Balancing The Work and ... Everything Else

edited February 2013 in The Toolbox
We don't create in a vacuum.  (The lack of oxygen alone would be deadly.)  Many of us have other jobs.  Most of us have friends.  We may have spouses, girl/boyfriends, children, and/or indefinable other people we live with.  Some of us even have other interests.  These things take us away from comics.  Comics take us away from them.

How do you manage this? Do you have a daily routine that allocates time to each of these?  Something on the weekly level?  Do you successfully wing it?  Or unsuccessfully? What works for you? What tips do you have for juggling the conflicting demands of Doing The Work and Getting A Life?  When push comes to shove, which wins?


  • edited February 2013
    "(The lack of oxygen alone would be deadly.)"

    Jason Quest, ladies and gentlemen. He'll be here all week. (And next week. And the week after that. ;) )

    This is a good topic, and something I massively struggle with. The best thing I've found for this, personally — is actually getting my work done in a timely manner. The more I procrastinate or distract myself, the longer everything takes — and the more likely it is for my work to spill over into times when I shouldn't be working. (Either physically, or just mentally — I end up more distracted in my "time off.")

    I was never a workaholic. Until I started making comics.
  • Agreed.  Good thread topic.

    I JUST came back from a friend's house.  They needed help installing a clothes dryer.  Then I stayed (with my wife) for another hour playing video games.  This Saturday my wife also has a social event lined up in the night time.

    I would rather be home working.

    However, much like Brandon said, if I work in a timely manner more things will get done in the long run.  Last month I created a production schedule.  I have somewhat stuck to it pretty good.  However, the last couple of days have really been fun and productive and there are times I'd like to work all through the night.  But going to bed at a proper time IS good.  I just have to remind myself.

    But to answer the topic question... what tips do I  have?

    Schedule my work and don't be a workaholic (though I LOVE it!).
  • It's simple. Follow a schedule. Don't give yourself a page count target, which Seifert has tried and struggled with. Give yourself two hours a night, or whatever, every night, and MOTHERFUCKING STICK TO IT.

    Life is balance. If all you do is make comics, you're the Unabomber. You need experience to make good art. Go get some.
  • I like Brandon's page count / meters. I am doing it , too. My last production schdule had page quotas. i.e., 2 pages of pencils a day x two weeks = a 22 page issue (it even has built in cushion because it really adds up to 28).

    But on the flip side I know what Russell is saying because when I fall off the page quota wagon then there is NO forgiveness. Time doesn't stop for me to catch up again. Then I'm working all through the night and the schedule will crash into another schedule and so on.

    So again, it is about the balance. But I like the *certainty* behind a daily page ratio, otherwise it just feels like fun and less of a job. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE what I do, but I want to be professional at it... not just ramble about on an adventure chock full of serendipity.
  • Long story short.
    I want to treat my art like any day job where I go to the office, work, then cone home (and sometimes take my work home with me). Hahah!
  • Oh lord, I know what I do is crazy, but I can't see how to change it really at the moment.

    I'm at the uncomfortable stage of starting to take my drawing/writing seriously, but as yet, I've never made a bean from my arty endeavours - finacially speaking, it's essentially a 'hobby'. Luckily however I'm self-employed [web developer] - I work remotely on contracts so can pick and choose my hours to a large extent, but I'm acutely aware that time away from my business spent on art is money out of my pocket. A difficult balance with mortgage and family etc.

    So I'm currently starting to draw/write at 9pm most nights after we get the kid to bed, and working till I need to sleep usually, 2 or 3am and up at 7.30am to help get everyone ready for school/work.

    Exhausted mostly.

  • Barring rare exceptions, I stop every day at no later than six (helped by me being pretty useless at getting stuff done after). In theory, I take weekends off.

    That said, I don't have much of a life, as such, which is down to me living in the middle of nowhere.
  • (@BrandonSeifert - SNL tried to get me to join their writing staff, but I turned 'em down. I just love stand-up too much.)

    I have a standard crappy day job.  I also have two housemates who expect at least a little of my time every day (one of them more than the other), if nothing else because we usually eat the same dinner (if not always together).  Lately this has been a challenge, because dinner tends to happen with the TV playing something worth watching (recently streaming Breaking Bad, Skins).  I sometimes try to juggle eating, watching, and drawing ... and fail epicly at that.

    Rather than daily goals, my approach falls more into Russell's model, of just scheduling time for it.  I try to Do The Work over my lunch breaks, which is more successful than working at home in the evening/weekends.  But lunch breaks often get overtaken by errands, catching up online, or The Job.  I usually stop at the Y on the way home from work, which means dinner is later in the evening, and also cuts down on Work time at home.  But that's the compromise I make.  I tried scheduling time in the morning before work to DTW, but... it didn't work.

    I have one Friend I Don't Live With who I get together with pretty consistently one night a week.  Which fucks with everything else in my daily routine that day, but that's probably a good thing.  I hardly ever "go out" like I used to in bygone days, but that's as much about getting older as anything else.

  • @Russell_Lissau, I don't see any personal merit in a personal time commitment — because if I tell myself I have to sit here and write for two hours, I will sit here and procrastinate for two hours while I pretend to write. A completion quota is much harder to fake — and since this is an industry that doesn't care how much time you put into something, only that it's done, getting things done is job one. (Also, the problems I've had hitting my page count are problems that get in the way of me writing in general — committing to two hours a day wouldn't have worked either. And I'm back on the wagon this week — assuming I don't screw up today or tomorrow.)

    Also, I've found weekly quotas don't work for me. Telling myself I'll finish a script each week means I don't finish any scripts — because I put them off until the end of the week, and then run out of time. I have to force myself to produce a certain amount of work each day, to make sure it happens.

    There are things I know I should do, which would make my life much more comfortable. For one thing, I've found Tuesdays are a load-bearing day — if I go out and party with friends on Tuesday, it's like a soft reset on myself and it makes the rest of the week much easier to deal with. Also, I need to make a point of hanging out with my friends more — both one-on-one, and in small groups.

    And taking actual days off is imperative... and really hard to get myself to do. Recently, the only time off I've taken is when my girlfriend and I went to the coast on Christmas and again on Valentine's. Rented a car, got a room in a nice boutique hotel. Vegged out. The first time, we basically just lay in bed and watched the National Geographic channel for two days. On Valentine's we watched a bunch of Too Cute on Animal Planet, and the day after we poked around the town a bit, went to a roadside attraction with a bunch of neat taxidermy, checked out a shipwreck on a state park beach, and took a drive through a cemetery on the trip home. (It's nice to be dating someone who's as much of a cryptogoth as I am.) It's hard for me to take days off — but when I do, I actually start relaxing again and I end up refreshed and excited to get back to work afterwards. (And usually I get story ideas.)
  • I haven't had much experience with the balancing act. I've gone from never being able to find time to work on having nothing BUT time to work on comics, at the expense of losing everything else, including my day job (long story). Now I'm getting around to putting "a life" back into place (still working on getting the day job), and as scary as it may seem, it's actually been a good thing. So I've been working on developing that balance, but unlike probably everyone else on here who has all these activity blocks already stacked on a see-saw that you're moving around, I'm placing the blocks on there one by one and seeing how it goes at each turn. (Really trying to take a "glass half full" approach to things....)

    But boy am I taking notes on what everyone else is saying on here!
  • It is 1:30 AM as I type this comment.

    Balance?  I ooze *balance* out of my pores as I sweat.
  • I found that when I'm working my day job I do more creating in the morning than in the evening. This means that I will likely start getting up earlier in the morning to catch the creative streak then.
    As we are seeing, everyone is wired differently but I think that in the end, it's a matter of setting work goals and sticking to them, be it time served or pages produced, as long as it's happening.
    For me, I work for a specific amount of time everyday, taking into account day job, meals and wind down time. The fact that I only have a few hours each day means that I have to set very specific goals with my work, things that I absolutely need to get done in my time frame.
    Having said that I am also lucky that my boyfriend is extremely supportive of me and will actually push me to get things done when I'm not feeling motivated.
    My challenge is getting out of the house and actually doing things with people. Thanks to me being broke and then not having a day job for so long, I've gotten out of the habit of socialising, so right now I'm trying to set up a new schedule for myself that allows me to get out and see people while getting work done. 
  • @_Beth_Wagner_ Getting out and doing things with people is what I do not want to do.  I have to go out tonight and I'm going to dread it.  As my noted in my comment above I didn't get to bed until 1:30 - 2 AM.  I'm writing this comment at 7 AM.  That's 5 hours of sleep.  I'm not sure I will last for any social events tonight.

    I love staying at home.  If I could piss into mason jars I would.  Hahah!
  • I'm a lot like Jimmie with a day job. 

    I like my job just fine, but because I'm in the office 40, 50 hours a week I have come to resent activities that keep me from writing.  My wife is very patient with me but I have had to scale back my workload since the wedding.

    I am very productive and disciplined (although I could be better-organized) but there just isn't enough time. I know I have too many projects on the go, but that is part of what keeps me productive: if I get bored or stuck I jump onto something else. 

  • @Jimmie_Robinson You and I have opposite problems. The point is getting that balance. A certain amount of time spent among the human race is pretty much a requirement. However, when there is work to be done, a balance has to be achieved between being a social butterfly and being a complete hermit. I don't know what that balance is yet. I'll let you know when I achieve it.  B-)
  • Today my self-discipline to get up, workout and get to The Work needed a swift kick in the ass. This is when I appreciate the balance -- or even the off-balance of being a workaholic. In short... shit gets done.
  • It's tough to balance the world / life balance, especially if (like me) you have a regular day job. Currently I'm juggling:

    1) A day job that typically requires 50+ hours a week
    2) Planning a wedding
    3) Managing an active social life, even if it's just hanging out with the finance
    4) Trying to get consistent and quality comic work done
    5) Fending off my cat, who is constantly battling my laptop for attention / domination of my lap
    6) Trying to get some exercise so I don't die in my 80s....

    I do this through scheduling, and setting goals. Most people talk about setting a period of time aside each night to focus on writing, and I agree this is a great idea - especially if you have regular, consistent hours. I don't, so I try to make weekly page goals.

    Currently I'm playing catch up to last week's goals (2.5 more pages to go and I'm caught up), and these goals are always realistic. I need to consistently put out a number of pages because I'm launching a webcomic series, and I need to keep feeding content to my artist to keep him busy. If I set 2 hours aside per night, I might get through a single scripted page, I might get through 5 scripted pages - but the fact of the matter is, I need to produce a minimum of 5 scripted pages per week -10 would be better - so I can stay ahead of my artist.

    Thankfully, I was also 2 full scripted issues ahead of him before he started, so I have a little bit of buffer. However, he works a lot faster than I do - because his day job IS making comics. He has more time to devote to the work because that's his primary income. I'm not in a place to be able to do that yet - but it's the dream, of course, to be there one day.

    I think the theme here is make a goal and stick to it. Make time to do the work, whether it's setting time aside every night or trying to maintain a regular page count. Do what works best for you, keeps you motivated, and keeps you producing regular work.
  • My mantra is this: when you have the time, take full advantage. I work every lunch hour at my day job. Sometimes this hour spills over to to an hour and a half. I get up at the same time every day. This means I'm up at 6 on weekends before everybody else. Gives me 2-3 hours of time uninterrupted. I can usually squeeze in another 2-4 hours over the weekend to make work. That's at minimum 11 hours of work each week. MINIMUM.

    the day job allows for a ton of vacation time. So I take a day off at least 2-3 times a month. Sometimes I take a week. This day off is me working from 8-5 with about 15 minutes for lunch. I can get ALOT done in that time. When I get going on artwork, I don't look at emails or the internet. I'm locked in because I know this time is precious.

    I also set goals for each month. Working on a 150 page monster for the last year, I would tell myself, I need to pencil or ink at least 17 pages this month. Sometimes the goal is lofty and it's 20 pages. I keep my goals realistic, and I'd say 90% of the time I meet them or exceed them.

    I go to bed around 9:30 every night. I can't work when I'm sleepy. I need 7 hours. I can still fit in the work. I'm on month 16 of working on DISPLACED PERSONS. In that time I've penciled 150 pages, inked 134, colored and lettered about 22(?). Not rocket speed, but I feel it's been my most productive stint I've had in my artistic career.
  • Balance?

    What is this "balance" you speak of?
  • anthony, I think you have found excellent balance
  • edited March 2013
    I didn't mention however that once my books are off being editted, I generally take between a week to two weeks off before I start another project. Even if I am raring to go, I force myself not to do anything for a week so that my mind can rest.
    Having said that, I usually end up going stir crazy and driving my friends and family crazy because I really don't know what to do with myself then. :D
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