Why Make Comics? Part I

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 If you ask any type of artist why they engage their particular art, you will, of course, get a multitude of seemingly unique answers.

Boil them down, though, and they always end up falling in one of two categories.

The first is the one the artist will give when the inquisitor is not themselves an artist.  This well-rehearsed statement will list everything that slots in the ‘pro’ column when dealing with their particular medium, and deftly avoids nearly all of the cons.

(And it’s well-rehearsed because the artist has made this little speech to themselves in the mirror more than a few times, usually when things aren’t going well with the art, and often in the wee hours of a sleepless night, as a way to justify their efforts to themselves when the results aren’t completely obvious.)

Not that this response is a total fabrication, but the REAL truth lies somewhere closer to the shorter answer an artist will give one of their peers, perhaps when asked by someone from a slightly different, yet still creative-oriented, field.  When it comes down to it, we may all have different and strong individual accents, but we all speak a common tongue.

We make the art that we make because we simply can’t NOT make it.

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Just Say No To NaNoWriMo: Part 2

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With over a quarter of a million writers participating in this November’s National Novel Writing Month, those of us who are critics of the annual ‘competition’ are certainly in the minority, and come off a bit like curmudgeonly literary Don Quixotes.

Still, someone needs to give the popular windmills what-for.

As I said in Part 1, the creative process of any artist is as individual as a fingerprint, and to a certain degree, not really open much to debate.  If it works for you, no matter how odd or unfeasible it may seem to anyone else, then it works.

However, in the case of NaNoWriMo, the creative process itself is at the very center of the annual event.

While a percentage of established and productive writers participate in the event for the challenge of writing 50,000 words in thirty days, an even larger group hop on the bandwagon hoping to jumpstart what they feel is their own stalled process and have access to a specially formed support network to help keep them on the ‘right path’.

This is the more inexperienced group that I’m concerned about.  If you find racing the clock, counting words, and patting yourself on the back for the number of words you write on a daily basis for a month (or freaking out when you fall behind) enjoyable and a good incentive or means for you to create a work, then that’s fine.

Count your words, tally them up, tweet your progress, and carry on.

But for the less experienced group may not have yet spent enough time trying to develop that creative ‘fingerprint’,  the sense of failure, feeling inadequate when comparing themselves directly to others, and added frustration of a ticking clock may have a much greater impact on their more fragile egos, doing some serious damage that can take months or years to undo, if it’s undone at all.

There’s a terrible irony that something that’s meant to inspire people to write does the exact opposite for some, and the aspiring writers most likely to throw in the towel don’t have the wisdom from experience to know that this process may not be beneficial for them.

They just see it as another failure on their part, and it’s compounded by seeing others succeed where they didn’t.

miserylovesbunnies

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Just Say No To NaNoWriMo: Part 1

This one may ruffle a few feathers, but here goes.

It’s November, and thousands of writers — actually, the official count for 2013 is over 262,000 — are participating in National Novel Writing Month.

Myself? Not a fan of NaNoWriMo.

On the surface, the creative writing ‘challenge’, originally established in 1999, seems like it might be a good way to motivate writers who may be struggling with establishing consistently productive work habits.  The participants’ goal is to either complete the rough draft of a 50,000 word manuscript, or write the first 50K words of a longer work between November 1st and 30th.

In the decade-plus since NaNoWriMo was founded, dozens of trade published novels have came from participants in the annual event, including award-winning New York Times Bestsellers The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (which I heartily recommend if you’ve never read it) and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

The creative process is as individual to a writer as his or her fingerprints: no two are exactly the same, and as long as you’re getting results, there is no such thing as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.  If someone sees value in a month-long literary boot camp, more power to them.

But based on my experience as a writer, what I question is the impact participation in NaNoWriMo has on newcomers to the craft who see it as an easy way to overcome the barriers they believe might be standing in the way of completing a work, without realizing that those ‘barriers’ may be a little more complex than they thought.

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