Create more time to make comics and still have time for your family.
ARTIST, ILLUSTRATOR & WRITER
Time is the scariest word in a comic creators journey.
I’m not going to lie. There are days where time just disappears. You literally don’t know where the day went. You wonder if you have accomplished anything or if you’ll ever finish. You just wonder how you can create more time to make comics when you have a day job and a family.
For me, a wasted day is when I don’t feel like I make headway on work for my day job, I can’t make headway on my comic and my family suffers for it because I don’t get to spend time with them.
And what about getting outside and getting sun. As a creative, it’s hard to get time to exercise or move around or just get out and enjoy the day.
We all need more time but they don’t make more of it.
There is one thing they don’t make more of. And that’s time. It’s the same for everyone. I used to complain to people that I didn’t have time to do certain things and they’d always respond with “We all have 24 hours in a day.” But we don’t. No. That’s not true. It’s a toxic thing to say.
Everyone’s situation is different and you are important. Your time is important. We all have different needs, different demands on our day and different biorhythms.
When you have a day job you barely have time at all.
I started making comics seriously about five years ago. But for the last 20 years, I’ve worked in advertising and marketing and I still do. It’s a way for me to support my love of making comics. While I would love to make comics full time, I’m not there yet.
If you are like me and a good majority of the people making comics this is your situation as well. Your day job takes up a huge chunk of your day. It’s just a reality. You look at that supposed 24 hours and put a big red x through eight hours of it.
You have even less time when you are married and have kids.
Okay, eight hours with a day job and look… you’re married and have kids too. Anyone who’s a parent who makes comics knows that kids are the most amazing thing. Even better is sharing our comics we make with our kids. It’s a legacy we leave them. It’s great. But kids require A LOT of attention and time. The older they get the more their schedule becomes your schedule. School. Sports. Interests. It’s now on you.
Is making comics with a day job and kids even possible?
You’re probably saying no. You’d be smart to say no. But you’d be wrong. It’s not only possible. I do it every day. I make comics every day. Every day.
Let me repeat. I make comics every day.
I also help make my kids lunches in the morning. Sometimes take them to school. Work a day job. Help my kids with homework. Do the grocery shopping. Take the kids to Soccer practice (currently six days a week). Make dinner. Play video games with my kids and get them to bed.
And I still make comics every day.
Does that make me an expert in time management? Let’s just go with it and say it does.
Here are the five steps to finding more time to make your comics.
I decided to write out a few of the things I do to make myself more productive. Some of these might not be for you. But I can attest to the fact that they give me more time. They make me more productive, and I’m much less stressed as a result. Understand the key to all of this is being flexible. Bend like a reed in the wind. It’s okay to have a bad day.
Step 1 – Join the 6AM club.
This is one that I am really horrible at but it works. Many of the people that work in comics are nite owls. We stay up late writing, drawing, inking, coloring… whatever. But is this the best practice?
Studies have shown that at the end of the day our brains just don’t work at the same cognitive level as it does in the morning.
Instead of staying up late, try getting up early. Start with the 6AM club and get a fresh start on the day. Doing this has added benefits as generally most other people aren’t up this early. You can have as much as a full hour of quiet time to schedule your day or content, start on a page or just get some exercise.
Step 2 – Schedule your day hour by hour to be more productive
Want to know the one thing that will suddenly turn your day into a creative powerhouse? That will free up more time than you’d ever dreamed of? Well, here you go. Schedule your day. There it is. I said it.
I sit down and write out hour by hour what I want to do in a day. You can create a printable document if you want or use a day planner. For me, it’s easier to just write it down in a little notebook. Scheduling out hour by hour my day not only sets goals but also lets me find that missing time.
Remember to be flexible when scheduling your time.
Think about your written schedule as more of a guide and a checklist. It’s motivation, not a trap. If something comes up that is more important then do that thing. But write it down. So you know you accomplished something more important. Remember it’s your time. Writing it down doesn’t mean it owns you. You own it. It’s a way to help put you on task and keep you accountable but you need to be flexible.
Schedule the important things first when scheduling your time.
Block off the important tasks first. I like to block them off when I know I’ll have fewer distractions. By getting these things down first and being realistic with how long the thing takes you can really get a sense of your day as a whole much faster.
Schedule major content weekly including social media
If you’re not already doing this, as a creative you should be. Schedule out your social media postings beforehand. Use something like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule your social media posts. Not for just everyday train of thought posts but for those important things. It frees up time and allows some of your routine to run on autopilot.
First thing in the morning when my kids have gone to school I have time for doing things that require that creative flow. People aren’t calling me, I’m not getting emails. Lunchtime is another time where people are generally quiet. These are great times to do creative things where distractions will slow you down. Honestly shutting off social media or email while you do a task, in general, is a good idea. Just do the task and if you have time in your schedule THEN hit social media.
Make time for you
Your schedule isn’t just about scheduling work. It’s about scheduling YOUR day. That includes getting out and walking your dog. Getting exercise. Going to the gym. Eating Lunch. Taking a nap. Whatever you need to keep going. Write it down.
Step 3 – Create a production chart to keep on task and to motivate you.
As a comic book artist and writer and basically overall creator of a thing. I do have days where I lose focus. Weeks even. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s why I created a production chart for my comics. It’s basically a grid of to-dos for EACH page and EACH step in the project.
It helps to see what you need to complete. When you first start using this type of chart it can really be daunting. But as you mark things complete (I use red to indicate something is done) it helps you see that the project can be finished. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
It motivates you as you mark things off the list.
This is one of my favorite things. The more you mark off, the more you get motivated to do more. You start thinking… if I just letter two more pages that will finish this column. Or if I can just draw these two more pages this whole column is done. It’s a great motivator not only to do more but to complete the project as well.
Step 4 – Delegate and create a team.
So I added this because it’s one that I desperately want to work on. But seriously. Doing everything yourself…sure… It’s possible. But it’s just not practical. I illustrated from soup to nuts the first issue of Moon Hunters.
Going into issue two I was doing the same thing but it soon became apparent that it was just going to sap all the life out of me. So I hired a flatter. I don’t have much of a budget at all but that I could pull off. And by god, it’s the best decision I ever made.
My production time almost doubled. Immediately.
If you can farm out parts of your project to talented people who are willing to do the work. Do it! If you need to pay a letterer or a colorist. Do it!
Don’t take the burden on your own. Sure you get points for it in the nobody really cares playbook, but what’s more important, your ego or getting a great finished product?
By the way, I say all that and I still am doing 90% of my book. So please forgive.
Step 5 – Create a backlog of content.
Look. As creators, we always are wanting to work on the new thing. But we also like to share our work. The problem comes when we find ourselves trying to rush something just to share it at the right time. Or trying to rush something and FIND time to do something to share. Sometimes you just can’t. So build a back-log of content you can share to grow your audience.
If you post once a week try to have four weeks worth of content to share.
If you post once a day try to have at least a weeks worth of content to share.
What this does is relieves much of the stress that comes with trying to come up with that post content at the last minute. You don’t want that.
The less stress the more productive you’ll be.
So these are my top five tips for creating time to make comics. I don’t say this lightly. I do everything I can to find the time. I have so little of it. With two kids, a beautiful wife – a day job and plenty of distractions it can be easy to get lost in the weeds. I hope that these few tips have helped. Or at least one of them.
If they helped in any way please consider sharing on facebook or twitter.
Now go make some comics!