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Blog #3 Don’t try to make money with your hobby

It seems like a good idea, doesn’t it?

The people around you, well-meaning friends and family, will encourage you to consider this, but do not try and make money from your hobby – it will kill that hobby dead.

Bad Advice

I’ve heard it a million times about my comic strip: you should try and make money with it. Approach newspapers (some people still read newspapers, or so I’m told), publish, turn those long hobby hours into shiny gold coins. I think people still remember the great comic strip gold rush of the mid-1980’s to the early 1990’s. Comic strip creators made a fortune and were household names, like Garfield, Peanuts, The Far Side and Calvin & Hobbes. Those comic strips were incredible success stories, the 1% of the 1%.

A side note is that comic strips cost the newspapers money – they were one of the few sections that didn’t make them money to print. But if they cut the funny pages, there was outcry, so they downsized and shrunk the comic strips to make room for more ads, which actually paid the bills.

The truth is I don’t make the comic strip in order to make money. That’s why I work a job. The comic strip is specifically not-work, also known as a hobby. The thing you do to recover from work and rejuvenate the mind and/or body.

The worst advice you could take is to try and turn your hobby into a money-making enterprise. Why? Because now the thing that used to be a haven from work is now also work. Sure, it may be more ‘fun’ work, but the problem comes later, with the forced production of creative work.

Don’t confuse this with setting yourself goals or deadlines – these are fine to keep you focused. Money, however, changes the whole equation. Now that money is involved, you have to produce. You have to, otherwise you’re LOSING MONEY. Pretty soon, you start looking for another hobby to relax after doing your old hobby, which is now your job. Or worse yet, actively avoiding your old hobby because – surprise, surprise – all the fun has gone out of it.

Now you’re avoiding doing the thing that used to be your refreshment, your happy place.

The other 90% of the job

Furthermore, the actual enjoyable bit of a hobby makes up a very small amount of your time once it’s being done for money.

Ask anyone who works a job that is considered a hobby (say musician, Youtuber, knitter, etc.) and see what they spend most of their time doing. A hobby that’s a job has to be worked like a job. Websites, social media, networking, emails emails emails, returning phone calls, talking to suppliers, paying bills… yeah, it’s a job now. How much time are you actually going to spend creating, doing the thing that you used to love?

I promise you it’s a lot less than 100%.

If this is still a hobby, then the pressure is off. If you want to spend a few hours jamming on your guitar for no-one’s enjoyment but yourself, you haven’t lost anything.

For a job, however, every hour is an hour that could be spent generating income somehow.

So ignore the well-meaning advice of friends and family that tell you ‘you could make some money at this’ and just keep your hobby as a hobby. You’ll be happier AND you won’t have to look for a new hobby.

Mat

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News post – Catch-23 No. 1132 Immortality

A strange week of art and life unexpectedly overlapping. The comic strip was inspired by the story that humans may live to be 150 years old, in a scientifically-defined best-case-scenario. I thought it was funny that my cartoon creations already enjoy a kind of perpetual youth, but if they recognise that, they also have to rationalise the day when I no longer pick up a pen and will them into existence.

After I had made the comic strip, our bearded dragon Ziggy passed away. He was at least seven years old, possibly a fair bit older, and had a good life working as the therapy lizard in our psychology practice. His passing was a complicated one, as he was a sort of a public figure for our clients, and he also never liked me. That’s not a joke, it was just a gender thing. He was a boy lizard and he seemed to be stuck in the idea that he and I were in competition for mates. Towards the end, he appeared to be going into brumation (a kind of hibernation for reptiles) for the winter, then became more unwell and passed away.

Furthermore, I got my first COVID shot yesterday, and that has brought up a lot of other complicated feelings that I’ll probably speak about in an upcoming comic strip or blog post. The short version is a sense of relief, and the lifting of a bunch of stressors that I now realise have been there for about 18 months.

Even though the comic strip this week has an element of morbidity about it, we all must face our impending mortality. I’m just doing it through a cartoon cat.

Mat

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Blog #2 Why all prequels are inherently bad

I know I said I’d blog about writing comic strips, but this ranty blog about prequels ended up being finished first.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, you might remember the excitement, and the disappointment, that came with the Star Wars prequels. Episodes I-III were mostly terrible movies, because suddenly there was no budget constraints or studio oversight on George Lucas and he could just do whatever (see also; Jar Jar Binks).

But that’s not why prequels suck. The Star Wars prequels suck for a lot of reasons, but almost ALL prequels suck because they’re prequels.

Peril-free zone

A lot of fiction, be it Star Wars or Bridgerton, focuses on conflict, drama and the suspense of not knowing what will happen next. Will this character live or die? Will this couple find their happily ever after? Does the villain get their comeuppance?

Sure, these films, books and tv shows can be enjoyable upon rewatch, but you still remember how you felt the first time you watched/read it, when the excitement was fresh.

With prequels, much of the danger, drama and suspense is lost. Every time Obi-Wan got put in peril during the prequels, there was never any danger: you knew he lived through every battle and duel to become Luke’s mentor in Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Side characters alongside Obi-Wan may have been in danger, but they are just side characters, so the danger to the character we know and love is diminished, sanitised, deadened.

Finer and finer slices

Prequels also dilute the source material to the point that the original starts to matter less. Every time you go back to the well, you run the risk of devaluing the big events, twists and character moments.

Take, for example, the epic (and overwrought) final confrontation between Obi-Wan and Vader-to-be Anakin in Episode III. Lots of jumping around and acrobatic lightsaber-fu. Now fast forward to the climactic battle in Episode IV between Vader and Obi-Wan. What was once a pivotal character moment between these two old friends-turned-foes now looks dated, dull and boring. They poke at each other for a bit then Obi-Wan surrenders – boring when compared to the exciting if empty battle from Episode III.

But [insert prequel here] was good!

I will finish with an acknowledgement that, in the right hands, a prequel story can work. It’s rare, though. Solo was a pretty good prequel – it suffered from knowing that Han, Chewie and Lando all make it through to appear in the later films, but it was made with a very deft touch for nostalgia and fun. Wicked The Musical was an excellent way to handle a prequel – by telling the story it did, it made you question the events of the original Wizard of Oz. This is how to make a prequel matter – telling an original story, viewing the familiar events and characters in a new light, challenging your assumptions and being an enjoyable stand-alone piece as well.

Mat

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News post – Catch-23 No. 1131 Recycled

After last weeks’ lockdown comic strip, the plan was to do a comic strip about coming OUT of lockdown, but that didn’t happen (coming out of lockdown, I mean) so here’s something in-between.

It used to really bug me when I saw comic strip panels used over and over again, like the cartoonist was being lazy; cashing a paycheck without doing the work. With the perspective of both an adult and a time-poor cartoonist, I realise that re-using drawings and panels are a means to an end – making sure that the comic strip comes out on schedule, no matter what else is going on. Plus the idea of a cartoonist getting a paycheck just seems funny to me now.

Re-using drawings saves me time at the drawing stage, but it also gives me a chance to use it in the gag, so the creativity is still being utilised at the writing stage rather than the art stage.

Mat

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Blog #1 Writing more

Hello there, I know you’re used to just checking in on this website for the weekly comic strip, Catch-23, and for that: I thank you.

What I’m also going to do is start blogging more often. You’ll still get the weekly comic strip, and accompanying news post, but there will also be the added mid-week post about… well, whatever I want to talk about that week.

I’ve decided to get more serious about writing. I have long suspected that I’ve got a novel or something in me, just waiting to be written. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and writing has come very naturally for me. I’ve been writing this comic strip weekly for the last two decades, and that has kept my writing muscles limber – matter of fact, writing comic strips is a topic I’m planning to blog about.

A few years ago, I had one of my short stories published in an anthology, ‘Short and Twisted’, so I can also say that I’m a published author with a straight face. Getting one story published is not quite the same as writing (and finishing) an entire book, however.

I yearn to write something long-form. It’s probably going to be a novel, but I don’t have a firm idea yet. Which brings me to the book that I’ve just started reading: ‘Are You Actually Going To Write A Book Or Just Talk About It?‘ by Brandon Scott. This writer has some very specific practices and exercises that will get you into the habit of writing every day, with the goal of completing the writing of a book.

Part of his method is writing at least 300 words a day (at this stage, the quantity is more important than the quality), which so far I have been sticking to. Another part of the practice is to start a blog, and to get some of the stuff that you’re writing out into the public, and on a schedule. Since I already have a website to blog on, here’s where I’ll post stuff. I’m also going to publish here some of the short stories and what-have-you that I think are good enough to be seen by the public.

I have a few ideas for future blog posts – I’m going to discuss how I write my comic strips, tips on brevity and general humour writing, as well as talking about the history of the Catch-23 comic strip, my influences and where I draw inspiration from. Plus I’m sure there will be general rambling and ranting – it is a blog, after all.

Anyway, thank you for joining me for the comic strip, feel free to share Catch-23 around, you can also find it on Facebook if you prefer to consume your funny pages that way.

Mat

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News post – Catch-23 No. 1130 Lockdown 4: Here we go again

So, yeah, Melbourne is in lockdown again. We Melbournites saw this lockdown coming well before even the mask announcement on Wednesday. That does not mean we are happy about it! But for the comic strip, I wanted to move away from the anger or negativity that has become synonymous with lockdowns, and focus on the more day-to-day realities. In this case, not being able to go meet up with friends means more episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

If you’re in lockdown, be kind to yourself. Not in the trite daytime-tv platitude way, but recognising that 2020 was a traumatic time, and these lockdowns in 2021 are triggers for this trauma. Do the stuff that helps you get through the day.

Mat

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News post – Catch-23 No. 1129 The Martians

China became the second country to land a rover on Mars, so I thought that deserved a comic strip.

In case you can’t infer the translations, the Chinese says ‘Quiet here’, the Klingon says ‘Klingon is appropriate for Mars’ and the Binary just says ‘binary’. I used online translators, so any mistakes are entirely theirs.

Mat

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News post – Catch-23 No. 1128 Relax harder

We’ve been talking a lot about burnout in our workplace – demand for mental health work has skyrocketed since COVID and it was exactly quiet before that. The comic strip was born out of our duelling quests: working as hard as possible, as well as doing the most efficient kind of self-care (i.e., relaxing hard) in order to continue working as hard as possible the next day.

Some form of relaxation coach that’s like a personal trainer crossed with Gordan Ramsey seems like it might be something society will need in the near future.

Burnout can sneak up on you, like the frog in the boiling water analogy. Try this short online burnout test, the results are pretty close to what you would get from a full-scale burnout inventory, and it might help you see how you’re really doing, rather than how you hope you are doing.

Mat

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News post – Catch-23 No. 1127 To Cut Short

I have it on good authority that the Bridgerton series of books are good reading, even if you are not into the romance genre. I haven’t read them, because I’m a very slow reader and there’s a bunch of books ahead in the queue. I have, however, seen the excellent Netflix series based on the first Bridgerton book and I would consider the show a must-watch.

The show drags the period romance into the modern era (figuratively) with bright and colourful costumes and sets and a lot to say about gender and race, set in a time when neither topics were up for discussion. Yes, there are, as Jaffa says, some sexy bits, but if you disregard Bridgerton as ‘soft-core porn’, you are missing out on something special.

Mat

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News post – Catch-23 No. 1126 God’s work

ScoMo popped up to Qld to speak to a bunch of fellow Christians, letting them know he was busy doing God’s work. The rest of us were left wondering why God’s wishes align so closely with those of conservative right-wing pro-fossil fuel authoritarian politicians.

Must be one of those ineffable mysteries.

Mat