autobiography Blog

play meets work

I recently read this essay on the difference between work and fun. It got me thinking about jobs like cartooning, which are essentially fun but require a lot more discipline if you want to do them professionally than if you’re just goofing off on the weekends.

I would laugh really hard if a cartoonist said he drew comic strips because all the accounting jobs were taken. I would laugh, and my eyes would tear up and then I’d pull out my handkerchief and daintily dab at my cheeks. And I would move on.

The fact is, getting paid for anything even resembling art is like climbing a sheer rock wall. Sure, you see a few eagles soaring around. They’re set. For the rest of us, it’s a matter of digging in early and never letting go. Of course you don’t have to climb the wall – you don’t have to be a professional to draw comics. In fact, if everybody tried making comics at least once in their lives, it would make the world a more bester place.

Getting back to my point. I learned pretty fast that I had to up the ol’ ante if I was going to graduate from drawing comics for fun, to drawing comics for fun and profit. This is when having fun morphs queasily into doing work. Fortunately, I like it so much deadlines have never bothered me. But I do have to force myself to sit down and draw, daily. Same with writing. Writing is fun, and I do it all the time anyway, but for Falling Rock I have to focus. Fun with deadlines can still be fun, but it is also work.

I always feel strange saying I have work to do when I mean drawing comics. It seems easier to say it that way than to explain: in order to make comics every weekday and maintain the website and send out submissions to syndicates, I can’t draw only when I feel like it. I have to draw the exact amount the strip dictates.

Can play make the transition to work? I think so, if you have the right mindset about it. If your idea of fun is a lack of time constraints, freedom of topic or media or form, then maybe you need to keep doing fun for fun. John Lennon once said that, in order to write his book A Spaniard in the Works, he’d have to get drunk every night. That’s why, he said, he never wrote another book. And that’s good: he realized he didn’t want to write that way on deadline, or to fill a certain page count. But if you can play, keeping in mind certain expectations, then you can try to make it a living.

With all this in mind, I’m going to launch my career as a Lego builder.