Or: How you too, can make cheerful and happy comics with your favorite corgi
“I’m a webcomics that has a programmer. Crap, I did that wrong.”
Justin is a software engineer, he lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, drinks a lot of energy drinks, listen to metal/Phil Collins/Huey Lewis and thinks corgis and squirrels are awesome.
“At some point, I realized I liked making a super upbeat comic that was still funny. Now, I always have The Happy Factor in the back of my head whenever I’m writing and drawing the comics.”
Michael Bacera: So your Twitter tag is just a great intro to both you as a person and your humor style. “I’m a webcomics that has a programmer. Crap, I did that wrong.” So to start off, what came first, the programming or the webcomics, and what spurred you to pursue, what some people would say are opposite fields?
Justin Boyd: I figured out at the start of my sophomore year of college that I wanted to pursue software engineering. I was always a computer dude, so it made sense to go into programming stuffs. The thing that actually made me get into comics was an excessive amount of downtime at my first job out of college. I had nothing to do, so I ended up doodling really silly comics and sending them to my friend. That snowballed into Left-Handed Toons, which was my very first webcomic. I started that back in 2007 with my friend Drew from college.
MB: I mentioned this at Comicon when I met you, but one of the best things about your webcomic is that it’s always happy, clever, and makes you smile. Other webcomics are a little more dark, a little more profane, their sense of humor a little more edgy. Was that a conscious choice you made in your writing?
JB: In the beginning, my kinda-focus was a more art-driven comic instead of the black and white, scribbly stuff of Left-Handed Toons. At some point, I realized I liked making a super upbeat comic that was still funny. Now, I always have The Happy Factor in the back of my head whenever I’m writing and drawing the comics.
MB: Gotta go with the cliche question next: Where do you get your comic ideas? I mean, I know Wendell doesn’t just give you all this awesome materials.
JB: A ton of my comic ideas come from comic idea sessions I have about once a month. I spend a couple hours and let my mind wander and come up with as many comic ideas as possible. The main goal is to not over-think any of the ideas and to just let them flow out. When you start worrying that the idea you’re working on may not be good, then you start getting in your own way and not letting the idea develop into something more. Most sessions end up with about 20 ideas and maybe 3-5 of those end up being drawn up into a comic. The rest of those ideas end up retiring in a dated folder on my hard drive.
MB: What would your advice be for new webcomic artists and writers, or those who want to be one? What do they got to do to make it to the big leagues, hanging out in ComicCon?
JB: The most important thing with getting into the webcomic thing is, when you’re starting off, you gotta stick to it. You can let traffic numbers get you down or anything like that. Just do what you love and keep making comics that you enjoy. With time, you’ll find your audience; it’s never an overnight thing. Well, almost never, but don’t plan on that =)
MB: What projects should we look forward to from Invisible Bread in 2015? More cool Merch? Any cross overs or team ups? Where can fans meet you? And also, more Wendell!
JB: I am wrapping up Volume 3 right now and have some plans to make a Space Snake: Origins mini-book thing. I also want to get back into making some cool shirts for everyone.
This year, I will be at Emerald City Comicon in Seattle at the end of March and Salt Lake Comicon at the start of September. I will also most likely be at TCAF and FanExpo in Toronto, but I will not have a table. I’ll just be floating around saying hi to people!
The Writing Process
“Just do what you love and keep making comics that you enjoy. With time, you’ll find your audience; it’s never an overnight thing. Well, almost never, but don’t plan on that =)”
What can an amateur author/aspiring webcomic take away from Justin’s experience and story?
First, Do what excites you.
Don’t let people put a label or category on you. Like Justin, I went to University for a totally unrelated field: I wanted to be a Mathematician, and declared myself a Mathematics major. But, while pursuing my undergrad, I discovered that I loved creative writing. I took every class I could take, and I discovered with a little fancy time manipulation (I enrolled concurrently in a high level writing class and second level abstract algebra) I was able to get my Bachelor’s in Mathematics and my Minor in Creative Writing. While my Degree is nice, and I do work tech support now, the drive to write and keep on writing, create new worlds and characters is still a big part of my life. I could have picked many minors related to my major (I was only 3 classes away from my Computer Science minor) but I wanted to defy categories and do what I wanted to do.
So, if you want to write? Just write! I was using the word “aspiring author” in my older posts, even in my header, but after writing Colton’s Interview, I realized that the term is somewhat of a misnomer. As long as you are writing (blog, poems, comics, novels, essays, etc) you are a writer! The only difference is some people get paid, and some people don’t. So amateur writers and professional writers. You will see the Blog description has been changed to reflect that.
No matter what field or profession you are, you have a story to tell. Maya Angelou said “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. A lot of people live their lives with their story untold. Maybe this is why there is so much misunderstanding in our world: people who are unable to explain their story to others. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed” said Ernest Hemingway. Sincere writing always leaves a part of yourself behind in the words. That is the only stories worth writing about.
Second: Let the idea develope into something more
Where do you get your ideas? Ideas are cheap. Justin mentions that “the main goal is not to over-think any of the ideas and just let them flow out.” And that is true. Again, ideas are cheap, but execution is hard. You have a great idea? It’s really easy to imagine this epic book, and the intense fights, the dashing characters, the nail biting ending. But the hard part is actually sitting down and writing it, slower paced parts and all.
But that is a talk for a whole other article, the craft and work of writing. What I do want to point out is that Justin doesn’t just throw away those 20 or so ideas that don’t end up making it into a comic: he puts them away in an organized fashion. This is a great tool for amateur authors; most professional authors I’ve had the privilege to listen to already do this. This can be done on many levels. In an upcoming post I will discuss some of my favorite writer tools, but for now let me mention two specific techniques that can be used with virtually any tool.
Whenever I get a clever Idea, I write it down! Even if it doesn’t completely make sense, just write it down, and then put it away somewhere organized. For me, I use Evernote and I tag it as a “Story Idea” and stick it in my Writing folder. Please note that I just don’t write it down and just stick it in a folder, or put it on a note on my phone. I organize and tag. There is nothing more frustrating then remembering you had a good idea a month ago and not being able to locate it among the mess. In the minimum, date them! I try to date and also put a general subject. Also, they don’t need to make grammatical sense, or even any sort of sense, as long as they can capture the moment of the idea (that’s why I love digital, because I almost always have my phone). Here are a few off my phone right now.
After awhile, I didn’t know if I was in love with you, or just in love with the idea if waiting for you. And the only way to tell was to stop.
Stop waiting or stop loving me?
A execution force comprised of people who dislike the act. The most dangerous? A Person who can manipulate his emotions to become negative
“We killed someone who didn’t exist, somewhere, there is a family who has lost a son or daughter, someone who had lost a brother or sister, or best friend, and they don’t even know it.”
Every generation is filled and then implanted with the memory of their progenitors.Memory loops, mass erase. Ship in peril?
If any of these ideas intrigue you, please feel free to take them. Ideas are cheap, Also, two of these ideas are pieces in progress! If you can comment and locate them in my works in progress post, I will give you some sort of prize. Don’t ask me what, but it will be awesome. Promise.
A writer is economical. Just because one idea for a scene won’t work for this story, doesn’t mean it won’t be perfect for another, Same thing with plot points, characters, and settings. Store those away, as detailed as they need to be so they can be remembered and retrieved.
Third Don’t Give up
I don’t think I’ve ever heard successful author say “and then at that point, I gave up and things started really working out for me”. I know this sounds a lot like Colton’s advice from the previous interview, but it’s because it’s true. Every author you meet will talk about a point where they thought about giving up, or some major obstacle got in the way, but they persevered and that’s why they are there. True, there are some people who never gave up, and never made their way as an author, but I assure there is no one who gave up and then accidentally became an author. No one ever became anything by giving up. Let’s leave it at that.
I could go on and on with this subject, because I myself am guilty of this. In fact, you can go to the very first post of this blog and see how I promised myself I wouldn’t give up on this blog, and then I promptly gave up for almost 3 months. Posted regularly for 3 more months, and then gave up for over a year and a half. Yup, But I picked it right back. Pick yourself backup and do it. Hold yourself accountable.
The best part about living in this day and age, is that there are so many resources for amateur writers. Blogs, podcasts, ebooks, writing guides: so much of what we need is free or relatively cheap. I do, at some point, want to talk about the tools I think are absolutely vital for a writer, but these tools and resources, whether free or paid, do not make you a writer. They just make the writing easier, but it won’t magically make you able to write and not give up. Only you can do that. Later on I’ll talk about writing schedules and such, But just write, start something big and don’t be afraid. It isn’t that starting that gets you. It’s the stopping.
I want to thank Justin for letting me pester him at Comic Con, then on Twitter, and then in email. His webcomic is an essential part of my week, and has often made the change of a bad day and a decent day, Start your day off right with some Invisible Bread!
Interested in Justin’s Work? Find/Follow him here:
And finally, a picture of Wendell, chasing his leash
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