Houseguests & Hobbled Pursuits

Long-time friends travelled from a neighbouring province this past weekend and used our basement guest room as a free hotel suite while they were attending their son’s sport tournament in our city.

Six hours of driving from their house to ours has not been a particularly restrictive barrier for more routine visits previously so much as a global pandemic gave everyone pause for such travel over the last two years. But as the outbreak wanes (even temporarily maybe) and as such things go, our little bubble grew to six people and two dogs for four days, and glimpses of normal peeked back into our lives, however briefly.

Much conversation happened. And as he is a creative-minded soul, much of that much conversation swirled around our respective creative pursuits both planned and paused.

I’ve been drawing. A little. Not so much as I used to, but a little.

For those who have dug deeper into the archives of this site and clues bread-crumbed throughout, it may come as no surprise to learn that for three years prior to this blog I drew a small web comic chronicling the based-on-real-life adventures of a dad and his pre-teen daughter. A weekly comic peppered with kids-say-goofball-things and bad-dad-puns swirled around a stick of light-hearted family humour.

Our houseguest was one of my fans, and since we’d last spent any quantity of time in the same room two things have happened:

a) I’ve stopped drawing said comic, and

b) he’s started writing (but not yet drawing) his own.

“I was hoping you could walk me through how you make one.” He asked over dinner the first night. “For example, show me how you put a comic strip together and publish it online.”

“Yeah, sure.” I agreed, stuffing another mouthful in between thoughts. “I mean, I can’t teach you how to draw in a weekend, but I can walk you through my workflow. Sure.”

Putting together something as complex as a web comic series isn’t a single skill after all. Ideas turn into stories. Stories are mapped out against art. Art is compiled and refined into panels and spreads, which themselves are output as files. Files are posted and promoted and shared and enjoyed. And every one of those steps breaks down into fifteen, twenty, or maybe five-hundred individual steps and skills and practiced abilities that have been honed over decades and are yet are somehow still too rudimentary to be called expertise.

“How do you know all this stuff?” He asked as I later walked him through the multitude of files on my computer, whizzed through the act of compiling a simple strip and exporting it as a web-friendly file. “And why did you stop?” he added, mostly pondering aloud why someone who could, no longer did, while he who yet couldn’t, struggled to begin.

“Time.” I offered. “Inspiration. Priorities. Hobbled motivation.” It all rolled off the tongue far too easily. “Honestly, I don’t know.” I said conclusively. “Sometimes you just lose momentum, I guess.”

“You shouldn’t have stopped.” He shrugged. “You’re so good at this.”

And I, being terrible at taking a complement, merely laughed awkwardly and continued the tour of the comic strip factory on my computer.

Sometimes, perhaps, maybe, hopefully even… it takes a detour through an old, familiar neighbourhood, like spending the weekend with old friends, to bump one out of a rut. I don’t know if I have been yet, but …