The first time I saw a Chris Ware comic strip was in the early 90s, in a comic book anthology called JAB (Adhesive Press). It was a series of strips about a little guy who looked like a potato.
To this day, if I drag the comic book out, those strips still hold up.
They’re humorous and tragic; they show a talent for something different from the start.
Evolution of an Artist
Chris Ware’s work has evolved from black and white strips to this kind of thing:
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Nobody Tells Me What To Do
I think my favorite line in the interview is Ware saying, “Nobody tells me what to do…”
Not in a “Slag off! I’m gonna do what I want!” manner, but rather: “I’ve always just done my thing and, because of that, I now get to do my thing for a living.”
So often, people say, “You should write what’s selling! Why would you put years into that novel that probably won’t sell well when you can crank out four vampire romances with better odds of selling in that time?!” (Well, maybe they don’t say those words exactly, but I’d be wealthy if I were given money every time somebody told me to write what sells.)
Those people don’t get it: for many, it’s not about doing what sells, but about doing one’s own thing.
My views about what I want from writing have changed quite a bit in recent years.
I have a feeling I’ll be talking about my own thing quite a bit more in coming weeks…
Even if you (or I) caved and started doing “what sells,” the odds against it selling WELL are pretty huge. Essentially, we’d be selling out at a bargain price.
So why not do what you want anyway? Why not enjoy what you write, and let the chips fall where they may?
Christopher Gronlund says
Shawn: Definitely. The odds of anything selling well enough to pay the bills is a long shot. So…why not do what you really want to do?
I know I’m more likely to push myself to always get better when I take my time and focus on what I want to write more than anything in the world at the time. To write other stuff on the hope of a chance, or even for more than I make right now…it has no appeal. If I were guaranteed a full time salary with the security I have with my day job and it was writing that wouldn’t take more than 40 hours a week (and if it were guaranteed for years), I’d go for something like that as just a job. But…I like my day job: I work with good people, I get to work from home, and it provides enough that I stay hungry for storytelling, but I no longer sit down in a panic hoping that the story I’m working on will pay the bills.
If what I have right now is as good as it got, I’d be okay with that. Several years ago, I didn’t feel that way. But I’m in a good place with everything that has a pull on me, so it’s not surprising that I finally feel like I’ve hit a level of writing that I’ve always wanted.
(Damn, now I can just scrap a few entries for next week, because this is what I planned to talk about: just not as focused! 😉 )
Larry Tubbs says
I’m not sure if you saw this, but Chris Ware’s latest work was just named one of the 10 best books (fiction and non-fiction included) of 2012 by the NY Times:
Nice when “just doing your thing” aligns with what people want.
Christopher Gronlund says
Larry: Thanks for sharing that; I hadn’t seen it. I’ve missed out on the past few things Ware has done (I need to catch up with Acme Novelty Library 18, 19, and 20). I definitely plan to pick up Building Stories.
I can’t remember which issue of Acme Novelty Library it was, but one of the smaller books vaguely early on. It was always good, but there was one particular issue where the writing stood out even over the art. From that point on, his stuff has gone from just a really neat read to much more.
And yes, it must be nice when “just doing your own thing,” aligns with what people want. In my case, even if my own thing never hits it with people, it’s still what I always intend to write. (But all the writers I really respect, and so many others who stand out, do so because they focused on what they loved; not what they thought would sell.)
Hope your weekend’s snazzy!