This is a guest post by TJ Dawe, an award winning (and published) writer/performer/director, whose solo credits include Totem Figures , The Slipknot and Tired Cliches, and whose credits as a collaborator include Toothpaste & Cigars (in development as the film The F Word), 52 Pick-up, The Power of Ignorance, Dishpig and The One Man Star Wars Trilogy.
Check out TJ’s presence in the world of podcasting, blogging,facebook, youtube and twitter.
Most artists I know work multiple projects. They might overlap, or you work them one after the other, but there are a few sitting around in your head most of the time, each calling for attention. So what do you do? Do some of them deserve more attention and effort than others? Should you give certain projects your best and coast through the ones less likely to make a splash?
I recently read an interview with comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis which addressed exactly this.
First, a bit of context. Bendis writes five superhero comics (all different titles) every month (a pretty incredible output). For the past handful of summers, Marvel has had a major cross-over event involving basically every character they have, the story playing out in individual titles but mostly in a miniseries (which Bendis usually writes too).
So a journalist asked him about “event fatigue” – fans getting overloaded with world-at-stake stories that shake up the whole Marvel Universe. He responded:
“I will tell you my philosophy that I have not wavered on one bit: every story is an event. Every one. Every story I write I feel has dramatic ramifications to the characters I’m writing for. I learned this the first year I was writing Ultimate Spider-Man. Every book matters. Every single one. These events are so much fun to write and market and get people wound up about. It’s so much fun. But every single book I write to me feels that important or I wouldn’t put it out. When people say they have event fatigue I say you have fatigue over awesome things happening in the books you spend money on?”
This philosophy has done Bendis well. He started out writing and drawing his own crime comics in Cleveland, then Marvel noticed him, picked him up, and now he’s the leading writer in the industry.
In addition to his Marvel stuff, he writes two creator owned titles (crime fiction), one of which (Powers) is being turned into a TV series at FX (he’s an executive producer). In February he put out an all ages graphic novel he cowrote with his daughter. These other comics are incredible too. He does dialogue and story like Aaron Sorkin (one of his idols) or David Mamet (another one).
He also answers emails and letters at the back of each issue, he tweets like Kevin Smith, and does endless interviews. And he teaches graphic novel writing at Portland State University.
He’s passionate. He loves what he’s doing. He throws himself into it. And it’s paying off. He’s won a shelf of awards, his books are all top-selling, and Hollywood’s been bringing him in to do story consulting on superhero movies. But he still commits himself to the small projects just as much as the big ones. And the book that’s being made into a TV series – he co-created it before he’d gained any mainstream following at Marvel. And he’s still writing it.
Anyone who wants to make a splash as an artist can (and should) adopt this approach. Every time you create something, you’re representing yourself. Who you are. What you have to offer. Every project you work on is important. Every single one. Why devote any of your energy to something you don’t believe in? Every chance at bat is an opportunity to hit a home run.