Friday, March 16, 2012

Want to get it perfect? Why that's the worst thing you can do.

I've been teaching my home-schooled daughter a course on creating graphic novels. The course is partly about writing and partly about illustrating. Both are connected. They're both ways to tell a story. The story you want to tell is up to you.

My daughter has come up with a great idea for a story, and she's very excited about it. That's wonderful. She wants to be a writer someday, and this course will teach her a lot about that. I'm teaching her a lot about that. I've been an editorial cartoonist, and I used to edit a comics magazine. Each issue of Iton HaComics (The Comics Paper), which was a Hebrew comic book comprised mostly of American comic strips, included an article I had written on a comics related topic. I also have a teacher's certificate, and am an experienced writer, editor, and illustrator, so I think I'm a pretty good teacher when it comes to this topic.

We've been using You Can Do a Graphic Novel by Barbara Slater as our "textbook." Slater shows you don't have to be a great artist to create a great comic book. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning how to write and draw a graphic novel. It might be just a start, but it's a very good start.

There are some things the book doesn't get into, though, things like overcoming perfectionism. You might think perfectionism is a good thing--wouldn't it be great if we could all get it perfect the first time?--but perfectionism leads to fear, and as Yoda says,  “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” 

First you want to get it perfect. Then you're afraid that--surprise, surprise--you can't get it perfect. You can't. No one can, especially not the first time. It's impossible. Then you get angry with yourself and with your work because you can't do the impossible. Then you hate your work, so you give up on it. And then you and your work suffer. And that does lead to the Dark Side, because you're depriving the world of the gift you could have given it, and if you go around feeling miserable all the time, you'll make the world around you miserable as well.  

You suffer because you've given up on something before you've barely started. Creating a comic book--or a graphic novel, or a short story, or even a blog post--isn't about getting it perfect. No one cares if your character's eyes look gorgeous. No one. So stop obsessing over those eyelashes, and just get the story written and the pages laid out. You can edit later, but only if you actually write the darn thing. You can change the drawings around over and over, but it will be a lot easier to do if you didn't waste ten minutes drawing eyes you might have to edit out later. 

Look at Barbara Slater's artwork. It isn't gorgeous. But it's THERE. She's done it. She created something. So has Scott Addams, the creator of Dilbert; Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts; Cathy Guisewite, the creator of Cathy; and many other comic strip artists who don't draw particularly well. Maybe one day you'll be a great illustrator or a great writer. Let me tell you a little secret. Even then you will not get it perfect. It's an impossible dream.

So forget about trying to get it perfect. Let go of your fear. Instead, embrace joy. Because the truth is that writing and illustrating are a pleasure. They're fun. They're all about dreaming on paper. As far as I'm concerned, they're the most fun you can have. So have a ball.


H. Pinski said...

I so needed this today. Great post, Shevi!

Shevi said...

Glad to help!

Katrina said...

What a great blog post Shevi! So true! Fear definitely holds me back a lot with my writing, but like you say I just need to get it done!

Shevi said...

Thanks, Katrina! Yes, we all have to let go of fear and just get it done.