Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My (kinda) New Career as a Writer

I've been paying the bills (more or less) as a comic book artist for eighteen years. I have been an inker, to be precise... but this isn't the time to explain the subtle art of tracing. It's been a good job. I have made an okay living, set my own hours, and have been able to stay home and be an active part of my kids' development.

In recent years, though, I found myself wanting more. Inking was still a cool job, but it was no longer providing the creative buzz that it once had. It may seem silly to some of you that inking drawings of guys in tights punching each other ever satisfied my creative side. To those of you, I would ask that you dig deep into the archives of this very blog. There you will find posts where I dissect the art of inking. Even if you can't relate to that art, you may be able to appreciate that it is real to me.

Anyway, I'll drop the defensive attitude and get back to the matter at hand... my creative juices. I wrote my first graphic novel, Union Station, about six years ago. That process was grueling, challenging, and extremely rewarding. For the first time, I had a product on the shelf that was really mine... something I could stand behind as a full creator (Union Station was drawn by the great Eduardo Baretto, lest anyone think I was the only creator involved)... something that, if it proved touch a nerve with its audience, would benefit me directly. It was also a genre and a subject that I was passionate about. In short, it was mine, and it felt good.

I followed Union Station with Capote In Kansas, another piece of historical fiction set near my home. Again, it was tough, but extremely rewarding. With a full-time job as an inker, writing these books was taking a long time, as well as a toll on my time with my family.

Since Capote In Kansas came out, about three years ago, I have developed several projects. I've written a couple of Daredevil things for Marvel Comics, as well as a few other short projects. For a number of complex reasons, though, I have not been able to complete another graphic novel. Some of those reasons were out of my hands, but much of the fault lies with me and my schedule as a guy still making a living drawing guys in tights.

My regular art partner (Phil Hester) and I finished our latest superhero commitment just after the new year. After that book, a cool project called El Diablo, wrapped, I sat back and really assessed my career, and my life in general. When I evaluated where I was at this point, and where I wanted to be, I became really frustrated with myself. I know that I want to be a writer. I know that I want to own the projects to which I dedicate my creative energies. I know that I do not want to be dragging my old ass to the drawing board ten years from now, squinting at the page, trying to figure out how many straps there are on some superheroes boots.

So, I went to the wife to make my case (to both of us, really). I told her that I wanted to ink less and write more. I told her I thought it was time to make the same kind of leap I made eighteen years before. I told her I wanted to really give whatever talent I have a chance. Finally, I told her this would mean less money coming in. Being the best wife in the world, she simply said that she trusted me. Christ, I love that woman.

To be clear, I have not stopped inking. I am still committed to inking Phil Hester. Phil has a successful writing career of his own, though, and is drawing a lot less than he used to. Thus, there is a lot less to ink, and less money to be made there. I have not, for example, inked a comic book page since January. What I have done is made an attempt to rebuild my life around a career as a writer.

It's a challenge. Writing is certainly more rewarding than inking. It's also a fuckofa lot harder. I struggle with sitting in a quiet room and forcing myself to do the hard work. I struggle with the stress of less money coming in. I struggle to push myself as far as my talents (such as they are) can take me.

I've been working on my South America kidnapping story, Ciudad. It's going well. While I used to rarely reach my goal of ten pages of script a week, I am now struggling to reach my new goal of twenty. I'm behind, like always, but light years ahead of what my old schedule would have allowed. In addition to Ciudad, I've done some research for two other projects, and approached a friend or two about writing collaborations. So far, so good. I like this new career. I like being a writer, and I like not having to juggle two full-time careers.

So, that's the latest. I'll be using this space to loosen myself up each morning, and to fill you in on what I'm writing about.

Oh, and if you catch me at a bar anytime soon, maybe you could get the first round? Times is hard for a fledgling writer!

As always, your humble servant,
Anj

15 comments:

KAHNEHTEH said...

It is exciting and encouraging to read of your new venture, Ande. And while it may seem like work now, it won't be work for very long; it'll just be what you LOVE.

I'm happy for you and inspired by your bold step. I hope things are going well and thank your lucky stars she said, "I trust you."

Good luck and have fun.

Ande Parks said...

Thanks, man. It's true... I am a lucky man.

And, to all... sorry about the AdSense thing. I signed up innocently, and now I have this obnoxious thing there right at the top of my blog. I doubt the pennies it might generate are worth the annoyance. I'll likely do away with is soon... assuming I can figure out how.

Anj

Claire said...

Ande, I've been going through much the same process. For me, it means doing less editing and more writing, finding new markets, and shedding those gigs that take up so much time & energy. Spousal support is crucial; I'm glad you've got it. Good luck to you!

Matt Hollingsworth said...

Follow the dream, as they say. I'm sure if you keep your drive going and make sure to do the business part you'll do great.

Scott Chantler said...

Huzzah! I'm a big fan of your "tracing," but CAPOTE IN KANSAS especially demonstrates just how much you should be creating and writing your own stuff.

I applaud this decision (and your awesome wife). It means more job satisfaction for you, and more thoughtful, well-written comics for me. Everybody wins!

Jason A. Hurley said...

This sounds awesome to me Anj. I've loved both of your OGNs thus far, and I will most definitely be picking up Ciudad. Is it another "fiction based on history" kind of thing?
Also, you, me, Planet Comicon. First round's on me.

Mad Ernie said...

You are my hero (again)! I am continually amazed at how you've been able to (what I would call) step out on faith. Major cajones. No, wait ... Colonel and General cajones!

mellon said...

You continue to be an inspiration, sir. Looking forward to you writing more. The world needs more awesome and less suck.

-Mellon

Gordon Harries said...

Now that sounds like the kind of lady you want bringing up the rear.

and to second Mellon, the world DOES need more awesome and less suck.

G.

Jason Arnett said...

Hell, I'll bring you the bottle. (Maker's or Jack?) Every writer needs a bottle, not just the first round. And a cigar. You've already got the hat.

Not that you need my support, but you've got it.

Shawn Crystal said...

Ande
I admire you choice and commitment. You can dooo eeet!

Gordon Harries said...

Jason: and a smith-corona typewriter!

Max said...

Can't wait. Good luck! I'll get you a drink next time I see you!

Sal! said...

First and second round on me if you are coming to Wizard World Chicago. Anything Chris and I can do to help from Around Comics too.

mar said...

Your words are inspiring, man. I'm hoping to get back into it soon as well. We should talk about some possible venues for getting stories out there.