Note: The following blog was sparked by Matt O’Keefe’s fantastic write-up over at The Beat. It’s something that’s been on my mind a while, and Matt gives great insight into what the daily lives of creators can often look like. Check it out here.
So it all started with heart palpitations in the Jacksonville Airport.
It was December 2018. I’d just wrapped a rather long string of appearances. My Image book FARMHAND had just debuted a few months before, and I’d been in overdrive for the better part of a year, promoting it.
There was the flight to Portland to announce the book at Image Expo. There were the dozen or so interviews at SDCC. There were the dozen or so signings at various shops around the country. There were the email interviews, too. And the social media stuff.
Oh, and then there was the actual making of the book. And the managing of the book. And the potential Hollywood leads I was working. Plus the three small people I was raising in my home.
It suddenly dawned on me as I felt my heart cartwheel in my chest:
I’ve been doing this all wrong.
That little episode and the subsequent hospital visits were a bit of a turning point for me. See, for the better part of a decade I’d been burning my candle at every end I could. Now all was left was a burnt nub. I didn't drive the work. It drove me.
I’d been doing what comic creators do. I hustled. In my office. At shows. Online. In Hollywood. I never really stopped. Even when I was with my family, I always had some new project cooking in the back of my mind. I was the Page-A-Day guy, and I was very, very proud of the work I did.
There were things I didn't do. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t rest. I didn’t turn it off.
Of course my body crashed. How could it not?
So I started to change some things. Small things, at first. I tried to eat better. I cut back on coffee. I took more long walks. I somehow managed to cobble together an exercise routine I could keep. I prayed more. I even saw a counselor a time or two. And I cut my travel schedule dramatically.
The little changes really helped over time. Even better, I started to develop a sense of wanting to take care of myself, which I honestly did not have before. I was so focused on meeting the next deadline that I took my life for granted. I figured my health was fine. I mean, it had never failed me before. Until it did.
It's been a couple years now. Things are better. My health's good, and I’m still figuring out what this looks like for me. In fact, building this new website was sort of an outgrowth of my restructuring not just my career, but also my life.
It's also the reason I decided to take an extended break after wrapping FARMHAND #15. It was just time to take a breather. After working full-time on one project for the last three years, taking a moment to stretch my career into some new areas (like Hollywood) seems healthy. So I'm slowing my pace, stockpiling new work, and when I'm ready FARMHAND will return fresh and better than before. I've decided to tell my story on my terms.
I guess what I've realized is, I sucked at keeping things in perspective before. Comics (really, most professions) are a lotta fun, but they're just not worth working yourself into an early grave for. Some do. I'll pass.
I ain't dying for comics, kids.