Manifesting Desire into Creative Results: Determining Your Personal Success Criteria in the Comics Arts

Staircase to FutureFriends and family may often ask you: “Why do you write or illustrate comics?” This question may be posed in the spirit of attempting to understand you and your choices better, or it may be a loaded question because you don’t fit into their version of reality or comply with their perception of normalcy. The motivation is unimportant here but the question itself is a life changer if answered honestly. Indeed, the only legitimate person who needs to ask that question of yourself is you. The answers will determine the blueprint to your future success.

One would think that when asking an actor “What is the measure of your career success?” that the typical response would be to win an Academy award. In fact the response would be varied. Similarly, one would think that the unanimous answer for a comics creator when asked the same question would be to be published by a large studio such as DC or Marvel or to work on established licensed characters. They are worthy success goals indeed, and if accomplished, bring great kudos to the individual in the artistic community and also a great sense of personal satisfaction and pride. And rightly so. The greatest congratulations are in order for those who have succeeded in that quest. Furthermore, the greatest value for people witnessing that success would be to deconstruct the “whys” and “hows” of how they did it because it is a universally known truth that success leaves clues and provides fodder for great learning opportunities.

Having said that, not all comics creators strive to achieve that specific goal and, to apply it as a  common measuring standard, is to deny them the power of choice to create their own destiny. The reality is that some comics creators may want to work solely on indie projects. Others may want to focus completely on creator owne material. Others still may want to experiment with genre so that every book they work on is a creative challenge. Some may want to develop a niche or a particular signature style. Some may want to win a Ledger Award or an Eisner. Others may want to balance professional goals with family life such as being the best parent or partner they can be. Others still may want to dabble with comics on the side of another chosen career. Whatever the answer is, the upshot is that motivation differs from person to person, as does success criteria. Although others may try to interfere or influence you, in the end the creative community, society and family have nothing to do with determining your goals. You are the person at the helm of your life and you must steer it in a way to get to your desired destination and to provide fulfilment along the way.

Determining your success criteria will help you stay focused. It will help eliminate distraction and help you acquire and maintain perseverance. Jack Canfield, one of the greatest success coaches of all time, tells us in his book The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be that you need to identify the “why?” and the purpose behind everything you do.

Here are some starting questions you can ask yourself in order to determine your personal success criteria:

  • What do you professionally and personally want to get out of creating comics or working in the comics medium?
  • What do you want your reader / audience to get out of reading your work? (Is it to entertain? Is it to empower or inspire?)
  • Do you have a pressing imperative or drive to share your stories (insofar as you feel as if you have no choice but to work on them)?
  • Are you working in comics for a bit of fun?
  • Do you want to make a living from comics?
  • Do you work in comics to find fame?

These questions may bombard your psyche but exploring them will bring some semblance of clarity that will give you direction and purpose. They will also give you a vision and framework in which to achieve your dream.

Here are 13 tips that will help you determine your personal success criteria and keep you focused:

  1. Be true to yourself and your success goals and not those of parents or siblings or other relatives, teachers, friends or professional colleagues
  2. Identify your value system that will form the foundation of your past, current and future success. There need to be around five or to eight on your list. Here are some starting points: passion, originality, persistence, discipline, dependability, quality, integrity, and more. (Here is a List of 400 core value words to help you with this exercise:
  3. Concentrate on your core genius
  4. Avoid naysayers who disparage you with negativity and cause you to doubt yourself
  5. Work with a mentor, creativity coach or life coach to uncover your inner resources and bring out your true potential
  6. Surround yourself with positive friends and colleagues or a mastermind team to inspire you and buoy you up
  7. Identify your previous achievements, victories and competencies and remind yourself of them every day
  8. Learn from the masters of your craft so you can refine your skills and evolve as a practitioner
  9. Look within and ask the question “why” about everything you do or feel
  10. Negate negative self talk with positive affirmations and evolve beyond your limiting self beliefs
  11. Be prepared to overcome obstacles, disappointments and challenges along the way
  12. Profit from your mistakes and try alternate approaches to move you towards your desired outcomes
  13. Keep your eyes on the prize.

In the final analysis when it comes to figuring out your personal success criteria, it was never said better than by martial artist, action film actor, philosopher, and filmmaker Bruce Lee: “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”

Julie Ditrich

© Julie Ditrich, 2015

Originally published in Comics Masterclass Spotlight (Vol 2. No 2, Feb 2015).

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