This weekend I’m finally getting it started.
I worked on the comic a lot over many many months after I started a new job. I was feeling very down about life and finding it the most demoralising job and employer than any since 1999. The difference was that the 1999 job was killing me with stress and work overload and insanely long hours. This one was and still is to a certain extent the worst since then because of the demoralising element to it. At 43 years old, with 12 years experience at what I do, I was being told for the first time ever that I was slow. A bottleneck in the system, even. When I estimated that a task would take an hour, I was treated with astonished disbelief, and would be told that it was “a 5 minute job.” This, despite my 12 years experience.
An exciting creative distraction
Anyway, I was so depressed and annoyed actually, that I began to formulate a webcomic. The thoughts of this occupied me going to and from work – providing an exciting distraction from the usual feelings of low-self-worth and dread associated with my new job. Coffee break and lunch break [which I still feel uneasy about taking!] were spent drawing, scribbling and writing ideas for the comic. I was very very excited about it. This went on for a many months.
A slight improvement
The strange thing that happened then was that after about 9 or 10 months into the job, things started to improve a little. My boss was treating me better – although my output was looking more and more templated and less creative. This made him happier because I was getting faster. Let me just say that in 12 years in many jobs I had never been made to feel that I was slow before. On the contrary: one boss, of a good, successful web design company told me, in front of the staff that “You’re actually pretty fast!” But anyway, the work was polished, but boring and my new boss was a bit happier and treating me better. Having said that, I’ll never really be fast enough for him.
The Clouds lifts a little – and complacency builds…
So, my black cloud was lifting – a little – but one of the consequences was that the webcomic idea, formerly a way of releasing tension and privately venting my spleen – was now actually depressing to think about – in itself! It just seemed so negative – despite all of the comedy, which is pretty black admittedly.
Regaining Some Sense of Pride
But, in the last few months I’ve been thinking about taking steps to change careers and and get back to doing proper creative work. I’ve had some psychological boosts from good people. I had a MARVEL talent scout send me sample scripts to work on; a creative director and conceptual artist in movies actually took the time to phone me for an hour one Sunday night when he saw how frustrated I was [sincere thanks Paul!]; I recently got good feedback from a senior creative in a major eLearning/Gaming company and it’s clearer than ever that I have to leave the exponentially-growing army of web designers and do work that fully uses my talents. We’re ten a penny. And I can do more than that. I’ve always felt embarassed when people ask me what I do for a living.
“I’m an Illustrator and wbdzgnr…mumble.”
Pardon? A what?
“Ok. I’m a graphic slash web designer.”
I feel so ashamed. No pride whatsoever in my job or title. I figure that the graphic slash prefix makes it sound less rubbish.
A book that’s really helped me a lot is What Colour is Your Parachute? It’s one that – as a fed-up web designer way back in 2002 [!] – I was about to buy, but a friend who was perpetually unlucky in work told me it was rubbish, so I didn’t buy it! I wish to God now, that I hadn’t listened to him. I would have had a 10 year start. 10 YEARS. Who knows what work I’d be doing now and how many years of career-torment I would have saved myself.
Now I have it. And it’s a brilliant book. It basically says that if you want to get a job – a career that you love, it stands to reason that you need know yourself, what you love to do, what makes you unique and what skill and knowledge you have that can be used to get you into that place. It takes you through many probing exercises to build up the picture. The scales are falling from my eyes at last.
And you know what? I’ve decided that I’m going to do this webcomic after all as a part of a greater journey toward more satisfying and fulfilling work and a better life.