Monday, August 30, 2010

Timing is everything

I typically complete about 10-12 articles a week, plus various other projects. That amazes some folks, who  ask me, "John, how the heck do you get so much done?"

The truth is that there isn't an easy answer for that question, but there are several related answers.

1. I don't have much of a choice. If I'm going to make a living as a freelance writer, I need to get a certain amount of work done every month, every week, every day. I don't get the work done, I don't get paid, and then I don't get to be a freelance writer any more. I like being a freelance writer, so I work very hard at it.

2. I do make the right choices. I know that if a job pays me a certain amount, I can translate that into the amount of hours I should spend working on it. For example, if I'm just doing a quickie blog post for a few bucks, it needs to be completely finished in under half an hour. If I have a big assignment, and it's going to take me days if not weeks to complete, I start right away and put time in every day until it's done. I don't have time to get stressed out over late work, or to spend too long working on something that isn't going to pay.

3. I plan ahead. Changing gears is very difficult. If your head is deep in one project, it's almost impossible to quickly switch gears to work on a different project. Getting interrupted is worse; it totally breaks down the mental system that I need to work. In order to place limits on the distractions in my life, I like to know what they are ahead of time. Even going to the post office every day can be a pain if I'm in the middle of something, so I use those tasks as my "changing gears" moments. I finish a project, then I run an errand or take care of something in the house. When that task is complete, my mind is clear and I'm ready to start the next job.

4. I plan further ahead. I don't want to waste time worrying about what assignments I'm going to have to scramble together next week. I find them and then I have them on the books. I like to have ongoing assignments and relationships with editors and clients so I know I have work from them next month as well as this month. Meanwhile, I am constantly looking for new work. Maybe one in ten pitches works out, but I take the time to fill my pipeline.

5. I never miss a deadline. When I act like a professional, clients want to keep doing business with me. And that helps me keep the words flowing.

I could probably go on a lot more about all of this, but that next project is calling my name...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Today I shall write, draw, think, feel, experience, and not die.

Sounds like a good plan.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Wow! It's my second win (actually a four-way tie) in Eli Stein's caption cartoon contest!

Winner of Eli’s Cartoon Caption Contest No. 10

Friday, August 13, 2010

Comics Workshop photos!

I've posted a few dozen photos from this month's comics workshop at the Center for Cartoon Studies. This should hold you over until I get a chance to write more about this great event!

Center for Cartoon Studies 2010 - a set on Flickr

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cartoon Campers

Originally uploaded by Center for Cartoon Studies
Here's a great shot of the talented crew at this summer's Cartoon Workshop.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cartoon Camp Day 5

Sad good-byes this evening as three-quarters of the class heads for home. Only 9 of us are staying for the "extended studio" portion, which officially begins on Monday. But my god, what an amazing amount of creativity on display from these 37 wonderful artists. But lifetime friendships have been forged and at least 250 pages of comics have been drawn. What a week!

Huge thanks to the Center for Cartoon Studies and its amazing teachers!

Tomorrow I start thinking about what I'll write and draw this weekend and next week. Tonight will be a satisfying sleep.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Center for Cartoon Studies, Day 2

I'm two days into the Summer Workshop. Here's a sampling of what I've created so far.

(This just scratches the surface, to be honest. More photos and maybe actual scans soon.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cartoon Camp Day Zero - Off to the races

I'm back in White River Junction, Vermont, for another summer workshop at the Center for Cartoon Studies, and things are already off to a great start.

For one thing, the drive here was almost too easy. I didn't hit any traffic the entire trip. It made me worry a bit -- did the Armageddon start while I wasn't looking? -- but now that I'm here, nobody else seems worried, so I guess the world remains unexploded.

For another, CCS held a nice little reception for this year's workshop participants. Actually, CCS didn't do too much -- just put out some cheese and punch and told us where to be -- but that was enough to get us started. I met several cool people tonight, and I'm already feeling creatively charged for classes tomorrow.

And finally, my hotel room is air conditioned and the bed is comfortable. Not only that, it is calling my name. So I'm going to call it a night and wake up bright and early tomorrow, ready to start a whole week of cartooning.

More updates as the week progresses!