"Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good."
By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here
On my coffee table is an anthology of Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes. Much like a Bible, I can flip it open to any page and find something original and worthwhile. The most astonishing thing, however, was that Watterson did this work daily, for years straight. How could Watterson produce such a high-volume of creative work when many of us struggle with doing one memorable thing in a lifetime?
That is the trade of the cartoonist (whether in print or online); do interesting work and lots of it. To accomplish this seemingly impossible task of constant cleverness takes some natural talent, but more than that is craft. Craft is learnable in the same way wisdom is transferable.
On Doing the Work
In Stripped, a documentary about comic strips, Bill Watterson said of his work:
This is what Watterson wanted and if we recognize that we have volunteered ourselves to do this work, we relieve a lot of self-imposed pressure.
On High-Volume Work
Some think of it like exercise and conditioning.
Rhymes With Orange creator, Hilary B. Price:
While others create good habits.
Beetle Bailey creator, Mort Walker:
Mutts creator, Patrick McDonnell:
Deadlines and expectations aren't the barriers to greatness; rather they create greatness. They force us into the position of high-volume work and lots and lots of practice.
Ira Glass, creator of the award-winning radio program, This American Life gave this advice:
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Outliers: The Story of Success:
Hilary B. Price:
This echoes the sentiments of influential painter, Pablo Picasso:
And American author Jack London:
Be Like Water, Not a Stubborn Rock
Pearls Before Swine creator, Stephan Pastis:
You have to give yourself permission to be less than perfect and move on. Though it may seem unnoticeable now, you are always in the process of building. The project is not your work, your final product is you.
Motivator, teacher, and Hall of Fame coach John Wooden wrote in his final book, The Wisdom of Wooden: My Century On and Off the Court:
For Better or For Worse creator, Lynn Johnston:
Irish playwright Samuel Beckett wrote in Worstward Ho:
Questionable Content creator, Jeph Jacques:
Break up the creative monotony by constantly doing different types of work and switching it up.
Hark! A Vagrant creator, Kate Beaton:
This resembles the method of famed animator and auteur Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki breaks all convention by drawing the storyboards first then writing the script. The canon law has been script first, then several stages later, the storyboards are drawn (usually by someone else). If you are a writer, try drawing it out. If you are an artist, try describing your vision in words. Switch gears to keep the imagination going. Akin to the improvisational process of "yes and": don't stop, let it morph, don't try to own it, and keep the work going.
On Embracing the Joy of Your Work
Hilary B. Price:
Oscar Wilde offered similar advice in The Soul of Man Under Socialism:
On the Zen Spark
Bone creator, Jeff Smith:
Don't rush the spark, sometimes it just needs some time to grow.
The Oatmeal creator, Matt Inman:
On Letting Content Drive the Art
Candorville creator, Darrin Bell:
The Top Advice From CEOs to Creatives: READ!
SMBC creator, Zach Weinersmith:
Understanding Your Own Experience
The creator must experience as much life as possible. Being at the desk all day cannot give you new experiences to "draw" from.
Luann creator, Greg Evans:
Your creations are pieces of you. The more you are in tune with yourself, the more it will come out naturally in your work.
Cul de Sac creator, Richard Thompson:
Jean Schulz, wife of Peanuts creator, Charles "Sparky" Schulz:
You Can't Be a Creative Unless You Create
Award-winning novelist and creator of the comic series, The Sandman, Neil Gaiman once told a graduating class of art students:
Go. Make good art.
Useful Companions to This Article:
- Nohow On: Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, and Worstward Ho - Samuel Beckett
- The Soul of Man under Socialism - Oscar Wilde
- The Wisdom of Wooden: My Century On and Off the Court - John Wooden
- The New Kings of Nonfiction - Ira Glass (Editor)
- Outliers: The Story of Success - Malcolm Gladwell
- The Complete Calvin and Hobbes - Bill Watterson
- Pithy Seedy Pulpy Juicy: Eleven Rhymes With Orange Books in One - Hilary B. Price
- The Best of Beetle Bailey - Mort Walker
- The Best of Mutts - Patrick McDonnell
- Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume - Jeff Smith
- King of the Comics: A Pearls Before Swine Collection - Stephan Pastis
- The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances - The Oatmeal
- Something Old, Something New: For Better or For Worse 1st Treasury - Lynn Johnston
- The Most Dangerous Game: A Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Collection - Zach Weinersmith
- Hark! A Vagrant - Kate Beaton
- Another Stereotype Bites the Dust: A Candorville Collection - Darrin Bell
- The Complete Cul de Sac - Richard Thompson
- Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography - David Michaelis
- Life with Picasso - Françoise Gilot, Carlton Lake
- The Sandman - Neil Gaiman
- The Call of the Wild, White Fang & To Build a Fire - Jack London