Here’s an instance of knowing what to do, but not consistently doing it. Since having “Spectickles” syndicated recently with Ink Bottle Syndicate, and having picked up a number of large circulation newspapers, my schedule has necessarily changed radically. In the past, I could write and draw my cartoons at a relatively leisure pace for the greeting card, calendar and other licensing markets. The deadlines are usually pretty generous. In syndication, however, it’s a complete color cartoon every day, seven days a week. Whether or not you got a good night sleep, you feel well, you have an emergency, jury duty, Armageddon, or a giant incoming meteor, you’d better have your cartoons ready and submitted or the financial and legal hammer will fall mightily upon your head. And my head has been lumped up enough already.
As a guy with a very active life, a family I already don’t spend enough time with, and substantial obligations outside of art and cartooning, managing my time is no longer a matter of what I ought to do, but what I must do. And it isn’t an easy transition. But here’s what I’ve worked out for myself:
For me, the best time to write is in the early morning hours before everyone wakes up. It’s perfectly quiet, I can think creatively over a cup of fresh coffee, and usually come up with at least one, but typically several ideas. So it’s up at 5:30 each morning, and straight downstairs with my iPad and little sticky notes for capturing rough ideas.
Posting Online/Social Media
I’ve created a “Spectickles” Cartoon A Day page on my website, which I share on Facebook and Twitter, and once in a while, here. I try to have that done before 8:30 or 9:00 each morning – sometimes earlier if possible. This is one of the traps – I find myself wandering around on social media when I know I have work to get done. Self-discipline, as supported through a relatively rigid schedule has helped manage this for me.
This is so, so important. As creative people, we rely on our minds to invent out of thin air art and humor or both. For that, we have to remain sharp and mentally clear, and to support that, we should define time in each day to dedicate to exercise. Whether it’s a trip to the gym, a brisk walk, yoga – whatever gets the job done, it should be scheduled, highly prioritized, committed and consistent. Taking care of yourself should never be an afterthought.
This is the area where I can be most flexible. While mornings are most productive for my writing time, drawing can be any time of the day without any noticeable difference. Typically, I’ll do my drawing in the evenings after dinner. That leaves me time to take care of non-art related obligations and life as it happens. Since I can shift it earlier or later, I can make more spontaneous plans with my family. But I also don’t forget that my head shouldn’t hit the pillow till this core task is completed – period.
As a caveat to all this, life will throw you curves, and you have to be prepared to field them without letting your work suffer – not always easy. As a matter of fact, I’m covered quite literally from head to toe with poison ivy as I type this. Little to no sleep over several days, lots of very uncomfortable itching, distraction, and annoyance, but that’s life and you have to press on. I try never to forget what a privilege it is to do what we do, and for that, I can take a little discomfort!