Too Little, Too Late

For my comics creator’s career, that is

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

“Each man’s life represents a road toward himself, an attempt at such a road, the intimation of a path. No man has ever been entirely and completely himself.”

Since childhood, I have always wanted to draw comics. I was immersed in that world entirely, and there’s nothing else that I would rather do for a living. Legend has it that I even thought myself how to read & write by reading comics. I tried, as a teenager, to the best of my abilities, to make it happen. I was even published, some small pieces in local comics magazines, but it never took off properly.

Then, the “life happened”. School, profession, earning money, starting a family, not to mention a civil war happening in my country. Not trying to find excuses here; if I was only a bit more determined, who knows?

These days, while nearing retirement and having a comfortable career and life, I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened with my comics career, if it, indeed, happened? I even tried to start it again, after many decades of absence. Except, there’s no spark in doing that anymore; the thrill is gone, as B.B. King would say.

You can’t have it all

Contrary to popular beliefs, you really can’t have it all. If done properly, everything takes time and consistent effort, to get anywhere with it. Time and energy that we don’t have, that’s consumed by your current profession. And no, doubling-down isn’t a solution either: that would just make you exhausted and burned out.

While pondering on my non-existent comics creator’s career, I find myself imagining what would entail to start it now. I haven’t drawn a single stick figure for decades: how long it would take to become decent at drawing again? 1 year? Several years? The time I don’t have.

We make decisions, all the time, of all sizes and shapes. Life is a maze with several possible paths to the goal. We, consciously or subconsciously, choose our paths. Once the decision was made, going back should never be an option. It would be tantamount to having a time travel machine: not possible, unless you want to start over again from scratch.

Don’t follow your passion

“Follow your passion” is the most damaging advice that floats around the media these days. Let’s take an example: there are tens of thousands (an estimate) of aspiring tennis players currently in the world. Do you know how many of them actually make a decent living by playing tennis? Probably around a hundred, if that. If you’re not among those, what’s your plan B?

Having a passion is a nice feeling to have, but it can lead you sideways, at best, backward, at worst. You stand to lose what you have achieved thus far, in your chosen profession. It’s tempting, I know: but, consider what holds more value for you: vanity stroke for your ego, by “doing what you like” or a stable, comfortable life that you’re having without it? It all depends on that answer.

The power of letting go

While I may never be a comics creator, I can still enjoy the comics, or — how they call it these days — graphic novels. Some of them are quite excellent and can parallel the best works created in any other art form. Sometimes I’m jealous — that could have been me, creating those wonderful works! Then again, it’s not true, and I know it.

Anton Checkov has this wonderful short story (if somebody knows the title, please let me know, I’d love to read it again), about an office clerk, who, one day, sitting in his office and daydreaming, bored to death, starts to draw, spontaneously. After a while, he realizes that his subconscious drawing wasn’t half as bad. He develops a what-if scenario: Hey, I could’ve been an artist! I could have been famous! I wouldn’t have to sit in this dreadful office the whole day! After some further ruminations on that path, taking into consideration how most artists that he knew lived, he abandoned that dream, feeling quite content with being what he is.

Some things in life are just simply not meant to be: one should be wise to let them go.

Too little, too late

A friend of mine, an established comics artist, once told me, while I was admiring his work:

Yes, but it’s very tedious work!

I chuckled: obviously, he never tried doing programming for a living.

Then I dream some more. Let’s say that I’m a comics creator. How that life would look like? Thanks to the Internet, and by knowing quite a few artists personally, I can deduce that my life wouldn’t be that much different. Doing comics professionally involves all the drawbacks that any other profession has: tedium, drudgery, boredom. What would be the gain, except the initial thrill of doing it?

Some stones are best left unturned. We have a limited time, energy at our disposal. We can’t do it all, regardless of how hard we try. Multitasking is over-rated: it leads to half-assery, at best.

Instead, be content with your chosen profession. It may not satisfy all your needs and fulfill all your talents, but, if it does fulfill some, you should be happy.

Or, do it as a hobby, that’s still allowed, as long as you know its place in your life. My plan B is to try it again once I retire: will keep you posted. 😃

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“The only person you can’t learn from is yourself” — Anonymous