One of the more difficult environments to work in turns out to be the home office. This is especially true for starting comic book folks who still work a day job. Finding the time and motivation to hit the drafting table after a long day at work is truly a feat to overcome. Even working full time at home takes discipline. Over the years I’ve developed a series of tricks to keep me on track on freelance gigs and personal projects. These are essentially rudimentary Pavlovian responses that i’ve done to myself; it takes a bit to work out but given enough time and repetition these have become pretty reliable. There are two sets of cues that i’ve developed: audio and physical.
Audio refers to stuff i listen to while i work. I find that keeping parts of the mind busy while working a visual medium helps keep things active and drops you into a bubble of work that you are in control of. Plus with most audio things, they are not infinite so you can build in natural breaks at the end of a set of songs, movie, book, etc. What i listen to fall into two categories:
Conceptualizing: When it comes to design, writing, layouts, concepts, I tend to listen to instrumental music. Or at the very least music without lyrics. Lyrics for some reason distracts me from diving into this particular creative zone. Essentially any process in which i have to think and problem solve. I think most music for me tends to have connections to certain memories and experiences; and thus they can’t sit back and become background noise for me. I end up listening to a lot of electronica when working on these things.
Production: On the other hand, when it comes to inking, coloring, painting, and vectoring, I can listen to more complex things. Podcasts, movie commentaries, audio books, etc. My belief is that for me, these activities are pretty instinctual; I’ve always felt inking, coloring, and painting were in a sense 2D sculptures. I’m carving out depth from the page so the experience relies heavily on just the visuals. No need to worry about concept; that should be taken care of. I’m just focused on having the piece work visually.
The physical aspect of my work flow are pretty small. I try to have a really comfortable chair; I’ll be sitting for long stretches so best to make sure I’m comfortable and supported. For the most part I don’t play any PC games anymore (I play more consoles these days); this keeps me from associating my desk area as a play area. My monitor/laptop setup have changed over the years, but I try to keep certain monitors as work monitors and others as browser monitors. The internet is a horrible killer of time and will suck away your work time. So i try my best to keep them separated via monitors. The biggest thing for me are my headphones. The wife got me a wonderful set of SkullCandy headphones, which are really encompassing and creates a wonderful work bubble.
For myself these techniques help me dive right into work when I need to, essentially turning the creative workflow into a switch that I can turn on. Each person has a different approach obviously. My studio-mate Matthew Warlick says he liked to go get coffee in the morning, even though he worked from home. He would then take a slightly different route home. This was essentially his morning commute. I believe he was also the one that said for a while at least he would keep his shoes on while he worked. From what I can tell, most if not all, comic book people watch/listen to movies and TV shows while they work. I personally like commentary track as you get an insight into another person creative process. Listening to the Pixar guys are especially inspirational; it just gets you geared up and wanting to draw.
When working at home in any capacity, it’s hard to get the ball rolling. It takes discipline and routine; and as you can see, I personally believe that it also takes a smart approach in being able to guide your mind into that creative groove.