How to make a comic book when life keeps kicking your arse

Putting an indie comic book series together is a challenge of superheroic proportions at the best of times.

But when life unites its league of super-villains to thwart you every step of the way, you might wonder if it’s even worth continuing.

Health issues! Money worries! Anxiety! The rogues gallery of the indie comic creator simply do not care that you’ve got shit to do and will come at you when you least expect it.

I’m fairly new to the indie comics game, but here’s what I’ve learned so far about how to make a comic book when times are tough.

1. Take a break

Take a break from making comic books

The first step to getting back on track with your comic book is to calm your tits.

Dedicate a couple of days to sorting out whatever it is that’s distracting you and take a little time to chill. Meditate, maybe have a nap and see if the white bit of your eyes comes back – you’ll get far less done in the long run if you burn out.

Granted, not every life problem can be solved with rest (like not having internet in our new flat for SIX WEEKS! We were literally gathered around a barrel fire in the living room telling each other episodes of Rick and Morty) but being calm is at least going to help you deal with it more effectively.

TIP: Reading comics or books about how to make comics (recommended: Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud) is a good idea if you feel anxious about taking your foot off the gas altogether. You can unwind and do some productive research. Books are good like that!

2. Understand you’re spinning plates

How to find time to make comics

If you’re trying to make a comic book while managing a full-time job, attending to family dramas, crowdfunding, living a secret life as a spy… it’s important to understand that when you are making it work, you’re already doing pretty well.

With so many balls in the air, it’s only natural that you’ll drop one or two – and if making comic books isn’t paying your bills, it’s likely the first one on the floor.

In an interview with NPR, stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia revealed a simple trick to getting stuff done after he struggled to write a film script, “I noticed this trend in my life, which was that I was showing up to lunch meetings or business meetings, but I wasn’t showing up to meet myself.

“So I wrote a note next to my bed – this is so corny, but I wrote, ‘Mike! You have an appointment at Café Pedlar at 7am… with your mind!’

“It’s so corny, but I’d show up! I never didn’t show up. I wrote this movie in spurts of essentially three hours, like I’d write from 7am to 10am, and the reason I would do that is because I was essentially barely awake. Because I feel like that moment, at 7 to 10am, you’re not afraid of the world yet.”

3. Remind yourself why you’re making comics

Was there a particular comic book that inspired you to tell visual stories (I’ve been sharing the comic books that inspired Milky next to a lovely cup of coffee on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. There’s one right up there! ☝️)

Get reacquainted with the stories that made you want to become an indie comic creator in the first place.

It’s hard to feel motivated when life is demanding your attention and your comic book project sits on the backburner – but reigniting that passion is a sure-fire way to get you back in the driving seat, regardless of whatever else is going on.

Stan Lee inspired a lot of creators to make comics

TIP: As well as reminding yourself why you’re making comic books, it’s also worth bearing in mind that few people who made it in the industry had an easy ride.

The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman struggled to make ends meet while chasing his comic book dreams and once found himself shaking on the floor as he calculated his minimum credit card repayments…

…and Spawn mastermind Todd McFarlane is living proof that grim determination pays off after getting more than 300 rejections from comic book publishers as a young, aspiring artist…

4. Explain what’s going on

Once you start to make your own comic book series and get the first issue out there, you’ll hopefully have at least a few people who are counting on you to make more.

Being worried about letting down Kickstarter backers, new fans, publishers and even your team can be an extra stress when you’re trying to put your latest issue to bed – especially if you’ve got other life stuff to do battle with.

If you feel like it’s going to take longer than expected to finish your next comic book due to life’s arse-kickery, be honest about your situation and explain to anyone who’s waiting how you plan to get back on track.

Comic book plan

Send out an update if you’re crowdfunding, email your mailing list, publish on social media… Complaining about it isn’t going to make the most captivating content, but your story might interest those who are following your work and it should relieve some pressure.

5. Ask for help 

One thing I hadn’t expected when starting to make a comic book was just how supportive the creator community is. Indie comic book writers and artists make up a thriving online community from social media groups to forums.

In an industry that often requires you to be alone at a desk for extended periods of time, having nice people you can politely ask for advice is invaluable.

Get help with your comic book project

Here are a few recommendations for some top indie comic book creator communities and resources:

At the very least, it’s comforting to know you’re all in the same boat…

But you can be the judge of whether or not it’s all been worth it… Chekc out Milky: The Complete Collection – now funding on Kickstarter.

…or sign up for the Milky new issue alert and get the complete first chapter free!

Any other tips for being consistent with your indie comic book when life’s being a dickhead? Perhaps you have some other indie comic book communities or resources to share. Let us know in the comments!

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