In March 2014 I was up late one night, tossing and turning. I'd drawn a few funny jokes up, and people really liked them. I wanted to make more, but I didn't know if I'd have the time. Luke was 11 months old, I was home with him, the days were crazy as any stay at home parent can tell you. We were about to move across the country and the future was really uncertain. Could I commit what little free time I had to a new project? ANOTHER new project, when pretty much every project before had never gone too far or actually paid off for our family?
There are a lot of times now I remember that night I had a hard time sleeping. I think back to all the worries I had in the dark that night. About failing again, about wasting time, about stressing myself out, about taking a chance when a tidal wave of changes was bearing down on us. Ryan had lost his job, we had to sell our house, we were moving across the country so he could look for work and we could recover financially. I didn't know what the next three months would look like--and I wanted to add more to that? I wanted to add, essentially, a job I wouldn't get paid for? I wanted to take on a week's workload on the off chance that maybe people would laugh with me at some jokes about cats?
As I drifted off to sleep that night, I thought to myself, "Well, I'll check and see if the domain name is available. If it's not, then I can stop worrying. I'll put these roughs to the side, and maybe get back to them again some day. And if it is available, I'll make a site and give myself a reasonable schedule while we move, while Luke is a baby. Something like two strips a week to start. What are the chances 'Breaking Cat News' .com will be available, anyway?"
Can you imagine if I listened to all my worries that night? That thought haunts me sometimes; how close I came to deciding, "you know what? Never mind. This would be a lot to take on right now.... This would be everything I ever wanted if it worked out, but things have been going so badly lately--what's going to work out any time soon? I've written two comics already, should I even try a third? Especially now?"
(If you've read the comic for a while, you know that 'Breaking Cat News' had a few near misses where it almost ended before it really began.)
I had a lot of reasons to doubt myself and it would have been safer, easier, and more comfortable to just set my new project aside, go back to sleep, and not give it another thought. Get up in the morning, make us breakfast, pack another box. Instead the next day, I woke up, found the domain was open, asked Ryan if he could take over while I hammered out a another new website, and rolled the dice once again. It took me two days, and I'm pretty sure I was up until about 3am both days. When we only had 2-3 weeks to pack up an entire house to move.
Over the next few months, I learned also had a lot of reasons to work harder than I ever had before, to watch for people's reactions to this project and lean in as hard as I could once the audience began to grow. The more eyes, the more encouragement, the more support from the readers, the more I felt like, "OH, WAIT, THIS MIGHT JUST BE MY CHANCE,--" and I poured more and more energy in.
But it all started off very quietly, staring up at the ceiling one night with 2-3 comic strips sketched out in a notebook in my desk, and wondering if I could silence all the worries and try another new idea.
I'm tremendously glad that I did.
I would say now, the next time you find yourself with an idea or a project or a dream, get through those long, worrisome nights the best you can. And then get up the next day, and try the big thing that feels impossible anyway. Get up and write the song. Get up and write another 50 pages. Get up and apply to college. Get up and start the first work out. Get up and tell them how you feel. Get up and propose. Get up and start driving, start over. Get up and get a sketchbook, start drawing. Whatever thing you've wanted to do, but feels big and impossible, start small, start somewhere, but get up and go do it.
Back then I felt like I had nothing to lose by giving up in that moment, just 2-3 rough drafts of a comic probably no one would read anyway--because I didn't know about everything I would have lost if I didn't go for it. None of these wonderful things--getting syndicated, getting published, getting into newspapers--had happened yet. And I had easily 40-50 projects (between comics, rough drafts, and rejected book pitches) that had all failed to hit the mark. I had a lot of reasons to say, "eh, not this time," and I would have had so much to lose. You could have a lot to lose by giving up this time, and never know it.
I got up and wrote a comic about my cats being news reporters. It doesn't get much weirder than that. Go embrace your weird! Go do the thing you're meant to do, however strange it might sound when you try to explain it out loud!
Just go do that thing. Keep casting that net until you catch something!