HexCraft - Feeding The Beast
Lisa here. The quiet one who creates the visual experience of HexComix and more specifically, HEX11. I’ve been thinking about how to approach this first post of HexCraft, a series that will focus on the process of creating a comic from scratch, and it struck me that the best place to start is likely at the beginning. Not just with the idea you have, but with the internal opposition to it. The Little Voice in your head that will insist it’s not good, people won’t like it and by extension, they won’t like you, so why bother making it? Don’t call attention to yourself, don’t put your idea out there at all.
The Little Voice goes by many names: Doubt, Anxiety, Depression, Imposter Syndrome. Steven Pressfield (author of The War of Art) calls it Resistance. For the purposes of this article, I’ll call it Janet.* Whatever your term, the Little Voice (a.k.a. Janet) is a savage and near-constant companion to many artists and has quashed countless creative sparks before they ever had the chance to catch fire. It’s the cosmic shame.
But I’ve found that Janet has a greater foe, one I’ll call The Beast, and believe it or not, The Beast is in your corner.
The Beast is your talent, your gift, and it craves your attention and nourishment. It will moan and whine and make you miserable if you ignore it, so care for it. It will growl and get moody when it’s hungry, so feed your Beast. It won’t bite.
And when you love and nurture your Beast, this is what it feels like.
That’s you! Facing down Janet with the power of The Beast at your back. How badass is that?
So how do you feed your Beast? Just make your art. Any art. And then put it out into the world.
Couldn’t be easier, right?
Here’s how it went down for me. I sat on the idea of HEX11 for a LONG TIME. Part of that is because it did need a certain amount of gestation time, as most ideas do. But another part is because Janet said it was silly, and what could I know about telling a story like this? The Hex lived entirely in my head, save for a few tentative sketches I’d done when the idea first came to me years before.
After I shyly shared the idea with a close friend who insisted that I start fleshing it out, I developed it slowly; Building the world and characters, drawing up some more concepts here and there. But Janet still kept me from diving in fully. Now she was telling me that it was too much work. And even if I got through it, I’d put it out there and it would land with a thud. Janet told me I didn’t have what it would take to make it. That it would be a waste of time and energy. Janet told me to stay safe in my little corner of the illustration world and not risk it for a gamble like this.
But, while my professional illustration career kept The Beast surviving, it was hardly thriving. Then the famous moment in our shared HexComix origin story happened: Lynly invited me to make HEX11 collaboratively. Basically, her Beast recognized mine needed some help, which brought me to understand the key strategy for battling Janet: TEAMWORK.
Anytime Janet encroaches on The Beast’s decrees (and, trust me, Janet will ALWAYS encroach on The Beast’s decrees), I know I can call on an army of support. Lynly, Kelly Sue, Joe, Casey, Mom, my therapist. They’re all there to remind me that there’s no shame in asking for, and accepting, help.
So make your art, whatever it is, and SHARE IT. Write your poetry and sing it to strangers. Draw your dream and show it to friends. Mix up a cocktail and pour it for your brother.
Your poetry may stink, your drawing may be sloppy, your cocktail undrinkable. Sure, Janet will be waiting in the wings to say “SEE? I told you not to TRY.” But listen closely for The Beast, they will be saying “That. Was. AWESOME!” The Beast loves HONEST feedback because it means you’re on the right path. Your work has garnered thoughtful insight from a supportive network that you can use to improve on your next work of art. And the next. And the next.
The battle of Janet and The Beast is endless, and so at times exhausting. I recommend morning stretches, regular hydration, and power naps to stay in fighting shape. Seriously. We may joke and hashtag about #selfcare, but the truth is, it works. It’s your insistence on your own worth that keeps The Beast strong.
A closing note: I wrote this because it’s a personal experience and struggle of mine that I thought might be helpful to others who have similar challenges. If your Janet is easily conquered, great! But if your Janet is loud enough to negatively impact not just your art, but all facets of your life, please seek out the help you need. It is out there.
Next on HexCraft: Finding Your Team. Where we go over the behind-the-scenes roles of comic production. Until then, Happy Hexing.
*No offense meant to any humans named Janet out there. Love ya!