Faith Erin Hicks on Finding A Balance

November 1st, 2012 by | Tags: ,

Faith Erin Hicks continues her streak of being one of the most interesting people in comics by talking about finding a balance in your career. She’s talking specifically about comics, but it’s really good advice regardless. You can’t do everything, and if you want to do anything well, you’re going to have to sit down and dedicate time to that thing. THat requires removing time from another thing, because time management is a zero-sum game. You’ve got twenty-four hours, so there’s a limit to what you can do.

Her solution was giving up videogames. I don’t really have that option, on account of my day job, but I can relate. I’m real picky about games these days, pretty much only playing AAA titles or weird downloadable stuff that I heard good things about (Tokyo Jungle, whattup). I buy maybe four or five disc-based games a year, and then I play them over a period of six months or more. I like PSN titles, the downloadable joints, if only because they’re cheap and they’re usually built for bite-size playing sessions. NBA 2k13 is about the only game I binge on these days. I even do a mission or two of Sleeping Dogs and call it a day most times.

I had to sit down and hammer out a schedule earlier this year, because of Issues. I alternated between not sleeping well and sleeping too much, and I wasn’t as productive as I wanted to be. I came up with two rules. First, evenings and nights are sacred. Once I get home from work, I’m free from work. Evenings are for relaxing, decompressing, resting, video games, and what little tv I actually watch. Second, I needed to do something about my mornings. I’d wake up tired, go to work tired, and come home tired. So I needed to sort that out.

What I ended up deciding to do was pretty easy to pull off. I used to wake up early to go to high school and watch Sportscenter with my granddad and uncle. They were out of the house by 0530. I told myself that I would wake up at 6, and use the three hours before work to handle writing and other stuff. I exercise in the mornings anyway, so I’m just waking up a little earlier, so I still have time to run, lift, stretch, or whatever’s on deck for that day (abs, ugh). I don’t play games in the morning, though I will download games or demos for playing later in the background. No TV either, outside of streaming youtube videos off my Watch Later playlist, which is almost exclusively music videos, at this point. I try to avoid tweeting in the evenings, but sometimes the allure of dumb jokes is just too much and I relapse. I don’t IM at home, though, or do that email-tumblr-twitter-email loop.

Write in the mornings, work during the day, and relax in the evenings, only writing after the sun goes down if it’s absolutely necessary.

It worked, mostly. I feel much more alert when I work out or run before going into work, and it’s nice to have a demarcation of what I do and when. Previously, I’d write whenever, willy-nilly. Come home, play some games, and then write ’til midnight, or come home, write, and then stay up past midnight. Now, I go to bed earlier and wake up more rested and better equipped to handle a hard day.

I’m still tired sometimes, and getting up to do anything in the middle of the night is usually a pretty bad idea, but I’m pretty happy with this schedule. I’d always thought of schedules, of rationing your time, as a thing that stinky grown-ups did. Schedules are boring, yeah? I knew that schedules provide a structure to make sure things get done, but I didn’t realize that it could have an overall positive effect on your life. If I know what I’m doing, then I can be flexible and change plans and know exactly what I need to do to make up for it. I can look forward to getting home and doing a thing, instead of look forward to getting home, at which point I will write, and then, if it isn’t too late, maybe have a chance to have some fun.

I don’t cook dinner at midnight any more. I have more free time. I’m super excited about watching a bunch of basketball games as they air (and one or two in person!) this year. I feel good about getting off work. The schedule works. I’m that much closer to finding a balance.

Hicks’s post is pretty great. Check it out, absorb it, learn from it. Read this bit from Hicks, too, and check out her new comic with Prudence Shen, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong.

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6 comments to “Faith Erin Hicks on Finding A Balance”

  1. God yes this. I have been trying to find the right balance the past few weeks since I started a new job. It involves both structuring my day and week as a whole, and my days off work. I’m still split on whether it’s better for me to wake up earlier in the morning to work, or stay up later and then sleep through. I’m at my most creative at night, and it’s hard for me to get up in the mornings. So I’m still figuring that out.

    The crunch gets really bad for me once basketball and soccer seasons both start going, because it’s hard to catch games, get to bed at a reasonable hour and make sure the work is being done.

    I also gave up videogames for the most part. And I don’t watch as many movies as I used to. Also I gave up on a social life. But I twitter, facebook, tumblr–all that stuff still–so I get socialization that way. But I don’t have time to really meet people in person now.

  2. I’m dealing with the exact same problem right now. I had a similar idea, just sort of rebooting my sleep schedule last week, but it didn’t pan out because one night it took me 2 hours to fall asleep and then I made that up in a late morning. It doesn’t help that I think I have a 200 hour sleep debt dating back to middle school.

    I’m still trying to get a hold on my schedule, but it sucks in the meantime. Always tired, falling asleep at my desk, everything dragging on into everything else. I fantasize about being productive and competent.

  3. @justin: What helped me a lot was taking Sunday to be the day that I forced myself to adjust to the schedule. Try to go to bed a couple hours earlier than usual, read a book (a book-book, not a comic book) til you get sleepy, and then pray for the best. I sometimes have to reset, especially because I’ve just come through crunch time, and that sometimes works for me. With a little luck, I’m naturally waking up just before or around the time my alarm goes off.

    Oh, also, if you can do this: get an alarm clock (app or physical) that isn’t just a blaring horn. I have mine set to play an mp3 (this Japanese/Brooklyn cacophonous rock band I like) beginning at a low volume and slowly increasing toward loud. It totally changes the game. You don’t snap awake so much as ease into being awake. You’re still groggy, but your heart isn’t pounding.

  4. I need to work on this, especially the exercise. I have *such* a hard time getting up in the morning, and staying feeling awake/energized throughout the day.

  5. […] On Maintaining a Balance Words of wisdom from cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks Original Source: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong Additionally: 4th Letter […]

  6. […] my ankle was well again, I ramped up the exercising, too. I came up with a schedule. Wake up at 6, crawl out of bed eventually, and then spend the next two hours and a half hours […]