Feb 21, 2013

piddling: the 9th top secret for making top comics

Forget what you thought you knew about piddling - this essay blows the lid off all that came before and gives you an insight into the piddler's inner zen (or inner pid if you will.) Note: if you're looking for information about puddlers, see our section on the early 20th century steel industry.

I think it was an essay by Joe Bageant (most famous for his book "Deer hunting w Jesus") that first made me give some thought to what piddling was, and whether I myself was a piddler. At that time I concluded that for the most part, while I had nothing against piddlers or piddling, it wasn't really something I had a natural affinity for. You have to be slightly older than myself maybe, more at peace with the universe and (perhaps most importantly) have a garage, in order to spend time out in the garage sorting one's trout lures, or whatever else the piddler does when he piddles.

Nevertheless I realized today that there may
be a good case for piddling when drawing comics, at least at certain points in the process. In the past I was usually too impatient to finish to ever slow down long enough to look at what I had wrought, and take the time to make edits. Part of it was also a difficulty separating the editorial function from the initial drawing - what changes could I make since the same "me" had evidently decided to go with Version A that would now be proposing Version B? But of course if you slow down and make another pass over things, especially with the passage of time to give more objectivity, you can spot problems that your earlier self missed or let slide at the time.

Piddling can be a problem, and often is for me, if I get bogged down in one panel for too long with some difficult drawing and don't make any progress toward completing the whole page/book. It's painful to move forward when you just aren't satisfied with something. But perhaps (not a new idea I admit) if you can leave problem drawings for later and just tell yourself you'll get to it in the piddling stage, it could give one permission to move forward. Of course in the past, as I said, that piddling stage never occurred because I was usually so sick of the thing I just wanted to be done with it. Nowadays, I'm still sick of the thing and just want to be done with it, but have become crazy enough to force myself to review the pages and try to make changes here and there. I guess I've had the experience enough times of printing comics with glaring problems that would always grate on me, making me wonder why I didn't just take a minute or two to go back and redraw something.

Of course there's a limit to the salutary effects of piddling. You may "fix" a few spots here or there, but it's not like you can go back and turn the thing into a staggering work of incredible genius; the Version B editor of yourself is still mostly the Version A slobbering cartoonist, just with less pressure to churn out the pages and slightly more objective from being away for a few days or weeks.

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