Work Ethic Thoughts #1

Why “#1”? Because I’ll probably go off about this again at some point. And again. And again. And again.  So, here goes the first time, officially….

Something which royally gets under my skin is how often, in the course of business, it seems that I am working while others are not. I”m not talking about people not pulling their weight per se, as most people I’ve ever known do, very much, what they are expected to do during their duly appointed hours. No,  I’m literally speaking of hours of the day when I’m going at it and would find it massively useful if others, business contacts, clients, partners, etc, were actually available.

I get it. Most of them don’t keep the kind of insane hours I do. Most clock in and clock out and when they’re done, they’re done until the next day. This is usually because most of them do not work for themselves, but rather have  an employer with set hours and set pay. They do their time and then it’s done. Voila. Off to whatever the rest of their time holds.

But the thing is, to me, if you want to achieve something great, then it takes great effort. It takes going not just above and beyond, but so far above and beyond as to leave your competition growing very tiny in the rear view mirror.

Folks in business for themselves, particularly my fellow artists, will likely understand exactly what I mean.

Let’s say you’re working on a story and you have a publisher and editor. A point comes where you’ve hammered away at it and really could use some input from that editor, yet it’s past their business hours. But you know that if you keep pushing on, you may well be wasting time with something that you really needed to bounce off them at that crucial moment. What to do? Take the chance while everything is flowing and hope for the best? Stop and wait, hoping that when you get that feedback the tide rolls in again? It seems to me that if you are in the business of working with us “creatives”, there ought to be at least an understanding there that for those of us truly serious about our craft, the work day never ends, and if you are our liaison, our editor, our manager, or whatever, then that probably means that yours shouldn’t end either, even though it likely does. Maybe that’s harsh, but every time I’ve managed to have those sorts of folks involved with me who understand that and work toward the maximum availability, the results are light years ahead of the alternative. If you work with artists, then it’s your job, by my reckoning, to take every advantage of the best ways in which they work to help pull the best product out of them, and if that means being “on call”, well… suck it up and be on call, because if you work with us, especially those of us who pour ourselves into it constantly, you will get great things. If you don’t, if you try to pack into a regular day everything we can throw at you in the dead of night, then by the time you catch up with us, we’ll be so far ahead of you that you’ll wonder what is even going on. You will be frustrated by it, and frankly, so will we.

What’s more, when the relationship between management and artist finds itself bottlenecking like this, frustrations build up on both ends. Management can’t keep up with the artistic flood. The artist feels stifled because management is probably somewhere days or projects back, with communications forcing you to shift gears from whatever your current project is back to something which, to you, was already over. As an artist, I’ve learned to try and keep this dynamic in mind and be as patient with it as possible, but that doesn’t stop it from being incredibly frustrating.

Some would call the crazed hours I keep erratic, obsessive or even this term I utterly detest, “workaholic”. But in my view, greatness and achievement are good things to be obsessed with, and pouring every available moment you have into those pursuits is what separates the nobodies from the likes of Jack Kirby, Frank Miller or Todd McFarlane in comics, or Frazetta, Ploog, Boris and Royo in painting. It’s what separates the virtuoso musicians from the garage noise wannabes. It’s what gives sports men like Michael Jordan and Hank Aaron. These are the guys who get up early, work like mad, stay late, and even in their “down time” are practicing, training, studying, expanding everything they can about what they do. These are the people who don’t just climb mountains; they go so far that they seek out entirely new mountains that no one else even knew existed, then climb them and break new ground for the rest of us to marvel at. In comics, I’ve heard it often said that, “we all live in the house Jack built”. There’s a reason for that. Work ethic. An insatiable desire to be the best, to create constantly, to never let up, to get the job done more than anyone else ever dared try.

Greatness doesn’t start and stop with the punching of a clock, and if it has a schedule, that’s only a tool for organizing itself to better work toward some goal. Greatness doesn’t give up. It doesn’t take a break. Greatness is always on, always working, studying, honing itself to be the best it possibly can be. The pursuit of greatness knows no hours, no limits. It never says “can’t”, but follows “can” with “how”, seeks out what it needs to know to formulate a plan, sets that plan in action and follows through. It is discipline, effort, drive and passion.

If you work with folks for whom this is their pursuit, be forewarned. We’re an abrasive lot, aggravating and demanding. But if you bare with us, together, amazing things will happen.