A couple of years ago, my grandmother gave me $25,000 – most of my inheritance (something about taxes). Feeling greatly empowered, I quit my job and took that as seed money to become a freelance 2D traditional animator. I was going to help revitalize the animation industry, bringing in a new era to 2D and make Detroit the center of US-based animation production.
The thing about traditional animation is that it’s incredibly tedious – and expensive – to produce. You have to draw each frame one at a time with most films running at around 12 frames per second. That’s 12 individual pictures for every second of screen time. It demands A LOT of patience, dedication, and skill.
There were debilitating challenges at the very beginning of how I approached my animation projects. First, I thought that I could handle them all by myself. I thought that I didn’t need any help to create beautiful projects of the same caliber that I saw in film festivals and on the big screen. One of the reasons I pursued animation in the first place was because, selfishly, I imagined that I could create film without crew – unlike traditional filmmaking where you needed a camera guy, and a sound guy, and one guy to rule them all. Vainly believing I could do everything all on my own was my first mistake.
The second problem was that I had almost crippling self-doubt about my drawing skills. Nothing I did was ever good enough, no matter what feedback I received. I discarded the positive and dwelled only on the negative. So eventually the whole process became an experience in absolute torture. I thought I could eventually overcome my anxiety through constant exposure, but the result was that I only ended up immobilizing my productivity.
I was excellent at pre-production planning but poor at execution. I could create perfect production calendars down to the slightest detail, but wouldn’t be able to follow through. My vanity in thinking I could go it alone and my creative insecurities lead to a business killing procrastination. Missed deadlines or work that was far short of expected standards resulted, thereby satisfying a sort-of self-fulfilling prophecy that I “wasn’t good enough to do this sort of work anyway.”
In the end, there was a loss of repeat business and the loss of some fantastic opportunities. I lost all of my inheritance money. I didn’t succeed in any of the dreams I had when I first held that check in my hands. The regret was insurmountable. Not only had I failed at the dream of creating an animation industry, but I had also lost the years of career advancement I would have had if I had stayed on in my former position as a Senior Producer in the field of video production. The depression was overwhelming.
But (and there’s always a ‘but’) I guess in the end at least I tried. And I can say that I made a few things in my travels (check out my Vimeo page if you’d like to see more). I have a huge library of animation and drawing books that I’m pretty proud of and a couple of awards, so I didn’t totally suck at it. But the truth is, it just wasn’t enough to keep me going. After a while, I had to admit that it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing.
But (there’s another one) I guess you have to put yourself into something, you always need to be doing something. So, eventually, with a lot of help, I’ve been able to live past those dark times and now I’m writing. I’m not ‘trying’ to write – I AM writing. I’ve got more books on writing than I’ll ever read and I love my library. I’m still going it alone, but I’m slowly getting over my social anxiety and building community through social media and IRL.
I’ve come to realize, through reading my creative writing books, that art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. That I have to seek out other artists and creatives to grow as a creative myself. I need to experience things to translate that into better writing. I need to get out there and be part of something.
When it’s all said and done, whether this gets read or not doesn’t really matter. At least I wrote it. It happened, and I can say that I did it. All of it. And that’s what matters to me. That I wrote it down and shared it with people. Testing, testing, one, two, three. Is this thing on?