I set out on this journey for one of the strangest of reasons: I was reeling over the demise of my career as a cartoonist. It took a long time to face that the former career was over, because I’d never really been paid, it was difficult to come to terms with the fact that I would never get paid. Also, in the back of my mind I kept thinking, if you love doing it, you should do it because you love it, and isn’t that enough? Because that’s the myth that artist tell themselves, ‘keep creating content and giving it away,’ because you’re happy. Until suddenly you aren’t.
So one day I woke up and the sands of tide had shifted to reveal a rocky shore that I had flung myself up upon. Or simply, I decided to reinvent myself.
I had already written a very flawed book. 60,000 words that were almost all of them not quite right, but I decided to take a leap and tweak and tweak and tweak some more until the book was finally ready, and then publish it on my own. I plan to write about the decision to self-publish and also to write a bit about things I’ve learned along the way, but for now I wanted to answer a question I was asked the other day:
What made you decide to become a writer?
Cartoonists are by their nature story tellers, and I had been telling a story for about a decade, but cartoonists by trade are also simplifiers. We take a story and try and bring it down to its essence. What can fit inside of four bubbles, with few words and minimal punctuation.
I had a big story I wanted to tell, about a girl who dislikes her culture and builds a farm, I set out to write it, and then with the help of my editor, Denine Dawson, I wrote it again, and again, and again. On the first pass with my manuscript Denine had to re-explain the importance of the occasional period. I had forgotten. On the sixth pass I was still tweaking my overuse of the word ‘that’.
I suppose what I’m saying is that I had every reason to believe that maybe I should just give up, but I didn’t and the story is finished and I’m telling it. I wrote it.
When I asked a writer’s group, what do you do when you’re waiting for your editor to finish editing? They asked me, “well, it depends, was this just a story that you needed to tell, or are you a writer ? If you’re a writer, then write!”
Somewhere in all of the rewrites and endless editing and occasional tears, I realized that it was fun. I also started writing another story that I really have to tell. Come to find out, year 2013, I learned that writing makes me happy. I plan to keep doing it because I love it.