November 26th, 2013
by Terri Libenson
Most of you know that cartooning is my full-time job. Only some of you know that I have another gig: writing humorous cards for American Greetings. Iâ€™m a contract writer, and I work on cards once a week. I love it, and have been doing it for 20 years. In fact, thatâ€™s what brought me to Cleveland in the first place.
As all creative types know, artistâ€™s block comes with the territory. With cards, if I have a bad writing day, the editors simply reject my work and nothing gets published. The end. I move on and hopefully have a better writing session next time.
With comics, itâ€™s different. There are daily deadlines. Daily. If I get sick, have an emergency, or simply need a break, I still must meet the deadline. No one wants a blank spot or rerun in the funny pages (well, not reruns of mine, anyway). Of all obstacles, writerâ€™s block has been my greatest enemy. I mean, think about working when youâ€™re sick, worried, etc. Of course the end product wonâ€™t be up to par.
I’ve often mentioned that I write about 4-5 months ahead. Why? I can do my work and then put away the strips until itâ€™s time for publication. This lets me scan the strips more objectively down the road and make necessary changes.
Rarely, I’ve removed strips after reviewing them. I try not to do thisÂ because when I take one away, I need to replace it with another. That means more work in less time.
Now think about wanting to remove entire monthsâ€™ worth of cartoons.
Back in the March-May time frame, I wrote my Aug-Oct strips. A lot was happening in my personal life. Good things. I was preparing a presentation for the Reubens.Â My daughter was having a Bat Mitzvah. With the latter, I was doing most of the event planning and it felt like another full-time job on top of everything else. My writing suffered from constant distraction. I planned ahead to try and avoid this, but…well, Iâ€™m human.
The strips from that time frame recently ran in the papers. I donâ€™t think they were terrible, I just don’t think they were up to my personal standards. They’d been changed and tweaked to be suitable for print, but in all sincere honestly, I cringed. I was just riding it out until they went away. Since summer, I’ve been able to focus again, and Iâ€™m much more proud of my writing.
Why am I posting this? Itâ€™s not because fans have blatantly said anything, thank goodness. Itâ€™s not because Iâ€™m really ashamed. Itâ€™s because I think readers should understand that when creators have hiccups in their personal lives combined with unrelenting deadlines, there can be a direct bearing on creativity. In the best case, it may not even be very noticeable.
But the next time you read the comics and think to yourself, â€œWhatâ€™s up with my favorite cartoon? It just hasn’t been as funny/clever/entertaining as usual. This sucksâ€â€¦remember that most likely the creator knows it and is just going through something. Be forgiving, because other than an audience, thereâ€™s no one the writer wants to please more than him/herself.
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