On Friday, I had a longish talk with my brother about his creative endeavours and mine. He mentioned that whatever he planned to do, he'd find himself losing interest and not finishing it. What I found interesting was that the sort of projects he mentioned as examples were things like cleaning up and remixing old recordings of the various bands he was in, editing videos he had lying around unfinished, and other projects that involved a lot of digging through old stuff, cataloguing it, improving what already exists, trying to finish what didn't get done when it should have been. Hearing that was like having a mirror held up to me - it's exactly what I've been doing for over a year, and I'm heartily sick of it.
My brother's projects, and mine, are the sort you start on when you don't feel up to the task of setting up something new. My brother's a father and a full-time wage slave, and all his old bandmates apart from me are either one or both of those things, so reviving his old bands for serious performing commitments has proved elusive, and setting up new bands even more so. So instead, he remixes his old recordings. In my case, I've found myself a bit stressed-out from doing long ambitious comics, and also a bit frustrated that the finished work on those was a bit uneven. I didn't want to start a new long storyline until I was damned sure that I had an idea that was worth pursuing and that I could keep the process under control. Also, I was spending more time having meetings, doing research for each new project, planning and trying to get organised. And I didn't want to burn out again. All these things made me very reluctant to plunge into a new storyline, but while I was getting things into place, I could keep the schedule going by translating and posting old work. On a per-episode basis, this takes a lot less time than drawing new work (although it does often take more time than I would have hoped), so I could use some of the time saved for setting up the Chronicles of the Witch Queen site, remaster some of my side-comics (Pindrop and Unfantasy, for example), transcribe the archives in OhNoRobot, and generally fix things up that needed fixing.
The problem is that all of these things are sort of interesting to do, and they're definitely useful: I want my web archive to be the best it can be, and that means having polished scans and searchable pages are good things with a capital G. But taken together, over the long run, these projects turn into albatrosses around my neck. They take more time than planned, seeing them through to the end is a bit of a drag, and at the end of the day, they're not creative. They act as surrogates for the true creative act, using energy and effort that should have been used for making something new.
I wonder if this is a common pitfall for artists. From talking to my brother, I suspect that it might be. (Another pitfall that I think is commonplace, at least with webcartoonists, is that of simplifying ones art to be able to make deadlines. Works well if you do it only once, for a short time, to get out of a tricky deadline situation, but if you do it again and again, then in the long run, you take all the fun out of creating the art in the first place. So the simplified art ends up taking as long to make as the more complex art, simply because it's become a chore. Eventually, the artist gives up. I've avoided that pitfall so far though.)
Luckily for me, a lot of my albatrosses are about to fall from my neck. Tomorrow, the remastered Guðrún will start its run on the Chronicles of the Witch Queen website. On Tuesday, Geir and Daniel's Alcydia will start its own serialisation at the same website, after many delays. Adam Cuerden has agreed to act as a script editor for Alcydia and he's been doing a great job whipping Geir's self-translation from the Norwegian into shape and making sure it matches Daniel's visuals again. Finally, I'm now very close to finishing the transcription project. I really want that one out of my life, so this morning I bit the bullet and transcribed over 40 episodes, most of them from 2002. The list of comics to transcribe now shows several non-ROCR sidecomics, a good number of recent episodes and a few ones from 2001 and 2004 that are a bit problematic for various reasons (if you want to help transcribe ROCR comics, best to leave anything from before 2006 alone). Soon, the list will become shorter until it only contains the latest few comics. By that time, it will no longer be a project but a minor chore. Good riddance.
I wish I could guarantee that the end of these projects will lead to more new comics. My best guess is "not yet, not quite". But I'm sure it'll help.