In late 2018, I injured my back at work. The injury precipitated a nervous breakdown, as the pain from the injury wouldn’t go away, confirming my worst fears. I quit my job and moved in with my parents to try to recuperate physically and mentally.
And I tried to continue making art. I produced The Adventures of Yossi and Tal. I took up a handful of commissions and drew a few personal pieces for fun. But since 2006, I’ve been pursuing the goal of supporting myself with my art, and for all the thousands upon thousands of hours I poured into my creative endeavors, I never made more than $2300 in one year. That’s not enough to live on. That’s not even anywhere near minimum wage.
So I quit.
And quitting feels great, at least in some ways. I’m no longer a slave to self-imposed deadlines and the burden of creating and promoting content. I don’t feel bound to social media as a marketing tool. At my current job as a mail-order Pharmacy Technician, I’m on track to make more money this year than from any other full-time work I’ve ever had. My time has opened up to exploring new hobbies and activities, sometimes just lying in the grass and staring up at the sky, and playing a whole lot of video games.
But quitting doesn’t always feel great. I grieve the loss of hope that comes from realizing just how high the odds are stacked against a professional artist. Success and failure aren’t a binary proposition, but it’s hard not to frame myself as a failure. And quitting wasn’t the outcome I expected when I started creating comics and looking for graphic design work. I wish it weren’t so hard these days to pick up a pencil and draw.
You know the world’s a mess out there. It’s daunting. And even if I managed to make a living wage off my art, I can’t shake the thought that comics won’t stop the worsening seasonal wildfires in the American West. Comics won’t stop the hurricanes and floods in Florida and Louisiana. Comics won’t stop white supremacists and the white supremacist apologists who enable them. People suffering from food insecurity can’t eat comics; the homeless can’t live in them. And comics won’t stand in the way of Russian forces as a prevaricating dictator issues orders of inhumane brutality against the people of Ukraine.
So it’s kind of hard to draw, knowing that it probably won’t solve the world’s problems and likely won’t do much more than pay my hosting bills. I’m not putting down the pencil entirely, but until I figure out a better way to approach this, it’s going to continue to be hard to draw.