Punching the Clock

Punching the Clock

October 24, 2014 0 By Chris Lawton

Next week, I will start full-time work for the first time in over five months. I graduated from college with my Master’s degree in English in May, and since that time, I have been awash with applications, resumes, and cover letters, almost to the point of hopeless desperation. As rejection after rejection rolled in, broken up only slightly by the occasional interview, my natural optimism began to wane. I started to question my self-worth, as a job hunter sometimes does, and I often felt as dehumanized as a straight, white male ever can feel dehumanized.

But, then the big call came in earlier this week. I got a full-time job, which starts next week. Jubilation flooded my mind, at first. After that, I was struck with a stunning realization: from here on out, I will have to juggle full-time work and making comics. It’s not impossible, and I’m certainly not the first to experience this, but it definitely took a moment to process.

See, it isn’t that I’ve been out of work entirely. On the contrary, I work a lot. But, for the past few years, I’ve always had flexibility in my job. As a teacher and a grad student, outside of class time, I could choose where and when I would work. After graduating, I started working as a freelance writer/editor, and again, I made my own schedule. I haven’t actually worked a set 40-hours a week, full-time job since before I moved to Omaha in August of 2011.

Starting next week, for the first time in over three years, I will be beholden to someone else’s schedule. I will have specific times I have to punch the clock, and between those times, I will belong to my employer, unable to write or work on Ideal Comics whenever the mood grabs me.

Again, it’s not that I didn’t have responsibilities or paid work to do beforehand, but the introduction of a fixed schedule changes things considerably. While making comics will continue to be a priority, its place within the hierarchy must shift a little bit. Or maybe a lot. I don’t know. I haven’t worked full-time since July of 2011.

I’m terrified of losing my drive and determination. This website has been a bit of a motivator, and I love that. We started this company almost ten years ago, and in that time, we have waned a bit on our discipline and motivation on various occasions. Back when I started grad school, I assured Rhys that I would still be able to maintain my commitment to Ideal Comics. That didn’t last. Grad school was one of the busiest tasks I had ever taken on, and it only grew busier as the semesters passed. During my last semester, when I was finishing my thesis and studying for my comprehensive exams, I actually took a leave of absence from the company entirely, right when Rhys was trying to reinvigorate things. Barry had come onboard, and they were making big plans. I couldn’t help. I just didn’t have time.

After I graduated, though, I was able to throw myself into the website. It became my driving force, and I helped build something pretty great within a few months. Since that time, I’ve attempted to continue that drive by building some pretty lofty plans for the company over the next year, including a digital edition of Zing Comics #1, the long-awaited Zing Comics #2, and some other one-shot comics. While I still have every intention of releasing all of these products, while working full-time, I’m still scared I won’t be able to.

How the heck do other indie creators do it? I don’t claim to have the answer to this, as should be evident by now. I’m as scared as I think I can be about watching something we’ve worked hard to build crumble because I lose my drive. How do you even start processing that out?

I don’t have the answer, but I do think I can figure it out. I achieved a lot in grad school. I probably did more in that three years than I have ever done at one time in my life, and that includes my undergraduate career. I had a lot of different tasks going at all times, from classes I took to classes I taught, and I had to learn to juggle all of that along with some major life-decisions, like getting freaking married. It sounds simple, but I managed to do all of that, while only going slightly insane, through a good old-fashioned to-do list.

Maybe that’s the secret. Not to-do lists, per say. But, instead, organization. Maybe the secret is organization. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but I haven’t always been the most organized person in the world. In the past, I’ve tended to kind of work on projects as they came up, without regard to prioritization or flow. And in the past, that’s gotten me in some real trouble.

I’ve built some good habits over the past few years, and I think that can only continue. I’ve already started a to-do list for next week, and I think I can handle everything. I still have a freelance contract to finish, as well as a few weeks of class left to teach. But, my to-do list is laid out, and it’s all very, very doable. In fact, all laid out, it doesn’t look nearly as intimidating as it originally had looked in my head. Maybe this organization thing IS the answer. At least for my sanity, if nothing else.

I apologize for the weird column today. It was one part rambling and one part depressing and no part fun. It wasn’t what I intended to write about this week, but when I sat down at my computer, this prospect of full-time work starting next week was pretty much all I could think about. I needed to process things out, and as always, writing seemed to be a good way to do this. Additionally, I know I’m not the first one to wrestle with this, and I won’t be the last, so maybe this rambling column will resonate with someone else now or in the future.

Don’t worry. Stupid jokes about comic books and TV shows will resume next week. I even have it on my to-do list.