Hi! First off, I just want to say that your comic strips are amazing. They really make me laugh and think. I'm an aspiring cartoonist, and right now I'm struggling doing daily comics for the #30DaysComics challenge. Usually the idea alone is what is holding me back, and I fail to come up with something before it's already time for bed. Any suggestions for coming up with daily comic strips? Thanks!
Thanks for the kind words— I’m glad you’ve been enjoying my comics.
To address your question: coming up with ideas can be difficult, especially if you sit down and think to yourself, “I must come up with a good idea.” As soon as you start thinking that, there will inevitably be another little voice in your head whose only purpose seems to be to tell you that your ideas aren’t good enough. Don’t listen to that guy. He’s a jerk and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
I’ve found that it’s more important to create a headspace that will allow ideas (all ideas), to wander around your brain as they wish, without fear of judgment. Sometimes that unassuming person at the party is the most interesting individual in the room if you give them a chance to talk. Everyone works a little differently, but here are some things that help me, and I hope they’re of use to you too:
Remove distractions - I find it hard to think while watching TV, checking facebook, carrying on a conversation, or even listening to music with lyrics. It helps to close your computer and listen to some instrumental music. I recommend Boards of Canada, Mozart, or some of the tracks available from Music for Programming.
Give yourself time - If I think, “I can’t wait to finish this comic so I can go to bed,” I’m not really in it for the comic. But if I sit down expecting to spend an hour or so making comics, then I’m more likely to enjoy the experience.
Stop making sense - Drawing a comic every day is an exercise, not your magnum opus. It doesn’t have to be funny. It doesn’t have to be anything. Writing good punchlines is difficult, but drawing a few panels of surreal nonsense, or just contemplating a moment can be really fun and enjoyable.
Draw things you like to draw - Like drawing dinosaurs? Draw one. Wasn’t that fun? I wonder what else that dinosaur could do. You have a few more panels to find out…
Surprise yourself - It gets boring when everyone is saying the same thing over and over and over again. There’s not much more to say about t-rex having small arms, or Pluto not being a planet. Whenever I start to feel bored with an idea, I try to think two or three degrees removed from my first impulse. I.e.: 1st impulse) A lumberjack encounters a bear. 2nd) A lumberjack is friends with a bear. 3rd) A lumberjack asks his bear friend to help him write a poem. That’s a much more interesting idea than my first impulse would indicate.
Restrictions are good - Limits can force you to come up with more inventive solutions. Do a week of wordless comics, or a week of comics surrounding a specific theme, or do comics in a different style, or with different tools than you normally use.
Sometimes it’s just difficult and nothing helps - Maybe you’re hungry, or overtired, maybe someone said something rude to you earlier and you’re still thinking about it. Sometimes you’ll be inconsolable even if everything else is great. So draw something simple and unfunny, put the pen down, and try again tomorrow. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be.
I could probably keep rambling, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Hopefully there’s something useful in there. Results may vary.
“Please, no fiction in The New York Times. We rely on you for amazingly well written, meticulously reported news, feature articles, business updates and what’s happening in the world. There are way too many sources for fiction, but fewer and fewer reliable sources for nonfiction. SUSAN MELCHER, Mount Vernon, Me., posted on nytimes.com”—The 9.29.13 Issue - NYTimes.com (via hobartpulp)
“If the style of the restaurant was old-fashioned, the parenting that went on there was distinctly modern. Moms and dads would patiently recite every item on the menu to their squirming five-year-olds, as if the many flavors of ice cream represented all the unique ways they were loved.”—Recommended Reading: Amy Poehler’sNew Yorker essay, “Take Your Licks,” on her summer job at an ice cream parlor. If this essay is any indication, her upcoming memoir is going to be great. (via millionsmillions)
If you’re a boy writer, it’s a simple rule: you’ve gotta get used to the fact that you suck at writing women and that the worst women writer can write a better man than the best male writer can write a good woman. And it’s just the minimum. Because the thing about the sort of heteronormative masculine privilege, whether it’s in Santo Domingo, or the United States, is you grow up your entire life being told that women aren’t human beings, and that women have no independent subjectivity. And because you grow up with this, it’s this huge surprise when you go to college and realize that, “Oh, women aren’t people who does my shit and fucks me.”
And I think that this a huge challenge for boys, because they want to pretend they can write girls. Every time I’m teaching boys to write, I read their women to them, and I’m like, “Yo, you think this is good writing?” These motherfuckers attack each other over cliche lines but they won’t attack each other over these toxic representations of women that they have inherited… their sexist shorthand, they think that is observation. They think that their sexist distortions are insight. And if you’re in a writing program and you say to a guy that their characters are sexist, this guy, it’s like you said they fucking love Hitler. They will fight tooth and nail because they want to preserve this really vicious sexism in the art because that is what they have been taught.
And I think the first step is to admit that you, because of your privilege, have a very distorted sense of women’s subjectivity. And without an enormous amount of assistance, you’re not even going to get a D. I think with male writers the most that you can hope for is a D with an occasional C thrown in. Where the average women writer, when she writes men, she gets a B right off the bat, because they spent their whole life being taught that men have a subjectivity. In fact, part of the whole feminism revolution was saying, “Me too, motherfuckers.” So women come with it built in because of the society.
It’s the same way when people write about race. If you didn’t grow up being a subaltern person in the United States, you might need help writing about race. Motherfuckers are like ‘I got a black boy friend,’ and their shit sounds like Klan Fiction 101.
The most toxic formulas in our cultures are not pass down in political practice, they’re pass down in mundane narratives. It’s our fiction where the toxic virus of sexism, racism, homophobia, where it passes from one generation to the next, and the average artist will kill you before they remove those poisons. And if you want to be a good artist, it means writing, really, about the world. And when you write cliches, whether they are sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, that is a fucking cliche. And motherfuckers will kill you for their cliches about x, but they want their cliches about their race, class, queerness. They want it in there because they feel lost without it. So for me, this has always been the great challenge.
As a writer, if you’re really trying to write something new, you must figure out, with the help of a community, how can you shed these fucking received formulas. They are received. You didn’t come up with them. And why we need fellow artists is because they help us stay on track. They tell you, “You know what? You’re a bit of a fucking homophobe.” You can’t write about the world with these simplistic distortions. They are cliches. People know art, always, because they are uncomfortable. Art discomforts. The trangressiveness of art has to deal with confronting people with the real. And sexism is a way to avoid the real, avoiding the reality of women. Homophobia is to avoid the real, the reality of queerness. All these things are the way we hide from encountering the real. But art, art is just about that.
”—Junot Diaz speaking at Word Up Bookshop, 2012 (via clambistro)
Where the artist is still trusted, he will not be looked to for assurance.
Unless we are willing to accept our artists as they are, the answer to the question, “Who speaks for America today?” will have to be: the advertising agencies. They are entirely capable of showing us our unparalleled prosperity and our almost classless society, and no one has ever accused them of not being affirmative. Where the artist is still trusted, he will not be looked to for assurance. Those who believe that art proceeds from a healthy, and not from a diseased, faculty of the mind will take what he shows them as a revelation, not of what we ought to be but of what we are at a given time and under given circumstances; that is, as a limited revelation but revelation nevertheless.
-Flannery O’Connor, “The Fiction Writer & His Country”
“Growing up in a very dull suburb gave me an imagination for murder stories. When you’re looking at neat driveways, pretty shops and thatched houses, you start to image bloodstains on the path and villains behind the doors.”—Anthony Horowitz, in The Guardian
I often think of New York and the night simultaneously.
I often think of New York and the night simultaneously. I think about New York in the night, and I think of it as this great urban, nocturnal ocean, in that all the characters, all the inhabitants of New York, are various forms of prey-fish or lantern-fish, you know, these strange fish that you rarely see except from these superbathyspheres. I’ll often indulge myself in secondary and tertiary characters. Look, here comes a Wang-fish! Here comes a goddamn dragon-fish. What the hell is that! And all my characters are floating in this fluid urban night, and they’re looking for things. Somebody might be looking for love, somebody might be looking for power, somebody might be looking for redemption of some kind. But basically I think of my people as floating…in an ink black sea, in the New York nocturnal sea.
-Richard Price, in interview with Neal Gabler, in 3 Screenplays: The Color of Money, Sea of Love, Night and the City
Part of the jam that I was in as a novelist was that I kept going back to my autobiography for material. And if today is Wednesday, and I was up to Tuesday with my life in print already, well, what’s going to happen today because I’ve got to have another book out. Life is hard enough without it having to be perpetual material too. I felt like a cannibal eating his own foot. Once I became a hired pen out there, for the first time in my life I was forced to leave my own autobiography to research my characters’ lives, and I learned, with great gratification, that talent and autobiography are not joined at the hip, that talent travels. If you have enough imagination and empathy, you can write about anyone.
That was probably the only good thing, tangible good thing, that came to my writing through screenwriting: knowing that I could go anywhere and learn and bring it back home and turn it into art.
-Richard Price, in interview with Neal Gabler, in 3 Screenplays: The Color of Money, Sea of Love, Night and the City
People are right to question: why another rock ‘n’ roll group? Rock ‘n’ roll at this point can seem like a despicable pursuit-or at least a singularly embarrassing pastime. There’s the leering, the grimacing, the artlessness, the pointlessness, the dullness, the loudness, the over-saturation of groups, the contractual skullduggery, the apparent self-satisfaction of the groups, the simultaneous self-loathing, the reactionary politics, the objectification of the performer by the spectator, the objectification of the spectator by the performer, the cloying, the copying, the narcissism, all of which encourage the thinking participant to run in the other direction from any flirtation with the pastime of “groupism.”
Indeed, the modern variety of rock groups is often a predictable, soulless, silly, and quite boring entity, comprised of boarding school bankers’ sons, parading about onstage and playing a passable pastiche of some wrongheaded critic’s desert island discs. The groups they cite as influences become more banal every year.
And these critics - people who write about music-are often their enablers and have little or no sense of the history or purpose of the music. While they purport to write about the groups on their “blog” or magazine, they instead type about themselves and also their incidental relationship to the music. It’s a perfect reflection of what the art form has become - a self-perpetuating and pointless exercise, both neutered and insane.
”—Ian Svenonius, from his new book Supernatural Strategies For Making A Rock ‘N’ Roll Group which is an essential read filled with such nuggets. (via slaggingoff)
The following is an excerpt from the introduction ofTroubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense [Penguin, $16.00], an anthology of 14 crime stories, all written by women in the 40s through 70s. Editor Sarah Weinmen selected tales from Patricia Highsmith, Joyce Harrington, and other writers who laid the groundwork for such modern bestsellers as Gillian Flynn and Tana French.
“I find the public passion for justice quite boring and artificial, for neither life nor nature cares if justice is ever done or not.”—Patricia Highsmith, Plotting And Writing Suspense Fiction (via fypatriciahighsmith)
“He restrained himself from another wisecrack, infinitesimally but with great effort attempting to close down his nightclub approach to education; every positive change in his life, every minute increment in character, acquired more or less through shame.”—Samaritan, by Richard Price
I never see my bad guys as simply bad. They want pretty much the same thing that you and I want: they want to be happy. I know it sounds funny. They get up in the morning, and they wonder what to wear when they are going to do a job – like anyone else.
A: Did I ever, at least where [Ross] Macdonald was concerned. I wrote a couple of novels while I was in university that were heavily influenced by the themes in his work. The big difference was, his were good.
Conventions aren’t clichés, they’re building blocks
Sometimes I’ll hear people complaining about a movie cliché when what they’re really talking about is just a convention. Shooting a character running down a circular staircase, for example: that’s used over and over again for some good cinematic reasons — for one thing, the spiral fits nicely within the frame, so a filmmaker can capture this gorgeous, prolonged circular movement, as opposed to just shooting someone stomping down a plain old staircase. Conventions aren’t clichés, they’re building blocks, and I don’t think we’ve come close to exhausting the ways they can be used, freshened, revivified. When Humphrey Bogart played Philip Marlowe in 1946, could we have envisioned Elliott Gould as the same character nearly 30 years later? Maybe 40 years from now, someone will cast Elle Fanning as the aging crook looking for one last big score. She’s no Robert Mitchum — but that’s the idea.
the good fortune to live in a generation that talks and does dirty
“I invented my style; I am a fucking genius,” he wrote. He ended the letter: “This is a long way of saying that I have no better idea about the origin of what I do than you do. Perhaps I simply have a dirty mind and the good fortune to live in a generation that talks and does dirty.”