The Grand Graphic Novel of 17 years

I am now starting another 30 days of no sugar/low natural sugar, after a successful 30 days that ended last Wednesday. The next day I had an ice cream and then Friday began the next 30 Days.

This new eating “plan” is working on a much grander level. Yesterday at a party I met someone who just started something similar and we shared how this is much more than about dealing with sugar addiction and eating healthy, how this can help you focus on doing the important things you want to do that you neglect. It’s the secondary side effect, being more able to follow through with goals and projects and why food is such a big factor with ADHD for me.

I started writing a graphic novel “fantasy/memoir” 17 years ago in 2000. I took a class at the Open Center with a comics expert friend about writing graphic novels. It was taught by a woman who wrote a graphic novel about having a baby as a teenager. She got us to figure out what was important for us and what we wanted to write about and to get going with the nuts and bolts of layout and drawing and speech bubbles. I got started and got the first 10 pages done and got a lot of great feedback. People who read it thought it was funny and well, good, worth continuing.

There is nothing like immediate “success” to stop me in my tracks. I kept working on it and then at some point put it aside and left it to collect dust. It was too hard and I reached a place where I didn’t know what was supposed to be on the next page. Since then at various points in the last 17 years, I have taken it off the shelf and worked on it. For a while in 2006-2007 I was meeting up regularly with my friend I took the class with to work on our graphic novels and encourage each other. Then life got in the way and I put it back in the black hole of writer’s block until the next spurt of inspiration hit. In 2013 I got very revved up to get it done by my 50th birthday and figured out how to get 100 pages done by doing a page every 16 or 17 days and posting some of it on Facebook. That went on for a few weeks, then I lost several pages of the book and gave up again. I picked it up and did a few more pages and even found the lost pages, after putting the loss of the pages in the book. By then, the book had  developed a life of its own and was also about my inabilities to keep going and doing it. Fast forward to a few weeks into this new “food plan”. About 4 weeks ago, I decided to get one page done per week and use therapy to make me keep it up, so I had to do a page by Friday and send a photo of it to my current therapist. I am now working on the 4th page (page 44 of the book). If I keep it up, I will have about 31 pages done by my 50th birthday and be on page 71. It won’t be finished but it will be more finished than it’s ever been.

Getting back into it and forcing myself to do it each week has been enlightening. One question that I won’t be able to answer until I finish is what is this project getting in the way of in terms of other things to accomplish with my creativity? I always thought in terms of all the things I manufactured as reasons to not be working on the book and what are all those things I put in its way, but I hadn’t thought in terms of what this unfinished big block of a project might be obstructing. What if this book is an obstacle itself? I won’t know until I do it and finish it.

When you force yourself to work on something like this that has been 17 years in the making, you learn things for sure. It is just at the point of shit or get off the pot, put your money where your mouth is, etc. So I have decided while getting back in the process that I have to get this done and finished and then get it published so I can continue with whatever else I am doing with my artistic and writing career. I definitely have another book, not graphic, just writing, that I started last year and am working on which I have put aside lately while doing the graphic novel. I posted a few things from that book on this blog, but for sure, I will have to write it at the same time or get the graphic novel done so I can do the book.

The book is going to be called The Art Box and is a book of essays/reflections, mostly about doing art therapy with adults, especially my work at my old job at FEGS Rockwell Continuing Day Treatment Center that I left in early 2003 to start my private practice.

The graphic novel process is extremely challenging as each page takes a really long time to conceive and complete. It’s much more frustrating than pure writing as the images are a big deal and take a long time. Sometimes I forget how fun it can be. I started it in black and white, drawing in pencil first and then covering in black sharpie. Now it is in color as well and I am trying to vary the layout and composition. The one benefit of taking forever to get it done is that now the internet is so great for research, whether to look at examples of fight scenes in comics or look up things  that relate to the content. I also just organized my sketchbook journals that I started doing in 1987, so there are 30 years of them, minus a few that I took apart. I’m going to have to look in them more for more info and ideas. I have been using old drawings from my journals to get image ideas for the pages in the past few weeks. Today I used a scribble drawing from 2012.

The second week I noticed how it is difficult to deal with the inner critic saying this isn’t good enough, your drawing is bad, there isn’t enough variety, maybe you won’t get it published. You have to just keep going and keep in mind that you are going to keep going and not stop. Stopping is the deadly thing, so having this idea of having to do a page a week at least is great for momentum and also keeps me motivated to stay with this eating plan, as the fear is, going back to eating badly will remove my motivation and I will give up. Each goal feeds the other.

I hope this continues to work as it’s reached the point where 17 years is enough and I have to get it done in the next year-year and a half!

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