How To Survive Writing (and Yourself)

Grady Klein has posted a wonderful and funny comic with advice on how to survive any creative venture. In his case, it’s a graphic novel, so it’s titled How to Survive Writing a Graphic Novel. Visually, it’s a graceful dance between the artist and his demons. My favorite bit of advice in regard to your demon is, “No matter if he is bugging the **** out of you, always listen to him. Whatever he says.”


Found via Drawn

Bill Watterson on Creativity and Recharging Your Brain.

Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, gave a commencement address at Kenyon College in 1990. He made some interesting comments on creativity and the creative life. I thought the most interesting section was his comment on how to recharge your brain.

It’s surprising how hard we’ll work when the work is done just for ourselves. And with all due respect to John Stuart Mill, maybe utilitarianism is overrated. If I’ve learned one thing from being a cartoonist, it’s how important playing is to creativity and happiness. My job is essentially to come up with 365 ideas a year.

If you ever want to find out just how uninteresting you really are, get a job where the quality and frequency of your thoughts determine your livelihood. I’ve found that the only way I can keep writing every day, year after year, is to let my mind wander into new territories. To do that, I’ve had to cultivate a kind of mental playfulness.

We’re not really taught how to recreate constructively. We need to do more than find diversions; we need to restore and expand ourselves. Our idea of relaxing is all too often to plop down in front of the television set and let its pandering idiocy liquefy our brains. Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery-it recharges by running.

Process of Cartooning


Outside of writing a “How To” book or piecing something together from interviews, it’s hard to get artists to describe their process for working. Cartoonist Ted Slampyak wrote a blog entry that lays out how he works.

I am always amazed that cartoonists can continually meet deadlines, so it’s interesting to see how that happens in one case. Most interesting to me is that he does the word balloons first. I’m guessing that means the art in this serves the dialog instead of the other way around.

Creativity tip: do your worst!

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 8.22.38 PM

Shooting for the top can be exhausting, why not spend some time settling for the gutter? Instead of trying to write a good story, write the hackiest one you can. Paint something that would make a high school art class shudder with disgust. Shoot for the bottom!

Making bad art on purpose can make you better at what you do. It lets you burn off all the ideas and bad habits you have in a bonfire of mundane crap. You can identify all the mistakes you can make and then, when you make them again, they will be as obvious to you as a giant rabbit dressed as Abraham Lincoln standing in your breakfast cereal. Once you make the worst you possibly can, you can stop yourself from ever doing it again.

I found a great example of this today, cartoonist Anthony Clark was challenged to draw 200 “bad” cartoons and he did. They are fun to read just so you can spot all the different ways comics can be bad. Of course, some of them are really funny as well.

Use your worst to help you get to your best!

link to 200 “bad” cartoons

How Not To Display Your Art On The Web

Lines and Colors has a great article on displaying your art on the web. Not only is it full of great advice, it also takes the form of an angry sarcastic rant. (So, it’s funny and useful!) Here’s a bit that points out one of my pet peeves about art sites:

Use tiny, square thumbnails with a nondescript crop from some obscure corner of the artwork. You wouldn’t want someone to miss the fun of playing “Concentration” when trying to remember where a particular image is; and if the thumbnails clearly described the images, visitors might actually go to one they like in the eleven seconds they have to look at your site.

Even better, why bother with thumbnails or preview images when clever little dots, squares or enigmatic shapes are so much more artsy? Everybody already knows how cool your stuff is, they’ll certainly take the trouble to click through all the shapes to find an image. Plus if they come back looking for a particular image, they have the fun of discovering all over again!

Also covered are the benefits of having a long complicated domain name and putting everything in frames. This was written by someone who has looked at a lot of art sites and knows their business.

How Not To Display Your Art On The Web

Comic Advice

Directly opposing ideas from two successful people, Ricky Gervais (The Office) and Scott Adams (Dilbert), about how to be successful:

Scott Adams
: "Other people are not like you. If you create cartoons that you like, you’re probably only appealing to other cartoonists. I made that mistake early on in my career when I did a lot of comics that focused on clever puns. If you want to preserve your artistic integrity and vision, that’s fine, but don’t expect to make money doing it."

Ricky Gervais: "We’re making comedy for us and people who are like-minded. We want to do the best we can and if that means leaving behind some people who prefer broad comedy then so be it, because I really don’t care."

Scott Adams: "Your readers care about themselves, not you. Readers will perceive as funny anything that "hits home" even if it isn’t all that clever by any objective standard. Unfortunately the only person you know well enough to "hit home" with on a regular basis is yourself. Write about the situations that you have in common with other people. The common situations can be analogous, not exact. For example, you might have a weird hobby that thrills you but makes others roll their eyes. It doesn’t matter if readers share your hobby, only that they might indulge in something that is also disdained by others. It’s the feeling of disdain that should hit home, not the hobby."

Ricky Gervais
: (About Spinal Tap)  "…Finally I thought that a film had been made for me and nobody else. When I got the chance, I didn’t want to make 10 million people’s fifth-favorite comedy for 10 months, I wanted to make some people’s favorite comedy ever."

When I first read Scott Adams’s advice, I thought he was kidding. It sounds like he doesn’t like his own comic and thinks less of people who do.  Still, I had to stick it in this blog. Creative inspiration from a cynical desire to connect with other people for money is still inspiration.

Of course, I don’t really think Dilbert is funny. And Ricky Gervais has enough money that he never needs to work again.

I guess they’re describing how to create a fad versus how to create something lasting. Any thoughts?

%d bloggers like this: