Juggling the Projects on Your Drawing Board
One of the biggest ongoing challenges as a working cartoonist? Keeping up with all the projects and deadlines that need your attention. Case in point, in any given week, I’m trying to find time for a couple deadlines for Charleston City Paper, a blog post for Shoutfyre, and a handful of extra or personal projects… not to mention the day job, friends and family, and “Me Time”. Over the years, however, I’ve found some tricks to help juggle everything week after week.
The best way to keep track of the projects on the agenda is to simply know what they are. Every week, I jot down on my calendar a list of the art projects and deadlines over those seven days. Some deadlines are immediate and routine, others are long-term and may roll over week-after-week. Still, knowing what’s on the docket enables me to prioritize projects and choose how to plan to spend a free moment. Keeping track of the gigs every week also lets me easily see which I tend to punt (usually the more personal projects) and which I should start to pay more attention to to meet their longer-term deadlines. To track these deadlines every week, consider a handwritten list, a handful of Post-it® Notes, or a To-Do list app like TickTick or Todoist.
Set a Cadence
Given some of my deadlines support weekly publications, creating a regular cadence has proved invaluable to meet those commitments. Setting specific days of the week when you plan to work on projects with some regularity makes planning the rest of your time easier to do. For example, knowing that my Wednesday is earmarked for an illustration for the City Paper’s police blotter feature and that I’ll be working on an editorial cartoon over the weekend helps me identify when to squeeze other deadlines (like this blog post). But it’s also important to be flexible, for reasons we’ll cover next…
Find Time For Yourself
While comics require a lot of dedication and focus, it’s important to also maintain some self-care. Sleep, exercise, a social life, your family, the day job… All require your attention and need to fit into your schedule as well. This means your regular weekly agenda may shift to accomodate special events, from birthdays and anniversaries, to plans with friends or family. But even then, you may find yourself able to churn on ideas in the back of your head while still being present during your interactions with others or time to yourself. For example, during a recent trip for the day job, I was able to solidify the punchline for an upcoming backup story for Undead Norm—part maximizing my time over the course of a week, part the happenstance in which ideas come to be (which is probably a blog post for another day).
Regardless of whether you’re juggling just one comic project or a handful, setting a schedule will help you meet deadlines, ensure your own mental health, and avoid creative burnout. And even if you’re working on only one project at a time, having it front-and-center—written down on a weekly planner or Post-it®, or set in a mobile app—will help keep it front-of-mind and at the focus of your creative drive.
Editor, Artist, Letterer, Colorist Steve is the long-running cartoonist at the Charleston, SC alt-weekly Charleston City Paper, where he skewers politicians and criminals (and criminal politicians) alike with editorial cartoons and police blotter illustrations every issue. Steve was best known his indie comic book (and subsequent webcomic) BOONDOGGLE