Laying out the damn PennySaver

So I’m reading this book “Looking for Calvin & Hobbes” by Nevin Martell – which is a biography on the publicity-shy cartoonist Bill Watterson who wrote and drew the greatest comic strip of all time  (Umm Calvin & Hobbes)…

The introduction which is really good is about how the author tracked down, and eventually got an interview with the elusive Watterson…   Since the intro tho (I’m currently 85 pages in), the book has been pretty boring and dry.  And while Martell describes individual C&H strips which I remember, he doesn’t actually SHOW them…  I guess he couldn’t get the rights…

Either way, I’m intrigued to see what happens when he meets the cartoonist, so I’m reading on…   But this isn’t a book review blog, so I’m gonna stop there and be egotistical and show how this book involves “me”…

I was reading the part of the book where Bill Watterson quit his job doing layout for the local PennySaver magazine to take his shot at newspaper comic strip stardom…  The newspaper job wasn’t paying much, and the risks were huge, but the rewards were limitless..  In the book, one of Watterson’s contemporaries said that  “(Bill) wanted to give everything he had to Calvin and Hobbes. If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out, but it wasn’t going to be because he had to spend eight hours a day laying out the damn Pennysaver.”

And those words really hit home for me.   For those of you who don’t know (and this is my first public mention of this so there’s probably quite a few of you), I’m working on a book.   Well, maybe I should say I just finished writing a book.   At the moment it is getting its final read-thru from my editor, and hopefully be ready to send to my publisher in the next few days…

If you’ve been following my long out-dated Lantern-Media.com website, you’ll know that since 2006, I was working on a video documentary on a 1960′s Bronx gang called the Ducky Boys…. Well the film version didn’t work out so well as only a few people were brave enough to go on camera and tell of their exploits from over 40 years ago.   But it seemed to work out a LOT better in book format, so I adjusted things a bit, and soon I’ll have kick-ass book to show for it.  I’ll tell you more about that when the book is closer to being ready, but that’s the basics you’ll need for the rest of this blog.

Getting back to the “laying out the Pennysaver” quote from the Calvin & Hobbes book…

So this quote came a little late for me being that I worked a 9-5 (ok, maybe 10-6 -kinda) suck  job for the last 5 years I was working on my Ducky Boy video, now book project.   Quitting my job to work on this project full-time was always on my mind, but the last few years the economy REALLY sucked, so quitting wasn’t an option.  So weekends it was…

And it was HELL to do all the work I needed to do on this project in 2 -day weekend increments…   Not to mention having to sit alone working on this while my wonderful and understanding wife Jackie had to find something else to do on many weekends of the last 5 years.  Writing is a very lonely profession if you haven’t heard…

Over time, I realized that putting all that work into weekends was just wrong for my sanity.  What  happened is that I would be so overwhelmed by the amount of work i had to do on a particular weekend that I would find excuses to NOT work on the Ducky project.  Usually I would justify it by saying that the health of my marriage was more important than the Ducky story…

On those frequent weekends, Sunday night would come around and I’d feel so guilty not having done anything Ducky-related and told myself that I’d do it “after work” during the week…  YOu know how that goes, right?  Who wants to freakin’ be creative after a mind-numbing day at the office…  I’d much rather slink into the Lazyboy and veg out to whatever tv show is on – I was even hooked on Antiques Roadshow for a while! LOL

After years of this, and being way behind where I wanted to be, I came up with the winning thought: “Hey, I get an hours lunch!  Why not work on it then?”   Which is exactly what I did… Every day, I would take my laptop and go down to the food court in my building and just write for one-hour…  I would put 5 hours a week, and occasionally a few weekend hours at the local Scotch Plains library. And over time, it really started to come together…First as narration to the movie version, and when that tact changed, re-writing for the book version…   Did I mention that the book version is NOW DONE?!?!

Sure I didn’t hang out with my work friends as much, but i could talk to them the other 7 hours of the day and complain about how everything and everyone at the company sucked ass.  Whats important is that my weekends were less stressful and I was actually being productive.

So, how does this relate to the experience of cartoonist Bill Watterson who quit his day job to reach for the golden ring?

Well, it tells me that while it worked out for Bill, it wouldn’t have necessarily worked for me…  Not to sound like I have no confidence, but what if my book doesn’t sell?  Or worse – if it just plan sucks! For the record,  I think my book is great, but I may be slightly biased… :)

Quitting in the last few years would have likely proved catastrophic for the Hannon’s financial security.  Sure I would have done the whole  “follow my dreams” fantasy and all that jazz, but what good would it have done if I was now facing foreclosure or bankruptcy with hundreds of copies of unsold books in my basement?

What I am saying here is that you can  accomplish your dreams even if you don’t quit the sucky day job…  It may take a bit longer, but if you consistently put in a little time every day, you will eventually finish what you’re working on.  And hopefully it will sell beyond your wildest dreams – but at least if it doesn’t, you’re still ok financially.

Don’t get me wrong –  if you have the resources to quit, and work on your passion full-time, go for it…  But how many of us have that luxury? – especially as we get older with more and more responsibilities…

Hope this inspired somebody to start that project that you’ve been dreaming about for years…  You can make time – just prioritize your time and take an hour out of your day that you’d be doing something not nearly as productive…   Wake up an hour before normal, work on your passion, and  then lay out the damn PennySaver – you get paid, and you fulfill a creative need!

What do you think?  Let me know in the comments…
James

The second to last draft! 180 pages - without the 50+ pictures!

One Comment

  • Patrick says:

    Hey Buddy, just got off the phone with you and this caught my eye! I havent, not thought about our talk about ” gettin er’ done”, so I’m planning to get up a bit earlier as a goal and bog down over the next few months, as we had discussed, right?
    Well, you know about me having to crash early last night, the flip side is, I’m up three hours earlier than normal. My son had a project for a college essay and he needed to have someone edit and critque it. So, here I was, 4 in the morning, mind being able, putting my two cents in. I dont know where I got the mental energy at that hour, but I decided to re-write his essay as an example for him to get an idea. Add color and expression. He gets up at 6 and starts in on his piece and knocks it out.
    So, I just want to let you know, inspiration or your wanting to inspire, you done that for me a long time ago, I just gotta get in the Millenium Falcon and take off……now wheres that penny saver?

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