At the Cincinnati Comic Expo this year, I attended a workshop with Dirk Manning. He’s an a comic writer who specializes in the horror genre, and like many people in the field, he’s made his own path. After trying to get work with Marvel and DC, he went his own route and started self-publishing. He’s a very entertaining speaker, and when you hear him talk, you quickly learn that he knows how to succeed.

His workshop was about how to manage your brand as a creator, but his points around other subjects were what really hit home to me.

Here’s some advice from Dirk Manning to think about.

  1. You’re not an aspiring artist or writer. You are an artist or writer.
    When we say “aspiring,” we usually mean that we’re not established yet. But just because you’re not established doesn’t mean you’re not an artist or writer. If you’re creating things, then call yourself a creator, and act like one.
     
  2. Know your productive times, and use them.
    If you want to get good at something, and want to be successful, you have to do a lot of work, and you have to produce a lot of output. For most of us, that’s not easy to fit into our schedule, but it’s required. So figure out when you can be productive. 
    I know I can be productive in the morning, and I get very dumb late at night. I also know that my kids need 100% of my attention at 7AM every day. So I get up at 4:30, and get in two solid hours of art or more every day, before taking up my other responsibilities. 
     
  3. Early in your storytelling career, make only short stories. Earn the bigger ones.
    His point here was that you have to start out with simple projects. This way they are not overwhelming, can be completed in a reasonable amount of time, and stand a chance of being seen by people who don’t know you. It’s much easier to get someone to look at an 8-page story than a 100-page story.
    I’ve had a few false starts, but I’m going to do sequential pages soon. And 8 pages is a lot less scary than 20+. 
     
  4. Be nice to people.
    If you’re a nice person, and you’re helpful and easy to work with, you’re eventually going to find success.