Monday, June 2, 2008

Why it's So Hard to Work Ahead

I believe nobody ever gets the praise they deserve, particularly cartoonists, who have the unfortunate reality of doing lots of hard work where nobody ever sees it happening.

My newest insight is that this is the reason most cartoonists are bad about getting ahead. Instead of stockpiling future episodes that would allow us to stay on schedule during illnesses and other upheavals, many of us find ourselves posting apologetic notices to our readers. One cartoonist recently had me thinking she was the most over rated comic artist ever when she posted rough pencil work to sate readers while she attended a wedding, promising to ink them upon her return. It's a good thing I scrolled back far enough to find her finished work, and note.

It's just too tantalizing to resist:  a potential "getting ahead" post becomes a bonus post to display your productivity.

Another hindrance is polishing. A full color page can always be buffed a little more or improved in some way. Instead of moving on, our desire to please has us tinkering until five minutes to midnight, when we make our post deadline with seconds to spare.

Fear of negative fan reaction, or fan attrition, doesn't seem to stop a lot of cartoonists from posting late.

Pug and I are way ahead on the writing and story boarding of our strips, but always work close to deadline on final art. We have two strips that appeared on the internet for the first time earlier this year, and we are still adapting to working on the web. Our formats, web sites and strip preparation is evolving. We finally committed to a weekday update schedule for Li'l Nyet, but Scratchin Post is still appearing on random days, once or twice a week. As much as we would like to commit to two firm days, we both know it would diminish prospects of getting ahead. And so we muddle forward indecisively, leaving time to answer reader mail inquiring about the update schedule for Scratchin Post.

Solving this business about praise and public perceptions probably requires a retreat to Eastern thinking about emotional nourishment coming from within. Here is where we cartoonists have an advantage. We can not only take time to feel our emotions and enjoy them, we can also look at them on the paper or screen in front of us.