This week I punted on a story that just wasn’t going anywhere; I hate doing that, and I especially hate doing it when the editor for whom I was doing the story seemed so keen to have it, but it was frankly not my best work and I suspect he would have had to reject in the end anyway. Better in the long run at this stage to let it go so both he and I can devote the mental resources to something else.
This, combined with the gear-grinding on Arclight Adventures, has led me to reflect on just what it is I want to accomplish with my creative endeavors, why it is that I do them — and why I seem to have been having difficulty with them lately. And I think I’ve discovered at least one psychological factor that’s been holding me back, i.e., “fear of commitment.”
Y’see, Suburban Jungle and NeverNever consumed so much of my life for so long, that there is a part of me that’s frankly afraid to get that wrapped up in something again. I loved doing my comics, don’t get me wrong, but there were plenty of times when it could also be a draining, demoralizing, downright painful experience, and part of me is shying away from that.
Another issue has been my own underlying motivation for doing the work, and here I have not been pleased with what I saw in the mental mirror. Y’see, for both NN and SJ, my motivation was that I loved the work — I was making those comics because I wanted them to exist, I thought they were good and worthy things that would make the world a better place by being in it. This has been less true of my more recent projects. In fact, at the end of the day, what has been motivating me lately has been ego.
I don’t want the entirety of my creative output to be “ten years of webcomics and done.” I don’t want the history of pop culture to say of The Gneech: “Known, by those few who do, as the guy who did The Suburban Jungle.” I want to leave a bigger footprint.
A natural feeling, perhaps, but a terrible reason to be doing any major undertaking. Somebody recently described me in my LiveJournal as “dedicated to my own epicness” — said as a joke, yeah, but it still had the sting of truth to it. I should be thinking about the work itself, and the readers out there who will hopefully get something out it, not about what it will do for my prestige and/or fragile egg of a sense of self-worth.
So … what to do about it? Well, for starters, I’m blowing away all of my current “projects” (which have been more placeholders than actual work anyway), except for the Short Story Geeks Podcast, because I have made a commitment to my fellow podcasters on that one and I intend to honor that. But for everything else, as of this blog entry, I’m no longer “working on X” for a half-dozen half-formed ideas.
Second, I’m going to look at each of the things I have been working on with a critical eye and determine which, if any, are actually worth doing on their own merits, rather than because I think it’d be “good for my career,” so to speak. If a project can actually justify its own existence, then I will add it to my to-do list, even if the due date is “sometime after 2015,” but if not, it’s going into the proverbial sock drawer indefinitely.
I do know of at least one project which will move up in the priority list, a YA collaboration with Mrs. Gneech, actually, which we’ve been talking about on-and-off for several years now. We recently sat down and hashed out a lot of things about it, to the point where I think we have a pretty good vision for what it should be like. It’s not something that really builds on anything I’ve done before (except in the vague sense of having some fantasy elements), nor really is likely to have immediate appeal to my established audience, but it is something about which I can confidently say its existence would be a +1 for the world.
As for what other projects will be added back in, I couldn’t tell you at this stage. If you have one you’d like to advocate for, I’d love to hear it!