Reservation for “Pity”, Party of One


I used to read a lot of web comics a while ago, back before I had more important and useful things to do with my free time (like writing this fantastic blog for your pleasure and amusement), and inevitably the same scenario would evolve. Whether it took a few months or a few years (and it was usually closer to a few months), the web comic writer would manage to drop a post, miss a deadline, forget to put something up, or just be unable to come up with something, and they would usually substitute some variation on the “sorry, my bad” post.

This post would occasionally be in the form of a quick sketch, although surprisingly often it would take the form of a lengthy written tirade. Sometimes there wouldn’t even be a gesture at an explanation, just an absence where entertainment used to be, and if you were lucky it would appear again the next time there was a scheduled update, with nobody the wiser as to what had happened. The times when an explanation was forthcoming would occasionally be accompanied with promises of making the next deadline (which might or might not happen), and other times there would be the dreaded “indefinite hiatus”.

Almost universally in these instances the artist attempt some sort of justification. The two most common flavors depended on whether the artist in question considered themselves an amateur or a professional, and to be honest I don’t know which one bothered me more. In the case of the amateur, they would usually invoke “real life”. This one goes like this: “Hi everybody, I’m really sorry to do this to you, but the truth is I’m not a professional cartoonist. This isn’t my day job, and I don’t get paid to do this. I do this for fun, as a hobby and as a way to relax, and I just haven’t found it very relaxing lately.”

My special issue with these guys is that in most cases these “amateurs” have a tip jar right there on the front screen of their comic, usually with one of their characters being all cute and begging for money. Now I may not have to pay for content, but the fact is you are asking to get paid for this gig, so to turn around and say you aren’t getting paid is at least a little disingenuous. A lack of success in achieving your goals is not the same thing as not having tried (otherwise “attempted murder” wouldn’t be a crime). Assuming anybody actually did hit the tip jar means now you’re a liar as well.

Which brings me to the “professionals”. This is their day job (or they at least are trying to make it one), and their approach is something like this: “Hey everybody, sorry, I feel really bad about this but I got nothing today. I’, really trying to make a living at this, and I feel really bad about this, and I know I’m really letting my fans down, and I should be doing better, etc.” They then go on to beat themselves up for another few paragraphs. Here’s the hard truth they don’t want to hear: I don’t care. All those lovely “fans” who write nice things like “hey, take the time you need, we just want a good story”, and those lovely things? They are enabling your first world problems.

The next issue I have in both of these cases is the implication that somehow “real life” suddenly “caught up” to them. Sorry, not buying it. Short of jail, hospital, or morgue, there are very few events that you couldn’t have seen coming and planned ahead for. More likely you ran out of inspiration or got lazy, and the sad fact that you spent time writing out a letter justifying that rather than making at least some attempt to put something up speaks volumes about how you feel about your art. Having spent more than a year churning out over 500 words three times a week, I’ve learned something: creating content, even crap content, is hard. Creating QUALITY content? That’s damn near impossible. But it’s the gig we chose, and nobody forced it on us.

Whether you’re doing is as a hobby and you hope other people enjoy it, or you’re trying to make a living at it, it’s your choice. You decided this is what you’re going to do, this is what you’re going to invest your time and your effort in, and that’s what you should do. If you decide to abandon it, at least have the courtesy to leave a note on the door on your way out in case you did have a fan who drops by now and then, but please, no more self-indulgent whining about how you’re just not able to come up with anything today.

If you’re sick or you just don’t have it in you, hey, that’s fine. It happens. Get somebody to fill in for you. Make sure you have a buffer. If nothing else, sometimes you just have to make it up as you go along and hope something comes to you.

Like I just did.


5 Comments on “Reservation for “Pity”, Party of One”

  1. ashokbhatia says:

    The excuses you have listed – very good ones – you may consider adding other priorities in life – a marriage in the family, tax blues, etc. You are right that creating a piece is a highly individualistic act of creativity done by some, merely to feel an inner glow of happiness. I do not see how it can get delegated to someone else, though!

  2. ashokbhatia says:

    I am sorry, the words got garbled up somehow. The comment should have read as follows: ‘In the excuses you have listed – very good ones – you may consider adding other priorities in life – a marriage in the family, tax blues, etc. You are right that creating a piece is a highly individualistic act of creativity done by some, merely to feel an inner glow of happiness. I do not see how it can get delegated to someone else, though!’

    • Bob Bonsall says:

      I understand from other priorities, and sometimes life happens. But this is also why I take people to task for either completely abandoning things without so much as an explanation (it lacks class) or taking to the web with a sob story rather than putting out some kind of effort, no matter how little they personally think of it.

      In extremis, certainly, there can be a break. Long time followers are aware that I let my own blog slip when my father passed away, which is a choice I’ll defend any day of the week. But something like a marriage in the family can be anticipated, and I’ve been on multiple vacations away from hope with nobody the wiser (was it live, or did it post automatically? The world may never know.)

      As for having someone else create a piece for you, while you may not get the inner glow of happiness that comes with creation (and I totally agree with you on that), you can at least have them fill the void that would be left in your absence with their own creative work. This sort of guest post is a time-honored tradition, and one that has saved my bacon more than once.


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