Question: How many questions have you got from people complaining about there not being a flash update (up until this point, at least)?
Hussie: I don't know. I hardly ever read more than half way down the first page of questions. Too many, too repetitive, etc.
But through various channels, I detect certain flavors of reaction, ranging from disappointment to frustration to something faintly resembling outrage, not just at the lack of an incendiary production to mark year 2, but also the flagging rate of output in recent weeks.
These reactions are far from universal, but they exist, and to address them I think an education on why MSPA exists at all is in order. If you see a creator who begins to languish in production of what presumably accounts for his day job, the impression may be that he is falling down on the job and failing to live up to his professional commitment. So maybe this is the source of indignation, re: entitlement, that some may feel when my output falters. The problem is, MSPA is not a day job for me. It is an all consuming lifestyle. Hence, the mirage that is the apparent ease of output for what is at times ludicrous volumes of material is highly sensitive to even slight perturbations in my life situation.
Let me put it this way. You may work a full time job. It may be that something happens in your life that makes your job more difficult, because you are preoccupied. Your work may suffer to some extent, but you can still approximately match what's expected of you, because there is a partition between your job and your home life. You may nevertheless feel your full time job seems to dominate your existence, saps your energy, and leaves your weekend respites feeling all too short. This is not an experience I share, because MSPA is not a full time job. If you have such a job, then I would have to RADICALLY REDUCE my workload to match your level of day to day preoccupation.
The actual quantities involved have always been nebulous and I never made a point of keeping track, but 12 hours per day seems like a pretty reasonable average, since that is just shy of all waking hours. Time spent writing, drawing, animating, or just spacing out at my monitor while contemplating all the moving parts. This is what I did every day, including weekends and holidays, for two years, and to some extent another year prior to that with Problem Sleuth. Only a few weekends were missed due to conventions, and there was a single week off immediately following the infamous "robo smooch", and that's it. (Most of that week was spent wondering why the hell I wasn't updating...) There are other gaps in the archive, spanning days or a week, when I was animating. Those spans involved the usual work schedule, while simply omitting sleep!
Not only is this an unreasonable workload to expect of anyone, it's practically impossible to pull it off. Maybe you can expect some committed guy out there to really buckle down and duplicate that effort for a month or two. But years? Too much can crop up in the white noise of normal life to destabilize it. Momentum is absolutely crucial for maintaining that kind of pace. I find that if I only do an hour of work in a day, I get ten minutes of work done. If I do 12 hours of work, I seem to get 24 hours of work done. This is especially true of animation. Such projects notoriously take a very long time. I feel like because of the crazy head of steam I've built up from years of nonstop effort, I can knock out in days something that might take another animator a week. Or in a week what might take a month. Without that momentum, it's not possible. Starting up Flash cold is excruciating. Getting your head back into the stride of a story wastes energy you wouldn't use if you never broke stride. Without the momentum, the pace reverts to ordinary. Getting distracted by life destroys the momentum.
I've been pretty zealous about deflecting the distractions, even when I move, as I often do. A notable example was last year when I came back from the Emerald City con in Seattle, and found my apartment flooded. The con was already enough of a time sink, so I didn't have much of an appetite for going into personal crisis mode. I just kind of shrugged, picked my computer off the lone, miraculously dry part of the floor, dropped it in a temporary residence, and kept drawing. I think the flood mess occupied about a day of my attention, whereas something like that could easily take up weeks of your time and energy if you're living that "normal life". You know how it is, you come home and find water up to your ankles and go aw fuck, what's ruined, what needs replacing, gotta call whoever and deal with the fuckin landlord about stuff and auuuugh. I just didn't bother with any of that, because it just didn't seem to matter, and I preferred to keep working and not give a crap about all my soggy bullshit. And in retrospect, I guess it really didn't matter.
All of my moves have been similarly characterized by the unceremonious transportation of a computer and a few boxes to a new room, in which I'd continue working as if no change took place, with no service paid to the life that would be lived there, except as a workspace. I moved again recently, prompted by decidedly less dramatic and less soggy reasons than after Emerald City. This time, for whatever reason, I did it differently. I moved the normal way, the way I imagine normal people doing when I close my eyes, whereby more than a car trunk full of utilitarian belongings are imported into the household, placed on the floor, and never unpacked until the next moving day. I am not necessarily PROHIBITIVELY busy, but like I said above, any dent in the momentum, whether its a few trips to Home Depot or Target here and there or somehow waking up to discover I'd absconded from a shelter with two particularly energetic young cats, is something that precludes a pace of output that is insane and often bordering on miraculous.
What I'm trying to convey here is this isn't necessarily any sort of break, or a grand announcement of a big slowdown for MSPA. I'm trying to give you a sense of the reality which made MSPA heretofore possible, and that if for a period of time I descend from an altitude far exceeding the hours of a full time job, into "merely" those of a full time job, IT DOESN'T ACTUALLY COUNT AS A BREAK! And certainly not as any sort of violation in a pact with the readership. Different from what you're used to? Sure. But you should never find yourself in a position where you come to expect, let alone demand, that degree of effort from anyone, even me. If my output "sputters" from 10 pages a day to 1 or 2 or 3, IDEALLY (re: unrealistically) this should not even cause you to voice an internal observation on the matter! And if one is voiced, instead of "oops, looks like Andrew's slipping," it should be "oops, looks like Andrew's being a regular dude for a while."
Not that detecting a pace change is some terrible wrongdoing, since clearly I've done everything in my power to establish these absurd precedents, and people have naturally associated this with The Brand. I'd just like to suggest it would be beneficial to the reader to disentangle enjoyment of the content from the torrid pace its been commonly delivered. Who can say how fast or slow it'll come in year three? Would my assurances even be reliable? Maybe it'll stay at the current pace for a good long while. Maybe it'll soon hasten back to something more typical. Maybe it'll come back FASTER THAN EVER. Who cares??? Do you really NEED this site to be the fastest comic on the block to enjoy it? Are you prepared to contend with the backlash to your psyche that is risked by so fervently relishing that particular property of the comic? What if it's taken away? Don't go boasting to your neighbors that your slave can pick cotton ten times faster than theirs. It's unbecoming. Just enjoy the fluffy yield of his furious hands, while you wait and pray for Abe Lincoln to gently stroke his beard and relieve you of your bigotry.