I spent nearly seven years writing and drawing a comic strip that wasn’t successful.
Well, that’s not entirely true. People enjoyed it. It had fans. And it made a little bit of money. But it never got syndicated and didn’t generate a big enough audience or enough revenue to earn a living.
And so I had to stop.
It was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do, especially after pouring so much time, energy and money into that endeavor. Seven years of developing the discipline to sit down and write, even on days when no ideas come. Seven years spent drawing comic strips in a humid apartment with no air conditioning. Seven years learning the basics of business, of profit margins and net income and balance sheets. Seven years of sinking deeper into debt as we tried one idea after another in the quest to make a profit.
It was a hard dream to let go of. I was certain my characters would be household names. I imagined receiving a Ruben award for best cartoonist. I expected that one day, my strip would enter the same conversation as Peanuts, Calvin & Hobbes, and The Far Side.
The writing had been on the wall for a while. My speaking career was taking off and I didn’t have as much time to devote to this daily time suck. We had found the sustainable business we had been looking for, and the comic strip wasn’t it.
And so on January, 27, 2007, I published my last strip.
It is only now, all these years later, that I finally understand something important: Sometimes your dream is not your real dream.
I thought my dream was to create a popular comic strip. But my real dream had always been to inspire, entertain, and encourage people to be more childlike so that they could created lives with less stress and more joy. The comic strip was just one possible how. Deep down, I knew this all along, but I had allowed the how to cloud the why.
If your real dream is to experience a thrilling cross country adventure, does it matter if you have to trade in your Corvette for a Harley? Or if instead of beginning your trek from the east coast, you started from the west?
Sometimes you have to let go of the structure of your dream in order to achieve the spirit of your dream.
And that can really suck, especially when you’ve invested so much going in one direction.
Back when I was sweating away drawing comic strips in a small apartment, I couldn’t have even imagined the work I get to do today and the way my life has unfolded. It’s better than my wildest dreams!
And it’s clear to me now that the time I spent on Kim & Jason was the farthest thing from a waste of time. It wasn’t a failure; it was the foundation of the success I now enjoy. All the trial and error, the discipline muscle, the business lessons, they were crucial lessons I needed to learn. The characters were the guides that helped me flesh out this philosophy of “escaping adulthood,” and letting go of one art form allowed my art to evolve into something new (and better!).
It’s ok to be sad, disappointed, or angry when the structure of your dream falls apart around you.
The spirit of your dream is very much alive.
Let go, rise up, and soar to new heights.