Saying Goodbye to the Brick House – Part 2 of 3
So, for the first few years this strip was easy and fun to create. Then things got tougher. And then 2011 arrived.
My personal life went through some pretty big revisions. While the end result was most definitely in the plus column, getting there resulted in a lot of fairly hefty negatives. In the larger scope, my day job continued to get more and more stressful, the Detroit area continued to spiral downward, and things in general continued to suck in new and exciting ways.
Somehow, I still managed to make comics for the Brick House.
I can’t say they were particularly good comics. Several long-time readers commented to me (in both public and private forums) that the quality of the strip was going downhill, that the stories that had brought them in and kept them around just weren’t there anymore. I had to agree.
I kept trying to fix things. No miracle cures appeared, though.
2012 was more of the same. Slow yet important improvements in my personal life were counterbalanced by more and more negatives in the larger scope. I kept plugging away at the comic when I could. There were a few strips that felt “right” and good, but the majority felt like filler. I was just marking time and holding on until something changed somewhere.
And then 2013 arrived.
The year started out about as rough as it gets – with my brother’s suicide. I made the mistake of talking about this in the comics’ commentary. While there were some very supportive comments there were also some really juvenile ones. Of course the negative and childish ones are the comments that stuck with me. I think that was the first time I ever really thought of my reader base as “ungrateful bastards.” While I knew logically it was an unfair reaction based on an unrepresentative cross-section of readers it was still a strong emotional response. I knew 99.9% of my readers weren’t like that. But that 0.1%, the very vocal squeaky wheels, matched and augmented the stress that I was dealing with at work, and in other areas of my personal life. And my desire to do anything for those jerks was at an all time low. And dropping.
By mid-2013 I knew I was done with this. The benefits I was getting from creating the strip were vastly outweighed by the amount of time and effort I was putting into it. And that, in turn, was creating even more stress for me. What was I doing wrong? Why couldn’t I make this work? Why was I failing so badly at something I had worked hard at developing skills for? And if I was just going to keep failing, why the hell was I even trying anymore?
These were not thoughts I wanted to be having, particularly in the wake of my brother’s choices. I was suddenly very glad I had gone back on antidepressants in late 2012.
At the same time, work and financial issues had hit a crisis point. I had to find a new job. Thankfully, with some help from friends, I had a successful search. But it meant pulling up stakes and moving to a new state.
With a certain amount of relief I put the comic on indefinite hiatus. My wife and I relocated to Madison, Wisconsin in just 60 days. That included transitioning out of a 12+ year job, getting our home ready for sale, finding a place in Madison, packing, moving, and unpacking. It would be an understatement to call it “a little rushed.”
I had planned on taking the rest of the year off from the comic. I was super busy trying to get up to speed at my new job, and didn’t have they cycles to focus on much of anything other than work.
But every time I was at Target I’d see the LEGO advent calendars. Then the nagging voices in my head would start up again. “You’ve always done an advent countdown!” “Do you really want to give up on that tradition?” “You’ll lose what few readers you have left!”
So, eventually, I caved and bought a calendar. I had waited so long that the only one left on the shelves was the overpriced Star Wars one, but I had a coupon. So I bought it, and promised myself I’d just do a very low-key daily review. If I could manage just that, I’d be okay.
And that’s what I started with. And, as is usual for me, the characters decided to write their own story and things got complex. And suddenly I was back down the same damn rabbit hole I was trying to climb out of.
About mid-way through the month, overwhelmed at work, exhausted, and stressed I finally gave myself permission to walk away. No more hiatuses, no more reboots. Permission take Brick House off the “I don’t want to, I have to” list. A Christmas gift to myself. A gift I wasn’t really sure I could afford, but one I knew that I really, really needed.
I knew I’d be disappointing that loyal core readership. I wasn’t looking forward to letting down the people who stuck with me until the bitter end. But I hoped, in time, they’d understand and forgive what had become a necessity.
I had planned to end the strip on Christmas day – but one last time the characters and story took control. I wanted my Christmas message to be something positive and not just a goodbye. As it was, all I could manage was a bittersweet moral. Try and focus on the things that really matter to you. Not just today, but every day.
That’s what I’m going to try and do.
The last part of this blog post will go over where the Brick House comic might have gone, and where I had envisioned the characters ultimately ending up. If there’s someone you’re particularly curious about, mention it in the comments here and I’ll try and include them in the “future-recap.”
Thanks for reading.