaks, sleep when my eyes begin to feel pricky/my brain is shutting down, and don’t beat myself into guilt. Recently I built an ergonomic setup for my studio. Soon I will learn to dance and shoot arrows.
Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.
She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.
Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.
Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur
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Australian Cartoonists Association, October