Dawn of The Drawing Dead
They don’t crawl in the dark alleyways, the creaky old houses, or on the secluded tropical islands of this world, like you’d expect. They don’t come from Transylvania, from Haiti, from Raccoon Town, or from Raimi’s little rundown shack in the literally penetrating, deep woods.
No. They shamble mindlessly within freshly painted townhouses, from decent mid-town apartments, or around well-lit school or college campus grounds. Their wills have long since succumbed to an overpowering fester that grows daily, a terrible rotting evil that is spreading plague-like, faster than any biochemical agent, more effectively than any gaping-mawed, ghoulish gnash of your flesh could ever hope to infect. They don’t create webcomics because they want to anymore, but only because they feel they MUST.
They are the Drawing Dead, and they are fast becoming Legion.
Sure, sometimes, you hit a rough patch, a slump, but with a bit of stick-to-itiveness you get through it and all is hunky-dory again. But beware: there’s a fine line between laziness and lack of drive, between procrastination and passion-loss. This line is so fine as to be invisible, and therein lies the horrific danger.
When Stubbornness makes you its slave, and when tenacity becomes nothing but a source of tension, something within you can snap without you realizing. When this happens â€“ and it happens to many â€“ you lose a small, but precious and vital part of yourself. That tiny lost fragment serves as a seed, and begins to germinate â€“ a little unborn death hungry for the rest of your creative flesh.
The initial symptoms are commonly mistaken for burnout or stress fatigue: you find that you don’t enjoy comicking so much, that you donâ€™t have that drive to update on time like you used to. More simply put, it’s just not fun to create a webcomic anymore.
You refuse to stop, however, because you’ve worked so hard for so long, and to stop now would feel like you were giving up, like you were saying that the last one/two/three/more months/years of your life were completely wasted. Sadly, while being tenacious and wanting to work through the pain barrier would normally be a positive thing, your decision to plod onwards here means that you are only unwittingly accelerating your downwards spiral towards a terrible, tragic fate. You are feeding your cancer.
You begin to set new goals and rewards for yourself, because you need something to spur you on when once the satisfaction of a drawing job well done was more then enough to satiate you. You hope for popularity, acclaim, peer acceptance, invitations to join popular webcliques, merchandise sales, ANYTHING to give you more drive to draw your work. Sometimes, you even get any or all of these, and it almost seems to help some.
But it’s not enough. It’s never enough.
You keep on going, because you know that it has to get better, that it will all work out in the end if you just. Keep. Drawing.
Soon, you barely remember why you are drawing, why you keep updating a comic that has become as stale and lifeless as your own passion for it. You canâ€™t even remember why you started drawing in the first place, and you canâ€™t remember what it felt like to ENJOY your work.
Yet you just. Keep. Going. Unfeeling, unthinking â€“ an undead automaton who should have stopped long ago when the fun was initially lost, but who is doomed now and forever to keep drawing ever-worsening shades of a webcomic, polluting the already questionably murky stream of content out there. A zombie cartoonist.
* * *
If you are wondering why I am writing these words, it is because they may very well be my last â€“ I am surrounded by these shambling horrors as I type; they are closing fast, and I don’t know how much longer I can hold out before I am infected, too. Perhaps I already am. I need to write this down so that others can be warned, before it’s too late.
But there is another reason I am writing this — I want to save you, if you are infected. Here’s the bad news, though:
To save you, you must die.
See, once you are infected, the only way to prevent you from becoming one of the Drawing Dead is to kill you, or rather, to kill off your comic. Only by stepping away from your sequentially panelled lifeleech can you be free of the fester that wants to devour you whole. Only by dying can you have a chance to live again; in a few weeks, months, or years, you may very well find yourself WANTING to draw again, for the FUN and LOVE of it. Your new comic will also likely be a bajillion times better because of this, too.
If you choose undeath, though, and just keep drawing because you think you HAVE to, then you may lose yourself for eternity, with no hope for redemption or rebirth.
So let me be your silver bullet, your stake through the heart. Let me be the shotgun blast that splatters your head across the room.
If you find yourself in a creative or mental slump, take a good long hard look at your current work, and ask yourself if you truly still have fun when doing it. If you are, then good news â€“ you’re not infected, and you’re likely plucky enough to survive until sunrise. If you aren’t, well…
…choose my shotgun before it’s too late.
And as you stare down the darkened eyesockets of my twin barrels, remember this: I wouldnâ€™t shoot you if I didnâ€™t care.
Damonk is the Editor-in-Chief and the Executive Zombie for Reviews and Columns.
C’mon, don’t hold back! Let us know which webcomics you’re talking about!
Webcomic? I thought he was talking about Cathy.
Somebody should forward this on to Stephen King!
I just change my website’s design when I get sick of working on my comics…
Wow, excellent, and might I say it, freakily scary article. I downright pissed in my pants. Frank may as well be the Stephen King of webcomic artists, because I’m beginning to wonder whether I fit this exact bill you’re so warning us about. It’s a deep look-into-yourself thing that’s bound to hit more than a couple obstacles of stubborness and denial. Needless to say, you really got me wondering.
There are times, I admit, that I feel little fun doing the comic, and all the work I put into it just seems to be more of a neurotic bout of self-inflicted stress. But then again, there are a lot of times where I feel so much drive to tell the stories I want to tell. I wouldn’t know if you’d agree with this, but I think that there are a lot of things besides “fun” that motivate people to do things, even things that can be meant to be entertaining, like webcomics.
And then there are of course all those other factors and motivations: fame, prestige, and I happily succumb myself to those starry-eyed dreams as well — which is okay; but since I’ve been in this arena for so long and haven’t really seen much of any, I’m guessing there is something very intrinsic about webcomicking and storytelling that keeps me going.
Geez, I feel really bad for whining like this. I already feel guilty for doing this self-pity shtick on my own website, let alone Comixpedia. But I think Damonk really hit the nail on a topic that many of us dread to think about. I’m really interested in seeing how he now views an article he did way,way back:How to succeed in webtooning (by really trying).
Anyway, thanks Damonk for the fair warning. I think it’s actually very good advice, but I’m not going to follow it; I’ve worked so long and hard on my comic, that if I eventually fail, I deserve to fail in the most gloriously miserable way. 😉 Heh, “Misery.”
Very, very true, Damonk.
I had a narrow brush with zombification myself, and the only way out is true death, which is why Umlaut House is getting the axe in about a month and a half. Thanks for reminding us in the webcomics community that change is good, and that it’s better to have a comic shut down than fade away.
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