Fighting the Fear – Deadlines are your friend!
by Vince Tourangeau
I’ve had this blog post weighing me down for weeks now.
It’s been in the back of my mind the whole time, but I keep on putting the thing off. See, Holmes Incorporated Editor Ty Templeton and Assistant Editor Rob Pincombe have been giving me kind reminders that they need it ASAP. But I never quite committed to a particular due date.
And so, my post on dealing with deadlines has been suffering from a lack of a deadline. It’s more ironic than a hipster’s moustache.
Writing and pencilling my story, “Enabled” for the second issue of Holmes Inc. was a tough couple of months. Every weekly meeting brought with it another deadline. The script is pitch to final draft in three weeks and art is just five more from layouts to finished pencils.
Outside of the workshops at the TCW (Toronto Caroonists Workshop), I hadn’t really written more than a paragraph of fiction or drawn much above a scribble in over a decade.
I wasn’t sure if I was any good at either, so when it came time to sign up for work on the second issue of Holmes Inc., I kind of half-heartedly volunteered to do either one. Maybe if I didn’t raise my hand too high, they’d overlook me and somehow I’d get through the whole Fit to Print experience without actually having to show any work for it.
Thing is, Ty’s the kind of guy who’ll give you a challenge a lot bigger than you think you can handle so that you’ll learn you’re capable of a lot more than you thought. I wasn’t sure if I could handle either gig, yet he put me down for both!
After that first meeting, I was in a bit of a panic. See, I’m a computer nerd. I’m not supposed to be any good at this creative, artistic stuff. Despite all that Iʼd learned in Ty’s workshops, part of me still thought of it as a dark art, less like a job and more like dousing.
Fortunately for me, Ty and Rob are old hats at production. They knew the secret behind all successful creative projects: they had a schedule. The first deadline was the next meeting, one week after the first – three story pitches. A week seemed like way too short a time. I spent it mulling over different ideas, worried that I might not be able to come up with a single one. But shortly before the meeting I scribbled down three ideas. They weren’t perfect. I wasn’t particularly crazy
about any of them, but at least I had something.
By nature I’m a bad combination of a perfectionist and procrastinator. If I had my way, I’d probably still be working on story ideas. But the comic was going ahead with or without me, so I had to suck it up and pitch what I had. Funny thing — no one scoffed at the ideas, nobody told me that maybe I should reconsider this writing thing. There was enough of a seed from one of them that I could keep moving.
The next week was about growing that seed into a story outline. Another week thinking I wasn’t up to the task, staring at blank pages trying to come up with “Great Literature”, then finally sketching whatever I could come up with. This time I was a little more confident in my creation.
There were still changes after the meeting, but they weren’t as major this time around. Which was good, because over the next week I had to create my story map, a page and panel breakdown of the story.
A weird thing happened: I wasn’t panicking this time. It was actually pretty straightforward going from a two paragraph synopsis to 5 pages of action. I wasn’t so worried about making it perfect – that could wait till my next comic. But by breaking things down into manageable chunks, I had created something I was actually pretty happy with.
When it came to drawing, it was the same thing all over again: starting in a bit of a panic but sucking it up and focusing on meeting my deadlines. I got notes on what worked and what needed improvement, but as the process moved along and I met reasonable deadlines rather than focusing on making everything perfect, my stress went down and I was happier with my work.
Work’s the active word here.
I write software for a living and I’ve shipped a lot of rather complex code over the past ten years. When you’re trying to make a business selling software, it’s way more important that it ships rather than that it’s perfect.
Turns out artistic projects are much the same. Treat it like you would your job. Focus on getting it done.
From the start I was worried that I bit off more than I could chew. It turned out I had a detachable jaw and could swallow the thing whole!
Now, I’m not entirely sure what that means. My work’s still pretty raw, but what I ultimately created was way better
than I thought it would turn out, and I’m happy to have my name in the credits. And it’s just the start.
But if there’s one thing I know for sure its this: next time, there’s gonna be a moon base.