Comic Non-Sans: #whyiwebcomic

So on the 20th, Neil Gaiman encouraged his Twitter followers to contribute to his #whyiwrite hashtag — a fairly straightforward exercise in telling everyone, in a limited number of characters, what they get out of writing.  I kept an eye on the responses and saw everything from escapism to personal therapy to it just being a straight-up fun hobby.  Every reason I saw put out there was legit — though, to be honest, I can’t think of a “wrong” reason to write.

I didn’t engage because I was too busy, partly with personal work and partly being caught up in reading everyone else’s responses.  So, a few days late, I figured it’s about time to think out my own response.  I can’t help but feel as though I’m cheating a bit because I’ve got a massive outlet here that’s not going to be impeded by using more than 140 characters.  But I’ve never been good at glib responses to things, so we’ll just think of it as something equivalent to a golf handicap and move on.  And I suppose, in its own way, this is a year-belated introduction.

I started writing when I was about eleven, and like just about any geek-child who was caught up in Tolkien my aim was to try and be like him.  My aim was never to become an artist.  It didn’t even occur to me.  I kept writing, and my stuff progressed about as one would expect from preteen to teen to college.

When I got to college, I started comicking.  And I did it to impress a boyfriend.  Why?  He was an artist, and I was relatively sure he wanted an artist girlfriend.  (I was 20 — cut me some slack.)  The whole concept of a webcomic was still fairly fresh in 2001, and it seemed like an interesting way to force myself to learn to draw.  If I made comics three times a week, someday I’d be able to draw, right?  I drew to learn, and I left my prose work behind.

After a while I got a following.  And I switched to drawing to impress them.  I’m not sure if my art was improving by then, but I’d left that motive behind.  If it happened, it happened — if not, I had readers, and I wanted very much to please the people who took the time to read my stuff.

With that underway, I discovered that I wanted very much to write with both Shannon Granville and Mich Allen, based not on an end result or a desire to please an outside audience, but to enjoy ourselves and air out some creative ideas we had.  At that point none of us was thinking “What would make the readers happy?”  We were pleased with happy readers, but we were working for ourselves and exploring what we could do as collaborators.

In 2005 or so, I had an idea for a genre-buster I really wanted to play with, and I realized the only person who could help me with it was Rob Lantz. We’d worked together before on a ConScrew story, and besides knowing he’d be the right person for the job, I just wanted to see what we between us could do.  Over the course of the year it took to launch, I discovered that I was comicking to tell a beginning-to-end story.  Yes, others had beginnings and ends in store, but here that was the purpose, and now we’re just along for the ride.

A year ago, with Kalibourne being the only project still updating online (the others having been ended properly), I started something of my own based on some rather weakly-written work I did in college.  Here, I was comicking as both a challenge and as a desire to tell a story well.  And still am.  Besides which, there’s something comforting about coming home from real-world work in the evenings and knowing those characters are waiting for us to show them what to do next.  Or rather, waiting for us to get around to writing and drawing so they can show us what to do next.

So why do I write and draw, Mr. Gaiman?  Well, it’s changed over the last ten years.  What started as an attempt to please myself became an attempt to please others, and came back around to being a very personal thing.  And yes, I count collaborations as personal — but personal between two people, as it were.  And I’ve discovered that it’s the times when I (or a collaborator and I) choose to write for the sake of the story and my (or our) relationship with it that I’m at both my happiest and my best.  And it’s when writers write for that purpose that the good stuff really comes out … and then, indirectly, you’ve managed to please others after all.  Or, at least, the ones with any taste.

If you guys missed the hashtag game last week, why do you write?  Or rather, I guess (since this is a webcomic column), why do you webcomic?

It’s an underlying theme I noticed with the #whyiwrite hashtag.  The happiest writers and creators are finding something for themselves in what they do.  And in an odd way, it’s the ones who do that

Posted on October 25, 2011 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, The Written Word, Webcomics, Webcomics