About

First, a disclaimer: this isn’t a Laurel and Hardy blog. My apologies.

Another Fine Mess refers to my desk, my office, my brain. It’s the chaos I live in.

I’m Mark Heath, a so-so successful freelance cartoonist. For years I’ve thought I was lazy, scatter-brained, irresponsible. And I was, and am. But it turns out there’s a reason for it. I’m writing this blog to join the ADHD community, to better understand myself, and to give myself another distraction when I should be working on my cartoons.

You can see my work here.

I’m also the creator of Spot the Frog, a comic strip that posts daily at comics.com. Every strip is informed by ADHD, though it’s not obvious. I had to draw six daily strips and one Sunday every week. Friday was my deadline. Picture my nose pressed flat to a plate glass door. The door is the deadline, with the syndicate on the other side.

Obsessed with the need to make my strips perfect (ADHD), and the likelihood that I wasn’t especially efficient Monday through Wednesday (ADHD), made Thursday and Friday a mad race for the deadline that was mostly my face smooshed to the metaphorical glass, unable to open the door, needing first the extra hour, then the extra minute, and then the extra second, to push my strips to perfection.

This is also known as Zeno’s Paradox.

When Spot the Frog ended its print run, it took months for that Deadline pressure to lift from me. As sad as I was at letting Spot go, I was finally free to relax. To return to freelance cartooning.

Ha.

I still bump my face on that glass door. And worse, I often don’t. Now I look back on syndication with fondness. As hard as it was, every week I drew six dailies and one Sunday. I got the job done, thanks to a signed contract that said I would get it done.

As a freelancer, I don’t have a contract. With a few exceptions — American Scientist, for example — no one is waiting for my work. Most of my deadlines are self-imposed. My schedule is my own.

Heaven for some, Hell for me.*

A few months ago I was diagnosed as ADD.

It’s the punchline to my career so far.

I’m laughing on the inside.

 

*Relatively speaking, being an atheist; yet another perk.

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4 Responses to About

  1. Mark Heath says:

    hi Mark, we share the same name, and every so often I get email intended for you. However, since I don’t have your email address I can’t forward it on to you. Anyway, if you’d like me to do so, please contact me.

    best regards
    Mark

  2. Jeff P. says:

    Hey, Mark,

    Small world.

    We’ve never met, but I’ve heard of you and meandered this way through your comment on Stephanie Piro’s blog that was linked to by Mike Lynch. Confusing enough?

    Anyway, it’s recently been brought up that after years of struggling and failing at being self-directed, I may have Adult ADD, on top of occasional depression. As a cartoonist, and as you know, this ain’t a good thing.

    I identify w/ the accomplishment of outside deadlines vs. that of inside deadlines.

    Anyway, just thought I’d let you know you’re not alone as an ADD cartoonist.

    • Mark Heath says:

      Hi Jeff,

      I do wonder how many cartoonists have ADD. One of the reasons I became a working cartoonist — as opposed to a thriving cartoonist, which I’ll never be — was the camouflage. ADD symptoms blend easily with ARTIST symptoms. Or ARTIST stereotypes. Spacey, bad at business and organization, inclined to follow a Muse (or in my case, anything BUT a Muse — spending a day hunting for album cover art on the internet, instead of working.) And nothing hides symptoms better than the closed door of working alone in a home office.

      I was diagnosed at 49 (or was it 48?), and I’m still pole-axed by it. I’ve recently made a big decision about my career in yet another level of ADD acceptance. It’s embarrassing, and I haven’t mentioned it on my blog. I’ll announce it here in the fine print of my comment. I’ve decided that I don’t have the ability, the brain, to continue as a full-time cartoonist. I’ve tried to adapt and learn new ways to do things. I have my lists, my timers, the hard-to-ignore clocks on my desktop. I have the knowledge of my ADD, to reframe how I instinctively see the world after 50 years: I’m not lazy, insane or stupid. I have ADD. To quote Popeye, I yam what I yam. A guy with a brain that has the short-term memory capacity of a post-it note. Give me more than three things to think about — sometimes one — and my train of thought jumps the rail. Admitting that you have a problem is usually a good first step to a cure, but that only works if there’s anything like a cure. ADD doesn’t have one.

      My name is Mark Heath, and I have ADD.

      Some bullies don’t back down when confronted.

      Some like to charge like a bull at a cape. Or a house fly that wants to live in your ear. Or that crazy guy in the movie who runs someone over, shifts into reverse and does it again, then repeats this back and forth until he’s satisfied. And if you could be really, really objective, stand way back and see the big picture, you could almost be happy for him. He looks so content. So satisfied. He’s embraced his abnormal brain and making it work.

      He’s evil. But at least he finishes what he starts.

      Where was I? Right. ADD. Still have it, despite my recognition that I have it.

      I’m still too-easily distracted, too-likely to never finish, too-inclined to see the Future as something hazy, like the view through a windshield in heavy rain, with broken wipers and foggy glass. I can tell that something is out there, that I should steer around it. But it’s probably best to pull over and brake until the rain stops.

      I don’t think it ever will.

      This concludes another in my series of grim considerations of ADD. Sooner or later, I’m bound to write something positive. That’s why I keep at it. Even the evil guy with the bloody bumper had a nice smile.

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