My Maker Mantras

My Maker Mantras: ‘Done Is Better Than Good’

‘Done is Better Than Good’

Nerdvana presents Small Press Saturday – aka, Lessons Learned Self-Publishing Comics

If you’re a creative person – if you MAKE something – maybe you can relate to this. The other day, I inked a comics page, and I hated the way it turned out. It churned in my gut until I decided to re-pencil and ink it again. This morning, when I pulled out the doomed page, I thought, “Hey, this isn’t THAT bad – in fact, it’s pretty good!” My self-criticism had so overblown my initial disappointment with that page, I’d imagined it into some monstrosity which far exceeded the little things I wish I’d done better at first glance. Now, I’m KEEPING the page, as a reminder to IGNORE the critics – starting with myself.

My name is Russ, and I’ve been self-publishing comics since 2001. I began writing scripts that friends would draw, and ultimately I began drawing stories myself. In 2010, I self-published Amazing Arizona Comics #1, a minicomics superhero satire of local news and culture. This year, I’m working on issue #50. Self-publishing comics has been the most fulfilling – and the most challenging – venture I’ve ever experienced. As I continue to hustle, or grind, or whatever the kids call pursuing one’s passions nowadays, I’m finding the lessons I’ve learned are abbreviating themselves into little mantras I’ll often repeat to myself at the drawing board.

I’ve been generally hesitant to share these mantras, thanks in large part to George Bernard Shaw’s old line “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” (which is, appropriately, from his play Man and Superman). I’d hate to think that over 20 years of self-publishing has turned me into the type that TALKS about comics more than I actually MAKE them – but, on the heels of another birthday and at the cusp of a brand new year, I’ve decided to chronicle some of these thoughts and practices, not so much to “teach,” but to preserve. In moments of artistic distress, it’ll be nice to look back at these articles and teach MYSELF.

So, for the next several Saturdays, we’ll be posting some articles by yours truly that I hope might inspire you in your creative endeavors, as I document some of my own. Yes, I’ll be talking about comic books, but if you’re a poet, a musician, a sculptor – however you materialize the crazy ideas that pop into your head – maybe one of my little mantras will make sense of a creative struggle you’re experiencing. Oh, which little mantra helped me get through that problematic page?

“Good is good, but DONE is BETTER.”

I’m a staunch advocate of quantity over quality, because you can’t ACHIEVE quality if you aren’t constantly making. Sure, I COULD re-draw that page, but are my minor issues with it REALLY going to affect the reader’s enjoyment of the story? And where does it END? If I’m constantly re-drawing pages, I’m stuck in a loop of impossible perfectionism, and, really, the page that should benefit from those acknowledged mistakes is the NEXT one. I’d like to be known as the guy that made one great comic book, but I’d LOVE to be known as the guy that made a BUNCH of GOOD comic books.

Of course, I’m not advocating sloppy work. If a mistake can be easily fixed, or if it defies the way you identify with your art, then, by all means, let the white-out flow – but the phrase “own your mistakes” applies here. Owning your mistakes means someone else might eventually own your ART, because you were bold enough to move forward and get it out there, despite its flaws. Truthfully, the average reader’s eyes will most likely linger on your most beautiful drawing just as long as they will on your worst, because only YOU see the difference.

In fact, “the average reader” will be the topic of next week’s column. Until then, I’ve just proofread this article, and do I think some points could’ve been more concisely explained? Absolutely. I could spend HOURS chiseling away at these sentences, finding just the right words to make this essay as effective as possible. Who knows, maybe this IS my final, perfect draft, and I started writing it YEARS ago! As happy as I could be with it now, imagine all of the columns I DIDN’T write in the meantime. Just imagine, a world where we’re all constantly crafting our single, PERFECT work of art – it’s a world that doesn’t have any art, at all.

My Maker Mantras aka Small Press Saturday: Lessons Learned Self-Publishing Comics

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