Keep Ahead to Keep Up

Last week I discussed how “life comes at you fast,” so you need to be flexible and reactive. Think of this week’s post as the flipside of that same coin. One way to roll with the punches to your schedule or projects is to also be proactive when you can. Case in point, while last week I talked about needing to shift gears and tackle a new topic for my editorial cartoon despite being ahead of the game for that week. Sort of buried in that was the fact that I’d managed to get a jump on my deadlines by tackling the editorial cartoon early that week.


This week I find myself in a similar situation. By moving the strip originally intended for last week to this week, I’m once again ahead of the game. But the brain is a funny thing. Despite being done with the deadline early, the ideas keep coming for new editorial cartoons based on the twists and turns of the news cycle. Which, given coming up with the joke is sometimes half the battle, this means I’m in good shape for the coming weeks. 


Of course, editorial cartoons in particular are timely things. So not every idea I come up with makes the cut simply due to their weekly publishing cycle and their diminishing returns of their timeliness as weeks pass. Other times, however, I can pocket an idea and tweak it at a later time to better fit the calendar when it runs. At times, like this one, I can look ahead at the calendar and proactively plan the week an idea might fit best based on events to come. As we approach Election Day, just as the candidates’ campaigns look to game out the intervening weeks, editorial cartoonists need to look ahead. In this case, commentary about state legislation and court cases around absentee voting? Perfect for the week when early voting begins. An opinion about the latest Supreme Court Justice nomination? Good fodder for when the hearings take place in Congress. 


Once the ideas are in place and seem solid for the timeline, you can turn plans into action. Rather than just plan ahead, run ahead. If you get far enough ahead of a deadline, not only are you in good shape for that project, but then your bandwidth opens up for something more—another project, something more personal, some much-needed downtime. (In my case, I’m looking forward to some dedicated time on my Rip Raygun sci-fi short.)


Of course, not every project is as timely as an editorial cartoon. In that case, the ideas that come are all the more important to capture. For example, while I’m working on the art for my sci-fi story, other stories with the characters keep coming to mind. Unlike the editorial cartoons, Rip Raygun has a looser, broader deadline, with a workload to match. And while the story—like any good sci-fi tale—echoes current social commentary, the topic is more general, more thematic, meaning those ideas have a longer shelf-life (and more likelihood) to become a reality.


Regardless of the project, though, I’m capturing those ideas down. Just to give Future Me a leg up on his future deadlines and projects.


How do you keep ahead on your projects? Share it in the ShoutFyre forum!

Steve Stegelin

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