This week I’ve been enjoying simply being “The Wife” while keeping my husband company on a New York City Ballet tour to Washington, D.C. Aside from my responsibilities (none, actually – though I’ve been happy to shop for the food for our meals), I’ve mostly been busy in our hotel room working on my cartoons. Having time to buckle down and see how many I can churn out is both a pleasure and a challenge. It’s easy to chalk up my struggle with writing gags when I’m at home to the fact that I rarely get large chunks of uninterrupted time for cartooning. However, this week has shown me that having large chunks of time to brainstorm gags doesn’t necessarily make the process any easier.
Gag writing is hard. Period.
(If you don’t believe me, try your hand at the caption contest found each week at the back of the New Yorker magazine.)
That said, the gag-writing process IS interesting, and when you finally do come up with something that feels right, it’s truly an awesome feeling. Besides exercising your funny muscles (if you don’t go insane, first), it’s very possible that the mental gymnastics might also stave off dementia in the long term. Or so I hope…
In case you’re curious, here are some helpful articles with tips on gag writing and working around mental blocks:
Of course, gag writing is only half the battle. Drawing engaging and funny images is, in my eyes, equally important. Although I’ve always found the drawing part of cartooning to be easier than the gag writing, I’m constantly challenging myself to get better at drawing, too. These days my focus is on creating my drawings more quickly so that they look more “tossed off.” Drawing in pen is definitely a challenge, but one benefit to working this way is that you are forced to pare down to only the essential lines.
(It also gives you something to do at breakfast while your husband checks his phone…)
(Or, you contemplate taking your morning vitamins.)
Of course, it’s one thing to draw a funny solo figure like the ones I drew above, but to actually come up with the layout for a cartoon scene to match your gag involves a little more planning.
Today I hit on the idea of doing my (VERY) rough initial layout drawing digitally in my Corel Paint Shop Pro X8 photo-editing program.
From there, it was a lot easier to proceed to the pen drawing on paper….
And the gag? Well, for that you’ll have to be patient and wait ’til next week when I can properly scan the cartoon and add in the caption. After all, there are some limits to what you can do in a hotel room!