(Note: This Is A Series Of Guest Articles We’ve Requested To Spice Up Things Here At The Alliance. We Current Members Of The Alliance Are Working On Some Special Things This Summer And Will Announce Them Come September When Our Guest Articles Finish Up. Enjoy The Change Of Pace And Let Our Guest Contributors Know If You Appreciate Their Work!)
I like to write things down. I like to write things down with an actual pen on actual paper. Some may think that this is one step above being a caveman.
In 2007, I was going through a series of life changes. One of those changes was me deciding to apply to graduate school. I always wanted to pursue an MFA but never had the guts to even try. I applied and was accepted… opening up a whole new world of possibilities to me… and at the same time scaring the ink right out of me.
The program I was in, the Master of Fine Art in Visual Art at the Vermont College of Fine Art, was tougher than almost anything I’ve ever done. The reading was extensive, the work was engaging and infuriating at the same time. One thing the faculty encouraged us to do was keep a journal. Write down the little things and the big things, because in the end it’ll only help you figure out your process…and may also be a source of inspiration.
I’d kept journals off and on since high school. They weren’t much to speak of; most entries were no longer than two or three sentences. At the time of their writing, they didn’t mean much… because the events articulated on notebook paper were still fresh in the mind of the articulator. But, time changes that.
So, on the advice of my school’s faculty, I began, in earnest, to re- visit my journal. At first, it was hard… to dedicate a portion of your day to thinking about what happened the day before. Some days I completely missed. But gradually, it clicked. Boy, did it click. I was writing down the big things, the little things, the feelings, the details, the times, the weather, the price of gas! Before I knew it, I had a historical documentation of my life… all neatly dated and organized. It became an unlikely source of inspiration for both my graduate work and my cartooning. It also helped me win a few bets.
When someone remembered something one way and I knew they were wrong, all I had to do is bet them and crack out the journal. One bet paid for a year’s worth of pens and notebooks!
You may be wondering, “What the @#$! does writing down what you did over and over have to do with comics and comic strips?”
Anatomically, writing is the skeletal system of a comic. Without it, the comic cannot stand. Without it, the comic has nothing for its muscles to attach to. Without it, the comic is a bunch of lines with all kinds of direction or no direction at all.
Instilling the discipline to write every day in a journal does some “Karate Kid” stuff to your writing as a whole. You capture detail better, you exercise your memory, you articulate a thought better… you basically become both Miyagi and Daniel-san. You teach yourself without realizing you’re learning anything. The result? You do things better than you ever thought you could.
Obviously, the results aren’t instantaneous, but there are results… all positive.
So, do yourself a favor and go analog for a few minutes every day. Write a few sentences about the previous day and what you think the current day will be like. A little bit now can lead to inspiration or a winning bet later.