My Maker Mantras

My Maker Mantras: ‘Default To The Dream’

‘Default To The Dream’

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

“So what do you do?”

The question is inevitable. Anytime you’re in a new social group or setting, small talk is often established by figuring out “what you do,” which really means, where you WORK. It’s our common denominator, as human beings and/or Americans, I suppose. No matter our many potential differences, we can all relate to clocking in. “So what do you do?” is the least complicated “who are you” question.

Unless, of course, I’M answering it. In past installments of this very column, I’ve described how the day job is my side hustle, and cartooning is my main gig. When I present that concept in conversation? It’s difficult for most folks to grasp. See, my answer to “what do you do” is, “I’m in property management from 9-5, and I’m a cartoonist 24/7. I’m always working on comics.” Most people don’t quite get it. Most people don’t live by the mantra —

Default to the dream.

The problem isn’t in the complexity of my answer. The problem is in the question. “What do you do?” seeks identity in PROFESSION. If I simply answered, “I’m a cartoonist,” the immediate follow-up inquiry is, “And that pays the bills?” Our culture contrasts career with passion, and, in many ways, happiness and success are measured by the distance between what you do, and what you’d LIKE to do. The REAL thing we all have in common is a desire to narrow that distance, between what we “do” and what we LOVE, for money. “So what do you do?” is our measuring tool for others’ success, and in comparison, our own.

Consider this — if I answered, “I’m a cartoonist, but I do Uber to make ends meet,” most people would accept my identity as an artist with a side hustle. When I answer, “I’m a cartoonist but I do property management to make ends meet,” my position in property management usually takes precedence. We’ve been trained in an unspoken hierarchy of “legitimate jobs,” and artist is often somewhere between driver and busboy. We all LIKE art, but the people who make it surely aren’t doing so for a living …!

Anything that could be couched as a hobby or a flight of fancy is often discredited as a job, especially when you have ANOTHER job, but therein lies the ONLY difference between a career and a vocation. They aren’t mutually exclusive — you can have BOTH. Further, they can FEED each other; the career funds the vocation, and the vocation fuels the career with purpose. Doing a good job from 9 to 5 means I can pursue my passion without fear of starvation! Remember, artists should starve TO create, and not because they ARE creating!

I recently won a statewide award in property management. I was genuinely honored. My commitment to this career is directly proportional to the support I receive from my boss and coworkers. They’re among my biggest fans, and that encouragement drives me not to let them down, in and outside of the office. The win also sends a message — if I’m good at the thing I’ve dedicated a mere seven hours to every day, how good must I be at the thing to which I’ve dedicated my LIFE?

Of course I’d love to write or draw comics all day, as the full time job I love. One day, the career may release its support of the vocation, like a parent letting go of the bicycle when their child seems steady enough to go on their own. Until then, this mantra is not just a personal affirmation — it’s a plea to the world. I’m more than happy to tell you what I do, but I’m equally excited to tell you what I LOVE. When you default to the dream, it gets that much closer to reality.

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

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