And So It Goes http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com Cartoons by Dan Trogdon Sat, 13 May 2017 18:53:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Lots of Work Goes into Humor Writing http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/lots-of-work-goes-into-humor-writing/ Sun, 31 Aug 2014 21:01:46 +0000 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/?p=2772 Capturing humor in writing not always easy

One of the hardest forms of writing is that involving humor. You may have a great sense of humor, but capturing that in your writing takes skill and practice. You may think that when it comes to writing, humor is best used only in fiction or satire. But while we think of comedy in terms of exaggeration or fabrication, effective humor can be just as much about creative misdirection—engaging readers by taking them someplace they don’t expect to go—and subtly choosing metaphors and words that make readers giggle without even knowing why. And a smiling reader is one who’s paying attention and eager to read on. Sociologists, linguists and biologists say that our ability to laugh and desire to do so isn’t all fun and games, but actually serves two essential life functions: to bond with members of our “tribe,” and to lessen tension and anxiety. Both of these are also excellent reasons to incorporate humor in your nonfiction. As a communication tool, effective use of humor can humanize you, cementing your bond with readers. It can also help your work stand out in a crowded market. And as advertising studies have shown, humor enhances how much we like what we’re reading and how well we remember it afterward. Trying to find the funnier side of things reduces the loneliness, rejection and stress of the writing life and it boosts your creativity by challenging you to approach your craft in new ways. Even if your subject is a serious one, the subtle use of humor can both ease tension and provide a respite from difficult moments.

New tricks of the trade good for any writer

The writing experience sometimes resembles a dog chasing its tail—you circle around and around, but keep returning to the same themes, characters and ideas. Don’t let the thought of going down a new path cause your palms to sweat or your heart to beat out of control. If so, you may have Serious Writer Experiencing Anxiety and Timidity Syndrome (SWEATS). The surest sign is when you have on occasion referred to yourself as a “serious writer” without cracking a smile. Fortunately, you don’t need medication to cope with your ailment. You just may need an introduction to Comedy Writing 101. It doesn’t matter what your writing style is. Every writer can benefit from learning a few new tricks.

 

Life functions are a byproduct of humor, humor writing

Sociologists, linguists and biologists say that our ability to laugh and desire to do so go farther than just fun and games. Humor actually serves two essential life functions: to bond with members of our “tribe,” and to lessen tension and anxiety. Both of these are also excellent reasons to incorporate humor in your nonfiction. As a communication tool, effective use of humor can humanize you, cementing your bond with readers. It can also help your work stand out in a crowded market. And as advertising studies have shown, humor enhances how much we like what we’re reading and how well we remember it afterward. Trying to find the funnier side of things reduces the loneliness, rejection and stress of the writing life, not to mention boosting your creativity by challenging you to approach your craft in new ways. Even if your subject is a serious one, the subtle use of humor can both ease tension and provide a respite from difficult moments.

 

Techniques of humor can improve writing

The goal in adding humor to your writing is not about becoming the next Erma Bombeck or David Sedaris (unless that’s your dream). The goal is to improve your writing by using all the tools available to you, including comedy. Whether or not you consider yourself a funny person, it’s not as difficult as you might think to put humor to work for you.

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Find ways to laugh; it’s important http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/find-ways-to-laugh-its-important/ Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:45:08 +0000 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/?p=2768 Keep life in balance with laughter

Whether reading the funny pages in the newspaper, watching cartoons or a funny show on television or sharing a joke, to name a few, it is important to find ways to laugh. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or is more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.
With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.

Physical benefits of laughter worthwhile

The physical health benefits of laughter cannot be denied. Laughter boosts immunity, lowers stress hormones, decreases pain, relaxes your muscles and prevents heart disease. Laughter simply relaxes the whole body.  A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. Laughter protects the heart. It improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

What happens when we laugh?

There is a physiological change that takes place when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. People who believe in the benefits of laughter say it can be like a mild workout and may offer some of the same advantages as a workout. One pioneer in laughter research, William Fry, claimed it took 10 minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter. And laughter appears to burn calories, too. Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, conducted a small study in which he measured the amount of calories expended in laughing. It turned out that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories. While the results are intriguing, don’t be too hasty in ditching that treadmill. One piece of chocolate has about 50 calories; at the rate of 50 calories per hour, losing one pound would require about 12 hours of concentrated laughter.

Shared laughter is wonderful

Shared laughter is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. All emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter and play also adds joy, vitality, and resilience. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Humor is also a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Laughter unites people during difficult times. Humor is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze.

Link between laughter and mental health is real

Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing. In addition, laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more. There is something about humor that allows perspectives to be shifted, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

 

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To Tweet Or Not To Tweet http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/to-tweet-or-not-to-tweet/ Mon, 14 Jul 2014 03:05:50 +0000 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/?p=2763 For the record, I have not been, nor am I now, one to embrace social media. So when my publisher sent me an email saying that I need to be involved in the various forms of social media, including Twitter, I had to really think about it. Do I really want to do this? Not only would I have to learn how to use Twitter, I would also have to come up with things to tweet. Hmm …. sounds like a lot more work. Plus, I could see it cutting into the  time I need for coming up with new cartoon ideas. Then I realized that I have ideas in my notebooks that really aren’t cartoon ideas, but actually might work in the Twitter format – funny (hopefully) concepts that can be presented in short written form. Yeah, maybe I’ll give it a shot. I mean, if it will help promote my books, maybe it would be worth doing.

There it is in that last sentence – my reason for being on Twitter was to promote my books. I guess that’s OK. But is it effective?

Shortly after I began posting on Twitter, I bought a book by one of my comic heroes, Steve Martin, entitled “The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten.” The book is filled with tweets Martin has posted over the last couple of years, and, as one would imagine, are extremely funny. But what caught my attention was what he wrote in the introduction and I quote, “I started tweeting for purely commercial reasons. I realized that when I did a television show to promote a book or record, and that television show had an audience of, say, four million people, about four hundred of them rushed out to buy the book or record. I figured if I had a Twitter audience of four hundred thousand – an audience that was tuned into me – and I promoted a book, then four hundred thousand of them would rush out and buy my book. Instead, forty of them rushed out to buy my book.” He finishes his point by stating, “All this tweet material turned out to be good for one thing only: tweeting.”

There it was – my answer. Here is Steve Martin, one of the funniest people on the planet with millions of Twitter followers, telling anyone who wants to know that Twitter is not helpful when it comes to promotion. I’m glad he shared that. Now I know. Does that make me want to stop being on Twitter? Strangely, no. For one thing, it gives me a chance to follow comedians and cartoonists that I really enjoy. But not only that, I have found that it’s fun to tweet for tweet’s sake because you might actually tweet something that someone else likes. One of my followers messaged me to let me know that she found my tweets to be very funny, and that she checks back often to get cheered up. Wow! Not only did someone read my tweets, but actually enjoyed them! The feeling I got from reading her message is identical to the one I get when someone reads one of my cartoons and laughs. It’s hard to describe, but it feels really, really good.

So, yes, I’ll keep tweeting, at least for now. I may not sell many books as a result, but thanks to Mr. Martin, it won’t come as a surprise.

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So You Want To Be A Cartoonist? http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/so-you-want-to-be-a-cartoonist/ Mon, 30 Jun 2014 11:07:18 +0000 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/?p=2760 If you have ideas that you think are funny and you have a knack for drawing, you may want to try your hand at cartooning. A natural sense of humor is a plus but being able to translate that into funny ideas through pencil drawings is pretty much a requirement to being successful as a cartoonist. It is important to look at the humor in any given situation. That will get you on the right road to cartooning. Being able to transport that humor through sketches or drawings onto paper is the real challenge.

There Are Several Ways To Get Started

Although the cartoon often starts with an idea, there are other avenues where cartoonists get their inspiration. Some cartoonists may start with a drawing. That is, they will start with a blank sheet of paper, doodle and draw for a while. Then, they can come up with an idea attached to their drawing. Still others rely on a well formed idea. One cartoonist tells of having a stack of finished cartoons but not sure what to do with them. Like he said, you can try and sell them to magazines, you can try to get syndicated, you can get an established publishing house to print them, or you can publish your cartoons yourself. There may be other choices, but those are some of the more popular ones.

Where Do You Get The Ideas?

Ideas for cartooning can come any time day or night. It is always good to have quiet, creative moments for images, words or phrases to pop into your mind. Cartoonist Dan Trogdon (http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/blog/), says he can take an image and then “turn it upside down, inside out, twist it around, add or subtract something until somehow it turns into a funny idea.” He says a good example of this was when he came up with Alphabet Soup for the Blind. It actually began with him picturing a bowl of soup, and then adding the words alphabet soup. At some point shortly thereafter the idea of braille lettering entered the picture, and the idea was born. And, Trogdon says, it happened very quickly. He adds, “I don’t know why, but it seems like the really good ideas happen that way – one second there’s nothing, and then, here’s your idea, thank you very much.” Trogdon says his most creative time is in the morning, so for a specified time, he closes his eyes and simply lets his mind wander. “It’s during this time that images will pop into my mind, or words and phrases, and then I simply let my mind play around with them,” he says.

Syndicated Cartoons Require Much Work

One of the most common arenas for displaying one’s creations is through syndicated cartoons in newspapers. That, of course, requires a finished product every day, which easily might be intimidating. Taking this route requires a cartoonist to have a stack of already finished cartoons at his disposal. No matter how hard you might work, there are still times when you might be able to produce just one cartoon a day. So on those days you get behind, be prepared with a backup stack.

Cartoon Books Get Children Excited

Children love cartoon books. These books have the wonderful potential of making children who were once reluctant readers get excited about picking up a book. A number of studies show that cartoon book fans are just as proficient as text-only readers, often read above grade level, and have vocabularies that are more comprehensive.

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Cartoonist’s Dilemma Part 4 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/cartoonists-dilemma-part-4/ Fri, 20 Jun 2014 21:46:36 +0000 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/?p=2756 After a year of selling and promoting the book myself, I was approached by a publisher who expressed an interest in taking over my first book and doing my second book. After a little research, I knew this was not a major publisher, and I certainly had my reservations about joining them. One thing I did do was have a lawyer look at the contract to make sure that everything was on the up and up, and, according to him, it was. So now it’s decision time – do I continue to go it alone, or do I enlist the help of a publisher? What influenced me more than anything was the fact that they were in the business and, presumedly, had the marketing machinery in place to promote the book and get it out there – something I did not have. At least, I hoped they did.

Did I make the right decision in going with them? Honestly, the jury is still out. They did send out press releases about the first book, got the book on Amazon as well as making it available in digital form, and arranged for a couple of book signings. Perhaps more telling will be how they do with the second book which I have in hand, but won’t officially be released until next month. Maybe by the end of the year I’ll have a much clearer idea of what they’ve done and if it’s been worthwhile. The question I want answered is this: can they effectively promote the book(s) and increase sales on their own, or does the bulk of the work still fall on me? I understand that authors have to do their part – that’s always been the way it works, and I’m fine with that. I’m just hoping they can work some magic and help me to find my niche market.

 

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The Cartoonist’s Dilemma Part 3 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/the-cartoonists-dilemma-part-3/ Wed, 11 Jun 2014 00:41:19 +0000 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/?p=2751 What to do with my cartoons now? I could go back to the notion of submitting to magazines, but the more I thought about self publishing my own book, the more appealing it sounded. For one thing, I would retain all the rights to my cartoons which at the time sounded like a good idea. I started researching and discovered what I needed to do to put this in motion: I would need to copyright the cartoons, get an ISBN number as well as a barcode, and then find a company to print my book. As it turned out, all of this was easy to do. So after a few months and a somewhat depleted savings account, I had my own book of cartoons in hand (actually, boxes of them).

The last thing I had to do (or so I thought) was to get a website to promote and sell my book. I will admit, at this point, I thought the hard part was over. I had this naive notion that somehow through the internet people would find my book, and it would just start selling; that just by word of mouth cartoon fans would find it and want it, but that hasn’t been the case. People may want it, but they first have to find out that it exists. The truth is, it takes a lot of hard work to market a book.

So what have I done the last two years to get the book out there? Mainly I have been setting up at festivals, art walks, and the like which has been successful, but on a limited basis. I also contacted a few locally owned bookstores and gift shops which have agreed to stock my book. But the problem still remains that if no one knows about it, they don’t know to look for it.

This brings me to the end of 2013 – happy that I was able to sell the books that I did, but wondering if I had made a mistake in self publishing. In Part 4, I’ll discuss what further steps I’ve taken to try and remedy the situation. Thanks for visiting.

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The Cartoonist’s Dilemma – Part2 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/the-cartoonists-dilemma-part2/ Fri, 06 Jun 2014 01:53:24 +0000 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/?p=2621 After deciding not to go the “submitting to magazines” route, I gave some thought to being syndicated. I have to admit that it sounded very intimidating because the fact is you have to come up with basically a finished cartoon every day. That’s a lot! So not only do you have to think of an idea that you feel is worthy to be drawn, but you also have to draw the thing which was not (and still is not) an easy thing for me to do. Even now it can easily take me an entire day to draw one cartoon, and oftentimes two. So how in the world could I keep up that kind of schedule? Here’s how I approached it – I already have a stack of cartoons that are finished – on days when I get behind, I just pull one out of the stack. Plus, the more I draw, the fastest I’ll become. Right? Anyway, my thought was, why not give it a shot.

Being a fan of The Far Side, I decided to contact the syndicate that published his cartoons to see what a person had to do to become one of their cartoonists. I was very surprised to find out that all they wanted from me were samples (copies) of my best twenty cartoons. That’s it? I was really surprised by that because I would have thought they would have wanted more examples than that. No matter. Whatever they wanted, I was happy to do.

After sending what I thought were my twenty best, I waited. Of course I wanted to know right away, but I also realized that I was one of many and that these things take time. These companies are inundated with portfolios like mine to be evaluated, and I would have to just show a little patience. One month went by, then another, then another. Finally, after four months, I decided to give them a call. The lady I spoke with was very nice and wanted to know if I had received the letter.  I replied that I had not received a letter, and then she proceeded to tell me over the phone that my cartoons had not been accepted for syndication. I was disappointed, of course, but I also wanted to know the reason(s). She said there were two things: first of all, the artwork wasn’t up to par (I fully understood and accepted that), plus, the cartoons were “too quirky.” OK. I must say, she couldn’t have been nicer about everything. She did a very good job of letting me down easy and offered many helpful suggestions to help me in my cartooning career. She was very professional, and I appreciated that.

So now what? Part three will explain the next part of the journey.

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Why are Cartoon Books Beneficial for Your Kids? http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/why-are-cartoon-books-beneficial-for-your-kids/ Mon, 02 Jun 2014 17:34:42 +0000 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/?p=2616 Cartoon books concern some parents and teachers who are worried about these comics connotations and lack of challenge. Also, the words graphic novel probably cause many parents to raise their eyebrows, imagining stories told in a most unsavory style. However, children love them. And cartoon books can potentially make children who were once reluctant readers get excited about reading in general. Multiple studies indicate that cartoon book fans are just as proficient as text-only readers, often read above grade level, and have vocabularies that are more comprehensive.

•             Increase inference – A study on how comic books boost inference skills for struggling elementary school readers showed that it practices the kids on inference. Inference is reading between the lines and is critical to comprehension.

•             Add vocabulary – There are books that intentionally introduces big words for readers to mull over. Kids add to their personal word bank through inference, asking a parent for help in cracking open a dictionary.

•             Create confidence – Whether using phonics-based or whole-word approach, pictures build kids confidence. Rather than overwhelming the page with text, comics typically give one-line sentences and lots of emotional cues. Rather than having to be an independent reader, kids can look at comics and see visual context.

•             Boost bonding – Nothing brings generations together like a case of the giggles. Parents can use comics illustrations to increase emotional IQ, asking questions about the depicted emotions of characters.

•             Easy-reading classics – Not ready for wordy novels? Kids will probably say -more, please to a graphic novel version. Pictures explain period details and differences, and a simpler structure makes story lines clear. For capable kids, other high-concept can be explained through editorial comics.

•             Get literate – Gen Z needs to develop a new skill, not taught through textbooks. Visual literacy is the ability to integrate text and visual input simultaneously. Melding words and pictures together, kids get the big picture. By causing the brain synapses to multitask while reading, kids will comprehend the screen effortlessly.

•             Learn new language – If a child is already fluent in English, try ‘Calvin y Hobbes.’ Available from large booksellers and libraries, comics in other languages help children practice their language chops. After all, laughter needs no translation.

•             Reinvigorate reluctant readers – Kids who think they hate reading often enjoy cartoon books. Some kids might start reading comics and do so for years, but this is a good transition for them before they delve into full length novels.

•             Accelerate appreciation – Cartoon books demonstrate larger literary themes, despite their simple approach. They are a great choice for proficient readers who want to expand understanding. Protagonist, antagonist, story arc and resolution are all there, even when the title work uses no words at all.

•             Cartoons for every taste – Whether children are looking for a sunny, sad, realistic, sci-fi, Japanese-inspired or stateside strip, there is a comic to meet that need.

No longer the sullen kids in the back of the literary classroom, modern day cartoon books and graphic novels are a well-respected, innovative genre.

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The Cartoonist’s Dilemma: Which Way To Go? Part 1 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/the-cartoonists-dilemma-which-way-to-go-part-1/ Fri, 30 May 2014 19:49:29 +0000 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/?p=2612 When I first decided that I wanted to try my hand at cartooning back in 2009, I knew I had a long way to go. You see, I didn’t even know how to draw at that point and had no assurance that I could learn to draw. So why become a cartoonist? I thought I had some ideas that were funny – simple as that, and cartooning seemed to be the right vehicle to get those ideas across. Plus, I’ve always liked cartoons, my favorites being the ones in the New Yorker and Gary Larson’s Far Side. Luckily, through a lot a work, I did learn how to manipulate a pencil well enough to make creations that to some degree resemble the things I was actually trying to draw – more or less – OK, less. So over the course of the next few months, I had a nice stack of finished cartoons.  Now, what do I do with them? This was the dilemma. You can sell to magazines, you can try to get syndicated, you can get an established publishing house to print your book, or you can publish your cartoons yourself. There may be other choices, but these were the four that I was contemplating.

I must admit, my first intention was to submit to the New Yorker. That had been the plan from the beginning. I thought nothing could be better than to have a cartoon appear in their publication. I still feel that way. But as I read about how hard it is to get a cartoon accepted there, and how the editor has stacks and stacks of cartoons on his desk that he has to go through on a weekly basis, I thought about the odds and talked myself out of it. For one thing, I knew my drawings as far as the artwork weren’t that good. Plus, the New Yorker cartoons are the best of the best. Who am I to even think that I have a chance of having one of mine accepted?

In part 2, I’ll explain what happened next.

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The Origin of Cartoon Ideas http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/the-origin-of-cartoon-ideas/ Sun, 25 May 2014 23:45:20 +0000 http://www.andsoitgoescartoons.com/?p=2610 A question that usually pops up after someone has looked at a few of my cartoons is, “How did you come up with these?” I have to admit that I’m still kind of baffled by the whole creative process. One thing I know for sure is that you have to be looking for them, and by that I mean that you have to be looking for the humor in any given situation. Back in the early ’80’s when I began my interest in humor, I would come up with ideas on a somewhat regular basis because I was looking for them. For roughly 20 years when I had put aside my desire to write humor, I really never thought of anything funny because I had shoved that notion out of my mind. It wasn’t until 2007 when I renewed my interest in comedy that the ideas began coming to me again. That was the difference –  I was looking for the them.

I know for me, the cartoon starts with the idea which is not true for all cartoonists. According to a post on the New Yorker blog, there are cartoonists who start with a drawing. In other words, they will start with a blank sheet of paper, doodle and draw for awhile, and then come up with an idea attached to their drawing. I am the opposite – I don’t even think about starting to draw until I have a well formed idea in my head. So the next question has to be – where did you get the idea? My most creative time is in the morning, so for a specified time, I will close my eyes and simply let my mind wander. It’s during this time that images will pop into my mind, or words and phrases, and then I simply let my mind play around with them. I will take an image, for example, and then turn it upside down, inside out, twist it around, add or subtract something until somehow it turns into a funny idea. A good example of this was when I came up with Alphabet Soup for the Blind. It actually began with me picturing a bowl of soup, and then adding the words alphabet soup. At some point shortly thereafter the idea of braille lettering entered the picture, and the idea was born. And I must say, it happened very quickly. I don’t know why, but it seems like the really good ideas happen that way – one second there’s nothing, and then, here’s your idea, thank you very much.

As you can see from that example, coming up with ideas is really about how well your mind can make connections . One of my favorite humor writers is S.J. Perelman, and his definition of humor speaks to that – “Humor is the disruption of thought followed by the conjoining of two unlikely elements.” I really like that definition because it sums up so well how one arrives at the end product, whether it’s a humorous essay or a cartoon. The key is to match things together that don’t normally go together for humorous effect. Of course, just putting diverse things together doesn’t automatically mean it’s going to be funny – there has to be that connection. But typically, it’s your mind taking a left turn down an unexpected path that leads to a new cartoon idea. What’s really great are those times when you’re not consciously trying to come up with an idea, and one just seems to fall from the sky – a little gift that lands right in your brain. I might be out and about and see something that sets my mind in motion, and it happens so quickly, it seems like it came out of nowhere, but, actually, it’s your mind looking for ideas when you don’t even realize it’s doing it.

Ah, if only that happened more often. Truth is, the really good ideas don’t happen nearly as often as I’d like. I wish that I could come up with one really good idea a day, but that’s just not the case. There are no formulas, no way of saying, “Well, if you do this and this, it will result in an idea. There are days when ideas just don’t come to me. It’s at times like that that I have to remind myself of the Steven Wright quote -“There’s a joke in everything, you just have to uncover it. I really do believe that. And when an idea I like does come along  …  that’s the best! To come up with a really good idea is so exciting and satisfying. The only thing better is to show the finished cartoon to someone, and by their laughter you can tell that they really like it, too. That makes it all worthwhile.

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