The Blue View by BoxJam

Sit down. I have something to tell you, and I want you sitting down. Are you ready?

Webcomic creators don’t update as reliably as their print counterparts.

The True Test of Mettle

Sit down. I have something to tell you, and I want you sitting down. Are you ready?

Webcomic creators don’t update as reliably as their print counterparts.’, ‘Sometimes, when they don’t update, they’ll give reasons; sometimes they won’t. Whatever they say, though, the most likely reason they’re not updating today is because they don’t have a great idea for todays strip. They’ll tell you they’re busy. They’ll tell you some crisis has come up. They might not say anything. If they had an idea for a strip, though, chances are they would have gotten it done.

Every cartoonist eventually faces the day when they have to sit down with no idea in their brain, and produce a strip. It’s the only initiation a web cartoonist goes through, and it’s an important day. If s/he goes ahead and gets a comic done anyway, a lot of things happen.

First, the thing is done. Fans are happy, blood pressure goes back to normal, and one doesn’t feel guilty.

Second, you’ll have an idea written down that you never would have if you just waited. If it’s a humor strip, you’ve created a joke that would have never come to be. In retrospect, things that I had to come up with when I had *nothing* are often some of my favorite ones (after a couple of months, where I can look at my work with a more detached perspective). They’re also some of the ones which get the most positive reaction from readers (and those two sets of strips aren’t the same ones, but that’s another column).

Third, and perhaps most important, it’s going to make the cartoonist better. It’s a great confidence boost – hey, in a pinch, I can pull things outta thin air! – but the skill level really increases. One learns that there aren’t a set number of jokes, and that each one used leaves one less to be used. Rather, it becomes clear that the more jokes one creates, the more jokes one can see.

I said that the process of creating a strip when they’re holding nothing but a high card is an initiation. That’s true, but it’s not a one-time ordeal. A second, almost-as-important day is the second time a cartoonist sits down with a deadline and without an idea. You can see where this is going. It’s going to keep happening, and each time one gets a little better at it, a little less scared of those times. I can say from experience that after about the 100th time, it gets easier. Somewhat. It certainly gets less daunting.

On the other hand, some cartoonists, when they face this problem for the first time, are going to make the decision to wait until the have a good idea, rather than force a strip out. To them I offer the insight that forcing yourself to do a strip when you don’t have any ideas makes you get better at coming up with ideas. Forcing yourself to wait until you have a good idea before producing does not make you better at deadlines.