And now we look in on Carol and Thomas for a bit.
I remember writing the punchline, or at least what would have originally been the punchline, for this page years ago. I scribbled it on a dry erase board that hung on my refrigerator. It is, arguably, the first joke ever written for the comic. Of course, at that time there wasn’t even a script. I just had a file of lines for use in some far off future, when everything was perfect in my life, and totally in order. I was still naïve enough to expect that time to be a real thing that happens to everyone eventually. I hadn’t thought it out, per se. It was just this understanding of the world I had that was unexamined and imperfect.
I used to carry around little notebooks back then. Those super tiny ones that will fit in your pocket. My friend Justin and I started doing it after we lost a few good ideas. At least we thought they were. We couldn’t remember them, so… Tiny notebooks. We also tried microcassette recorders, but in practice they work much less well then you think. It’s a lot faster to scan a few notes than it is to listen to hours of random tape. These days you can do all of that stuff on your phone, or iPod in my case. Really though, a few lines of text is the most efficient means of saving an idea. Especially if you have a way to easily organize it.
Nobody ever really taught me how to be successful at doing creative things. In fact, I basically taught myself by making this comic. The level of my success can be, and has been, debated, but I have had success, by which I mean, and the world means, I have made money doing this. I think, however, that not teaching people how to succeed is a failing in our educational system; in the U.S. at any rate. I’m not even sure you can teach it. I never understood what it takes until I was already doing it, and I had to be backed into a corner to get to that point. With no way out I rose to the occasion. Maybe not far, but I did rise. Even then my perception of having no way out wasn’t necessarily true. I could have just quit, except I couldn’t. I was afraid of success as much as I was afraid of failure, but I couldn’t give up all the things this comic gives me.
When you fail people expect less and less of you until, eventually, they expect nothing at all. That’s a very nice place to be. It’s addictive, especially when you haven’t known success. The thing is, success is worse. Once you get a taste you want it forever, you want more and more of it. That’s why incredibly successful people get right back up after they fail. They also accept that the world isn’t perfect and that every system falls apart eventually. They just don’t let it stop them.
When I was in school there was a kid who was the best at cartoons. He whipped them out like it was nothing and tossed them away in kind. I never understood that. The concept that he didn’t covet his own work was so alien to me. Now I understand why he was so much better than everyone else. He wasn’t afraid of never being able to do something good ever again. He learned at some point far, far, earlier than me that there is always another piece of paper. The paper isn’t as important as moving from page, to page, to page.