Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dave Sim: "Get A Life"

(from the Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing, 2010 Revised Edition)
...Remember, as well, that self-publishing -- or being published in any way -- is neither a primary nor pressing concern when measured against the actual act of creativity. In a world where so much of everyone’s leisure time is taken up with viewing and/or participating in activities which, in the Bard’s words, are "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" -- television, movies, concerts, drinking, drugs, most love affairs, most sex, most conversations -- a person with an aptitude for writing and drawing should be wary of diminishing the importance of these talents and/or diminishing the role they play in his or her life. Remember that people who sneer "get a life" usually have no particular talent of their own and are unable to see beyond the limited, temporary, and immediate gratification to be had through wholehearted participation in the various "sounds and furies" available to them.

Alone at your drawing board with a stack of empty pages, a sharpened pencil, and an eraser, you are free to explore whatever you deem to be significant, to navigate the largely uninvestigated waters of your conscious and unconscious awareness, to choose when to dive deep and when to skim the surface. Pencil line by pencil line, rendered and erased, amended and enhanced, step by instinctive step you bring something into existence which you can truly call your own. If and when you can achieve a period of creative existence -- whether for a few hours after work, for an entire Saturday, or (oh, bliss) a week of vacation -- you will be experiencing the same exhilarating state which keeps me going, which keeps any comic-book creator going. For those who achieve their fullest satisfaction from creativity after an hour or two -- and then find it to be the most tedious kind of drudgery -- it is still worth visiting the world of "creativity within" for that hour or two. For those who can’t tear themselves away, who find everything else  the world of leisure has to offer to be flat and lifeless by comparison, publication can be fruitfully postponed until the time is right, and months or even years of development of writing and drawing skills can be enjoyed for their own sake. In fact, Scott Berwanger, who I have known for about ten years now, has been working on his Magnum Opus, Anubis, for all of that time and is at about the 1,500-page mark in what he thinks will be a 4,500-page story. He has chosen not to even consider publication until it’s done so as to devote all of his time and energy in his spare time from his regular job to bringing it to life. Even though it is an unorthodox solution, it many ways it seems the most sensible one for the genuinely dedicated cartoonist and a clear separation between being a cartoonist and being a self-publisher -- first one and then the other. I’m hoping that when he’s (God willing) done that his own experience will serve as an inspiration for others balancing real-world and creative needs.

It is a conventional and accurate piece of wisdom that "you have two thousand bad drawings in you, and once you get those done you start doing good ones." What is often not added - and really should be, in my view - is that there is a world of joy and gratification and surprise to be had in doing those two thousand bad drawings, watching them get less bad, watching your own style emerge, your own ideas take shape and coalesce and develop a life of their own. Enjoy it. Enjoy creativity, first, last, and always for its own sake. If it isn't fun, find a new way to do it that is fun. Satisfy yourself every step of the way. Draw what you want to draw. Write what you want to write. If you want to revise the earlier work, revise the earlier work. Your leisure time is your leisure time and no one else's - "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" - and if your greatest happiness is to be had in writing and drawing comic books, you are miles ahead of most of your peers, who haven't the faintest notion of what would make them happy.

Write and draw and draw and write for their own sake and to please yourself - enjoy it to the fullest, and always pursue the avenue that seems to be the most fun, that compels you, irresistibly, to pick up that pencil and start committing your words and pictures to paper. It won't take long before you can grin and say in perfect honesty:

"Get a life? Man, I've got a life."

1 comment:

Carson Grubaugh said...

Will be sharing this with many students in the years to come.

Thanks for posting it, Tim!