Doug TenNapel – On Comics

November 30, 2012

Question: Thanks for the logical kick in the proverbial pants Doug. I’ve wanted to create a graphic novel using my own characters since I was 13. At 37 it’s still on my someday/sometime list. Now, with 2 kids and one on the way, it seems extremely unlikely, but given your advice, I think I’ll try to commit a small portion of time during the week and just get it started. Any advice on using small portions of time during your day to make progress on your story? I feel like it takes me a long time to warm up creatively.

Answer: Small increments are your friend. Commit to 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week for a year and you’ll be a more prolific comic artist, piano player, or carpenter than most others who long to do the same. The key is in the longevity of your commitment, not in the amount of time you are committing. Set aside 20 minutes a day, preferably in the morning before work, and only work on your graphic novel. Do this for a year and you’ll start seeing profound results.

The problem is that we aren’t used to seeing our art as a craft or a skill that needs practice and discipline, not inspiration and feelings. On any given day my feelings come and go about my faith, my commitment to my marriage, my place in the world, my sanity, my desire to draw or not draw, my care about you as a person, but my values do not change. Try to find the values-shaped handles on your art, not your feelings. Tell me that you will commit to it, that you will simply do it regardless of how you feel about it and you’ll accomplish a lot over time.

The ant is stupid. He has one millionth of your intelligence at best but moves one grain of sand until it is placed at its destination. Ants rework the whole world. The little termite can completely dismantle your house, not because of his passion, but because of his tedious, regular work at small, repeatable tasks. If you want to do something big, then the ant’s way is one good way to try.

8 Responses to “Doug TenNapel – On Comics”

  1. Elliot Says:

    Stellar advice two days in a row…

    I needed to hear advice like this as Ive been pushing myself to draw more as well.

  2. MisterYES Says:

    The ant parallel is great! :)

  3. Jason Says:

    Thanks Doug. I will resolve to work 20 min per day on my graphic novel until it’s done. It may take me 20 years, but I can commit 20 minutes a day. I appreciate you taking the time to help. Very inspirational!

  4. PohGo Says:

    I can say from actual experience that Doug’s advice it truly sound. It took me a year and a half to finish the first issue of my comic.But since I stay committed to it and followed it through to the end, I was able to accomplish it! Now I’m going head strong into my second issue and can’t wait to see it’s completion. I would rather take a few minutes a day and see my works come to life then not do it at all and wonder about what I could have done. Thanks Doug for being an inspiration to us all!!!!

  5. Perry Says:

    It’s a process … I’m doing a rewrite of my graphic novel script. It keeps changing and evolving as I learn more about the process of story writing. It’s gotten quite long, and I do wonder how I will find the time to illustrate this beast. If anything, I usually slide it between other service projects I have.

    Someone who is a producer I know recommended I pay a story writer/ reviewer to proof it. Is that necessary?

    • tennapel Says:

      It’s not necessary, but it’s a good way to get out of your own head.

      And buyer beware, your writer’s notes on your work will only be as good as the hack writer you hire.

      • Perry Says:

        Good point, beware of used car salesmen posing as writers.
        By the way, CardBoard … great book, great creative and story

  6. Joel Says:

    Doug:
    Thanks for this post. It really clicked for me.


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