#1: Big Goals
A comic book in every comic shop within two years.
There. I just shared one of my big goals in comics. So let me ask, what are yours? You do have big goals, right?
Hi there. My name is Tyler James, and welcome to Creating Comics! The Art & Craft. In this column, which will run every Monday here at Comic Related, I plan to share what I've learned about making comics in the pursuit of the above goal. Expect a weekly dose of tips and tricks that I've learned over the years (sometimes the hard way) illustrated by examples from exemplary published work or from my own projects. It's my aim to also provide a weekly ration of inspiration, something you'll need a lot of if you're going to sustain a passion for making comics and building a career in this medium. So buckle up, because today we kick off this series with a discussion of the importance of goal setting.
If you're reading this article, chances are you have a strong interest in comics. And as we all know, many, if not most comic fans aspire to create comic of their own someday. And if you are a living, breathing, human being, I'll bet you have dreams, wants and desires. But take a minute to ask yourself, "Do I have goals?"
There IS a difference. See, a goal is a dream with a time-frame attached. The ability to set and achieve goals is one of the defining characteristics of mankind. To live a full, satisfying life, you need to define goals and create a plan for their accomplishment. And what I suggest is that you do so explicitly. Goals and desires that stay tucked away in the back of your mind usually stay there. If there is something you truly want to accomplish in your life, the very first step is to write it down. Studies show that only three percent of people in the world ever actually write down their life goals. And guess what? Those three percent end up accomplishing far more in their lives than the remaining ninety-seven. There is power in writing down your goals. So get out those pens!
Okay, so you've written them down. Feel good? Sure it does. Are you done? Not in the slightest. The next thing you should do is tell somebody about your goals. I know, I know, it's hard to share your goals and dreams and aspirations with others. (Will they think they are stupid? Impossible? Will they care? Will they laugh?) You need to get over that, because there is a power in the spoken word as well. By sharing your goals with other people, you're making a statement of where you're headed. Chances are, you're going to need some help and some support along the way. So letting other people know your intentions is a good habit to get into.
Alright, you've written down your goals, and you've told somebody. But, watch out for a trap in goal setting. What's the most common mistake people make when goal setting? Most people would probably say it is coming up with unrealistic goals. I don't think that's it. Unless your goal is impossible (ex. I'd like to get bit by a radioactive spider and gain the proportionate strength of ten men by next Groundhog's Day) there are actually some great reasons to set wildly-ambitious goals. Best-selling author Timothy Ferris has an interesting perspective on goal setting. He argues that ninety-nine percent of the people in the world are convinced achieving great things is impossible, so they aspire to mediocre heights. Thus, the competition for "realistic" goals is the fiercest, whereas there are very few people actually aspiring to greatness. Ferris also warns that the achievement of a mediocre goal will produce a mediocre payoff. Thus, abandoning mediocre goals is a lot easier than abandoning unrealistic goals. Like I said, an interesting perspective. It doesn't take any more effort to have big dreams than small ones, so why not have big ones?
No, the setting of too high or unattainable goals is not the problem most people have. Go ahead, shoot for the moon. But make sure that once you've set that clearly articulated, ambitious goal, you take time to figure out your first step toward achieving it. In fact, I'll challenge you to plan your first three steps. Before you finish your goal setting, you should clearly define the next three actions on the course to achieving your goal. They should be something you can do right away, something you can do tomorrow, and something you can do the day after that. These might be incredibly small things. That's okay. You need to walk before you can run. The importance is to get some momentum in the direction of your goal.
So, how many steps are in front of me to achieve my goal of having a comic book I created in every shop in America? A lot. But, a lot less than there were a year ago. Here are some of the steps I've taken and milestones I've reached in the past year or so that have moved me closer to achieving my goal:
- Attended my first major comic book convention as a fan.
- Cashed a check from DC Comics (Thanks to Super Seed being featured in Zuda Comics April 2008 Competition.)
- Tabled at four Boston-area comic conventions, selling books directly to fans for the first time.
- Started a blog to publicize my comic book related projects and musings.
- Wrote comic book scripts for three new series.
- Worked with three strong artists and one great colorist on submissions packages for those three projects.
- Started teaching a class called Creating Comics! at both the local adult and continuing education center and a local middle school.
- Networked with a number of up-and-coming creators at conventions and online.
- Read 8 books on the craft of creating comics, storytelling and screenwriting.
- Finished a feature-length screenplay, and started adapting it into an online graphic novel that will debut next month.
- Learned to make, buy and sell internet banner ads.
- Learned how to use Wordpress/Comicspress to manage my own webcomics going forward...
And I could go on and on. I've had a productive year, and each of the things listed above all are directly related to my goal of becoming a nationally known and read comic creator.
I'm not writing these things to boast, though I'm certainly proud of these accomplishments. Rather, I mention them to illustrate the fact that it's a journey to get to the destination I've set out for myself. I'm sure many of you share the dream to one day be a "successful" comic book creator. The question I have for you is, what is your definition of success? Is it completing a comic book and seeing it on the stands or in Previews? Is it writing Spider-man for Marvel or Superman for DC? Is it having Hollywood snatch up one of your comic properties to make into a movie and toss gobs of money your way? While these are great goals to aspire to, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, they are not the definition of success. Rather, they are byproducts of success. What success truly is, is the progressive realization of worthwhile personal goals. It doesn't take a three picture movie deal or a call up to the big leagues from Joey Q. to make you successful in comics. You can start being successful today by setting goals, writing them down, talking about them, and taking steps toward achieving them. The secret is, once each milestone is reached, you need to keep defining next steps toward that big goal.
What are my next steps? I've clearly had a busy year, but I'm still a ways from having one of my comics grace of all of your local comic shops. So what am I doing now to move closer to that goal? Well, I'll be launching two self-published webcomics this summer in an effort to put out comic content on a consistent basis. I have a third project that I'm currently shopping to publishers, and another in development. I'm planning on tripling the number of conventions I table at this next year, and plan to get my books into as many people's hands as possible. I'm increasing my presence on the net, contributing content to great comics communities like Comic Related. But most importantly, I'm creating comics, writing scripts, drawing pages, and telling stories. And I'm having a blast doing it.
This week, I challenge you to do the following:
- Set a big goal you'd like to achieve within the next year or so.
- Write it down and post it somewhere you will see it often.
- Tell someone about your goal (a friend, a stranger, mom, or be brave and post it in the new comments field below!)
- Identify something you can do right this very minute (or at least by the end of the day) that will move you closer to that goal.
- Then figure out something you can do the following day, and the day after that.
Do these things, and you're already on your way to achieving your goals.
Next Week: Resolutions
Tyler James is the writer and artist of Super Seed, the story of the world's first super powered fertility clinic, and is currently working on a number of other projects that will debut this summer. Tyler teaches a series of workshops on creating comics for adults and children, and works as a game designer and content producer for a video game company. He currently resides in Newburyport, MA.
Contact Tyler directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, keep up with him at his blog, or follow him on Twitter. And comment, comment, comment!
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