2021 Resolutions

I get the feeling that everyone is losing their minds right now, and I am no exception. It’s difficult to make plans for the future when I have trouble imagining a future even existing in the first place. I’m doing my best, though. This is what I have so far…

(1) Delete Facebook.

I actually just went ahead and did this.

(2) Switch the web browsers on my phone and iPad to Firefox.

It’s going to be annoying to have to re-enter all my passwords for everything over the next few days, but I went ahead and did this too. I’m not paranoid about web security, especially since 95% of what I do online is to double-check dates on Wikipedia and look up Korok seed locations, but fuck Chrome and Safari. You can’t delete the apps, but I cleared all the history and cookies.

(3) Create a page on Linktree and post it on my Instagram bio.

Despite my distaste for anything even remotely related to Facebook, I was surprised by how much engagement my account on Instagram has gotten during the past year, so why not. Since it takes less than ten minutes, I went ahead and made a Linktree page (here).

(4) Reprint my zines and sell them for actual money.

I’ve allowed everything on my Etsy store (here) to sell out, and as of this morning I only have two zines and three stickers left. In 2020, I’d like to make a few more edits to my zines and reprint them. When I do, I’m going to keep track of all the expenses and figure out a price point that ensures I’m no longer losing money with each sale. What this probably means is that I’ll charge $5 per zine. I’m also going to start charging for shipping. Etsy doesn’t make this easy, so figuring out how it’s supposed to work is going to be a challenge.

(5) Reprint my business cards.

Somehow, in 2020, I managed to run out of business cards by including one with each zine order from Etsy. I should probably edit them to reflect my creative work and active social media before reprinting them.

(6) Create a section on my website for creative publications.

I need to figure out a good way to do this, since it’s the majority of what I do now. I should probably also update my bio to reflect this.

(7) Start mentioning my Patreon on Twitter.

I have a creator account on Patreon (here) that I use to post short artist’s statements on my writing, comics, and illustrations. With a small number of exceptions (which involve timed releases of the work I’ve submitted to zines), everything is completely free and open and accessible. I’ve been updating this account fairly regularly – usually twice a week – during the past year, and I think I’m ready to make it a bit more public.

(8) Finally play Root Letter.

I’ve heard interesting things about this visual novel, and it’s been at the top of my “games I’ve been meaning to play” list since a North American version was released for Nintendo Switch in 2019. It was recently on sale on Nintendo’s online store (here), so I went ahead and downloaded it to my console.

(9) Participate in the 2021 Sketchbook Project.

This is another thing that’s discounted right now (here), so I went ahead and ordered my sketchbook for the next series. I think the likelihood of anyone ever looking at my work is slim to none, but having my sketchbooks professionally digitized and catalogued in an actual library makes me feel special and important. I’ll take what I can get.

(10) Buy a cute Halloween costume for my dog.

Probably from Hachicorp. I’m thinking of (this one). I know what you’re thinking, but listen. It’s never too early to plan for Halloween.

Re: 2020 Resolutions

My resolutions for 2020 were to publish my book about comics, somehow find a way to leave my horrible job at George Mason University, and move to Philadelphia so that I could actually live with my spouse without anyone having to commute across a continental landmass two or three times a week.

I managed to do all of these things! During a pandemic! Nice!!

I had a few other resolutions, but most of them fell by the wayside, mainly due to said pandemic.

Still, my art went from (this) to (this), which is very fucking cool.

I published two zines of horror-themed flash fiction, one in April and one in October, and I ended up selling more than a hundred of copies of each zine on Etsy – with a lot of positive reviews and repeat buyers! I was able to exhibit at the Philly Zine Fest this year, and a few local bookstores in Philadelphia and Baltimore stocked copies of my zines. Sweet!

I also started submitting short fiction to magazines. I haven’t gotten anything published yet, but I’m getting a better sense of the market. I was accepted as a writer to a handful of original and fandom zines, though, so I know my work is good. I just have to keep writing and improving my craft and submitting stories.

Finally – and this is such a big deal to me – I started writing my first original novel!

Because of my success with various projects this year, I’m starting to realize that maybe I don’t need to worry so much about gatekeepers. The work I do is interesting and original, and I’d like to think that it’s only getting sharper and more creative with each passing week.

The most important thing, however, is that I’m enjoying my work for the first time in a long time.

2020 Numbers

In 2020…

I read 125 books.
I read 138 graphic novels.
I read 120 manga in English and Japanese.
I read 178 self-published zines, minicomics, and fanzines.
I watched 15 movies.
I finished 12 video games.
I posted 88 new drawings.
I made 136 posts on this blog.
I commissioned 31 comics and illustrations.

Most of these numbers are down from the previous year. It turns out that the pandemic did not make me more productive. Imagine that!

Earlier this year I set a goal for myself to be more selective about the media I engage with and not waste my precious time (and money) on things I don’t enjoy, and I guess I succeeded. I’d like to continue that trend and actually consume fewer books, manga, and so on in the coming year.

The one area I experienced growth was the frequency with which I was able to post relatively polished pieces of art (on Instagram and on Tumblr). Going from 60 posts in 2019 to 88 posts in 2020 meant that I went from posting one piece a week to posting three pieces every two weeks. I’m going to be honest and admit that this required a lot of work, especially since I’m still teaching myself relatively basic skills.

The way social media operates is that anything you post becomes more or less irrelevant after 12 hours, and the resulting pressure to be constantly productive isn’t healthy or sustainable. Still, at this stage of my artistic development, it’s nice to get immediate feedback and then be able to move on to the next thing quickly.

During the next year, I want to continue to dedicate myself to pushing my skill to the next level while figuring out how to work with better attention and efficiency. If possible, I want to be able to post finished pieces twice a week in 2021. I also want to expand the range of subjects I’m able to draw and spend more time working on backgrounds, landscapes, and interiors.

2019 Resolution

I want to play more video games!

I tend to get obsessed with one game and play it for hundreds of hours. For most of 2017 and 2018, that game was Breath of the Wild, and it’s currently Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. Since there are only so many hours in the day and only so many days in the year, this means that I don’t play many new games, which is exacerbated by the fact that I really enjoy replaying older games.

This year I’d like to set time aside to play games I’m interested in but don’t play because I feel like I’ve already exceeded my quota of fun by staying up until two in the morning filling in rows of a character’s license grid (or collecting Koroks or, you know, whatever). I also have an irrational compulsion to finish games even if they stop being fun, which means I’m unlikely to pick up a new game unless it’s a #1 Top Tier Indie Classic That Requires No Time Commitment. I’d like to get past this and try new things!

I’m limited by the fact that I refuse to play games on Steam, but I still have a short list of games I’d like to try now that they’re starting to be released on the Nintendo Switch, like Kentucky Route Zero and Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery. During the past year the University of Minnesota Press started putting out fantastic and inexpensive paperback monographs on games and gaming culture that have veered away from the pretentious “Videogames As One Word™: I Am A Straight White Man” genre that currently characterizes the majority of academic writing on games and have instead focused more on broader strands of literary and Media Studies criticism. Aubrey Anable’s Playing with Feelings is a good example of the sort of interesting work that’s coming out in the series, and reading books like this makes me want to sit down and play every single game under discussion. Saying that scholarship has made me want to play games is peak nerd, and I am ashamed of myself, but still.

Video games! Let’s play them in 2019!!

2018 Commissions and Goals

In 2018 I commissioned 52 comics and illustrations, which turns out to be one piece of art for every week of the year. This seems like kind of a lot, in retrospect.

Aside from a few ongoing projects, like a series of illustrations for a fanfic novel and my first real attempts to collaborate with artists on comics I’ve written, a lot of these were “emergency commissions” for people who needed money. Most of these artists were asking for almost no money at all for their work, and my general strategy was to give them twice what they asked upfront and then the full amount again when they sent me the artwork. I was very poor for most of my life, and I feel like I want to give people the sort of small financial and emotional boost I could have used when I was younger. That being said, I wish we lived in a world where “emergency commissions” aren’t necessary to help cover things like transportation and basic healthcare.

Some of these commissions were never completed, which I totally understand. If someone is struggling with health issues, you give them a free pass, you know? In fact, I go into all commissions fully expecting that they will never be finished, and I’m pleasantly surprised when they are – which they almost always are, because most artists are good people. On the other hand, a few artists completed my commissions but never posted their work and asked that I not post it myself. I don’t understand this quite so well, to be honest, but I think I’ve figured out enough of a pattern to avoid this type of person in the future.

I always try to be clear and concise in my communication with artists, but I’ve started to take special care to make it clear that part of what I’m commissioning is an opportunity for mutual self-promotion. Of course I want to support artists (and honestly, I would financially support writers too if the culture of fandom had gone in that direction), and of course I want there to be more art and positive representation in the world. Still, there’s often real money changing hands, and I’m not paying artists – especially professional artists – entirely out of the goodness and generosity of my heart.

I am a serious writer who wants to work with serious artists. My end goal, such as it is, is to gain the skills and experience to collaborate on creative projects that will break out of my own small circles of fandom and attract the attention of a larger audience. Just as a lot of professional artists gain a following in fandom before achieving the critical mass necessary to break into the industry, I want to do be able to do the same as a writer.

Unfortunately, there are barriers. The first is that I have a full-time job that demands most of my emotional and creative energy, and my employment situation is still precarious. The second is that I am not wealthy, which limits the number of creative projects I can fund. The third is that I’m an introvert who is very shy about approaching people, and I really can’t perform the sort of hustle necessary to place myself a position where I might conceivably start attracting attention by being visible and outspoken. The fourth is that I’m still deeply scarred by all the harassment I’ve dealt with on Tumblr, which has had the added effect of shutting me out of communities that would otherwise support me and help promote the specific type of work I’m doing. The fifth is gender, an issue that manages to be nuanced and complicated yet also entirely self-explanatory.

(Seriously though. Why are almost all comic writers male? I know that female comic writers exist, obviously, but I say this as someone who attends half a dozen comic conventions and reads hundreds of large-press, small-press, and self-published comics every year.)

But I’m putting in the work, and Lord knows I’m putting in the time and money. This year I threw a lot of ideas and projects into the air just to see where they landed, and I think I learned a few things from the process. Next year I’m going to try to be more strategic and efficient regarding what I commission. I still want to support artists and create art, but I’m also going to need to focus on projects that have a higher level of professional potential and impact, both for myself and for the artists who are kind enough to work with me.

And I know this is going to sound mercenary, but I prefer to think of it as recentering my sense of balance – I need to stop devoting so many resources to supporting a creative community and start devoting more resources to creating a community that will support me.

2018 Resolutions

Then Flourish

– I want the manuscript of Transnational Manga Cultures and the Female Gaze to be submitted to my editor by the end of the year.

– I’m going to finish the novel I’ve been working on since 2016, The Legend of the Princess. I’m going to put it on hold until the end of the spring semester, but I plan to pick it back up again in May.

– This summer I want to draw a short autobio comic about my experience of playing Link’s Awakening as a kid. I’ve already written the script and sketched the thumbnails, and I’m looking forward to sitting down and getting to work!

– I also want to write a love story called “The Moon Over Innsmouth,” a sequel to H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” In my story, the narrator drops out of college, embraces his biracial identity, and learns to celebrate the joy of Polynesian religious traditions as he develops strong romantic feelings for a handsome young fishman.

– I can’t believe I’m actually typing this sentence with my own two hands, but I want to make a firm resolution to PLAY MORE VIDEO GAMES this year. For the past two years I’ve felt like I’m busy and tired all the time, so I need to carve out a chunk of time every day when I don’t do anything meaningful, productive, or related to work in any way.

( Header image from Gaviary on Tumblr )