Inside the Mind of Kurtis J. Wiebe

A Life's Journey

Month: October, 2012

Fall/Winter Signing Tour

I begin a long signing tour tomorrow morning. Here’s the list!

Beach Ball Comics, Anaheim, CA – Oct 31 from 5-8pm (appearing with Tyler Jenkins)
Alakazam Comics, Irvine, CA – Nov 1 from noon-2pm
Vancouver Comicon, Heritage Hall – Nov 4 11am-5pm
Arcane Comics, Seattle, WA – Nov 7 from 3-8pm
Silver Snail Comics, Toronto – Nov 21 from 5-8pm

Trials

It’s Wednesday. I’m staring at the script for Peter Panzerfaust #8, five pages in, and clearly I’ve come to a stand still creatively because I’m writing this now. Once again, I’m stuck.

This summer wasn’t an easy one. I really don’t need to go into the details, but around the time of my trip to SDCC my personal life was starting to come apart. When I came back from that trip, almost everything had unraveled. I was left picking up pieces and trying to patch together a new life , to start over when I’d believed things to be certain.

I started to invest in my life again. Over the course of a year I’d let friendships and family take a back seat to my pursuit of a goal and dream that I’d been following for years. I’d set aside everything else to put whatever time and energy I could muster into writing as much as I could and getting my name out to the masses. The truth is, I succeeded at that goal in a lot of ways. Between April 2011 and July 2012, I’d put out 24 issues of comics through Image and Image Shadowline, had a short in the Marvel Holiday Annual and my novel Between Worlds was finally released. That is not counting the freelancing work I’d written with Fathom Interactive, over 15 web comic scripts for their Sky Pirates of Neo Terra property.

I was, and still am, very proud of that.

There’s a cost, though. If you followed my podcast, The Process, you’ll have noticed a continued theme of struggle with my writing productivity and with levels of stress. When you lose balance in your life, when you make only one thing a priority, everything else in your life suffers. You have no time or energy for other aspects of your life that should be equally important, and I’d lost sight of that.

When I was piecing everything together again this summer, I received a nugget of wisdom in the form of an exercise from a counselor. “Go home and really think about what is most important to you.”

My immediate answer was, of course, writing. The exercise continued to float around in my brain and when I took a real honest look back at the events of early to mid 2012, I realized that writing isn’t really the most important part of my life. If tomorrow it just so happened that I lost all my comic series and no one ever wanted to hire me again, I’d be broken up about it but I’d survive. I’d find other work and continue to write on the side, for my own mental health and enjoyment. On the other hand, if my family completely cut me out, or I was to face my entire future alone with no one to share it with, I’d feel utterly defeated.

The people I love, my wonderful friends and family, they mattered most to me.

When I realized that about myself I was given hope again. I invested in my social life, actively pursued spending time with my friends by having parties and making myself available to them. I quickly became embedded in a life I’d abandoned for a career and I’m grateful that even after everything, these amazing people excitedly took me back.

So while I was putting my personal life back together, there was one part that was still a major casualty of my experiences: my writing. Since July, I’ve written very little. In fact, those who know me well heard of my actual resentment and hatred of writing for a period of a month. I started to blame my career for my struggles and what it had cost me. That took awhile to overcome because in a lot of ways, writing had cost my a lot, but at the end of the day I had to realize it was my decisions, not my career, that was ultimately responsible.

It’s now October and I continue to struggle. In most ways my life is back together; I’m active with my social life and take weekends off without fail (no matter what my productivity was during the week), I am in better touch with my family, and I take a lot of time to reflect on life and be content to have periods of solitude. Writing has remained an elusive demon.

The question now is; how do I push through the self doubt and return to a higher level of productivity?

I’ve been searching for that answer for months and here are some things I’ve been learning.

1) Remember that it is something you love. It’s easy to start to resent something when it’s no longer a simple task or loses any amount of satisfaction. Take the time to reflect on why you started doing it in the first place. It comes from a place of passion or excitement, or at least, it used to and you have to be able to acknowledge that.

2) Claim your victories. Even when they are tiny, learn to relish those moments where you pushed through a block and managed to write something. Anything. I stared at Page 1, Panel 1 for Peter Panzerfaust 8 for over a week and felt more frustrated and defeated with each passing day. Yesterday I wrote the first five pages. I didn’t finish the script. Hell, I didn’t even get  half way through, but it was something from nothing and that is a win.

3) Be comfortable with your method. I joke a lot with my friends that most of my day is spent napping on my couch. There actually is a level of truth to that, but rather than napping I’m living inside my own head for hours of the day simply thinking. Even if it’s not story related, or working out a plot point, I often sit and reflect on life and who I am. Out of those long sessions, sometimes lasting weeks, some of my best work has come out of. It’s easy to look back at that time and feel as though you’ve accomplished nothing because you haven’t actually written anything but as a creative person pooling ideas is an absolute necessity. We can’t be expected to craft meaningful stories without investing that sort of time into the early development.

And, as a second point, and possibly the most important: For the love of god, stop comparing your work routine with others. I remember when Riley Rossmo and I first started working together on Green Wake and I was absolutely floored by his work ethic. He maintained a solid schedule and without fail invested a full 8-10 hour day every single day only taking Sundays off. When I began freelancing, I somehow assumed that would be the life I would have and when that didn’t happen in any way whatsoever, I was completely demoralized. Over time (even though it’s still a struggle) I learned that my method of creating is completely different than Riley’s but still a completely valid one. I may not put in 40-50 hours of solid work a week but I constantly remind myself that I am invested in my career and I’ve done very well with it so far, so something must be working.

I’m looking back at this essay and it’s clear to me that I’ve needed to write this for some time. 2012 has been at two polar ends for me; the highest of highs and the most crushing of lows. When I face a week of complete and utter creative failure, I can still look back at everything and remind myself one thing:

I survived.

 

The Curse of Grim Leaper

SERIES SPOILERS

Grim Leaper #4 came out a few weeks ago and it became immediately noticeable that the finale to the series left a lot of people disappointed. A lot of review sites and even readers, expressed their negative reaction to the series never explaining the curse in any sort of detail.

I can definitely understand the frustration if that was the expectation from the beginning. I suppose in some ways it was set up for the big reveal, and there was one but probably not in a way that people assumed it would happen.

Grim Leaper is a love story. It’s about the journey all of us go through when we experience life altering change and have to start over again from the beginning. It’s a road of redemption or doom, and, working with similar themes in Green Wake, we are ultimately responsible for our own progress to healthier, happier lives.

The curse was a very real aspect to the story, but it served as a metaphor for continual failure and education about who we really are. If we can learn from those mistakes, it allows us insight into pieces of ourselves we’d never seen before. Of course, how we deal with that information, that’s the real kicker. Do we accept it? Refuse to admit its truth? Carry it with us and let it fester or uproot it to become whole again, or at least, a better version of who we are?

In a lot of ways Grim Leaper was a silly little gore horror fest, but Lou’s journey mirrored mine in a lot ways. Coming off a long term relationship I had very little clue who I really was. I also immensely struggled with my self esteem and found myself becoming how others saw me. For a period of time, I was only a mirror version of myself, an image projected and not the true person I was still learning about. That kind of thinking can lead to repeating choices that got you into a bad situation to begin with because you aren’t the genuine self, but an adapting shade who becomes whatever is required to please and impress.

Those experiences directly carried over to Lou’s body transformations. He was still the same, rotten person inside who viewed the world with a sort of cynical apathy, but his new flesh allowed him to become even more shallow as there was never any consequence to his choices. Not in the short term, at any rate.

When you can accept yourself for who you are, when you finally put the pieces together about what makes you unique, despite all your shortcomings, it’s at that moment when you can really connect with another soul.

 

And that is what Grim Leaper was to me. It was never about the curse, but the journey Lou had to take in order to be with Ella. She, too, had a path of discovery to take and in the end, they could make the connection because the time was right. I don’t necessarily believe in fate, but I believe in the timing of everything. Perfect moments between two people. That is how life falls into place and we have incredible and terrifying experiences that make us who we are.

Lou said it best in issue #4.

“Can I be who I am now with this old face to remind me of all my fuck ups?”