We are hitting 200 posts! I can’t believe how far we have come in the past two years. To do something special, I wanted to let you all ask me questions and learn a little bit more about me, the site, and the topics we cover.
One Q & A quickly turned into two. You all submitted some great questions and I had the best time answering them. To finish off this article series, I decided to answer questions about my website and process.
Here are a few personal questions that were asked about my work, process, and opinions about creativity!
How has writing for your site changed your interactions with other creators?
I am really glad that you asked this question. This is something that I wish more people knew about Effective Nerd. My website has taken a big shift over the past year.
The original inspiration for Effective Nerd was not about helping creators. When I first started the website, I was in over $100,000 in student loan debt. I had not yet found a job using my master’s degree. My debt-to-income ratio was so high that I could not support myself. I was the living embodiment of the “gamer in his mom’s basement”.
I needed help. I took to the internet to learn more about my predicament. My time was spent sifting through self-help and debt blogs. I needed someone to help me get on the right path.
What I noticed was that these blogs were not meant for me. Most of the sites were marketed towards parents, professionals, and entrepanuers. Where was the self-help site for comic book lovers and gamers?
I decided to attempt to make that website, and Effective Nerd was born.
This didn’t last long. The early months of my website were filled with cringy articles covering very broad and basic topics. I don’t blame myself, I was just getting my feet wet. However, I needed to do something different.
I did a bit of research into my audience. This was done by talking to people, reviewing my data, and analyzing my more popular pieces of writing.
What I found was that my site wasn’t being viewed by other debt-ridden basement dwellers like myself. My audience was made up of artists and creators that were using my writing as a way to make their projects better.
During this time, my life was getting better. I found a good job that would pay the bills. My wife and I began building our life together.
That is when everything kind of clicked for me. I have a plethora of experience in being a creative person. I decided to shift the purpose of Effective Nerd. I wanted to build a community of creative people that want to follow their dreams. That is the path that I have been on ever since.
What is your end goal for Effective Nerd?
I eventually want Effective Nerd to be a one stop shop for anyone who wants to be an artist, creator or simply take on a creative project.
There are many ways to go about doing this, and I have a lot of ideas that I would Iike to implement in the future. Some of these ideas include: a podcast, coaching/mentoring, books and videos.
It will be a while before any of those in place. Currently, my focus is to write as much as I can about the strategies needed to overcome obstacles in our creative visions.
What areas of media do you wish you had more coverage of?
While this is true, I try not to lean toward these two art forms when it comes to this website. It just happens to be where I have the most connections. I know a lot of musicians from being a musician myself. I have also made a lot of comic book friends through my time guest posting at For the Love of Indie.
I believe that all mediums of art are to be celebrated. I plan on doing so myself, once I find enough people to talk to. I do wish that I had more of a variety of creators on my website.
What are your tips on turning a hobby into a business?
This is something that I am trying to figure out myself. That said, there are a few pieces of advice that I would like creators to have.
- Don’t be afraid of the business side of things – I have noticed that many creators don’t like to jump into the business side of things. They often think that it takes away from their art, or makes them a phony/sellout.
However, I believe that this a flawed premise. You couldn’t make this argument about any other job. “I want to be a doctor, but I don’t want to sully my medical skills by opening a practice.” Avoiding the business side of things essentially turns our art and content into lottery tickets.
Instead of taking our work and making sure it is received in an effective manner, we put it out into the universe in hopes that someone more rich and powerful than us wants to work with us. We shouldn’t be waiting for that person. We should be making ourselves into that person.
- You are your own best advocate – One of my all time favorite quotes comes from the comic book Saga. Brian K. Vaughan writes “Never worry what other people think of you, because no one ever thinks of you.”
While this may sound depressing to some, I find it to be liberating. I can navigate my life doing what is best for myself and my family without the paranoia of being judged. On the other hand, this also means that you have to work harder to get people to notice your work. Don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself.
- Consistency is extremely important – It is difficult to get people to care about your work when they see that you don’t respect your own schedule. Your skills do not get better during your downtime. If you want to turn your art into your career, you need to show up every day and put the time in.
We are attracted to stories of people who blow up over night. However, the true leaders and role models are those who put their best foot forward and get to work.
Do you have any tips on being happy with your work?
I believe that being happy with your work comes down to being happy with yourself. If you aren’t content with your own values and virtues, there is no way you are going to enjoy the way you spend and manipulate your resources.
This is where introspection comes into play. Before you start creating, you need to understand who you are as a person. Your creations won’t be fulfilling if they do not reflect your true self.
What does your daily approach to time management look like?
The system revolves around labeling your tasks by location, urgency, required time, and whatever other factors you would like to measure. You then use the factors to filter your to-do lists.
For example, say I am at home at my computer and have an hour before I have to leave. I can filter my to-do list to “home and long”. If I am out and about and have 5 minutes (say I am in the doctor’s waiting room), I can filter to “anywhere and quick”.
I don’t put anything on my todo list that takes less than 5 minutes to do. I just do them right there on the spot. Everyone has five minutes to spare, use them wisely.
My only exception to this is emails/DMs. I get so many that it is hard to keep up. I usually leave them unread until I am ready to process them.
I also don’t put all of my tasks for a single project on a todo list. I find that doing this this makes me anxious and non-productive. For example, say you are making a comic book. You would fill your todo list with writing, drawing, inking, publishing, etc.
I can’t do that. It is far too overwhelming.
Instead, I only put the NEXT thing that I need to do on my todo list. Once that task is complete, I add the next step. That way my todo list is tight, clean, and keeps me focused.
This is the very basic concept of how I manage my time. If you would like to learn more about how I do things, I would love to make a guide about it.
What are the top three things you have discovered about building websites?
I have had my fair share of growing pains when I started Effective Nerd. Hell, I still struggle with many aspects of web design and blogging. However, I do have a few pieces of wisdom to share.
- Don’t use closed systems – It is very tempting to use an all-in-one web design service such as Wix or Squarespace. If our focus is on creating art, these companies will help us get our site up and running and give us more time to create.
However, your website’ s design impacts how other’s view your work. When using a closed system, you are at the mercy of your provider for very important factors. This includes: site/server speed, image options, template options, etc. If your provider does not offer a service, or if one of their services is lackluster, you are out of luck.
I cannot stress the important of using an open and self-hosted system. There is more of a learning curve, but you cannot put a price on having the freedom to oversee every aspect of your website.
- Find your balance between systems and people – There are two huge factors that influence the growth and popularity of a website.
First, you have your audience. These are the real people that love your work and go to your website because they think you are awesome.
Second, there is the system work. This includes SEO, site optimization, etc. This is how your website interacts with search engines, data systems, and other websites.
While many website developers are better at one over the other, both are extremely important. If you neglect your live audience and focus on systems they your website comes off sounding robotic and unnatural (you are talking to robots and AI after all).
On the contrary, if you neglect the system work you will miss out on finding new people. Think about how many times you Google something every day. You probably do this more than you directly talk to website owners. Every question you ask Google leads you to another creator’s website.
There is a misconception that caring about data systems means you are heartless and only care about numbers. I disagree, you are merely trying to help those who are Googling a piece of information they need. Googlers need love too.
Find the balance between those who love your site, and those looking for what your site has to offer. At the end of the day, it is all about making connections with people who love the same things you do.
- There is no “secret” – While there are good strategies and practices, your website is an extension of you and your work. Your website should show off your own unique qualities. This is what draws people to your work in the first place. Like many schools of thought and research, a lot of web design theory overlaps, contradicts and dates itself.
The internet is a constantly growing and changing place. Don’t take one strategy for granted. You should always be testing, researching, and trying new things. Being open to experimentation will only help you in the long run. Do what works for you.
What is the number one question asked by start ups?
The number one question I get from start ups and new artists is: How do I get funding for my projects?
Honestly, I don’t really have a good answer for this in terms of outside funding. I don’t know too much about crowdfunding resources or donations. I know that these are popular methods for funding projects, but I do not have extensive technological knowledge on the subject.
However, I am a huge advocate for frugal living and making the most out of the income you already have. My wife and I have many methods to make our money go further. This includes couponing techniques, budgeting tactics, and repurposing. Better habits lead to better use of resources.
Funding is something that I am in the process of learning about. As Effective Nerd continues to grow, I will also need additional funding for bigger projects. I am excited to keep learning and grow along with you all.
What are your thoughts on character resurrections in comics? What aspect do you think goes into a successful revival? When is it “deserved” or “justified”?
This question was submitted by the talented comic book writer Dillon Gilbertson. He writes a fantastic series called Sweet Heart. One of his stories is also featured in the horror comic anthology Local Haunts.
Let me start by saying that I am not a huge super hero fan. As far as DC and Marvel go, I am knowledgeable on Batman and Daredevil and that is about it. From what I understand, super hero comics resurrect characters fairly often.
In general, I think a character resurrection needs to fit into the plot in a creative way. One of the most impressive parts of writing and storytelling (whether it be comics, TV, movies, etc.) is watching the writer get out of tough situations. Some of my favorite stories involve the writer getting stuck in a corner and having to twist the plot to get out of it.
A lof of the time, a character’s and/or resurrection is seen as a cheap way to get the plot out of a tight spot. However, if the resurrection plays into the main plot points and themes this technique can be very powerful.
One of my favorite examples of this is the ending of Brian Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series. Scott dies during the story’s climax, but is brought back to life. This occurs through the use of an Extra Life that Scott picked up. Not only does this play into the comic’s video game style, it also took three volumes of the story to pay off. I thought this was a brilliant use of character resurrection.