Write or Wrong #51: Less is More or Un-Resolutions

Exclusive Image Preview: NIGHTMARE WORLD

As most people did, on January 1st, 2010 I hunkered down and made a few personal and professional “New Year’s Resolutions” meant to keep me motivated and productive throughout 2010.

While the personal ones aren’t terribly relevant here (if you really care that much you could probably find out about them – and my progress towards them – via Facebook and/or Twitter) my professional “resolutions” were as follows:

1)    Have three new books in print by the end of the year.

2)    Publish a minimum of twelve Write or Wrong columns by the end of December.

In regards to Resolution #1, it’s only February and I’m already a third of the way there now that, due to the good sales and reception of NIGHTMARE WORLD Volume One, Image Comics/Shadowline will be publishing NIGHTMARE WORLD Volume Two: Leave the Light On this October.

This is a huge, huge accomplishment, of course, and while it should be obvious to anyone who follows this column that I’ve busted my butt to get to this point, I also know I owe thanks to all of you out there who supported me by picking-up Volume One – THANK YOU – but that I also now have an obligation to blow the doors off the joint with Volume Two.

(And for those of you keeping track at home, yes, it WILL be out this October.)

As for Resolution #2, heck, given that I used to crank out a column a week back when I first started this wild ride, despite the fact that I’m now working with Image Comics and have a family to take care of, I know I can get at least twelve columns published here between now and next December now that I’ve officially “resolved” to do it.

As far as New Year’s Resolutions, though… that’s it. I only made those two professional ones this year.

Of course I could have made more, and to tell you the truth I was tempted to do so… but instead I decided to stick to making only those two resolutions… followed by several “Un-Resolutions.”

Making “Un-Resolutions” is something that I first heard from another writer friend of mine this at the beginning of the year, and it’s such a painfully simple and brilliant concept that I’m surprised I never heard of it sooner.

Quite simply, in making “Un-Resolutions” you first make a list of all your goals for the following year. Then, upon doing so, you then either table (for the year) or completely discard the goals on your list that you most likely can’t or won’t get to before the end of the calendar year.

Hey, why clutter-up your valuable brain-space – let alone your schedule – with several extraneous goals you won’t meet anyway, right?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for aiming high, shooting for the stars and all of that… but I’ve also learned over as the years that – try as I might – I can only squeeze so many hours out of every day and that I need to use my “comic time” wisely. Considering this, I’ve spent the last few years focusing more time on less projects… and the results now speak for themselves.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but focusing so much on www.NightmareWorld.com over the past few years is what allowed me to make it a strong enough project to eventually get it to Image… which is where anyone who wants to create their own comics should want to end-up.

Mind you, I’ve also dedicated some time to other projects over the last few years, including a few upcoming web-to-print projects as well as this very column, but over the same amount of time that I’ve been pecking away at upcoming projects such as Tales of Mr. Rhee and Farseeker I’ve also put some projects and goals on the back burner… some temporarily and some permanently.

Why? Because be it right or wrong I’d rather give two or three projects a year my full amount of attention and energy rather than have two dozen weak, half-developed or unfinished projects that never went anywhere because I had too many irons in the fire to develop the proper amount of time and attention to them necessary to make them thrive.

Make a list and then make your “Un-Resolutions,” my friends.

Write a list of your goals and the projects you want to bring to life this year, decide which ones are truly worth your undivided attention and then pour everything you’ve got into them over the next twelve months.

Dedicating more time to less projects – especially until you’re in a position where creating comics is your primary job – is a sign of both personal and professional maturity.

In fact, it reminds me of a joke my grandfather – a hilarious, insightful and witty man whose charm and humility are second only to my own – likes to tell:

A young bull and an old bull are standing atop a hill looking down at a valley scattered with dozens of cows. The young bull, anxious to spread his seed, says to the older cow: “Quick! Let’s run down their and each get with one of those cows!” As he starts to run down the hill the older bull calls out for him to stop – confusing and angering the younger bull. “No, old man, we need to run down there and each get us one of those cows!” Smiling, the older bull wisely replies: “Think this through, youngster: Why should we run down there and each get us one cow when we can both walk down there and get them all?”

Despite the admitted crudeness, there’s a lesson to be learned in this adult-oriented fable.

As we start upon our journey of being professional comicbook creators we all have grand goals: Writing a several books a month (a few big corporate owned titles and perhaps a few creator-owned book or two – you know – just to balance things out), wooing Hollywood execs, entertaining sold-out panels at conventions and maintaining a massive Internet presence through your own website/message board that draws thousands of visitors a day who hang on your every post, Facebook update or Tweet.

You know… the Warren Ellis/Mark Millar model.

Then reality starts to rear its ugly, pimpled and pox-marked head, though:

Editors ignore and/or reject your pitches.

Your artists keep flaking out on you.

You break a tooth and need to spend your “Comic-Creating Fund” to get it fixed.

Mandatory overtime cuts into your comic-creating time – and drains your energy to boot.

As things like this happen – and trust me, things like this will happen – those aspiring creators out there who are already spreading themselves too thin by trying to simultaneously launch multiple properties with multiple artists/art teams (while also regularly pitching to editors they met in passing at conventions) run a very high risk of either burning out or seeing themselves as failures… and neither of this situations will lead to a happy productive life of making comics.

It’s all about picking your battles, folks.

I know that some of you out there are thinking to yourselves that I’m in the wrong here because, hey, the more you try to accomplish the better your chance of succeeding, right?

Maybe not.

While I’m all for the idea of effort equating success, smart work usually yields more success than hard work… and quantity should never, ever be confused with – or substituted for – quality.

Believe me, I know just as much as the rest of you what it’s like to be desperate for that “big break.”

Heck, like several of you out there my mantra was always (and in some ways still continues to be) “Just give me a chance…,” but something else I learned over the years is that editors and publishers aren’t going to give you a chance just because you want one.

Instead, you’re going to have to prove that you’re worthy of their consideration – and that means pouring a lot of time and effort into each and every project you do – be it a script sample or (better yet) a fully-realized pitch proposal package.

Considering this, why not take a little more time to do fewer pitches or (better-yet) creator-owned projects and do them well?

Again, I know it’s nice to have this romantic notion that everything you write will be golden as a first draft as long as you spend a lot of time thinking about it, but… umm… no.

Sure, I’ve had one or two scripts (out of the nearly 75 for stories I’ve had published) that I really nailed the first time, but even the best scripts I’ve written – be them in one draft or five – ultimately needed a little polishing… and it’s polishing I wouldn’t have been able to do as well if I had too many projects to focus on juggling, managing and/or completing.

I don’t care who you are, how much Red Bull you consume or even how good of a writer you are (or – no offense – think you are): The fact of the matter is that there are only so many hours in the day, so many days in the week, and so much energy you can dedicate to creating fully developed, properly edited and professional caliber scripts/comics – and professional caliber creations take a lot more time, energy and effort than merely drafting and writing your ideas down, giving the first draft a quick once-over, sending it out and moving on to something else.

When all is said and done it comes down to prioritizing – and that’s a scary concept to a lot of aspiring creators because it means hunkering down and committing to between one and three projects that may or may not succeed rather than trying to throw every idea that crosses your mind down on paper and then sending it to every artist, editor and publisher imaginable.

Will “walking into the valley,” prioritizing, and putting a majority of your time/energy into a few projects guarantee you success?

No… of course not. Remember, there are no guarantees to success.

However, by dedicating your time to fewer projects/ideas/goals – you’ll be able to focus on making the most of those you decide are most worthy… and when all is said and done isn’t it more advantageous to be known for fewer, better projects than numerous mediocre ones?

It’s February, my friends. Look at the list of professional resolutions you made this year and decide which ideas/projects/goals/resolutions are truly worth following and which ones should be tabled for at least the following year?

Make a list, prioritize, trim the fat and focus on those projects that you really believe in.

After all, resolutions are all fine and good… but make some “Un-Resolutions,” too.

After all, sometimes it’s what you don’t do that can lead you to more productivity and success…

Next Time: One of the five columns that are more than 50% finished and sitting here on my harddrive. Whichever one I pick, though, it will be here in less than a month!

Dirk Manning is the writer/creator of NIGHTMARE WORLD a web-to-print comic now being loudly and proudly published by Image Comics/Shadowline. He is also a longtime contributing writer for Newsarama and a staunch advocate for comic creators everywhere. He lives on the Internet and can usually be found lurking around Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and SoulGeek in that order. If you dig this column, check out the comic and consider picking-up a copy of NIGHTMARE WORLD Volume One: “13 Tales of Terror” from your local comic shop or Amazon.com, ya’ hear? Thanks all!

Want to read Write or Wrong from the beginning? Here ya’ go!

WoW #1: Introduce Yourself

WoW #2: Thematically Speaking

WoW #3: How Badly Do You Want It?

WoW #4: Meeting Bendis and Finding Artists

WoW #5: Making First Contact

WoW #6: Things Fall Apart

WoW #7: Creation vs Dictation

WoW #8: Kill the Buddha

WoW #9: They’re Not Robots

WoW #10: Dollars and Sense

WoW #11: World Wide You

WoW #12: Always Use Protection

WoW #13: Contract Killers

WoW #14: Take a Look in the Mirror

WoW #15: Words Worth 1,000 Pictures

WoW #16: Mid-Ohio Musings

WoW #17: Seeking What the Masters Sought

WoW #18: Means and Ends

WoW #19: Likeable Characters

WoW #20: “What’s My (Evil) Motivation?”

WoW #21: It’s Not a Race

WoW #22: How to Successfully Play God

WoW #23: “Are you really THAT good?”

WoW #24: Things Fall Apart, v2.0

WoW #25: Climbing Out of the Hole

WoW #26: “See all those people out there?”

WoW #27: “Lose Yourself”

WoW #28: The Tallest Midget in Shortsville

WoW #29: Punisher Skrull Sex

WoW #30: The Wrath of Con

WoW #31: All We Have is Time

WoW #32: Dishin’ with Dwight MacPherson

WoW #33: The horror, the horror…

WoW #34: The End is the Beginning

WoW #35: The Weakest Link

WoW #36: Wrestling with Spidey

WoW #37: It Has To Be You

WoW #38: Step Up

WoW #39: Rage Against the (Pitch) Machine

WoW #40: Interesting Times

WoW #41: “Why So Serious?”

WoW #42: Defining Success

WoW #43: Define Yourself

WoW #44: The Power of “No”

WoW #45: Interview with the Editor

WoW #46: The Other Places

WoW #47: Quality Control is Not the Enemy

WoW #48: The X-Men Analogy

WoW #49: Self-Promotion, Hold the Spam

WoW #50: “The Secret”

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