In the late afternoon, after I’ve exercised and showered, I brew a steaming cup of coffee in the kitchen and walk upstairs to my office to finish drawing some comics that I sketched earlier. It is mindless work, but sometimes my brain and my body are in exactly the right mood for mindless.
I grab a protein bar from the stash in my desk, put my coffee next to my Wacom Cintiq 24HD, sit down in my ergonomically-correct chair and put my feet up on the hassock under my desk.
My trusty dog, Snickers, follows me into my office and finds her napping place. She likes to be where the action is, and I’m the only show in the house.
The protein bar flavor goes extraordinarily well with coffee. I take a sip of coffee, one bite of the protein bar, then another sip. It is taste perfection.
I pull the Cintiq – a computer monitor on which I draw – toward me and position it for work. I have a television strategically positioned in the corner where I can see it easily while drawing. I find a great movie that just came out and order it with the On Demand function. I grab my drawing stylus, open a file, and start drawing.
I have a strange relationship with drawing. As a child it was a compulsion, closer to OCD than art. I drew on everything, all the time. As an adult, I see drawing as work, and it usually feels that way, especially in the morning. But today I have arranged my environment so perfectly that drawing is automatic, effortless, and childlike.
The movie serves two purposes. It distracts me from an otherwise mundane task that will last a few hours. But it also causes me to take frequent breaks to see what is happening in each scene before looking away to draw. I need the breaks to keep from overworking my hand.
I’m the sort of person who needs to feel productive. When I’m drawing, I know I’m doing something useful that has a specific value. It is meaningful work and it nourishes something deep inside me. Work isn’t what I do; it’s who I am. When I work, I exist in a way that makes sense to me.
I also remember what it took to get to this place. I think of all the days in my youth when I worked on my uncle’s dairy farm doing back-breaking labor under the boiling sun. I think of all the mornings I got up before dawn so I could shovel snow or mow lawns to earn money for college. I think of the four jobs I held during college. I think of the three years I worked my day job while going to school at night to get my MBA. I think of the six years I worked full-time at Pacific Bell while creating Dilbert morning, nights, and weekends. I think of the ten years I worked without taking a day off.
And as I listen to the sweet snoring of my loving dog, I realize that all of my hard work paid off.
I take another sip of coffee, another bite of my protein bar, and draw. It is a perfect moment.