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Makeshift Musings and Comic Book Bliss: Gremlins, Time Sinks and Perseverance

I think Gremlins eat away at my time.

Let me clarify that. I KNOW that Gremlins eat away at my time. I don't know what color they are just yet or how tall they are, but they've got to be real. There's no other explanation for hours and hours tumbling away with no way for me to get the time back.

With something as regular as a web comic, you've got to have a schedule. Releasing new pages on a timely schedule (which we covered in my previous 'Buffer Against The Ravages of the Web' column) is a must.

But life gets in the way, sapping your creativity and stealing away precious moments you need to be creative. When you're multi-tasking like this and setting yourself to a task, it's extra important to set up a system for yourself. All of the things I'm covering here may sound obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many people can lose time to the distractions around them unless they make a distinct effort to put a stop to it.

  1. Don't answer your e-mails the instant they hit your In-Box. Set aside an hour or so a day at a pre-set time to respond to all the messages in your In-Box, even if that reply is "Got your message. I'll get to a more lengthy response later."
  2. Turn off Instant Messaging programs. Those text message windows popping up are the Gremlin-incarnate. Think of IM as a privilege that you get to have after the work is done.
  3. Let your Answering Machine answer the call. Turn off the ringer if you must, but use the machine to screen your calls appropriately. 90% of my calls are fluff I can get to later.
  4. Set a reasonable goal and don't reward yourself until it's met. I'll actually do this in stages for each part of my day... "I'm going to rough out three pages and then make a really kick ass lunch." No pages, no lunch. Cruel, but shockingly effective. Make sure it's do-able. Impossible goals will bring on the Gremlins far quicker than little steps.
  5. Make a list, put it in a prominent spot and cross off completed items. Use a red marker or something to "kill" each task as it's finished. Glorify your lists that are wiped out each day.
  6. Tell your friends about your daily goals. Once the reward system breaks down (i.e., you cheat), I find telling other people what I need to get done each day and then having them praise, reward or chastise me can be quite effective as well.
  7. Stop making excuses. When I get nervous about a deadline, I'll clean my house, do laundry, anything but what I'm supposed to be doing. My house may be clean, things are organized, but it's a façade. The real project I should be progressing on is staring back at me, covered in Gremlin spit.

Having a pet project like a web comic is hard. The only person who can force you to work on it through good and bad times is yourself. Stop distracting yourself and just do it. Makeshift Miracle started as a little story I wanted to do in my spare time and ended up as a 180-page web graphic novel of sorts.

A powerful work ethic may not be something that people will see at first glance. It's not like a new haircut or losing weight. But it's an incredible way to improve yourself as a person. Each milestone you pass along the way gives you a little more momentum. Each little goal building upon the next until you're not just taking steps, you're climbing mountains bit by bit.

Illustration by the illustrious R*K*Milholland!