My name's Dave. I'm working on it.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Coming Back / The 1,000 Comics

As you may or may not know, I've finally decided to stop putting off the relaunch of my old webcomic, The Mighty Bu, any longer. The 6 or so months it's been on hiatus were becoming more and more a period for me to build up expectancies of just how great and thought out I wanted it to be when it finally came back; pressure built, expectations soared. Naturally none of it went anywhere productive.
Perhaps the key addition to my already sizeable surplus of theoretical 'wisdom' about creating (most of which has kept me back) was a pair of interviews I listened to recently (you can listen to them here and here). The gist of these interviews is the same stuff I already knew: that you have to start, and not worry about where you're going. That you have to accept the idea of sucking at it, etc etc ad nauseum.
But there was one thing that struck a new chord.
In the middle of the interview with KC Green, he referenced the old saying that everyone has 1,000 shitty drawings in them (or songs, or poems, etc., depending on your medium), and the best thing to do is to get them out as quickly as possible. I'd heard this sentiment echoed elsewhere but had pretty much forgotten about it in my quest for Impossible Precognitive Perfection. Thinking it over, it seemed obvious: much like the shock therapy of NaNoWriMo or 24 Hour Comics, it was an exercise perfect for my current overly precious predicament.
Having done NaNoWriMo a few times, I'm aware that even the most well-intentioned exercises can be perverted into masochistic, fruitless acts if you go about them the wrong way. I'd done it with the novel writing, and I could just as easily see myself doing it with the comics.
The theory is this: it's perfectly easy to gain nothing from an exercise like this if you do it with the wrong perspective. I know very well that I could barrel through the thousand comics, consumed with knowing my trajectory, highly susceptible to tracing the steps of Gunshow or The Perry Bible Fellowship instead of trusting my intuition and doing comics that I want to see. I could rush through it, more concerned with getting to the end than with actually learning what it's meant to teach me. I've done it before (most recently with my old Mighty Bu strips - the more I drew the more I realized I was pushing myself towards some imagined destination without enjoying any part of the process). I tricked my brain into disconnecting so I could crank out empty, yet serviceable, product, thinking that this was the point.
To actually operate in the spirit of these exercises is to understand that there is no finish line; no point you can reach when you're Done.
The point is to free yourself from worry about quality and direction. You create an expanse of space in which quality doesn't matter - these are Shitty Comics. With that in place, you can focus instead on making whatever you want to, piece by piece. Comic by comic. The theory suggests that by deemphasizing destination, you free yourself up to be present with each step, knowing that it doesn't matter if it's any good, 'cause there are always going to be more.
For my perfectionist brain, this is naturally threatening and quite counterintuitive.
Enter the 1,000 Shitty Comics Exercise.

In keeping with my belief that process is an invaluable thing to be able to observe, I'm going to be using this experiment to rebuild my original comic, no matter how ugly or immature the places it takes me may be. It's what I have to do to get where I need to be - understanding that I have no idea where that is - but also, it's there for you to see, if you want to.

So far I've got 5 done, 995 to go. Come on over.