This past weekend was an odd one for me, in part because of lots of running around. But in part because I was presented with several items that could have potentially dragged my ego down, but didn't.
First up, Tom Spurgeon recently asked who everyone's favorite writers of comic stuff were. There were definitely some excellent choices there, and I was definitely NOT among them. Considering that it's really my only claim to fame, I could have taken this poorly. I'll admit that I would've liked to have seen my name on that list somewhere, but I had actually JUST fired off an email to a friend of mine telling her that I do what I do for myself and not for any external validation. So the second or two of disappointment from not being cited quickly vanished.
Secondly, that person I had just sent an email too? She's an old friend of mine from high school that I was able to visit with this weekend for the first time in a decade. We'd already done most of our catching up online over the past year or two, so we just had a great time chatting all night. She started up and runs a very successful business, has a gorgeous house that she and her husband built, and has a wonderful family. Plus, she's still really grounded and is very appreciative of everything she's achieved. Quite frankly, she's got loads to be jealous of.
And, for that matter, so do two of my other friends from high school that I met the following night. Both of them are happily married to smart, attractive women (from all accounts I've heard -- I haven't actually met their wives) and both have some great kids. They both reveled in their dad-hood, had jobs they really enjoyed and generally seemed to be doing very well for themselves. We also spent several hours just chatting. Again, lots to be jealous of.
Now, by conventional measures, those friends are more successful than I am. Happily married with children, great jobs, cool houses. Contrast that again childless me, whose girlfriend lives 300 miles away and whose house falls pretty blandly against a backdrop of yet another subdivision that could be from Anywhere, USA.
But that's by conventional measures. That's using a standard of American life that was originally prescribed to everyone in the late 1940s. For someone who's NEVER wanted kids, I actually achieved that goal decades before my friends who wanted them. For someone who's conscious of my own failings as a salesman, I've never given any serious consideration to working for myself -- I couldn't drum up enough business to keep myself afloat financially and, besides, I'd much rather be doing the actual work at hand anyway and leave the business dealings to someone else.
What's important to me -- my free time, my ability to be creative as I see fit -- is something that I have. I can sit here and type out this blog post after my friends have gone to bed, and revel in the creative process. That's how I was able to write my book. If I would've been running my own business or taking care of kids or whatever, I simply would not have been able to do it. Certainly not in the timeframe I did!
You know, my friends all asked how my book sales have gone. I could only give them a ballpark number, despite it only being two digits, because it's not a measurement of success for me. My book was successful when I uploaded the digital files up to Lulu, and got my own first copy a week and half later. I didn't need to sell X number of books; I just needed to write one.
My point is that, as a comic creator, you're bound to make comparisons to other comic creators. Whether that's Jack Kirby and Will Eisner, or Jerry Holkins and Scott Kurtz. And those may be valid points of comparison, but what you should really be comparing yourself against is your own goals. YOUR own goals, not the ones set by someone else. Certainly not the ones set by someone else under different circumstances. Measure your success against yourself; you'll be happier for it.
(Hat Tip Department: Tom, Sandy, Jeff and John.)