Strange Animals 04jan2019: Begin As You Mean to Go On

Here we are on fourth day of the new year. I thought I’d send this out on the first day of the year, but come on, after the [insert level of debauchery here] you indulged in over the new year, you didn’t need this first thing out.

So we’ll take it as a given that we’re well-rested and eager (or at least cautiously ready) to take on the new year, and let’s see what we have here.


I made this chart for myself at the beginning of 2018:

And by any reasonable measure, I have failed miserably and comprehensively. The chart was supposed to be a kind one—something I could accomplish midway through the year and then blow past. But I achieved none of it.

I did not finish a novel—I wrote about 8,000 words of it. I finished one script that I immediately proceeded to trash because it was Not Good. I did not finish a single comic-book font, though I started six. And I worked out for 96 days, which is slightly less than half my set goal, and somehow a lot more shameful than if I’d reached 100.

But that’s not the whole story, is it?

Because I had a better 2018 than I could have expected, honestly. I did more lettering work than in any previous year, and more fulfilling work at that. I hand-lettered a whole graphic novel. I finally cracked how to learn to draw (I mean, there’s an incredibly long way to go, but I’m now on Square One rather than Square Zero), I got more enthusiastic about writing than ever before (and I sold a short story which was released in an anthology towards the end of 2018), and I actually made exercise a habit. The point of this chart was to keep my eye on the ball, and it did the job.


No comics on sale this week with my lettering, so here’s a quick round-up of all the special mentions my work got in December. This was a surprising and gratifying experience. You’re not always sure anyone’s looking at your work, so stuff like this is very cool.

I was nominated for (and, as of yesterday, won) the Broken Frontier Award for Best Letterer of 2018 for my work on Grafity’s Wall and These Savage Shores. This is my second win, after 2017.

I was nominated for Best Letterer in the first Tripwire Awards, which will be announced at Portsmouth Comic-Con.

I was #2 on Multiversity’s list of Best Letterers of 2018, which came with one of my favourite write-ups about my work.

I was among’s 7 Best Letterers of 2018 for my work on Punks Not Dead and Isola.

DoomRocket gave me an honourable mention in their list of ‘Best Artists of 2018’ for my work on Isola.

Comicosity put me on their list ‘2018: The 10 Creators that Blew Our Minds’, which was a strange and very cool experience.

Along with all of this, I’ve been gratified by how many of the books I’ve worked on have been mentioned in various Year’s Best lists or nominated for awards, including but not limited to Isola, Grafity’s Wall, These Savage Shores, Punks Not Dead, Deep Roots, Assassinistas, Euthanauts, Paradiso and Maxwell’s Demons, which proves that, whatever else my strengths, I have great taste in books and collaborators.


So going into 2019, I’m looking at what got left out, and why. And for that, I have to look at what worked. For the last two months of the year, I hit my goal of working out four times a week every single week, and the reason was simple—I planned my day around it. Every morning, I looked at my work, see if I had any plans for going out in the evening, and I’d schedule a workout so I wouldn’t have to scramble.

So that’s what I’m doing this year. I’m actually going to schedule every day the previous night. My instincts chafed at this when I started on the 2nd, because that’s never been how I worked, and it felt restrictive, but just two days in, I actually feel a lot more relaxed when I get to my work desk because I know the things I need to get done today.

I’ve gone further and broken down the month into the number of working days I have and how much I can get done everyday—approximately, of course. I’ve marked out vacation days and all-writing days so I don’t surprise myself and have to cover by working through the evening or something of the sort.

This has to be flexible, because a lot of my work involves waiting on other people to be done, but every week is now populated by chunks of different kinds of work that I can move around, so I’m not wasting time, say, noodling around on a new font when I know I’ve already missed one of my writing slots.

Over last year, I’ve gotten better at respecting my time, so that’s what I’m trying to continue with this.

Here’s what the chart for 2019 looks like:

Other than this, I’d also like to send out 52 newsletters this year. Wish me luck.


My friend Riddhi has just started a newsletter called Small Spoon. I expected it to be well-written, smart and earnest, and it is all of those, but it’s also sensitive, well-read, and links off to other reading that’s going to improve your life. Have at it.


I was talking to a writer friend the other day about how I’m going to write more in 2019 by being kinder to myself—by allowing myself to put the words out and not expect them to be good first time out.

So given that, from November 2018 in the commonplace book, here’s George Saunders on writer’s block (originally found via David Press’s newsletter):

I like David Foster Wallace’s notion that writer’s block is always a function of the writer having set a too-high bar for herself. You know: you type a line, it fails to meet the “masterpiece standard,” you delete it in shame, type another line, delete it—soon the hours have flown by and you are a failure sitting in front of a blank screen. The antidote, for me, has been getting comfortable with my own revision process—seeing those bad first lines as just a starting place. If you know the path you’ll take from bad to better to good, you don’t get so dismayed by the initial mess. So: writing is of you, but it’s not YOU. There’s this eternal struggle between two viewpoints: 1) good writing is divine and comes in one felt swoop, vs: 2) good writing evolves, through revision, and is not a process of sudden, inspired, irrevocable statement but of incremental/iterative exploration. I prefer and endorse the second viewpoint and actually find it really exciting, this notion that we find out what we think by trying (ineptly at first) to write it. And this happens via the repetitive application of our taste in thousands of accretive micro-decisions.

Filed under writing and advice.