Take a Christmas Break
A couple of years ago, I posted a few thoughts on the idea of taking a weeklong hiatus for the Christmas holiday. It featured a guest post from “How To Make Webcomics” co-author Dave Kellett on the topic. The entire thing is worth a read, but I’ll paraphrase:
This is not a 9-to-5 job where you can clock out and forget it… And sure, it doesn’t seem like “work” because you love it so dang much. But you have to call a spade a spade. It’s still work.
That becomes evident after a few years of producing a strip. And especially after you’ve worked on comics through delirious sickness, or while drawing tomorrow’s strip on a cramped airplane, or during the funeral weekend of a deceased family member. You work through those crappy times, because you’re a pro, and this is what pros do. But when you do that a few times, your ego kicks in. You start to think maybe you could do this forever, without a break. That if a flu can’t stop you, or a grandmother’s death can’t stop you, then you must really be a machine. And you start to see how Sparky was able to do this for 50 years. And more dangerously, start to envision how you could do it, too.
But you can’t. Or, as I realized in 2010, even if you can do it… that you shouldn’t. You have to allow yourself a break. A space of time for your brain to recharge. Sure, hard work had gotten me the cartooning life I always wanted, but hard work would be my undoing, too, if I let it.
So last year, between Christmas and New Years, I gave myself a gift I had never previously allowed myself: A genuine vacation. Ten days of time with friends, of reading, of playing games, of stress-free family time, and of unclenching that cartooning muscle that’s always looking for the joke. It was absolutely lovely.
And it worked. That time off not only relaxed my soul and rekindled my relationships. It also sparked dozens of story ideas, gave me new business insights, and planted seeds for bigger projects down the road. Most importantly, I had a sense of joy back in my cartooning, to replace the increasing sense of drudgery that had been creeping in. That’s critical, because joy can be sensed in your strip. And after the vacation, it was a joy again to make.