About a year ago or so, it occurred to me that I could, not unreasonably, chart my emotional state by looking at the frequency with which I updated this blog. More updates meant I felt good, less updates meant I felt bad. I didn’t tell anyone because I’d discovered this at a point in time when I wasn’t updating it so much, and I didn’t want people to worry. I did, however, think that this was a pretty clever tool for my own uses.
In a mistaken assumption of causality, I put in extra effort into posting here, though I still didn’t quite get to a pace I’d call “regular.” Then, in late January, I left the army and a series of events unfolded that made my “how often do I post” metric irrelevant. Something far stranger had happened: for a period of time, I stopped reading webcomics.
Now, webcomics are about the most consistent thing in my life. I found my first one when I was 15, and since then I’ve always had a weekly schedule of at least a dozen (usually around two dozen) webcomics that I check on an update-to-update basis. When I was an undergrad I never had my class schedule fully memorized, which was about ten weekly timeslots at most. On the other hand, I not only knew my webcomics’ listed update schedules by rote, I also knew which ones updated in which time zones, and I knew which ones were likely to update late, or even to skip updates. At one point I was up to thirty or so regularly updating comics, some having seven-day weekly schedules, some having five-day weekly schedules, some having three-day weekly schedules, and some even having two-day weekly schedules, some updating at midnight EST and others updating at midnight PST, and some just updating at some point or another during the day. And I could keep all of that straight in my head.
Webcomics have helped me through difficult times. They’ve moderated my lows and elevated my highs. Archive binges are therapeutic, regular updates keep me grounded, and I certainly wouldn’t be the writer I am today if webcomics weren’t such a consistent part of my reading regimen.
So my not reading webcomics, even for a short period of time, is both an indication that something has gone wrong, and a forewarning that things will get worse. I’m still not quite ready to talk about the events of this past Spring on this particular forum, but going back to using this blog as an indicator: I only made six posts here between mid-April and mid-June, and three of them were really depressing.
I don’t quite remember how the process went, but at some point I started reading comics again. I dropped a few, and there were some that I came back to faster than others, but the fact that I was reading comics on a daily basis again was progress. Eventually, some time in mid-Summer, I got myself back up to 17 comics, an anemic but acceptable schedule, but there was still one very noticeable exception. Or two, depending on how you count.
For whatever reason, for several months, I couldn’t get myself to read the work of John Troutman. I’ve explained in fairly significant detail why webcomics in and of themselves are a big deal, so I’ll be more brief in explaining why this particular author is a big deal: John Troutman’s “Lit Brick” was key, more than any other comic, in keeping me sane during my time in the army.
Somehow, like the dog that won’t go near his favorite toy, I’d developed a mental block. Though I wasn’t reading it, I hadn’t dropped “Lit Brick,” or Troutman’s other comic, “Mary Elizabeth’s Sock.” A comic that I drop just leaves my mental sphere entirely, but with “Lit Brick,” there was always a hole in my update schedule, always a moment where I’d read the comic that should come just before it in my schedule and consciously think “Lit Brick should go here” before I navigate to a different comic instead. There are plenty of psychological conclusions to draw from this, and I’ve certainly done my share of self-analysis, but in the end I decided that whatever the reasons were, they were a symptom of the problems in the rest of my life, and that I wouldn’t solve this one until I’d sufficiently solved the rest.
One Summer of slow mental rehabilitation later, and I’m back. Yesterday I had to restart Chrome, and so all my tabs loaded up again (sans flash player, for some reason), and as I sorted through them I found that I’d never closed my “Classic Sporkman” tab (that’s another comic of Troutman’s). So I started there, read all the remastered comics from the beginning, along with the new ones once I ran out of remastereds, and moved on to the first comic of Mary Elizabeth’s Sock. I feel like once I get to the most recent comic there, then binge through the Lit Brick archives, I’ll have reached some sort of end-point. A place where I can say “alright, I’m no longer recovering, I’m now officially doing okay.”
The fact that I’m now studying writing is definitely going to cut into my ability to maintain this blog, so the “posts to this space” metric is no longer relevant by any measure, but aside from that, it means that I’ve got some interesting things planned for the future. It’s good to know I’ve gotten past this particular hurdle in time to execute them.