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April 17, 2008


As an offering to our young talent, and to anyone who might find this helpful--here and elsewhere, green or seasoned--I've asked a number of experienced authors to send a little word of coaching, encouragement or mentoring to them. We'll call this new category MENTORS CORNER. It will occasionally feature some authors who aren't with First Second.

Check back here on Thursdays every week for new offerings. If any of this speaks to you and answers a need or sparks an enquiry, do add your comment--who knows what dialogue may open up from it.

From Jessica Abel among many other credentials, co-author of DRAWING WORDS AND WRITING PICTURES:

"Get yourself a calendar, and schedule the work you have to do in there.

Make sure the calendar is the type where you can see a day or a week at at time (not a month at a time), so there's room to write under each day. Then, mark in any regular commitments you have. If you meet a friend for lunch every Wednesday, or just this wednesday, make sure it's in there. If you go to the gym three times a week (or just mean to...), put that in there. Write down your breakfast, shower, lunch, dinner times. Commuting, if you have to do that. Mark down sleep. Mark down playing video games, if you must.

Once you've got all that there, you will be able to see how much time you really have to work (and if you need to make adjustments to your daily activities that aren't work). In the time you have for work, assign yourself very specific tasks--like "lay out pages 56-60" for half an hour, then "rough pencil page 56" for however long it takes you--maybe 2 or 3 hours, then "letter page 56" for an hour or whatever.

Taking a little time to get all this in your book will do several things for you. It will become clear to you how much you can reasonably get done in a week. It will become clear where you might need to shorten your daily activities to fit in more drawing. And, most importantly, it will give you concrete goals, so that when you finish what you set out to do, you can cross it off and feel good about yourself, and you can also stop working, sometimes the hardest thing to do for a freelance artist. Knowing when you're on and what you need to get done makes your free time, once you've accomplished these goals, truly free, guilt-free. And that's the most important part of learning to make a life as a working artist.

Once you get good at all this, you don't have to be so detailed about it, of course. But it really helps to follow this discipline throughout one project to get yourself in the rhythm of it. And even once you get more comfortable with your schedule, it still helps to make detailed to-do lists for a given day so you have something to cross off when you're done. Half the battle is tricking your brain into feeling that sense of accomplishment you might get if someone on the outside were praising you for a job well done.

Good luck! "


Discipline:sometimes I feel that it's 80-90% of the creative process! Anyone else out there feel that way?

That isn't just a great tip for young creators just starting out, but any creator amateur or pro who needs to better manage their time in order to get a job done. God knows books that don't come in on time is the curse of the comic industry.

Darryl Hughes
"G.A.A.K: Groovy Ass Alien Kreatures"

Thanks for this feature! It's great to see the other side of the book = what it takes to put it together. Something that is not seen so much, with all the marketing and hip talk going on about the finished comics on the shelves.

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