Resilient As a Tree: An Update During These Troubling Times

I’ve been thinking about resilience quite a bit over the last few days.

There’s a meditation on the Sanvello app about imagining yourself as a tree. As being as resilient as a tree. Because trees still grow, regardless of how nurturing or toxic the soil is from year to year. They keep growing no matter how windy it gets (and I’ve seen a lot of winds coming through and knocking over branches here. But never a whole tree). Trees stand tall no matter how cold, or hot, it gets. And people are like trees that way: no matter how hot or cold, or windy or stagnant, toxic or nurturing our environment is…we stand tall. Like the trees.

When I was on the Navajo reservation, the other students and I were guided through a sweat-lodge ceremony. Before it started, the woman who led us said, “Look at these trees around us. We people are like the trees, diverse and yet still beautiful. That tree there is short and skinny, but still beautiful. That tree there is tall and knotted and has twists in its trunk, but is still beautiful. And we are the same way. Remember that.” And I have. It’s always stuck with me.

I think, ultimately, people are resilient. Humans are resilient. We are adaptable. It’s one of our strengths as a species. We can live pretty much anywhere, from Iceland to the Sahara desert.

I think we as a species will survive what’s going on right now. Even though there are memes about “the earth is healing now that humans don’t poop out carbon emissions!” or “humans are the real virus!!!11!!” or “guess we’ll just die now.”

I’ve never been a defeatist. Or a cynic. (Or an eco-fascist, but that’s a different blog post).

I’ve been on a rather emotional healing journey for the last month, coming to grips with the fact that I have lived through rough shit. And I’ve seen rough shit. And I’ve seen other people who have been through the same crap as I have, or worse, come out as cynics.

But it’s just not in my programming. I can’t be a cynic.

I have too much empathy.

More importantly, I have too much hope.

Or maybe right now, it’s enough hope.

All of which is to say – all things considered…

I’m ok.

And that’s a weird thing to say. Because here’s the truth: a LOT of artists are getting hit REAL hard right now. With events getting cancelled left and right, or postponed until fall or winter… a lot of artists, writers, musicians, and other creatives are losing their livelihoods.

And it’s not just them: the venues they would have performed or exhibited at are closing. That means the jobs associated with those venues, from food service workers to event organizers to ticket sellers to security – they’re all getting laid off.

And what I see a LOT of on social media feeds are people ranting about folks who are hoarding. (Insert toilet paper joke here).

Honestly, the best thing you can do right now is reach out to the creative people in your life and check in on them. Ask them if they’re ok – because they probably aren’t.

There are creatives trying desperately to figure out how they’ll pay their bills and keep themselves fed with no events to sell at. There are staffers panicking over the same things.

So I encourage you to reach out to creatives. Don’t just ask if they’re ok.

Ask what you can do to help.

It can be anything, from donating money to donating food. Literally anything will help.

Because the other truth is: artists are often the first to run livestreams or other virtual events to help raise money for charities. As Amanda Palmer puts it, creatives are the first to do charity events…

But they are THE LAST to get assistance. More often, they’re the first on the chopping block to be denied assistance.

It should not be this way.

And in my opinion, I think this crisis we are all going through as a collective is making us realize that the old way of doing things is no longer working.

Now is the time to reach out and help however you can. Even if you can only just call or text to talk to someone.

As for me…

Like I said, I’m surprisingly ok. I have a lot of food (in fact, I’m organizing a little no-contact pantry swap with a friend of mine after I post this). I have a LOT saved back as a cushion, and most of it is liquid, meaning I’m not pulling from retirement savings in the event that I need the funds.

Also, to my surprise, I still have freelance clients who haven’t bailed on me during this crisis. I’ve also started working with a new startup, NeverEnding, Inc, which is exciting. And I still have KickStarter rewards to fulfill. I’m incredibly privileged to have this, and I’ve been sharing my resources however I can to help other artists.

A lot of people have been complaining about the social distancing required to contain the calamity, but I’m already a social recluse outside of convention season. At the moment I don’t have roommates except for my cats. But I have friends and family I can text and call. My D&D group is figuring out virtual playing spaces. I’ve been listening to new music and enjoying my down time. All in all, I’m ok.

I will say, because convention season has been effectively cancelled for the next few months, I will be doing a livestream every Saturday on YouTube until further notice. These livestreams will run from 1 pm to 3 pm EST. Each livestream I’ll be doing different things.

This Saturday, from 1 pm to 3 pm EST, I’ll be drawing commissions from my latest KickStarter campaign. Who knows what I’ll do the week after that?

Thanks for reading, and for reaching out.

Keep being awesome.

Why Freelancers Should Have AT LEAST One Day Off Per Week

sleeping dragon sketch for blog post about why freelancers need one day off a week

I’m inspired to write this as part of my Freelance Lifestyle blog series for one big reason: because I think all freelancers should have at LEAST one day off per week.

The inspiration came after I watched a video from The Personal Philosophy Project about freelancing. I liked her other videos, but I wanted to see if there was something new in her approach to freelancing that I hadn’t thought of.

Unfortunately, in her video, she says, “freelancers never have a day off.”

NOT. TRUE. AT ALL.

Freelancers ABSOLUTELY need days off. The difference is that freelancers have to plan for them.

I have always made it a personal point to keep one day off per week. Even if I had to take a part-time job working retail or (most recently) at a gas station, I made it clear from the start with people that I keep ONE day of the week off. No exceptions.

(Part of the reason I left the gas station was because they were beginning to break that. They kept trying to call me in to work on my ONE DAY OFF. I repeatedly had to tell them no.)

I’m so dedicated to keeping one day of the week absolutely work-free because of one super simple reason:

To avoid burnout.

When I had the “freelancers work 24/7!” mentality, I burned out frequently. I had high anxiety and nearly had panic attacks. I would be irritable with everyone around me, client, friend, or otherwise.

It’s not the best way for you to shine.

Also, working 24/7/365 is the best way to make your home an absolute mess that you never clean. Working constantly is also a good way to never cook for yourself, or make time for your friends or pets or family.

You. Need. A Day Off.

What day of the week should you keep off? That depends on the work that you do.

My recommendation is to find the slowest day of the week in your work schedule, and make that your day off.

For me, for the longest time, that was Sundays. But now that I’m back to freelancing full-time (and a surprising amount of work is only available on the weekends), I’m considering changing it to Wednesdays.

But whether it’s Sunday or Wednesday, I fully plan on keeping a day off.

Because dammit, I need a rest and a recharge.

In this way, we are like phones: if you keep your phone running 24/7, it WILL overheat, slow down, glitch, and run out of battery FAST.

Same goes for you.

So I urge you, if you truly want to embrace the freelance lifestyle: Give yourself one day out of the week to just shut off and recharge. You’ll thank yourself for it later. I promise.

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

Custom T-Shirts, Anyone?

Here’s what I’m thinking:

I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who really like some designs I do. And they’ve asked (sometimes urged) that I make these designs into a T-shirt.

Thing is, though, is that actually designing a T-shirt and getting it printed takes a lot of time – and it’s not something I wanna do for the poops and/or giggles.

If I’m gonna’ make a T-shirt, I’m not doing it for free, ya’ dig?

But I also don’t wanna’ get bulk orders of 1000 T-shirts. A LOT of shirt printers will do this: their machines are only set up to print off designs in bulk. I just don’t have the storage space to house 1000 T-shirts that I’m not wearing.

I DO know a handful of printers who can print 1 to 10 shirts at a time, though.

So I thought, “What if I started offering to make custom T-shirts for people?”

This idea also came from a Vlogbrothers video, in which Hank Green has a shirt that says, “Don’t Talk To Me About My T-Shirt or I’ll Put Forks in You.” A Nerdfigher designed and printed the shirt for him, and it’s the only shirt in existence. That design was (to my knowledge) not mass produced.

I saw that, and I was like, “I could do that!”

The big issue would be pricing these shirts, and I imagine this is where people would get turned off by it.

Just by my rough math, a custom, one-of-a-kind “Fork-In-You” quality individual shirt would cost:

  • One of the commission rates for the design – likely $25 for a black and white design, $60 for the color.
  • $10 for the shirt itself.
  • $10 shipping and handling.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I know anybody who would be ok with forking over $80 at most (or $45 at least) for a single custom T-shirt. Even if they knew they would be the only person on Earth with that specific design.

What are your thoughts on the matter, though?

Bringing Blog Posts Back!

rathacon convention artist alley table 2017

Alright! I’m back from RathaCon in Athens, OH. Not a whole lot of sales were made, but lots of folks signed up for the email newsletter and, by the sounds of it, I got a comic shop in the area interested in consigning my books. Plus I got to meet an indie filmmaker looking for pitches (I’ll get to him in the next post), and a T-shirt designer who REALLY liked my Dia de la Gata card design and wanted to get that on a shirt. (I’ll get to that in the blog post after the one about the filmmaker.) Continue reading “Bringing Blog Posts Back!”

These Updates Brought to You By Ukulele

(This video was recorded January 17, 2017)

All the relevant links I mentioned:

Validation

Validation‘s Patreon Page

The Case of the Wendigo

My Patreon Page (especially for The Case of the Wendigo)

Storenvy (to get my comics, minicomics, prints, miniprints, etc)

Thoughtful Dinosaur KickStarter Page

Sign up for my email newsletter to find out when I can do commissions for you

The Thomcast

WheezyWaiter

My Review of Heart of Darkmeat

The next vlog update will be after Feb 23rd. Any comics-related news from me will be on this here blog.

Thank you for watching!

You. Are. Awesome.