When you’re tapped out

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Last week I met up with friend after work. We talked about comics and side projects. Trying to make things successful. The conversation moved toward motivation. It’s good to talk about motivation, because I’m feeling tapped out.

Isaiah has been out of town for CTN. I’ve been working on our comic on my own. Last week was busy with other engagements, this week was tough at work. This is a good week to talk about what motivates you.

Here are the simple tips for motivation for your side project.

  1. Make Time for It: Negotiate reasonable hours at work. Losing sleep is not sustainable in my opinion.
  2. Create Social Accountability: The most effective incentives are negative incentives. I have had success because I feel like I’m going to let someone down if I don’t do my piece. Share your work, find a group of friends. Better yet make a betting pool.
  3. Just do One small thing: The hard part is getting to the desk. Give yourself one small thing to do and quit. Making a little progress is better than none. After one little thing, maybe a little more won’t hurt as much.

These are the things that might get you back in the chair. Motivation is also what excites you about the project. Watch this video with Dan Pink. He talks about the factors that affect motivation. He knows a lot more about motivation than I do. The factors are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

Autonomy — In control of what you’re doing — change your schedule, maybe your feel to beholden to what past you planned.

Mastery — Work on your craft — spend some time learning about writing, drawing, or animating, do some studies, you may be backed up because you’re at the limit of your ability.

Purpose — Why are you making what you’re making? What do you want to get out of it? We desire to feel like we’re part of something bigger.

Side projects run on motivation. Figure out what works for you. If something is really painful that might be a good sign. Ask yourself if you really want to work on this. It only gets harder. Pick something that you believe in.

All the best


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This post is a warning,  keep your distance from the passion project.

You might be thinking, passion project aren’t that bad. Isn’t this what its all about finding a project that fuels your desire to make something great. Passion is fine, and it will help you. Passion alone is not enough to make your project successful. There’s a dark side to your passion project. Passion will blind you from making the best project you can make.

Once you’re tied up in your project it begins to consume you. Takes you over. Two years ago Isaiah and i started our first comic. We developed the story, we did research and world building. We didn’t know that we would be working on the same comic for almost two years. We kept on reworking it refining it. Half way through we completely restarted the first episode. We also kept it to ourselves. I barely even explained the story to my girlfriend. We had big plans. We would strategize and fantasize about the comic. It was all consuming. When finally after nearly two years of development and work we were ready for people to read it. The first time my girlfriend read it wad when we had finished. The response was tepid. Still we were blind. We thought could rework the dialogue, and fix it.

It wasn’t till I met with a professor for coffee that I realised what we had done. I talked to him about making indie animation. His suggestion was simple, make a series of short 30 second cartoons. Short enough that you can make them in your free time. Then release them consistently for 10 years and you’ll have business. Solid advice. His next line was what hit home. He said you don’t want to choose something too big that you’ll work for a year without releasing it.

Oh no.

We had been working on our comic for two years That night I talked to my my girlfriend, Ali. I asked her about the comic. She went into it. Confirmed all my fears. We had waited too long. We had gotten in our heads and made something for nobody. It didn’t even work as a solid short story. I remember groaning on the bed feeling like I had wasted two years. Worse yet I had to tell Isaiah that he had also wasted two years.

The next day I called Isaiah. We talked about the comic and I let him know what had happened. We agreed that the it was better to start over. Start from scratch. We were too close to this project and we needed to cut our losses.

So my word of warning. Passion projects are dangerous beasts. Take them on at your own risk.

Here are three strategies to test your project and not make the mistakes we did.

Debate about your project/Pro and Con list
This is fun, take the opposite side and try and argue why your idea is a bad idea. Figure out why its derivative, how it’s too niche, why its unaccessible, or too complex. Make it fun and light hearted. In proper debate figure out why it’s good too. If after this exercise you still come back to the idea, that’s a good sign. The good shit sticks.

Burn out the project
This is effective if a new idea comes up that distracts from other projects. (This happens to me all the time) Take a week and rush through developing and writing the project. Every project has a point where it stops being fun and just becomes a lot of work. Rush through the fun stuff like world building, design, writing funny scenes. Trust me after a week of fast paced work the fire will die down. It’ll be easy to get back to your other work.

Start Sharing it
The most potent way to test a project is to get it in front of an audience. Then it gets out of your head and into the world. You start caring less about what it matters to you and how it matters to them. It’ll give you urgency. Or no one will notice. That’s fine too. That means you can retool and keep going. Figure out how to make something that connects.

We all want to create stuff that matters. Most of the time we have to get out of our own way. Just show up and release the work.

All the best

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Why twitter is the elevator pitch of the future

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A couple months ago I noticed a interesting phenomenon on twitter. Most people use twitter to complain about public transit or politics. A lot of artists share art. Every once in a while an artist shares something that lights on fire. I realized what I was seeing was the perfect elevator pitch in twitter form.

I’ll show you my favourite examples. Then I’ll try and break it down into a template that you can use to start your own projects.

Example 1:

Valerie Garnace‏

Tweet: “a girl and her robo boyfriend”

I remember seeing this image and instantly wanted to see more. It’s so simple it’s one image and a short descriptive sentence. There’s enough there to get you interested. You can imagine this sort of anime superhero story with a robot boyfriend. It’s super cute and the designs are awesome.

Example 2: Charlie Bryant 


Tweet: “this is hela and handy”

Charlie has been slowly developing this character. Some great images, and short description that makes you want to know more. Charlie’s also expanded to some animation tests. He’s used twitter to iterate on the character and see what’s working.


Example 3:
Matthieu Cousin


Tweet: “Sketches of a loose idea I had about a vampire that infiltrates a school” + Holly Waterson

This is one of my favourite pitches because it’s classic. The text is short and completely sets up the story. Vampire infiltrates a high school. Matthieu uses the images to expand the story. If you look at the comments you’ll see people falling in love with Holly Waterson. A character with two rough drawings and a name. This is key. Listen to what people react too.

images: @insidematthieu

Not-on-Twitter Bonus: Cory Loftis

Various Instagrams of A Pig Exorcist

This one is a doozy. A series released during inktober. These drawings just make you want to know more. They’re so steeped in mood and tone. There’s a clear sequence and story. I’m not a lone in wanting to see a full version of these characters. Each one of these posts has people asking for more.

All these artists are great, I hope these projects continue. All of these captured my imagination and I want to see them grow.

Here’s my analysis of a perfect twitter/instagram pitch.

There’s really only two things to focus on for your post:

A cool image of your characters.
Two characters works better than one. A story comes from dynamics between characters. A hero all by himself isn’t as visually interesting as your hero hanging out with his trusty sidekick or standing off to a villain. So the image should show something dynamic.

A short description of the concept.
The language can be casual but engaging. This part is harder than it sounds. My advice, write at least 10 versions on a piece of paper and keep narrowing down until you find the right voice.

Tweets and Instragams are very basic in nature, but you can build on them with comments or extra tweets/posts:

Simple positive comments (“I love this!!”) and likes are great but inviting constructive comments from people will let you know what’s exciting. It can be simple like, “What do you think?” or “Who wants to see this as a full series?”

Double Bonus
set up a dedicated email account, share a tweet with:

  • “if your interested in X send an email subject line: I WANT MORE!!!”
  • If you want to build something you need dedicated fans. Collecting emails is the best way of getting a direct connection to your audience.

Triple Bonus
Don’t worry about it if the post doesn’t do as well as you want. Rework it and try again. Who knows, maybe the same image with different copy will work better. Get in the habit of testing. Learning early if people are interested means that you reduce the risk of going forward. What we are trying to avoid is releasing content on deaf ears. Share early share often. Iterate and improve.

Hopefully you can use this guide to help you launch your next idea!

All the best,


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