I had a great conversation with a fellow artist the other day about how much we love our work and how we genuinely prefer to be working. I admitted that I found taking a vacation after just a couple of days genuinely uncomfortable. Sometimes I take a bit of work with me. My brain never stops churning. (Running joke: I relaxed once. It was awful.)
It drove home my belief that many people who do not have that kind of drive not only don’t get it but sometimes pathologize it, completely unable to understand why anyone would want to spend hours outside of a normal 8-hour workday working. We both agreed that our art can become a drudge at 3 AM, but a 10 hour day doesn’t phase us at all. And we would really rather be working. I feel driven to make art and to write, and I can’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t.
Also, when you’re not commuting, think of the 2 hours you would be getting ready for work and running back and forth to work as the time and stress sink hole the artist with a home studio never has to deal with. So I put in a ten hour day, and it’s not as harsh to me. People who work at home have unique stressors, but unless you’ve got a bad home environment (and I don’t) you’ve got a real advantage. But one of those great stressors is motivation, and the lack thereof that comes from NOT being in a structured work environment. If you can’t discipline yourself, everything can fall apart around you. Some people simply don’t have the internal drive to be their own boss. The art just never gets finished.
Sometimes you run into people who resent creators who manage to have a run of paying gigs or years of solid selling books. Some of them just don’t have the stamina for what we do. Physical stamina is required as well. But the mental chops required to do what we do for a long time can’t be understood by some people because they are just wired differently. I’m not sure it’s a focus you can learn.
It’s really hard to understand people who are wired differently. I’m never really going to understand people who think going to clubs and getting drunk with friends is fun, and they’re never going to understand why I think staying home on a Friday night and working on my art is fun. I don’t believe everyone who doesn’t have drive is just out partying all the time, but we all have different things we do. Some people watch a lot of television. Some people like to shop. Some people go to concerts. Or roller skate. Or play basketball. If I played a lot of basketball on weekends would that be a problem?
While discussing this a few days ago, Elizabeth Stewart brought up the excellent point that people who don’t like their work feel like work is a burden and “…it can be hard to understand when you see that joy to work in others.” I’ve run into people who scoff at focused creators and make weird sad noises and blog boohoo about how awful it is that such creators must not have any lives. People get really pissed off that they need to have day jobs they hate and that they can’t make comics/art pay, thinking they know about the private lives of people they don’t know very well and arrogantly declaring “They must not have any lives.” Just because all they see is our work that doesn’t mean we don’t have families and friends in the other 14 hours a day we’re not working.
Also, I think many people don’t realize that the drive exists before getting the work, and when you’re going head to head with some kid who is pulling 40 hours a week at art making before they get their first job, you’re up against someone who has jet propulsion while others are still trying to invent the wheel. That drive comes early, and it sometimes never goes away. It’s a huge advantage. Where does it come from? I don’t know. It’s not fair, but it’s an essential, and it will topple the talented, confound the uninitiated, and look like magic to others.
I’m not going to apologize for my focus and ability and I don’t think anyone should have to. No one feels the need to apologize for being smart and studying a lot, why should I apologize for making art a lot?
I don’t think any amount of explaining will get through to people who simply don’t get it. Either you have drive or you don’t. I feel a lot of sympathy for those who don’t and who want it. It must be like trying to see a color you simply can’t see.
I went for several years with chronic-illness induced brain fog, and I had a really hard time focusing and working. I sure know what it’s like not to be able to. It’s about the most awful feeling in the world for someone like me.
If you’ve never had drive, do you have any frame of reference for what you’re missing in the first place?
So, you know, maybe it is weird to want to sit around and draw comics for 10-15 hours a day.
Normal people are normal. Weirdos go places, baby.