Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

What I Didn’t Learn About Life from Reading Comic Books

When I was a kid, I used to love getting lost in the world of comics. Every Saturday morning, I would rush to the store to spend what little money I had on these short, exciting stories full of action. And years later, I’m still rushing.

Comic books

Photo Credit: Joelk75 via Compfight cc

For the adolescent reader in a world full of distractions, comic books are the perfect diversion, but they don’t always paint the most accurate picture of reality.

As great as they are, comics give us a warped, incomplete view of life. As much as Batman inspires us or Superman encourages us to be brave, our lives look little like those small, illustrated panels.

No, our lives happen somewhere in between.

When life slows down

I always hoped my life might look a little more like a comic book than it did — plus or minus any mutant abilities (that would be a bonus). But as I’ve grown up, I’ve started to see how silly that actually is.

In the movie Super, a crude film about superheroes, the protagonist Frank is sitting with his self-appointed sidekick, Libby, and they’re waiting in vain for something to happen. For an opportunity to fight evil. For the police sirens to start. For or something significant to happen.

But nothing does. So they sit in boredom, wondering what to do.

Frank: Maybe you need to be bored sometimes.
Libby: You don’t see them bored in comic books.
Frank: That’s what happens in between the panels.
Libby: Wow, in between the panels! Is that where we are right now?

As I watched the film, I thought: “Yes, this is where we spend our lives—in between the panels.”

We all want a life that that looks more like the stories we read in books or watch on the big screen. But real life doesn’t often feel like an adventure. In fact, it can seem rather boring. And as hard as we try to make it more interesting, we are still stuck with the frequent, less-than-remarkable moments.

What, then, do we do with those?

Here’s good news…

This is not the end of the tale. We are not left to live lives of insignificance and mediocrity. But life does slow down; inconveniences do occur; and delays happen to the best of us.

The challenge is what we do with these times. Will we waste, or learn to use, our waiting?

The slower times contain a wealth of wisdom for us to tap into, but only when we recognize them. Otherwise, we can grown detached from reality and end up living a fantasy, looking for every chance to escape reality.

This is why we fight the quiet and try to fill the void of inactivity with busyness. It’s why we sometimes stay up late or can’t sleep. We wonder — and worry — if this is all life has to offer.

All the while, we miss the truth: The thing we want to escape is what holds the key to our contentment.

What if…?

What if, instead of pining for the action of the next frame, we surrendered to the wait, learning to live in those “boring” moments with more intentionality?

What if we fell in love with the in-between times, relishing instead of resenting them?

Well, then, we might just find the satisfaction we’ve been searching for. Even in the mundane moments.

Especially then.

This was an adapted excerpt from my new book, The In-Between. If you order the book by 11:59 p.m., Aug. 10, 2013, you’ll automatically get $240 worth of free bonuses. Find out more here.

How does your life look — in between frames? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Mindfulness practice can really help with this. I used to get very annoyed and frustrated while waiting but these days it’s just a perfect opportunity and reminder to breathe and center myself. Thanks for sharing, Jeff 🙂

    • Thanks, Patrik. I’m learning something similar.

  • Julie Mortillaro

    Love this! I tried to buy your book at Barnes and Noble, but it is out of stock at all of them anywhere remotely close to me in the Dallas area. Guess I will have to order it on Amazon, but I hate to wait to get it – yes, I could definitely benefit from reading it!

    • Sorry to hear that, Julie. They should have more soon!

  • Love the whole concept of “in-between the panels”, Jeff. Looking forward to finishing the book.

    • Thanks, Gary! Honored that you would take the time to read it.

  • As a middle-aged (almost old) housewife, I find that I have plenty of time that is serene, quiet, and… boring. Having small doses of this is good, wonderful, and therapeutic. When a person’s life turns to be this way most of the time, it’s time to get a life.

  • Wendy Claussen

    I am a high energy person. Learning to enjoy life in between the panels is hard. As I grow older though I realize the importance of Psalm 46:10 and I have to retrain my brain to be still. While reading this post, the children’s book called “Let’s Do Nothing” came to my mind. Little kids get bored trying to do nothing so they decide “let’s do something” instead. 🙂 That’ me. I am a Grandma slowly learning to embrace the in between the panels time. I am almost done reading Wrecked and The In-Between is next! Beautiful post, Jeff!! Keep blessing us with your talents!

  • Bethany

    I agree; comic books are not very good at reflecting the in-between times of life. But if they could learn how to tell stories that deal with those types of things, think of how much more powerful they could be.

    • Indeed! To be fair, Bethany, some actually do. 🙂

  • Tom Bentley

    Jeff, good stuff. I was thick with comic books as a kid, and it was challenging to know if I wanted more to be Thor, Spider Man or Dr. Strange. But capes are expensive, so I started writing instead. On that subject, the “in-betweens,” which could mean things as transient as a twenty-minute wait in a doctor’s office to the six months it might take to hear back from a literary agent, can be great times for writing.

    When you have chunks of time that seem to stretch out without consequence, that might signal an opportunity to get something—anything—down, to build on later.

  • bonny hoeflein

    Comic books never enticed me, maybe they’re more of a guy thing. I have, however, spent more than my share of time hoping to escape reality. As a mom at home with small children, I blew through tanks of gas driving around in order to avoid feeling lonely and trapped. I call it my carseats and frenchfries phase. Those seasons make me think of little green apples that come between blossoms and ripe fruit…key growing season.

    Thanks for the compelling post, Jeff.

  • Jeff, the fact that you used a Legion of Super Heroes illustration makes me like you even more than I already did.

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