My dark secret – which may not be much a secret if you’re an Off Panel listener – is I’m arguably a bigger sports fan than I am a fan of comics. It’s true. A recent writing rut I’ve run into has coincided with the NBA playoffs and the beginning of the baseball season. It’s always been that way. In fact, when I was a teenager, I wanted to work for the Seattle Mariners more than anything. So much so that somehow, my dad put together an opportunity for me to work for them one summer despite the fact I had very limited work experience and was 16 or so at the time. While it ended up not happening – we lived in Alaska, so that meant a considerable move away from my friends during the halcyon days of friendship – I did end up walking away with advice that I’ve never forgotten.
When the whole thing was coming together, my dad told me to be careful about turning one of my hobbies into my job. He told me it could make me love it less.
At the time, we were talking about baseball. But if I’m being honest, it’s something I think of quite a bit while writing about comics. I’ve been doing this for seven years now, and I have to admit: it has impacted my love for the medium. Sometimes in the positive, but most of the time? It’s a bummer, man. When I’d rather read a book or an older comic but I have to read something new because of a review or something else, it makes me think of what my dad said. Because of that and many other contributing factors, I was getting burned out. That was why I was on the verge of not writing about comics anymore altogether when I was preparing to leave Multiversity Comics. I felt like I was good at it, but also kind of sick of it, you know?
Generally, I enjoy writing about comics, though. Talking with people about them and digging into stories and interviewing people about not plot related things is great fun. That’s why instead of quitting altogether when I left Multiversity, I decided to launch SKTCHD and try to do things entirely my own way. If I was only doing what I enjoyed, maybe it’d feel less like a job and more like fun. And it worked! I was excited to write about comics once more.
Lately, though, it’s started to feel like a job again, and part of that was my fault. I can’t help but keep writing. I remember early on in the days of SKTCHD, Oni Press editor Charlie Chu shared he was blown away that everything was written by me. It was a lot of content, he said. And it has been. In the past year, including the five or so guest features there have been 236 articles on SKTCHD. That’s including 49 longforms which add up to around 135,000 total words, not even mentioning all of the research that went into them. That’s a lot of time. Even though my other secret is how fast most pieces come together for me – the Chew article actually took me a little under three hours to write and required very few edits – it’s still a crazy amount of work.
That’s a big part of the reason that today will be the last day of operations at SKTCHD, at least in its current capacity.
It turns out running a website entirely on your own is hard – like, really hard – and it’s also unsustainable. Maybe it doesn’t have to be, but my problem is I have an unrelenting need to make sure articles go up at least two to three times a week. And beyond that, I’m all about making sure my articles are heavily researched, which means a lot of work no one ever really sees. Doing that entirely on your own can be taxing, especially with a day job. That leads to a lot of time being spent working outside of said day job and a lot of unacknowledged stress adding up, until I realized I spend entire four mile runs thinking about angles for upcoming longforms. Or I’d think about shooting some hoops or watching a movie, and instead I’d make myself write. And that’s my time to unwind. It can be all consuming. Frankly, I just can’t keep it up, and honestly, I’m not sure if I want to either.
The thing is, I do love comics, and I want to get back to the place where I think about comics as something I enjoy rather than something I could write about. I’m pretty good at avoiding that, as you might have been able to tell with the meager amount of reviews I’ve written over the past year. But at the same time, I want to change my reading habits, which means more trades and less single issues, plus more books and old comics, and I want to spend more time just enjoying comics, not being critical about them. It’s time to get back to my roots while also moving in a more reasonable direction for my current reality.
As I’ve been building to this change – which has been over the past couple months, really – I’ve started to try and find ways to spend less time locked into the comic world. And one thing that has helped recently was deleting Twitter off my phone. While there are a great many people in comics I enjoy on Twitter, I found it was becoming an unhealthy obsession to a degree. I wasn’t disconnecting, and the conversations were impacting my day-to-day life in a way they shouldn’t. There are important conversations to be had in comics, but the tenor and handling of many of them from all sides became more than I wanted to be involved with. I’d gotten to the point where I was using the SKTCHD account less and less just so I could stay out of the fray. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy Twitter. But now only from my laptop or in moments of weakness on my iPad.
And if excising Twitter as a regular part of my mobile life helped, I figured not bringing the conversation to my doorstep anymore at SKTCHD would help as well.
The biggest reason for SKTCHD closing its doors – which is only happening in a way, as the site will stay up, I just won’t be writing here – is there are other things I’m looking to do, and I need time to do them. Again, if you’re an Off Panel listener, you may know this, but my ultimate goal is to open a comic book shop. That may sound crazy given the introduction to this very article, but a major difference between running SKTCHD and owning a comic shop is the former comes with another job I have to have so I can pay the bills, while the idea of the latter is it would replace my job. It’s different, even if it doesn’t seem entirely so. While my shop may not come together, I’m a firm believer in at least giving your dreams the old college try. So I have a business plan to create in my future, and those are time consuming. Beyond that, I have other things going on related to comics I can’t talk about, but let’s just say they also take up a lot of time and are hard to accomplish with SKTCHD a part of my daily life.
I do have good news for you, though! All is not lost. While it’s going on a brief hiatus – mostly so I can enjoy my summer, as Alaska is really embracing this global warming thing – my Off Panel podcast will return in August. I even already have four ridiculously great guests lined up. Like, superstars of the comic world. Not only that, but my plan is to expand it to two episodes a week on occasion, with the Wednesday creator interview edition being the staple. Special episodes will roll out some weekends, and they will expand beyond comics. It will still have comic talk – that’s where I would bring on journalists and my buddy Brandon to talk shop – but it will also feature rad people who are doing awesome stuff outside of comics. That idea may not pan out, but it’s my plan. If you think that’s a horrible idea – or if you’re into that – let me know via email or Twitter. I always appreciate feedback.
While it’s on hiatus, make sure to subscribe to Off Panel on iTunes, follow it on Stitcher, or just bookmark the Libsyn page so you don’t miss the show’s return. I’ll still tweet it out on the SKTCHD account, my personal Twitter, and the SKTCHD Facebook, and given that the site will still be up, I’ll likely post it here as well. Keep an eye out for its return in August.
I’m also intending to continue writing, just not here. I enjoy it, so I’m going to start writing in a simpler, more streamlined, less research oriented fashion via my email newsletter, which you can sign up for if you’re interested. The idea is it will go out a couple weeks starting a few later this month, and it will be more built on shorter, more off the cuff thoughts rather than charts. More of a Last Week Tonight thing minus the heavy research. We’ll see how that works out, though, as you know I love my research.
So, yeah. That’s it. From the beginning I told myself I’d give it a year and reassess, and after about 9 months, it felt like the right choice. It feels even more so a few months later. I figured what better way to wrap the site than with the 52nd episode of Off Panel, especially given that it corresponds with the weeks in a year (so that’s why DC chose that number…). So there you go. The end. Who knows, though. There’s an outside chance I’ll be back, whether it’s here or writing for some other site. Either way, thanks to everyone who read or supported SKTCHD, tweeted about it, Facebooked it, Reddited it, listened to the podcast, emailed me and everything else you can do to talk about a website these days. Honestly, this site has been way more successful than I ever anticipated, and going to Emerald City ComiCon in April really reinforced how much people have enjoyed what I’ve done. It’s just the right time to go, so go I will.
Thanks for everything.
P.S. As a follow up, find more information about what’s next here.