You probably know Zach Weinersmith from his wildly popular webcomic “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal”, though that’s hardly the only thing keeping him busy. He’s also the author of several books, creator of a satirical pseudo-science festival, and a father — soon to be a father of two.
“Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal”, which Weinersmith publishes daily, boasts over three thousand comics stretching back to 2002. His expansive interests — science, math, philosophy, literature, you name it — make for a distinctive voice, which he keeps fresh through constant research and self-teaching. Before he was a full-time cartoonist, he worked at a talent agency, drawing (and sleeping) in what little free time he could find.
In his own words, here’s Weinersmith on bedtimes, milk for breakfast and curing insomnia with math problems.
Usually I sleep from about 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Really have to maximize my time now that I'm a parent.
If I don't get 8 hours, I'm useless. Most of my work (research, writing, drawing) requires full brain power.
I find that if I'm reading a lot and working hard, I rarely have trouble sleeping. On the rare occasions when I'm unable to sleep, it's almost always from some acute stressor, and fortunately I have few of those these days.
If I can't sleep I grab a particularly dull book off the shelf and read until I start dozing, then come back to bed.
If that doesn't work, sometimes I'll think of a particularly boring math problem and try to solve it mentally. Usually I fall asleep before making much progress.
In terms of getting the kid to bed... I haven't got a clue. Ours is pretty well behaved, but even so, we tend to have sleep issues now and then. I memorize old songs (which tend to have longer, more cogent lyrics) and sing them to my daughter before bed if she's having trouble sleeping. That makes it more stimulating for me if I have to walk her around for a prolonged period.
The longest I've gone without sleep: Maybe 50 hours. I can't sleep on planes, so when I've flown to Britain, my sleep tends to get really wonky. Generally, I feel okay, but I suspect if someone asked me to do a crossword puzzle or some calculus it wouldn't go terribly well.
Working at a talent agency was awful. I theoretically worked from 9-5 (or maybe it was 10-6, I can't remember). But, I got up very early, just to psych myself up for the day ahead, then often stayed at work till 9. It was very hard to do comics, but I managed to get it done by sheer desire to escape. You'd be amazed what you can do when you have to.
Only rarely have I woken up with a solution to something. But! I do find that sleeping on something is often a better choice than grinding on it late into the night.
I'm afraid I don't have a lot of time to read comics. Abby Howard is quite good. I'm not exactly sure who's been a big comic influence, but my favorite authors right this second are, maybe, Conrad Aiken, Beryl Markham, Stanislaw Lem and Ernest Hemingway.
Breakfast: Currently I drink about four glasses of milk with added sugar, plus a two shot espresso. That makes me sound more crazy than I actually am, I swear.
My bedside table: Pile of books, some bills, a baby monitor, some pecans, an empty cup, and a lamp.