Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Webcomic Burnout: Have YOU Experienced It?

I'm the first to admit I've felt the burn quite a few times in my three or four years in the webcomic game. There were(and still are)times when I didn't feel like doing ANYTHING, much less coming up with ideas, writing, and drawing new strips. I even went two weeks once not doing a new review on this site, which I've tried to avoid ever doing again, even though I've felt the hand of laziness gently caressing my shoulder every so often. What causes your burnout? Let's discuss..

Pretty much anything can cause someone to skip updates. Breaking up with a girlfriend, hospital stays or sickness in the family, you ate too much pizza last night, hangover, etc. Running out of ideas is a fairly regular one. Writers block can be devastating. You sit down to write out some ideas and BAM!, blank mind. You might think, "Man, what else can I say about these characters? Should I kill one off? Introduce new ones out of nowhere? Are they even worth continuing? Should I just start a new webcomic? AGGH!" Don't panic! One way to remedy this is to just give it a rest for a day or two, relax, and go about your daily life. This can go a long way toward rejuvenating you, and toward deciding whether this is something you want to continue or if you're writers block was just a small hiccup on the road of your comic. You have a job, right? Everyone needs a vacation from that, so why not from your comic?

After doing GothyMcgee(of which I actually took off around a year of doing it, shamefully), I wanted to get back into webcomics, but wasn't sure in what capacity. Then I started reading review sites, and even the one review I received of Gothy. I didn't care for the layout or ranking style of that site, and was pretty miffed. I decided that I could give my opinion too! It doesn't take much for me to get excited and start something new. I made a Blogger account and slapped up my very first roughshod review. Shaky as it was, it felt good to write and give what I hoped was a good review with constructive critiques of what was right and wrong with it, in my honest opinion. I felt great! I wasn't drawing and writing a comic, but I was still able to do something webcomic related and be a part of the community. That, in part, even got me energized enough that I changed Gothy to Difference Makers(until ComicGenesis malfunctioned, and I stopped again)for a bit, dropping the three panel gag format and making it a superhero storyline format. Since then, I've created TwoHeadsTalking, and just recently, Off Kilter Comics. I'm feeling better than ever writing, drawing, and sharing what I can do with all of you. Sometimes all you need is a change of direction to get your juices pumping again.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you need to change your comic at all to get recharged, those are just suggestions. You can always request guest comics to give you a week, two weeks, or even a month off to regain some sense of why you're doing this. You might read the guest strips and start feeling that need to create your own strip again. Other people can give you perspective on your characters and style of writing. Try it! If anything, it'll give you that break you may need.

If it's just plain laziness that you're feeling, then I don't really have any advice for you except if you really care about your comic, then you should push yourself to update for the fans. They depend on you, and the least you can do if you can't make yourself update is let them know you're taking a day or two off and when the next update will be. Be cordial. The fans are a big part of why we do this, aren't they?

In closing, you're not alone if you feel the burn. We all experience it, you just have to find a way to get past it, for yourself, the fans, the principal of the thing, you name it. Webcomics should be fun, and if you take that out of the equation, you'll definitely lose your spark. Do you have any stories of burnout and how you coped that you would like to share? Please, feel free, we would love to see them. Thanks for reading!



Chris C. said...

As the undisputed king of burnout (having started/stopped strips several times) I can say it comes from two main sources.

1) Lack of interest in the material - After a while, if you don't challenge yourself, doing the strip becomes boring and you just lose interest. I've tried to combat that by making myself up the detail of art in each strip even if my inner lazy person is screaming like a spoiled brat.

2) Lack of interaction with readers - Having been in this scene for over 10 years now, I've noticed people have taken a snatch and run position when it comes to webcomics. It used to be that even a site with a smaller readership would attract a few diehards who would interact on message boards and email you suggestions / criticisms. Now, it's just an empty void and no one is bothering to talk back (unless it's to bitch). A lot of this is due to the explosion of comics (more sites to visit, less time per site) but it's incredibly depressing for an artist to put his/her heart and soul into something only to get zero reaction. It'll kill the momentum for a project in a hurry.

I have no idea how to combat the second note. I've provided message boards, comment systems, shoutboxes and email links but it seems to be too difficult for anyone to drop a line and say something.

Feedback is the lifeblood of any comic artist. Especially when you come home from a 10-12 hour day and stare at the screen wondering if you should even bother making a strip tonight or enjoying your time doing something relaxing.

So why do comics if you're feeling that way? For me personally, I just can't stay away from them. I've tried and then I start having the shakes and I've got to run back. =)

Jack Carter. said...

You made a great point when you said that feedback is our life's blood. I feel the exact same way sometimes with my comics and this site in particular. I'm going to continue the site no matter what because I enjoy it so much, but sometimes I wish people would comment more. I wanted to make forums, but given the lack of comments here, I don't see the point. Maybe one day the comments will start pouring in, but until that day I can only hope....BUT, I still get a decent amount of people coming to the site, so at least I know people are reading it.