Up until recently I’ve generally accepted invitations to give talks at schools and universities in Manila, but over the last year or so it’s become difficult for me to accommodate invitations for various reasons. The main reason is probably this: I had been assessing myself and my skill at giving talks, and after several years of doing it, I really have to be honest with myself and say that I’m not really good at it. I guess I do the job OK enough, but I don’t think I’m as effective as I want to be. After every talk, I feel I could have done it better, and I really torment myself about it. I’ve decided to quit several times, but sometimes it’s hard to say no.
I guess the trigger that finally made me realize I don’t want to do this anymore was a recent invitation to give a talk at a school in Manila. Now when I’m invited, there are things I wish people would understand.
One, I would be coming from San Pablo City, in Laguna. That’s 82 kilometers away, around 2 hours or more of public transportation going to Manila via tricyle, bus, and at Manila perhaps LRT or Taxi, depending on where it is. It would be another 2 hours or more going back.
Two, since I’m coming from San Pablo for an hour or couple of hours talk at a school in Manila, it means I’m actually devoting an entire day including travel time. I will be stopping my work for an entire day, an entire day away from my drawing table. And since I’m in a business where you don’t get paid if you don’t work, that’s an entire day where I won’t earn my living.
Three, teaching is work. The professors of these students teach them and they get paid for it. I share my specialized knowledge and expertise to teach students what I know, but I do it for free.
So if you think about it, an invitation means I’m invited to stop working on my comics (which means less income for me), spend my own money to travel via a long bus trip to Manila, where I will work for free.
Now I don’t charge at all for talks like this. This is not about the money. I’m just trying to put some kind of perspective here. To make you understand exactly what i’m being asked to do, and what that entails.
So I told the group I don’t mind giving a talk. My only request was, I hoped they could give me a ride. I’m not exactly a really young guy anymore, and it’s becoming more difficult for me to commute long distances by bus. I think that’s only a fair request, in exchange for the things they’re asking me to give up and do. A ride from San Pablo to Manila and back. Since this is an exclusive school which I assume are populated with well off students and well off parents, I think it wouldn’t be a problem for them to spare someone to come get me do this job for them.
And you know what? They reconsidered their invitation. It seems they no longer want me to give a talk anymore.
Now that just made something snap in my mind. If I had gone along with this, they would thank me and think I’m such a nice guy, but I can’t help but feel I had just been taken advantage of. And I think I’ve come to that point and that age, where I have to draw the line and just say ENOUGH OF THIS. If they come away thinking I’m not so nice, well I don’t care what they think, or what anyone thinks. Call this EGO if you want, but if EGO means nobody gets to take advantage of me anymore, then I don’t care what you call it.
It doesn’t mean I don’t want to teach, or share my knowledge. It’s quite the opposite. If you look at this blog, you will find tons and tons of articles of advice, tips, and how tos on the art of creating comics. You just have to want to read it. It’s all here. And if you have any question about anything about the art of comics, you can just send me a message or post something at my Facebook page, and if you ask nicely (and aren’t intolerably pushy and demanding), I usually reply and offer my advice. To me that’s already teaching, and I do it for free.
Now that said, I wish to give some advice to schools and universities. I don’t know where the idea of hiring a specialist for a day to teach your students and don’t pay them for it came about. I’ve been thinking about it, and yeah, there seems to be something inequitable in this equation. You pay your professors to teach your students, and yet when you invite a specialist for a day of special education, you don’t pay them, and you don’t even offer to give them a ride for their trouble. I suggest you start. The artists won’t ask for it because artists are like that. They love to share what they know, and they would readily do it for free, as I have many many times. But for the things they do for you, I think it’s worth paying them for the things they can teach your students. Don’t wait for them to ask, because they won’t. Offer it. And I’m not talking honorarium. It’s nice when schools do offer it, but lots of times they don’t. Show them you appreciate their service, and the things they’re giving up just to share what they know. I think it’s only fair.