Do you know what you want?

Do you? Really?

I was chatting to Will Sliney, an interview we’ll hopefully include on the Sunnyside Podcast Show, and we got chatting to what he wanted. For him spider-man was the dream. And Lo! It’s where he ended up. For me, the height of my ambition was drawing Judge Dredd. And it’s where I ended up.

Talking to other irish writers/artists and it feels like, very often, like more than just “I want to draw comics” – “I want to draw this character” became their goal and they went about it, whether they realise or not, with a sort of singular purpose. I mean, it often doesn’t feel like it, because the time-frame from thinking “I want to draw Judge Dredd” (for example) to actually doing can be 20 years. (It’s a lot faster for others, though).

What happens is, though, you make positive choices. You choose to do fan art in one location, choose to draw a strip for a certain kind of fanzine, push towards a certain editor/artist/writer strongly associated with the character, and this cumulative build up of positive steps, if you’re lucky, have a following wind and have the stamina, patience, pure-luck ends with you doing the job you wanted. Or at least, getting close enough to smell victory.

What happens next is the tougher question, and here on in I’m only speaking for myself, but you get the thing you’ve spent decades building towards and suddenly you’re left… fulfilled, I guess.

The target, previously utterly unattainable, becomes within easy reach and whatever driving ambition, whatever decision making animus pushed you to choose certain projects dies a little. Now, maybe that’s not a problem. Maybe the trajectory of your career is such that … whoosh, off you go – Neil Armstrong, strapped to the most powerful rocket mankind had ever built on a trajectory to another planet. (You git).

But I think it’s beholden on you to find other goals. It can take you a long time to figure this out, though. And it may well be those other goals have to be more… abstract – success defined less by a single objective “Drawing Dredd” and more by a less-easy to define goal “Pay my bills, get to draw comics, work with creators I like”. Harder to really quantify how to achieve that though, isn’t it?

I think what I’m saying is… breaking in is easy – it’s just, for many of us, a long game. What happens next is really the thing you need to think about.

Author: PJ

Belfast based Comic Artist who won’t shut up on twitter.