– – –
For 2020, I’m hoping to finish “Lounger.” I have a lot of other stories in the planning stages, but the one I have most fleshed out is going to be called Callisto 7 and is an existentialist sci-fi fiasco. I feel like This Wasn’t the Plan went as far with personal, realistic fiction as I want to go for the time being. I really want to move in new directions and break my own restrictions about the kinds of stories I “should” and “shouldn’t” do.
Looking back on the past decade, the biggest thing was finishing Carnivale. The first printing came out in March of 2014. I started it in late 2005. I worked on it while being a new parent and a new college teacher. It was an act of faith. I serialized it on the old version of the nijomu website and got some feedback and some mentions on different sites. Yet when the book was done and printed there was almost no reaction. It was a blow. Getting rid of the old website was part of that reaction. I know that there all kinds of lessons about expectations and marketing that can be made, but from my initial perspective it was the biggest book I had ever made and it had taken years of my life. And I was excited about it. And that was met with silence. It took me some time to recover.
I decided that I should try to put my energies elsewhere. I have often mentioned that in high school and college I wrote poetry, only submitted work twice, and was published on the second try. So I thought to go back to that and try to get published in literary anthologies. That proved to be challenging. Most literary anthologies don’t accept comics and the ones that do often have strict requirements about format. And kind of like putting books on consignment, submitting to various anthologies required a lot of logistical work that took time away from actually creating comics. Still, I like some of the things that I created in that time. Those works can be found in The Lost Cause of Poetry.
Of course, there are also the three works that comprise This Wasn’t the Plan. I think that I’m still too close to them to have insight about what they mean yet. But I used the book to try a different publishing angle. I even got a nice review through Foreword Reviews and a blurb in The New York Review of Books. But none of that translated into sales.
Of course, all of this begs the question: maybe my work just sucks. Maybe my work’s lack of attention is just what my work deserves. I even considered sending my books out to successful comics artists and asking them: “does this suck?” Then I realized that it wouldn’t matter what they told me; at the end of the day I’d create comics anyway. On the one hand, the only way not to suck is to keep going and create something that is worthwhile. On the other hand, it is the act of creating and the satisfaction of completing comics that drive me.
So at the end of the decade I don’t feel that I know anything more than I did at the beginning. Though in some ways I feel better about the idea that what I care about is creating comics. Yes, I’d like those creations to communicate to more people, but it’s the act of creation that is most important to me. Comics is a practice. And I want to focus on the practice. The effects of that practice are a side benefit and my trying to force those effects seems to lead me only to frustration. So I guess I’ve just spent the last decade confirming my original stance. It’s only the work that matters.