Reflections on 2017

It’s been a strange year, 2017. Indeed, I daresay it’s been humbling. Much has happened and been accomplished this year, but it’s also been a year for much reflection, growth, and change. Most of that change has happened behind the scenes, as it were, but it has shown itself in little ways throughout. Perhaps it’s fitting, as 2017, and to the month specifically (December, that is), marks ten years of professional work for me. Indeed, that seems to be the theme of this entire year for me, though I didn’t plan it that way: to take a step back, reflect on things, and make changes where necessary.

If I can get philosophical for a moment, as I’m wont to do, it’s often by pushing ourselves past our limits that we can better understand them and truly grow. That’s something I’ve never been afraid to do, when I can get past my often frustrating propensity to over think things. It’s how I grow as a person and how I grow creatively. But if I can be perfectly honest, I’ve been overdoing the limit breaking for the past four years.

Chadhiyana: In the Company of Shadows - Book ISince beginning work on Chadhiyana: In the Company of Shadows (my graphic novel) and then a few years later adding in Gentleman Cthulhu (my web-comic), I’ve been pushing forward with blinders on and not just in regard to my work. As I can now see looking back, I worked as though I were under an extremely tight deadline every day for years, putting in (between my teaching job and creative work) some 80-90 hours a week (that’s no joke or exaggeration; and my teaching job is only 35 hours). I was attempting to keep a schedule, which although I worked it, in constant cycles of productivity and burnout, it would be difficult for anyone to keep up for 10 months a year, year after year.

Despite the fact that I can be a workaholic and that I was able to produce and learn much the past few years, I knew all along that I couldn’t sustain that pace forever. Of course, that’s not to say anything about the projects I’ve chosen (before you Chadhiyana and Gentleman Cthulhu fans start to panic that this is an announcement of me closing some sort of creative door—it is not), but despite knowing better, I convinced myself somehow that pushing myself like that would get me where I wanted to be quicker, and as a result my health and sanity began to suffer.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries, between this realisation and a few events in my personal life, I took a step back and even away from creating for a bit to reflect on things. Although I was producing work for years, something about the production process was not working. My personal work was suffering, and under the conditions I was working I couldn’t see how I’d ever finish Chadhiyana or its related stories. But also I’ve had a growing list of back work I haven’t been able to attend to because of how tight I was making things for myself. This list includes but isn’t limited to a vampyre story for Atlas Unleashed, a children’s book I finished three years ago, a desire to write more prose fiction, and take on other, freelance work when I could.

In short, I was grinding myself to the bone. I was trying to sprint a marathon, and it was making me unhappy and dissatisfied with the work I was producing. As I have no intention of ever quitting, I needed to learn to work smarter not harder (as the saying goes). Again, something needed to change.

Inktober treeAnd 2017 was a year of change. Not a complete reinvention of myself and an abandonment of all my projects (though it may seem that way at times), but I needed to put myself in a better position both to complete the work I’ve already committed to, and to produce other work I haven’t been able to get to. Some of those efforts have been made publicly, such as my participation in Inktober this year and in NaNoWriMo—though arguably the former was more successful than the latter, I still got much out of NaNoWriMo, even if it wasn’t a complete first draft of a novel.

The launch of my Patreon page and my new website storefront are new initiatives I took this year to make things at least a little easier financially for me. Behind the scenes, I was also doing such things as reassessing and reworking my work schedule, and not just for efficiency and getting work done, but also for some flexibility, that I not continue to go through the cycling burnout I’ve been experiencing for years. In light of these changes, I’ve reworked my plan (written two years ago) for the next few years going forward. Even more, I’ve been doing more fiction writing again, and as I never yet announced, I spent a good portion of the first half of the year editing and rewriting much of part one of Chadhiyana: In the Company of Shadows.

Chadhiyana #5 - coverAs I stated earlier in the year, issue 5 represented everything the book was supposed to be, and the first four issues, although generally the story I intended, were filled with a few odd choices in storytelling and art. Likely this was because of its author’s self-consciousness about his creations, but also my work habits, I now believe, were not allowing me the freedom to produce the book as I wanted. And though people have enjoyed it thus far, and for that I am very grateful, I feel strongly that something needed to change there too.

So for those long-wondering fans, the delays in issue 6 and the completion of the first volume of collected issues in this two volume graphic novel, lie entirely with this author and not Rosarium Publishing. A deep explanation will have to wait for another time, lest this reflection become overlong, but if any of you were wondering if Chadhiyana had been abandoned, she has not. However, like everything else this year, the past ten have taught me much, and I needed to step back even from Chadhiyana and make some adjustments, so that I can continue on with it.

I do regret that it’s been something of a year-long process to do all of this. I didn’t think I’d have to take a complete step back, but I suppose it was necessary, else it wouldn’t have happened. As a colleague of mine remarked very recently that it sounds like I’m doing “a complete overhaul” of my creative business (as it were). In a word, I suppose that’s true, and it does take a great effort. I’m hoping those efforts will show themselves positively in the years to come, and that I can begin to more consistently produce the various works I wish to complete. I know I said much the same thing last year, and perhaps in previous years, but the intention and follow through has been there. Unfortunately, sometimes things in life are a process and often take longer than we expect. This reflection and adjustment period has proved to be both.

J. M. DeSantis Inktober 2017I’m not exactly sure how to end this, as I’ve written this three times over (which is why it’s going up on a Thursday and not my usual blog day of Tuesday). So, let me just say that I close out 2017 and look forward to 2018 with renewed energies, inspiration and determination, and with a better plan for the future. I’ll see you all in the New Year with more Chadhiyana, Gentleman Cthulhu and other work. I can confidently promise you that much. I hope you’re looking forward to it. I know I am.

Until then: Cheers!


Write a Comment!