Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Tenacity

Do you really want to know how my brain works? Really? You sure, now? Because if you want to check out now, that's fine.

Okay. Don't say I didn't warn you...

I've always admired tenacity in creative types. I admire Dave Sim (say what you will of his politics) in his sheer creative tenacity. This is a guy who knew what he wanted to do, and then did it for 300 issues. Hal Foster spent the bulk of his creative life working on a weekly strip - every week he filled a page the size of a piece of poster board with intricate drawings chronicling the life of his character in chronological order. I have great respect for many cartoonists, but these two set the bar for me in sheer creative tenacity. I suppose Charles Schultz should go on that list, too, but I don't have the same affinity for him that I do for the other two... you could probably name a half-dozen other guys (Carl Barks comes to mind) who had the same sort of vision.

I knew the ants were it for me when I was six. They were the first comic I created. I drew a single strip about ants, because I could draw them easily enough - they just had to be some circles on top of each other, with some lines for limbs and antennae. Easy enough. Here's where you say that's a funny coincidence or somesuch.

I say no. At six, I tapped into it. Only for a moment, but I did. See, the ants are tenacity. There's nothing in all of creation more tenacious than an ant. They just keep going. It doesn't matter. They don't understand doubt or discouragement or setbacks or disappointment or delay. They simply keep going. It's all they know.

It was my creative subconscious reaching out to me. My creative subconscious has always been reaching out to me. Tenacity is what I admire because it's what I most want to become. I want to be that steady hand on the switch, that one who always moves forward one step at a time and doesn't let the daily distractions or the small setbacks or the minor storms slow him down. I want to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to grow in some incremental way every day. I want to genuinely improve - by small and steady degrees - every day for the rest of my life.

The ants are a perfect metaphor for that, and the comic strip is a great creative way to put that into physical action in my life. Does this mean that this is it - I'm doing an army ants comic strip for the rest of my life? I'd love for that to be so. I don't know. I do know that I've had the army ants in my creative life (often near the background and sometimes at the periphery, but always there) for nearly 20 years - and 35 if you count the small glimpses I had at six years old. They haven't gone away. Of course not.

They are tenacious little buggers. I'd sure like to be one, too.