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12 May 2010 @ 12:37 am
High Anxiety  
I've been having some anxiety and depression lately. Not a lot, I guess. It's been much worse than this in the past, but it makes it difficult to be productive when I'm 90% convinced that I'll fail no matter what I do.

I think a lot of it comes from being alone most of the time. Even when I'm around people, I'm still mostly in my own head instead of engaging. That by itself would drive a lot of people crazy. I'm not even an anti-social person. I like people. But deciding to be a cartoonist is like saying to yourself, "Welp, I guess I'll go lock myself in a room with my art supplies for the rest of my life." I'm hoping that that part will get better in the next few years as I start to make a little more money at this thing and I can afford to take a day off every now and then. But there are no guarantees.

Every minute I'm not sleeping, I'm running a countdown to the moment I screw everything up. I'm also constantly running and re-running a tally of all the projects, large and small, that I want to finish this year, and seeing no reasonable way I can get it all done. This is partially because I get too ambitious and take on too much, but also because I don't have a lot of confidence in myself, making the mountain of work seem that much steeper.

For example, it seems like all my time lately has been taken up with my two main projects: Girlbot and Poorcraft. I'm trying to work it that I crank out Girlbot strips over the weekend and spend Monday through Friday on Poorcraft. This should be fine, in theory, but I have trouble meeting even my minimum goals because I sit around and wring my hands and procrastinate because I just KNOW I won't do a good job. And then I feel bad for not making my goals, which just feeds back into it. I do manage to get work done through sheer force of will, but there's not a lot of joy in it.

And then throw into the mix all the extra obligations I have around the house and the other, more minor art projects I want to get done. I haven't had any time at all to work on my auto-bio moleskine project -- which should have been done last year -- or start thumbnailing Saving Halloween. Then there's guest comics I owe to various people and website maintenance and countless other little things that add up to a lot.

All this work and these damn headaches, and I'd still probably make more money if I went and got a full-time job at the stupid McDonald's a few blocks away. And I'd have weekends off.

I love comics, but I think they're going to kill me.

Yeah, I know. It's stupid to whine about getting to draw comics. I don't have to get up at 5am and break my back for 8 hours for minimum wage. I don't have a family to feed. But the stakes just seem so high to me, it feels sometimes like I'm walking along a narrow ledge just trying not to fall. If I can't make this work, I don't have anything else to turn to. It would be like failing at breathing.

I've made comics my life, but I don't know if I'm strong enough to pull myself out of the Obscurity Pit by my fingernails like this. I guess I've made some progress since I really started trying a few years ago, but it feels like inches when everyone else is miles ahead of me. I bet every artist has felt like this at some point.

Worst part is that some days, it just makes me hate everything. I know it's stupid, but knowing how stupid it is doesn't make it easier. It just make ME feel stupid. I'm so tired of that.

I need to figure a way out of it. I'm going to start exercising again, if I can motivate myself to put on some pants and leave the house. I need to stop being so hard on myself. I need to stop comparing myself to all my friends who are more successful than I am. I need to manage my time, learn to get my tasks done one little bit at a time, and all that. But easier said than done.

I'll figure something out, I guess.
(Anonymous) on May 12th, 2010 06:05 am (UTC)
I can relate
I know exactly how you feel. I've been cartooning really seriously since 2006. Not a minute of my time has gone by that wasn't full of this kind of anxiety. Unfortunately I'm just now starting to make a tiny bit of money as a freelance cartoonist. Also, I have a terrible day job that leaves me very little time to work on anything during the week. Like you, I'm holding out hope that once things are going my way I can enjoy my life again.
(Anonymous) on May 12th, 2010 07:16 am (UTC)
When I spoke to you at Stumptown, I was floored by your drive and the sheer number of projects you have on the table -- on the table, but more importantly, actually getting done. Planned, scheduled, and progressing. I understand that the other side of this kind of ambition is over-committment and emotional exhaustion, but I can't help but remain impressed. I just thought: there goes a person who's really using her time on earth.

Which isn't to say I don't get it. I recognize a lot of this, though I'm well behind you in most ways, and in a different field, and can't really make a 1:1 comparison. I hope that you eventually get to that point of success where you feel safe(r) resting and enjoying yourself more. And for what it's worth, I sure can't *tell* that there's not a lot of joy in working for you right now. Girlbot always seems kinetic and gleeful. Even its schadenfreude is warm.

A killer part of this kind of anxiety for me is that praise hurts, too -- "if I'm so impressive, why am I not where I want to be?" I hope you're not subjected to this particular indignity; if you are, I'm afraid I've only twisted the knife a little.

(This is completely off-topic, but I also recall from Stumptown that you recommended Finder to me, and my belated answer is: yes yes yes. I would write Carla Speed McNeil extraordinarily fawning fan mail if Dream Sequence hadn't convinced me that interacting with googly-eyed readers tends to make her more anxious than pleased -- I know she is not Magri, obviously, but having read those footnotes I feel like the line between her world and her brain is unusually thin.)
(Anonymous) on May 12th, 2010 10:24 am (UTC)
Just wanna say
you eat food paid for by comics. maybe not a ton of it. but that's pretty damn cool. and I'd say that counts as success at our age.
Drax the Kastradanax on May 14th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
I've only got metaphors to help, but have you tried not coming up for air as often? If you get used to swimming that way, you can go farther than you think between breaths, and that in itself can make you feel better about things..