Thoughts on Pursuing Your Dreams Without Sacrificing Your Own Well Being.
Way back in September, I ran my second successful Kickstarter Campaign with my creative partner Reed Olsen. Our first one was in 2016. Over the years, I have read more than a handful of “tips and tricks for success” articles. Some of them have been repetitive, others extremely helpful, but I have never read one that spoke in depth on the emotional labor, sleep deprivation, stress, and anxiety that go on behind the scenes. In the age of humble-brags and curated social lives, we tend to leave out the ugly parts. What I am going to attempt to do here is pull back the metaphorical curtain and shed some light on my own experience.
Comics on Kickstarter have roughly a 54% rate of success; which is significantly higher than most other categories. The overall Kickstarter success rate is roughly 36%. What this means: the majority of Kickstarter projects fail. Only a slim majority of Comics Projects succeed. On top of that, there’s a growing problem with oversaturation. There’s just too many to projects to keep track of, let alone affordably support. In our two separate ventures, Reed and I managed to eek across the finish line in our final week. We owe more than a little bit of gratitude to our respective networks of friends and family. Those who had the means and chose to put their hard-earned money towards bringing our creation to life. I’m also humble enough to know that there was no small amount of luck involved.
During the campaign, my propensity for self sabotage found its way to the surface for the first time in a long time. The most efficient means of managing anxiety is to eliminate the source, so I thought about pulling the plug on all of it. There was a part of me that actively wanted it to fail - because then at least it would be over. We weren’t even doing badly, but my anxiety can be as hyperbolic as it is illogical. On one of the rougher days during the campaign, I wrote down everything I was feeling. I knew when I wrote it that the feeling would pass, that I was being unnecessarily harsh, and I was just letting the stress get to me. But I wanted to write it out so I could remember that feeling after it passed. I wanted a record of the toll the campaign was taking.
The emotional toll is extensive. There's peaks and valleys, often within the same day. Moving from confidence in a unique endeavor to feeling like an imposter and a pity fuck. The fine line between asking and begging. The feeling that no one really gives a shit, what I do doesn't matter, and I'm just screaming into the void. It makes me question whether I want to succeed in the industry. I spend so little time doing the one part I love: actually writing. I don't have the charm and charisma necessary. I'm not memorable. I'm mediocre at best, and not the marketable kind.
In addition to all of this, I neglected sleep and didn’t eat well. I stopped going to my weekly yoga classes. I had too much to do and not enough time. I ended up getting a bad cold about halfway through. One of the most important mistakes I made, however, was deciding to run this campaign while simultaneously moving in with Dierre. I don’t regret the latter part one bit. The move was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I just wish I had postponed the Kickstarter until the Spring. Moving is stressful even when everything goes smoothly, and I learned from this that it’s OK to delay things until I’m ready. I would rather launch a well-planned campaign six months late than launch one on time and haphazardly. The success of a project, no matter how important, is not worth sacrificing my mental health and well-being.
The first batch of books arrive in time for the first convention.
When all was said and done, we made our goal with a few days to spare. The books turned out beautifully, and the rewards are finally being shipped this month. I can say definitively that I will not be running another Kickstarter again anytime soon; I still have a lot to meditate on from this experience. Every part of the printing process took longer than anticipated, but I’ve gained a new appreciation for the amount of work that went into every graphic novel and trade collection I have ever read. I also learned a lot about the importance of community in creative spaces, which is something I plan to elaborate on in the future blog posts. Dream Crasher will continue with Chapter 5 this fall. As trying and difficult as this process was, Reed and I remain committed to seeing this story through to the end. Even as our focus shifts to new and different projects, the nightmare world of Amalie and Simon will continue it’s irregular heartbeat. In conclusion, I made myself a list of five key things I want to remember for the future. If I ever catch myself thinking that launching another Kickstarter will be great idea, this should give me pause. I initially wrote it for myself, but I want to share it with any other prospective creators out there. Crowdfunding with platforms like Kickstarter can be a great way to bring your idea to life, but it almost always comes with it’s own hidden costs.
• There’s nothing wrong with delaying the launch of a project. You’re better off pushing it back and being ready, than launching on time and barely keeping up.
• Get more people involved - from the planning process all the way through to the last week of the campaign. Comics people and friends alike. You’re willing to ask people for money, you might as well ask friends for some help in managing and emotional support.
• Anxiety will be a factor, and it will likely show up in unexpected ways. Try and prepare for the inevitability. Don’t lose sight of self care because you’re busy. It’s more important than ever when you’re dealing with stress.
• Pre-write as many updates, press releases, blogs, and social media posts as you can before you even launch the campaign. Be prepared to adapt as things change, but have a plan that you can fall back on.
• Know your community. Take the time to build one if you haven’t. Be yourself, listen to and support others, and don’t become a machine that only self-promotes. A supportive community does not guarantee success, but not having one all but guarantees failure.
I naively posted this to Instagram on the eve of the Kickstarter launch.