Often I'll use this blog as an important reminder of just how much I accomplish each week—even as I tell myself that it's not "enough"—but so much of the work from these past months has been personal that it feels hard to capture in a peppy listicle.
On Thursday I saw my dearest friend and housemate of three years off to the Dominican Republic. She's moving there for good to pursue her spectacularly bad-ass life goals and I couldn't be more proud, yet I've also spent the last three months wracked with dread at our impending separation. We are closer-than-close, and so many good things have come into my world through our relationship. It feels like a shift into entirely unknown territory, which (now that's it's here and real and happening) is both exhilarating and horrifying.
I've been thinking a lot about impermanence. About how vulnerability brings us together in the most unexpected ways. About making oneself small in the face of opportunity because it's safer to coast along in a comfortable bubble rather than risk greater failure on the horizon.
There's a quote halfway through this interview with Brené Brown about "how hard I’d been working to keep my career small"—and I see a lot of myself in that, contemplating a long-term project with a publisher. I have felt comfortable and small, even as it seems impossible that strangers on the Internet have heard of me and might even consider me some kind of small-time celebrity. It's no lie to say that I am always, in some corner of myself, scared, but these days I've been terrified. Of what? Rejection? Judgement? Sure. But what about success? Or visibility? There's a different kind of fear there.
I had an unexpected and delightful expedition to Back Fence PDX last night, and got to hear my pal Ryan tell a story onstage about his first big book project. It resonated with me really strongly, facing the next stage of my career where I'll have to stand up for my ideas and written notions in front of Important People with Opinions about what makes creative projects Good.
I've always had a firm idea of what separates "good" and "bad" art. I can look at my work and easily identify areas that need improvement and then work hard to bridge those gaps—to bring myself closer to a visually-definable ideal of "good" art. Sure it's hard work, but passion is a practice, and chasing that impossible ideal gives me more energy than I know what to do with. (Seriously, go read that essay. It got me right in the chest tonight.)
But when it comes to writing? I'm totally adrift. I mean I can tell you what bad writing looks like—I mean, really bad writing. But separating "mediocre" from "good" is way harder for me. Occasionally people tell me things I've written are "good" and I breathe a huge sigh of relief because it introduces some arbitrary goalpost for me to try and angle towards, but I know something's missing.
Branching out into long-term book projects that I'll be pitching to publishers requires writing things and claiming "These are good. This is good. This is worth devoting a year or more of my life to"—because we know long-form comics aren't the kind of thing you just dash off on a whim.
I don't really have answers to any of this, aside from the fact that this is so blatantly, obviously the kind of fear that one needs to run at full-tilt. To be this afraid of something is a useful marker—a red flag that cries out for a charging bull.
There's a difference between self-preservation and cowardice, and I know which one this is.