Welcome to another edition of A Day in the Life. Here, creators share some insight into their daily routine, informing how they create and what structure they need (if any) to make a little magic happen. It’s sort of like the comic book version of MTV Cribs, only no one says, “This is where the magic happens.”
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou has served as letter for several Dynamite titles, including Red Sonja, Death to the Army of Darkness, and Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. He’s also done lettering for Image’s Protector and Trust Fall from AfterShock among other projects. If all that weren’t enough, he’s also the editor of the digital magazine PanelxPanel and hosts Strip Panel Naked, a comics discussion series on YouTube. You can find him on Twitter @hassanoe.
What’s the first thing you do as part of your daily routine/workday?
What a terrible thing to say, but I look at Twitter 😅. And have a coffee. And hang out with the dog for a little bit. I’m watching that Dark show on Netflix, but it’s so dense I have to watch it in like twenty minute chunks and go back to google who everyone is. So some combination of that is how I start the day. Not very exciting.
Do you keep to a set schedule or just wing it during any given week?
I really like to have a plan. I often map out a couple of weeks worth of stuff in my calendar, mostly because I feel with the amount I try and manage it’s a delicate ecosystem. So I have to really have everything in at a glance, so I know what I can fit in where, if something else (inevitably) comes up. There’s a small element of winging it, because you know that some revisions will come in for lettering, or there might be a PanelxPanel article come in over a certain set of days, so there is some flexibility, but mostly, I like to really get my schedule locked in for a few weeks at a time.
Is there one particular place you work, or a specific set up to be most productive?
Well, my partner and I have been living and roaming around in a motorhome for the past two years, so my workspace was anywhere with a flat surface! But now we’re back on static ground, I’ll be back in the spare room of our place, hopefully sorting it into an office. But, yeah, as long as I have my headphones I can pretty much work anywhere. I remember in the middle of a huge trek, I had an email for some urgent stuff, and had to set up on top of this hill to fire off a few revisions and an email. It made for a nice photo!
What’s the absolute highlight of any given workday?
I really like seeing things get done. So anytime a page gets lettered, or an issue finished, or an article laid out, or whatever. That feels good. Little checkpoints like that through day are useful to feel like you’ve actually accomplished something. Also anytime I have chocolate or sweets nearby is solid.
What’s your least favorite part of any workday?
Are you listening to music or podcasts throughout the day?
I listen to a lot of BBC panels shows and stuff online, and NPR’s Ask Me Another. That’s my like go-to podcasts, otherwise I listen to the same three albums on repeat and annoy anyone around me. At the moment it’s Mac Miller’s Circles, Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle, and YBN Cordae’s The Lost Boy.
When you work, do you have a daily “quota” to reach (number of pages, word count, etc.)? Are these “metrics” important or not?
No quota per se, but I have what’s in my calendar, and I aim to get at least that much done. That might be a full issue, or the second half of an issue (depending on many factors), or laying out a certain set of articles, editing a certain amount, etc. I figure this out quite far in advance mostly (as above), so if I don’t get it done it has a knock-on effect for everything else around it… which is not great. But I’m pretty good at knowing how long things take now, it’s my superpower.
Do you have any habits or special routines that are essential for a truly productive day?
I don’t think I do… Just trying to have fun, I guess? If I reach a point where things are frustrating me, I usually take a break and just try and remember why I’m doing it int he first place. I think I work quite a lot, like physically in terms of hours, and comics is probably the lowest paid industry to do that for [Haha!], so it’s good to just reset if you\re ever getting bogged down or annoyed or frustrated and remember why you’re doing it. I do think to do this work, you have to love it.
How important is diet during the day? Do you drink 10 gallons of coffee or a bowl of cinnamon oatmeal at 11 a.m.?
I eat wonderfully in the evenings, when I get to cook, but during the day it’s bad. If there’s chocolate or sweets around, I’ll have them.
Do you read/consume comics or other media during the day? Or do you need to keep a distance from that while working?
Usually more work-related than for “fun,” so to speak. I have certain comics I need to read for PanelxPanel or Strip Panel Naked, and some stuff for reference and research for lettering and editing, but most of my for fun reading gets done after work (though, even then sometimes that gets pushed for work reading). The difference of for-fun reading and work reading is usually pretty minimal though, anything to do with PxP or SPN blurs the boundaries between work and fun!
Are you working steadily with breaks or do you tend to work in spurts?
Depends on how the day is going, I guess. I have a Pomodoro timer that I use if I’m feeling slow, and that really helps keep on track, but that’s more working in spurts. Otherwise, IO just work until everything is achieved, or I hate myself. That’s on a kind of sliding scale, too. I’m learning a lot about myself answering these questions.
How do you usually wind down the work day — emails, more reading, etc.?
Closing the laptop and watching a film or some TV or playing Gloomhaven. We’re, like, 10 scenarios into it at the moment and it’s incredibly addictive.