Tuesday, Sep 8, 2009

Title: 2294

September 2009


Title: 2294

September 8, 2009
12:01 AM

Hey there, Lifers. I’m coming to you today in a bit of a quandary, and I wasn’t really sure which way to go with it, so I figured I’d bring it to you straight and just see what your honest opinion of things are.

Essentially, here’s the gist of it. For the last 9 months, I’ve been working at a small, small company in Elk Grove that sells exam preparation products for a green building exam. I’ve been working on the website, implementing some really cool database stuff, and generally just paying the bills. It’s a job, it’s done the trick, but it’s just work. Well, after getting home from AnimeFest last night, I got an e-mail asking if I could take Tuesday off because sales have been slow and there’s not really enough money to pay me right now, so we need to see how sales go before I come in. This is something that’s happened in the past, and things there have been getting steadily less stable.

This is not, as you can imagine, something I want to hear.

So of course my mind drifted to the possibility of looking for another job… something everyone hates to do, of course. I looked through craigslist a bit before I realized, quite clearly, that going to work for someone else crushes my spirit on a near-daily basis. The only time I can really recall being truly happy was that ONE month after moving to Texas, before ad revenue jumped into the toilet, where I was ACTUALLY working on the comic full-time. I had that one brief month where I was ACTUALLY doing the job I’d dreamed of doing for most of my life, and I was happy. Then I had to go back to working part-time for my old company doing crap I hated because I didn’t really know how else to pay the bills.

Right now, I have to be up at about 7:30 in the morning so I can be out of the house by 8:00, because it takes me an hour to drive from Rocklin to Elk Grove. I then proceed to work 8 hours and drive over an hour back home, often more like an hour and a half with traffic. I have to cram any ounce of life I can into the hours between 6:30 and midnight, which includes dinner, housework, and comic stuff. For almost the last year, the comic has been the last priority on my daily to-do list, because I’ve been so busy trying to just keep our heads above water, since I’m the sole breadwinner for the two of us. That’s the reason it’s taken me so long to get things out, and why the comic for the last year has been kinda ho-hum. I’ve got all these neat ideas I keep coming up with, but they all take so long to execute that I never really get the chance to DO them. I tell people I’m a cartoonist when they ask, but really, I’m only a cartoonist for the 1-2 hours a day I can manage to set aside to get a comic done. That’s kinda lame. And it’s been slowly killing me, too. I’ve had sleepless nights for the past year because one thing or another hasn’t been getting out on time. The figurines are going out, albeit very slowly, and I’ve only been able to get a sketch done every one or two nights, because I really only have about half an hour most nights to work on it. I constantly feel like an overwhelming failure, and it’s something I could easily fix if I just had the time to DO it. I don’t really have a LIFE right now, because every waking moment is spent fulfilling obligations or trying in vain to play catch up. It’s killing me.

So, I sit here today facing a decision. I don’t really know the right direction to go with this, and because it’s something that I can’t really make happen by myself, I need to bring it to you to ask what you think. Essentially, what I’m thinking is this: Turn Real Life into a 100% reader-supported comic, and if it’s possible to replace the income I make from my job right now, quit my job outright and just do Real Life full-time. This is, to be honest, terrifying. Right now I’m making about $3,500 a month, and between repaying student loans, rent, bills, and paying for Liz’ tuition and school supplies, we’re JUST breaking even on a month-to-month basis. Come November, we’re going to be looking for a cheaper place to live and trying to do everything we can to simplify our lives, but right now, things are incredibly tight. As I’ve already said, I’m the sole breadwinner, so any loss of income from my job right now hits us pretty hard. We were at AnimeFest this last weekend to meet you guys and hopefully provide you with some entertainment on the panels, but even though we were invited out as guests, I had to take three days off of work unpaid to be there, and hope to god I made up the difference with merchandise sales. Comic con nearly killed us this year, and we’re STILL playing catch-up because of it. I’m just sitting here looking at the potential of finding another job where I don’t HAVE the ability to just take time off for conventions, and realizing that the possibility of facing a situation where I have to choose between work and the comic is very real. I don’t want to have to make that choice … I LOVE doing this comic, and I would do it gladly until the day I die. It’s my dream. I honestly drifted when I was younger, because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life… until I the comic came along. This the one thing that I can honestly see myself doing every day, and still loving it.

Every time we’re at a convention, we say over and over again that when you do something like a comic, you have to do it for yourself – that no matter what, if NOBODY else was reading it, you’d still do it. And I still think that’s true, but I have to amend it a bit… I ALSO do the comic because it’s a way for me to connect with all of you. We LOVE going to these various different conventions and having meetups because we get to meet all of you. Ask the people who showed up to the first Lockhart meetup we had, who wound up coming back to our house for Rock Band and beer. I do this because knowing that I have a part in the lives of so many people is just astounding to me. I’ve never done it for the money – which is good, because as we made really clear at the con this weekend, being an online cartoonist isn’t a lucrative profession. Parents don’t hope their kids grow up to be online cartoonists. It’s never really been about money… if I could live without any overhead and just do this comic for kicks, I would.

So, to sum it all up, here’s what I’m considering. Similar to the drive we did for Liz’ summer tuition, (which I’m still working on getting everything out for, given the limited time I have each day to work on it) we’d set up a simple progress bar with the ACTUAL dollar amount stamped on it each month, representing, in essence, the amount of funds needed to keep me a full-time cartoonist. I’d probably have three different tiers, where tier one is just anyone who donates any amount gets a free whatever, be it wallpaper or other digital curiosity, anyone who donates over $15 gets something tangible sent to them, such as a print, or a postcard or somesuch, and anyone who donates over $50 gets a monthly Real Life newsletter-type booklet, which will contain special comics that don’t appear online, random fun stuff, and a sharpie sketch in the back of every one. Again, I’m still working on getting things squared away from the last donation drive, but if I were able to devote 100% of my workday to this, it would be a fairly simple matter. So long as we’re able to recieve enough funds each month to keep going, I can be your full-time cartoonist and bring you a top-notch comic every day of the week, without fail. If it fails, and we don’t recieve enough money to cover expenses, then I’ll probably have to go rejoin the workforce and maintain someone’s website or work tech support or something.

I won’t lie to you… in an economy like this, the thought of trying this out is utterly terrifying. I’m only considering it because I have ONE thing I do reasonably well, and which I enjoy. I’d dearly love to be able to do just that one thing and make it my full-time job. Right now, I can’t do that without your help. So before I commit to it and say this is the direction I’d like to go… I need your advice, your support, and your ideas. Send me an e-mail to gregdean@gmail.com and let me know what you think. I’m all ears, guys.