Can Work Make Me Happy?
June 26, 2017
Dear Newsletter Friends,
How is your summer kicking off? Maybe you’re in a different hemisphere so it’s your winter? Some days I’m not sure which hemisphere I’m in.
It’s been a busy few months and I’ve been thinking...
When I was 11 years old, I made my first comic strip. It was about my Grumpy Gus of a cat, Jeremy. I cast him as an elementary school teacher lamenting the daily struggle of the classroom. He was dealing with grading papers, spit-balls fights, and of course recess!
The comic strip had a short run, but I hear it was very popular in the teacher lounge. Most importantly, I truly enjoyed making it.
Decades later, as I now work on Fetal Squirrel, I realize that I feel the same joy I experienced as an 11-year-old boy. It is something that I truly love to do.
Yes, at first, my drawing skills were rusty, which caused me some consternation. But, once I got past that, the feelings of engagement were right there ready to go. They were patiently waiting for me to pick up the pen and start creating comics again.
Initially, I thought, “creating Fetal Squirrel is making me so happy!”
But after some careful thinking, I asked myself, “how could a pen, pencil and a few sheets of paper make me do anything?” I’m mean, really?
Those feelings of joy and happiness are happening inside of me. Fear and frustration happen inside of me. I own them. I am responsible for their ebb and flow.
Creative work is hard. Sometimes I avoid it. I grab a muffin or an extra cup of coffee and stall. I stall and stall and stall. I stall so long that I forget that the antidote to stalling, is simply sitting down and doing the work.
Once I remember to do that, it’s simple.
All it requires is effort and a growth mindset. This is my favorite form of effort—the only form that can connect me to my favorite emotion which is already inside me… joy.
Fetal Squirrel Webcomic
With joy in mind, please go check out the latest episode of my webcomic. Maybe you’ll find some delight or wisdom or peace in it.
Also, you can receive weekly emails reminding you when a new Fetal Squirrel comic is posted. All you have to do is update your newsletter subscription preferences.
Until Next Time
Have a lovely rest of June and keep moving forward in all that you do. Take the time to treat others with kindness and respect. Spread the love.
I'm Giving It My Best 75%
March 27, 2017
Hello fellow Humans,
Happy Spring! I am well. How are you?
I am writing to you today to let you know that I am giving my artwork my best 75%.
When I say this I mean:
- I have a finite amount of creative energy
- I need to keep energy in reserve for when I need to stretch and explore
- I must always improve so that my 75% is at a level to produce quality work
This month, I’m excited to mention that I'm working to improve my 75% by learning new joke writing skills! I even bought a book. So far I have written several terrible puns.
The intent is to make Fetal Squirrel funnier, but it's coming at a cost. Other areas of the work are starting to suffer as I spend a big chunk of my 75% on learning how to write better jokes.
I'm reminded of a quote:
“We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”From experience, I know that if a piece that I’m creating requires nearly 100% of my energy, then I have either undertrained, or I am acquiring a new skill. In an endeavor such as a weekly webcomic, I have to budget my energy wisely or risk putting out mediocre work. Every week I have to deliver the best quality that I can.
I’m working on developing the patience and commitment it will take to make my 75% to be better. I ask, what could I do today to make my work 1% more alive? What would make my words 1% more succinct?
Maybe you are posing these questions to yourself? If you are, I hope you find the answer and share your work!
Please check out the March 27th issue of Fetal Squirrel. It's the best 75% that I published today.
Fetal Squirrel and Mr. Snowman recently stumbled upon an unexpected form of happiness. What are they going to find this week? Hopefully, some better jokes, but that’s to be determined.
Until next time, I'll be here joyfully struggling with Fetal Squirrel trying to make every square inch of my work better and better.
I'll be giving it my best 75%.
Find Courage to Share Your Work
February 6, 2017
Hello Human, Robot or Hybrid:
(I only mention robots, because after reviewing my newsletter subscription list, I found that several bots have been smart enough to sign up and I want to be inclusive.)
Okay, I’m writing to tell you that last month I started publishing Fetal Squirrel and this month I’m still publishing. I'm telling you this because I'm in the process of learning to trust myself to put work out there.
In the past I have let myself and others down by not following through. I have created work and then disappeared. Things have come up. Time has passed. Art was not published.
Today, the artmaking is going well, but I feel rusty and impatient.
I want the work to be good — now.
Putting work out into the world is hard. It's vulnerable and lonely. It's a struggle.
I have to remind myself that skill level progresses like this:
- You are not good
- You spend time and you get better
- You spend even more time and you get better
- You spend an entire lifetime and you see that there is still road to cover
And so on...
Recently, I devoured a book by Ryan Holiday titled: The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage. In it, Holiday shares the stoic perspective on turning obstacles into opportunity. I learned much from this book and am reminded of a simple quote from it:
“Think progress, not perfection.”
Making Fetal Squirrel is a learning curve for me. It is difficult and tedious at times, and yet I love it. I love the process. I love the fact that my work is imperfect and there are ink splotches here and there. I love that I need to grow as a human being in order to make the comic better. I have to find the courage to publish it.
I love that I get to share it with you!
And with that, I want to let you know that Fetal Squirrel #6 is now available on the website.
Fetal Squirrel and Mr. Snowman are making progress on their quest for happiness. It’s slow going, but they take time to find joy in the world. If you haven’t been keeping up, I suggest going back to the beginning to catch up. If you have, then I feel honored.
In either case, I hope you come to it with an open and vulnerable heart.
I hope you do the work to bring what you long to bring to the world. I hope you find the courage to share it, rendering us your loving fans. I hope these words strike a chord in you lifting you up out of your seat and send you out into the world.
Fetal Squirrel Webcomic Launch
January 2, 2017
I hope this message finds you in a hopeful spirit.
FetalSquirrel.com I am writing to you today to let you know that I have launched my Fetal Squirrel webcomic. You can click here or type http://fetalsquirrel.com into your web browser to see it.
I'm excited. I have worked really hard on this. Have you read the War of Art by Steven Pressfield? It's a book about overcoming the resistance to putting in the hard work and time required to succeed at art. I read it, and it kicked me in the ass and I made it a goal to launch this webcomic.
Today, I launched it.
Is this a victory? No. This is me pulling the tissue paper out of the toe of a conspicuously clean hiking boot and touching down on a dusty mountain trail. Promises of panoramic vistas and pine-scented winds lie ahead. Inevitable brushes with rattlesnakes, blisters, and rock-slides do too.
I hope you visit the site today. If you do, you will see only one comic — #1. If you come back next Monday, you will see #2. New comics will appear every Monday for the foreseeable future.
Your feedback is wanted/welcomed/requested. Ask me questions. I will respond. I'm curious to see where the story goes and what resonates with you.
Fetal Squirrel and Mr. Snowman start their adventure with a simple question: How does one find happiness? This is a question that I am starting to answer for myself.
I have the following quote by Steven Pressfield tacked up on the wall next to my desk:
“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”
So with that, I am making the following promises to myself:
I will do my best. I will give it my heart. I will be vulnerable. I will publish and publish and publish.
Only I will know if I do all those things, except for the publishing part. Here goes nothing.
I hope you like it. I do. Go take a look.
Love to you,
Damon Eckhoff is a painter, illustrator, and UX Designer living in Portland, Oregon. He grew up in a small prairie town in Missouri and moved to Portland in 2003.
Damon's art and design have been included in a 2012 Portland Mayoral Debate Campaign, Portland Parks and Recreation Bike events, and a story-telling website. He holds a Bachelors in Fine Art from PNCA, a Bachelor in Science in Computer Science, and is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.