Laziness. It's the kryptonite to any creativity. Heck, to any living and breathing person. Add to that…comfortability. To sort of settle in to something, get locked in, and bunker down. To get too comfortable.
I've been working in comics now going on 14 years. At my most ambitious would be those years just trying to break in. The hours spent chained to a table, working on your craft throughout the day into the middle of the night, and forgoing time spent with family, friends, other entertainment, food, and sleep. You're juggling school, a day job (in my case, a night shift), and still working on samples. Sending photocopies off through snail mail (ahhh…those were the days before the internet really took over). And attending as many conventions to talk to editors and get portfolios reviewed. It's a time of great ambition to get that foot in the door. That toe in the door.
And it doesn't stop there. After you're in, then comes the true test. The work. The deadlines. Juggling projects. The downtime between projects. The hunt for work. The networking. The conventions (now behind the table instead of in front of it). You're now "in", but can you stay in.
For the longest time, I was very comfortable being an inker. It's a very technical, grueling, and arguably under-appreciated profession. Applying ink over another artist so you can collaborate to create a final image. A final product. In some ways, I'd even say it can cater to a lazy artist. A comfortable artist. In that, you don't have to start from scratch. You don't have to stare at that blank page. You get pencils sent to you, or in some cases you print them out, and you have everything right there before you to start. You don't have that trepidation that comes with an empty piece of paper. The frustration that comes with trying to create from scratch, erase, try again, erase, get frustrated, tear the page up and try again. Once an inker gets a page, they can literally grab a good night's rest, wake up, roll out of bed, pick up their brush and pen, and start. Sure we might slowly warm up and get adjusted the longer we ink on that page. Or some days the ink doesn't flow as nice as we'd like. But there's a comfortability factor of having the page already half done in front of you on the table, and then you come in and complete its journey.
I was content being an inker. Just an inker. For many years of my career. It can even be both an enviable feeling along with feeling sorry for those that only want to ink. Again, it's a thankless profession, admired mostly by the penciller that works with the inker, as well as the hardcore fan that appreciates the delicacy of the work. And I was comfortable doing that. Years of it and only it. But you get restless and you want more. You want to achieve more.
Props to all the inkers that only ink and make a long career of it (20 or 30 years of it). They hone their craft. They get known working over various pencillers. Some of them become interchangeable while others are known as a team, when you think of one, you think of the other. But I'm always surprised and slightly saddened by those inkers that last as long as they do. The ones that stick it out and actually retire ONLY as an inker. To be so focused. To be so content. I see it as liking pizza. I love pizza. But I don't want to eat pizza every day, every year, for 30 years. Even with different toppings. I still have other tastes. I still want more variety.
Writing definitely scratches that itch. What I'm not able to achieve visually, I'm unhindered by with my words and imagination. And we've had some great inkers in comics that started out but then grew into great writers. And I'm quite surprised there aren't more of them out there. As inking jobs start becoming few and far between, that we don't start seeing more inkers try their hands at writing and pencilling. Some do. But there are those just happy where they're at. Inking got my foot in the door. And once there, it was maybe a sideways attempt at using that opportunity to have a chance to write. Plus it's nice to know my time in college and my English degree can actually can start paying off!
I've also been enjoying the collaborative aspect of writing with other writers. I think so few do that. So many, understandably, have their own ideas. Their own solo voice to tell the stories they want to tell. I have that too. But I also enjoy the aspect of working with a writing partner on various projects. You learn from each other. You find out your weaknesses as well as your strengths. You balance each other out. You learn to adapt, to focus on what's important (and cut out what isn't). You become generous and learn how to share. You champion the end goal. You share the reward.
Drawing is probably the next goal at this point. It's been a frustration of not being able to apply what I see in my mind, through my hand, to the pencil, onto the blank page. Artists are our own worst critics, and self hate always keeps me away from the pencil. But when I would pick it up, drawing was always something I did to humor others, and when inspired, also myself. But I'm slowly starting to get that itch. To maybe start to do something more with it. Draw stories. Have fun again. Just another facet to explore when I feel creative.
At this point, I feel like I never want to only ink or only write or only draw. Ideally I enjoy a little bit of everything. A smorgasbord (very appropriate to part of my Swedish heritage)…a buffet of some inking, some writing, some drawing. Every day you end up scratching a different itch. It keeps things alive and moving forward.
In the end, it all comes down to doing what you love. You might just love one thing and doing that forever to perfection or trying to reach that perfection. Others might like to try a range of stuff. Dabble in a few things. Stop with one, start with another. But I think it starts to come down to getting out of that comfort zone. To be scared but also exhilarated. To grow. To reach for new things.