The exciting thing to see from a person is an explosion of productivity. We get excited when we see someone get a big break and become a “success”. We look at their work and say, “Yes, this is definitely great.”
What we do not do is look at the journey that got them there. We rarely peer back at the hours they put into their work, becoming better and perfecting it. We only look at the end product and judge everything from that.
I think this is a shame, because some of the best work I follow is made by people who rarely try to make any one “hit”. Instead, they follow a different rhythm: that of consistency. They do not care as much about being liked and making a masterpiece. Their work is in the consistency of showing up repeatedly and making something new.
We don’t celebrate this enough because it is a slow, gradual process. We only notice when someone comes out and says, “Oh yeah, I’ve been working at this for five years.” Even though you are only seeing the work now, they were at it for five years before you found it. We do not acknowledge this time spent delivering a consistent stream of work.
Personally, this is what I try to do with my webcomic Handwaving. For a year, I made a new drawing every single day, and now I make three new drawings every week. Some are better than others, but I know that I will find myself with a few new comics at the end of each week.
This lets me build consistency in my work. I do not worry about making something that is a “home run” every time. I know that if I ever make something that I am not totally happy with, it is not a huge deal because I get a chance to go at it again tomorrow.
I am not saying that everyone needs to work like this. If you are trying to write a novel, making a new thing every day probably is not helpful for your story. However, I think a lot of people could benefit from this kind of work. More importantly though, the idea is to develop a consistent habit of work. It is easy to show up for a day. It is much more difficult to show up every day when nobody cares. But that is where the special work lies. I might not have anyone following my webcomic, but I do it because I believe in the idea of my webcomic. And, when others start following it, they will see how long I’ve been on the journey.
We need to establish a new ethic of consistency. Who cares if nobody sees you? If you are doing work that is exciting to you, that can be enough. Of course, I am not saying you can turn this into a job that will support you. That is not the goal with my webcomic either. I am just saying that you can decide to embrace consistency.
I think of some of the comic creators I follow who have a new comic out every day. Each time I see their work, I cannot help but feel that it is amazing that they have decided to do this thing repeatedly for so long. Even when it feels dull, they show up and make something new. I do not know about you, but that is inspiring to me.
Consistency will not make you instantly known, but it will give you a valuable skill to improve your work. After making comics for nearly a year, I can now see how my personal style is taking shape. My lines are cleaner, and I can see how everything fits together. I only achieved this through consistency.
It’s time to start digging in and embracing the slow movement of putting in the work time after time.